We’ve all heard the old adage that “everyone makes mistakes” so many times that you probably roll your eyes when someone dares to break out such a cliche phrase. One thing that you don’t often hear about is the hidden value in mistakes. That is, sometimes screwing up is the best way to learn something.
I present this list in a humorous, fun-poking manner, but please understand that it isn’t meant to make you or any other blogger feel bad. The reason I know about these mistakes is because I’ve been guilty of most of them.
Writing in large paragraphs
Think of your average internet user as a kitten on speed. They’ve got limited time and have become accustomed to instant gratification. SQUIRREL!
Even if your blog is full of interesting information, if it isn’t presented in a scanable format your readers are going to proclaim “TL;DR!” (too long; didn’t read!) and skip to the next thing on their browsing list.
Your average internet user
While there’s no definitive rule, blog post paragraphs should be in the neighborhood of 3-6 sentences long. If you’re having trouble determining where to hit that enter button, read your own writing through the eyes of someone else.
If your writing was a conversation, would you be left wondering if the person speaking was ever going to take a breath?
Getting to the effin’ monkey or “…and then I found five dollars”
Have you ever heard the song King Kong by Tripod? It stresses the importance of “getting to the effin’ monkey” or getting to your main point without boring or completely losing your audience.
Another way to illustrate this idea is “…and then I found five dollars.”
If you have an interesting story behind your weekly grocery list, by all means blog about your grocery list. But I don’t need to know about each item on the list, where it was located in the store, what a great deal you got on it, what the cashier looked like, where you parked, how many red lights you stopped at on the way home, and how many trips it took you to get the groceries from your car to your home. I think I’ve gotten to the effin’ monkey here. Moving on…
Sharing your posts is difficult
When I find a great blog post I want to share it on my social media channels. I also want to give you credit for it so even if someone doesn’t click on the link right away they still know who wrote the post. This not only gives others the chance to follow your social media accounts, it can also expand the discussion past your blog.
If you don’t have sharing buttons on your posts or if you don’t make sure your social media usernames are associated with your sharing buttons, most people aren’t going to take the time to search for your username and share the post. The two biggest offenders are Twitter and Pinterest. On Twitter I don’t want to promote @sharethis or @shareaholic, I want to promote YOU.
Take the time to go into the settings of your chosen social media sharing plugin and replace the plugin’s Twitter handle with yours. If you use Pinterest use alt tags to name your images so I’m sharing something relevant to your blog post, not DSC_0017.jpg.
Using too many animated .gif images
While I’m definitely what you’d consider a connoisseur of animated .gif images, too much of a good thing is, well, too much. A well-placed and amusing animated .gif can make your post more interesting, but if you’re using so many animated images it causes my browser to have a seizure or makes me wait two minutes for your post to load, consider an animated .gif intervention.
Forgetting about the big picture
I live in the United States so I’m going to pick on my country. People from the United States are terrible at assuming that their country is the only place in the world. The world is a big place and people who live outside of your country are reading your blog. As you live out your daily life it’s easy to keep yourself in your own world.
When you speak of a city, region, product, or anything that might cause confusion for someone who isn’t familiar with your part of the world, never assume that your readers know what you’re talking about. You could be missing out on building a relationship with someone who could teach you something interesting about another culture.
Making broad statements or sweeping generalizations
Think about the last time someone made you feel alienated. Did you enjoy it? Probably not. Neither do your readers. Avoid making sweeping generalizations or broad statements such as “all women love babies” or “who doesn’t like bacon?”
Are you saying that I’m wrong or weird if I don’t like bacon? Am I less of a woman if I don’t enjoy babies? The last thing you want to do is alienate your readers and making statements that attempt to pigeonhole or immediately establish people as the “other” will do just that.
Centering your text
Take a look at the two blocks of text below. Which one is easier to read? If you answered the one on the left, your readers and I agree with you. Think about books, newspapers, and magazines. When do they use centered text?
Centered text is great for adding emphasis to one small piece of text, but when you make your entire blog post centered the only thing you’re accomplishing is making it more difficult for anyone to read what you’ve written. The human eye instinctively tries to find one anchor to go back to, so stick to left aligned or justified text.
Instead of centering everything, to add emphasis to your words try using bold, italics, or changing the color of the text you’d like to emphasize.
Using fonts that are difficult to read
If your text is below 10px, readers probably can’t see it. If you use scripty fonts as your body font, readers probably can’t read it. If you use Comic Sans, well, we can see that but no one really wants to see it. Unless you’re 9 years old. Are you 9 years old? Then by all means have at the Comic Sans.
I’m joking, but in all seriousness you put blog posts on the internet because you want someone to read them, right? Make it easy for your readers to receive your wonderful words.
Poor grammar, spelling, and punctuation
This is quite possibly the mistake that has the biggest impact on whether or not people stick around to read your posts. As such, it has a post of its own.