What is a blog?
This is a slippery question. At this point, blogs seem to simply be; unquestioned, perhaps even unnoticed (or, undernoticed) genres of online writing that have existed, in their most recognizable form, since 19971. It would also seem appropriate to define blogging as the process and practice of intrinsically-motivated, public-facing web writing.
The word “blog” is a shortened form of “web-log”, the original term for this kind of writing on the web. Early on, those who engaged with blogging were a particularly niche community, primarily interested in evangelizing about the web itself. Following the events of 9/11/2001, blogging opened up to political musings from both sides of the aisle. Today, blogging is commonly understood as accessible to those with all different sorts of interests, creeds, and expertise, covering a wide variety of topics.
As mentioned in the above definition, blogging involves an enduring sense of intrinsic motivation, meaning the writer follows through on continuously producing and publishing their blog. This is a powerful way to practice writing, because the very nature of blogging requires the writer to explore their personal convictions (almost) unfettered and in a generally informal way. The focus is on true expression and communication rather than trying to write in any rigid, academic type of style.
For more insight on this question, we found Alex Reid’s “Why Blog? Searching for Writing on the Web” to be quite helpful.
Tips for writing on the web
There are a number of factors you should consider while writing on the web, especially if and when you’re developing your own blog site separate from this project. Even now, though, there are things you should think through as you refine the pieces you’ll post on this site that will cultivate your readership, connect your piece to your colleagues’ and similar points of view around the internet, and make your voice accessible to the widest possible audience.
Knowing your audience (and interacting with them)
The first questions you should ask yourself when making the decision to write on the web is, “Who is this for?”, “Who will be reading this?”, “Who do I hope will read this?” and “How do I want to communicate and interact with them?” Are you expecting your audience to be people who largely agree with your viewpoints? How much do they already know about the topic you’re discussing? These kinds of questions can significantly help you focus and structure your writing. If you don’t know your audience right away, that’s ok, too. You can always start out by writing for an imagined audience, writing for the people and viewpoints you hope to attract and, one day, be able to engage with.
Setting an, at least partially, audience-based intention for your writing inevitably opens you to the possibility of interacting with your readers. This potential for interaction can also influence your motivation; you want to keep you audience engaged, which should result in more frequent posting, and you want to express yourself to people who are actually watching, which should promote more authentic writing.
Linking is what makes the internet so powerful. Your thoughts aren’t an island, they’re influenced by so many things constantly, just like your blog should be. It’s essential that you build links into your blog to not only support your ideas or whatever argument you might be making, but also to build your network of connections across the internet.
Tip: make sure you hyperlink rather than paste a full link into your writing. Read the Accessibility section to learn why.
Searchability & findability
If you’re interested in getting your voice “out there” so to speak, blogging is a great option for you. While it’s unlikely that folks will simply stumble upon your url randomly in their browser bar, when they go to their preferred search engine to look for topics that are of interest to them, if your site is calibrated properly, they should be able to find you.
So, how do you throw your hat into the ring? You would be sure to use keywords (like, for example, when writing about “Halloween” you’ll want to be sure to include words like, obviously, “Halloween,” but also “American,” “holiday,” “spooky,” “ghosts,” “candy,” “trick-or-treating,” etc in your writing). Using keywords helps people searching for those words to find you and your content. To make your keywords even more impactful, take advantage of your blog’s metadata: categorize and tag! Tags, in particular, are a powerful way to make your writing findable both internally and externally.
If you’ve never had to use assistive technology to navigate a website or digital program, you may not have put a lot of thought into why certain tools and practices are so important.
Your blog should be built with every type of audience member in mind. This could include differently-abled readers who might be colorblind and not able to understand your point if you choose to use color to distinguish topics, or otherwise visually impaired and need to navigate their screens with screen-reading technology. Some neuro-divergent readers may find a site with many flashing lights, gifs, or unusual fonts too distracting and/or triggering to make use of.
While this is hardly an exhaustive list of best web accessibility practices, some things you’ll find most relevant to what you’ll be doing on this site include:
- separating the different topics and points in your blog posts into proper headings (H1, H2, H3, and so on).
- embedding relevant links directly into text as hyperlinks rather than pasting an entire url.
- writing out all relevant information rather than relying on images to relay your message.
- when using images, assigning alternative (alt) text to all images that are relevant to the main text. When images are merely decorative, mark them as so whenever possible.
Time to get blogging!
1. Alex Reid, “Why Blog? Searching for Writing on the Web,” Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing 2 (2011): 304-305.
“The art of blogging” by the Center for Digital Learning is licensed under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license.