Do you think about structure when you write a blog post? I thought not. Let me introduce you to the 6 elements of structure—and no, I’m not talking about content or style.
I can already hear you muttering: “Structure? Whaddya mean, structure? I just write whatever comes into my head.”
And as a reader, all you care about is the message, the story, the content, and the tone. Why would you even notice the way a blog post is constructed? Only nerds would even think about such a thing.
- When writing a report, you structure it rigorously. You probably have a template or a style guide that prescribes the order of the parts.
- When writing a complete book, you need to control the structure or you will drown in words.
- When writing an academic essay, you use a structure that your professor prefers, or your grade may suffer.
- But writing a blog post? Nyah. Most people just write, thinking only of what they want to say.
Indeed, maybe for you the very joy of blogging lies in the freedom to write without rules or conventions. That can be true bliss after conforming to a corporate style guide or struggling with the Hero’s Journey for years.
But remember (she says mildly), you do have other choices.
Why bother thinking about structure in your blog?
- Awkward structure can make your reader feel twitchy, confused, or annoyed.
- A satisfying structure can make your reader feel positive, engaged, and clear.
- Structure affects your reader subconsciously.
An understanding of structure:
- gives you a wee buzz
- gives you options and flexibility as a writer
- helps you to grow as a writer.
Most people associate structure with formal documents, not with a personal blog, which is often extremely casual writing. And indeed, most of the time, structure hovers beyond my conscious mind when I’m blogging.
I start a blog post with a half-formed idea and as I write, I delete and shuffle and rewrite until I “feel” as if the post has a satisfying size and shape.* If it doesn’t come right, I’ll tinker until the structure supports the message—or dump the post. Easy if you have been practising and teaching writing for 50-odd years. Impossible if nobody has ever explained to you what structure is. (Which is the norm.)
So let me do that for you, keeping it nice and simple.
If you would like to learn more about structure, read on. If you are totally satisfied with the way you write already, that’s fine too—’bye now—I understand!
What does structure mean in writing?
Well, structure in writing has the same meaning as in building, or con-struction. There’s a strong parallel.
Say you want to build a small garden shed. You don’t just drop random pieces of timber in a heap and hope they will fall into place and organically self-connect. You design the shed first, or at least have a fair idea of what you are aiming at. Then you build it according to plan, maybe adjusting the plan along the way.
Structure (for a building, a document, or an organisation) is about size, shape, and organisation. It’s about how the parts connect to each other, support each other, and combine to make a coherent and cohesive whole.
Before you start constructing anything, you usually know a few basics, at the very least.
- What are you going to build—a shed? or a blog post?
- What is the purpose—to store your tools and bikes? or tell people about your travels
- Where will it go—in the back yard? or on your blog?
- What materials will you use—wood and roofing steel and nails? or words, sentences, paragraphs, images, graphs, videos?
As you write, your blog post assumes a certain form, a form that is actually physical.
The 6 elements of structure
- SIZE. How long will your blog post be?
- DENSITY. How many points, ideas or facts will you convey?
- SEQUENCE. In what order will you make your points?
- PRIORITIES. What is your main point? How much space will you give it?
- PARTS. What parts will the blog post have?
- CONNECTIONS AND TRANSITIONS. How will you join the parts together? How will you guide the reader from one point to the next?
Structure is a powerful tool
Blah blah blah, you’re thinking? But hey, you already do structure your writing—maybe not in advance, but as you go. Maybe not on purpose but accidentally. Even your shopping lists have a sort of structure. This one has three parts in a particular order.
A fun exercise: spot the structure
For a blog post, no structure is absolutely good or bad. What’s right for one is wrong for others. I like all the blog posts below and think the structure works. But each has a completely different structure. Please read them, and try not to think about their subject matter. Instead, figure what shape each one reminds you of. A jellyfish, a powder puff, string of beads, a coat of arms, a tennis ball, a single jewel, a bridge, a ladder, a fire, a triangle? — I don’t know, you tell me!
- One word Sunday — Row
- Let’s dance (Yeah, another blogger)
- Are you ready for some foot talk? (mistermuse)
- Debate: Rating a book without review (readrantrock&roll)
Just noticing structure gives you power
I can’t help noticing these things and I really love being able to see where my own edifice of words and images might benefit from a tweak. I’ll blog some more on this topic because I want to share the pleasure and the power of this knowledge.
Your blog is your toy. Show it some love!
* Organising my writing into paragraphs happens in bits and pieces, it happens iteratively and organically, after the first draft has been plonked on the page. (For you it could be different.) That’s why I’m unlikely to use Gutenberg, despite all its splendid features.
Rachel McAlpine cc by 2.0 — please share. Expect other articles on blog structure in the next few weeks.