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How to Blog if You’re Not as Witty as Your Favorite Blogger

by Josh Hanagarne on April 24, 2010

in blogging

Don't be jealous

Guest Post by Corbett Barr

I have to confess, I’m more than a little envious of bloggers (ahem, like the guy who started this blog) who write effortlessly with wit, humor and sarcasm. I would love to spice up my writing by being a little funnier or a better storyteller, but I haven’t yet found a way to pull it off.

That hasn’t stopped me from building a popular blog, but it does mean I’ve had to be engaging in other ways.

I just launched a new blog. For the launch, I asked some of my favorite bloggers for tips about building website traffic. One of my favorite quotes was from David Heinemeier Hansson, creator of the programming language Ruby on Rails, and partner at the software firm 37 Signals. His tip was this:

“Be undeniably interesting for years.”

Whether you’re funny or not, all bloggers have to be “undeniably interesting” as David put it, to build an audience. If you’re not interesting, people won’t care.

How do you engage readers when you lean more towards the serious side than the funny side? Let’s take a look at how some popular bloggers do it from both sides with witty blogs.

Funny Folks

I already mentioned how certain bloggers keep me reading with their wit and humor. Funny writers have an uncanny ability to make any topic worth reading. It’s like how you can make any food edible by adding bacon (Brussels sprouts, anyone? how about with bacon? now you’re talking).

Naomi Dunford, Johnny B. Truant and Ashley Ambirge are three of my other (other than Josh) favorite “lively” bloggers. They write on such potentially head-bangingly boring topics as home business marketing, making money online, and becoming a corporate drone, and yet I devour their posts like a Snickers after a marathon.

That’s the power of humor. If you have it, god bless you and get to writing. The rest of us are desperate to be entertained.

The Thoughtful Tribe

Being funny isn’t a requirement for building a popular blog, by any means.

Just look at Brian Clark, Adam Baker and Glen Allsopp, three of my favorite “thoughtful” bloggers. They write about copywriting, personal finance, viral marketing.

They each write unmissable posts, but they do it by provoking thought and sharing valuable insights. Sure, they inject humor here and there, but each are mostly straightforward.

If you weren’t nominated class clown in high school, you can still be a wildly successful writer. Just study people like these for ways to be engaging in your own thoughtful style.

In-Betweens

Television isn’t black and white anymore, and neither are writing styles. Some folks manage a great blend of thoughtful insights and playful witticisms. Just look at Chris Guillebeau or Matt Cheuvront.

They both write about unconventional views of life and walk the line between funny and thoughtful, depending on the topic (and maybe how they’re feeling that day?).

If you start writing a blog with a particular voice, there is no reason you can’t experiment by making it drier or wetter (is that the opposite of being dry?) as the mood strikes you. The variety itself might just keep your readers coming back to see what you’re up to now.

The Best Writing Style for You

What’s the best writing style for you? Should you try to become funny if you aren’t naturally? Should you “tone it down” if you have a bit of a potty mouth?

The best answer is summed up nicely in a quote from Oscar Wilde that Chris Guillebeau can often be caught tweeting. It goes like this:

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

Write naturally, be yourself and most of all be undeniably interesting.

People will notice whether you’re funny or not.

About The Author:

Corbett Barr blogs about how to build website traffic at Think Traffic and about lifestyle design at Free Pursuits.

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{ 17 comments }

Sean April 24, 2010 at 12:41 am

Really enjoyed this post Corbett, as I often struggle with the same thing. How do I keep my writing interesting, if I am not in fact, the wittiest person in the world.

As soon as I started reading this post, I thought of Ashley’s blog. She is one of the best and most entertaining writers I’ve come across recently, and I hate her for it! Not really, but I do wish I had half her talent.

There are a lot of interesting thoughts to consider here, such as not being afraid to try out different writing styles. Eventually you will find something that works, and you obviously have with your blog.

Thanks for the thoughts!

Corbett April 27, 2010 at 12:24 am

Thoughtfulness can be a great substitute for wittiness, Sean. That’s how you’ve made your blog interesting to me.

Henri Junttila April 24, 2010 at 2:10 am

This is a biggie for me too. I’m pretty sure I belong to the thoughtful tribe. I sometimes sit in awe of the awesome writers at the bigger blogs, and Josh’s writing is right up there as well (Rock on Josh ;)).

But all I can do is write and enjoy myself. Doubt creeps in sometimes, and I’m okay with that.

Fallen Monkey April 24, 2010 at 4:53 am

I hear ya. Wit comes through naturally in many channels for me (even my work blog), but my personal blog does not seem to be one. At least not consistently, but I think it’s because the nature of it is to follow different writing activities, so different prompts evoke different tones (as they ought to), which probably drops me into the hybrid category. Nonetheless, I wish the lighter side of my personality would come through better, but humor is just one of those things that falls flat when people try too hard to incorporate it–best to let it be spontaneous even if that means it won’t surface each time. And thoughtful is good, too…thinking is an underutilized activity that many people can be afraid to do on their own :)

Ash April 24, 2010 at 7:11 am

Well! If I’m producing material that can compete with the likes of a Snickers bar (a huge compliment, considering the fine mix of chocolate, nuts and ooozy deliciousness that I devour whether there’s a marathon involved or not) (actually, now that you mention it, I’ve never actually run a marathon. Perhaps because of all of the Snickers) then I think you’ve just gone and not only made me blush, but made me revisit the draft I’m writing in a cold sweat, thinking “Oh my gosh. Panic. This isn’t lively in the least!” :)

Thanks for the awesome inclusion here–an honor to be mentioned among such good company!

Niall Doherty April 24, 2010 at 9:29 am

Great post, great advice. I love the two quotes. I think it also takes some time and persistence to find your blogging voice. For most people, it doesn’t happen over night. I know I’m still trying to find mine, but I’m pretty content to enjoy the journey ;-)

Thanks for writing this.

Johnny B. Truant April 24, 2010 at 9:35 am

Awesome to be on the list!

But for real, trying to be funny if it’s not natural for you is probably a bad idea, so I’m glad you didn’t try to give a bunch of tips for being funny. Tips on “how to be funny” always remind me of the scene in Borat where he hires a comedy coach to teach him the always hilarious “…NOT!” technique used by timeless comedians everywhere in high schools ten years ago.

It’s more about truth to who you are, so kudos.

Mars Dorian April 24, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Hey Corbett,
“Be undeniably interesting for years.” easier said than done, but I definitely agree with you with the being original part.
too many blogger just copy styles that currently “in”, or they blog the way they think they are supposed to !
It’s such a shame, when there’re totally missing out on their true uniqueness – I’m sharpening those inner edges to fully blow my personality into my blog, and it’s doing magic !

The Naked Redhead April 24, 2010 at 6:56 pm

YES! It goes back to the old, “Don’t try to be something you’re not,” which is often easier said than done on the interwebz, especially when you read some blog where the writer is like, “I made eleventy billion dollars just by being awesome and Tweeting nothing but my breakfast for 142 days straight.” It’s tempting to try to be awesome just like that dude when you really need to be the awesome that is you, which sometimes means that you’re a more “practical” writer or whatever. The blogosphere needs that, too (otherwise, how would I figure out how to NOT copy and paste entire posts into the coding on my front page?? Yeah, true story). Good stuff!

Thu Nguyen April 24, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Ha! I did the inevitable and went the opposite direction yesterday with my blog and wrote a post on How to Kill Your Presence Online. I didn’t know what I was thinking. It just had to come out because after all, it’s not about the glory and vision all the time. I have a hard time keeping a straight face on so I had to laugh. The result, a weird concoction of humor which I miserably tackled.

PicsieChick April 25, 2010 at 12:49 am

Thanks for the reminder. My voice. Real. Like it or not. (but I really hope you like it)

Hugs and butterflies,
~T~

Srinivas Rao April 25, 2010 at 9:19 am

I love the idea of be yourself because everyone else is taken. Definitely the bunch you mentioned are some of the most unique voices in the blogosphere. I read all of their blogs, and every one of them is excellent. I think that being yourself as a writer is an evolution. You start to find your voice after a certain point and once you start to embrace that, then you really start to hit on all cylinders.

James April 25, 2010 at 10:46 am

Enjoyed the “bacon” analogy. It spawned a post of my own. Thanks for your thoughts.

Josh Hanagarne April 26, 2010 at 9:19 am

Bacon. The good it can do.

Daisy April 25, 2010 at 6:57 pm

Undeniably interesting: this could be inspirational or depressingly difficult. I think I’ll approach it as looking for the fascinating in my everyday life; although what fascinates me won’t always fascinate my blog readers.

Josh Hanagarne April 26, 2010 at 9:19 am

I’m in agreement. And at times it DOES depress me. If you’re looking for what truly interests you, I don’t think you can too far wrong. Just give up on pleasing or reaching everyone.

Xamuel October 1, 2010 at 7:40 am

Just hang in there and keep writing. One of the things I’ve learned since starting in the blogosphere is, 99% of people don’t stick around very long. (Add 300 new feeds to your RSS reader, and in a month, it’ll be a ghost town again…) So just hang in there and in time you’ll gradually become one of the best. Through attrition alone, if nothing else -_-

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