Where Does the Confusion Come From?
I regularly get emails from individuals asking if they can write an article on my blog. What I assume they are really asking is whether they can provide me with a guest post.
How did things get so confused?
Blog posts are a relatively new form of writing that has become popular with the rise of the Internet in the last fifteen years. Articles date back to the very earliest magazines and newspapers several hundred years ago.
In fact, my sources indicate that the first newspapers in the U.S. were first published in the 1800s.
So, writers have been creating articles for hundreds of years. They have only been creating blog posts for about fifteen years. No wonder there’s confusion!
Three Characteristics of Blog Posts
The characteristics of a blog post are related to the purpose of a blog that I find most helpful–a blog is a part of a conversation.
(You can find some more great definitions of a blog in this post from Problogger).
Keeping in mind a blog as a conversation here are some characteristics of blogs:
Conversational language. Conversational language is rapidly becoming the language of business, and it’s about time too. It’s much more user-friendly than the more formal “legalese” that is replacing. However, the language used in a blog is the most casual of all. Blog posts are often addressed directly to “you,” the reader, and invite reader participation… which brings me to the next point.
Comments. Yes, I know that there are some so-called “blogs” where comments have been turned off, but given the conversational nature of a blog I see little point in that. Most blogs do allow for and even encourage reader comments. The most successful blog posts that I’ve seen are ones where the comments contain nearly as much information as the post itself.
Opinionated. Finally, blog posts often contain the author’s opinion. In fact, many readers have told me that it’s the opinion part of the post, my own synthesis and response to the information that I present, that they find to be the most interesting and useful.
Of course, these characteristics are generalizations. While you may be able to point to one or more specific blogs that defy these conventions, they do fit most blogs.
Three Characteristics of Articles
Articles stand in contrast to blog posts because their main function is to convey information. Although an article may sometimes seek to sway the reader’s opinion or move them to action–most often the purpose of an article is simply to report news or facts.
Here are some common characteristics of articles:
Factual. While a blog post may contain facts, an article seeks to present information in a more objective fashion. An article may also refer to source information or even directly quote sources. The article writer’s opinion of the topic at hand is often not immediately evident.
Less familiar language. Articles are not necessarily addressed directly to the reader. Rather, articles are more likely to be written in the third person. (Think of a newspaper or magazine article. When was the last time you read a news article addressed directly to you?)
No comments. Although some online articles do allow for comments to build community, most true articles do not include comments from the readers. That’s because there’s really no reason for anyone to comment on what is essentially a factual piece. Comments are usually reserved for blog posts, which often follow articles as a form of commentary. (Or in a newspaper, for the editorial page.)
What Do You Think?
As you can see, there is some overlap between blog posts and articles. However, I do not agree with those who would say that they are one and the same.
How would you distinguish between a blog post and an article? I’m sure I missed some points, why not add them in the comments.