This is a guest post by content writer and school teacher Sheldon Soper. In this post, he covers help tips for bloggers to help understand the difference between formal and blog writing styles.
As a teacher and tutor, I spend an inordinate amount of time helping students craft powerful and effective writing pieces. I teach students to wield language in intricate ways in accordance with formal style guidelines.
As a blog writer, however, I actively disregard much of the advice I give the writers in my own classroom. Welcome to the paradox that is my life! The main reason for this incongruence is that good writing needs to reflect its audience.
Academic writing is well served by stylistic complexity and depth. Readers have the time and focus to digest nuance and intricate syntax choices.
On the other hand, internet content must be engaging while also remaining both easy to read and simple to digest. Readers are scrolling, swiping, and tapping through text on devices as small as a watch face or as large as a big-screen television. This means that writers need to get to the point, make it easy on the eyes, and avoid unnecessary complexity.
For blog writers struggling to make the leap from writing in school to writing online, here are three crucial differences between formal academic writing and marketable internet content:
1. Syntax and sentence structure
There are components of sentence construction that are important regardless of the context or audience. Good writers must ensure their sentences:
- have both a subject and a predicate
- maintain a common verb tense
- follow punctuation conventions
- are varied in composition and word choice
- avoid confusing phrasing caused by things like split infinitives, an overuse of passive voice, excessive amounts of conjunctions, or ambiguous pronoun usage
That said, it all comes back to an audience. A complex and grammatically sound sentence that is appropriate in an academic paper might lead a blog reader to close his or her browser tab.
Internet content needs to be concise and direct. Readers may only have a few minutes or a few seconds to interact with a post. What’s more, the internet provides plenty of other options for their reading time. For these reasons, blog writers are well-served by shorter, simpler sentences that can draw readers in and hold their potentially limited attention span.
Understanding your audience attention span is our first difference between formal and blog writing. Let’s move on to how you create paragraphs!
From elementary school on, students learn the structure of an effective paragraph. There’s a topic sentence, supporting details, and a conclusion all focused on a central idea. Paragraphs vary in length and can consist of “a single, short sentence or a passage of great duration”.
According to the 5th Edition of the APA style manual, paragraphs should be “indented half an inch” and there should not be any blank lines added between paragraphs.
Internet content writers cast most of these rules aside to make their writing as clear and visually appealing to their audiences as possible. Paragraphs remain focused on a single topic, but the similarities often stop there.
Blog paragraphs are typically short, separated by blank lines, and may lack a clearly defined topic and/or necessary concluding sentences. These choices can be seen in posts such as ones here on Dear Blogger, on high-profile news sites like The New York Times, and (ironically enough) even in web content describing how to write formal paragraphs.
These stylistic choices are not an act of rebellion against the academic world; rather, they frame content into smaller, well-spaced chunks that are easier to see. This often leads to content that can be scanned quickly by readers’ eyes regardless of their device.
As I mentioned it’s not about rebelling, just sizing things down for the reader’s sake. That’s our second difference between formal and blog writing, now let’s move on to how you give credit.
3. Giving credit where credit is due
Crediting sources is an important part of the writing process. Academic papers and books use tools like footnotes and inline citations to give acknowledgment to the authors of referenced materials. While some websites use these conventions, most bloggers opt to take advantage of their digital format instead.
Embedding hyperlinks into blog posts allow digital content creators the opportunity to reference supporting material directly. This gives readers the opportunity to dig deeper into an author’s reference with a single click or tap.
As an added bonus, citing authoritative sources with hyperlinks can potentially help improve a page’s search engine optimization (SEO). This means, giving proper reference credit doesn’t just add to a text’s credibility, but it can also theoretically lead to increased traffic as well!
Conclusion: What do you consider the difference between formal and blog writing styles?
Making the leap from years of academic writing training to web publishing can be tricky if you don’t understand the stylistic differences.
But it is possible, and if you have already setup a blog, isn’t it rewarding once it all gets going?
With just a few purposeful adjustments, and a solid understanding of the difference between formal and blog writing, writers can drastically improve the readability and effectiveness of their posts.
Sheldon Soper is a New Jersey middle school teacher with over a decade of classroom experience teaching students to read, write, and problem-solve across multiple grade levels. He holds teaching certifications in English, Social Studies, and Elementary Education as well as Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in the field of education. In addition to his teaching career, Sheldon is also the content writer for The Knowledge Roundtable, a free tutoring marketplace. You can follow Sheldon on Twitter @SoperWritings and check out his other projects on his blog.
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