Friday, April 2, 2010

Watch your p's and q's

If you consider yourself enough of a writer to have a blog, you should be enough of a writer to care about the words you use and the sentences you use and the paragraphs you use.

Polish the piece as though you were going to submit it to a magazine or a newspaper for them to consider for publication.

Make sure the sentences flow, that they are clear, that they communicate what you want to say. Watch for spelling errors that are not detectable by spell-checker programs.

Make each post not only a post worth reading but also one that is a pleasure to read.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Get your facts straight

It takes just a minute to check dates, quantities and names. But if you get a detail wrong, in mere seconds you can blow your audience’s confidence in everything you say.

If you are not sure about a fact, check it out. Proofreading is equally important. Be certain that you have transcribed all details accurately. It is easy to transpose numbers—1998 can turn into 1989 in no time, and your spell checker will never notice.

How much of a difference will a mistake like this make to your credibility? Think back to the last time you noticed a factual error in someone else’s writing. Did you skim right past it, anxious to get on to the next bit of information the writer had to offer you?

No. You stopped reading and you thought, “What kind of dolt thinks Lisbon is in Spain?" Or "How can anyone say a spider has six legs?" The next step in your thinking? — "How can I take someone's advice on how to sell a clock on eBay [or where to invest for my retirement, or how to use Twitter as a branding tool] who makes mistakes like that?”

You might have wondered whether to write a comment. Maybe you did write a comment. But even if you didn't, you were distracted and disillusioned. The writer had lost your attention, interest and confidence.

For those who do not know us personally, our writing IS us. Its flaws are our flaws. And that’s okay – that's one of the things that makes individuals unique and leads to interesting discussions. But if we make stupid basic errors that we should have caught, we can look like fools. And that is not the image most of us are hoping to project.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Give value to your readers

Before you press the "Publish Post" button, ask yourself whether you have given your readers something that will bring them back to read your blog another day. Your obligation to your audience can be compared to filling their travel mugs with rich, aromatic, deeply satisfying coffee rather than a watery instant caffeinated drink: you want them to come back to your coffee dispenser for regular refills.

Every single post you write should have some value for your readers. If you are selling a product or service, this may be a useful tip, information about a product update, a business-related contest or advance notice about a sale. The value may also be pure entertainment — an interesting news story related to your mutual line of work, or an update on a story you've been telling about your company.

The only way to draw people back to your blog again and again is to do the best you can to give them information they are glad they acquired — every single time. (You won't actually be able to do it every single time, so cut yourself a little slack. But it's definitely the goal to aim for.)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Add spaces between paragraphs

Online type can move around depending on the browser and the computer through which your readers view it. You may have taken great care to indent each paragraph before you posted, but even substantial indents may show up only as tiny zags of text when posted, or not show up at all.

Make it easy on your readers' eyes—and also help them to keep track of their location in your text (especially if they are reading you on a PDA or cellphone)—by adding the extra space.

Keep your paragraphs short

Keep your paragraphs to two or three sentences maximum in a blog. Reading text on the screen is not the same as reading it in a book or in a magazine or newspaper.

If your readers see chucks of information that they are going to be able to absorb one block at a time, they will be more inclined to keep reading. They will also get your meaning more rapidly.

Even paragraphs of only one sentence can be effective.

Or just one word.


(As long as you don't do it too often.)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Don't set yourself up for failure

There is no point in announcing on your website or blog page that you are going to post daily or weekly if you are not going to do it. Who are you really talking to when you make a resolution like that anyway? Just to yourself. When it comes to promises to yourself, it is wiser to record them in your private journal, or to make a commitment to a close friend who is also writing a blog and wants to make a similar commitment re: deadlines.

Just post when you feel like it. You are not a national media outlet with thousands of readers, and unless you work for one (i.e., are getting paid to write blogs), you don't have to post with any particular regularity.

Let your blog remain something you want to do. If you want to post twice in one day, go ahead. If you don't get around to writing a new post for a month, who cares? The fact is that there is already way too much information on the Internet: if you post only semi-occasionally, your followers are more likely to look forward to reading what you have to say than if you post every day, or even every week.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Stay on topic

Choose a topic for each blog post and stay with it. Make sure the title reflects the content. If you want to describe how useful you find a new application you have just discovered for your personal digital assistant, it is not necessary to meander into explaining why you bought the particular PDA you did. Save that for another post.

The nice thing about the Internet is that you can always add another entry on a related subject, and you can even link it back to this one if you want to. The shorter and more to the point each post is, the better. Your readers will learn to trust that you are going to talk about what you said you would talk about, and then let them move on--and if you do that for them consistently, you will keep them coming back.