20 Language And Storytelling Rules For Your Article Writing

Language and storytelling are important – to some more than to others and even though this post may seem irrelevant to those of you who uphold grammar and language, I hope that you will find some inspiration and tips when it comes to language and stories in your writing. You see, blogging is not supposed to be academic and it’s not a competition to see who can form the longest and most complicated sentences curling the words and meanings in witty and different ways. It’s about getting your point across – quickly and precisely.

Stories usually tell about a journey, whether it is a personal passage, a conflict, or a challenge. Along this journey, we hope that the hero will transform into a better version of himself. As bloggers we need to capture and translate these same concepts into our content to better engage our readers.

Your teacher didn’t always know best. The bad writing habits that we picked up from our teachers are one reason people’s writing is so weak. If you want to improve your copy, you have to unlearn some of the bad writing habits you picked up at school. Here’s 6 ways your English teacher wrecked your writing.

20 language and storytelling rules

  • Don’t take ages to ‘get to the point’. Remember your teacher insisting that essays needed a rambling introduction and a lengthy conclusion? If you actually had anything to say, you were meant to hide it somewhere in the middle. This taught you that it’s okay to hold off on ‘getting to the point’. That’s why so many posts and emails take forever to warm up. Today’s internet doesn’t give you the luxury of carefully setting the scene, or creating a warm, fuzzy preamble. Readers are busy! So jump straight in and make your point. Get in, get out.
  • Don’t write too much. Homework assignments were always doled out with a minimum word count implied. You knew if you didn’t show up the next day with at least two sides of A4, you were in big trouble. Your teacher just wanted to expand your thinking, and give more thought to your answers. But what happened is that you learned to write too much. Don’t forget – less is more. When you’re writing for the web, people want you to get straight to the point. Prune, don’t pad. Use simplicity. Follow the K.I.S.S. principle {keep it simple, stupid!} when it comes to sentences, paragraphs and even posts. Even though most sites are about personal views and opinions about specific subjects, it’s important to stay clear through the entire post and stick to the point.
  • Stick to one subject at a time: This way the post and point will be clear, you’ll have more material for your website, and you’ll have a great opportunity to link within your post.
  • Avoid smileys: Personally, I find them unprofessional, annoying and disturbing while reading. Keep your post sleek and elegant. You can say whatever you wanted to say with a smiley in a few extra words.
  • Don’t write passively. The ultimate English teacher no-no? Daring to refer to yourself or the reader. You basically couldn’t write ‘you’ or ‘I’. So, “the liquid in the test tube was heated to 80 degrees” was ok, but the active form (“I heated the liquid in the test tube to 80 degrees”) wasn’t. Your school taught you that using the passive form made you sound formal and objective. Time to wise up, because today the opposite is true in successful writing. When you address people as “you”, they’re more likely to tune into your words. And when you refer to yourself as “I”, it makes you sound accountable.
  • Everyday language: At school, using big words got you better marks. This helped to increase your vocabulary, which is good. But it also taught you to garnish your writing with pretentious words and corporate jargon. Here’s the thing: nobody’s stood over your desk handing out house points for being a words-worth anymore. These big smart-ass words are letting you down. In blogging, your goal is to be clear and persuasive – not score points for using a thesaurus. You’re not writing a Russian novel – you’re writing your thoughts in a post. Everyday language can be beautiful too and it’s much easier to skim short(er) sentences, than tangled paragraphs.
  • Ditch the jargon. Most of us are so accustomed to our own “insider” jargon it’s hard to remember a time when we didn’t know what “RSS” was. But if you write for beginners, any kind of jargon is going to lose and confuse your readers – especially when used in the navigation or categories of your site. Getting rid of jargon is an instant fix that will make your site much more friendly to new visitors.
  • Terminology: If you want to reach a wide group of individuals avoid using terminology that is most likely only popular amongst professionals and experts in your field. Your readers will not be looking up terms – they’ll move on to the next site. The same goes for Internet slang!
  • Use of foreign words: Less is more in this case and if you must, make sure you understand the meaning of the word, before you use it.
  • Proofread: Blogging is all about personality, simplicity and quirkiness, but make sure that your text isn’t full of typos. Typos make you seem lazy! Use the spell checker in WordPress. It’s pretty good.
  • Don’t expect a captive audience. Did you notice how, when you handed in your homework, it always came back marked. That’s because your teachers cared deeply about your progress. The lesson you learned was that everything you wrote would be carefully perused by a trained professional. The reality could not be more different. Your readers are busy, distracted people with infinite demands on their time. Unlike your teachers, they aren’t paid to read your stuff. In blogging, it’s a battle to be read. Make sure you’re known for short, clear communication. Use headers, bullets and tight writing!
  • Use keywords: You want the language to flow and be natural, but you can still use keywords that are relevant for your topic and write in an organic way. It’s great for your posts and your SEO.
  • I as opposed to we: Sites are personal and that’s what we love about them. As soon as I turns into we, the site loses a part of its soul. If your site all of a sudden becomes huge and gets more writers, the writers should still use I and continue the personal perspective throughout their articles.
  • Don’t hedge your bets. Teachers used to ask for ‘balanced’ essays. If you argued one way, you’d have to even it up with a counter-argument. The idea was to teach you that writing should be fair. Your readers don’t come to your site to read a ‘legal opinion’ – they want you to tell them what’s happening, and what they should do about it. Don’t get splinters in your ass sitting on the fence.
  • Gather your raw materials. Keep a journal of your topics and decide on what categories they fall into whether you are providing tips, tricks, creative ideas, suggestions, or opinions. For example, think about how we categorize films into genres of comedy, drama, thriller, and so on. The categorization process is the same. Outline your ideas and jot down key words as they come to you. As a rule of thumb, make sure that you can express your ideas in about 800 words or less.
  • Break down your story into segments. Create a compelling introduction that grabs your reader’s attention within the first 2-3 sentences. If your reader is not continuing on with your entry after the first few seconds, he will quickly move on to another one. Touch on your key points clearly and concisely. That is, be detailed but brief. While this statement is rather vague, try spicing your reading up with a sprinkling of adjectives – not too many or you’ll lose your reader in the details. Give your reader a sense of conclusion, a sense of closure. Therefore, briefly summarize your points at the end.
  • Use visuals. Relate the concepts you are trying to present to something that people use or do every day. Use photos, videos, and podcasts to help visually draw in your reader. While videos and podcasts take a lot of time in terms of planning, coordinating, setting up, recording, and post-production, there are many simple tools that you can use as an individual to accomplish this goal.
  • Use analogies. Telling stories often incorporates complex ideas. Therefore, it is always a good idea if you can relate an everyday task to what you are explaining. Also, you will want to make sure that your analogy relates directly and translates easily to the complex idea. For example, if you are showing someone how to play a grand piano, you may wish to equate it to playing darts or some other simpler task that still requires a keen sense of accuracy.
  • Leave out the sub-plots. Note that there is no time for sub-plots to your entries. Sub-plots detract from the overall story that you are trying to tell. Be sure to remain brief and to the point.
  • Build to an epic conclusion. What is your reader getting from reading your post? Is it knowledge, ideas, solutions, answers to questions… Or is it simply them wishing they got those 10 minutes back in their life? Make your reader feel like it was worth their while to spend time with your post. Make it dazzle them; make it epic.

In summary, your posts should always be something that you are proud of. Bring creativity and excitement to your work through storytelling. The most important thing is to stay true to your own writing style, however if you’re used to academic writing and have now decided to write about your love for traveling, make sure to adjust your language to a more personal and down to earth audience. That’s what blogging is all about… Keep it simple!

Thanks to Milana Saric, Kenneth Cossin and Ian Harris for contributing to this post.