Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Opinion: Clergy, Keep Your Blog Posts Brief and Authentic

Years ago, a percentage of my income came from magazine writing. I excelled at front-of-the-book pieces (75-200 words). As a social observer and culture critic, I loved writing back-of-the-book essays (500-700 words). 

I started blogging when the magazine market crashed. Blogs were perfect for personal essays. Over time, I'd appreciate how well they worked for news reportage and service journalism. It didn't take long for me to realize that blogs were not a great vehicle for lengthy narrative.

Writing for the Internet is quite unlike writing for print, something I needed to learn before I could land paying gigs writing online content. Web content had to be short and formatted to optimize readability. Sentences could be incomplete. And, only a few words. Paragraphs could be one sentence. 

Because I was already writing short and snappy magazine copy, my transition from print to web via blogging was relatively painless. It's not always this way for others, especially anyone whose primary communication is oral. Like clergy.

Many clergy seem to have difficulty transferring spoken text -- even when a sermon is written in advance -- to something print-worthy. This difficulty is compounded when communication goes online. But try telling a pastor or bishop that what works from the pulpit can be deadly on a computer screen.

Since I've yet to find a good or easy way to deliver this news in person, I'll trot out my best counsel here for clergy who blog or want to get started:

  • Blog posts need to be short. If you're pushing much past 450 words, consider writing a series of posts on the topic and telling blog visitors that's what you'll be doing.

  • Some posts need to be images or video clips. This will appeal to different learning styles among blog visitors and keep your blog from becoming monotonous. 

  • Let blog posts reveal the fullness of life. No one will think less and will probably think better of any cleric who writes about challenges to faith and the great mystery of losing socks in the dryer.

Note: This post is 340 words.

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