By Natalie Grace Sipula
Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula
[6 minute read]
Writing is hard. From a pretty young age, I have greatly enjoyed expressing myself through creative writing, and as I got older, I started to enjoy academic writing as well. I would write poetry about things I observed in my day-to-day life, short stories or fragments of prose, and even entered a few essay-writing competitions. Something I noticed pretty early on about writing is that writing the things that come to your mind without method or intent is a lot easier than writing for an audience. I prefer writing while keeping the reader in mind more because writing only for myself lets me pick up bad writing habits, such as not carefully considering my word choice, as the only person interpreting the writing would be me. But writing creatively for a reader is pretty difficult, and academic-style writing for a reader can be exhausting because most college students already have to do that so much for their classes. A form of writing that I had not previously considered before coming to college, however, was blog writing. When I started working at the USC American Language Institute, I tried out writing for a blog for the very first time. One blog that I wrote about rereading Harry Potter with an older perspective challenged me to consider the perspective of both myself and my audience.
Writing for a blog is a great way to open your creative energy and write to a wider audience while also being able to maintain a level of informality and free expression to your writing. A blog article could be about anything–your daily routine, a hobby you love doing, your journey writing other things, or aspects of your social life. It is a happy medium between writing creatively or academically for others and dabbling in creative writing or journaling for yourself. This can be good because it allows you to practice writing with a sense of accountability, while also having fun. I have written a few blog articles since coming to college, and I found that I had a great time writing them and was actually proud of my work after the fact. I also realized that I was less judgmental of my own writing when writing a blog article, which made it easier for me to actually finish a writing project I started on. For me, the most difficult part of writing a blog article is narrowing down exactly what it is you want to write about.
What can you write about?
Have you ever had that feeling where you are inspired to write something and then as soon as you sit down in front of your journal or computer screen, your mind goes blank? Or when you know of a lot of things you think you might be interested in writing about, but aren’t sure where to start? This is a very common problem writers encounter, but with some consideration and time, it can be overcome. Some common blog topics to inspire you are: life advice about a specific situation or circumstance, a recipe or instructions on how to do/make something, a list of recommendations, a funny or shocking story and a lesson learned from it, hobbies or goals and how to accomplish them, and so much more.
Blogs can also take on a variety of different tones, and oftentimes the website layout of a blog reflects this. Some examples of blogs with different tones and audiences are The Financial Diet, which focuses on personal finances and life advice, Buzzfeed, which centers on pop culture, Spoon Fork Bacon, a food blog, Humans of New York, a blog detailing stranger’s personal stories, A Cup of Jo, a lifestyle blog, and Advice From a Twenty Something, which focuses on lifestyle and wellness for young women. For some publications a bit more close to a student’s interest, you can check out The Daily Trojan or even ALI’s own blog, the ALI Life and Times!
Some tips for writing a good blog
Include narrative details–tell a story!
Something that I notice more than anything else when reading blog articles is that sometimes people forget that even though blogs are a bit more conversational than other writing, they can be elevated by embedding creative detail in the article. If you are describing a funny incident at work that happened to you, don’t just recount the facts. Think of your writing in the same way you would tell a story about your life to a close friend; describe how you felt about the incident, include sensory details about what you heard, saw, or smelled during the incident, and how the incident played a role in your life and the wider message of the blog. Including these things in your article will make it infinitely more interesting for the reader, and also allow you to try out your creative writing skills in the process.
Write about something that you genuinely care about
Make sure to choose a topic for your blog that you love to talk about–it could be funny, sad, reflective, or passionate, but above all should be something you care about. When you write about topics or issues that you have a lot to say about, your message will come across more strongly to your readers, and it will be more enjoyable for you to write!
How can the ALI English Programs help you become an author?
Not sure how to get started writing? One of the easiest ways to learn what you like about writing and what writing styles you admire is to read a variety of authors, and to also practice your own writing! The American Language Institute offers two informal conversational programs to help you with this. In ALI Book Clubs, students read a new short story every week and come to discuss what they thought about it. In ALI Writing Labs, students can learn about various professional writing topics, such as writing cover letters, resumes, or professional emails. Students will also get advice on their own writing. If you think you would like to submit a blog article to the ALI Life and Times, we take submissions from non-native speaking students who would like to practice writing! We will work with you to edit your article if you have questions as well. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Natalie is a rising junior studying Philosophy, Politics, and Law and Spanish, and she plans to pursue a career in criminal or immigration law. She is originally from Cleveland, OH and is a Presidential Scholar studying in Thematic Option. Natalie is an active member of Phi Alpha Delta (Director of Professionalism), Trojan Scholars Society, USC Model UN, QuestBridge Scholars (University Relations Chair), Spanglish tutoring program, and Grupo Folklórico de USC. Growing up she was dedicated to theatre, including studying and performing at Cleveland Play House. She is a volunteer camp counselor with Mi Pueblo Culture Camp in Cleveland. Since arriving in Los Angeles she has enjoyed volunteering with Angel City Pit Bulls animal shelter and in her free time enjoys reading, writing, hiking, and learning to play the acoustic guitar!