All this week, we’re taking an in-depth look at the process of content creation in the form of blog posts, which most budding Internet entrepreneurs will utilize in some fashion in content marketing. Today’s topic: how to get the picky stuff right — spelling, grammar, images, and formatting.
Although it’s unfair, you can’t get away from it: you’re going to get judged for your rampant typos, your inability to string a few sentences together elegantly, and your lack of white space.
OK, maybe not so much the “lack of white space” thing (although, y’know, it does make posts more readable)… But the other nitpicky stuff? Yes. It can be your undoing. Especially if it keeps happening.
And the irony here is that it’s so easy to stop this from happening. But you have to get over your fear of grammar and devote another 10 minutes to that post before you post it. The secret is in the “Preview” button in your WordPress dashboard.
Here’s how you do it:
Step One – Perfect Your Blog Post’s Spelling and Grammar
First of all, ignore the built-in spellcheckers on your computer and apps. They’re pretty much worthless. Well, they can draw your attention to possible problems with that little dashed red line, but they won’t catch the correctly-spelled-but-incorrectly-used word.
I find it really helpful to increase the font size on a blog post draft before reviewing it for spelling and grammar problems. You can do this one of two ways:
- In your browser menu, go to View/Zoom In (or “Increase Text Size”).
- Copy the post and paste it into Word or whatever word processing app you use, then increase the font size there. (Just be careful: unless you use the WordPress “paste from Word” feature, you can import a lot of wonky codes if you do this in reverse.)
Now, read it out loud.
The simple act of hearing your words read will point out the vast majority of grammar issues, as well as too-long sentences and inartful phrasing and transitions.
As for spelling … well, I’m sorry to break it to you, but there’s really no substitute for this: you gotta read the post carefully, word by word.
Although this also helps: don’t use words you’re not familiar with in an attempt to sound like you’re smarter than you are. Please trust me on this: it won’t work, and it’ll piss people — readers — off.
Write plainly, and be yourself — that’s enough. It really is, I promise.
Help For the Spelling/Grammar-Challenged
A few good and useful resources you may want to bookmark, if spelling and grammar really aren’t your “thing” yet:
- The Grammar Slammer
- 100 Most Often Misspelled Words in English
- Visual Thesaurus (also a way cool way to waste some time on the web)
Step 2 — Get the Right Image for the Post
There’s a bit of an art to picking the right image for your blog post.
Do you always need an image? No, not really. But a good image can sharpen the focus of your reader, make her more attentive, add to your SEO juice (if optimized correctly), and increase the “curb appeal” of your post. My advice: use ’em as much as possible. But if the choice is between a bad image and no image at all? Skip the pic.
You can go for wit (a clever pun with your image is an impressive feat and will increase the reader’s goodwill towards your site, unless it’s harsh or, y’know, bad), or you can go for relevant. A little humor in the caption isn’t a bad idea, regardless of the pic’s content.
Beyond that, there’s a whole school of thought about image selection — getting the images that match your color scheme, picking images where the subject points to a particular spot on your page — I mean, you can get as picky as you want here. Personally, I’m always happy when I can find an image that matches the content somehow and leave it at that. Your choice.
Whichever way you go, don’t forget to optimize your images for good search engine results.
Step 3 — Clean Up Your Formatting
Formatting helps your reader, and that’s reason enough to pay attention to it.
Creating white space, using bold and italics judiciously, and especially good use of headings (the H2/H3 tags that we all know and love) not only aid in SEO but make it easier on the reader to get your point(s).
Take some time to review your post for places where you can stress a word or phrase with bold or italics. (Don’t go nuts with this, or else you look a little manic, honestly.)
Use numbered lists where you’re spelling out specific steps to take, or a process. Use bullets for all other lists.
And finally, spend a few minutes tweaking your headings. Use keywords where you can (without making it look awkward and weird), and reorganize your post if you need to, in order to clean up the layout and make good use of the headings.
Pay Attention to the Picky Stuff
So, yeah, the picky stuff can break you, although strictly speaking it won’t make you a success, even if you’re awesome at it.
But combine good writing with a carefully targeted site and excellent headings, then put the finishing touches on, and you’ll avoid the eye-rolls and fast click-outs.