The Differences Between Blogging and Academic Writing

This is for all you college seniors and recent graduates out there.

Have you ever given up reading a blog post with line after line of solid text? Have you ever had a professor return an essay marked “C+”, and tell you your sentences were too long and your paragraphs too short? Do you ever feel dissatisfied with your non-academic writing, yet you can’t say why?

You, like most people, instinctively know that different situations call for different writing styles. The hard part is identifying the traits of each style.

Writing, like economics, is subject to supply and demand. Essays are for a specific audience (your professors) to show what you’ve learned. They expect an in-depth analysis of the assigned books and perhaps from secondary sources as well. Blog posts are for a more general public to entertain them or educate them in a brief and engaging style. Blog readers care more about immediate facts than properly formatted footnotes.

Mastering different writing styles is essential to any writing-related job. Blogging is a key skill for writing and consultation jobs, and mastering the traits that separate blogging from essay writing will save you months or even years of trial and error:

  • Short paragraphs, even isolated sentences, are not only allowed, but encouraged. Many readers will skim your post, so design it to be “skimmer friendly,” and the readers will still learn something and your work will not go unappreciated.
  • Bold and italics, the formerly forbidden formats, are often a necessity in blogs. Use them to draw attention to key points, and make quotations more obvious. Bullet points are permitted, and essential for making lists.
  • Be simple without being simplistic and intelligent without being technical. Don’t assume your readers are all toddlers or astrophysicists. Write for the general public.
  • Personal touches are allowed and encouraged. You are permitted to make first and second-person statements (“I think”, “you will,” etc.)
  • Explain concepts briefly. Touch on important details, but avoid secondary remarks or include them as links, not a half-page paragraph.
  • Titles should be brief and attractive. Make an intriguing statement (“The Most Difficult Dollar I Ever Earned”) or propose to answer an unusual yet useful question (“Why You Should NOT Eat More Vegetables”).
  • Graphs and images are permitted where relevant, and where fun. Illustrate your work.

If you can master the essay and the blog post, you’ll improve your job prospects, get better grades, and increase your blog’s hit count, all sooner than later. Maybe even your professors will skim a post or two.

This is a four-part series written by Penelope Laird, a college intern majoring in Liberal Arts. These are her reflections on the experience she gained between her fall and spring semesters while working for me. -Heidi Scott Giusto, Ph.D.