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5 Basic Blog Post Formatting Tips

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on October 1, 2012 in Blog Writing Basics
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When it comes to blogging, how your words are visually presented to the reader can be just as important as what you write. People read differently on the Web than they do in print. And your blog post formatting should reflect that.

Here are five basic blog formatting tips that can help you improve your blog post presentation.

1. Use subheadings.

Subheadings break up your blog post text, making it easier for readers to visually scan the page. This lets them find the exact information they're looking for, get the gist of the content before reading it fully, and find out whether or not your blog post is likely to interest them.

Blog post subheadings can be as simple as bold text, or they can be more elaborately formatted using heading tags (h1, h2, etc.) and your blog's stylesheet.

2. Use numbered or bulleted lists.

Lists are another way to break your blog posts up into bite-sized pieces. That happens not only visually, but also contextually.

Lists help readers get right to the point. They can quickly browse a list of resources. They can scan a list of links for other interesting material to read. Or they can quickly identify tips that best apply to them.


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Blog post lists can be handled in several ways. For example, you can:

  • use bulleted lists (like this one);
  • use indented numbered lists;
  • use your subheadings as list items if your list is short (again, like this post does).

3. Keep paragraphs short.

When you write for the Web, your content shouldn't resemble a textbook. Keep your paragraphs short (such as 1-4 lines on-screen). Remember, we live in an age of instant gratification. Make it easy for readers to get the information they want quickly.

Keep your font choices in mind here. What you see when you type your blog post won't necessarily represent what readers see on your live blog. For example, on this blog I use a fairly large font, so paragraphs are only 1-2 lines in my post editor.

4. Use images when appropriate.

I've seen quite a few popular bloggers insist that you must use images in your blog posts if you want to appeal to readers. And that's correct, some of the time. But it's not true in all niches.

For example, several of my blogs target writers. Those readers care more about the text on the page than images. And after years of testing, I've not seen a single benefit to adding images to most of those blog posts. If anything, images for the sake of having images have been criticized.

That said, I've also worked on blogs where images were a must in every post (sometimes even multiple images). It's about knowing your audience. By all means, if an image helps you illustrate a point, use one. Just don't gratuitously litter your posts with images that add no value to the reader.

5. Choose fonts and colors wisely.

This one is a personal pet peeve. Please take your readers into consideration when you choose fonts and colors for your blog posts.

Light text on dark backgrounds gets very uncomfortable to read. Obscure fonts can be almost indecipherable. And tiny text will make your readers feel like their eyes are going to bleed (okay, maybe this one is just me).

Can you think of other blog post formatting tips for new bloggers? What formatting and design choices make it easier for you to read blogs posts, and what drives you away? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She began writing for clients in 1999 and started her first blog in 2004.

She owns 3 Beat Media - a publishing and client services company which operates All Indie Writers as well as several other websites and blogs including The Busy Author's Guide and BizAmmo. Jenn comes from a background in online PR and social media consulting, having owned a small PR firm for several years before choosing to pursue a full-time writing and publishing career.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names in the areas of children's fiction, mysteries, and horror fiction. Jenn is an active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and currently serves as the organization's Assistant Coordinator of Promotions and Social Media.


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8 Comments

  1. Cathy Miller October 3, 2012 Reply

    I like throwing in quotes to break up the content. Of course, it has to fit the content, but I think it’s another effective way to grab the readers’ eye.

    • Jennifer Mattern October 4, 2012 Reply

      Pull-quotes are a great example of a way you can break up text visually without using images. It’s something I usually think of with business documents or news stories. But if it works there, it’ll work on many blogs too. :)

  2. Anne Wayman October 4, 2012 Reply

    Thanks, Cathy, I forget about pull quotes.

    Great points, Jenn – I’ve been lazy about subheads recently.

    Re images – I stopped using them for a bit and readers complained! I was surprised.

    • Jennifer Mattern October 4, 2012 Reply

      It likely depends on what they’re used to seeing on your blog (and how your blog as a whole is broken up visually). My most vocal complaints came on a social media blog. They loved things like infographics, but hated stock images there just for visual interest to illustrate something more generally. Readers also had a problem on the writing blog with stock images. And traffic to those posts didn’t change in any way. So I stopped. If something’s extremely relevant, I’ll add it. But I find in that niche, it’s rarely the case (or maybe just the case with the things I tend to write about).

  3. Dava Stewart October 9, 2012 Reply

    My least favorite thing about blogging is images. For a long time, I just didn’t use them. Then I did. Then, I used them about half the time.

    Now, I include an image in every post, but not for the reasons experts say you should. It’s because of Pinterest. It took a long time for me to start using Pinterest, because my mind doesn’t work quite so visually. Recently, though, I’ve been doing a lot of research on self publishing, and independent authors, and other book-related stuff, and I’ve been using Pinterest to bookmark sites. When there is no image, there is nothing to “pin.”

    • Jennifer Mattern October 9, 2012 Reply

      Pinterest is something I stay away from. There are too many copyright issues involved, and if I don’t want people stealing my content, I certainly don’t want to risk enabling folks to steal someone’s images.

      If you take all of your own images and you own the copyright, that’s probably a good strategy. But for most bloggers, I don’t think that’s the case. They often use stock images. And when you use them — especially ones you pay for — you don’t technically have the right to let people redistribute them. And that’s exactly what Pinterest does when they include full-size images. Some sites might be fine with it and not go after bloggers or Pinterest users. But others very well might, and they’d be well within their rights. I don’t consider that risk to be worthwhile.

  4. Alicia Rades February 21, 2014 Reply

    This is the perfect list for newbie bloggers. I would have listed the same things.

    I love that you pointed out the colors. I landed on a blog recently that used about six eye-popping colors, and the blogger used the colors within the text to highlight content. I didn’t know where to look! It was too overwhelming.

    Personally, my pet peeve is when people don’t use subheadings. I want to know what’s coming next. I want to be able to scan the page and gather the most useful information. Subheadings should do that for you (which you did a perfect job of here).
    Alicia Rades recently posted…How NOT to Write a Novel: 4 Mistakes You Might be MakingMy Profile

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      Jennifer Mattern February 21, 2014 Reply

      Yikes. Sounds like color overload there. I prefer sticking to just one color (not counting images) within posts. And even that doesn’t happen often. I think our third subheading level here (or maybe the fourth) is the green used through most of the site. And I use a few specialty list styles that sometimes add color. But between that and links, I can’t imagine adding anymore.

      You mentioning colors reminded me a post someone wrote for my business writing blog a while back. She took a fun look at bad press release writing, and mixed colors was one pet peeve she covered. Most of what she wrote actually applies to blogging too if anyone wants to check it out:

      Guaranteed Ways to Piss Off Bloggers With Your Press Release – by Diana Ting

      I’m a big blog post “scanner” too. If I don’t know what’s coming, I probably won’t read far enough to find out. I tend to read a paragraph or two, then skim the whole post to decide if I’m going to read it in full or not. If the blogger doesn’t give me something to work with, I leave and find someone who will. I don’t mind a longer personal story from time to time if it’s appropriate, and those don’t always lend themselves to subheadings. Here I don’t usually use them for updates (like maintenance updates posted here yesterday). But if the title is a “how to” I better be able to get the gist of the tutorial from skimming. I’m a needy reader like that. ;)

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