I am not the most scientifically inclined person and wouldn’t normally seek out science blogs at my leisure; however, a good science blog will find a way to catch the eye of the casual online browser. In my case, I have found myself learning about velociraptors and using python for solving equations when I simply went online to peruse Facebook.
I compared the science blogs WIRED and National Geographic. What I really liked about both sites was the ease and navigation when looking for a specific blog topic or author. Both blog sites are very well known and each post has great form. The WIRED post I looked at was entitled “Here’s How to Solve the xkcd Velociraptor Problem With Code” by none other than our guest speaker Rhett Allain. The National Geographic post I selected was “Anu’s Tale” by Luke Dollar.
The reason I was attracted to Allain’s post was because I am actually fascinated by velociraptors and I unknowingly clicked to read an article about the wonders of python. However his writing style and the images and humor included kept me interested until the very end. Similarly I clicked Dollar’s post because it was listed in the “Cat Watch” section of the blog and I’m very interested in big cats. Not only that, but the first thing you see under the title is a video of snow leopards and that immediately drew me in and made me want to read more.
Both posts included a few pictures, however Allain’s post included more humor which was very effective in keeping me interested in a topic I wouldn’t normally be intrigued by. In contrast, Dollar’s post had a more serious tone to it, but several more pictures and two videos which made the post interesting.
As much as I love big cats, I have to admit that I prefer Allain’s post because of its humor and the apparent fun he had writing about his topic made me excited about it as well. It was a more enjoyable read and I even learned something new.
So the question is, what makes a good blog post? There are several different components that come together to create a good blog post.
Telling a good story starts with choosing a topic that interests you. When you write about something you are passionate about it becomes evident in your writing. Nothing will kill a blog post more effectively that a lack of enthusiasm from the writer.
Be YOURSELF. When a writer allows their personality to shine through their writing it becomes more entertaining and interesting to the reader. Especially in Allain’s post, you could tell it was an actual person who was passionate about the topic. In Dollar’s post, the facts seemed less personal to the writer and it felt more like I was reading from an encyclopedia. Be sure to express your ideas in a way that you personally would enjoy.
ENGAGEMENT. A “Call to action” is a great way to get your audience engaged in your writing. For example, Allain’s post about the velociraptor problem required you to solve it using the python technique he shared in his post. He suggested that he would be posting a follow-up post including the answer, but asked his readers to try the problem on their own first. Not only did he give his audience a task, he gave them a reason to come back for his next post.
Another great way to promote audience engagement is using visuals to spice-up your post. When people see a whole lot of copy it automatically turns them away regardless of how juicy the topic may be. They also have short attention spans so when you are able to add visuals, photos or videos it helps to keep your audience interested. Images make complex topics more easily understandable, which will come in handy for science blogs.
Don’t be afraid to add humor to your posts! It helps lighten the tone of your posts and can be effective if you are writing about a particularly boring topic.
To draw people in to your post it is important to have a great title and featured picture. Allain’s post with the interesting title about a velociraptor drew me in immediately. The title of Dollar’s post “Anu’s Tale” was less interesting, but it included a featured video, which sparked my interest because of my love for big cats. Even though I had no idea who Anu was, I still clicked on the post because I knew it had to have something to do with the beautiful snow leopards in the video.
It is crucial for science writers to be scientifically accurate because most people will take you by your word and won’t do the research themselves. Even worse, someone may know you don’t have your facts right and will call you out on your errors and you will lose your credibility. To prevent this from happening do your research and check your facts.
Being a credible source of information is very important for science blogs. If you happen to make a mistake or repeat misinformation, own up to it immediately. Always be transparent about your edits. Be honest, be accountable and fix it fast!
For more tips, read some of the points made by Dan Shewan in his post, “How to Write an Awesome Blog Post in Five Steps.”
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