Nearly every IT company these days has a blog. Whether it is meant to explain products/services, announce new releases, or update readers about relevant happenings in a specific business niche, the ultimate goal is to engage your target audience. You may want to build trust over time, or convince them in a single post that your cloud product or service is what they need. While the goal seems obvious, actual implementation can be much more challenging.
Over the past year, I’ve created approximately 400 posts in the realm of cloud computing at IamOnDemand (IOD). We interview developers, evangelists, and CTOs to extract information from its source. We then turn that knowledge into clear content that keeps readers interested and wanting more. While some of the following tips may seem obvious, keep them in mind. You may find a need for them more often than you think.
- Products, features and company names. Get ‘em right. If you don’t, it could dangerously impact professional connections as well as your reputation, in general. It doesn’t matter if you want to reference another company, service, product or concept, unless you have created it yourself, double check its spelling. For example, when I first began writing posts about cloud computing, the field was completely foreign to me. Even if I’d actually heard of a company before, chances were they spelled their name completely different than I suspected. Now, even if I am 99% sure of how something is spelled, I double check to be certain. You don’t want to run the risk of possibly offending another company or looking unprofessional.
- Avoid extraneous verbiage. Unnecessary words to fill space or achieve a word count lead to confusion and loss of focus. In order to keep readers engaged, be as clear as and concise as possible.
- Two-line maximum. This ties into the previous tip, but is slightly different. While wordiness contributes to long, drawn out sentences, so does a lack of structure. As a result, readers tend to get lost in the initial point of a sentence and generally end up more confused. A good rule of thumb is to keep sentences to 1.5-2 lines long, max. Remember when your fourth grade teacher went on and on about run-on sentences? Well, now’s your chance to implement what you learned.
For example, below is an excerpt from the initial draft of a post I recently edited:
“IoT has been the hottest topic and buzz word within the technological community in recent years, but while some of us think of IoT and the cloud as being interdependent, it is really more of a one way dependency system where IoT cannot function without the infrastructure and countless possibilities which the cloud facilitates.”
In efforts to be as concise and clear as possible, I turned the single, drawn out, run-on sentence above into the following:
“IoT has been the hottest topic and buzz word within the technological community in recent years. While some of us think of IoT and the cloud as interdependent, the dependency is actually one directional. IoT cannot function without the infrastructure and countless possibilities that the cloud facilitates.”
It is simple to find where sentences should end, just read them out loud and notice where you naturally want to pause.
- Stick to one tense. Switching between tenses within paragraphs, and sometimes even sentences, can be confusing for readers. If a sentence begins in the past, keep it in the past. Unless a story is actually changing tenses as a paragraph progresses, one tense should suffice.
- Watch out for singular/plural. If you begin a sentence talking about a single developer, try not to end the sentence using “they”. Grammatically speaking, when something is talked about in general, the plural form of the word should be used. Therefore, unless you’re talking about a specific developer or feature, stick to plural. Plus, this keeps you from using “he/she” pronouns that may not be relevant to your entire audience.
Along the lines of when to use singular/plural, we can also touch on the use of “the”. Having worked with developers from around the world, I found that the non-native English speakers tend to insist on putting “the” in front of pretty much any noun they get their hands on. It is ok to use “the” in an example, after a specific noun has already been introduced (e.g. a user -> the user) or even when talking about a concept (e.g. the data center lifecycle). However, if you want to talk about users, developers, data centers, and so on, in general, make them plural. That way, you can ensure that your audience understands what you’re actually trying to say.
So, there you have it, five ways to keep readers engaged and wanting more. Stay tuned for even more tips and helpful hints.