When I first attended The Ohio State University, one of the first classes I had to take was Intro to Sociology 101. With a student body of over 80,000 and an incoming freshman class of around 10,000, there were a lot of us who needed to take that course. I remember that we had lectures three times a week in Independence Hall and there were hundreds of students in the lecture. The professor, I don’t recall his name, was an older man with a bad comb-over – and zero personality. From 3:02pm until 3:48pm each afternoon, it was a struggle to stay awake, let alone maintain real interest in what was being communicated.
There was no interaction or engagement. There was no utilization of AV aids of any kind. Just the longest 46 minutes of my young college life passing away as this professor read from notes that were likely as old as he was.
Had the school not compelled me to be there, I would not have gone.
This is the dilemma that you and your blog face. There is nothing forcing your readers to stay. It’s grab their interest and never let go, or go home.
If you were to think back to your high school or college years for a moment, what were some of your favorite courses? Who were some of your favorite teachers? I’m guessing it’s not the dry lectures that stand out and are most memorable. Rather, it is likely the class that peeked your interest and fueled your fire. Perhaps it was a teacher that was so passionate and zealous about their craft that it was infectious. Or maybe it was the group dynamic that evolved when you and your teacher and other classmates really dug into a topic and enormous rich and exciting debate and discussion ensued.
Those were the classes that I remember to this day.
I finished college majoring in History. History. That got you excited right off the bat, eh? Yet some of my courses were amazing. I had one where we spent weeks discussing and debating, as a class, how Richard III came to power and eventually lost it.
You’ve likely heard the phrase, “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” That’s from Shakespeare’s Richard III, and while there’s no historical accuracy to the quote, the play and scene does depict a battle that took place which ended King Richard’s reign. But as historians, we can’t use a play to figure out what happened so we pored over historical references and personal diaries from the time and tried to piece together how those final events unfolded. Our project was to create an actual map of how armies approached each other. One reference stated that the Earl of Sussex approached the field of battle from the South, yet another was clear that the Earl of Sussex came in from the West, and so on. We debated the accuracy and relevancy of that information for ages, until we realized that the first Earl was killed in battle, making his son instantly the new Earl, and that was the reason for the second, different reference.
We were involved, engaged, and interested. And we learned, not just about the facts of the battle, but important lessons in evaluating sources and understanding English history and transition of power.
So how does this translate into written blog posts?
The same basic rules apply. In your writing, you have to be passionate and excited about your topic, even if it’s as old and dry as an ancient English battlefield.
And you also need to employ different tools and techniques, props, which will help keep your readers and audience engaged and interested. Here are some specific examples which you should consider working into some of your posts:
Are you old enough to remember overhead projectors? My teachers at least used them all the time to help share images and visuals that supported whatever point they were making or facts they were presenting.
Similarly, your blog posts should have rich imagery that helps communicate the topic and any details you’re interested in sharing. For instance, in my writing, it’s not uncommon to include screenshots to help readers see exactly what aim talking about, far better than my words could ever do.
Links to More Information and Sources
As an historian, one of our most important tenets is to cite your sources, and this goes well beyond what normal students and researches consider a source. We have “primary” and “secondary” sources and that’s a topic I will work into a new blog post someday.
As bloggers, we can learn from that and make sure that any time we are sharing information that isn’t strictly opinion, we link to a source for that information. Sometimes that will be an external website and authority, but sometimes that will also be an internal, older blog post. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I often write about basic topics and encourage others to do the same, so that I have material to build on and link back to in future, more advanced posts. It gives my readers more to chew on and learn about. I often refer to that as throwing a purpose pitch.
Quotes from Authorities
Including actual quotes from authorities on your topic or famous influencers can really help to reinforce the point that you’re making.
If presented in the right way, it also can help to break up your text and give your reader pause. The quote might be inset as a blockquote, or turned into a graphic and highlighted in that way.
Tell me that walking into class and seeing this didn’t just make your day:
Ok, probably dating myself again there. But the point is, if we knew were wre going to get to watch a video in class, that usually was a good thing, right?
Your blog is no different, and fortunately you don’t have to reserve the AV unit to do it. Head over to YouTube or Vimeo and find or create a great video clip that you can embed right into your blog post.
Embedded Social Media
Similarly, if you’re referring to a social media post, or saw a comment from someone on the topic you’re discussing, you can usually embed that post directly into your blog.
White Space & Styling
And don’t overlook the power of basic white space and styling. They’re like the use of dramatic pauses and inflection.
Instead of droning on and on like my old professor, be creative and interesting and engaging in your delivery.
And one of the most powerful props at all? The discussion itself. Write about topics and approach them from a perspective that invites questions and comments and real engagement. If all you do is speak at me, it’s just a boring lecture, and I don’t have to be here.