It is possible to write a personal blog without sounding totally arrogant, even if you’re promoting your own work.
You know the value of writing about the work you do: it establishes your expertise, makes you look good to investors or employers and generally helps you get ahead. But you have to do it well for it to be effective.
It’s easy to come off as a jerk on your own blog. Readers aren’t always able to interpret nuance in writing; with no body language, something the writer intends to be funny can wind up being insulting when put into print. Your readers can wind up thinking you’re anything from arrogant to just not particularly bright, depending on how you write about what you’re doing. That makes it crucial to think about how you come off in your blog.
Since most of us don’t have hours to invest in every single last blog post we write, though, that thought process has to be something that we can handle on top of everything else we do for our blogs.
These seven tips can help you keep control of how you sound in your blog while still managing to get other things done:
1. Don’t hit publish immediately
Many of us write up a post quickly and hit publish the moment all of the words fall into place. We know we’re supposed to try to get our posts edited, let them sit for a little while before we publish, but we don’t always let it happen.
Well, your tone of voice is one more reason to delay publishing. If you can get someone to read each of your posts before they go live, you can make sure that nothing rubs everyone the wrong way gets through. That can be enough to eliminate basic misunderstandings, more often than not.
2. Link to broader context
It’s not uncommon that a readership gets riled up by a post that seems to make some huge assumptions. You probably have some logic behind what you’re saying and if you can provide that context, along with a little research, you can reduce tensions.
You can also avoid accusations of being an expert without credentials if you can point to other people in your niche discussing similar issues. You can overdo citations, but it’s my experience that it’s better to come off as a know-it-all than someone just making things up to sound good. It doesn’t hurt that most people think of outbound links as a good thing.
3. Be open to discussion
One of the great things about blogging is that you can often get a great conversation about a particular issue going through comments and social media. You have to show that you’re open to such discussions, though, so make sure that you’re actually responding to comments where relevant and seeking out people to start discussions with on social media.
And please note that I said “discussions,” not “fights.” It’s easy to start a fight on the internet, but it takes skill to hold a discussion that doesn’t devolve.
4. Don’t go too far towards automation
Whether we’re talking about blogging or social media in general, there are plenty of ways to make your online efforts already automatic. Provided you write some blog posts in advance, you can schedule them to go out, go out to social media and generally get distributed without having to pay attention to the process.
But paying attention means that you’re involved. Readers can tell if the conversation about a particular topic evolves or if you’ve got a piece of software standing in for you. Despite the convenience, no software package can take your place as a blogger — at the very least, most people prefer arguing with another person over arguing with a computer.
5. Show your expertise, don’t tell about it
With the importance of blogging as a tool for self-promotion, it can be easy to go overboard in telling people about your credentials. But no matter how many times you justify a position with your resume, you’re not going to convince people. A well-researched, well-written blog post sharing expert-level information with a good conversation around it will actually go farther without the self-justification.
6. Don’t dismiss other opinions
A lot of bloggers write fairly opinionated pieces and that’s certainly not a problem. But because we’re talking about opinions and not facts carved in stone, you have to have a way to be sensitive to other people’s opinions. You’re probably not announcing that everyone else is wrong all the time, but you need to go more in depth. Focus on explaining, over converting.
7. Plan for when you’re wrong
Sometimes, I get something wrong. You may actually be infallible and always correct, but I’m not prepared to take that bet. So you need to have a plan in place so that if something you’ve blogged about turns out to be incorrect, or even that you simply change your mind on your own opinion, you can address it in a grown-up fashion.
Simply deleting posts rarely works out well, but if you can can bring the situation out into the open, you can make it a minor bump in the road.
Every writer has something different in her style. I’ve read plenty of bloggers who make being a jerk part of their style. It works for them and if you want to go that direction, feel free to ignore these tips. But it can be hard enough to get a point across clearly without distracting readers. If you can come across as a generally reasonable human being, your blog will be more effective in the long run.
Thursday Bram is the founder of Hyper Modern Writing and has literally written thousands of blog posts, hopefully not sounding like a jerk in most of them. You can find Thursday at her personal blog or on Twitter.