How to write a blog post? The inverted triangle approach

Ask a blogger what makes a good blog post and they will often tell you that it should be short – somewhere between 300-500 words or 500-1000 words in length (no longer); it should include at least one image to make it look more attractive; and it should not be concerned with footnotes or excessive referencing.  Bloggers will also suggest that the posts should be informal, perhaps placing complex topics into story formats or journal-styled narratives.  Not all would agree however.  There are other calls for blog posts to be longer in length (or as long as the subject requires them to be) and the focus of readability to not be placed on its length but on the way the content is formed.  In these cases it is the structure of the text that becomes of paramount importance.

There is much that could be learnt by bloggers from what journalists do in writing articles for newspapers, blogs and websites.  The essence of their work is to write short self-contained pieces which immediately grab the interest of the reader.  One part of this is the concept of the inverted pyramid.  This is a metaphor used by journalists to describe how information should be prioritised and structured as a news story.  Academics generally leave their conclusions to the end preferring to begin by an introductory ‘scene-setting’ paragraph, followed by the argument supported by examples.  The inverted pyramid turns this on the head.  The most important information is now at the start, with examples and further argument placed below in order of descending importance.

The inverted pyramid (wikipedia)
The inverted pyramid (wikipedia)

This type of writing focuses on getting the main point across from only a quick read.  The detail and exposition is secondary.  Journalists emphasize the first few lines of an article as the most important.  This is where you lay out your argument and the main points you wish to make, you then explain them further or give examples.  The title of the piece is also vital.  Get this right and people will know what it is you are arguing and talking about before they even begin to read the post itself.  In terms of getting people to come to a blog and read what it is you are talking about the title and first few lines are important.  Search engines will only display these parts of the post, so those searching for content that is interesting to them will only click on your blog post if it is explicitly shown to be relevant in the title and first few lines.  They will probably assess its worth on the first paragraph as well and only read on if that is shown to be what they want to read.

There is, of course, no right way or wrong way to write a blog post, but the inverted triangle does fit the blog medium well and might well be a useful exercise for academics wishing to succinctly explain their research not just for an online audience, but for their own uses.  Writing in this form might well help scholars to understand their own arguments better, which might help them formulate those arguments more easily when they come to write the peer-reviewed version for publication.

NOTE: As you might have noticed this blog post fails the inverted pyramid test by introducing the point of the post half way through.  This perhaps illustrates that this is only one way to do it, but not the only way.  Or perhaps it just suggests that I need to work on my blog writing skills.  Either way it is something that is worth considering.