Research Writing Center Writing Process

How to Write a Blog Post (from a Blog Editor)

In my three years as a Blog Editor with the Writing Center, I’ve collaborated with writers on a variety of article genres: opinion-based pieces, reflections, book reviews, interviews, how-to guides, and more. And, as a seasoned editor of blog posts, I’ve seen just how complex this style of writing can be.

While blog posts are generally known for quirky one-liners and content, I have discovered that writers of this genre are also able to share pivotal decisions, memorable quotes, internal conflicts, helpful advice, and potential opportunities for growth. Skilled blog writers strike the balance between larger blog conventions (e.g., short posts, specific in topic, conversational in tone), narrower conventions of their selected subgenre (e.g., the difference between a reflection and profile), and their own authorial voice and style.

[W]riters of this genre are also able to share pivotal decisions, memorable quotes, internal conflicts, helpful advice, and potential opportunities for growth.

As you can see, I have intense respect for blog writing as a form!

In the spirit of respecting the genre, here are a few short guides on the main subgenres of blog writing. Hopefully this post will inspire potential blog writers to give it a shot, as well as offer tips to seasoned blog writers to help them to impress their own editors.

How-To’s & Reflections

How-to articles are likely the most commonly viewed blog genre, especially with this category’s substantive variety and quantity. This genre encompasses many distinct fields and audience questions. Topics like how-to roast chestnuts, drive a car, write a novel, understand physics, remain focused, form healthy relationships, and peel a mango are all plausible in the span of this subgenre. Although it may seem like how-to’s have been worn out with time, don’t lose hope! There is bound to be someone that needs a niche piece of advice that you, a writer, can offer in a post.

The reflection genre is, arguably, the most complex of the blog post types. Similar to the how-to genre, this category of writing is equally expansive in its scope of possibilities and, additionally, in its depth of experience. While some reflections lean on the format of a how-to (e.g., this one detailing 5 Lessons on Career Growth from a Google Exec), there is a range of flexibility in this style as writers attempt to process, communicate, and suggest advice from their personal experiences.

Many reflections are written by a seasoned professional of a distinct field or career to readers interested in their line of work– but most others are centered on an individual trying something new, observing something emotional, and writing about it. While the potential of this subgenre may feel daunting, endeavoring to explore the realm of reflection writing could surprise you, challenging you to grow close to a topic.

Interviews & Profiles

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Writing an interview blog article is a relatively straightforward task that mainly requires active listening skills and intentional communication. However, preparing sufficiently and establishing the interviewee’s comfort will make a substantial difference in the kind of content you’ll have for a post. Throughout the writing and interviewing process, writers are encouraged to be transparent with interviewees. In the preparation phase (gathering questions, setting up a time to meet, acquiring consent), you must communicate why you are interviewing them, where the final article will be published, and whether or not they will have access to your final document prior to publishing. If you are going to audio record and transcribe the conversation (either personally or via a transcribing software), be certain that the individual understands how you will process and edit their words.

Following the actual interview occurring, you should focus on integrating edits from your site or company editors and thanking your participant. A handwritten note or personal email goes a long way in expressing gratitude to your interviewee. This interview with nonfiction essayist Esmé Weijun Wang is a good model of this subgenre for future reference.

Profiles utilize similar skills to interviews, but they typically allow for a greater amount of creativity and experimentation than an average interview. Writers of this subgenre are encouraged to move past the direct quotes to capture the essence of a person. Most profiles include additional research methods (e.g., interviews with family members, news articles, text messages, etc.) in an attempt to encompass the fullness of the person of study. Some profile writers will observe and shadow their subject to understand their character beyond one or two moments, in the hopes the writer will be able to situate the studied person in both their cultural place and historical time.

Profiles tend to be a bit more difficult than interviews, as they have the potential to oversimplify a person and their work and require a larger time investment. However, profiles are an excellent subgenre to consider if you are experiencing a season of writer’s block or want to try your hand at human study writing– you will definitely not be lacking writing material with this type. Wheaton College’s own English Writing Professor Drew Bratcher wrote this marvelous profile on Marilynne Robinson that you should check out.

Op-Ed’s & Media Reviews

Opinion pieces (frequently referred to as op-ed’s) are exactly what they sound like: a writer’s opinion on a particular topic. You may be a bit hesitant to try writing an op-ed due to the negative connotation of them being controversial and unfounded, but don’t dismiss the genre just yet. Most op-ed’s are compelling, well-researched, and persuasive without crossing a line into problematic claims or unpopular rhetoric. It can be a difficult path to navigate, but writing an op-ed blog post is a fruitful exercise in empathy and argument, while standing in the gap for a topic that may not have significant or accessible discourse yet. The Wheaton Record’s Op-Ed section is a good place to find inspiration for this genre done well.

Media reviews operate in a slightly different manner than op-ed’s. Rather than seeking to convince readers of an opinion or perspective, this subgenre attempts to convince readers to follow a recommendation. Writers of media reviews generally present a bit of background information on a text (or film, music album, theatrical play, etc.) before delving into their experience concerning the piece of entertainment. Their experience– typically either a positive or negative one, although there can be experiences and reviews that are a bit of both– results in a concluding recommendation for readers to take action upon (listen to the song, read the book, boycott the film). The New York Times wrote a shining review of “Everything Sad is Untrue,” the Wheaton College Core book this year, that is a great model of this genre if you’re interested in published media reviews.

Get Writing!

Blog writing is a collaborative endeavor. Working alongside an editing or revising team (like myself) is a rewarding experience for all parties. Editors are equipped to assist with brainstorming, sentence-level edits, drafting stages, and ultimately, publishing your work. So don’t count yourself out of blog writing or count blog writing out of your serious pursuits! This genre can serve to be another tool on your writing journey and push you to experiment with your passions and interests in a new, creative way.

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