In high school, I was friends with an individual who repeatedly acted as if he knew everything anyone was going to say. If you got him started on a subject, he would completely dominate the conversation with minutae and commentary on every aspect of the issue at hand, while everyone else sat around staring at him.
What this individual didn’t realize is that effective interpersonal communication is a conversation, not a lecture. If I want to be lectured, I will go sign up for a college course and let a professor lecture; he’s earned the privilege by earning a high degree in the topic.
The same philosophy holds true on the internet. If you ride a topic until there’s nothing left to say about it, you’ve effectively killed the conversation. People come to your blog to get a quick summary of the topic, some directions for future thought, and some links to more resources on the thought. They don’t come there to have a topic written about to oblivion.
This is particularly challenging for a logorrheic individual like myself, so how do I find a balance between writing what feels right for me and writing a subject to death? Here’s what I use as a guideline.
Don’t write more than two hundred words on a single point. If you’re doing that, you’re writing too much. If you have extensive thoughts on a topic, try breaking things down into smaller sections that are easily digestible by your readers.
Don’t regurgitate other’s thoughts. Don’t relate in your own words what someone else says on the topic. Link to them and/or quote them, but don’t paraphrase them. This is the equivalent of stepping in front of someone in a conversation and saying, “What he means to say is…”; no one appreciates that.
Leave interesting threads in other directions, but don’t follow all of them. If you try to follow every train of thought that exists, your post will get long and boring very quickly. Let some of those threads of thought dangle; you don’t need to follow up on everything or simply excise them from the post.
Engage others in conversation, too. If you read a good post at another site, make it the start of your own post, but follow the guidelines here. Link to them and quote them, but don’t paraphrase them, and just add your own contributions to the thought. You don’t need to cover every angle, just continue the conversation.
Stick to your interests. I have no interest in talking about politics, for example, so when I start to rub up against politics, I let a thread or two dangle and run away quickly. What happens when you brush up against a topic, but stick to what you know? Readers are engaged.
Don’t be a know it all; practice good conversational skills instead.
Building a Better Blog is a month-long series at The Simple Dollar, outlining steps you can take to build a long-term healthy blog that will attract readers. Jump ahead to the next essay, Use the Senses, or back to the previous one, Social Bookmarking.