4 Things I Learned about Writing in School I Also Use While Writing My Blog

Whenever Krysta or I bring up the structure of a blog post or the idea of research or evidence in a blog post, we get a flurry of comments to the effect of, “This isn’t school!” No, it isn’t school, but my theory is that the things I learned about writing in school are not ONLY for writing research papers about Shakespeare; they’re also guidelines for how to write things in daily life! So while I admit I don’t put the same amount of rigor and structure into writing for the blog that I would have for a serious academic research paper (I agree; this is still just a hobby!), there are are things I do while writing to try to make my blog posts more cohesive and readable.

1

Have a Thesis

A “thesis” is just the idea that the text has a main point, and that the main point is clearly stated somewhere in the opening paragraph or introduction (if the introduction is more than one paragraph long). This means that, for discussion posts, I try to make the main argument or question clear in the beginning of the post. For reviews, I try to end the first paragraph with a clear statement of whether or not I enjoyed the book and what main aspects of the book led me to like/dislike it.

2

Write Topic Sentences

This is probably the area where I’m flakiest on the blog because I put A LOT of effort into writing topic sentences for academic papers, and I don’t put nearly the same amount of thought into them for my blog. However, I do still try to write them! Using topic sentences helps the reader know what the paragraph is going to be focused on, and they help me as the writer stay focused on that thing, whether I’m discussion the pacing of a book, the logic of a plot, or the characterization of a protagonist.

Use Evidence to Back Up My Points

The idea that you should back up your arguments with evidence has been a strangely controversial point on our blog in the past, but I think it’s immensely important! “Evidence” is just the reasons I believe the things I am writing. For a factual discussion post, this could, in fact, mean research and reading studies and articles to cite and link to. For instance, if I want to make a claim that “no one reads audiobooks anyway,” I should probably look up what percentage of readers do (or do not) listen to audiobooks.

The important aspect is recognizing what is “just my opinion” and what is a claim that could be proved or disproved with actual research. I have awkwardly seen book bloggers make (sometimes very angry!) claims about why publishers do X, why ebooks cost Y, why libraries do Z, etc. that are . . . just factually wrong. I know “research,” for a lot of bloggers, sounds like something that they shouldn’t have to do for a hobby they are just doing for fun, but I believe it’s important to try to make accurate claims when possible.

And for topics that ARE more opinion-based, I still think evidence is important! If, for instance, I say in a review that the plot is slow, I try to give an example of why. Or if I say a character is brilliant, I might give an example of a time they did something exceptionally smart.

Evidence is important to help your audience understand why your opinions or arguments are what they are, and help the audience decided whether they agree.

four

End with a Conclusion

This might be the most obvious point on the list, but I do try to end my posts with some type of conclusion. In a discussion post, I try to sum up the main point and any final information I want the readers to take away. In a review, I make a final point about whether or not I recommend the book to other readers, and why.

Conclusions can also be good for SEO. I’ve read that readers like seeing them, and having a clear conclusion can increase how many people finish reading the post. Using clear heading tags like “introduction” and “conclusion” throughout the post can also be useful for SEO.

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And One Thing I Don’t Do As Much As I Should: Proofread

I literally proofread professionally, but I can’t stand reading my own work. Sometimes I reread a post once it’s published and notice some typos I need to clean up, but I admit I don’t do much proofreading of my own drafts. Please forgive me.

Briana

21 thoughts on “4 Things I Learned about Writing in School I Also Use While Writing My Blog

  1. Kristina says:

    Ohh this is quite a nice way to look at things, indeed!
    Unless it’s a « my writing » post like the one where I spoke about living in a pandemic with my immunodepressive mother, where words just flies through my hand solely on THAT specific narrative, I do tend to ramble on 😅🤭

    The obsessive part of my anxiety has me proof-reading my post within the preview a dozen of times. Just to schedule it and go check it once more.. so atleast I do have that one right iguess 😂

    Like

  2. Michael J. Miller says:

    YES. I adore this and I couldn’t agree more. Just because writing is “fun” or “a hobby” doesn’t mean it doesn’t need this sort of structure. And I grant everyone has their preferences but pieces that lack these fundamental building blocks lose my attention almost immediately and in my busy life I won’t visit any blogs regularly that don’t offer this. I think the issue of evidence – both research based and opinion clarification/examples/defense – is particularly important. I can’t imagine why I’d invest my time in reading anything – “academic” or “casual” – where the author won’t put the time in to support what they’re saying in even the most basic way. It’s been a looooong day for a lot of reasons but reading this just made my night and now I’m off the bed with a smile on my face. Thank you for this :D. And I think I’ll offer this post a hearty, “HUZZAH!”

    Like

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      When we’ve mentioned it in the past, people have been REALLY against evidence because, I guess, it’s work and this is just a hobby and not that serious. But how can I know whether I agree with anything they’re saying if there’s not at least some sort of example or further explanation?

      Also I admit I just have a personal pet peeve about ranty angry posts that are angry about things that aren’t even true because the writer didn’t do any research.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Michael J. Miller says:

        Can I say something that may sound a little judgy but I don’t mean that way? I mean it more descriptively than I do placing any sort of a value judgement on the choice. I think it’s easier/quicker not to find sources and we, generally speaking, aren’t looking for extra work. Why do background work when you can just say/write something? Which I get not wanting extra work but it leads us further down the path of absolutizing our own views and that brings major problems. I’d say it’s the teacher in me that is annoyed by people not supporting their point of view but I’ve always been that way – even as a kid I wanted to know WHY. Show me your evidence that informs your point!

        I’m with you all the way here and this is a hill I will happily die on.

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        • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

          Oh, I totally agree! Add to that the fact that blogging takes a long time in general, and a lot of people are pressed for time or feel pressure to post as often as possible, and spending a couple hours looking things up when you don’t exactly HAVE to starts looking unappealing. But I also agree that it’s usually worth the time!

          Liked by 1 person

          • Michael J. Miller says:

            Personally, I’d rather write less and take the time to research my ideas/opinions/points of view than to write more and not do so. But then again many people have a more regular posting schedule than I do XD. But I think it’s worth the time. Oh! It’s like a quality vs. quantity issue and I’d rather produce (and read) writing less writing with that polished edge to it than more writing without.

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yeah, I kind of glance over my drafts as I’m typing them, but I don’t do a formal proofread, and then when I’m rereading the published post a week later when it’s live on the blog I suddenly notice all the things I typed wrong. Oops.

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  3. Krysta says:

    Yes, I love posts that a clear point and some sort of structure. Those components make it so much easier to read and understand a post I think they can also help the writer a great deal, as coming up with a thesis helps clarify what the post is about and why writing it matters. Proofreading I am less concerned about because typos are easy fixes, and they won’t normally interfere with a reader’s understanding. But a lack of structure can be really confusing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Kim @ Traveling in Books says:

    Why wouldn’t you want to have some sort of structure in your posts? They would be chaotic and unreadable without structure, even if you don’t sit down and plan everything out like you would an academic work.

    Also, I can’t imagine making some grand claim without having evidence. It would be so easy for someone to do a couple of searches, find the evidence, and make me look so foolish for claiming A or B without being able to back it up…

    Like

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Well, I’ve seen people directly write things like, “I have no idea where I am going with this post,” and then proceed to write about 3 unrelated topics, which was confusing to me, so it happens!

      Personally I’ve found that if I try to politely comment that someone is factually wrong about something (like it’s the entire premise of the post, not something I’m being nitpicky about, and I assumed they or their readers would like to know), they either reply angrily or delete the comment from their blog, so now I just let it go and let people be wrong . . .

      Like

      • Kim @ Traveling in Books says:

        Okay, wow. I guess I follow a structured bunch of bloggers, because I haven’t encountered anything like that! I also haven’t encountered any who have made false claims and then gotten angry if that was pointed out to them. I probably would stop following them after that if they did….

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      • Krysta says:

        Haha, that happened to me once! I provided evidence that the entire premise of someone’s post was factually wrong. I was polite about it, and provided a link so they could see the evidence. They refused to publish the comment, then went about commenting to everyone else about how “rude” and “entitled” I was to contradict them. I sometimes think back on it and laugh. But I also don’t engage with people like this anymore because I realized they don’t actually want to know the truth. They just want to rant.

        Like

  5. Books Teacup and Reviews says:

    This was great to read. I didn’t learn writing things like this in school. I was really terrible in English until I started reading novels. I wish I had done that earlier in my life. I also like include introduction. summery and conclusion in my posts. I hardly notice any typos in your post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I honestly didn’t have a lot of great writing instruction either and had to learn a lot by reading or by getting comments from professors in college. I never took an actual class on writing, though I had to teach one in grad school, and then I was like, “Aha! I do all this stuff I am telling my students to do! I just don’t actually think about it that much!”

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Susana @susanalovesbooks says:

    This post really reminded me of my English classes I stopped having at the end of last year, but in a good way. English is my second language and I had extra classes so I could get a Cambridge exam diploma and reading this post gave me a weird feeling of nostalgia because I honestly kind of miss when we had writing classes (I would never say this when I still had them though, that’s for sure).
    It’s cool that we can apply these things to our real life, even in our hobbies like blogging.
    Lovely post!

    Like

  7. BookerTalk says:

    The hardest practice for me is to write a conclusion when I’m doing a book review. I give it a go but it always feel a bit lame, as if I’ve already covered all the points.

    Like

  8. Linda I PagesandPapers says:

    Love this post! I just realised that I use so many features of academic writing unconsciously when writing my posts. In fact, I‘m guilty of all of your points. 😉 ps I used to be bad at proofreading too but grammarly’s free version saved my life 😉

    Like

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