Saturday, January 10, 2009

Guest Blog: How to Blog Like a Journalist

How to Blog Like a Journalist
By Maria Schneider
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You certainly don’t need a journalism background to be a blogger. But if you’re trying to win over repeat readers, it can help to think like a journalist when it comes to your blog.

An ability to analyze data and provide clear and concise posts will win you readers who will turn to your blog as a trustworthy, reliable source of information.

Here are five lessons from journalism that will help give your blog a journalistic edge:

1. Consider the Inverted Pyramid Style. Put the essential data for your post in the lead. What will a reader learn by taking the time to read your post? Put it upfront.

I love reading (and writing) a well crafted, magazine-style lead. But the clever lead doesn’t work as well online since readers tend to do more skimming than leisure reading. The inverted pyramid of old-style newspaper journalism works for online writing.

2. Always Check Your Facts. The last thing you want to do is misspell a proper noun—especially a name. Sure, it’s an easy correction. But how many of your readers will see that you’ve botched a high-profile person’s name before you correct it? Always doubt yourself when writing a proper noun (names, cities, companies, titles). Even if you think you have it right, make a habit of double-checking before posting so you won’t be embarrassed later.

3. Question your sources. Don’t rely on one source if you’re reporting anything as a fact, especially if it’s a community-generated site like Wikipedia. Use Wikipedia with discretion and find a more reliable source for confirmation.

4. Be economical with your words. First drafts tend to ramble. Most people write wordy first drafts and wordiness is annoying to your readers. After you’ve written a post, go back into the rough draft and strike through the modifiers (adjectives and adverbs), and only keep the essential. Don’t be precious with your words. Make the delete key your friend when you’re in edit mode.

5. Use a consistent style. Every journalist is familiar with the trade bible the AP StyleBook since most newspapers and magazines adhere to AP Style. Should you capitalize “Internet”? Spell out a state’s name or abbreviate? You don’t have to use AP Style, but be consistent. Consistency will give your blog a professional appearance and set you apart from the great blogging masses.

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