In this post, I’m going to share the single most important method you can use to write an effective blog post. And, don’t worry, it’s easy to remember and quick to apply.
It involves a simple say-it-three-times structure.
(1) Say what you’re going to say.
(2) Say it.
(3) Say what you just said.
Yes, you say it three times. OK. We’re going to go over that in a little more detail… but first, let’s look at why…
Why the say-it-three-times works.
I learnt this technique during years of working in a senior job in the NHS, where I had to write countless letters bringing things to the attention of other people. And I soon learnt most of my letters were left mostly unread. (Shock! Horror!)
Why? Because people are usually very busy, and busy people take shortcuts.
- They only read the opening paragraph.
- Or they only read the final paragraph.
- Or, if you’re lucky, they read the first and the last paragraphs, and nothing else.
Then, and only then, do they decide if it’s worth reading the whole of the letter.
I knew all about these shortcuts, because I used them myself!
Now, on the web, the shortcut list is even smaller. Unlike a letter you hold in your hand, an email or blog post appears on a screen. And most people are usually too
lazy busy to scroll down to the end.
So, when it comes to reading a blog post, it boils down, essentially, to reading the first paragraph of the post. Or even, just the title. If your reader isn’t hooked by then, they move on to something else.
1) Beginning: say what you’re going to say
Is it a showcase for your writing? A travel piece? A recipe? A political comment? An update on your progress on a project?
Your opening sentence should make it clear what the post is all about. If people are interested, they’ll stay and read on. If not, then at least you haven’t wasted their time.
2) Middle: say it.
The middle part of your blog post will, of course, be the longest. This is where you expand on your initial sentence.
In fact, to give value to your reader, to make them think their time was worth spending, you need to give them some meat here, so don’t be too timid about writing a lengthy post.
When I first started blogging, I was obsessed with writing short posts. Now I’m relaxed and take the time to go over things in detail.
People who’ve read this far are after a deeper understanding of your initial promise.
- Is your post about how to make a million dollars in the next year? OK. Now I want to know the detail of how to do it.
- Did you tell me you travelled around Australia in a beat up camper van? Show me what it was like.
- Have you written the best book ever? Explain what it is, why I must read it, and where I can buy it.
The middle part of your blog is actually the most important. This is where you fulfil your promise to your reader – the one you made in your opening sentence. That promise shouldn’t be broken. Please deliver!
3) End: say what you just said.
Finally, wrap it all up with a final sentence, or paragraph. This is your farewell gift to your reader. It may be the only part of your post they will be able to recall afterwards.
And don’t assume your reader has actually read all of your post! They might have skipped through, looking only at the sections that catch their eye. So your summary section is a chance to show them what they may have missed… and, who knows, they might go back and take a closer look.
When to use the say-it-three-times format
This structure has the advantage of being simple and easy to remember. But it doesn’t suit every blog and it doesn’t suit every post.
Many of my posts grow organically. For example, on my coastal walking blog (coastalwalker.co.uk) I simply start with a set of photographs and a map, and weave my story around my route. Yes, I do try to have a beginning, a middle and an end. But I don’t consciously write those posts to fit into a say-it-three-times structure.
That’s because my walking blog is telling a story, not conveying a message.
On this blog, my writing blog, I write occasional posts such as this one where I try to impart a tip, a piece of advice, or an opinion. These are the posts I usually structure using the say-it-three-times format. In fact, I use it more and more, as I’ve grown in confidence as a blogger with something to say.
How to make it work for you.
Write your post as you normally would. Then go back and look at it.
- Look at the beginning. Does the opening paragraph really sum up what the blog is trying to say and where it might be going?
- Expand the middle part, but keep your text focused and structured. Remember why you set out to write this blog post in the first place and try not to wander off…
- Check your ending. What do you hope your reader has gained from the time they spent reading? Can you add a single sentence, or a short paragraph, and sum it up?
In fact, if you look back over this blog post, you will see that’s exactly how I’ve constructed it.
First, I wrote an introductory section that told you exactly what the post is all about. Next, I followed with a juicy middle and answered the questions ‘why?’, ‘how?’ and ‘when?’. And now I’m going to finish with a summing up paragraph… one that I hope you’ll remember…
Get your message across effectively by saying it three times.
- Tell your reader what you’re going to say.
- Say it with explanations and further detail.
- Summarise what you said at the end.
BONUS TIP: And remember, images always speak louder than words!
If you found this useful, you might like to read an earlier piece I wrote on how to lay out a post: How to structure a great blog post: 5 simple steps (I’m not sure I agree with everything I said here now, but it remains one of my most popular posts, so I’m loathe to change it!)