Monday, January 12, 2009

FriedOkra's Simple Tips for Blog Writing, Number 3

Happy Monday!

It's time for the third tip in my series Simple Tips for Blog Writing. If you've missed the first two tips, Know Your Purpose and Be Yourself, take a look at those, too, because they form a foundation for the remainder of these mini-lessons. I've also added links to these posts down there on my right sidebar so they'll be easy to find if you'd like to refer to them later.

My third Tip for Blog Writing will bring your posts to life and grab your readers' attention and imagination. This is my VERY FAVORITE part of the writing process. This is the part where I can literally kick back and spend hours reliving moments of my life and wringing and squeezing and extracting every single tiny bit of detail out of them and into my posts.

Because if it's worth tellin', it's worth tellin' until I'm blue in the face and everybody else has given up and gone home.

You know, when you get right down to it, I guess that's really my CORE writing philosophy.

3. Be specific. Until their ears bleed.

As you edit your first, free-style draft, work to include vivid details and/or examples that will bring your post to life in the mind of your readers.

Avoid saying things like this:

My son’s coach loves the game so much sometimes he is a little crazy.

Instead, bring your reader along for an up-close glimpse of the crazy coach himself in his natural habitat:

My son’s baseball coach has so much passion for winning that he practically loses his MIND at every game. At last week’s game against the Whippets, we were tied at 5-5 in the bottom of the ninth, two outs with a man on first. Coach Buzz stood riveted in his customary craned-forward-on-tiptoes position as the Whippets’ best hitter blasted a line drive to our second baseman, who snapped it up perfectly, the ball smacking into his glove with a mighty whump, tagged out the runner to second and fired the ball to first in time for the first baseman to tag out the batter. Coach shot straight up in the air and before his feet even touched the ground again, he'd caught the second baseman, the first baseman and a couple of random Dads off the sidelines in an enormous, swaying bear hug.

(And you have no idea how much MORE detail I cut OUT of that paragraph so y'all would be able to read the whole thing without mentally hyperventilating.)


(It's a sickness with me, is what it is.)

By the same token, if you're arguing a point, describing a process, or even reviewing a product or service, make sure you've provided plenty of specific details to support your opinion, lead your reader mentally through the steps, or fully explain the basis for your recommendation. In many cases, you may also consider including visual cues like bullet points, enumeration or photographs/videos to organize and further clarify your message.

Oh, people do love them some bullet points, don't they?

Tip Three is Be specific. Paint a picture with your words. Make your concept, story or argument come alive in your readers' minds with your own clear, vivid details and examples.

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  1. Great advice and totally agree. Vivid language always captures me and keeps me coming back for more.

  2. Thanks for some great tips and instruction.
    I am haunted by my high school grammar teacher that would inevitably return my first draft papers covered in red ink declaring, "wordiness" and "verbose"!
    You have explained well that your philosophy is all-out, but do you have a point that is a signal to you to rein it in a little? (not that I am saying I think you should rein it in- just trying to figure out the balance for myself!)
    Thanks for working us through this process!

  3. Lisa - I struggled for a long time with a paragraph to answer just that question. It ended in "do as I say, not as I do," hee hee. Yes, you DO have to find a balance between not enough and way too much. BUT IT'S HARD FOR ME TO EXPLAIN HOW. (Which is why I gave up on that paragraph and deleted it!) For me, the pertinent details self-select somehow. You just have to read and re-read the post, know what you REALLY want to convey and chip away until you get down to what's essential.

    Clear as mud?


  4. Excellent. But it's Tip THREE. :-) (At the very bottom.) I'm loving this series. You RAWK! :-)

  5. I LOVE this tip! Thanks Megan, I am trying to become a better story teller this year!

  6. thanks so much for all the tips. they are very helpful.

  7. Very fun example!

    Regarding Lisa's question: I have that same dilemma on a regular basis, and I'm still trying to find the balance. By best stab at the answer - good, detailed text adds to your story/purpose rather than distracting from it.

    When I'm deciding whether to keep or cut a descriptive phrase or sentence or paragraph, I take an honest look and ask myself "Is this helping to clarify the post or am I just trying to make people think I'm funny and clever?" You can write a post that's funny, but it shouldn't be all about "look how funny I am." Does that make sense? What do you think, Megan?

  8. great post. I am all for detail and wordiness. LOL

  9. More great writing tips! Love it!

  10. Aunt Megan...these Simple Tips are wonderful! I REALLY liked that paragraph about the baseball coach. It sounds like it hopped off the pages of a bestseller. And if you wrote a book, it would be a bestseller!

  11. Stephanie - WAIT! Am I about to walk into a trap? I like people to think I'm funny and clever! But I agree that details need to add value vs. being superfluous. I certainly do NOT believe in Superfluity of Detail. No way. Hmmp-mmm.

    Olivia - Hey, you got your own sign-on! Thank you, lovey. One day, though, I predict you'll be writing circles around the likes of me. One thing: Your mom and I want to come with you on your book tours.

    Well, I'm just sayin'.

  12. You are a storyteller at heart, my dear. Storytellers make the details vivid and crucial.

    This is a great series, Megan.

  13. I once heard an author teaching a writing class, "Show, don't tell." In other words, create a picture in the reader's mind of what happened, rather than just saying it happened.

    It's what yer sayin'!


  14. Show, don't tell. Yep. That's it. That's all good writing is, really.

    You are the QUEEN of the show, don't tell, you know.

  15. First time here. Great advice. I want you as my coach and editor!