Tags: blogging, commentary, opinion, writing
Recently, I caught sight of this picture floating around the Internet, and it admittedly ruffled this little robin’s feathers:
I retrieved this picture from buzzfeed.com, but it’s all over the internet.
Now, I have censored out the language for propriety’s sake, but what I really took issue with was the last sentence or two: “Bloggers aren’t real writers.”
At the risk of opening myself up to criticism, I’d like to address this viewpoint, because it seems to be shockingly commonplace among most non-bloggers. As a writer who has picked up blogging as a hobby, I find that this acid view of blogging is overly simplistic and based in ignorance rather than truth. I seek to dispel at least some of that ignorance with this post.
#1: All Bloggers Are Not Identical
One cannot categorize “bloggers” as one solid group of people with one fixed set of interests, methods, and talents. That’s like saying “all fruits taste the same” or “all sneakers fit the same on everybody’s feet”–it’s simply not true. People blog about all sorts of things, and they blog in various ways; some use mainly pictures, some use video, and some, like myself, use mainly text to get their point across.
I could potentially understand this person’s perspective if all bloggers just used visual media as their posts; visual media does not require as much text editing and revising. But not all bloggers use pictures and video to the exclusion of all else. I’m a prime example, and I know plenty of other bloggers who produce text-heavy posts as well. Given that, how is text blogging not real writing, when it is primarily carefully-chosen words?
#2: Text Blogging Forces More Careful Editing
Blogging is a time-sensitive form of writing, produced on a schedule and conforming to content demands as well as formatting and time demands. What kind of writing does that sound like? Journalism! And, while blog articles are not always the highest of art forms, producing a good blog article DOES require a certain ruthlessness and discernment in one’s writing and editing process, which most if not all types of writers can benefit from.
For instance, I’ve noticed that I’ve become a much more concise, word-conscious writer since I began my blog in January 2011–I used to go on for days about a topic, and now I can condense that into a paragraph or two and get my point across much better. Blogging has forced me to reevaluate my writing style, and has helped me cut out some of the unnecessary verbosity as I revise and edit. My paragraphs are shorter and feel more “zingy” as a result.
Given this, how is blogging not real writing, when it requires the same amount (or often more) of typing, editing, and revising that I did while working toward my English major in college?
#3: Blogging = Written Communication = WRITING
Blogs, even and especially text-heavy blogs, communicate ideas between people, break news, and invite discussion, much as TV news stations and newspapers do. How is this not real writing, when all of these tasks are precisely what writing was first designed to do? People have been using writing as communication for over a millennium now, at least, and many forms of writing have since developed. Text-based blogging, while relatively new to the literate scene, is just as viable as any other form.
I don’t know for certain, but I have a feeling that the creator of this particular image categorizes “writing” as “creative writing” or “expository writing” only–basically, that “real writing” is only telling a fictional story or getting across an academic point. Unfortunately, that is like saying that “carrots and onions are the only real vegetables, and everything else you grow in your garden is a fake veggie;” it is a perspective that ignores every other opinion or fact as “invalid” except its own narrow, opinionated view. Writing is not only for creativity nor just for arguing points of opinion; it is also for communicating facts and discussing points, which bloggers do quite well.
I don’t claim that text blogging is the be-all and end-all form of writing, but it does take time and patience to craft and complete well-thought-out articles, and it does take discipline and dedication to produce such articles on schedule every day or every week. It is no different from the other forms of writing out there, which have similar mental requirements.
Additionally, if this person and others like him/her believe blogging is so stupidly easy, I would challenge them to try keeping up a daily text-only blog for about 6 months, coming up with original articles (about 500-1000 words apiece) and fresh perspectives every day. I think their experience would teach them quite a bit about how blogging IS “real writing” if done in this way.no comments March 18th, 2013 by Robin, in Monday in the HTMLab
Tags: blogging, content, webdesign, writing
No matter how long you’ve been running your blog, sometimes it happens: you end up at a loss for what to write about. I call it the “Blog Doldrums,” where any good topic you come up with is one you’ve already done, and any other topic seems not worth writing about. The Blog Doldrums kill off many good blogs before they really get started, and can cause a great blogger to suddenly go silent.
So, how do we as content creators combat this? First, by not letting these doldrums get hold of us for too long, and second, by getting a little creative with our blog topic ideas.
Approach #1: Search for Similar Books and Websites, and Present Them to Your Audience as Resources
Whatever you’ve made a blog about, likely there’s been a book (or several) written about it, and likely there are other websites which cover similar ground. Check out books at your local library (or through an e-library), and do fairly involved searches for websites (i.e., not just the first page of Google results).
Once you find books and websites that are on your particular topic, browse through them, making notes of which ones are most useful and relevant to your blog’s audience. Compile a short list of the best of the best, and write a short description of each book or website, along with relevant links (website link, place to buy the book, official book website, etc.) and any appropriate pictures (screenshots and book covers).
Example: For my Monday web design and development posts, I could do a post about some great webdesign guidebooks as well as helpful development websites, linking to each and showing my readers resources they’ve potentially never heard of.
The resulting blog post will be basically an online report about what other people are doing in your content area. Visitors will still be enriched by this post, and you can start to build a little community with other website owners and bloggers who are interested in your same topic, too!
Approach #2: Just Write Your Perspective on an Issue
Rather than trying to do a really in-depth post with TONS of information and LOTS of “expert advice,” how about just doing a blog post about your own perspective? Write about what this topic means to you, or how you interact with it on a daily basis, or even what you think about particular trends going on in your chosen topic right now.
Why bother doing this? Because you, as a blogger, have a very interesting point of view that others would like to read about, so why NOT share your opinions? This gets you writing from the most primal level–your own mindset. You can explore your own thoughts and reasoning as you choose, and can then tie it all together in an understandable way.
Example: For my Saturday creativity posts, I could write about what music has meant to me over the course of my life. Or, for my Thursday gaming posts, I could write about the current HeroClix team trends appearing in local gaming stores versus team trends at conventions.
This blog post will be virtually guaranteed to be original, new content–it came out of your head, after all! Plus, visitors will likely be intrigued by your words, and may be inspired to think differently about your topic because of your post.
Approach #3: Research Your Topic and Bring Something Obscure to Light
No matter what your topic, there are likely several unexplored corners within it, several small things most people gloss over, assuming everyone knows about it. Take time to research your chosen topic in depth, and research anything that surprises you about your topic or anything you personally have never known much about before.
Once you’ve done that, take time in a blog post to expand on one or more of these hidden gems, really digging into it and exploring it. (Don’t forget to do a lot of linking in this post to show where you found this information, and where people can go to find out more!)
Example: For my Wednesday Bible posts, I could take a Bible verse that is either not often talked about or very often misunderstood, and really delve into it, comparing and contrasting the meaning most folks take from it and the Biblical scholars’ interpretation(s).
When you publish this post, you will be bringing something very new and interesting to your audience’s attention, and your post will likely spur readers to learn even more. You might even draw attention from other bloggers and website owners who write about your same topic!
When you find yourself in the Blog Doldrums, don’t despair–there are plenty of ways to get yourself out of them AND produce a useful, worthwhile blog post at the same time!no comments October 22nd, 2012 by Robin, in Monday in the HTMLab
Tags: blogging, comments, webdesign
More and more, webdesigners and developers are running sites that allow users to comment on articles (such as this blog). This provides a miniature forum experience for the users, and a valuable form of feedback for the content author.
…Well, at least it CAN be valuable, if you know how to extract useful information from those comments. But the process of dealing with comments, even if they are positive and encouraging, can be overwhelming for content authors who are new to the process.
Thus, I have a few tips for handling comments of all sorts, mainly garnered from my own experience as a content author over the last nine years.
Positive/Supportive Commentary: Do’s and Don’t's
- Thank the commenter for their input
- Visit the commenter’s website, if they have one, and leave a positive/supportive comment on one of their articles, or in a guestbook
- Ignore or fail to acknowledge the positive comment at all
With positive commentary, it’s pretty easy to handle; we all like getting virtual “pats on the back” for our efforts. Most times, thanking the person and returning the comment favor on their site can be enough. (And who knows, you might find that you and the positive commenter can affiliate or link-exchange, helping to give each other a little traffic.)
Critical/Politely Disagreeing Commentary: Do’s and Don’t's
- Thank the commenter for participating in the discussion
- Try to answer the points which are being disputed/criticized, in a polite and brief manner
- Keep the tone of your responding comment positive rather than negative
- Immediately leap into personal attacks on the critical commenter
- Delete the critical comment or block its author
- Bad-mouth the commenter on other websites
Despite our best intentions as content authors, when we write opinion pieces, there are always going to be people whose opinions differ from ours. Differing opinions are okay, as long as all involved parties keep it civil and stick to expanding and fleshing out the topic at hand.
When someone has taken the time to politely disagree with you, and has explained why they have a different opinion, it’s important to answer them as thoroughly as you can, and to thank them for providing a different perspective. Remember, other readers of your blog can be enriched by a balanced group of perspectives, so the critical commenter might actually be doing you a favor!
Abusive/Inflammatory Commentary: Do’s and Don’t's
- Ask the abusive commenter politely to stop what they’re doing
- Delete their commentary, especially if it is bothering other users
- Block their IP address from accessing your site, if nothing else works
- Argue with the abusive commenter back and forth for too long
- Reduce yourself to their level by making abusive comments back to them
- Recruit other people to harass them, either on your site or elsewhere on the Internet
Unfortunately, there are some people in this world who thrive on a good debate…except that they define debate as “ticking off everybody on the Internet and having a good laugh at the results.” Rather than being a source for a balanced perspective or polite dissent, the abusive commenter lives to make conflict, spam hateful messages, and incite anger wherever they can.
Deal with them as politely as you can at first; do not mistake a critical commenter for an abusive one, whatever you do. But if the comments the person leaves are taking the focus completely away from the topic, or if they are just hateful spam, then you as the content author (and website owner) need to take action to ensure that everyone who visits your site has a positive overall experience. (Blocking their IP address is a drastic step, but it may be best for everyone involved.)
Writing for the web means that you’ll be getting commentary of all sorts from others. Learning how to respond to each type of commentary (supportive, critical, and abusive) can help you maintain a better relationship with your users and a better atmosphere for your site.no comments September 24th, 2012 by Robin, in Monday in the HTMLab
Tags: blogging, tumblr, webdesign
Have you always wanted to blog, but never known what to blog about? Have you put aside the whole idea because of not knowing how to design or code webpages? If these apply to you, let me tell you about Tumblr.
What Is Tumblr?
Tumblr is a relatively new kind of blogging platform, revolving around the concept of “reblogging.”
Reblog, verb: “to repost an item of interest from another blog to your own, with proper sources and credits already applied for you by the blogging platform.”
In short, reblogging on Tumblr is like retweeting on Twitter, or repinning on Pinterest–you only need to click a button, add comments if you wish, and voila, the reposted content is viewable to your followers (people who receive updates from your blog), with links to the source already included. This is not plagiarism; indeed, it is meant to help original content have a much wider reach and audience. If you like something enough, you can reblog it, and Tumblr will automatically give credit back to the person who originally posted it through Tumblr’s platform.
Of course, you can also create content of your own and post it through Tumblr as well; in fact, many small fansites are now run through Tumblr because of the ease of posting original content. It is an easily accessible platform to blog on–you just sign up, select a username for your Tumblr, and in mere moments, you’ll have a “yourusername.tumblr.com” address for your own blog!
More than a Blogging Platform–a Community
But reblogging is not the only thing that sets Tumblr apart from other platforms. More than on any other blogging platform I’ve tried, there is a strong sense of community between bloggers.
Much like Twitter and Pinterest, Tumblr uses the concept of “followers;” also like them, Tumblr has a sort of “news feed” of all the recent posts from blogs you follow, called a “dashboard” for short. What the Dashboard does differently is to allow commentary between bloggers that has no maximum character limit–very different from Twitter and Pinterest.
Not only that, but you can very easily find other bloggers who share your interests, and build a community with them through reblogging and messaging. I’ve only been on Tumblr since mid-July, and usually just get on at night due to dialup access, yet I’ve already experienced some of that supportive, open community. It just seems so much easier to reach out to other Tumblr users than it was to connect with other Livejournal users or other WordPress.com users.
Using Tumblr: A Crash Course
The Tumblr Dashboard, partly seen here, appears once you have logged in. It allows you to see recent posts from the blogs you follow, as well as post content yourself. The seven different-colored icons stretched across the page are your “content-posting” icons, and below them will appear a feed of the latest posts from the blogs you follow.
Each post you see on your Dashboard will have a top line that reads something like this. Usernames are quoted as “so-and-so reblogged so-and-so” or “so-and-so posted this,” as you see in the image. The number 9.054 on this image stands for the number of Tumblr users who have either liked or reblogged this particular post; the double-arrow symbol to the right is what you click to reblog, and the heart is what you click to like the post.
Tumblr also provides you a quick way to see individual blogs from within the Dashboard. Hovering over the top right corner of any post on the Dash will “fold” the corner; you can then click that corner and Tumblr will open a new window with just that blog visible.
If you choose to reblog a post, this is an example of what you’ll see–content at top left, a place to comment on said content at bottom left, and places to schedule and add tags to your post. At the bottom, you can click to reblog, preview the post, or cancel if you so choose.
To look for posts about a favorite topic of yours, just type in the topic in the “Search Tags” box, and Tumblr will pull up a reverse-chronological list of posts with that tag. (This is also a great way to find new blogs to follow based on that topic choice!
Finding Community on Tumblr
The most tried-and-true way to build community on Tumblr is to search for various content through the Tag system, as described above. If you browse through various tags and find that you like the posts by a particular Tumblr author, then all you need to do is click their username, go to their blog, and click “Follow” in the top right corner. This is pretty much how I started following most of the blogs I follow!
From there, building community with other users can be as simple as reblogging what they’ve made and messaging them if you wish. Tumblr, like Twitter and Pinterest, lets users know when others have reblogged their content, and from there they can choose to follow you back if they want to.
You do have to be fairly active and social to find that community for yourself, but I’ve found that Tumblr is a much easier community to involve yourself in–it doesn’t feel quite so insular as other blogging platforms have felt to me. Actually, I feel freer to speak my mind than I do anywhere else online, because Tumblr seems to attract free spirits like myself.
Try Tumblr for Yourself!
It’s as easy as visiting Tumblr.com and clicking “Sign Up!”no comments May 7th, 2012 by Robin, in Monday in the HTMLab
Tags: blogging, commentary, social media, webdesign, writing
I remember when I first began web design, personal blogs were all the rage. Yes, yes, I know, imagine me sitting in a rocker with a blanket over my knees if you wish, but I was kickin’ around the Web in the early 2000s and saw it with my own screen.
Back then, blogs had a more longform, intimate style of writing. They were how you shared your life stories and thoughts with others, mimicking the diaries so many of us likely kept–except that these “diaries” were online, and viewable by many people. Not only that, you could be an anonymous writer if you wished.
But now, the era of the “personal” blog seems to have waned. Blogs are now more for site updates, and maybe a little project tracking–they are more about topics than about lives. My own is a rare multi-topic blog, but not one of those topics is my life (and you’re much better off reading something that isn’t about my life, I assure you ). Personal blogs just aren’t as important to us anymore.
Why? I believe the answer lies in two words: “social networks.”
How Social Networks = Easier Personal Blogging
Believe it or not, early blog websites, like Diaryland, Blogger, Livejournal, and so many others, were some of the first social network sites. They allowed bloggers to talk to each other in ways that were system-constructed, with comments on blog posts and the like. So the Internet foundations of functioning social networks were already laid when networks that focused on shorter-form writing (such as FriendFeed, Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter) came along.
But these days, each of us likely writes several short textual bursts about our life in one day. We don’t all have to be gifted writers to write about our lives anymore; we don’t have to catalog what we did all day in a single, long blog entry. We can simply write about the interesting stuff that happens to us, as it happens, and not have to work it into a grand thematic short story of our day.
Why I Largely Ditched Personal Blogging for Social Media
As a creative writer who inexplicably hated keeping diaries and writing personal blogs (because my life is just that boring), I gravitated to the social network. Why? Because the social network didn’t make me JUST blog about myself to be considered “active.” I could comment on other people’s life events, like their pictures, play a few games, share a few links–all on one website. Just like big-box stores like Walmart capitalize on having “all you need at one store,” social networks like Facebook capitalize on sharing “all of your life on one site.”
But I realize that with the ease and ubiquitous nature of social networks came the inevitable waning of more “personalized” blogs. I gradually quit writing on my own Livejournal about my life after a while of being on Facebook, with this simple reasoning: “why write about my day on a personal blog, when I’ve already written a status message or two about it on Facebook and shared it with friends?”
I can imagine that many other Internet users have thought the same way, about whatever social network they prefer to visit and post on. Social networking makes it easier to post about your life, and takes less time than a blog.
There’s a Big “But” Here
Not everyone has stopped doing personal blogs, though. In fact, the number of small blogs and free blog websites has only risen in response to social networks, even though less people visit or make personal blogs these days. This trend, linked to the sheer number of topic blogs being produced, gives me hope that people aren’t completely getting away from “real” writing and longer article-driven blogs in favor of quick tweets and likes.
Though much of the Internet’s attention has been drawn away from this longform, diary-style life narrative, there still seems to be a call for it among individual users. Perhaps the demise of the personal blog is inevitable and in process, as it appears…or perhaps a new generation of Internet users will gravitate back to it.no comments March 12th, 2012 by Robin, in Monday in the HTMLab
Tags: blogging, plugins, web design, wordpress
As a blogger on dialup, I don’t have a lot of connection speed to test plugin after plugin. Instead, I spend a good bit of my time researching good plugins on WordPress help sites, and asking other WP bloggers what they personally use. Once I know the general community’s opinions and issues, as well as the opinions of closer blogging friends, I can then know whether the plugin is right for my own WP setup and needs.
In the process of all that research, vetting, and questioning, I have found 6 plugins that really help Crooked Glasses be all it can be, in the midst of all the other plugins available. I highly recommend each of these, as they have all made my blogging life much easier.
Akismet: Worth Its Weight in Data
Akismet, to be fair, came already installed when I loaded WP on my own server. But I have been so pleased with how it targets spam that I recommend everyone who hasn’t signed up for an Akismet API key to do so. (This is a completely unpaid statement on my part–I just really like the plugin because it works.)
Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP): Reaching Into My Archives For Me
Despite being named “Yet Another” related posts plugin, YARPP is the only one of the three “related posts” plugins I tested that worked for me. Not sure if it was operator error, faulty installation, or non-working programs on the other two, but YARPP came through with flying colors.
At the end of each single post, now, I have links displayed to other posts similar enough in content, without ever having to lift a finger. THAT is such a help, much more than I ever imagined. Now I don’t have to do huge, link-laden Glassics posts unless I just want to!
Wordbooker: A Way to Connect My Blog with Friends and Family
Thanks to Wordbooker, which automatically posts newest blogs to my Facebook, my close friends and family can now read my blogs with ease. This actually means a lot to me, to know that real-life people are reading my works and they can comment on Facebook about them.
(Wordbooker’s plugin updates do tend to unhook the link between my FB and Crooked Glasses, but all you have to do is go into the plugin’s settings and re-connect with Facebook, which takes about 5 minutes even over dialup.)
AddThis: Making Tweeting/Liking/Sharing SO Much Easier
AddThis, like many of the sharing plugins, has a tweet button and a like button–but it’s also infinitely customizable by adding other specific-site share buttons to your lineup as well (like Foursquare and Pinterest).
I also like that it tells you how “viral” your links have gone through being shared (via your Dashboard)–though Crooked Glasses hasn’t gone all that viral yet, I know that the potential is there and I’ll be able to track its progress.
Tweet Old Post: Tweeting from the Depths of My Archives
This wonderful little plugin digs back into my archives and auto-tweets older posts about every 3 or 4 hours, even when I can’t be online due to having to keep the phone line clear (or when I’m feeling sick/headachy, which is often these days). Thanks to this plugin, my older posts have a chance to get some Twitter love, and my blog’s Twitter presence stays fresh and updated.
This plugin and the aptly and funnily-named plugin below are likely the ones I have to thank for my Twitter following…just saying.
(Special Honors) Just Tweet That S**t: It Does What It Says!
Like Wordbooker does for Facebook, this plugin auto-tweets links to my newest blogs. It helps so much to have this automated, since I can’t always be online and logged into Twitter when my blogs go live.
The reason this plugin gets a special honor? Because I tried several auto-tweet plugins before this and none of them would authenticate correctly with Twitter. I was about to tear my hair out trying to find an auto-tweet plugin, and NONE of them would do it…but this one did!
If you run a WordPress blog and are looking for plugins to help your spam problem, link to older posts, auto-post to social media, or make sharing easier, I would highly encourage you to install these 6. I have found them to be reputable, without spam and without hassle. Amazing how a single plugin can change your blogging life!no comments January 16th, 2012 by Robin, in Monday in the HTMLab
Tags: blogging, webdesign, writing
A blog is a difficult thing to write for every week, as many bloggers can tell you. Oh, sure, it’s much easier to write when you’re all het up about something and you know you’re going to get a lot of feedback. But sometimes, it feels like you’re writing on a wall that nobody even looks at.
Though I enjoy my own blogging experience here on Crooked Glasses, I have found myself feeling the same way about the blog as of late. Is my writing that uninteresting, that I get maybe a comment a week (if I’m lucky)? Am I not writing about things that others want to read about or know more about? When no readers give feedback on your blog, sometimes you begin to wonder if these proverbial “readers” are even out there, or whether you’re just the falling tree in the forest, with no one around to hear you.
I know that I’m not the only blogger to feel this way. I’ve spoken to several people in real life and online who have similar issues with their own blogs, never sure whether they’re really informing and entertaining, or whether they’re just wasting time, money, and megabytes of storage space. It’s not completely an egotistical need for attention, though I admit there is some truth to that. But for me, it’s more a need for validation: Am I doing something worthwhile, or should I be spending these 6 to 10 blogging hours a week doing something else?
This article, therefore, is written to help other bloggers like me figure out how to inspire reader feedback, as well as to push us all toward writing more for the readers rather than just ourselves.
How can bloggers inspire readers to give feedback?
So, with this concern of reader feedback high on many bloggers’ minds, we wonder how to help others respond to what we write. I began to brainstorm, and realized I needed to answer this question: “What makes ME want to post a comment about something someone’s blogged about?”
Ask thought-provoking questions
Insightful blog posts always get me, right in the cerebral cortex. (That’s one reason I strive to include both philosophy and commentary in my Tuesday on the Soapbox posts…I like being able to give insights if I come up with something that sounds halfway decent.) I like commenting on the insight and thoughts that the blogger has had, especially if it makes me see an issue in a new light–I like letting them know I was touched or moved by their writing.
State an opinion and ask for rebuttals/other perspectives
When someone asks directly for my opinion, I usually give it. (If you couldn’t tell already, I tend to have strong opinions. ) So, when I see a blog post that has a very strong or well-stated opinion (either aligned with what I believe or not), I tend to respond. There’s no need to be incendiary here; just writing your opinion with evidence to back up why you believe what you believe can be enough to start a (polite) debate or discussion.
Write something so personal/beautiful that others can’t help but reply
When a blogger writes openly and honestly about something in their real-life experience, especially a struggle with illness, family trouble, depression, regret, or anything else troubling, I want to give them words of courage. Also, if the blogger writes about getting better or taking it one day at a time, I want to leave words of encouragement. Either way, I’m clicking that comment button for all it’s worth.
What’s Your Opinion?
What makes you, as a reader, leave comments on a blogger’s writings? [/shameless appeal for comments]comments (4) January 9th, 2012 by Robin, in Monday in the HTMLab
Tags: blogging, userinterface, webdesign, writing
Drawing on my experience as an English major in college as well as my short time in Language Arts education, I have written the following article about sharpening and improving your writing for a businesslike Web environment.
Writing for a Business? Make It Look and Sound Like It!
Many online writers, including myself on a fair number of occasions, write in a more conversational style, much more casual and open. This is great for a personal blog or website, and is much more relatable for an anecdotal site.
However, if you’re writing for business, writing for advertising, or anything else that involves the need for clear and quick communication, you want to be as concise and correct as possible. Users who visit a business site are there to get info as quickly as possible, and you need to make that info-gathering process easy.
The three main issues I see with many amateur business communications are that there are too many misspellings and grammar mistakes, too many texting and Internet abbreviations, and lack of attention to phrasing and sentence construction.
Misspellings and Grammar Mistakes
Reading a well-written text is a delight to the eyes and the brain–the content enters your brain easily and quickly, and you feel like you’re truly learning something and making progress.
Trying to read a horribly-misspelled text with grammar mistakes all over it, on the other hand, is a mess; every sentence, or even every word, has to be paused over to decipher its meaning. It’s as if you’re not fluent in the language anymore.
Just as no one would go to a job interview without dressing, smelling, and speaking their best, no one should present a professional communication of any sort that has misspellings and grammar errors. Every error is like a tear in your suit jacket, a stain on your pants–it detracts from the text’s meaning, and others not only won’t be able to make sense of what you’ve written, but they’ll also have a lower opinion of you for writing that way.
If you are unsure of how to spell a word, here are several ways you can get help:
- Search online for proper spelling and word usage, using sites like Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com.
- Craft your writing in a word processor so you can catch common spelling errors. OpenOffice.org is a good, free word processing software option, as well as Google Docs. Remember, though, these programs don’t catch everything!
- Lastly, proofread and read your work aloud to get rid of sound-alike/spelled-different problems, like their/they’re/there and your/you’re. You wouldn’t believe how much reading your words aloud helps you find problems in your writing!
Incorrect: I’m sitting over their. (you’re sitting over their what? Whoever you’re talking about might not appreciate you sitting over their possessions.)
Correct: I’m sitting over there. (“there” as opposed to “here”…a location. Remember that there and here both end in “-re”, if nothing else reminds you of which form to use.)
Incorrect: There going to the store. (There are no people mentioned in this sentence at all. “There” references a location, or perhaps a pointed-out object.)
Correct: They’re going to the store. (“They are going to the store.” Whoever “they” are, they are going as a group to the store.)
Incorrect: You’re hair looks good today. (literally translated, “You are hair looks good today.” Is that really what you meant to say?)
Correct: Your hair looks good today. (Just like the word “their”, “your” ends in an “r”–both words indicate possession of the noun following it. At last, you finally possess the complimented hair follicles in question!)
Texting Abbreviations and Emoticons
Using texting/Internet abbreviations and emoticons is fine for personal communications or blogs, but for business websites or other professional sites, these two writing features give your work an adolescent, too-casual feel.
Txtspeak: Oh, lol, this sounds so stupid, but…
Real English: I feel silly saying this, but…
Txtspeak: So I completely failed at that, too, xD
Real English: Yet another hilarious failure on my part
Txtspeak: omg, this gets on my nerves
Real English: This annoys me greatly/This bothers me too much to be silent
Txtspeak: do u undrstnd wht i’m tryin 2 tell u?
Real English: Do you understand what I’m trying to tell you?
If you want your communication to be taken seriously, you have to omit the textspeak. Not only will this make your writing look and sound more mature, it will also make it clearer for all users to understand.
Bad Phrasing/Sentence Construction
If every sentence. On your blog. Is broken up into. Parts like this. With lots of unnecessary punctuation…it makes it very hard to follow what’s being said.
On the other hand if your blog contains absolutely no punctuation whatsoever and you have lots of “and”s and “but”s and “or”s everywhere you have no periods to show where one thought ends and the next begins…it’s also very hard to follow what you just said.
Good sentence/paragraph construction not only makes a better story, but it makes for a clearer read, too. And clearer reads mean that more users will read what you have written, because it’s easier.
Using punctuation like verbal pauses is the best way to remember how to use them. Commas are for small pauses, just grabbing a breath before you continue on with your thought. Periods are for big pauses, where you’re about to transition to another thought. And semicolons are great for joining two small (but complete) thoughts together into a bigger sentence; usually, the two little sentences need to be at least related for the semicolon to work, though.
Directly related to sentence structure is paragraph structure. If you build your paragraphs so that your first sentence introduces your topic, the middle sentences expound on the topic, and the last sentence sums up and transitions into the next paragraph, your audience can better understand. Not only is this a good way to write for school, but it also helps fully explain your topic for business site purposes, too.
Lastly: PLEASE don’t type everything in one huge paragraph. “Walls of text” are not attractive to users who are looking for information quickly; a huge paragraph puts them right off of reading. (Preaching to myself here…I’m infamous for unintentional walls of text!) A good rule of thumb is to break for a new paragraph when you either get to a new topic you want to discuss, or when your paragraph is at least five typed lines long on your page.
This structure is beneficial for memory, because we generally remember information in “chunks.” When you’re writing for information purposes, you group like information together in the same paragraph, and you break up large portions of information into small, “bite-size” pieces so that people can take it in better.
Making your writing as professional as possible for the Web is like dressing your writing in its best for an interview–you want to make your writing give off the most sparkling first impression it can. Watching your spelling, grammar, Internet abbreviations, and writing structure is key!no comments September 5th, 2011 by Robin, in Monday in the HTMLab
Tags: blogging, content, research, web design, writing
Don’t glare at your screen like that! Actually, research is necessary for any good web content, whether it be photos, videos, articles, sound clips, editorials, or any other type of media, and that definitely includes blog articles that aren’t about your personal life (such as the kind of blog articles I write for Crooked Glasses).
Why? Well, you don’t want to just rehash ideas that someone else has already presented, because that’s boring to readers. You want to come up with content that is exciting and interesting to read.
That, however, is incredibly difficult, especially in today’s world of Internet and social media. Whatever joke you can come up with, it’s probably already gone viral on Facebook and has had a video made about it on YouTube. Whatever news article you think is so upsetting or so enlightening, probably people all over the world have already hacked it apart and minutely dissected it for its meaning and cultural import before you even write about it. Finding fresh topics is more about making what is old new again…kind of like serving last night’s roasted chicken breast as today’s chicken salad sandwich.
Part of serving up old ideas is adding new content to what has already been written, and that’s where the research element of writing blog articles comes into play. Instead of pretending like all the other Internet commentators, authors, and critics don’t exist, you have to find ways to bring their points of view into your blog post, letting readers know about what has already been said. That way, you can compare their viewpoints to yours, creating a much richer and deeper blog experience.
Three Styles of Blog Research
- Internet Search: What Does Google Say?
Do an Internet search on your selected topic, and browse through some of the more reputable (read: objectively-written) articles about it. Are there any that bolster your opinion? Are there any that challenge your opinion? How about any articles or websites that further inform readers about your topic? Like different recipes for the same basic dish, varying articles and websites can expose you to different perspectives on your topic. (Just like chicken salad can be made with celery or grapes, and both types are still called chicken salad–though why you’d ever want to eat grapes, chicken, and mayonnaise all mushed together, I’ll never know.)
Copy/paste the URLs of any articles you find enlightening or challenging, so that you can point your readers to them later (and also so you can refer to them while composing your own, individual blog article).
- Library Search: What Have Other Authors/Critics Said?
I know, it sounds weird to do a search at the library in these days of finding everything online. But whether you’re searching an online library or a brick-and-mortar one, be sure to find older books and newsjournal articles about your topic, just to inform yourself about what has been said 10, 20, 50, or even 100 years ago. You might find, in the middle of your Internet searching, that there was a book published 40 years ago specifically about your topic; in that case, you could look that book up at your local library and read it for more information. Like adding different spices to your chicken salad, doing research on what others have said (usually before the Internet existed) gives your article more interest, especially if it gives a more historical perspective.
Like with the Internet search, keep a list of the titles and authors of books or journal articles you find particularly useful, so you can point your readers to them when you do write your own article.
- Anecdotal Research: What Do Your Friends and Family Say?
Especially if you’re writing about a hot-button topic, get some opinions from friends and family to further inform yourself on how a variety of people think about the topic. Anecdotal information like this can give your blog article more personality and more immediacy than just dry research, kind of like adding mayonnaise to dry chicken to make it into chicken salad.
You won’t necessarily have to cite Granny or Cousin Fred in your article sources, of course, but referencing them in the course of the article makes it more story-like and reader-friendly. (Change names or use only first names/initials as you see fit–sometimes it might be prudent to obscure identities.)
After Research, Stir It Up and Add Your Secret Ingredients
After you’re finished with research on what others have said, it’s time to write your own opinions about it. Some of the research you’ve done may have changed your opinion or refined it; make a note of that and talk about that to your readers. Other research you’ve done might have led you to find opinions which are clearly unfounded or debunked. Just like refining a recipe in the kitchen, writing a well-thought-out blog article takes some time, some trial and error, and some mental stirring, but it’s worth it. Your readers will be more engaged with an article which is both informed and full of your own writing style–your own blog’s “flavor,” if you will.
…Oh, and your “secret ingredient,” of course, is your own opinion, which is probably why you’re writing a blog in the first place.
(…I really shouldn’t write blog posts when I’m hungry. I come up with all kind of strange analogies. XD)comment (1) August 29th, 2011 by Robin, in Monday in the HTMLab
Tags: blogging, content, web design
When you think “blog,” you generally think of personal writings, such as the writing about somebody’s day-to-day life, such as Jenn.nu and Super Girl. And if it’s not a blog about day-to-day life, then perhaps it’s a blogging-platform-driven website based on a topic, turning it into a one-topic blog, such as The Simple Dollar or WPCandy.com.
My blog, therefore, a blog about six different topics, is rather strange in comparison. Why, given these two other (somewhat easier-looking) styles of blogging, would I choose to create a blog this diverse?
Reason #1: Tried Those Styles Before and Failed
Yes, you read that right. I actually have failed at doing blogs several times before Crooked Glasses came to be. And I have tried both types of blogging styles that I outlined above.
After trying to run a WindowsLive Space, a LiveJournal, and a personal site, I discovered that my personal life was just not interesting enough to warrant writing a post about every day. Some days, I literally thought, “If I post today, it’s going to have the same content as the post yesterday.” I’m a habitual person, largely a homebody, and am not able to get out a whole lot due to the old injuries in my knees and ankles. Nobody needs to read a whole week of posts along the lines of “Today I woke up. I ate something. Then I watched TV before going to meet my boyfriend and hang out. Then I came home and wrote this blog post, then went to bed.” It bored me to tears to think about writing this drivel, so I had to come to the hard conclusion that it would also be boring for people to read. (It makes sense–I never kept a steady diary during my childhood for the same reason–it bored me to write identical diary entries day after day.)
I also tried a couple of topic blogs that are best left forgotten, basically about my favorite TV shows at the time. What frustrated me about writing one-topic blogs was that I quickly ran out of content–I ran out of things to say about the topic very quickly when I felt pressured to write about it every day. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the topic anymore or that I got tired of it; instead, I struggled week to week to try to find new nuggets of information that my visitors would like to read, that weren’t just retreads of old articles.
Reason #2: Wanted One Site that Covered All My Favorite Things
Unlike Julie Andrews’ character in The Sound of Music, I didn’t have the internet connection to share my favorite things in song every week on my blog (though that is a lovely idea…hmm…). I instead wanted to use writing to share opinions and articles about my favorite subjects, since I have so many varied interests that don’t really connect up easily. I didn’t want to have six different blogs, one for web design, one for philosophy and social commentary, one for Biblical study and interpretation, one for gaming, one for interesting Internet links, and one for creative pursuits. I wanted one place, one login and one blogging platform installation, that allowed me to share about all the things I love.
(I also wanted my blog to stand out, and I knew that a multi-topic blog would be a lot broader and more interesting to viewers, as well as providing them a window into a topic they might have never thought of or heard of before.)
Reason #3: Keeps Me Writing and Doesn’t Let Me Get Bored
The last reason I chose a multi-topic blog is because this keeps me writing. Every week, I challenge myself to write six new blog posts, six new examples of fresh and interesting content, and it helps me hone and trim my writing down to its essential basics instead of allowing me to run verbosely amok across the computer screen. It doesn’t let me slack off or put off doing the work (as I am so prone to do in other areas of my life)–this is a personal commitment to working on one of my best-loved crafts.
Writing about six different topics also keeps me from being bored or running out of content. I don’t drag myself through writing six posts about the same topic–I am energized by writing one post each about my favorite topics.
Blogging doesn’t have to be based in your personal life or in just one topic. Indeed, if you’re interested in many different topics, a multi-topic blog might be just the way to make your mark on the blogging community. (I don’t claim that Crooked Glasses is all that popular just yet, but you never know!)comment (1)