Friday, August 4, 2017

How To Write A Blog Post (R.I.P. Barry Stiefel)

My friend of 20+ years Barry Stiefel recently passed away from a heart attack. He was just fifty-five and it's a bit of a shock. We always had dinner when I was in the Bay Area, and he came up to Toronto to visit a few times. We had long, long, long phone conversations maybe eight times a year. He once said I was his best friend, and I felt bad that I couldn't really say the same in return. But, and of course it's absurd to make such enumerations, he was in the top five.

He maintained a huge complex of websites; I was rereading his blog at The Gentleman Economist, where he posted fairly regularly for a few years until he took a new job and was short of time. While he never convinced me of his libertarian/laissez-faire economic position, that didn't matter: he was always willing to engage in discussion, and was more than willing to listen to alternative views, and occasionally even be persuaded by them. He was Republican-leaning until about the Iraq war, but then that changed. The last time we talked we both were appalled and amused by the Trump administration. I would have expected him to call me to cluck the very day Anthony Scaramucci was fired.

In reading through old posts at The Gentleman Economist, I found this, a post on how to write a blog post, and I thought, as I was trying to do more with my blog, I could learn from this. Barry's blog posts were always punchy and amusing, even if I didn't always agree with his politics. But this is funny and astute and it's who Barry was. He didn't read poetry, he said, but then he quotes Robert Service's Dangerous Dan McGrew. I don't know what his website is backed by; unfortunately I suspect it will all disappear as soon as the payment expires. So I've just copied the whole thing and I'm reposting it here. But should it matter, the following is copyright Barry J. Stiefel, 2014:

How to Write a Blog Post 
Posted on March 3, 2014 by Gentleman Economist 
1.  Start with a strong declarative sentence that leaves some things unsaid:It doesn’t have to be “A bunch of the boys were whooping it up at the Malamute Saloon“, but you get the picture.
2.  Reward the curious:Include lots of facts and insider information.
3.  Reward the well-read:Subtle references to shared cultural touchstones or recent events bring your reader into the inner circle.
4.  Earn your reader’s attention, never demand it:Your readers aren’t your subordinates, children, students or constituents.  You can’t force them to read on.
Remember that with every page you’re serving, you’re competing with the Back button.
5.  Don’t waste your reader’s time:Do your homework, get your facts straight, think clearly and then write clearly.
Eliminate extra words.  It’s OK to imply things; people who get it will feel superior.
Eliminate anything that makes the reader stop and back up. If you can’t read it aloud without tripping, it’s not finished.
6.  Reward the linguistically facile:Use punchy language.  Include clever turns of phrase and the occasional double entendre.
7.  Reward the thoughtful:Have an opinion and state it clearly.  Those who agree and those who disagree will both appreciate it.
8.  Finish with a strong close:A short, simple, declarative sentence that implies an opinion is best.
9.  The real goal of writing a blog post is to whet the reader’s appetite for more:At the end, they should say “That was interesting, thought-provoking, and it didn’t waste my time”.
That’s all you need.  Get to work.

Rest well, Barry. (A strong close, I hope.)

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