The 4 Essential Elements of a Reader Friendly Blog

We’ve all seen those blogs, and blog templates, that are just an absolute nightmare when it comes to organizing content. And while some of those templates may be beautiful, or exceptionally easy to use, if they don’t have the right elements to make reading and searching your blog easy, you’re likely to lose readers over it.

But what does “having the right elements” even mean?

Elements are simply the things on a blog’s web page. The navigation menu, header, footer(s), images, modules, and anything else that a visitor to your blog would see, or use to surf around on your site. Below, you can read about the 4 essential elements every blog should have if it wants to be reader friendly.

Categories

Even if your blog has a single focus, you should immediately get rid of the “uncategorized” option, then create categories to organize your posts.

For example, this blog is about blogging, and has various categories to organize similar topics together. You want to use categories in order to allow readers to go deeper on the topics that interest them, as well as to be able to find posts to share with others when they can’t remember your post’s brilliant title.

Also, if the topic fits into more than one category, then don’t be afraid to categorize it in a couple different categories as this will help visitors searching in either category.

To Archive or Not to Archive

Depending on how long you’ve been blogging, an archive may feel like a serious hit to your site’s credibility. But, only having a couple months worth of archives when you’re blog is new isn’t a bad thing. It just, sort of, is. If readers see fresh content they like, on a new site, that potential hit to credibility from newness gets offset by the fact that readers know there will be more content coming.

If you do not update your blog often, archiving by quarter, or annually, could work, especially if your blog has been around for a few years or more.

Navigation

Believe it or not, a blog needs some form of naviation menu. Even if it is just one or two links in the header, having a way for visitors to surf around and find the content they are interested in is critical. Links to categories on a sidebar can be rather useful, as can sidebar links for recent or popular posts, or content you want to highlight.

You want your navigation menu to have an easy flow for new users to get up to speed on your site, while at the same time providing convenience in an unobtrusive way for your regular visitors.

Subscription Options

In today’s modern world of Uber-but-for-electric-scooters, there’s a lot of stuff out there competing for attention. You should make it easy for your readers to subscribe to your content so that they will receive updates or notices when new content is posted.

Notably, depending on your own goals, the more avenues you’re willing to open, the easier it will be for readers and visitors to turn into subscribers. Using all available, or just a selected few, popular social media channels like Twitter, Facebook, or even Instagram and Pintrest, can be great ways to reach your audience where they already spend time.

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Should Bloggers Use the Oxford Comma?

While most people would agree that Oxford is a boring, but beautiful place, most writers know that the Oxford comma is just simply common sense. Writers should always be in the habit of using the Oxford comma, particularly when there is no reason not to do so.

Typically, the only time you don’t want to use one is when there is certain to be no ambiguity at all. Although, that ambiguity can be employed as a literary tool for fiction writers, when crafting something informative, or persuasive, failing to use the Oxford comma when there is even the slightest risk of confusion is bad form.

What Exactly is the Oxford Comma?

Simply put, the Oxford comma is the comma that comes before an “and,” or an “or,” in a list of three or more items. For example: Ferdinand likes flowers, eating food, and sleep.”

Sure, that sentence would read just fine without the last comma, but consider something like this: Ferdinand likes sleep, eating food and flowers. As you can see, without that last comma, it’s unclear whether or not Ferdinand likes eating flowers.

Why is the Oxford Comma Important?

As history has shown, the Oxford comma, or the lack of one, can have serious consequences. Court cases have hinged on the lack of an Oxford comma exactly because of the ambiguity created by one not being used by lawmakers or by contract authors.

But for bloggers, it’s a little bit different. When the law or a contract is ambiguous, courts decide what they mean. For bloggers, it’s the internet reading public that gets to decide for themselves. Also, unlike literary writing, informative or persuasive blogs shouldn’t make readers work to extract meaning. Sure, depending on your audience, using the correct allusions, metaphors, and the like, is essential, and those can often be hit-or-miss (again, depending), but that’s a stylistic choice, rather than a choice to not use an Oxford comma which will clearly render your and/or-connected lists ambiguous.

Particularly for independent bloggers, easy to read writing is essential. Clearly identifying subjects, actions, phrases, or whatever else you’re listing, makes it so your readers won’t have to guess at meanings. Though you can choose to only use the Oxford comma when absolutely necessary, doing so risks confusion as readers don’t always read things the same way an author writes it. Simply put, consistently using the Oxford comma makes writing more accessible to more readers.

If you’re looking for more in-depth resources on comma usage, and the Oxford comma, you can check out this grammarly blog post.

5 Tips to Help Overcome Writer’s Block

For writers of any type, one of the most common concerns is hitting writer’s block. You know it’s hit you before, and it’ll hit you again.

Fortunately, if you’re ready for it, and know what to do to shake it, you won’t struggle for long, and those deadlines and feelings of despair will start to melt away as soon as you put words to the page.

If you’ve never been afflicted by writer’s block, consider yourself lucky. But rather than worry about when it’ll be your turn to stare at a blank page and feel nothing but frustration and anguish, you can read on below to get some tips to help stop the block before (or even after) it hits.

1. Outline

When the words elude you, consider just getting the bones of a piece on the page. Start with a working title, some working headings, a couple words about what each section will discuss.

Once you have a working outline down on the page, you can start writing around it. Start wherever you feel so inspired. Just keep writing and editing what’s on the page and before you know it you might actually be done (at least with a first draft).

2. Don’t Worry About Creativity, Just Write Technically, or the Action

Like the advice above to start with an outline, if after the outline is done and you are still just struggling to string together sentences, shift your focus to filling in what you can easily. For instance, actions that you know must be taken, or technical descriptions. Once you start getting the words out, usually, it gets easier to find your flow.

3. Take a Break to Clear Your Head

If nothing is working for you, you may need to take a big step back and take a break before you even begin. Take a walk, get some exercise, clean something, have a snack, meditate, nap, or just do whatever it is that you do to clear your head. Then, sit back down and try again with a fresh focus.

4. Re-Read Something Inspirational

If stopping to clear your head didn’t help, you can try finding the last piece of writing, music or art that really inspired you. Then study it. Read, listen, or look at it, over and over again. Try to get back to that feeling of inspiration you remember. Then, as soon as you feel it, get back to writing!

5. Change the Scenery or Mood

For some folks, changing the scenery or mood, can really help with overcoming writer’s block. Find a comfy table at a local café, or library, or maybe just go sit on your porch, or in a different room in your home, or put on some background music. Alternatively, if you’re working on a laptop, consider switching up to a paper and pen, or vice versa.

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3 Proofreading Tips to Eliminate Common Blogging Mistakes

Proofreading is important. While an occasional typo may be forgivable, it’s embarrassing, especially for writers who have editors. But, editors are people too, and sometimes miss the same things that writers do.

However, in the world of blogging, especially, independent blogs, editors are a luxury that most cannot afford. As such, bloggers need to be really good at proofreading, and need to always proofread multiple times before posting anything (and even after posting too)

1. Read Your Post Aloud

You don’t have to do so loudly, but proofreading by reading something aloud really can help you catch mistakes you might otherwise miss.

One tip to doing so effectively is to pretend you are a newscaster on the evening news reading their script. Basically, you want to focus on enunciating every word properly. By doing so, you’re more likely to catch mistakes that your mind might otherwise gloss over.

2. Bottom to Top Review

Another effective proofreading tip involves reading each sentence on its own starting from the last and moving your way up to the top. This helps you evaluate each individual sentence on its own to make sure it isn’t flawed. It also prevents you from getting lost in the flow of your own writing, which can happen pretty easily when you proofread from the top down.

If you have the privacy, you may even want to consider doing this review aloud as well.

3. Don’t Forget to Q&A Test

Did you put any links into your blog? You better check’em to make sure they work right. The last thing you want is to accidentally send your readers to a dead link, or worse, a malicious website. It is important to check your links both before and after they go live. Every single one of them. Even the one to your newsletter subscription page.

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