If you drop the word “blog” in a social setting, you’re likely to be met with poorly-hidden sneers and maybe even a slight chuckle. I’ve been guilty of such sneers and chuckles, because often blogs are associated with the uber-personal world of sites such as Tumblr, where anyone and everyone can suddenly become a poet, a singer-songwriter, an online activist. Yet when we sneer at blogs, we fail to understand the power blogging on personal, social, political, and cultural planes. While we decry the rise of the over-sharing on blogs (and social media) we must understand that every blog, yes, every blog, is a historical record of human interaction, and therefore important to our understanding of what connects us. Blogging, and micro-blogging on sites such as Twitter and Facebook, however uncomfortable it can be, is a glimpse into spheres beyond the physical space we inhabit. Why not take a chance to explore those spaces? We might even find something we like.
This post (on a blog, no less) doesn’t aim to explore those spheres. That is for the reader to do themselves, at their own discretion. Instead, this post seeks to convey how the format of a blog can be the deciding factor in whether or not a blog is read, understood, and remembered. In a blog, beyond good writing, authors must promote authenticity and accountability. Authors must also make blogs appealing rhetorically and aesthetically. Keeping these things in mind, we can move forward to more concrete examples.
An author of a blog must first think of the content that readers will see. Is it factual? If not, is that understood? If, post-publishing, you find that there is misinformation, do you fix it? Are your sources good sources, or might they contain bias? Brian Carroll, in writing about blogs, brings up Rebecca Blood’s six simple rules of blogging, which include providing factual information (or acknowledging when information may be inaccurate), properly referencing your sources with hyperlinks, the public recognition of misinformation, disclosing conflict of interest, noting biased sources, and “[posting] deliberately”. It is important for any blogger to keep these aspects of writing online in mind. Bloggers, who Brian Carroll describes as post-modernists, “[reject] objectivity as a goal or ideal.” That is to say, objectivity concerning facts is essential, but blogs also seek to convey opinions, and there objectivity morphs with subjectivity.
In his piece Why We Love Beautiful Things, Lance Hosey discusses the science behind good design. While he doesn’t discuss blogs directly, his piece resonates with bloggers because of its focus on what we find beautiful and attractive aesthetically. For example, he discusses the ideal layout of a paragraph, which subscribes to the “golden rectangle.” The golden rectangle paragraph is the “most conducive to reading and retention.” When writing blogs, we must be careful to consider the layout of our page and write not only to convey our message, but to also convey it in an actively aesthetic manner. Longer paragraphs, which could throw off the proportions of our rectangle, may be avoided in favor of shorter, more succinct paragraphs (also consider the attention span of your reader).
Hosey also discusses how colors can change how we perceive what we are looking at. Green, for instance, “can boost creativity and motivation.” While green might not be appropriate for a blog, adding color can shape how your reader interprets your blog. For instance, one of my favorite blogs, Passion of the Weiss, employes a black background. To me, the reader, this conveys sincerity and a serious tone. It says “while we might joke around here, we’re serious about doing it.”
Beyond layout, bloggers must understand that their writing is going to be held accountable, not only by themselves but by the online community. Sean Michael Morris writes in his piece Digital Writing Uprising: Third-order Thinking in the Digital Humanities, “when I say digital writing is always communal, I do not mean it is always so by consent.” By this he means that your blog, which can be accessed by nearly anyone, is subjected to a kind of accountability that that was never seen prior to the advent of the internet. It is important for bloggers to remember this and understand that once published, their work is on longer theirs, but instead belongs to the serpentine network of writers and rewriters that inhabit the online world.
These are not the only aspects that make a good blog, but they are important features; necessary for effective writing online. Keep these in mind, and we might add some beauty to the online world. Neglect them, and your blog might well disappear in the frenzy.