Six Things My Job As A Digital Journalist Taught Me About Writing

As most of you are well aware by now, I wasn’t birthed into this world as a blogger.

I did – shock horror – have a few jobs before this here online gig became my full-time income generator.

I worked as a part-time waitress, I tried really hard to be an estate agent and I even put my journalism degree to good use and worked as a journalist for a few years. DUN DUN DUN.

I’ve always been a digital journalist rather than a print one – working as an online assistant at LOOK, as digital content editor at Marie Claire and InStyle and as an online lifestyle reporter at Metro.

And in doing so, I picked up a few handy tips and tricks along the way that have helped me write for my blog.

So I thought I’d do the whole sharing is caring thing and let you in to a couple of industry pointers. (Yes, I know this makes me sound a bit like a dick. I’m soz.)

 

1. EXCLAMATION MARKS

I was told in my first week at LOOK that only bad writers used exclamation marks. That I could use maybe one – or two at a push – throughout an entire post, but that if I was relying on them to try and make my words sound interesting, then my words obviously weren’t good enough.

It’s something I’ve tried to stick with – there are ways to be funny or excited or enthusiastic without !!!! at the end of every sentence, and I’ll often go through a post after I’ve written it to edit out any excess marks.

 

2. LISTS WITH ODD NUMBERS

You might have noticed during your time perusing this ol’ blog that when I write a list post, the number is normally an odd number. If I’m doing something shorter I’ll stick to seven or nine a lot of the time, or if I’m doing something lengthier I’ll do something like 27 or 31.

The reason? People are apparently more likely to click in to an odd number. Nope, no idea where that info came from either.

It’s the reason you’ll rarely see a ‘top 10′ or ’10 things’ post on websites like Buzzfeed or Metro. The number ten feels forced and padded out, whereas an odd number feels like every thing on that list will be genuine. If that even makes sense?

Lol to this post having an even number in the title.

 

3. BREAKING UP PARAGRAPHS

Like a lot of people, I started whacking out big giant lumps of texts and was told off by my editor pretty quickly.

Now I try and break up the paragraphs after every sentence or two because it makes it so much easier to digest and take in for the reader.

It also makes a post look a lot less daunting when you first click in, so hopefully that convinces people to stick around a little longer.

4. USE HEADERS

Another good way to break up your content a little bit and make it a bit more reader-friendly is to use headers where it’s relevant.

It means people can skim read content a bit more rather than just clicking out straight away if they’re confronted by an essay-style post.

I change my headers from ‘parapraph’ to ‘header 3’ in my WordPress panel and so that they’re a different size and then bold them up so that they stand out a bit more against the rest of my copy. I like to think that not does it make my posts a bit easier on the eye, but that it also looks a sneaky bit more professional.

 

5. A GOOD HEADLINE IS BETTER THAN AN SEO HEADLINE

When journalists were first trying to get the hang of this wild new digital age, the focus was almost entirely on making everything search engine friendly.

What better way to attract new readers (and higher stats) than by ranking highly on Google for popular search terms?

It’s the reason half the bloody content I used to create for the fashion titles was centred around ‘Primark’ and ‘Short Hairstyles’ and ‘Kate Middleton’.

Anyway, turns out the best way to get new readers (and keep new readers) is actually just to produce decent content rather than attempt to focus on search terms.

The chances of you ranking for a popular search term and generating a shit ton of traffic is so unlikely in 2017, that you’re better off just creating kick-ass content with brilliant headlines and getting it seen (and therefore shared and seen by new eyes) that way.

6. LINK BACK TO EXISTING CONTENT

Admittedly, this is something I am a bit shit at. But a great way to get people reading through your content and staying on your blog longer is to actually link back to existing posts.

This doesn’t have to feel spammy and can be as simple as having a ‘you might like’ box at the bottom of every post that suggests other relevant content.

I try and link other posts within a new post if I think they’re actually beneficial to the reader and relevant to what I’m talking about. A good example is my pregnancy diary posts, where I’ll link back to the older diary entry posts in case they were missed the first time.


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