Simple tips for writing an effective blog post

In this era of information overload, you need to make your writing both eye-catching and actionable to garner any readership. Below, you’ll find my top six tips for making your blog post more readable and more understandable. These guidelines are easy to implement, and will ensure that your blog post gets more eyes and more results!

Julie MacCartee's top blogging tips1) Put the most important information first.

  • Most people only read the first paragraph of a blog post, so make sure it stands alone. Assume it’s all someone will read, and write it accordingly.

  • Your main point should be the first sentence in your blog post, not the last!

  • Write in an “inverted pyramid” style. Basically, put the newsworthy stuff first, then provide more details.

2) Keep sentences short. Keep paragraphs short.

  • An API study showed that articles with 8-word sentences (on average) had 100% comprehension. Those with 43-word sentences had less than 10% comprehension.

  • Paragraphs should be 1-4 sentences, and should contain a single topic or concept. Varying the length of sentences improves readability, too.

3) Use bullet points, subheadings, and/or bolding to highlight key points.

  • 79% of people scan blog posts, rather than read them word-for-word. Therefore, you need to give them visual cues for what to read.

  • Read through your subheadings, bullet points, and bolded words and imagine that they are ALL the reader will see. Do they convey the desired message?

4) Provide actionable recommendations for your audience.

  • Readers shouldn’t just walk away from your post saying, “That’s nice.” They should learn something new that changes their behavior or way of thinking.

  • Ask yourself, “What do I want my readers to do after reading my post?” Tell them!

  • No blog post is complete without links. Link to the next post, paper, or site you want someone to read.

5) Use casual language.

  • Jargony, impersonal information is dry and hard to remember. Avoid it when possible.

  • Don’t be afraid to use “I” and tell a story from your own perspective. Let your personality shine through!

  • Should you throw in a question? Perhaps – they can focus readers’ attention.

6) Make the headline catchy!

  • Puns and jokes aren’t necessary. Just use clear language to help the reader know what they’re about to see.

  • Ask yourself, “Would I click on this headline?”

BONUS TIP: Share your post far and wide! When authors share their own posts, the posts get many more views.

So what do I want you to do? Keep this list handy, and next time you start writing a blog post, try to incorporate all six of these tips. No matter how knowledgeable the reader, EVERYONE appreciates a simple, actionable, and enjoyable post. You can write one!

A version of this post originally appeared on Agrilinks, targeted at an international development audience.


Buzzworthy: A new blog series on edible insects, agricultural development and food security

Buzzworthy logoThis blog post was cross-posted from Agrilinks.

Have you heard the buzz about entomophagy, the practice of eating insects? It’s more common than you might think. Two billion people around the world consume insects as a regular part of their diet. Beetle larvae, caterpillars, grasshoppers, crickets, termites and stink bugs are particularly popular as edibles.

Insects are considered delicacies in some communities and provide an important nutritional boost to undernourished people in others. Rearing or harvesting insects requires very little feed, land and water compared with raising conventional livestock like cows and chickens, which is part of why insects are trending in conversations about sustainable food systems. In the years ahead, insects have great potential to fill an ever-growing need for protein, fatty acids and key minerals in the diets of both humans and livestock.

In this blog series, I will explore the relevance of entomophagy to global food security. I will address questions such as:

  • Who is eating insects? Where and why?
  • How nutritious are insects, and how might they contribute to sustainable diets?
  • What are some examples of insect-based livelihoods in developing countries?
  • Why should agricultural development practitioners care about edible insects, and what actions should we take?

For a quick introduction to entomophagy and its role in agricultural development, check out this six-minute lightning talk:


If you are up for a longer read, I highly recommend FAO’s 2013 report, “Edible Insects: Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security”. This report examines and summarizes the available research on entomophagy. It interweaves case studies, personal examples, caveats, and knowledge gaps to make the case for further attention to edible insects in a global food security context.

What questions do you have about edible insects? Share them in the comments below, or email me, and I will do my best to answer your questions in future blog posts!

A blog is not the same thing as a blog post

I routinely see and hear the word “blog” used incorrectly – not just in conversation, but in official newsletters and publications. Let’s break out the old SAT analogy format to clarify the term:

blog is to blog post as magazine is to article

“I just wrote a blog about the health benefits of napping!” is akin to saying, “I submitted a magazine to National Geographic about the sleep habits of Zebras!”

When you use the word “blog”, you are referring to the entire web page that contains a list of entries, not to one of the entries themselves. A blog is a type of website, or a feature within a website. An individual entry on a blog is usually called a “blog post”. (With a space – not “blogpost”.) For example, right now, you are reading a blog post on my blog. (Not a blog on my blog.)

When you are referring to an individual, dated, authored entry within a blog, you have a few options, including:  blog post ~ post ~ entry ~ article ~ piece

Just don’t call a blog post a blog!

Need more convincing? Here is how the word “blog” is defined by various outlets:

  • “a discussion or informational website published on the World Wide Web consisting of discrete, often informal diary-style text entries (“posts”)” (Wikipedia)
  • “a regular feature appearing as part of an online publication that typically relates to a particular topic and consists of articles and personal commentary by one or more authors” (Merriam-Webster)
  • “a list of journal entries posted on a web page” (
  • A website, similar to an online journal, that includes chronological entries made by individuals. (BusinessDictionary)

I could not find a single source that defines a “blog” as the individual entry on a blog (aka a “blog post”). If you are able to find one, please share!

It’s true that colloquial usage can morph into correct usage, and maybe that’s what’s happening. But until then, please don’t confuse your readers by implying that you wrote an entire, multi-entry blog on “10 reasons to take a nap right now” when you only wrote a single blog post.

Related article: This is a Blog Post. It Is Not a “Blog.” (Slate)


The Basics: Food Safety vs Food Security

My career has focused on issues of both food safety and food security – two concepts that sound extremely similar but are actually quite different. My family members often get them mixed up and can’t remember which is which, so I thought I’d lay out the definitions to help clarify. I’ll be discussing topics within both disciplines on my blog, so best to get the basics out of the way!

Food Safety

The discipline of food safety deals with the proper handling, preparation, and storage of food with the goal of preventing foodborne illness. Foodborne illness (aka “food poisoning”) may be caused by bacteria, viruses, molds, parasites, heavy metals, or contaminants that make our food unsafe to eat. You’ve probably heard of some of the most common foodborne pathogens: Salmonella, E. coli, Norovirus, etc. Food safety standards and processes are very important all along the supply chain from the farm to your table. When a food company discovers that one of its products is unsafe, it may recall that item. Unfortunately, minor food safety incidents are ubiquitous – we’ve all experienced the tummy aches or worse – but standards and inspections are in place in the United States to guard against major issues. Of course, fresh food can never be 100% insulated from pathogens, and so the consumer needs be conscious of some basic safety rules such as proper cooking, storage, and reheating temperatures.

The heading of food safety also includes food defense, which is the protection of our food supply from criminal or terrorist interference.

Food safety resources:

  • – A U.S. federal government site that contains recall information, food poisoning basics, and tips on how to keep your food safe.
  • Food Safety News – A robust online newspaper covering the latest news and views from the food safety beat.
  • Codex Alimentarius – International food safety standards that influence trade.

Fight BAC graphic from the Partnership for Food Safety Education

Food Security

Food security is more closely aligned with what you may think of when you hear the word “hunger.” If you or your household are food secure, you have a consistent, adequate supply of safe and nutritious food for an active lifestyle. If you are food insecure, then you have a limited or uncertain ability to acquire the food you need to be healthy and active.

Food security is generally seen as having four dimensions:

  • Availability – Adequate supply of foodstuffs to meet the population’s needs
  • Access – Ability to purchase/acquire food when needed
  • Utilization – Knowledge of how to prepare and consume food to enhance nutrition and reduce food safety risk
  • Stability – Consistency of the other three dimensions over time

Improving food security is not just a matter of providing food aid to the poor (in the form of actual food or money to purchase food), although this type of aid is very important in times of famine or disaster. International development organizations, governments, and non-profits need to work together to establish good policies, markets, and supply systems that allow all people to produce and/or purchase the food they need. Food security is intimately linked with issues of economic growth, nutrition, and natural resource management, among others.

Although many people think of hunger and food insecurity as problems that reside in developing countries, they are real problems in the United States as well. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 14.5 percent of American households were food insecure at least some time during the year in 2012.

Once you know the term food security, you will start seeing it frequently. With the Earth’s population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, it seems like everyone is talking about global food security and how to feed the world (which is fantastic!).

Food security resources:

Habiba Tukhtaeva shows off the vegetables she grew in her family’s kitchen garden with support from Feed the Future.

So how are food safety and food security related? You can’t have true food security without food safety – after all, contaminated or unsafe food is certainly not adequate for a healthy and active lifestyle free from hunger. Poor food safety measures can affect the availability of food, since spoiled/unsafe foods should be removed from the supply chain.

After writing this post, I asked my husband how he would describe the difference between food safety and food security. He responded: “Food safety pertains to making sure my food won’t kill me and food security pertains to whether I have enough of it.” Not too bad, hubby! 🙂