Blogging 101

What’s so hard about blogging? Wasn’t blogging supposed to be the lightest form of writing? Ideally, blogging involves a number of principles of good journalism, which does take a bit of planning before letting the pen fly on the page.

The thing that troubles me most about blogging is the danger of underestimating the reader. When the text is online, the reader could be anyone, looking for anything, and probably picky about the sites they want to spend time on. The question isn’t facilitated by the fact that the blog entries will remain the same even as time passes. And of course, one has to take the time to knuckle down.

Like in other WDC initiatives of Spirit of Artova, a part of My House Arabianranta was to blog about the experiences from and turning points of the project for a visual model. The blogging training, courtesy of the author and journalist Anu Silfverberg, helped to see the blogosphere and the reader through the eyes of a journalist. Here are five of the most important lessons Anu taught us:

1. Professional blogging is at the same time a very planned but laid-back activity, a quick task executed with a timer. Anu used an example crafted by her colleague Unto Hämäläinen to illustrate how independent blog entries are joined into “a string of pearls, or a clothesline”, so that they form a continuum. That way, the reader can, without any special background knowledge, enjoy either one text or a string of follow-up texts. Once you have the big picture thought out, you can cover one theme in one entry.

2. Show, don’t tell. One thing this training did for me was a shift in what kind of things I consider useful to memorise. I haven’t been very conscientious with details like specific years in history class, the birthdays of my friends in everyday life, not even the plots of classic films. I was told, however, that details make stories of the world come alive in a whole different way, and now I’ve been paying attention to things like these and taken to writing down sometimes very detailed observations in my notebook.

3. One thing at a time, and only once. This is also one of those reminders that are tattooed on the forehead of every journalist. There is usually something that you excited or flustered about. The most reader-friendly method, however, is to restrict the text to the essentials and to believe that the reader is able to take in a clearly written and concise text in one go.

4. At its best, blogging is something completely different from having a personal journal; text is actually produced in very much same way as traditionally in journalism. In these cases, the angle of the text is essential, as is consideration for what would be a satisfying and clear closing for the story. The training gave us also a safe permission to avoid writing in the first person. Particularly when writing about interaction between people, the writer is only a part of a crowd, not the main character of the story. The reader is in any case more interested in concrete things, facts, actual tensions.

5. Entries must be kept short (1000-2500 characters), about the same length as one paragraph of a regular newspaper story. It’s useful to start with writing a headline and then following up with a short caption in order to crystallise the topic and stay on it.

According to Anu, topics that render the writer thoughtful make for the best and most interesting stories. Things that one feels are important to discuss with a close friend over a glass. The text becomes readable only when one dares to leave out one’s own interpretations and feelings and concentrate on the core of the matter at hand. Broad and complicated topics profit from concrete examples, and pragmatic content is appreciated beside grand themes.

A lot of exercise using these instructions, and maybe you’ll actually learn to enjoy this. It might be possible, too, to replace a more boring tool with a blog – that motivates!

Satu Onnela

Translation by Pigasus Translations.

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