Writing for blogs

 

Difference between blogging and scholarly writing

Writing for blogs requires different skills from scholarly writing, however blogging can complement your scholarly writing and research outputs.

The iterative practice of regular blogging has its own set of joys. For me, writing begets writing. The blog doesn’t distract from my formal academic or scholarly work. It feeds it.
3 Rules of Academic Blogging, David Perry, The Chronicle of Higher Education

Sometimes a blog post will be more valuable than a book, because a. It is open access so more people can reach it; b. it is shorter, so busier people can read it; c. It is simpler language than more scholarly work, so more practitioners can understand it, and d. It is more immediate, so there is less “time” lost between my thinking the thought, and it reaching someone to benefit him/her.
Academic blogging revisited: Thinking, writing, action, Maha Bali, Reflecting Allowed

Most blog are short, concise and communicate ideas or concepts in broad general terms.  Be clear about what your blog is for, many include an “About” page, which introduces the author, their interests and the topic of the blog.

CC BY 2.0 UK, Melissa Terras, https://melissaterras.org/

It’s important to be realistic about the amount of time you have for writing, and your audience has for reading.  blogs.ed.ac.uk has a helpful widget that will add the estimated reading time at the top of each blog post. Blogging shouldn’t be a chore.

It’s a good idea to come up with a catchy title for your blog posts and explain in the first few sentences what they are about.

Make sure your titles tell a story, and that the findings of each post are communicated early on. Academics normally like to build up their arguments slowly, and then only tell you their findings with a final flourish at the end.  Instead, make sure that all the information readers need to understand what you’re saying is up front — you’ll make a much stronger impression that way. 
Shorter, better, faster, free: Blogging changes the nature of academic research, not just how it is communicated, Patrick Dunleavy, LSE Impact Blog.

The best blogs are timely, often providing comments and perspective on current topics.

Because blog contents should be timely, make sure that the date for content displays prominently at the start of content … Clearly dating posts is especially important if the blog is dealing with fast-moving social developments, or an ever-changing research frontier in academia, where earlier content may be less valuable than the more recent material. 
Shorter, better, faster, free: Blogging changes the nature of academic research, not just how it is communicated, Patrick Dunleavy, LSE Impact Blog.

Although most blog post are short and concise, don’t be afraid to use your blog for longer more discursive pieces and to think through your ideas.

CC BY, LSE Impact Blogs

Finding your voice

Like all forms of writing, blogging takes practice and it can take time to get into the habit.  Experiment with different types of blog posts and forms of writing to find what works best for you.  Don’t be afraid to share your posts with peers and colleagues for feedback.

Your blog and your voice is likely to change as you become more familiar and confident with blogging and as your career and interests develop.  That’s okay, let your blog change and grow.

Try to be authentic, learn from other colleagues’ blogs but don’t try to replicate their style, what works for other bloggers may not work for you.  Experiment until you find your own style.

Thinking about your audience

Think about your audience.  Who will be reading your blog posts?  Are your writing primarily for an academic audience or for general readers?  Think about the kind of language you use. Overly scholarly language may not be helpful if you want to share your ideas with the general public. Try to avoid jargon and if you do include acronyms or technical terms add links or a brief glossary to explain the terms.

You may be writing primarily for your own benefit, to keep a record of events you’ve attended, projects you have worked on, talks you’ve given, or to reflect on your practice.  These blog posts may be longer and less structured than blog posts you share with other readers.

Engaging with your readers

Engage with your readers.  The best blogs are part of a conversation.  Use social media to amplify your posts and encourage people to engage.  Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get many comments on your blog, you may find that your posts spark discussion on other platforms such as Twitter.

Add images and media to engage your readers.  You can embed content from other social media platforms such as Media Hopper Create, You Tube and Twitter.  Some bloggers use images to create a strong identity for their blog.

CC BY Anne-Marie Scott, ammienoot.com

Use tags and categories to organise your content and make sure your readers can find it.

Encourage people to comment (but only post their comments after moderation) and respond to comments and to Tweets. Talk to people on Twitter and Facebook when they discuss your work. And be reciprocal, open-minded and fair in sharing your content with others and linking to their work — improving the public understanding of university research is a huge collective good for academics across all disciplines.
Shorter, better, faster, free: Blogging changes the nature of academic research, not just how it is communicated, Patrick Dunleavy, LSE Impact Blog.

Effective Digital Content (Writing for the Web)

Information Services Group runs a course on Writing for the Web.  This non-technical course is available online to all staff and students.  The course covers good practice in writing and structuring information for the web and also includes guidance on data protection, freedom of information issues and improving performance in search engine results. The course will teach you how to get your critical information noticed, make your content more accessible, improve your search engine rankings and how not to fall foul of data protection law.

You can find out more about this course and enrol here: Effective Digital Content (Writing for the Web).

Further Reading

Chronicle of Higher Education

Maha Bali: Reflecting Allowed

LSE Impact Blog

Times Higher Education (EASE login)

(Playfair Architectural Drawings, CC BY, University of Edinburgh, https://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/detail/UoEcar~3~3~74488~196944:Playfair-Architectural-Drawings,-Un#)