This guide is made by Shubhi Agarwal, a student of Lloyd Law School, Noida, on how to write good blog posts
What kind of blog post can you write? What constitutes a good blog post?
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular examples or content-types that can be part of a blog post:
- Interviews such as “How A was able to achieve B in his career”
- Case Studies, such as “How company X is implementing law Y”
- Answers to questions such as “What can you do if you purchase a fake product online”
- Legal views on popular controversies, such as “Are judges really against accountability? Review of pre-existing checks and balances”
- How-to- articles such as “How to register complaint with cyber cell of police- online complaint procedure ”
- Articles about statutory amendments, new regulations and notifications such as “Land Acquisition Bill 2015”
- New judgments passed by Supreme Court, High Courts and Regulators
- Tutorials, such as ‘Step by step guide to an M&A transaction’
- Breaking industry news (sometimes you may have to speak to other industry experts, professionals or new businessmen to find out about the news)
- Trends in the law or within your industry/practice area.
You can select any of the above when you want to write a blog post. Choose any one of the above.
Identify a suitable topic
Zeroing in on a topic is not easy. Despite selecting a blog-type, you may be clueless about what you want to write on. There are several ways in which you can start identifying a blog topic:
- You can take help of social media, and directly ask relevant people/experts on your profile or in a group about pressing issues. You can pick also up your topic from online forums like Quora.com and LinkedIn groups. To add maximum value, try not to write the same kind of analysis on the topic which has already been done, but add a new perspective or angle. For instance, some people argue that prenuptial agreements are valid in India and some argue that they are not. If that is a topic of interest to you, you can research more about ‘prenuptial agreements’ and write a blog on it. Make sure you can find out at least one or two aspects that are new and have not been discussed, so that your article generates curiosity.
- A blog topic can be picked up from current news articles. Here it depends upon what article you want to pick up. For writing a blog on some legal topic you can pick up your topic from new laws passed, Supreme Court and High Courts judgments. Like, if the news article says ‘Government is to pass Land Acquisition Bill 2015’ you can pick the title like ‘Land Acquisition Bill 2015: Is Private Business and Infrastructure Development Easier Now?” or “Land Acquisition Bill: How is it Different From Previous Land Acquisition Laws in India”.
- Read business newspapers like The Economic Times, keep track of updates on businessnewsdaily.com and www.businesstoday.in. You can also subscribe on to specific sites to get updates in your inbox on a daily basis, such as New York Times, Moneycontrol’s ’The Firm’’ or Livemint, so that you constantly have access to what is happening in the business world. Don’t write on the same headline that the newspaper has already reported on, but try to identify questions that the headline makes you think of.
For example, consider the following headline.
Create an outline in your mind (even before starting research)
Before actually writing the article, plan and create an outline of the whole topic as in mention all the important points that you want to include in your post. You can think of questions that intuitively come to your mind. Use your own curiosity here – remember that many others are thinking of the same question that you are. Don’t judge yourself or think that the question you have might be stupid.
Once you have the outline, think of the most important aspects that you want to communicate to your reader. Any common knowledge, facts or opinions you want to include. Short notes, phrases or single words that will jar your memory enough to help you flesh out the thoughts later work fine here. You can then start researching with the perspective of finding answers to those questions.
Writing always requires a good research work. A good research work can be done in following ways:
- News articles are a great way to start off your research.
- To find out correct legal information visit legal sites such as indiankanoon.org, government websites for statutory information or other relevant sites. Also try to read judgments related to topic, if any.
- Bookmark all the sites that you find important and which can help you in future for conducting more research. You can use Pinterest or Pocket as a bookmarking tool to do this on Chrome.
- Do not rely on Wikipedia as content on Wikipedia can be edited.
- It is not necessary to have a footnote or a link for every line of argument your mind comes up with. However, it is extremely important to make a reference to sources which contain factual information that you mention in your post. Avoid writing in the same manner as the authors have written before – duplication of the same work might amount to plagiarism and in any case will not attract readers. You can find out more about plagiarism and what sources you need to cite here: http://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/QPA_plagiarism.html
Writing your post
Make sure that your article is not a copied one and is not elaborated in long paragraphs. Readers generally avoid long content Be visual in appearance as it attracts more readers. Start your content by story-telling.
You’ve found a topic and even done your research, but it is important that the title you select is catchy. Writing a good blog title is not easy. The headline should engage reader’s attention and should focus on what you are exactly going to display in the content. Mostly the headlines are looked up in search engines so readers set an expectation about the article from the headline, therefore, the headline and content should be related. Also, the headlines should involve keywords which mostly people go searching for.
You can create a title by using the following format:
- Use numbers to interest readers like 10 steps
- Use adjectives like useful, absolute, etc
- Be rationale, use terms like tips, tricks, principles, etc.
- Make a promise as in write only the content about what you said in title.
- Use keywords so that it is easy for readers to find your article in search engine.
Paragraphs, Headings and Formatting
Break your writing into multiple paragraphs of 3-8 lines approximately. Long paragraphs don’t engage readers. Include subheadings in your post at different levels. The subheadings divide the content in different categories which help the readers to understand it in a far better way.
Use links with your post to refer readers to related ideas
Your post may rely on facts, assertions or arguments made elsewhere (even if it is a newspaper). Sometimes you may briefly mention related articles in passing to maintain a flow in your writing. In such cases, you can simply hyperlink to the original source. When you write a blog online, hyperlinking is much more effective than footnoting. Avoid footnotes and hyperlink to external sources where necessary.
Proof-reading and preparing a final copy
After completing your article, go through it again and re-correct any duplicate assertions, grammatical mistakes or typographical errors. You cannot afford to publish an article which grammatically wrong or incorrect under any circumstances. You will also find enough opportunity to fine-tune the post and make the argument/assertion sharper. The information you provide through your blog should be correct and updated. Any outdated or incorrect information will not attract readers interest.
Don’t forget to add images
Most professionals do not pay attention to this, but adding images to articles is always preferable as readers find it easier to grasp your message and retain attention when there are visual cues. You can seek images from Flickr’s ‘creative commons’ so that there are no copyright issues. Copyrighted images can be used if your usage qualifies as fair use/fair dealing, but it is preferable that you credit the source under all circumstances.
Call to action
You can finish the article by mentioning the findings of your article in one or two short paragraphs. For example, “X judgment has made Y type of transactions more expensive.” If possible mention alternate routes. Mention a call to action, where your readers have an opportunity to take the next step. If you are interested in expanding your network and building relationships or you want your readers to get in touch with you, often the call to action is simply an invitation to them to write to you. For example, “If you have any questions around this, you can write to me at [email address].”
Ideally, speak to two persons at least who have worked on that area in the course of writing your post, or at least prior to publishing the article. It is important that your article has a certain level of maturity and is relevant to the questions your target audience (or the target audience of the blog where you want to publish your post on) will face.
Post-publication activity: Sharing and seeking inputs from other experts in the area
Post publication, it makes sense to share your post on relevant social media platforms. Start discussions around the topic, for example, on LinkedIn groups. This will generate interest in what you wrote and enable others to connect with you.
On a continuous basis, keep sharing your work (over social media, email or over personal conversations) with new connections you make and seek their opinions and thoughts. (Avoid the trap of defending your viewpoints when somebody with a different perspective speaks to you). This will help you in refining your understanding and keep track of future developments. It also develops a new maturity in your thought process.
As you do this over time, you can link to your best work from your CV or add to your LinkedIn profile, so that prospective recruiters and clients can know about your expertise and writing skills.
So to summarize, the whole thing in final points:
Before writing any article, first decide who is going to read this article and how are they going to benefit from it. Is it something that people are already looking an answer for? Will they google this topic? Are they in trouble and want an answer so that they are googling? What can you tell them through your article, what information can you share with them that will help them? How can you make it simple so that those who are not very smart can also understand what you are writing very quickly? Can you include tables, formats, bullet point lists? Will that make it easier to read the article?
- Length: 1500 words (minimum limit) at least excluding footnotes and citations. There is no maximum limit.
- Language: Simplest possible language, must be very easy to read. Use simple sentences instead of complex sentences and easy words instead of difficult words. Only in school and college people get rewarded for using a difficult language, everywhere else, in real life, using such language results in being penalized and ridiculed. Please write in as simple language as possible. What makes your article valuable is quality of information, how rare the information you are providing is, and how insightful or direct your information is, how easy it is to understand and read, how nicely the content is flowing from one issue to another. Provide bullet points and tables everywhere possible. That will make your article stand out and valuable. Provide formats, samples, examples and practical advice wherever possible.
- Always ask people: Whenever you don’t know the practical issues involved in a topic, ask someone. Call up lawyers who specialize in that subject and ask. Call up your teachers and ask. Ask people intelligent questions and learn real life practical insights and then write those in a lucid, simple language.
- Method: First create a structure, give your article a skeleton. Identify one or two important questions you will answer in the article. Around this structure develop a body. Information should be crisp and to the point so that the reader gets what he wants in first read. Beating around the bushes frustrates the reader and he will switch to something better. Use google docs for the writing instead of microsoft word.
- Headings and subheadings: The entire article must be broken down according to headings and subheadings. The headings and subheadings should be complete and not partial or indicative. For example, if you are writing an article of habeas corpus, and you have to write a subheading for a paragraph where you are writing which courts you can go to for getting this writ issued, the heading or subheading should be:
“Which courts may issue the writ of Habeas Corpus”
And not “Which courts can issue this writ” or “Courts” or “courts with writ jurisdiction” etc.
If the focus is on habeas corpus then try and ensure that it is directly mentioned in most of the headings and sub-headings.
All headings and subheadings must contain a heading tag. See the place where there is a drop down list with mention of normal text, click there and tag each heading sub-heading as Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3 etc.
Google reads the text written in heading and sub-headings and decides which article should be shown on the top search result. Keyword rich headings and subheadings are always better.
- Do not write lengthy introductions and conclusions: no one cares. Just get to the point quickly. Imagine that you have to write an article on licenses required for hydropower generation. Now many law students will start this article by writing what is electricity, what types of electricities are used in India, what is the percentage of hydropower use in India and pros and cons of hydropower and ramble on before coming to the point of if licenses are required and what licenses are required and how to get them. That is crazy. Never write an introduction that is longer than 4-5 sentences. Same goes for conclusion.
- Bullet points: more you write in bullet points and numbered lists, better your article will be received. It is a bad thing to write huge chunky paragraphs. Try to break things down in bullet points and numbered lists as far as possible. http://www.indiainfoline.com/article/research-articles-personal-finance/cheque-dishonoured-a-step-by-step-guide-for-legal-recourse-113111500895_1.html
- Grammar: Your work reflects your image. It is necessary that grammar is absolutely correct. After writing check for spelling, grammar and language errors. You can use free online tools for this purpose.
- Title: The document should be saved with a justified title. Try to keep it similar to how the reader will search for it. Fancy titles are not helpful for the reader. Write a simple title, maybe in form of a question that the article answers.
- Headings: The headings and subheading should be linked with Styles -> Heading 1 and Heading 2 of google document. Google prefer documents with the linked style instead of normal text.
- Scannability: Most readers skim through the article to see if it is worth a read. So add more subheadings, bullet points and paragraph breaks.
- Explain the technical terms: General public is not familiar with technical legal terms. If is is absolutely necessary to use big legal jargons then simplify them for readers who come from non-legal background.
- Citation style: References should be cited properly through a hyperlink. Wherever possible, use hyperlink instead of footnotes.
- Make it exhaustive, answer FAQs: Try to answer all the frequently asked questions about the topic. The article should be able to answer all kinds of secondary questions that may be raised in the mind of the reader.