This is part of the Blogging for Grasshoppers series

Judging a book by its cover

As I’ve been trying to pay more attention to writing more often, writing well more often, and sharing more good writing,

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing.

D’oh, you say.

It’s not just thinking about writing that I’ve been engaging in.

Image: mj*laflaca via Flickr, Creative Commons

It’s about how that writing looks.

Because when you live in a world as fast-paced as ours, you just have a few seconds while your potential reader is skimming through her email, or RSS reader, or website, and decides whether or not to click through and read the fully story… or move on.

It’s the Google generation’s way of thinking.

In other words, while your content might be fabulous in its essence, your reader is doing exactly what we grew up being told not to do: judge a book by its cover.

In the digital world, that’s judging content by its ability to intrigue you in a split-second.

As you continue to hone your craft (as I try to do), here are some of the exercises I put my writing (and those of my guest bloggers) through on a daily basis, to see if it looks as attractively as it (I think) reads.

They might be helpful to you as you continue on your path as a blogging Grasshopper.

1. Preview before you publish.

WordPress has a great preview function, where you can see exactly how your post will appear… before it publishes.

This is hugely helpful, because each theme is different and, as a result, the way a post looks when published on one blog, might look completely different on another.

So hit that “preview” button over and over again (don’t forget to save your posts as you’re writing) until you’re satisfied with how easy your post is to read, from a visual point of view.

2. Pull out the bag of tricks.

As a regular reader, you’ll have noticed that I’ve started making frequent use of tools in the WordPress platform such as block quotes and different forms of emphasis via bolding or italicizing different bits of copy.

I also often spread out text over different lines even if they’re not technically sentences.

Simply

because

it helps to break up the monotony of the written line, and often adds a visual element to the point you’re trying to make.

And especially if you have a theme where the font size is fairly, shall we say, petite, it helps immensely.

3. An image speaks a thousand words.

You’ll have noticed that I love using images to illustrate a post.

Image: U.S. Army via Flickr, Creative Commons

Usually these are placed at the top of a post, but often, if a post is long, I’ll insert additional images, alternating left- and right-aligning them.

This helps to add a visual element to a post, much as those grouped pages of photos do, here and there, in an interminably long autobiography.

Not that your posts are interminably long. Just saying…

I really started thinking actively about things like this after attending a writing workshop by the oh-so-fabulous Ann Wylie (you really should sign up, if she’s teaching anywhere near you).

And if you look at my posts pre- and post-June 30, 2010, you’ll see the difference.

But hey, it’s never too late to start, right?

Additional resources:

The Poynter Institute has a great article on writing for the web

7 ways to improve your writing… right now, from Copyblogger (bet you’ve already read this, right?)

Ann Wylie gives you some funny formulas to spice up your writing

Shonali Burke
Founder and publisher of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke helps smart businesses make bank by taking their communications from corporate codswallop to community cool™. She is also the founder of The Social PR Virtuoso®, which provides online, on-demand training that helps you unleash your inner Social PR superhero. Shonali is mad about ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis, though not necessarily in that order. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke