How to Write an (In)Credible Blog

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69,548,000. By the time I finish writing this, that’s how many blog sites will be on WordPress. People add about 47.2 million new blog posts every month, according to the company—which tallies to approximately 65,555 per minute. Thankfully, dedicated curators help us find the best of the best, 24/7.

Want a useful blog about gluten-free cooking or climate change? You can find one through a Top Ten website. Best blogs about blogging? Yep. You can find them too.

With so much online content, readers face a daily conundrum—figuring out what to read. And content creators face a reciprocal challenge—figuring out how to write what people want to read. My high school English teacher, Mrs. Farnsworth, had ideas for doing that. But if I followed her formulaic admonitions, I’d begin my paragraphs with First, Second, Third, and finish with a towering crescendo, In summary . . . .

But one thing that Mrs. Farnsworth beat into my adolescent brain has stuck with me. “You can’t persuade anyone if your writing isn’t credible.” She was prescient about how important that advice would become for Writing2.0.

Credible blogs have some common characteristics:

1. Level voice. Credible blogs aren’t inflammatory or alarmist. The reason I won’t read any blog with more than one exclamation mark following the title.

2. Balanced. While readers expect many blogs to advance a point of view, credible ones acknowledge opposing arguments, and offer fair comparisons.

3. Don’t promote eternal dogmas or immutable truths. As mathematician Bertrand Russell said, the aim of science is to “approach the truth by successive approximations, without claiming that at any stage final and complete accuracy has been achieved.”

4. Provide attribution. A credible blog cites solid, accessible research, or quotes people who corroborate or support an idea. Not just “studies show . . .”

5. Appropriately uncertain. Statements such as “78.6% of sales people using social media to sell outperformed those who weren’t using social media,” invite skepticism. “Using social media . . ?” “Outperform . . ?” When precise results are given for things that are difficult to measure, or attempt to explain complex outcomes, credibility suffers.

6. Appropriately certain. “Where you have to draw the line is to be very clear about where the uncertainties are, but to not have our statements be so laden in uncertainty that no one even listens to what we’re saying,” according to Michael Mann, Director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University.

7. Acknowledge unknowns, and ask questions about them. As Nate Silver wrote in The Signal and the Noise, “To articulate what you don’t know is a mark of progress.”

Looking at this list, I wonder if I have painted myself into a credibility corner. Can I, or anyone else, pass a basic credibility litmus test? I’m not sure, but I managed to find a recent blog, Nine Things to Know about Influencing Purchasing Decisions, that combines many of these elements.

. . . And Mrs. Farnsworth, if you’re reading this now, in summary, thanks! This one’s for you!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

2 COMMENTS

  1. To your outstanding list, I’d add one more as the cherry on top: write a good post title!

    I read of thousands of blog posts each year. Unfortunately some great content is not read because the author failed to take time to write a great title to draw readers in.

    A title is the headline that compels the potential reader to click, using a few short words that communicate the essence of the post or create some curiosity.

    Taken from CustomerThink’s blogging tips, here are a few examples of post titles that work…

    • Six Ding Dongs and a Golden Nugget: My Troubles With Verizon
    • “Microsoft, Say It Loud: “I’m Hosted and I’m Proud!”
    • Firing Customers: Is It Ever a Good Idea?
    • Pat Sullivan Is Back to Shake Up Small Business CRM
    • Surviving IKEA’s Check-Out Catastrophe

    And a few that don’t…

    • The Value of Customer Service (boring)
    • More on Virgin America (more about what?)
    • The Psychology of Customer Service (too general)
    • Pharma and Life Science Companies Learn To Cure Compliance Ailments With MDM Prospecting Tips (marketing speak)
    • A Refreshing Approach (to what?)

    I’ve added a link to this post in our blogging tips page. Again, well done!

  2. Bob: Is there a web-based tool for generating titles? In fact, yes.

    http://www.fictionalley.org/primer/title.html

    It works like an online MadLib. I fiddled with it for about three minutes using some of the words from this blog. The tool returned the following title possibilities:

    Title One: Gobs readers with credible blogsites
    Title Two: The credible uncertainty
    Title Three: The content with Gobs readers
    Title Four: Gobs uncertainty
    Title Five: The progressing content
    Title Six: blogging blogsites
    Title Seven: progressing readers
    Title Eight: credible blogging
    Title Nine: blogging for blogsites
    Title Ten: progressing and blogging

    Well, I think there’s a learning curve here, but it’s nice to know creative help is as close as your web browser.

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