Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Why I'm Not Reading Your Blog

I've debated posting this for a while, but I finally figured, "Why not?" Even if it seems incredibly presumptuous and the height of hubris for me, the author of a crappy little blog with not a lot of followers, to tell you what you're doing wrong, well, it's my blog and I do what I want.

All of these are legitimate reasons I have either never started following a blog, or why I've eventually removed a blog from my reading list. They can be broken down into two categories.

Category 1: Web Design Issues

In other words: it's the presentation, not the actual content. You might think to yourself: hey, strong writing will shine through no matter what! The truth of the matter, from my lazy and pressed-for-time experience, is that ain't nobody got time for text that is difficult or uncomfortable to read.

1. You're center-aligning your text.

Please don't do this.

2. You're doing fancy font and color stuff with your text.

Please don't do this, either.

3. You're hiding everything behind a cut/jump/etc.

If I read your blog, it's through my RSS reader (which is Inoreader, by the way, if you also lamented the loss of Google Reader). I realize that other readers visiting you via RSS may prefer those truncated introductions, and maybe you do, too, and that's why you do it.

But let me defend verbosity: I don't want to have to click through to another tab. I follow a lot of blogs; I would be opening a lot of new tabs, and my Chromium window is already a mess. It's far easier for me to scroll past your blog post, which unless it's proper novel length won't take long to pass, than it is to open a new tab, find it in my mess of tabs, and remember to close it when I'm done. You wrote those words; own them. Why would you think they're an inconvenience to anyone who has made the conscious decision to add you to their feed?

At the least, if you feel the need to truncate a post, do so after more than just a sentence and a half of text. Give me enough information to decide if I want to click through or not; otherwise, I just won't.

"Oh no, there's more?!" Yes, buddy. Yes there is.

Now on to Category 2: Content Issues. Truth be told, I see far more of these issues than any of the issues in the first group. Some of these are obvious and easily fixed, but others are more insidious.

4. Your work is riddled with errors.

I've seen a blog or two out there that would theoretically be of interest to me, but the writing (from native speakers, mind you) is rife with spelling and homonym errors, incorrect punctuation usage, and other assorted errors. I don't mean a pearl-clutching "one or two per post"; I have very forgiving margins because I fuck up a lot myself (especially if it's a long post that I work on for days and start and stop in weird places, like any of the posts in my geo-shopping or birthstones series). I mean rife.

If you're blogging for yourself, fine. If you want other people to read your work and take you seriously, step up your game. If this is something you know you struggle with, write your entries in Word first, to avail yourself of the spelling and grammar check. It's not perfect, but it's a start. Find a nearby language ninja and ask them to read through your stuff. If you don't know a language ninja, you do now: me. I will gladly do that for you. (If it becomes an ongoing thing, we can discuss my editing rates in private.)

5. Your writing sounds like everyone else's.

I guess it's a good thing that the number of blogs I've seen with technically and grammatically disastrous writing is actually quite low. It's not nearly as great as the number of blogs I've seen with technically correct but incredibly dull writing, without any individual personality at all. I think this is the most important thing on my list. If I were to keep track of the reasons I unfollowed blogs, this one would definitely be the most common.

Bloggers who have decided that a certain niche is for them all start sounding like one person with a bunch of sock puppet accounts. I don't think any of them naturally write in that voice (certainly not all of them), but somehow a certain standard or expectation with respect to "authorial voice" develops within a niche and most writers (especially newbies) bend themselves to it.

I hate that. It makes for boring, repetitive reading. Maybe it's simply the result of a particular niche being, itself, homogeneous and repetitive, but I hope not.

Take some time offline to write about your day and your life for no one but yourself. Ideally you should do this for a while, like a week or a month, to really get practice and time to yourself. (You might need this time to unprogram yourself from "blog writing" style to "personal writing" style, to boot.) If you compare that personal writing to your blog writing there will probably be a difference. Try to bring more of that personal style into your blog. Those are my favorite blogs to read. Those are the ones where I feel like I actually know the blogger.

6. Your writing doesn't give a shit about your readers.

This is kind of the opposite problem as the above, though I guess they can both happen simultaneously. If your blog becomes nothing but "Dear Diary" type entries, focused entirely on people we don't know and relationships we don't understand, that is an express ticket to Nopeville.

That doesn't mean writing about the road trip you took with your BFF Casey is off-limits. But tell us who Casey is, remind us of what happened in the previous post, and explain (or just avoid) the inside jokes.

7. You're (not) a special snowflake.

You are the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world. Whenever you insist on reminding the readers that "I'm the hugest nerd, lol!" or "I'm the biggest tomboy I know" or any other applicable superlatives, I roll my eyes. The truth is, you are a special snowflake, but not because your collection of labels is somehow unique. Labels are the antithesis of interesting. If you think that slapping reductive, oversimplified herd name on yourself is enough to make you stand out from the crowd, you're mistaken.

This can be a bit more insidious than just overuse of "nerd," "geek," or "trekkie," though. I've read a couple blogs where the bloggers constantly reiterate some belief they hold about themselves and their role in a group ("I'm always the life of the party!") but then their writing never reflects that assertion.

If you're the life of the party, it will come across in your writing. (This is related to point number 5.) The only place that kind of language belongs is in your "About Me" section, or maybe in the occasional confessional post. Otherwise, you're either not really the life of the party (but you'd like to be), or that part of your personality isn't relevant to your blogging.

The truth is, you are a special snowflake, but nothing about your inherent snowflake nature is going to come out by trying to sound like what your collective niche has decided is the norm. Nor is it going to come out in regurgitating the voice, jargon, and in-jokes. Just let your writing be you.

Am I a perfect blogger? Um, hell no. I'm prone to all of these errors myself (some more than others). I try to keep them in mind while I write ("What kind of blog would I like to read?") but I know that I don't always hit my mark. But has my blogging gotten better since I started thinking about these while I write? I think so, at any rate!

What about you? What makes you stop reading a blog? I'm dying to know!


  1. Formatting is big thing. Grammar.
    My decision is more about content though. I don't like it when people get down on themselves and drive their audience by trying to accumulate pity from their readers. I know that might sound cold, but you are trying to create an online presence for yourself. Why would you want to be a depressing individual who whines all the time when you could be someone awesome who people want to meet? The nice thing about the internet is that you have control over what you are going to come across as to your readers. Also, negative content just doesn't make me happy when I read it because I feel like it's the online version of trying to bring me down with you. I hope this makes sense...

    1. I know exactly what you mean, though the blogs I've found do that less often than my non-blogger friends, hah.

      I think what I find more often in blogs are people who are SO. INCREDIBLY. EXCITED. FOR EVERYTHING. that their enthusiasm starts to ring false. It's definitely important to try to make your blog an overall positive (or at least enjoyable---there are a few blogs who make snarking or talking about depression an art form, but that is rare indeed), but for me it's not as important as "coming across as an actual human being." And you sound like an actual human being when you have an acceptable balance between the excitement, restrained positivity, and negativity. Lagom, as they'd say in Swedish.

    2. Haha that was a much more neutral and charismatic way of saying what I was trying to. Thanks! Looking forward to more here.

  2. LOL I'm definitely one of those people incredibly excited for everything! When something great happens I get really swept up in the moment, and I'm like THIS IS THE GREATEST THING EVARRR!!! Then when I go back and read those posts I'm like, ok, that was pretty cool and all, but not the greatest thing ever. Finding a new froyo joint isn't that important. Hahah.

    #6 is a big turn off for me, too. Vague-blogging! If you're not going to share the whole story then don't share it at all. Then they're like "but I blog for ME! I don't owe you anything! But please keep supporting me with your page click$."

    Another thing I hate is hidden affiliate/Rstyle links.

    And I've seen WAY too many blog posts about peoples fancy new planners this week. You have the same Kate Spade planner as everyone else writing about their planners. NO ONE CARES.

    Ugh now I'm all worked up now! Maybe I'll have to write a post of my own on this subject!


    2. But sometimes you're not excited for things, too! I like your excitement because it seems genuine instead of GOTTA GET THEM COMMENTS. Even the enthusiasm for froyo, lol.

      I am torn on affiliate links. I don't mind them being hidden (I know a couple blogs put the affiliate disclaimer in their profile or whatever), but when there are too many it's a bit =/. What's more annoying for me are the review posts that are just way too PUMPED about this freebie they got. Like, really? You got a whole free subscription box and EVERYTHING was perfect? Or book bloggers who never have a complaint about any of the free books they review. Some bloggers are just really choosy about the books they'll accept and don't review a whole lot, so maybe they just get lucky, but others don't seem that choosy and yet somehow everything is really good? Nah, man, something ain't right.

      YESSS write your own!!!

  3. You know, I think #7 has the worst offenders. The people who want you to look at pictures of their coffee and their shoes. It reminds me of high school - tying into #5. People with blogs who want so badly to prove they're A BLOGGER by showing off how they're just like everyone else. "Look at my DSLR! Lol SUCH a blogger move! I took a picture of my french manicure holding a Starbucks LOL BLOGGER MOVE!" It's like, "No...drinking coffee doesn't make you a blogger. Taking pictures doesn't make you a blogger. Hell if I know what DOES, since it's not like MY blog is all that successful or anything, but I know what i like. I love a unique voice, candid but not desperate, and pictures of people's faces. I want to be able to point to a face and say "That's a person I almost consider a friend, I know them." Not a pair of shoes and be like uh, Who are you? Where do you live? What are you like? Uh sorry /rant.

    1. For real, the things that are probably most interesting for someone to read about are the things that bloggers think are boring. Like, I enjoy hearing about people's jobs (at least, if they don't completely hate them...) because I like to know how people spend their day and to hear about bits of life that I wouldn't know about otherwise. Or their hobbies, or pictures of their apartment, or so on. Your manicure doesn't really tell me all that much about you.

      The only pairs of shoes I like to see are in the #lollygagging hashtag that I think Bruce Campbell started, but then of course the point is to showcase traveling, not your actual shoes...