Friday, April 21, 2017

5 Steps to Becoming a Better Blogger

Like any given skill, successful blogging, or even informal writing, becomes better with practice.
Here are the steps you need to know to become a better blogger:
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Plan everything.
Before you even begin writing, start thinking about the information your readers need to know. Some example questions include:

  • Am I enthusiastic about my topic?
  • Will my audience have fun reading and learning about the topic?
  • Is there anything that my readers need to know before reading my post?
  • How would you fill them in on a topic?
  • How would you approach conversation?
  • What kind of word choices might you make?

Don’t be afraid to do some research. Natural curiosity fuels avid bloggers, so make sure you have enough information post-planning to spark some interest for your readers, too.
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Headlines force the blogger to really think about their post and figure out a way to attract potential readers.
Past writing center consultant Nathan wrote a blog post for EIU Writes that he entitled “Confessions of a Plagiarist.” The initial posting was almost immediately more successful than several of our other EIU Writes posts and I can’t help but wonder if his headline has anything to do with it.
Readers want to be tested. Readers want to be trusted. With Nathan’s headline, he grabbed the reader’s attention through a promise of trust – I, the writer (and in this case, supposed plagiarist), am confessing something to you, the reader. A simple, successful headline can forge these relationships between bloggers and their audiences.
If you need some help getting started, try something like Portent’s Content Idea Generator. All you have to do is provide a subject and you’ll get immediate suggestions for clickable headings.
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Once you’ve thought out a plan and created a working title, now it’s time to get down to business.
Surprisingly, writing a blog post is the easiest part. 
This entire time, I’ve been talking about how important it is to create an immediate relationship between bloggers and their audiences, but how do we build and maintain these relationships? Communication! 
When you write a blog post, you are simply building conversation between groups of people.
Imagine yourself casually hanging out with a group of friends:
Blog posts are meant to be accessible, understandable, and even a bit fun. Once you publish a blog, you have no control over who might be reading. Using a enthusiastic, conversational, and even inspiring tone really helps strengthen that connection between bloggers and their potential readers.
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I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but this entire time, you’ve been following my ideas with a consistent, centered image. Using images throughout blog posts is helpful because the genre itself is incredibly visual.
Blog images serve a variety of purpose. Whether you’re using them as a time keeper or point of reference (like what I’m doing), or just adding in some humor to an otherwise more serious post – for an example, check out Ben’s post on EIU Writes – images serve the reader.
You can also take it a step further, using things like infographics or other visible assets to assist your reader’s understanding of a particular topic. Use an online graphic design program like Canva or Piktochart if you need help making something.
When searching the web for content, having a nice ratio of text to image just makes sense.
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The fifth step is editing and posting your content. 
Although spelling and grammar is important, like any successful writer, we know there are specific things we should watch out for in our final content: repetition, inaccessible language or heavy discourse vocabulary, poor sentence structure.
I provided a quick example of repetition at the beginning of this section. See the strike-through sentence? Restating the purpose of this section in such a way not only becomes boring, but it also lessens the power of the image. Always be clear and concise when editing. Keep most paragraphs and sentences short and remember that most people reading blog posts will spend a fraction of the time reading what the blogger spent weeks writing.
One of the easiest methods I’ve found when addressing these issues is to have someone else read your post – especially an unfamiliar reader. Having an extra set of eyes not only ensures a cleaner text, but also reinforces your writing through acknowledging the opinions of potential readers.
*Remember: no blog post is perfect. 
No amount of planning, images, or editing will ensure a successful post or blog following, but thinking of your readers first will always strengthen your skills as a successful writer.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Engineer by Day, Grammar Vigilante by Night

Many people cringe when errors of punctuation or grammar are proudly displayed on storefront signs and in advertisements out in public. Shouldn’t an editor have caught that?, they think. These aren’t the kinds of errors we saw in the last EIU Writes blog post about the Oxford comma. These errors include pluralizing Friday as “Friday’s” or advertising “Herbert’s Potatoes” as “Herberts Potatoes,” examples of apostrophe use that are considered “wrong” in Standard English grammar.

Under the cover of night, a grammar aficionado from Bristol, England has occupied his nights for the last ten years by fixing glaring errors on store signs and advertisements. Some of the more conspicuous errors include “Amy’s Nail’s” and “Vicenzo and Son Gentlemens Hairstylists.” He scratches out apostrophes where they don’t belong and uses what he calls an “apostrophiser” to add stickers where they should be. It seems apostrophes are his specialty.

“Victims” of the grammar vigilante’s work don’t seem to mind, according to the BBC. They’re glad someone has taken the time to correct their mistakes.

When interviewed about the vandalism, the masked crusader responded, “It’s a worse crime to have all these errant apostrophes on shops and garages. I just think it’s going to teach the youth of tomorrow the wrong grammar.”

Legal issues aside, this man is the hero of people concerned about spread of bad punctuation practices, doing as much as he can during his free time (when he’s not off being an engineer or spending time with his family). He tries to be considerate by not crossing them out with red paint/stickers. He doesn’t seem to have a vendetta against these shop owners, just a strong value for correctness.

So be warned; if you ever set up shop in his neighborhood, make sure your signs have impeccable grammar and punctuation, lest you be visited by the apostrophe vigilante.

As always, if you need help or want a second set of eyes to look over your writing before you make it public, feel free to stop by the EIU Writing Center at Coleman 3110 or make an appointment by calling (217) 581-5929.