There are many different approaches to thinking about how to create good writing/blogging.
Word count, graphics that accompany a post, the simplicity with which an idea is expressed, the package in which it is presented (e.g. languaging) etc. etc. The methods for evaluating writing are as numerous as the writers creating it online.
Many of the approaches to good writing are, understandably, rooted in the mind. That is, they take logical/mental based approaches to evaluating writing, such as those mentioned above, and others.
For a moment, I want to turn that concept on its head (ha! see what I did there?) and talk about good writing/blogging from a feeling place, rather than a thinking place. For the purposes of this thought experiment, I want to propose that good writing be defined by the feeling we leave our readers with. Specifically, the feeling of completeness versus incompleteness.
Think about it. When you read a post, even if it’s well written and makes a good point, if it’s not complete, if it’s not a tightly bound package, if the idea is not closed up tightly, it leaves us with a vague sense of dissatisfaction.
In fact, I’d go so far as to argue that sometimes this sense of dissatisfaction is close to the surface—i.e. we can articulate “that post was ok, but it wasn’t complete” and other times we will leave the post with a sense of dissatisfaction that is attributable to its lack of completeness but we might have a hard time articulating why. As a writer, this matters because if leaving our readers with a sense of completeness means they walk away feeling like they read a good post, repeating that process means we can start to develop stickiness with the reader and establish our blog/site as a destination and develop a reputation as a good writer. (And let’s face it what writer doesn’t want that?).
Interestingly, if you buy my argument that sometimes we are aware of our sense of satisfaction due to completeness vs. not completeness and you strive to continuously write ‘completely’, you will have developed a reputation as a ‘good writer’ at least, in part, by appealing to the reader’s subconcious.
‘Complete’ Means Addressing Major Objections
So what do we mean by ‘complete’? At a high-level it means making sure you have completed the thought/argument you set out to make in writing the post. But, on a deeper level it means not closing your post until you have addressed substantial objections to your argument.
To show you what I mean, take a quick look at my last post, The Secret to Creating Happy and Productive Employees:
A number of years ago, a close friend who I greatly respect for the deeply, well thought out way he goes about his life, started a small company making software. At the time, I was working with him on an unrelated project and was around him a lot and therefore had a front row seat to observe the hiring process.
One of the first things he did when his three or so employees joined was to sit each one down and ask what would make them happy in their workplace. At first, they hemmed and hawed, giving politically correct answers like “doing quality work”, “contributing positively to the company” etc., but he laughed and said “No, I’m really asking you what would make *you* happy in your workplace.”
One after the other, they thought about it, and one said “Being able to take a break to play computer games during the workday”. Another said “Coming in at 11 and working till 8” and the third said “Having a <latest model computer>”.
To each request, he immediately said “done”, and even went so far as to buy the computer games for the employee.
Having never heard of an approach like that, I spent the next several days mulling it over, searching for the deeper intent in my friends approach, knowing, like almost everything he did, there was a well-thought out, intentional motivation behind what he was doing.
After a few days I realized that if I was reading it right, there are several things implied by my friend’s approach:
- What makes each person happy is different
It sounds both simple and obvious but we are often hung up on what makes us individually happy and don’t think about it much. People physically look different and that is reflective of the fact that everyone’s internal makeup is different so what makes each individual happy differs from one person to the next. This is why positive human resources policies are effective in building employee satisfaction but finding out what makes the individual happy is far more effective.
- There is something to starting out a relationship with an employee by making them happy
Think about that. Finding out what makes the employee happy—what make that specific person happy—is a brilliant way of simultaneously creating an environment where you can get the maximum production from that employee while also creating a situation where employee satisfaction and therefore retention etc. is at maximum levels.
When I first wrote the post, it had been my intention to end the post here. It seemed like I had made the point I set out to make, which was how to build happy and productive employees. However, in thinking about the post through the eyes of the skeptical reader, I thought that while many may buy in to the ‘find-out-what-makes-the-individual-happy’ premise, their immediate response to the approach might be:
“Yeah, but if I just give people what they want and don’t stand over them, I won’t be getting the maximum productivity from them” (or some variation of this theme).
This objection, I thought, might therefore leave the reader with the ‘incomplete’ feeling of dissatisfaction we described above.
To address the objection, I added a final paragraph to the post that (hopefully) addresses the issue head-on by encouraging managers to get past the horse-whipping mentality and suggests that, in the long run, they will be better off working with an individual satisfaction approach:
Stop worrying about whether you are sufficiently whipping the horse and whether your people are going to get away with stuff. The system is perfectly self-correcting. Good people for whom you set the table by specifically asking what makes them happy, will respond and give you their all. People who look to take advantage you will recognize as such and send on their way.
(And, there are tests that can be applied during the interview process to increase the odds that you are hiring the kind of person who will respond to your offer, but that’s another post).
Hopefully, this final paragraph was successful in addressing the overarching objection readers might raise and leave them with a feeling of satisfaction.
Stopping Short of ‘Satisfaction’
Many of you, as writers and bloggers, are stopping short of the ‘completeness’ finish line. You have an idea you are writing about that is good, you express it well, and you even often have a strong way to address the one or two overwhelming objections that the reader may have when reading your argument, but you are stopping short and not addressing their objection(s), thereby inadvertently leaving your reader with a sense of dissatisfaction (and in my experience nine out of ten blog posts that express an idea will have an overarching objection or two that a majority of your readers will mentally raise).
So before hitting that ‘Submit’ button, ask yourself for the major objection(s) your readers will raise (you needn’t agree yourself that it is in fact a major objection to your argument, just that many of your readers may raise it) and address that objection in a final sentence or two. Done right, by the time the reader gets to the end of the post, they will have digested a complete thought and their overarching objection will have been met, leaving them with a sense of satisfaction rather than dissatisfaction about your blog post.
I’ll leave you with some final food-for-thought, that will take our ‘completely’ approach to its next logical place:
I won’t write a post unless I have a way to write it ‘completely’.
- About the Author
Nathan Safran is a former Analyst at Forrester Research where he covered the Digital Home. While at Forrester, Nathan authored research studies on trends, attitudes and behaviors of consumers toward technology adoption and use.
Nathan has been quoted as a subject matter expert in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Fortune magazine. Currently, Nathan heads the Research Department at Conductor, Inc an SEO Technology Platform firm.
Nathan writes at exceljockey.com about the intersection of Business, Technology and Psychology. See the About page for more info. Follow Nathan on Twitter: @Nathan_Safran