Whether you compose novels or grocery lists, research papers or social media posts, you are a writer.
Yet we face a daily avalanche of information. Every day, more than 4 million blog posts publish, and Twitter users share some 500 million Tweets. With this glut of information, why should anyone read what you write?
In asking this question, I don’t intend to lead you to literary hopelessness. Instead, these statistical facts should spur us to evaluate our own writing. How can you and I write something worth reading?
I recently posed this question in a talk on blogging. While I am no expert, I have worked in writing or blogging for more than 8 years. Along the way, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks about how to write something worth reading.
If you want to compose a blog worth reading, you can begin by avoiding these five pitfalls. (These suggestions apply to other forms of writing, as well.)
1. Writer’s Block
Sometimes simply writing your blog is the biggest hurdle. Do you struggle with identifying a topic? If so, ask yourself these questions:
- What am I passionate about?
- What have I been learning about God or his world?
- What unique perspective do I have on a given topic?
When you ask these questions, you’ll discover you have plenty to say. God has given you a unique voice, and you have perspectives others need.
Maybe you don’t struggle with identifying a topic but with putting pen to paper. You have plenty of ideas, but your perfectionism prevents you from writing an imperfect rough draft. If you fit this description, heed Nike’s sage advice: Just do it. Throw some words on paper or on your screen. Your first draft will probably resemble a jumbled mess, but only then can you work to craft a blog worth reading.
The Great Commandment doesn’t necessarily limit what we write. It transforms how we write.
2. A Lack of Focus
Have you ever clicked on a blog or an article, started reading and 10 minutes later still not know the author’s main point? As an editor, I’ll occasionally receive such submissions. The author makes a handful of important points, but the piece bounces from topic to topic without a clear focus.
The solution to a lack of focus is simple: Have a point. Emphasize one point, one central truth you want your readers to believe or do. Boil this point down to one concise sentence which summarizes your piece’s whole argument.
If you can’t boil your argument down to one sentence, perhaps your argument is too complex for a blog.
I hesitate labeling any piece of writing “boring.” But, if we’re honest, some blogs we read (or write) are, in fact, boring.
Yes, we string together related facts, but we select bland verbs and rely on tired clichés. Our writing has no style or rhythm. We have no story to tell.
One simple way to inject life into your writing is to focus on your verbs. When we write, we often include phrases such as:
- “There is…”
- “There are…”
- “It is …”
Our ears rarely detect these constructions in everyday speech, but our eyes do notice them. They bloat your writing and bog your reader down. Look at the difference between these two sentences:
- “There are a lot of errors that have been made in how Christians integrate faith and work.”
- “Many Christians have erred in how they integrate faith and work.”
These two sentences communicate the same information, but the second sentence is more succinct (and hopefully less boring). If you want to inject life into your writing, you can begin by focusing on your verbs.
Have you ever read a piece of writing and noticed a typo or other sloppy mistake? Instead of following the writer’s argument, you’re now focused on the blatant error.
Sloppiness indicates to your readers you didn’t care enough to proofread. Why, then, should they care enough to read?
If you don’t want your blog to be sloppy, edit it. Early in your editing, major on the majors. Evaluate the entirety of your argument, trim unnecessary elements and make your argument lean and concise. Later in your editing, major on the minors. Scrutinize your word choice, inspect your punctuation, look for typos and focus on the easy-to-overlook details.
Finally, send your piece to a friend or editor. Your friend’s fresh set of eyes will spot problems you overlooked. Having an editor is humbling, but a good editor wants the best for you and your writing.
5. A Lack of Love
As Christians, we’re not just any writers. The Spirit of God indwells us, molding us into the image of the Son. We have something unique to offer the world which should distinguish our work—love. Jesus said,
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 22:37-39)
As Christians, our worship, work, family, play — and, yes, our writing — serve to love God or neighbor. Everything we write, from blog posts to Tweets, can be an act of love.
Sadly, we often don’t write for God, but for self. We craft every word in pride. We seek to glorify ourselves. In so doing, we do not love God in our writing. Other times, we write with an axe to grind. We rub the truth in our ideological opponents’ faces. In so doing, we do not love our neighbor.
But we must write not for ourselves, but for God and others.
Writing to love God and others doesn’t limit your writing to devotional topics or sermonic material. On the contrary, you can write fiction, thoughtful essays, laments, or grocery lists. You can tell stories, craft poems or point out flaws in the culture or church. The Great Commandment doesn’t necessarily limit what we write. It transforms how we write. We write not for our glory, but for God’s. We write not to beat down our neighbor, but to serve them.
Sadly, this kind of writing is all too rare. But as followers of Christ, let’s be different. Let’s write in such a way that the aroma of our Savior wafts off our sentences and paragraphs.
And if you pursue excellence — and write for the right reasons — you will write a something worth reading.
This article is an adaptation of a talk Nathaniel gave at “From Thought to Page” 2019.