Learn to Write from the Best Bloggers (Without Spending a Cent)

Learn to write from the best bloggers (without spending a cent)

I have a confession to make.

I love young adult romance novels. Sometimes, they involve werewolves. (Oy vey, I can’t believe I just shared that with the world.)

Anyway…

When I was younger, that’s all I read: romance novels.

And guess what I wrote? That’s right. Romance stories.

My mom would tell me, Why are you reading this crap? You should be reading something worthwhile, like Anna Karenina.

Yet I persisted. (And I still haven’t read Anna Karenina.)

I learned the basic structure of a teenage romance novel: The characters meet, fall in love, can’t be together for some reason, get in a fight, end up kissing, and live happily ever after.

In high school, I had no problem busting out a romantic story in one evening. I had never had a boyfriend, but that’s another story.

My point is this: When you read a lot of a certain genre, blog posts, for example, and you read them from the viewpoint of a writer, they start to become ingrained into your very being.

Just like I became an expert romance writer in high school, you can become an expert blogger by reading great blog posts and figuring out how they work and why they work.

Every time you read a blog post and think, I loved that, it’s an opportunity for you to become a better blogger.

You can learn to write from your favorite bloggers without paying for an expensive course.

Just pay attention to these 5 things.  (Want a cheat sheet? Click here to download it now.)

1. Analyze the headline

The headline is the first (and, frequently, only) part of your post people see. So it has to be really, really clickable. You want people to see it and have an insatiable need to find out more.

A great way of learning how to write awesome headlines is to analyze the ones that you just have to click. You don’t even have to read the rest of the post for this.

You can just go through your Twitter feed and think about what you want to click and why.

What makes a headline irresistible? Answer these questions about the headline:

What emotional trigger caused me to click this headline?

These could be fear, surprise, curiosity, familiarity, humor, desire, etc.

How did it activate that trigger?

Pay attention to the specific words that caught your attention. It’s good to generate a list of words that pack a punch.

Could I tell how long it would take to read this post just by looking at the headline?

Sometimes, you just want to know what you’re getting yourself into. I think the best headlines give you a hint as to how long the article will be.

Did anything else about the headline stand out?

Example:

I read this article from Pinch of Yum a few weeks ago and I am still thinking about it. The title is 15 Ways to Avoid Blogger Burnout.

*I’ll be using this for each part of the cheat sheet, so you might want to click through for easy reference.

What emotional trigger caused me to click this headline?

Trust. I immediately felt that the writer understood me because she was writing about something I have experienced.

How did it activate that trigger?

The words “blogger burnout” clearly conveyed what I’ve felt in the past.

Could I tell how long it would take to read this just by looking at the headline?

It seemed like a quick and easy read – a list of 15 things. I knew I could just skim through a few of them and get what I wanted from the post. (Although it did end up being way longer than I expected.)

Did anything else about the headline stand out?

The word “avoid” felt powerful to me, because it speaks to not having to experience something unpleasant. The headline is also short and concise.

2. What type of structure does the blog post have?

The structure is super-important, because it helps people get through the post without feeling overwhelmed or wanting to click away. But there’s more to it than just using short paragraphs. The structure of a well-written post helps you stay engaged.

How is the blog post structured? Answer these questions about the post:

Is it a list post? If not, how is it structured?

List posts are all the rage. That’s because they are easier to read and digest. I personally have a hard time not writing list posts every time (as evidenced by this post). But if it’s not a list post, it might be structured chronologically, thematically, etc. How does the one you are focusing on work?

If it is a list post, does it explain the list items?

Some posts just have a list, while others expand on each item. What strategy does your blogger use?

Does it have bullet points and/or another way of breaking up the text?

Bullet points are a great way to break up the text, but there are other strategies to do this as well. How does your writer do it?

Does it have an introduction? If so, what kind?

The introduction is SUPER important, because it’s what makes you want to keep reading or not. Analyze how your blogger uses the intro to keep you interested.

Does it have a conclusion? If so, how does the writer wrap it up?

Conclusions are hard. Some writers have a call to action, while others summarize what they wrote. What does your blogger do?

How long is it?

Example:

Here are my answers from the Pinch of Yum post:

Is it a list post? If not, how is it structured?

Yes. It is a list post.

If so, does it explain the list items?

Yes. She writes about 3 short paragraphs per list item. And there are actually photos for each item. This is an idea I’d love to use on my own posts.

Does it have bullet points and/or another way of breaking up the text?

No bullet points. But she does use other ways of organizing different sections. For example, in one section, she has “Things I Do” and “Things I Don’t Do”, in another, a sub-list of rules, and in another, she has a block quote. I like how she uses different strategies for breaking up the post and making it easier to read.

Does it have an introduction? If so, what kind?

Yes. She writes a personal story about being a 4th grade teacher, and then giving it up to blog, which I could totally relate to, because I used to teach 3rd grade. She also writes why her advice applies to her as well, and she shows that this isn’t just a list of tips, but actually a story about how she has dealt with blogger burnout.

Does it have a conclusion? If so, how does the writer wrap it up?

She ends by addressing her readers directly. She writes, “You guys, this post is a beast.” Then she asks for comments, and also directs us to a link on Thanksgiving side dishes, because this post was written right before Thanksgiving.

How long is it?

I copied and pasted into WordCounter.net to find out. It is 4100 words! That is long!

3. What is the tone of the post?

Tone is SO important. Many bloggers use the emotional triggers of fear and anxiety to get people to read their posts (not really my thing), while others focus more on trust and hopefulness. When you understand the tone you like in other blog posts, and how it’s conveyed, it will help you decide what tone to use in your own blog.

How does the blog post make you feel? Answer these questions:

Does it make me feel happy, sad, hopeful, excited, intrigued? Something else? How did the writer accomplish this?

Do I feel connected to the writer? Why or why not?

Example:

Here are my answers from the Pinch of Yum post:

Does it make me feel happy, sad, hopeful, excited, intrigued? Something else? How did the writer accomplish this?

It makes me feel hopeful, because she offers some great solutions. I am also excited to try her ideas out, and let’s be honest, a little overwhelmed. I want to bookmark this post and come back to it, because there’s WAY too much to get through in one sitting. She accomplished this by offering lots of different, but equally helpful, suggestions. I was able to easily see them all because of the formatting.

Do I feel connected to the writer? Why or why not?

It does make me feel connected to her, because she shares so many tidbits and pictures from her life.

4. How does the writer use language?

Looking at language means breaking the writing down to its building blocks. It’s easy to tell which writing you like and which you don’t, but do you ever stop to consider why you like it?

How does the writer convey her ideas? Which words does she like? How do her sentences flow together? Understanding this is the key to unlocking the power of language in your own writing.

What type of language did the writer use? Answer these questions:

Which words made me feel most connected to the writer?

Have you ever heard someone speak and instantly known their age because of the words they used? The type of language your writer uses can make you feel like you “get” her or not. What words did she use that made you feel like you speak the same language?

Were the sentences short, long, or both?

Sentence length may seem like a tiny detail, but it’s actually huge. Shorter sentences have more straight to the point, cut to the chase, power, while longer ones can seem more poetic. How long are your blogger’s sentences?

When did the writer’s personality come through the most?

Certain words convey certain personality traits. Did any stand out to you in the post?

Which words stood out as being unique?

Every writer uses certain words more than others. Did any stick in your mind as being interesting? Write them down.

Example:

Here are my answers from the Pinch of Yum post:

Which words made me feel most connected to the writer?

I loved this sentence: “It can be really hard for some types of people (ahem, hi self) to get too super close to work that is similar to theirs.” Mainly because of the “(ahem, hi self)”. It really shows, in just a few words, that she can relate to her readers, and that she has struggled with her topic as well.

Were the sentences short, long, or both?

She tends to write a few longer sentences – meaning, about 40 words each, followed by short sentences for emphasis.

When did the writer’s personality come through the most?

This had a lot of personality in it: “I might get dramatic on you for a second here, but I would say that one little app called TextExpander changed my internet life.” It’s a bit funny, and it really makes me curious about what comes next.

Which words stood out as being unique?

She wrote “like” a bunch of times, which showed that she’s a millennial, like me! Also, this isn’t so much the words themselves, but she tends to bold a few choice words in each section. That really conveyed how much she CARED about the topic!

5. What was the purpose of the post?

This section only has one question:

Why did the writer choose this topic?

Purpose is super important, because it informs the entire post. It can be difficult to pinpoint your own purpose for writing. Doing so with other blog posts can help you understand the process and apply it to your own blog.

Here are a few purposes:

  • to inform
  • to entertain
  • to teach
  • to inspire
  • to sell
  • to persuade
  • to surprise
  • to advocate
  • to motivate
  • to help

Example:

Here is my answer from the Pinch of Yum post:

Why did the writer choose this topic?

It seems like she genuinely struggled with this and wanted to help her readers. She’s been blogging for 5 years, so she has a lot of wisdom to share on the topic.

6. What can I use from this to improve my own blog?

So, I believe in taking action.

And every blog analysis you do can help you improve your own blog. Not later. Right now. You don’t even have to go back and read your answers.

Just pick the first 1-3 things that come to mind that stood out to you as you analyzed the post.

Example:

Here’s what I am going to do differently after analyzing the Pinch of Yum post:

1. Include more photos in my posts – not just at the beginning, but throughout the body, as well.

2. Make it clearer that I get where my readers are coming from.

3. Try addressing my readers directly at the end.

I don’t know about you guys (see, I just did #3), but I learned A LOT from doing this. I didn’t even have to talk to Lindsay from Pinch of Yum for her to teach me a TON about being a better writer.

The next time you find yourself wowed by a blog post, don’t just share it on Twitter. Figure out why it was so freaking awesome. And then bring that awesomeness into your own blog.

I’ve created an Excel spreadsheet that you can use to make your own writing better using other bloggers for inspiration.

Sign up below to get access to my Blogging Resources Library, and you’ll get the spreadsheet and lots of other useful blogging resources. .

  • Awesome post Daniela! Of course you always hear that the more you read, the better writer you will become, but analyzing your favourite blog posts like this will really speed up your learning. I’m going to need to start paying more attention as I read.

    • Daniela

      Thanks Robyn! I think that having a specific plan for how to read as a writer really helps.

  • Hi, This is what I blog about. I offer blogging advice for bloggers. I knew, and do, a lot of this. However, I learned by reading your post. I did not know about WordCount.net. I bookmarked your post for future reference.

    I’m Janice from Reflections. I’m one of your hostesses at the Inspire Me Monday Linky party. Thanks for coming!