Why Bad Writing is Essential to Good Blogging

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I’ve been blogging for six years now, and in that time I’ve noticed something — anyone can do it.

At first, I thought that this was a good thing. But then I realized that every good thing has a shadow side.

So here’s the downside of the accessibility of blogging: It makes the already-terrible writers much, much louder.

There are too many bloggers out there.

How can this be a good thing for you?

For too long, the bar has been set way too low with millions of blogs contributing to the noise without adding anything substantive to the discussion.

Our fame-obsessed culture has driven teenagers and baby boomers alike to create their own blogs — all for the sake of being heard. They’re taking up space with half-formed opinions and rants, and it’s given the blogosphere an infamously bad name.

But now, there’s a new phenomenon: The prolific, mediocre blogger.

This person actually understands the basics of SEO and social media and can attract a decent readership.

The problem, though, is that their content sucks.

This probably drives you real writers completely nuts. But maybe it’s not all bad.

Here are three reasons why these awful wordsmiths can actually make you a better blogger.

1. Envy leads to action

Be honest: part of the reason why you hate these champions of mediocrity is jealousy.

Because if you’ve stuck around the Internet long enough, you’ve seen how even a terrible writer can build his own tribe.

You’ve seen spam queens go into six digits on Twitter and typo-ridden articles go viral on Facebook.

And this pisses you off (and it should.)

But we need you to act, not sit back silently judging and mocking. Okay, you can judge and mock too, if you really want.

We need you to move, not lock up out of protest. We need your voice, and we need it now.

Don’t just complain. Act. Fight awful quality with excellence.

2. Competition is (always) good

Social media has, indeed, leveled the communication playing field.

Now, if you have a good story or idea, you can share it, without having to know the right people or possess the right skills.

The days of the gatekeeper are ending.

This, for the most part, explains a lot of the frustration you’re feeling. There are terrible writers out there with nothing to say, and they’re saying a lot … very poorly.

They are stealing away your readers and making them dumber by the minute.

This is actually a good thing.

It forces you to up your game, to woo your followers back to your well-crafted blog. This is not a sprint to the bottom; it’s a marathon to the top.

And those who are truly excellent in their craft and committed to finishing will win in the end.

3. Bad writers need coaches (i.e. you)

The fact that you’re an excellent writer irked by all this mediocrity may be an internal prompting to give back.

More people are blogging, because they recognize the value of building a platform. But they’re breaking the first rule of Copyblogger.

You can help them.

Look at it this way: If you’re really good at writing, you can help others become better writers. Instead of seeing these mediocre bloggers as a threat, why not view this situation as what it really is — an opportunity?

You could begin a writing consulting practice.

You could start coaching amateurs on how to stop sounding stupid and start writing like a pro.

You could help, instead of criticize.

The opportunity is there — do with it what you will.

What do you think? Does this just frustrate you further, or are there some legitimate lessons we can learn from mediocre bloggers?

About the Author: Jeff Goins is a writer and marketing guy who helps people use digital media to amplify their voice. Follow his blog or connect with him on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. Good stuff Jeff! I really like #3. I don’t blog very often, mainly because I don’t believe I can write, and I’m sure great writers or even not great writers can pick apart anything I write. God pulled me kicking and screaming into my present job of editor/writer/reporter for the local newspaper. I know without God’s help I have no ability to do this job, and the stress I feel daily to write adds up quickly, especially when you can’t write, like me.

    #3 is important to those like me that have much learning to do in this field. God put me into this job, and it wasn’t for my outstanding writing ability, so if I am to be obedient to Him, I need to learn all I can about writing. I’m not sure I have found my voice, but I do know God gave me the platform. I would be dishonoring Him if I didn’t do everything possible to find that voice, and to learn all I can to be able to share.

    • Thank you, Beth, for the confirmation! Your story is the same as mine so no need to reiterate. At some point, like you said, you feel like the words have to move from your head and journal to a more public platform. It’s spiritual and I absolutely believe the making of a good writer is in the doubt before every word. Yes~Thank you, Jeff! We’re on the same team.

      • You’re welcome. It’s my pleasure.

        • I like it a lot too. I agree 100%. Even though I might not be the greatest writer I enjoy doing it and I believe that as you write you get better. Although I am planning on learning more about writing better content and soon will take a class on writing as well.

          All great points though.

          • Thanks, Wilson. If you enjoy it, keep at it. You will most likely get better. This post wasn’t intended to dissuade beginning writers from stopping. It was meant to encourage lazy writers to get off their butts and learn from bloggers (however good or bad they may be) the value of marketing your content.

    • @Beth – I love your faith and that you’re motivated by something other than the affirmation of others.

    • In a nut shell, you’ve summed up the copy blogger business model.

      “Bad writers need a coach – You!”

  2. The great thing about blogging, at least for me, is that I can learn. I’ve never been a bad writer, per say, but I don’t write nearly as well as Brian or even you, Jeff. However, I also don’t write nearly as bad as some big bloggers who make a ton of money blogging.

    What I have noticed, though, is the quality of these blogs has begun to deteriorate. I know of one blogger who got lazy with his blog–he updated regularly, but about haphazard stuff–and I noticed the quality drop. I submitted a guest blog post to him and got 25 hits to my site when a guest blog post a few years ago would’ve generated quite a few hundred hits.

    It’s the job of good writers who blog to find these mediocre blogs and work on bringing the readers over to their blog. Perhaps they comment on the articles or they visit the blogs of the visitors and comment on their blogs. Regardless of what you do, by showing these visitors that there is more quality elsewhere–competition is great–you can grow your blog nicely.

  3. “This is not a sprint to the bottom; it’s a marathon to the top.”

    I think that is a great metaphor. It is really frustrating to feel like you’re drowning in a sea of mindless (and poorly written) chatter, but it does make you kick it up a notch. The Internet is the great equalizer, so if you want to be heard your better make yourself worth listening to!

  4. This post will surely have a lively comment section. :)

    Some million-dollar questions remain:

    How will bloggers realize that their writing sucks?
    How do bloggers improve their writing if they’re unaware of the first question?
    Who is qualified to answer these questions for these bloggers?

    P.S. Welcome to Copyblogger.

    • Shane, I love those questions! As someone who doesn’t feel they are a good writer, I know my writing sucks, and as far as who is qualified to tell me that or give me constructive insights……..anyone that wants to!

      I know that the mistakes I make are unintentional……the results of not knowing what I am doing. But I am always willing to learn. I always welcome anyone’s thoughts and help.

      • @Beth: I believe we have to pay special attention when we define the term suck with writing. I could edit a document to where it’s damn-near-perfect, but am I helping the author by doing so? Do I know the author’s target audience and what type of message and tone hits home for them? Perfection may not do in this instance. They may like split infinitives and expletives.

        I’d have to remember that language follows rules, but it doesn’t follow orders and adjust accordingly.

        Suck could mean:

        Suck that is grammatically sucky
        Suck that fails to make the sale sucky
        Suck that isn’t viral-worthy sucky

        Each flavor of suck has specialists that don’t suck, and can help you. ;)

        • Shane, you bring up some great observations, but I would also point out, that if my so called inadequate writing is of the “grammatically sucky” variety, then I should be made aware of that. Even if there are legitimate reasons for writing, what some would perceive as “sucky”, the writer should know they are doing it for that reason, and not that they are unknowledgeable of good writing skills.

          If I had known I would be doing what I am doing 35 years ago, I would have paid more attention in my English classes. God does have a sense of humor!

          • Indeed he does.

            I wonder how someone could point out bad writing to a writer in such a way that wouldn’t come off as overly-critical. Have you seen this practiced well, Beth?

        • I love the rules vs orders quote. Of course we all know that language does not follow rules. The rules are guidelines which come after the study of usage. By the time they have been formulated usage has moved on. Could not help smiling when I read split infinitive in the same sentence as expletive. I assume you explete (new usage) every time someone is tempted to creatively use one. Oops sorry! Great post full of thought provoking ideas. In the end writers will decide which is so much better than leaving it to academics. Woa! That turned into a bit of a rant. A rant with a smile on my face. I love language good, bad and no not indifferent.

          • I disagree. Of course language follows rules. But it follows rules like music does. The rules are created as a loose structure to contain the art. As such, the rules can change, and do.

    • Thanks, Shane. Great questions. I’ll do my best to answer them:

      How will bloggers realize that their writing sucks?

      If no one reads it, if no one shares it, if no one is changed by it, then it sucks (regardless of how well it’s written). This the great paradox of writing — you have to be true to your craft and kind of spurn accolades in order to create compelling art, but if nobody cares what you write, then it really doesn’t matter. It’s a weird, tough tension.

      How do bloggers improve their writing if they’re unaware of the first question?

      Writers should regularly ask for feedback from trusted sources. They can always improve and should be asking for ways in which they should. If you spend time building a community with a blog, you can build this in as a norm. When you write something that’s off-base or doesn’t resonate, your community should feel free to correct you. And you should give them this permission. It’s a gift to you.

      Who is qualified to answer these questions for these bloggers?

      Tough call. I’d say other bloggers. The slightly longer answer is people whom you trust. It’s not everyone. You can’t please everyone. But you need to be aware or what you’re writing and how it’s reaching people. If you blog, I would begin by picking 3-5 of your most loyal readers who also are writers.

      Hope that helps. Let me know. Really good questions.

  5. I was just last night whining about how Snooki, the Kardashians and now a big dog all have book deals. They all have huge followings. Total envy. And so immature of me.

    This post helped. I would feel so much better if I helped others.

    • Yeah, I feel you. Glad this helped. Celebrities are a great example of people who build huge tribes with seemingly little effort. I don’t envy you.

  6. This was just what I needed this morning.

    It drives me crazy that so many pundits shout how social media has opened up the publishing world. Yeah, but it’s also turned the spigot on for a lot of crap. For now, good writing is undervalued. But as the shouting over social media reaches a deafening roar, I believe you’ll see a greater demand for good writers as businesses and agencies seek to differentiate themselves. You can make all the videos, podcasts and infographics you want, but nothing can replace quality writing in the end.

    Thanks for the post.

    Jesse

  7. I’m not sure if I’m part of the solution, or part of the problem here. I like to think that I can write, but I often question that claim.

  8. The problem I have found is that folks’ egos are so bound up in their writing that even if they can’t construct an English sentence they are usually in complete denial about it. So they don’t think they need your help, don’t want to pay for your help, and even if they do accept your help, they will spend all of their time (and yours) explaining how they were really just tired the day they wrote it. Oh, and don’t change anything they wrote, please! Just wave your magic wand, or alter the punctuation. That oughta do it!

    • I was going to reply with a very similar comment. Most of those who have poor (or, in many cases, terrible) writing skills, who have enough hubris to constantly put it on display, aren’t going to be lining up for any kind of writing advice, much less paid advice.

      Points one and two are solid enough but I just can’t get on board with number three.

    • Yeah, that’s a problem. You have to get feedback. Every writer can improve.

    • I’m going to play devil’s advocate here because there is always a flip side. What about those so called bad writers, who would love help because they truly want to get better, but yet are unable to find help because the really good writers are too important to waste their time on them. They can take writing classes, read books, find writing blogs, learn by reading others, but sometimes there is nothing like that hands on critique.Where do you find these coaches that have a passion to help others be better?

  9. Love this topic, Jeff.

    I’m always amazed at how many bad writers are out there in the blogosphere. While there are a lot of mediocre ones, there are way too many who can’t even string a sentence together or put a comma in the correct place. Seeing that kind of writing hurts my eyes!

    My question is: how do you know if you’re a good enough writer to teach other people to write?

    • HI Krista,
      One of the ways you know you’re good enough to teach others to write is if you’ve had your writing recognized in some way as being professional level. This might mean you’ve been published in anything from a local newspaper to an ezine or even something like Ezinearticles.com. All of those have standards and if you can get your writing in with no or minimal editing, that’s a good sign.

      In addition, as many have said, there are many levels of writers/writing, many of them being very poor. If you can spot and clearly explain the issues to someone and help them improve, that’s good proof too. Everyone starts somewhere and the smart people work to improve all along the way.

    • I hope this doesn’t sound disingenuous: How do you know if you’re good enough to teach? Fake it till you make it. If people listen, then you probably have something worth saying. I know that’s incredibly subjective, but it’s the surprising method for a lot of authorities’ success.

  10. Great to see you here, Jeff! Looks like it’s your first time. Here’s to your next 100+ subscribers. ;)

    I absolutely love this sentence:

    “This is not a sprint to the bottom; it’s a marathon to the top.”

    That puts everything into perspective.

    It’s a challenging article. “There are too many bloggers out there.” Wow, it took guts to say. Writing has never been so attractive. But it’s exposing just how bad most of us are at writing haha.

  11. This a good post. All true…

    I wanted perhaps to correct something about #2. I agree that competition is good; but I don’t believe for a second that blogging has leveled the communications playing field. It’s simply removed the tryout process. The playing field is just way more crowded now.

    So it’s the lack of a barrier to entry – the gatekeeper, as you wrote – that makes it difficult for the pros to stand out amongst the rookies or beer leaguers. Skill alone won’t get you on the team; now you have to wear the brightest uniform to be seen.

    …and that’s enough of my playing field metaphors. You get the point…

    • Good clarification. I like that. Without auditions, that means everyone “makes the team.” Which means that you never who you’ll see out on the field.

  12. Excellent post! I just recently got up enough nerve to offer writing consulting but this topic has been a thorn in my side for a long time. I suddenly don’t feel so alone in the world.

  13. Very interesting post Jeff i thought i was alone and from my opinion i think Honesty will make your bad writing to be Good.

  14. Love it. This is the second time in as many days that I’ve heard the suggestion to take a love of quality writing and turn it into a consulting business. I’m in! Why I never thought of this before is beyond me. Thanks Jeff. It’s time to stop judging and start helping!

    Jayna

  15. Similarly: I am a graphic designer and in the early days, many in the industry were riled because Macs and new DTP software meant that anyone could create their own designs.
    Whilst many felt threatened I saw this as a positive thing – i was confident the work I did was good and felt having lots of bad work out there was bound to make it look even better! (I am still employed in this industry so there must have been some truth to the theory).

    That said – it always amazes me how so many people can’t tell the difference between good and bad design/writing/anything – I am hoping evolution will take care of this problem.

  16. These are great points Jeff. I can see how frustrating it must be for good writers to see other less talented people becoming more popular than they are (online at least).

    I suppose a lot depends on why you’re blogging; are you doing it to become an online celebrity or to actually help people?

    Personally, I prefer the second approach and if our blog helps a few small business owners make a real different to their website performance I’ll be happy.

  17. Number 3 barked at me:

    “But we need you to act, not sit back silently judging and mocking. Okay, you can judge and mock too, if you really want. We need you to move, not lock up out of protest. We need your voice, and we need it now.”

    I do this constantly, even when I am out for my morning run.

    And as if I make it all better by saying ‘when you finally get something seriously going you are going to have boatloads of ideas that you’ve turned around prosperously’.

    Thanks for the encouragement Jeff, it is time to remove the shackles in silent protest and move!

  18. Hi Jeff, great post. I agree that mediocre blogs create an opportunity for people who really know how to write and communicate to stand out from the crowd, but never thought about how it’s an opportunity for skilled writers to help other writers improve. This gives me something to think about.

    Thanks for the great post and for commenting on my blog yesterday. I look forward to keeping in touch.

    Joseph

  19. As someone who works with nonfiction authors to help them strengthen their original concept, write to a structure (as opposed to a stream of consciousness) and keep their readers in mind at all times, I so appreciate this post. Lora is spot on — psychologists call this “illusory superiority” or the above-average effect: so many folks just don’t get that their writing is a lot worse than they think it is LOL.

    I like Jeff’s upbeat attitude and agree that there are opportunities to be had, but I’m taking an alternative approach. Inspired by the book “Blue Ocean Strategy” and what I’ve learned from Seth Godin about finding your tribe rather than trying to persuade others (who really don’t want to anyway) to join it, I’m headed in the direction alluded to by Jesse who wrote: “I believe you’ll see a greater demand for good writers as businesses and agencies seek to differentiate themselves.”

    There was a time when I tried to be of value in various LinkedIn writers’ groups, offering advice honed across 25 years as a published author and writing consultant. All that happened was that those of us who actually knew what we were talking about got shouted down by a minority of blog-bullies who seemed intent to speed up the race to the bottom. In the end I decided this wasn’t worth my time or stress levels :-)

    Now my market is the professional with something valuable to say who cares about saying it well. Some people will always be attracted to low-level crap (did someone mention Snooki and the Kardashians?) and I’m not prepared to spend time and effort persuading them otherwise.

    So, with respect to #2, I disagree Jeff: don’t compete, innovate — let’s those of us who care about great ideas, good writing, and being of value in a meaningful way play in the “blue ocean,” and leave the “red ocean” feeding frenzy that represents much of the blogosphere to those without the wits to realize they’re “sounding stupid.”

    Cream always rises to the top, given time.

  20. “… many in the industry were riled because Macs and new DTP software meant that anyone could create their own designs. Whilst many felt threatened I saw this as a positive thing – i was confident the work I did was good and felt having lots of bad work out there was bound to make it look even better!”

    I agree with Angie.

    Great post–thanks! :)

    – Jennifer

    • Thanks, Jennifer. Competition is a funny thing, but can ultimately be good if we have the right attitude about it (and are confident in our own abilities).

  21. Great post, Jeff. Refreshing to take an honest look at what’s out there and react constructively.

  22. I feel like I need to tip-toe here, for fear that the upper class of writing society may send me back to clean the stables.

    I cannot imagine saying to anyone, “Your writing sucks. You need my help.” Arrogant is a polite term for such thinking.

    I may be alone in this, but I don’t quite understand the angst over what other people are writing. Is the need to compete and the feeling of envy evidence of an underlying insecurity?

    Why does anyone write? Hopefully, for the love of the creative process. Hopefully, to share something in our stories that will resonate with others; to teach, inspire and encourage.

    If being in this ivory tower country club of judges and mockers is what being a great writer is all about, I’ll excuse myself for the stables, thank you. I prefer the company of the horses. They don’t judge.

    • Right. I would never say it like that, but by writing and showing people a better alternative, you’ll find that people will come asking you for help. There’s an addendum to this post that needs to be stated: “Good writers need to be good marketers if they want to be writing consultants.”

      • I was hoping that there was something I was misunderstanding. Thanks, Jeff, and congratulations on your guest post.

        • I appreciate the push-back, Lynne. The point of the post that I was trying to express was this: Bloggers who may not be the strongest writers can still teach good writers something about getting their content read.

          I’m sorry if I offended you — we all have room to grow as writers, and it wasn’t my intention to come off as elitist. But I do think that most writers struggle with this. I’m not saying that it’s right, but I did want to address this frustration that many hardworking writers experience.

          The fact is that being a good writer and succeeding online is not enough — you need to understand how ideas spread, which is a topic that Copyblogger addresses quite well.

          • I appreciate the counter to my pushback, Jeff. No harm, no foul.

            Perhaps the point could have been made without the high-minded and slightly mean-spirited tone, which tended to overshadow the points you were trying to make. As i mentioned to you, it shocked me a bit. I didn’t peg you for that, since I have seen something of your heart in your writing.

            I maintain that the envy and need to compete with someone who a writer feels is attracting, or “stealing”, readers from his/her blog are both symptoms of insecurity. I agree with you, it isn’t right. It might be time to re-evaluate if that negativity is the source of one’s work.

            To make another point on the issue of stealing readers, I don’t see how anyone who values good writing would want to ditch your blog, or any other good writer’s blog, for something that obviously would not appeal to that type of person. Makes no sense, unless we’re also talking about symptoms of paranoia.

            Thank you for the thought provoking discussion. You sure have generated quite a bit of it–pat on the back for that!

          • Thanks, Lynne. Appreciate your thoughtful responses. You may be right about the mean-spiritedness, but honestly, that was intentional. I didn’t mean to be mean, but i DID mean to express the sense of frustration that many writers feel.

            I felt this myself, until I realized that I could learn a thing or two from those “mediocre bloggers” (a more proper moniker would be “effective copywriters”). They knew how to promote.

            And I’m taking a page from their playbook. Maybe we can learn from each other.

  23. Great to see you on Copyblogger, Jeff! Love your post!

    I wonder if there are two kinds of “good” writing. The first is craftmanship. And the second is community.

    One can lack craftsmanship, but be a “good” community writer. Another can be a skilled craftsman, but weak community builder. Still others, like Brian Clark, Sonia Simone, Seth, etc. have mastered both. You are in that camp.

    What you are implying, that most resonates with me, is that we all need each other. We all have something we can learn from someone else. It’s a friendly competition that, if done constructively, elevates the quality and impact of the whole, by focusing on the weak pieces.

    • Indeed. And there are different levels of community — there is community with other writers/communicators and there is community with your readers (made possible now with the social web, but it has always been a factor). Thanks for the comment, Keith. You’re one of my favorite writers — always glad to see when I write something that resonates with you. It’s an honor.

    • Deborah Stead :

      Great post, Jeff, and great comment, Keith! I think you’ve hit it on the nose with there being two kinds of good writing. In my day job I’m paid to fit in the former category, but I know I lack something when it comes to the latter…I’m working on it :-)

      One thing sprang to mind though when I read this post: actually, if people are getting results from copy that’s a bit meh, then do we still need good copy? Does it have to work in both categories if the latter will do? The thought came as a shock to me and I feel I’ve shamed myself a little in even asking the question, but I’m genuinely interested/concerned.

      What are the reasons we need good copy these days, if average copy works just as well? Is it because average copy doesn’t *always* work, and it’s therefore a bit of a gamble to just chuck anything up and hope it works? Are there any other reasons?

      • Maybe (and I’m contradicting myself here, so bear with me), there is no such thing as good writing. Maybe there is only effective writing.

        That said, we can all stand to improve, and this feeling of “I’m better than everyone else, so screw them” is unproductive. If you’re a writer watching average copywriters make it big with their blogs, it’s time to get off the sidelines and get in the game. They may be able to teach you (I mean, me) a thing or two about marketing.

  24. Bravo, Jeff! So good to see you here! Kudos to Brian and Sonia for having you on their blog.

    I think good writers can learn a lot from the marketing of the mediocre bloggers. Sure, their writing might not be as good, but maybe there is some other “special sauce” that those guys are using that you, the good writer, are not. Are they better at getting out there and promoting themselves? Do they do a better job of engaging with their readers? Or, do they show a bit more passion that you do?

    If you can learn from what those guys are doing write and implement that into your own blogging practice, eventually, you’ll leave them in the dust.

    Again, well done! So excited for you, Jeff!

    • I agree, Laura. A lot of times, mediocre bloggers can build better communities than good writers because they understand marketing, which makes all the difference online.

  25. I forget where I read it, but somebody suggested to go to a bookstore when you’re feeling like you’re a terrible writer and grab a few books that look medicocre, then sit down and read some of them…and marvel that someone got THIS BOOK published. It’s simultaneously motivating and FRUSTRATING AS HELL. You could get even MORE upset or you could do like you suggested and TAKE ACTION. WHY AM I ALL CAPS-ING SO MANY WORDS?

    Thanks for the encouragement to stand-out in an overcrowded market. To speak loudly over the drone of millions of other voices. To spark thought and change.

    And to judge and mock.

    • “And to judge and mock.”

      Amen to that. Because in judging and mocking we are acting like the grit in the oyster…from which comes the pearl.

      AND because some folks are so clueless that it takes judging and mocking to provoke them to see that conforming to crappy standards of communication doesn’t help any of us in the end.

      • Hmmm… interesting. I think that we have to be careful with this judging and mocking. It can lead to action or jadedness.

        • Yeah, and I was kind of kidding with my little quip there at the end. That was the only thing that didn’t hit me quite right about this piece…seemed a little mean-spirited, but I got your point. I thought of it in terms of what Stephen King says in “On Writing..” when he says, if you’re a competent writer, you can improve. If you’re not even competent, just stop it. A harsh reality, but probably true.

          • Yeah. I wasn’t trying to be kind in this article, and I’m sorry if I came off mean. That wasn’t my intention, either. I just wanted to speak to the valid frustration that many writers feel when they see the proliferation of blogs on the Internet.

            That feeling is destructive.

            We need to learn how to turn it around and put it to positive, productive use.

        • Stop? Why? I’ve made a cottage industry of (mock) hate. Far and away the most popular thing I do on my blog.

          Oh, and Jeff, great article–I still “hate” you!

          ;-)

    • I loved this comment.

  26. Great post, Jeff! All three points are definitely valid and things that bloggers or aspiring bloggers should remember. :] Thanks for taking the time to share.

  27. Interesting article. I love writing but it took me a while until I felt encouraged to start my own blog. I agree with #1: people who are concerned with the quality of the content they’ll share with the world should take action instead of only criticizing and complaining about the bad writers (but good marketers) out there.

  28. Love it. It is all in the attitude. When we get angry with these bloggers, yes we should see it as an opportunity.

    Anger can stop us from being the best we can be. When we see the opportunity in any given situation it makes us become the best we can be.

    Love the point you bring out with all the bloggers and the opportunity they are giving each and everyone of us.
    Shine your light you great writer, your time has come.
    Blessing,
    Debbie

  29. So much great stuff in this post and in the comments. As as writer who crafts for the love of story and of words, I am learning to stay true to my voice and my message in this vast, confusing and changeable internet environment. I do believe that keeping motive in perspective is helpful to me when I arrive at blogs that are less than interesting/enticing/quality. I personally would rather stumble upon a blog written poorly by someone with obvious heart or someone who loves to communicate than follow a blog for the constant stream of giveaways, etc. I really want readers, not merely followers, since I am a writer who writes to speak to the deeper places of my readers’ hearts. I want to challenge their reality, create new ideas about their relationships and their ideas about God. I can handle an error or two, even in my own work, if the passion is bubbling to the surface. I think the mediocre motives are most frustrating to me, and I suppose the mediocre motives are evidenced by average writing and passionless prose.

  30. You’re gonna have to help me here, but who are these rock-star bloggers who suck at writing?

    I ask that because I’m not sure I believe you that there are any. I mean that in all kindness, but think about it: what attracted such a huge following? People don’t follow bad writers because they like bad writing. That just doesn’t make any sense.

    Or are you drawing a line between the literary types and the sensationalists? If so, you’ve got an argument there…but it’s a paper-thin one because you can hardly win a battle when it comes to defending personal preferences.

    Of course I can think of a few bloggers who just sort of spew on the page and they’re fans lap it up. But all of them were celebrities before that in some capacity.

    Anyway, took courage to stick your neck out there. Good for you.

    • I thought I responded to this, but I guess not.

      I see your point, Demian, and it’s a good one. That said, I’m not going to name names, but there are plenty of bloggers I know who have a LOT of visitors and interaction on their blogs, and their writing, IMO, isn’t great.

      The implicit lesson in this is that it takes more than good writing to succeed. Any author knows this. You have to be marketable. And since blogging is essentially writing for an audience (even when you say it’s not), bloggers tend to grasp the need for promotion better than other types of writers.

      So, my point was that we could learn a thing or two from these bloggers.

      Of course, the cream almost always rises to the top — but usually not without learning a thing or two about how to market along the way.

  31. Hiring on a mentor or coach to help you with your writing is something that a lot of new bloggers tend to never do. But, is one of the best ideas that you could do for yourself. Investing in educating yourself more is something that could benefit yourself down the line as you could then understand what works very well and what doesn’t

  32. Nice post Jeff.
    We are all legends in our own minds.
    I just hope that my writing is not one of the mediocre blogs that people look at say, “WTF is he doing writing in public?” .
    Be awesome brother,
    AJ

    • If you’re asking the question, you’re probably not, AJ. And even if you are, that’s not to say that we couldn’t learn a thing or two from you. Good writing requires good promotion, and that’s something that most bloggers understand better than many traditional writers.

  33. I was reading this through the RSS reader and had skipped the little bit that said it was written by you Jeff, and I was thinking “This reads like Jeff Goins.”

    I think I have been working hard at my blog again recently because of Number 1. I saw other people blogging with copy and pasted press releases and thought “I can do better than that!”

    So here I am, doing better than that so i get my slice of the action.

  34. It would be petty of me to point out your typo, Demian. :^)

    I don’t think literary types have an edge over other bloggers. I often wish I were a more prolific writer and less concerned about perfection. But if everyone who is pushing content out took a few minutes to think about the best way to state something, or more carefully proofreading their work, or perhaps occasionally getting a professional opinion, the caliber of content out there could increase. Wouldn’t it be nice to find writing everywhere you look that is both high quality and interesting to read?

    Here’s the thing: without talking about specifics, it is very difficult to discuss the points Jeff made in any depth. But who wants to point out this or that blog as being poorly written?

    I’ve really enjoyed following this discussion! Thanks all!

    –Jayna

    • Of course you DID point it out, so touché. :P’

      The reason I ask is because his post is built on the assumption that they’re are some really cruddy rock star bloggers out there…and I want to know who.

      I’m not trying to be a stick in the mud, it’s just I look around and I do not see these people he is talking about.

      Yes, there are a gazillion blogs out there by crappy writers…but they do not have a following. And if Jeff’s not going to talk specifics, why even bring it up? Good arguments demand specifics. It’s called proof. Is that too much to ask for?

      • And let me add this: I’m not motivated by crappy writers. I’m motivated by good writers like Jeff and the other writers who post here.

        I’m motivated to be better than them. That’s why I work hard at my craft. I know it’s a fool’s errand, but I’m a competitor at heart and I just think it’s a whole heck of fun.

        Anybody else feel this way?

      • HI Demian, I appreciate your comment and agree with what you are arguing. I’m not going to list specific bloggers, because I don’t believe in publicly shaming people.

        No successful blogger has achieved their success without any knowledge whatsoever of good copywriting. But it is not solely their writing that has made them successful.

        This was the point that I was making.

        Many good writers have blogs and are waiting to be discovered, many of them, in fact, growing bitter and frustrated as a result of this process. This was the group I was trying to address..

  35. Wow, lots of comments! Congrats. I happen to agree with you sentiments. In an industry that has become WAAAAY over saturated with “know-it-alls”, it has now allowed the experts to shine. While I don’t claim to be an expert at all things social, I do put my clients ahead of the game and on the top tier of small businesses with the resources they have. Most of my clients have come from independent “know-it-alls” that have taken their money and gotten them no results. Thanks for putting my feelings into words. Great blog.

  36. Note to self: Never mention the need for cleaner laundry unless willing to display dirty laundry as example. :^)

  37. This is completely true. I’ve just bagged a new client because he’s run up his first blogger account and needs help. He wants to share his opinions and rants but he approaches blogging like a scrapbook of email conversations/debate, complete with ugly headers and quote indicators.
    I’ve spent an hour consulting and expect to get two hours of converting his first post into smaller, readable chunks in return. With the promise of ongoing editing work.

  38. Regarding this utterly ridiculous comment:

    “Our fame-obsessed culture has driven teenagers and baby boomers alike to create their own blogs — all for the sake of being heard. They’re taking up space with half-formed opinions and rants, and it’s given the blogosphere an infamously bad name.”

    OMG — I wondered who had been slopping up the blogosphere with their drivel — it’s those darn Boomers! Heck, there might be 78 million of them — but not one of them can write worth a damn. Or have a fully-cooked opinion.

    They may have the biggest clout in the political arena and business world — not to mention control more wealth in the U.S. than any other generation — but eewww — please don’t let them have their own blog sites on the Internet! They don’t have brains — they have cooties — not content! They may have made more social changes in the U.S. than any other generation, but that’s only because they just wanted to be famous. Nothing to do with making a better America…

    And those pesky teens — how dare they want to express themselves and be heard. We cannot allow this! Cyber space is not infinite. They take up too much space. They only create crud that true Writing Gods — like Jeff Goins — have to slog through in creating traffic for their stellar blogs.

    So let’s see, that leaves the “Greatest Generation” WWII crowd. Any complaints about them? Or are they too old to matter? And the Younger than Millenials Group — too young?

    Are you hoping for a blogosphere created solely by and for Gen X and Gen Y? Your sense of entitlement is directly proportional to your immaturity. Your thinking is beyond inanity.

    • Thanks for the comment. I was hoping it was obvious, but that was hyperbole. I was addressing a feeling that many writers I know feel. This article was written from that very specific perspective and paradigm — not as objective truth, but as subjective reality. I appreciate your bringing attention to this, though, as it could be taken the wrong way.

      On a lighter note, I would love to see the Greatest Generation blog.

  39. “The prolific, mediocre blogger.”

    First I thought this is about me but frankly mediocre sound like an overestimate to my writing capabilities.
    I can use my regular excuses of not being a native English speaker but I was a bad writer even when I was trying to write in my Hungarian mother tongue. Back in high-school.

    With that said I think the situation has improved. I like to believe, maybe with no basis at all, that my writing is improving with time and with more writing. Nevertheless I think I could do with some help. I am not sure how that would work out but if any of you is interested in helping me improve, we should talk.

  40. Hello,

    I’m the guy with SEO skills and horrible writing ability. So I hired ghost writers. But still there is something lacking in my blog, and I’m having trouble getting out of mediocrity. I want my blog to have interesting and informational content, and I don’t care about money (I reinvest everything I earn and even pay few bills with the money from my daytime job)…

    Could someone help me with few tips?

    Thank you!

    p.s. awesome post.

  41. “You could start coaching amateurs on how to stop sounding stupid”

    I luv (sic!) it!

  42. Jeff,

    Excellent, very nicely organized post! I agree with your attitude: it is far more constructive and beneficial to everyone involved when you lend a helping hand rather than shoot down or criticize.

    Bravo!

    Peter

  43. Jeff, this is a really great article, and it definitely really makes one think. Specifically, the part about “spam queens” and envy is spot on, and I myself can attest to having felt that envy on numerous occasions. The best part of what you wrote is about “coaching” and the bad writer. What a great idea! Nice work sir.

  44. I have been at number 1. It is especially frustrating to watch someone gain thousands of followers tweeting sappy drivel, write about something they don’t really know and have limited experience at and then sell an e-book because they’ve made friends with all the right people who somehow overlook that fact that they are writing sappy drivel just because they seem so, I don’t know, earnest. I was going to write a blog post about it. hah. :)

    Actually, between one of your posts, asking what I had already written that could be expanded on, and my frustration over this scenario, I am actually laying down the bones of an e-book of my own, which I hope no one else will think is sappy drivel when I’ve finished it. Combat drivel with good writing, right?

  45. Awesome, Carrien!

  46. Mediocre writers make the good ones look really good.

    The funny part is most mediocre writers (me included) don’t even realize they are mediocre. Reminds me of the loud obnoxious humourless no-so-close friend I had; he was fully convinced he was funny.

    • Interesting, Ryan. Then, it would be worth figuring out how to make some kind of value proposition to the bloggers who could improve their writing.

      I’ll think on that.

      Thanks for your comment.

  47. Kathleen Weishaar :

    …me [write] pretty some day…what is good writing? Is it maintaining current conventions? Lemme think about who that would eliminate from our pantheon of ‘great’ writers…no, ‘is too much, lemme summup…WIIFT??? I my ‘blogging’ or ‘spamming’ was pulling down six figures I’m inclined to think I’d consider it ‘not broke’ and you know what they say about that…(I do NOT use run-on sentences – I break them up with lots of dots). The point is, when (note: not ‘if’) the conventions of today are eschewed for the conventions of tomorrow, just exactly ‘whom’ do you think the ‘good’ writers will be? Uh-oh, methinks I’ve exposed my baby-boomerness!

    • Interesting point. Of course, conventions and rules are always changing; in fact, language itself evolves with culture and context. The really good writers know just how far to push the envelope without being irrelevant.

  48. I see blogs racing to be the first to cover new topics. We see it with the nightly news channels, “first” comments in YouTube, etc. With the Google Panda update, people are trying even hard to be the “first”.

    I say all this, because I think this is the common denominator of why so much content is crap. Taking an extra 10 minutes to proof it, or an extra 30 minutes to better craft a concept means that another blog has got the new out before you did.

    24 hour news and journalist started this craze, and it has expanded into the blogosphere.

    • That’s very interesting, Kevin. I think you’re right. People would rather be “first” than “best” (and to be far, we’ve reinforced this online, because the first-comers often become the leading voices). This is why I’m a fan of the First Rule of Copyblogger.

  49. First of all there is a difference between blogger and writer…and each has it’s place. First of all quality is important but so is quantity in the Googlesphere.

    Then there’s the art of readability. I get paid to write real estate articles simply because no one else does. One of the blogs I write for loves that complex vocabulary and long winded paragraphs. As a blogger I’ve learned that the average reader is not university educated. Simple is better.

    Bloggers have to run the fine line of expressing ideas and posting regularly or writing an exemplary polished article. Most of us have jobs and write in our spare time. I write after my son goes to bed. The Paretto principle applies to blogging.

    The facts are that there is only one way to get better at writing and that’s to write. It’s easy to look down at other people who are on their own path to improving. I cringe at some of my earliest posts and in a year from now I’ll probably cringe at my the ones I’m doing today. I am a work in progress.

    • Thanks, Rachelle. This was a gracious, well-thought comment. I appreciate it. I agree with everything you’ve said — we’re all on this journey together. None of us have “arrived.”

      I write in my free time and have a day job, as well. I’ve found that the best way to get better is to write. You’re right in that both quality and quantity are essential for a blogger, and it can be hard to sometimes balance (at least for those of us who have other responsibilities than just writing all day long).

      You’re right — being a blogger and writer are not (always) the same thing. I’ve been saying that for years, and people have been looking at strangely. Glad to find someone else who thinks the same.

  50. Hi Everyone,

    I’m quite new here and this is my second read — just browsing around this website. I’m love’n it!

    Anyway, I’m not a pro writer, honestly. And I long to be one — in not so distant future, I hope. And number 3 that states, “Look at it this way: If you’re really good at writing, you can help others become better writers”.

    On that note, I personally see blogging NOT ONLY as a business, but it’s also one way of uniting people having that common ground. At first, I didn’t exactly had that idea but as I was indulging myself in this industry while I was mostly learning, I’ve realized that blogging means “sharing”.

    But of course, there’s always the other aspect of it — monetizing and doing business.

    Thanks Jeff, for this post, really insightful! :)

  51. You know, it’s pretty funny because the people who write bad grammar in their blogs are the ones who get more followers. Just last night, I was reading a blog post that I found through the internet. I was getting angry at how she used has and have plus many other grammatical errors. Instead of letting it bother me though, I just closed the browser and concentrated on my own blog post.

  52. Jeff,

    This was really interesting to me, as I just wrote my own blog about the quality of writing in Twitter – of all places: http://www.prsacoloradoblog.org/?p=2364. I never thought the generally informal and democratic nature of social media was an excuse for poor grammar, lazy spelling and punctuation, sloppy fact-checking and other elements of bad writing. Glad you’re fighting the good fight on this one. Keep it up. – Drew

  53. this context really got a point, I have to agree with this as even I feel myself as a bad writer, as the saying practice makes man really perfect.. :)

  54. Well, OK all those points made in the article are valid, to a point. However, it should be noted that professional bloggers and those who are no, do not compete for the same readers.

    One of the very foundations of the Internet is that it allows one to find and follow a niche interest. Readers will naturally gravitate towards their own interests and writers that speak to them. It’s a different world from print publications.

    Blogs serve their own unique place in cyberspace, and are different, both for who reads them and why. While it is true that mediocre bloggers do attract an audience, I must however argue that those readers will not likely abandon content of interest to them, even badly written, to read something less interesting that is better written.

    The questions every blogger should ask is simply, who are my readers and will my content attract and hold them? Will they subscribe to my feed or scan and then move on?

    Aside from all else, is your writing compelling, intriguing, inviting, engaging, and yes, written well. Mediocre writers do naturally clutter up the landscape, but are they really stealing readers from good writers, or important blogs – I argue that such is not the case. Do that people that self-publish community newsletters steal readers from the New York Times?

    One final note seems in order here. Blogs like any other publication must be promoted or they simply fall off the radar. One of the determining factors in a blogs success, is how well the writers understand SEO and web promotion.

    Good blogs don’t just rise to the top by virtue of quality writing. They do so with the understanding of where their readers are, what they want to read and how to reach them. Blogs that maintain a high profile and loyal readership do not do so by accident. Even mediocre blogs with terrible writing can push onto the first page of a Google search if the writer understands SEO techniques and has some marketing savy.

    • Good points, Marvin. I was trying to get to some of those in this article, but I may have not been as clear. One great thing that we more traditional writers can learn from bloggers (and the two aren’t always the same) is the importance of writing for an audience that will share your content. In other words, good writing isn’t enough; you have to know how to market. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  55. I liked your article a lot. There are a lot of sucky blog writers out there that have become extremely popular and that doesn’t enhance my happiness in the least. And I think that blogging has made my writing better. I think it is important, for the sake of blogging, that all of us learn to write better. I don’t like it when I hear someone say ‘blogger’ with a kind of sneer, like it is the lowest form of writing.

    My theory on improvement is that if something is worth doing, it is worth doing badly – because doing it badly is the path to improvement, if you can get the right feedback.

    Mike

  56. For about a year, my goal was to schedule at least one post a day. For some, that’s not much, but as a blogging hobbyist and dad of two little girls, that was quite a bit of a time commitment. It was good for a year, readership was up, but I realized that much of the stuff was mediocre. I started to write fewer posts while putting more time in them; traffic took a hit at first, but eventually it led to being invited to write (for actual money) in other venues and some fun relationships. And I find I enjoy blogging quite a bit more as a result.

  57. I know this is an older post, but very relevant in the post Penguin update world…almost foreshadowing of the updates Google actually made / is making.

    • We’ve consistently seen that Penguin (and Panda, and whatever cute P-animal comes next) were not nearly as hard to forecast as certain SEOs would have you believe. ;)