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.
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!