My last post gave you three rules for writing better blog posts. Now, I’ve got three more rules for how to structure them.
Rule 1. Write about One Idea
I’m sure you have a lot to say about your business or your product or your life. Everyone does. But a piece of writing that’s between 500 and 1,000 words can only express one idea well. So, before you start writing, decide what’s most important to you, what your reader may not know, what’s most interesting and most entertaining. That’s what you’re going to write about, and that’s all you’re going to write about.
Rule 2. Lead with the Most Exciting Information
First Paragraph: The Lead
Begin with what’s most dramatic and entertaining. Say your company makes promotional videos for businesses. You want to write a blog post about how one of your videos increased your client’s revenue by 200 percent and allowed him to buy a sick private jet. How should you begin? You’ve got choices. You could start with a brief history of promotional videos. You could start with a paragraph about how you got into the promotional business game. You could write about the fact that a client’s revenue shot up 200 percent. You could start with the sick private jet.
If you answered “private jet,” you win. That’s your first paragraph. “I was flying in client X’s private jet when . . .” That’s what journalists call a lead. The lead’s job is to hook the reader into reading the next paragraph. It’s the most important paragraph you have. Don’t waste it. Don’t fool around. Use it to grab your reader by the throat. Don’t save it for the end. If you think the good entertaining stuff is a payoff for the reader at the end, you’re wrong. Nobody will get that far.
Second Paragraph: The Why
Your second paragraph should be about why it’s important to you and your reader. In journalism, that’s the “nut” graph. That’s when you can start talking about the impact of videos on revenue which, presumably, is why you’re writing the blog post and why someone is reading it.
Third Paragraph: The Example
Your third paragraph is an example that shows why what you’re writing about is important, ideally with data to support it, because people love numbers — especially numbers like a 200 percent increase in revenue, or how more promotional videos are being viewed on YouTube these days than ever before so why don’t you have one?
Fourth Paragraph: The Call to Action
Your fourth paragraph focuses on what your readers should do now that they know how important promotional videos are, or what they should think about when considering a promotional video — like how to vet video producers like you. That’s the call to action. That’s why you’ve written the post.
Your fifth paragraph … you probably don’t need a fifth paragraph. Your English teacher probably taught you that you need to wrap up everything by repeating everything you’ve just said, and that’s dull. You don’t need it. And like David Byrne sang in “Psycho Killer,” “Say something once, why say it again?” That’s good advice.
Rule 3. Sound Like a Human Being
Don’t be afraid to sound like a human being. The reason most blog posts are so dull (and business writing so bad) is that so many people write like pretentious robots. One way to make sure your blog sounds like it was written by a human being and not a blog-writing bot is to read it aloud. If it sounds good to your ears, it probably is. If it sounds like something you would hand to your high school or college English teacher, it probably isn’t. Trust your ear. Better yet, trust somebody else’s. Read your post aloud to someone who doesn’t work for you. Perhaps a spouse. Take their feedback seriously. People who sound like people may not be the luckiest people in the world, but they’re the best writers.