Lawyers have the privilege of a captive audience much of the time: your opposite number can’t refuse to read correspondence simply because it’s dull. While the best legal writing is concise and punchy, blogging gives you much more license to grab readers’ attention.
So what works best to avoid boredom in legal blogs?
1. Tell a story
Our brains feed on stories. We imagine ourselves in someone else’s shoes, become emotionally engaged and enjoy the process. Stories have even been shown to release dopamine, the ‘happy hormone’, in the brain.
How can you include stories in your posts? Speak about your own experiences, for example an interaction with a judge. Use unrecognisable elements of a particular case, or even a fictitious client to illustrate a point. Don’t be afraid to channel Lord Denning by using vivid language to capture readers’ attention.
2. Own your blogpost
It is a sweet relief from legal discourse to write wholly in the first person – or at least I think so! Your blogpost is an opportunity to establish a relationship with the reader, and you can’t do that by writing with robotic objectivity.
I recommend forming a clear, concise argument and setting it out using I, me and my. Your writing will be much more immediate and easy to follow for readers, who may be pressed for time or reading on a busy train. Be clear, simple and specific.
3. Choose your length
I’m forever bookmarking very long blogposts to come back to them, but I rarely do. Equally, I sometimes read short blogposts that seem to say nothing at all. It’s better to think of depth of content than word count: how much can you tell your readers in the amount of time they are likely to give you?
By planning your article structure before beginning to write, you will avoid waffle. Make sure you include valuable insights and that the piece flows to create an argument. Then stick to the plan when you are writing, or you will lose focus (and readers).
4. Write for the web
My eye rears up like a stubborn donkey when faced with a fat block of text. No matter how interesting the content or respected the writer, I dig my heels in and refuse to read because it just looks so boring. Writing for the web is about overcoming this resistance by presenting content in an accessible format.
Break your text up into short paragraphs of 3-4 lines each and use sub-headings to guide the reader through. Use short sentences and avoid too many adjectives, adverbs and subordinate clauses. Your meaning should leap from the page, not be hidden in the undergrowth.
5. Use literary devices
By the end of this paragraph, I am going to tell you something useful. Does that make you want to keep reading? Novel writers do this all the time; they give you a hint of what’s coming up to keep you reading. Tease your readers by foreshadowing the content of your article, for example: ‘The new legislation will lead to more thatched roofs, but more of that later.’
Novelists also guide their readers between different sections of a book. You can do this by using a sub-heading or transition paragraph when moving from one topic to another. If you don’t do this, readers may think they have missed something important and give up on your blog altogether.Ben Hollom
September 28, 2015