Infrastructure Stuff: Hanson’s Principles for a Blog Post

I’m not writing alone on this site. My wife and I are approaching this as a mutual project. I’m also contemplating and planning (at least preliminarily) a side project in which I would be writing with others.

So the issue of how to work well with others on generating content for a blog has been on my mind.

My Sense of What a Blog Post Should Be

I realized that I have a sense of how a blog post should be written. I’m not sure whether my sense is right or wrong, good or bad, wise or foolish. But I have the sense, and I think I have some rationale for it when I stop to articulate it.

Below, you’ll find my effort to articulate that sense of how a blog post ought to be generated.

If you find behind-the-scenes thinking or let’s-examine-the-infrastructure stuff boring, this post isn’t for you.

Use Short Paragraphs

  • Remember that people will often be reading your post on a mobile device.
    • On a mobile device, a long paragraph can be intimidating or repulsive.
  • Paragraphs of three or two sentences are fine.
  • Don’t be shy about using the occasional one-sentence paragraph.

Use Lists

  • Remember that people are likely reading your work quickly.
    • They want something that will catch their eye and guide it.
  • A list — either numbered or unnumbered — is great for capturing and guiding the eye.
  • Try to break things into lists that you wouldn’t normally break into lists in other kinds of writing.

Use Headings

  • Remember that people reading your work by scrolling downward.
    • If they get the sense that your post is one long tract of unbroken text, they may get dismayed and turn away.
  • Headings serve as mile markers.
    • The headings break up the monotony of paragraph after paragraph.

Have a Title that Allures and Enlightens

  • A title should have something in it that’s weird, catchy, or interesting, to make someone notice it and wonder what’s in it.
  • A title should also have something in it that’s explanatory of the contents, especially if the catchy part is indirect or mysterious.
  • Here’s an example of what I mean: Sticky Titles: Writing Titles That Catch a Reader’s Attention

Pick a Category

  • The blog is divided into categories. A post needs to have a category.
  • The category signals to the reader — in a very general way — what the post is about.
  • The category also allows the blog software to group the posts together for a reader who wants to see all the posts in that category.

Think of an Excerpt

  • The blog software can display an excerpt — either a direct quote from the post or a description of its contents.
  • The excerpt helps the reader form a more specific sense of what the post is about.

Find or Make a Picture

  • Our blog’s theme — the standardized mode of presenting the content — displays an image above the title of the post.
  • The picture should have something to do with the contents of the post.
  • The picture should not violate anyone’s copyright, so either:
    • find a free-to-use picture on the web, or
    • draw one on paper and scan it, or
    • snap a photo with your smart phone.
  • Because the web is visual, getting a picture for a post is every bit as much "writing" as composing words.

Don't Cram — Use Series or Clusters Instead

  • Remember that when you’re writing for the web, your new work can be linked to your old work.
    • Why does this matter? Because it can sometimes be tempting to cram everything you want to say about a subject into one post.
      • A crammed post can be overwhelming to the reader or off-putting due to length.
  • Keep posts relatively short and simple. You can make an argument or train of thought longer by generating more posts and linking them together.
  • If your train of thought is logical (maybe planned out in advance), the linked posts form a series.
    • In a series, there's both a unity of thought and a logical sequence in which you lay it out.
  • If your thought is more like hopscotch, the linked posts form a cluster.
    • In a cluster, there’s a unity, but not a strict sequence.
    • You can always take a cluster and turn it into a series, if you hanker for logical sequences.
  • The series or cluster does not have to exist all at once; it can come into existence in the future.
    • So just start writing short pieces and worry about linking them up later.
    • Don't stop yourself from sharing a brief but genuine insight with the world just because you've not yet orchestrated all your insights into one long, symphonic whole.