The human brain loves patterns.
It wants to see what it expects to see. And it’s disturbing when things don’t fit the expected pattern (did you see that?).
There are plenty of people who take great pride in being consistent when they write. They’re careful with their grammar, their spelling, their formatting, and their structures.
But it’s not just about being ‘right’ (or about being pedantic).
Being consistent in the tone, structure, and formatting of your content makes your business look more professional.
It makes life easier for your readers, and it creates a subconscious bias in their minds: your opinions and arguments can seem more persuasive, convincing, and authoritative – simply because your blog post is well-written and well-presented.
So how do you make sure you’re keeping your blog consistent across a series of posts?
With this handy checklist.
I’ve covered everything you need to know to keep every blog post consistent: from headings and structure to your images, spelling, and layout.
Let’s get started:
Headings and subheadings
Have you set the main title of your blog post to Heading 1?
Are the subheadings for each main section set to Heading 2?
Have you set the subheadings for smaller points within each main section to Heading 3?
Does the grammar of your subheadings make sense with the format or theme of your blog post?
Are your title and subheadings short enough, and made of simple words?
You might like to think that every visitor is reading every careful word you write.
But they’re not.
People love to scan articles (and especially online: 43% of people admit to skimming blog posts).
When you use a predictable and consistent structure to set up your headings, you’re making it easier for your readers to jump into the bits that interest them.
If they’re getting bored in the middle of one section, you need to make it painless and easy for them to scroll down and pick up a new thread. And if they can’t immediately see something new and exciting further down, they might just give up and go back to Google.
For the same reason, it’s important to keep your subheadings short and sweet.
Your readers use subheadings as a navigational tool – so they need to be instantly understood and easy to digest. Aim for everyday, conversational words, and try to keep the word-count low (around five words is good, and usually no more than ten).
And finally, for the best consistency, you need to make sure your subheadings agree with your blog post’s title and overall theme.
If you’re writing a to-do list or an action plan, every subheading should probably use a verb.
And if you’re writing a list article, then each subheading should fall under the type of thing defined in the title (i.e. they should be direct examples of ‘Reasons Why’, ‘Benefits Of’, or ‘Crazy Things You Never Knew About Taxes’).
Have you set your column width to a digestible size?
Have you kept your line breaks and spacing consistent? (Before and after subheadings, images, bullet lists, etc.)
Have you used enough images, bullet lists, and block-quotes to help break up the text?
And have these same things been spread out and used sparingly?
There’s a reason why newspapers are set in columns. And there’s a reason why books aren’t square.
It’s simply easier for readers to keep their place when the lines they’re reading are shorter horizontally. So one of the first things you should do when you’re setting up the layout of your blog post is to reduce the width of the text.
No one wants to read a full-page screen like this:
But when you lay things out like this, it becomes much easier to process:
As a general rule, I’d recommend setting the text to no more than two-thirds of the screen (or something in the region of 80 characters per line).
Next, you’ll want to make sure the line breaks and spaces between your different elements (paragraphs, headings, images, bullet lists, etc.) are consistent.
Most blogging software (like WordPress) will do this for you automatically, putting space above and below your headings for you.
But they won’t always give your images the right space around them. So if you don’t want your layout to look cramped, you’ll need to find the right number of line breaks and add them in yourself.
And finally, you need to make sure you’re not just publishing a wall of text.
You’ll need a little visual variety, and you can get this by including images, charts, bullet lists, and block-quotes in as many of your posts as possible.
But be careful: it’s easy to go over-board.
If you want to create the most polished and consistent blog possible (and you should), you’ll need to space them out and change them up.
One of the easiest ways to check this is by zooming out on your finished blog post to get a scannable view of your reader’s experience:
You can’t see any of the details. But you can see exactly how many images, block-quotes and bullet lists you’ve included – and importantly, how spaced out they are.
You’ll be able to see where your longest walls of text are, and any places where your reader might start to get bored. And if you spot a particularly mind-numbing passage, you can stick in an image or a quote to help break things up.
Do your opening few sentences hook the reader?
Does your introduction let people know what’s coming?
Does your structure make sense if you only read the headings?
Have you rounded things off with a summary or conclusion?
Have you recapped the most important take-aways at the end?
Have you pointed your readers to the ‘next step’ – further reading or a call to action?
You don’t want every blog post to follow the exact same path. But you do want a little consistency in your structure to help guide your readers as they work through your content.
First of all (and perhaps most important), every single post should start with something that draws your reader in.
That could mean setting the scene, posing a question, or making a bold statement. But beyond that, you also need to let your readers know what they’ll get out of reading further. If they’ve landed on a topic they didn’t want, you need to let them know early on if you want to avoid frustration.
Next, you’ll want to check that your blog post is scan-friendly. Plenty of people will scroll through a post and glance at the headings and subheadings to find what they want – and you ought to make it as easy as possible for them.
As a test, you can copy your main title and all of your subheadings into a list to see if they make sense as a mini-summary on their own.
Here’s an example of a blog post that’s been stripped of all its text. It’s just the main title, followed by the six main subheadings that define its structure:
How to Get Good at Absolutely Anything
- Do your research before you start
- Learn from the mistakes of others
- Don’t give up at the first hurdle
- Keep practising every day
- Check your progress
- Never stop learning
Each of these subheadings on its own would fit perfectly as a response to the title. And if your subheadings make sense as a list like this, that means they’re going to make sense when your visitors scan over your finished article, too.
Finally, you’ll need to make sure that each blog post ends with a satisfactory conclusion.
You can quickly summarise everything you’ve said so far, remind your readers of the most important points they need to remember, and include some kind of call to action (even if it’s just a link to another related blog post of yours).
Does each bullet point follow on grammatically from the lead-in?
Have you used bold to highlight the important parts?
Have you limited each bullet point to one or two short sentences?
Have you kept each bullet list to around five points or fewer?
We’ve already seen how you can make things more scannable when your headings agree with your title.
And it’s exactly the same with every bullet list you create.
If you’re making a bullet list, make sure you:
- Make sure your bullet points make sense with the lead-in. See how jarring that was? (‘Make sure you make sure your…’)
- Help readers who like to scan by highlighting important details in bold
- Keep each point short. When you start to ramble or add too many details into one bullet point, it can start to become so heavy that it occupies several lines, and is spread across several different sentences. If you’re not careful, your single bullet point can start to look like an entire paragraph of its own. This makes it much harder to read, and harder to scan. And once you start to pack a bullet point with so many different points that it becomes its own paragraph, it defeats the entire purpose of using a bullet list (which is to make several different points easy to take in at a glance).
- Limit the number of bullet points in your list
- Because once you get past five or six items
- Our brains just can’t keep up
- We can’t hold that many different points in our head at once
- We forget that we’re processing a list
- And we start to lose focus.
Has your spell-checker been set to UK English?
Have you kept your hyphens consistent throughout?
Have you capitalised your proper nouns (places, people, products)?
It might seem strange these days to worry about spelling.
Tools like Microsoft Word and WordPress come equipped with their own spelling and grammar checkers, and there are even external plug-ins like Grammarly to help keep you consistent.
But they’ll never work 100% of the time. And here’s why: Not every situation has a solid rule to follow.
Think about words like:
• Judgment and Judgement
• Carefree and Care-free
• Best in class and Best-in-class.
There’s a definite grey area when it comes to certain words and phrases. But if you can’t say for sure whether you’re being correct, at least you can say you’re being consistent. So pick one way of spelling and stick to it throughout.
Does every image occupy a similar width and height?
Have you squished your images down to a reasonable file size?
Does every image have a credited source (where needed)?
Does every image have a worthwhile caption (if appropriate)?
Are all of your custom graphics made with a similar colour scheme (ideally, using your own brand’s colours)?
I’ve already talked about how using images can help to create visual variety by breaking up the text of your blog post.
But unlike text, it’s much harder to keep images consistent.
You might be using a mix of personal screenshots, free stock photos, and custom-made charts and graphs – and there’s likely to be some disparity between the sizes and quality of all of these different types of images.
So what can you do?
First, you’ll need a way of easily adjusting your images so they all fit the same format.
A free program like GIMP is perfect for this. You can easily scale images up or down to exact dimensions (down to the last pixel), and you can easily reduce the quality to a specific file size (right down to the last kilobyte).
There’s no absolute rule when it comes to images in blog posts, and you’ll need to experiment to find the right dimensions and file sizes for your particular photos and blog template.
But as a general guide, you could try aiming for:
- Hero images that are around 1200×600 pixels
- Author and bio photos that are around 500×500 pixels
- File sizes that sit under 100KB (without creating something blurry and ugly).
Next, you’ll want to make sure every image that’s not yours has an appropriate credit given to the source. Check carefully, because even royalty-free photos often come with the condition that you give credit.
It’s not just a legal thing (although that’s definitely important). If your readers recognise an image from somewhere else and there’s no credit given, it makes your business look sloppy (or worse: dishonest).
And finally: try to make sure that every chart, graph, diagram, or infographic you create uses your own brand’s colours and style. It makes a huge difference to how professional your blog post looks – and if people decide to share your custom graphics, it’s like a free advert for your brand.
Ready to be consistent?
I’ve covered a lot of ground in this guide. And it might seem like a lot to take in.
But by working through this simple checklist, you can start to improve your consistency across every blog post – helping to create a library of content for your website that’s slick, professional, and authoritative.