Structure of personal blogs 2: density of information

In structure we’re not looking at a blog’s meaning or message or content except as a kind of stuff. I know that sounds weird and I know it’s geeky, and really I don’t know what came over me — but hey! some of this find this fascinating. Even empowering, you might say.

  • This stuff can be measured in absolute terms: how much information is contained in your blog post? How many points, ideas or facts are conveyed in a single blog post?
  • Information can also be measured in relative terms: how much information is contained compared with the length of the post? We could call this measuring the density of information.
1024px-RutileOrtNonOrt

Model of a crystal in a dense form on the left, a less dense version on the right. For actual information see https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:RutileOrtNonOrt.png

You might write:

  1. a long rambly post that makes just one or two points
  2. a short condensed post that contains 13 points
  3. or something in between.

Measuring is not casting judgement

We’re talking about personal blogs, so there’s no right or wrong. Any of these models may be exactly what you intend, giving exactly the impression you want.

  1.  #1 (rambling) is common if you are mulling over a problem, chatting casually with friends, writing comedy or a makeup blog. (See my first paragraph for an example.)
  2. You may use #2 (very dense) if you are explaining or illustrating how to do something technical or scribbling a shopping list or ghost-writing a Jack Reacher novel. Lots of information is delivered per 100 words!
  3. Your writing probably has a characteristic level of density which is perfectly fine.

My guess is that you will never think consciously about density when you’re blogging. However, at other times you’re very conscious of it. Some examples:

  • When you’re editing anything to a word count.
  • When you’re reading a formal proposal that is mainly hype with very few facts.
  • When you’re editing a novel and you find a chapter where nothing happens except a chat and a cup of coffee.
  • When you are watching a bunch of how-to videos on the same topic: some give you all the facts fast, others take far too long.

As always, it’s a matter of what density is appropriate for the text and the purpose and the audience. When reading something that is inappropriately dense, you may feel bogged down or confused or frustrated. (Not good.) If you read something that’s too “light” for its purpose, you may feel it’s not worth reading.

How dense is the content of the blogs you read?

Here’s a structural analysis trick for work. When editing government or corporate documents, try highlighting each new fact or piece of information: gobbledegook is instantly exposed in colour, or rather, lack of colour.

But as for blogs—one day, when you are skimming a bunch of them in Reader, figure how many ideas or bits of information you get from each excerpt. They do vary, and that may affect how you respond. The screenshots below are totally random. Each excerpt is the same length, but the amount of information contained in 30-odd words varies quite a lot.

First blog: Ashleigh Writes. February Blogging Goals. Honestly, I can’t quite believe that we’re in February already. A new month means a new set of goals for the shortest month of the year. This... Second blog: Book Beach Bunny. Things Not Conducive to Blogging. Probably the main thing not conducive to blogging or keeping up right now is abdominal surgery and a stomach full of stitches. I told... --

The headline and first 3 lines of two blog posts about blogging. One gives less information than the other.

First blog: Bournemouthgirl. What Blogging Has Taught Me. I found myself this week looking back to the start of my blogging journey and reading through some of my older blog posts. It is so strange to see how... Second blog. One day at a time... HW: #TuesdayThoughts — The most difficult part of blogging. After I wrote more than 50K words in the month of November for a single project, I realised that lack of time is not a viable excuse any longer. I have...

The headline and first 3 lines of two blog posts about blogging. One gives less information than the other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 thoughts on “Structure of personal blogs 2: density of information

  1. I think for structure, I often write a lot before I realise that it’s a structural mess. If I’m getting bogged down in detail or recalled dialogue then I stop and try and rediscover why I was originally inspired to write.

    Sometimes I realise I was just writing to try and get content up. In that case I delete the post or archive it and write a poetic form, where the challenge of the poetic structure helps keep me on track. Other times I think about the emotion or experience I was trying to convey, and start again with more focus.

    And then somewhere in the writing the theme and idea is revealed and I have to go back and rewrite again, with the newly discovered perspective. But I can always tell when I’m being true to myself. That’s not to say that those posts are popular – often they are too focused to appeal to people, which I totally understand. But the exercise of writing them is worthwhile to me at least.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I like reading about your process. Makes sense that awareness of structural problems hits you at that stage. You seem to have a radical solution and nothing is wasted. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. alison41 says:

    I am well acquainted with word counts, but the density factor is a useful and interesting tool. Will be using it. Thank you!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      A fresh angle can be refreshing:)

  3. lynnefisher says:

    When I’m blogging I do try to keep the language flowing simply, even if I’m tackling a meaty subject. I struggle to want to spend the time on reading very lengthy analytical posts from others, even if I’m interested. For me, the way the language flows, or not as the case may be, is key. Excellent thoughts in this post, Rachel!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      That’s how it feels when style, structure and substance work together for the greater good: seems that the language flows. Thanks Lynne!

  4. Elizabeth says:

    I am always puzzled by the writers who put the reading time at the end of their posts. Are they extrapolating that from word count?

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Elizabeth, I wrote a highly intelligent reply to this comment but failed to post it. But… I expect there’s a formula for average reading time, and maybe they use a plug-in to enter that automatically. Just guessing! I prefer a warning at the start of a “longread” — never mind the minutes, which are anybody’s guess.

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