I try to read a lot of blogs, but I’ve stopped reading some because of common bad blogging habits.
The poor form of writing makes it difficult to read the content and take the authors seriously while the poor use of writing styles and formatting detract from content. Here are five problematic blogging trends that irk me:
1. Improper use of bold and italic font
I regularly see posts where close to half of the text is bold or italicized or underlined. Sometimes entire paragraphs are in bold font. I will often not bother to read posts that do this because I find that it is sloppy, awkward and difficult to read.
Bold and italics should be used sparingly. The University of Oxford style guide suggests that bold font should be used for key pieces of information, such as dates or names, not for large chunks of text.
The guide also notes that punctuation after bold words or phrases should not be in bold. This means multiple sentences together should not be in bold font.
I would suggest trying the “under 10 rule” based on the idea that if so much is emphatic, you lose the power of emphasizing.
If your content is good, you shouldn’t need to show your readers where the emphasis is. Let your words speak for themselves.
Italics are for transliterated words or phrases from other languages, for example. Bold is for highlighting small bits of information or indicating headings and subheadings. A comprehensive and helpful guide is available here.
On a related note, pick a single font to use throughout the post rather than multiple fonts and font sizes. It’s distracting. Remember: blog posts should observe the same style guidelines as articles, essays and books.
2. Use of extreme language
Generating a visceral, emotional response is a good way to generate attention, but it’s not always a good idea, especially when talking about people. This approach is a turn off for me because disagreeing with someone’s ideas does not justify the use of certain terminology.
I adamantly disagree with certain targets of progressive Christian bloggers’ rants, but I still feel the need to defend these targets because the labels being thrown around are as disturbing as the theology being criticized.
For example, Mark Driscoll is not a misogynist, as some bloggers claim. He has an extremely narrow, perhaps archaic, understanding of gender roles, but this is not misogyny.
John Piper’s theology may be fatalistic, insensitive and occasionally misinformed with regards to God’s grace and compassion, but it is not abusive. Likewise, The Gospel Coalition’s (TGC) posts opposing gay marriage are lacking grace and nuance, but they are not dehumanizing.
3. Theological witch-hunting
I often find blogs devoting far too much time and effort to nay-saying those who are objectionable. Every time certain figures speak, tweet or release a new book, there is a sudden flood of critics tearing it apart.
Within minutes of a new Driscoll or Piper tweet, or new TGC article, for example, the “antis” (as I’ll call them) inundate Twitter and the blogosphere with sarcasm, criticism, insults and condemnation.
I am not suggesting we shouldn’t speak out against bad theology, but I am saying we should know where certain people stand.
If we’ve rejected their stance and spoken our views opposing their ideas, why do we need to follow them on Twitter or read their blogs to find more fodder for our outrage?
I find it disturbing that I know exactly what Driscoll has said without following his Twitter feed or reading his blog because critics post images of his tweets on social media with scathing criticism.
I don’t agree with Driscoll, but I am convinced that he is sincerely trying to follow Jesus in the best way he can with the tools he has. This may be horribly unpopular to say, but Driscoll is not an enemy of good theology. He is a victim of his own bad hermeneutic.
4. Single phrase paragraphs
Not full sentences.
Just small phrases.
Like Rob Bell does.
This is not unacceptable, but should be used sparingly. Sometimes this approach helps to write like we speak, inserting pregnant pauses or emphasizing important points.
However, we should only use it in small quantities to tease out a specific idea that deserves to be treated as a focal point. For single phrase paragraphs to appear multiple times in a single post is worrisome.
5. Soapbox blogs
If your blog has become only (or mostly) about the same topic, I will lose interest. Try to not be a voice on one thing only. Branch out into other things.
I’ve stopped reading some blogs because I would regularly think: “You’ve said this same thing several times in the last month or two.”
Graham Ware is the pastor of Centre Street Baptist Church in Saint Thomas, Ontario, Canada. A longer version of this article first appeared on his blog, Deo Favente, and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @deo_favente1.