The 5 Rules That Shape Every Post I Write

As promised, today is the first post in a short series on blogging. I’m not going to cover it all in this tiny series, but I will offer a few thoughts and answer a few questions. Thanks for reading!

Not long after I started blogging, I stumbled upon 5 rules that have shaped nearly every post I’ve written on Modern Mrs Darcy.

I got them from Sports Talk Radio.

Rule 1 (and 2): Have a Take. Don’t Suck.

My husband loves Jim Rome’s call-in sports talk radio show, which works–even to the ears of half-hearted sports fans like myself–because of the cardinal rule for callers he announces at the start of every show: “Have a take. Don’t suck.”

Why? Because if you don’t have a take, and you can’t express it well, it’s not worth saying on the air.

The same rule applies to blogging: it took me a while to believe this as a blogger, but people want to hear your take. When you’re sitting down to write a post, don’t run around the internet to see what other bloggers have said. Don’t repackage the experts’ opinions. Don’t give us bland, or wishy-washy. Give us you.

Readers are visiting your blog because they want your perspective. If you don’t have a take, you don’t have anything to write about. If you don’t have anything to write about, you don’t have a blog. Give us your take.

You don’t have to know the answer, or propose a solution, but you do have to have a take. And it has to be yours. You might have to voice an opinion, and people might disagree with you. Yeah, that can be scary, but that’s why I loved this advice from Jessica’s Guide to Beginner Blogging ebook: “Speak the truth in love, and let the hater cards fall where they may.”

Rules 3-5: Don’t be Unfunny, Uninspired, or Unreadable.

Jim Rome wraps up each show with the Triple U Text Contest. The winner gets … blocked.

The Triple U rules the blogosphere: if you consistently violate it, we–the readers–will unsubscribe, delete your bookmark, or just wander away. You don’t have to be funny, but don’t try–and fail. Don’t bore us.

And whatever you do, don’t be unreadable. Give us easy-to-read fonts and plenty of white space. Keep your paragraphs short. Keep most posts to 800 words or less (and many readers say they prefer 500). We’ll forgive a typo or two in a blog post, but not more than that.

These rules from sports talk radio have guided my blogging from (almost) the beginning. I was very conscious about following them for 9 months, running each post through the Sports Talk Radio Test before hitting “publish”–but now they’re internalized. I’m not saying every post is great, but I do know what I’m aiming for.

To be a better blogger, think about what you’re aiming for before you publish that next post.

Do your posts have to pass a test before you hit “publish?”

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As I mentioned above, Jessica of Bohemian Bowmans fame released a brand new Guide to Beginner Blogging today! According to Jessica, this ebook is for newbie bloggers:”this book will calm some of your fears, answer some of your questions, and help you get to the very heart of blogging one baby step at a time.” She provided me with a preview copy and I was impressed by her many nuggets of blogging wisdom. I’m an affiliate for the book.

I’ll be sharing some of my favorite posts about blogging on the MMD facebook page this week. To follow along, you can “like” the page here.

photo credit

Comments

  1. says

    One rule I have is don’t post anything I wouldn’t be happy for everyone I know and might meet to read (parents, friends, pastors, potential employers ect.). While my readership is small and I know that excessive personal details can drive blog views I don’t think extra page views are worth causing relational or career problems.

    A related criteria is for book reviews. I try not to post things I wouldn’t be okay with the book’s author reading. Despite not being a big name blogger, I have occasionally had authors visit and comment. It doesn’t necessarily mean not pointing out problems with the book or saying I don’t recommend it, but it does mean not using unnecessarily harsh or personal language.

    • says

      Joanna, I’m with you there. My parents, my husband’s parents, my pastor, and now my grandparents all subscribe to my blog.

      That certainly makes a difference what I write about (sometimes). I value good family relationships much more than a few extra readers.

      • says

        Yep, this is definitely an issue. If you read about something personal about someone on this blog, I’ve asked for their permission to share it. I’ve tossed many great ideas aside because I couldn’t find a way to avoid hurting people’s feelings if I went there. And I never post anything I’d be embarrassed for anyone to read.

        I also schedule my posts in advance, and always sleep on them before I hit “publish.” I don’t really have a hot temper, but I still think this keeps me out of trouble :)

    • says

      Joanna, that’s a great point about published authors. They are still people, like you say, and should be treated with respect. If I wouldn’t say it to their face, I don’t say it online.

      • says

        I would add a caveat of “say it to their face in the context where the author asked for honest feedback about what you thought worked and didn’t work.” Part of my ability to review books for different outlets comes from not gushing about much of anything. Even if I really, really like a book, I’ll mention one or two things that could be improved. This is a fine line with people I know professionally, but I think most understand that I won’t be able to review their books for “real” outlets if I’m not a bit of a critic. And any publicity for a book is good (I say that as an author).

      • says

        I review books regularly, and I won’t not write something even if it’s critical, but I do often try and imagine the author reading my review, and would I wish I’d written something differently? I assume published authors have got to expect that they may get critical feedback.

        The funny thing is, my reviews that I posted this week included one that I hesitated the most about posting it because I think I’m skirting the line between criticizing the book verses the author. I decided to post it because at the end, my comment really is relevant to the book, but it did have me dithering slightly.

  2. says

    Great points! The thing I’ve been working on lately is being willing to share my own take. Realizing that, yes, people really DO want to know what I have to say. Otherwise I wouldn’t have any followers, right? I’m eager to read the rest of the series!

  3. says

    Oh Jim Rome. My dad has a thing for that man; I used to have to listen to it with him in the car. I can’t stand the long pauses he takes! But sports talk radio has definitely grown on me since my husband’s a big fan…just not Jim Rome. ;)

    I love the analogy, and I think it’s also a great example of using your own voice to explain an idea rather than what’s already been used.

  4. says

    That’s funny. I guess I’m not the only one influenced by sports radio!

    Have a take is a good point to make. I’m very guilty of linking to posts from others and saying “What she said”.

  5. Karianna@CaffeinatedCatholicMama says

    I think I need to take note with rule #5! Most of my posts, lately have been in the 800-1000 word range and the funny thing is, I HATE reading long blog posts! I tend to skim them if they get too wordy. Time to self edit!

  6. says

    I *love* that you got these rules from sports radio. My husband is a big fan, although I prefer Dan Patrick to Jim Rome so he’s nice to me and generally avoids listening to Rome when I’m around to hear. :)

    And I think your rules are great – I have never consciously put together any posting rules for myself but I think it would be helpful.

  7. says

    Love this, Anne! My husband is a clone and I actually enjoy listening to Rome a bit when we are on road trips at that time of day. I never would have thought to apply these “rules” to blogging, but you are so right on!

    I’ll never forget something that in one of Blissdom’s keynotes from 2011, Scott Stratton’s cardinal rule– in not so many words– was to blog when you have something awesome to say. That’s where I’m at right now and it kind of goes along with your Rome-esque rules 1 & 2. I don’t say something unless I feel it is worth being said. Not sure if it’s awesome but at least, that’s my goal. ;)

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