Letters from Home

Blogging Tip: Serving the Meaning

As a writing specialist, I occasionally  tear my hair out reading bad blog posts. More often I just read and tweet about good ones though, because I’ve stopped reading the poorly written ones by the second sentence.

But then I eventually write a “make your blog posts better” tip. Here’s one:

Don’t ramble.

A lot of bloggers sort of stroll through their posts like it’s a first date at the mall, telling their readers (NOTE: The following is an example of rambling and not actual rambling): about their new fuzzy socks and their kids puke-filled nightmares and oh! by the way, yesterday I FINALLY got into the executive restroom and man-o-man, I was RIGHT there IS a chrome-plated toilet seat and I thought that was going to be totally cool but it was, in fact, very  very cold.

A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it to be God.” — Sidney Sheldon

All of which has nothing to do with their post’s intended purpose: to get to that review of Nabisco’s 100 calorie Chewy Oreo Granola Bars.

You Aren’t Alone

As bloggers, we walk a fine line between being buddies with our readers– wanting to snuggle up with them and have coffee– while also ensuring we share with them what they came for: something with them that is a) useful, b) satisfying, and c) meaningful.

Information is useful and sometimes satisfying. It’s the search for being meaningful to each other that leads so many well-intentioned bloggers to Ramble Fest 2011. Instead of giving one solid, perfect description of something, bloggers often find ourselves wandering around in a “good idea” like a dieting woman in a shoe store.

And because blog posts are a “fast media,” haven’t we ALL been guilty of “publishing” before even giving the post a decent re-read? Much less a really decent hack-hack? Which is what they usually need. (hack hack hack!!)

Let’s Go Shopping

A blog is a Mom and Pop corner store. Readers are the customers who usually know what they want when they come in, even if it isn’t necessarily a product: sometimes they want to come to get the experience of a wonderful, special place.

The customers expect a certain amount of chit-chat at the counter. But they also want to browse around, unfettered in the experience, and be engaged by unexpected treasures on the shelf.

And, of course, they want to leave with a bag full of what they were looking for.

So here’s a question that is easy to answer: What makes you turn around and walk out of a store almost every time?

For me, it’s one of those over-friendly, gabby, won’t-leave-me-alone salespeople that follows me wherever I go.

Rambling on and on about whatever matters to them, without regard for what I came here for.

Writing Less, Meaning More

Blogs used to just personal journals. They aren’t anymore. Now we want and expect others to read them. We expect our blogs to sell us and our ideas, our brands, our product. So guess what? If that sounds like your blog, now is the time to stop blathering. And even if you just use your blog to journal publically, it won’t kill you to practice writing “less,” with more substance.

The Nut: In a blog, as in all writing, every part of what you write should SERVE THE MEANING of what you want to say.

Is it a story about your life’s failure? Good, let’s hear it. But then don’t tell us about how you picked up dog poop this morning.

Is it a post reviewing fitness gear at the new year? Fine. Then by all means,  share some of your own New Year’s resolutions. But get to the point. YES on the funny anecdote about your two-year-old pushing your off the balance board. Hack-hack to the rambles on why you just haven’t gotten around to eat that avocado on the counter yet.

Example: “Looking for fitness equipment? Yeah, heh heh,” eagle-eyed proprieter grabs and shakes his own belly, “Aren’t we all? Take a look in Aisle 7. We also have the new DDR games in Aisle 10.”

Minding the store means keeping it efficient and tidy. This doesn’t mean being heartless. This doesn’t mean cold and inhuman. A blog is a place for storytelling. Tell the story you are meant to tell in each and every post. Make it as long or as short as it needs to be.

Just don’t wander off, muttering as you go.

A post is a self-contained universe, with just exactly everything it needs. It is a thing of use and beauty that the reader should desire — and be able — to  hold in the palm of their hand.

6 thoughts on “Blogging Tip: Serving the Meaning

  1. Oh God, I ramble on my blog ALL THE TIME. But I really don’t expect to have many readers – I suppose I’m one of those people who just look at it as a public journal.

  2. One of my favorite blogs, The Bleat, has a ton of rambling. It’s just the guy is hilarious. So I’m not looking for meaning, most of the time. Just some laughs. Sometimes what draws me away from a Mom and Pop blog is just that–the effort to give me something meaningful. Often I find people are much more meaningful when they’re not trying to be. But aye, that’s a fine line to walk. No, I don’t care to hear about dog poop, either.

    1. Johanna, I agree! Think about it though… most blogs are not the Bleat. It sounds like the Bleat isn’t “rambling” but actually doing something that funny people do which is called “riffing”– Another blog that does that well is finslippy.

      If a writer is good at that, they should do that! But many writers aren’t … I am suggesting that they just take a moment to re-read what they have written and hone it a bit. Chop out the few extra bits that aren’t needed… which can often be the rambles.

      Serving meaning doesn’t look the same in every writer, Thank goodness!

      1. I try and do that (be funny) with a lot of posts on my blog and I know sometimes I am and sometimes I’m not and sometimes I might ramble, but I figure it’s still writing and it’s good practice for the stuff I write that I submit for publication. Sort of like taking batting practice before the game.

  3. Interesting article and I have a question. At the end you say, “A blog is a place for storytelling.”, but at the beginning, your better blogging tip is to not ramble. I’m not trying to be argumentative here, just curious, but isn’t it really a matter of personal style as to how one tells a story? Some people tell a story in tight, succinct sentences, getting right to the point, and others might meander around some before getting to the point. I don’t understand why one is necessarily better than the other. Maybe this is a bad analogy, but there are certain comedians who tell rapid fire jokes and other comedians who have long monologues. Both can be funny and both can be bad depending on the listener’s taste. Thanks!

    1. Michael, I agree! Everyone has their own style and we should all work to hone that. I often meander in my posts but the goal should be to stay focused on the destination and to be willing to edit out those bits that are truly superfluous: that perhaps spawned an idea for us as writers but aren’t necessarily part of the thought development of the reader.

      Thanks for the feedback!

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