Should I tell you some truth?
A majority of writers are bad writers.
And that's true for any field. A majority of teachers are bad teachers, a majority of engineers are bad engineers, a majority of actors are bad actors, etc.
And if we talk about Indian cinema and television, then a very large majority of actors are very bad actors. But I'm digressing.
So if a lot of bad writers read this article then it will help them become better at their craft. Now since writing is an art form, they will produce better art which in turn will help the world become a slightly better place as it'll make it a little more beautiful.
Too philosophical? Okay, to business.
In this article I'll be making two assumptions.
"Many people mistakenly believe that complicated writing implies philosophical merit and big words signify academic achievement."
One -- You are a newbie writer who has just started blogging after reading about the importance of blogs. If not, read this nice article from Writing World on why writers should blog.
Two -- You already know about the basics of blog writing. If not, go take a look at Fahrenheit Marketing's advice on the topic.
So now let me show you some slightly advanced-level mistakes that a lot of bloggers make and how to avoid them.
1. Using complex language and bombastic words
Many people mistakenly believe that complicated writing implies philosophical merit and big words signify academic achievement.
Whenever I read the work of any great thinker -- be it a physicist, a philosopher, or a psychologist -- I find there are two recurring themes in all their work: clarity of thought and simplicity of language.
I discussed this topic at some length in my book Concision: A No-Grammar Guide to Good Writing and I'm reproducing some passages from it below.
This is what a research published in Applied Cognitive Psychology found:
Most texts on writing style encourage authors to avoid overly-complex words. However, a majority of undergraduates admit to deliberately increasing the complexity of their vocabulary so as to give the impression of intelligence. This paper explores the extent to which this strategy is effective. Experiments 1-3 manipulate complexity of texts and find a negative relationship between complexity and judged intelligence. (Source; emphasis mine)
Big words should only be used when no easier words work.
Wordy: The heavens bore a plethora of colours variegated with every kind conceivable.
Concise: The sky contained all kinds of colours.
If there is any information that the first statement contains and which is not contained in the second, I fail to see what.
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde is a very popular play known for its literary merit. There are hardly any sesquipedalian terms in it.
Bombastic words should only be used when your meaning is so specific that it won't be conveyed by any other word. Else you will just annoy your readers.
And if you had to refer to a dictionary to see what "sesquipedalian" means, I have proved my point.
2. Writing only for SEO
SEO or search engine optimisation refers to the methods of increasing the ranking of a website in search engine results so that it may receive more traffic from them.
Many bloggers obsess over it and I don't blame them. After all, Google is one of the most popular websites on the Internet and getting into their good books can give you a large influx of traffic. And if you know what you're doing this traffic could last for several months.
But the mistake that many newbie bloggers make is to write crappy copy, seed it with popular keywords, hit Publish and anticipate getting thousands of visitors. But nothing happens except for some crickets chirping.
And that's because using relevant keywords in your copy is just a small piece in the pie. If there is one thing that is of profound importance in terms of SEO then it is backlinks.
(A backlink is simply a link from one page of the web to another. For e.g. this is a backlink from this page to The Huffington Post's home page.)
"[T]he mistake that many newbie bloggers make is to write crappy copy, seed it with popular keywords, hit Publish and anticipate getting thousands of visitors."
The more backlinks you have the more authoritative you become in Google's eyes and the more love it will show you.
Therefore it's a mistake to focus your efforts on SEO when you are a beginner blogger. Instead of writing for algorithms, write for people. And then when you would have garnered good enough backlinks you can do your on-site SEO.
You can read my article Search engine optimization: A beginner's guide to learn more about SEO.
3. Trying to achieve perfection
Just like some bloggers write a crappy post and bank on SEO, some others keep writing and editing and polishing and re-drafting the article and take forever to hit Publish.
This reminds me of something known as the point of diminishing returns.
Exercising for half-an hour daily is good, for 45 minutes is better, for one hour even better. But for 10 hours? Instead of being helpful it'll become detrimental to health.
Taking a day off work every week is nice, taking two days off is better. Not working for the complete week? Disastrous.
A thing is said to have reached the point of diminishing returns when having more of it serves no useful purpose.
So set a deadline for yourself. Work on your article only till a particular point. Then ship.
It's okay if one or two minor mistakes elude you. You can always correct them later.
Even Oscar winning movies contain errors. See this for example.
I hope this article will help create better bloggers. The Internet is littered with crappy posts and trashy articles. It doesn't need any more of them.