A number of people I know in some businesses – mainly those connected with personal, spiritual, intellectual and other more cerebral issues – write blog posts or articles in an incredibly powerful, passionate way … which hits you in the face with its value and earnestness.
If, that is, you can grasp their key points right away.
Trouble is, in the flurry of passion within which those thoughts try to emerge, the average reader can’t necessarily grasp just how important – or where – the key points are.
So, passionate experts: take note…
Passion, power and practical usability: not a perfect mix
The whole blogging phenomenon has given passionate bloggers/writers the opportunity to share their views in writing without the threat of an editor lurking with a blue pencil to change their words and water down their enthusiasm, all in the name of clarifying vagaries and making the text easily absorbed by the masses.
For followers of such bloggers and like-minded readers, these rushes of densely-packed words are comprehensible and share the high levels of emotion that drive their inspiration.
However where does that leave the less-than-imaginative readers who would love to benefit from the passionate ideas … but don’t necessarily follow the rapid, often turbulent, trains of thought?
And how many opportunities are these passionate writers losing because readers who would like to learn from them, follow them and possibly buy from them, don’t “get” their messages as quickly as they need to in this rapid-fire online culture we live in?
Harness your passion with a few straps of simplicity
As I mentioned above, many of the passionate bloggers and article writers I know are sharing some incredibly good, worthwhile knowledge and recommendations. But by the nature of their passionate style, they are potentially losing out on readership and business from the wider marketplace.
My advice to these writers here is, learn how to relax your thoughts into an article or post that sets out those thoughts in a logical manner.
I know, I know. Logical stodge does not sit well with passionate expertise. But relax: it is possible to combine those two elements without diluting the force of your convictions or the intelligence of your content.
Some suggestions to make your writing passionate, powerful AND practical
Plan your article before you start writing. Remember how you would plan your essays at university? This gives you a brief skeleton to follow so your article has a logical beginning, middle and end. Don’t just start writing and rush your thoughts down, because although they may seem in an order that’s logical to you, that may not be true for all your readers. Work to a plan.
Use punctuation properly – it’s a valuable tool. People yawn when you talk about punctuation but used correctly it adds a huge amount of power to your written content. Use it to clarify what you mean. This article by novelist Lucy McCarraher in her HTWB series “How To Write Fiction Without The Fuss” gives you some very helpful tips on punctuation for nonfiction, too. Check it out.
Avoid exclamation marks, underlining, capitals, etc. Much as I know how tempting it is to use typographical emphasis when writing about something I feel passionate about, in the cold light of day readers think it looks tacky. By all means use these tricks when you’re writing your draft, but go back and chop them out when you edit (see below).
Particularly when you are writing online, simplify sentences. Make sure you use a separate sentence for each whole thought – you can use colons to separate long clauses (see punctuation, above) but online it’s better to spread your thoughts out more widely. Make each sentence lead logically into the next … each paragraph lead logically into its successor.
Avoid all but very short parentheses. Whether you use brackets or dashes, keep them to a minimum. There are enough distractions in the online environment as it is without adding another few into the equation. Try to keep your readers focused on the key point you’re making in the main sentence, so their attention keeps on the right track.
Online, use very short paragraphs. There’s something about the online environment that makes long blocks of text look very uninviting – far more so than do long blocks of text in print. Keep your paragraphs to a maximum of five sentences: fewer is better. And, vary the length of your sentences; follow two or three long sentences with one short one. Keeps readers on their toes.
Make use of sub-headings and bold titling. As you can see here, I use these to break up the text visually and also to “tell the story” to readers who, as many online readers do, scan through articles and posts before settling down to read them properly. You may find you can develop these from the plan you work out before starting on the writing.
Edit your text, but don’t strangle it. Many literary fiction editors tell you to cut, cut, cut and then cut again, strip out all but essential adjectives and adverbs, etc. I disagree with that notion in nonfiction blog writing, because if you edit a piece too hard you’ll strip out the writer’s personality along with everything else. By all means remove or correct any unnecessary duplication, fuzzy or vague statements, convoluted thoughts and of course, typos and other glitches. But don’t lose yourself.
Take a break before you publish. Leave your article or post for a few hours or overnight if you can. A break from it will give you a fresh focus and help you make more effective improvements. No matter how much I think an article of mine is OK once I have finished it, if I leave it until later or the next day I always find improvements to be made.
So remember: practicality … ergo, simplification … does not mean dumbing-down. It merely means that your passionate and powerful thoughts are subject to a little bit more discipline, which allows readers to absorb your information and emotions faster and more thoroughly.
Would love to know your views on this, and what advice you have for the passionate writer?
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