Every week we read scads of amazing content via our WordPress.com Reader — everything from personal think pieces to political diatribes, travelogues to photo essays. Sometimes a post makes us stop in our tracks and read (or view) it again. We’ll take a closer look at some of those pieces and what made them stand out, in the hope that we can all learn something about how to make our blogs the best they can be.
It’s not often that the description of a stranger’s wedding makes us laugh so heartily. Reading Oh God, My Wife Is German‘s post on his intercultural marriage, “Wedding Tips for Marrying a German: Five Things to Know before the Hochzeit,” had just that effect. There were no cake disasters, groomzilla episodes, or embarrassing toasts to make us snicker: the writer had to rely entirely on his power of observation and on his wit. Let’s take a closer look at some of the tricks he pulled.
A Balanced Critical Outlook
‘Die Hochzeit,’ meaning ‘Wedding’ in German, sounds rather intimidating, doesn’t it? Unless you’re familiar with German pronunciation, ‘Die’ is probably the word you’d least like to associate with the happiest day of your life, and ‘Hochzeit’ sounds, at least to me anyway, an awful lot like ‘Hogtied.’
Some of the best writing on WordPress.com deals with moments of strange, unexpected encounters between people, cultures, and perspectives. A piece like “Wedding Tips,” however, could have easily devolved into cheap caricature, or remain entirely in an ‘Us vs. Them’ mode.
But we are Americans, godammit, and we want our fiancés to wear engagement rings mounted with bright, shiny, blood diamonds.
Instead, the author continuously shifts back and forth between an incisive look at his spouse’s homeland, and moments of self-deprecation about his own background. Both sides of the equation are occasionally ridiculed, but never without warmth, empathy, and a real sense of curiosity. You could read this post in Munich or Minneapolis (or, sure, Mumbai) without feeling like the butt of a joke. It is precisely this balance that allows the writer’s satire to maintain its bite.
One Spoonful of Wedding Cake at a Time
Whether we are writing a lengthy essay or a short poem, it is always crucial to remember our readers’ eyes and attention spans, and structure our posts in ways that make it easier for our audience to take in our insights. Oh God, My Wife Is German has done a remarkable job dividing his piece into manageable, self-contained morsels.
2: YOUR GERMAN WILL EXPECT A ‘POLTERABEND’ BEFORE THE WEDDING.
The word ‘Polterabend‘ consists of the German verb ‘poltern’ (to make a racket) and the noun ‘Abend’ (evening). If you’ve ever seen the movie Poltergeist, you’ve probably already guessed this name is, at the very least, a discouraging omen.
The post cleverly — and consistently — uses three types of dividers:
- Numbered sections (the five wedding tips that ground the piece as a whole).
- Paragraph breaks (always stopping at the end of an extended, but not overly long, thought).
- Appropriate (and often hilarious) images, for a useful break from monotonous blocks of text.
In a piece that’s relatively long, Oh God, My Wife Is German‘s formula for breaking things up makes the reader far more likely to reach the bottom of the post — and more likely to comment and engage in the discussion that follows. Different bloggers might find different formats useful — from using bullet points to breaking a post into pages. But the idea stays the same: you want the reader to stay alert and engaged.
Giving the Reader More than a Laugh
Unlike the United States, there is no legal limit of 0.08% blood alcohol level in Germany (though I’ve heard in some parts of the country there is a limit 0.05%, which can be achieved by accidentally swallowing a thimble full of mouthwash).
Perhaps most impressive of all is how, by the time we reach the end of “Wedding Tips,” we are not merely grinning; we are also smarter and better informed. The author has shown us, his guests, a good time, but he didn’t forget to give us something to take away with us. Somehow, through the laughs (of which there were many), we also learned about drinking laws in Germany, the price of weddings in the United States, and about a slew of other wedding traditions in both countries.
We are all experts on something — nuclear physics, our favorite band, making the perfect BLT — and blogs are an ideal outlet for us to share our wisdom with the world. A great blog post, however, stands out from a Wikipedia entry — however informative — by presenting knowledge through the unique prism of an individual. Oh God, My Wife Is German takes his knowledge and transforms it into something others can relate to and from which they can learn. He never lectures; he engages.
A Personal Touch
How do you go about mixing information with analysis, facts with a personal spin? Oh God, My Wife Is German crafted an inviting, witty tone, but kept it balanced. He clearly did his research, but filtered his findings through his own experiences, making them not simply digestible, but interesting, amusing, and memorable.