The Language of Blogging: Part 1
How Linguistics Can Affect Your Blogging Success
What makes a blog successful? Eye-catching graphics? Social media engagement? A quick survey of industry inquiries into this question (check out Social Examiner for some great tips) reveals a lot of talk about content, reputation, and design. Certainly all of these elements are important to the success of a blog, but don’t forget the bread and butter of blogging: writing style.
As a lifelong lover of linguistics, I’m an ardent believer in the relevance of linguistic choices, and the language of blogging is no exception. Unless your blog is primarily visual with little text, your style of prose has a significant effect on prospective readership. Based on my own experience with blogging and guest posting, I’ve identified some components of a blogger’s “voice” that make a difference. Today, I’ll discuss the first two.
Level of formality and jargon (i.e. register) is critical to your blog’s tone. When writers become conscious of their language, the tendency is to increase register—i.e. write in florid, formal prose. However, jumping to a higher register is not necessary unless it serves a purpose beyond showcasing your verbal chops. For example, an academic blog about anthropology will benefit from a higher register—the readership would be composed of people in the field who are familiar with anthropological terms, so using this kind of technical language will be both efficient and effective. However, a fashion blogger aiming for a wide readership needn’t be concerned about upping her register—a conversational style is perfectly sufficient.
I sometimes come across blogs by witty, articulate men and women that are bogged down by wordiness and diversionary tales. The casual, chatty tone of these blogs is wonderful; however, when a point is to be made, several paragraphs of easing into the topic can distract or even bore the reader. When it comes to cutting down on filler, think of how you would communicate with a best friend, family member, or even your personal journal. Linguists have documented many differences between male and female speech (read here for an excellent summary if you’re interested) over the past several decades; while females tend to be pioneers of linguistic change, they also tend to use more indirect speech. It’s something interesting to keep in mind.
Next week I’ll discuss more linguistic considerations for bloggers, including slang and wordplay. Happy 4th of July in advance!
How formal do you think a blog’s writing style should be? Let us know in the comments!