12 Most Standard English Rules to Break When Blogging
When you sit down to write a blog post, do you ever think about how many times your high school English teacher would cringe if he or she saw all of the ‘Standard English’ rules of academia you’re breaking?
Blogging is a far cry from academic writing — it’s much less formal. Does this mean you should abandon everything you learned? Absolutely not. But there are some rules you can bend.
1. Always use complete sentences
Not always true.
(See what I just did there?)
Blogging is a lot more relaxed than academic writing where you would use Standard English. The tone of your blog should be conversational in nature, which sometimes means fragments. This is okay as long as your reader knows what you mean. Saying “Not always true” (which has an implied subject) is different from a true fragment, such as “And so she.”
2. Don’t use contractions
In academic writing you are taught you should not use contractions. Ahem. How many times in everyday situations do you find yourself actively avoiding contractions? Unless you’re reading Green Eggs and Ham, I mean. (“I will not eat them here or there, I will not eat them anywhere. I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam I Am.”) Right. That’s what I thought. Blogs aren’t as formal as academic papers, so let the contractions fly!
3. Never use first person
If you used first person in school, you probably got comments like, “Is this a researched fact or your opinion?” Blogging is great because you can mix the two, providing facts along with your own opinion and commentary.
4. Never use second person
You were probably always taught to say things to the effect of “From this result, one can deduce that his own opinions are….” Always “one” but never “you.” Why? You didn’t want your audience (read: teachers) to think you were speaking specifically to them (or about them, using generalizations). Your blog audience, however, wants you to speak directly to them. Blogging is a chance for real conversation. Address your readers as people.
5. Only use solid, professional sources
“Your neighbor is not a good source unless he is an expert.” This, while a good rule of thumb, is not technically true in blogging, depending on the kind of writing you do. You might choose to quote, interview, or cite your neighbor. And even though he’s not an expert, he might have one heck of a good story that your readers can relate to.
6. Never end a sentence with a preposition
Yes, it’s technically wrong and I would still advise you to avoid it as often as possible. But we blog the way we speak, and many people don’t automatically rearrange their sentences to avoid this (though it’s important to note that some do, and that’s awesome, too). However, consider tone here. If you’re going on quite informally and you suddenly start throwing out things like “For what purpose did you do that?” instead of “What did you do that for?” it could be somewhat jarring to your readers and break your flow.
7. Leave the colloquialisms to creative writing
Mark Twain made colloquialisms famously acceptable in creative writing by having his characters speak just as they would in real life. This gave the characters more depth and made them more believable. It gave them voice, and it can give your blog voice, too.
If I were writing about people in my native Central Pennsylvania, I could certainly change the dialogue to “Come on. Let’s go get some drinks and sandwiches and get ready to carve our pumpkins.”
OR I could write it the way they really speak. “C’mon, yinz guys! Let’s go tah Sheetzes and get some pop and hoagies before we go warsh our punkins off in the crick!”
(I note with love that, while all of those are terms used here, that’s mostly a gross exaggeration.)
Which is more colorful for readers? Colloquialisms bring life to your post where applicable.
8. Never begin a sentence with a conjunction
Again, use this sparingly, but it is acceptable when blogging. Also, Levar Burton made breaking this rule famous a long time ago on an educational TV show (no, not Star Trek).
But you don’t have to take my word for it.
9. Never abbreviate anything
This was particularly painful the year young Pennsylvanians like me had state history. No one could tell us why we weren’t allowed to write “PA.” We just weren’t.
But you can.
A word of caution on abbreviations: Be certain your audience will understand them. When in doubt, write it out.
10. Always cite your sources at the end of your work
Whether you used footnotes or MLA Works Cited pages, you had in-text citations that pointed to your full sources at the end of your paper. The great thing about blogging? Hyperlinks! Link to your source any way you like (but you should ALWAYS give credit).
11. Always have a clear thesis
While I probably don’t need to tell you that your post should have a purpose that your audience will recognize, it’s not as necessary that it be a blatant, formulaic statement like you learned in seventh grade:
“[Noun] is the [adjective/superlative] [noun/proper noun] of the [noun] because of its [a, b, c characteristics].”
(I’d take at least five points off if you started that with “I think” or “I’m going to prove that….”)
12. There is no room for humor — in fact, do your best to sound like you possess no human emotion whatsoever
The point is, when you blog, be yourself. Let your personality come through. Be funny, angry, happy, sad, excited, or whatever else you feel. You’re a real person with real emotions and lots of stories to tell. Tell them through your own mouth.
Blogging should be a fun, relaxing, and enjoyable activity. While you want to sound intelligent, there are some rules that were meant to be broken. So go ahead and break them. Your blog will sound so relaxed and conversational, even your English teacher will enjoy it.
Are there any other important rules you would have included on this list of 12?
Featured image courtesy of AMagill licensed via Creative Commons.