Q&A: Do you need a blog?

I just returned from teaching at the Speak Up Conference in Grand Rapids. It was a wonderful event, and I hope to be back next year. This conference started as one for speakers, but because speakers often need to write and writers often need to speak, they’ve added a writing track to the conference. I was invited to teach Editing Nonfiction, and I think it went very well. I had some clever and engaged folks there who asked plenty of insightful questions. I’ll continue my series of blog posts based on that class next time.

question answer

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Today, I wanted to address a question I was asked by one of the writers who came to see me during a one-on-one appointment, because I hear this one a lot.

Q: Do I need to have both a website and a blog?

A: No.

That sounds like a simple answer, but there’s more to it than that. Continue reading

How Novelists Can Blog

There are mixed opinions about whether blogging is any good for novelists. As Caprice Hokstad noted on my post “Why You Should Be Blogging,” this kind of writing is nonfiction and doesn’t come easily to fiction writers. I myself struggled to blog consistently over at my other blog before I got serious, got a purpose, and started serving writers by producing this blog.

I have no delusions that my efforts here or there will help me promote my novels when they’re released.

novelist blog

Nevertheless, some novelists do make a go of blogging, usually by writing about topics or themes that occur in their books. Continue reading

Why You Need a Picture with Your Blog Post

You may have noticed that almost every blog post you read has at least one picture with it. Often, the picture isn’t strictly necessary to understanding the topic. In fact, sometimes the images have a tenuous connection to the actual content. Nevertheless, you are well advised to include one with your own posts. The reason is simple.

Pictures get people’s attention.

blog pictures

Illustration by Billy Alexander, my favorite FreeImages artist.

In print media, photos provide what we call an “entry point.” Continue reading

Choose Your Style Guide

I wrote before about three of the most common style books: The Chicago Manual of Style, The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style, and the Associated Press Stylebook.

Two others are worth considering if you do most of your work online.

The Yahoo! Style Guide is a huge compendium that not only deals with spelling issues (it recommends capitalizing Internet but omits the hyphen in e-mail, which I think wrong-headed) but also with web-specific issues like search engine optimization and user interfaces. Continue reading

Grammar and Spelling Resources

Last time, we looked at the first two parts of PUGS, Punctuation and Usage. Today we’ll look at the others.

Grammar

In common speech, we often use “grammar” to encompass all parts of writing, including spelling and punctuation. But grammar really refers specifically to the way we assemble words into sentences.

English grammar is very complex, and has multiple registers, or degrees of formality. Many college instructors require the most formal register, so that’s what many businesspeople use. At its most extreme, this register eliminates both first and second-person pronouns, leading to unnatural constructions like “this researcher has found” and “one may notice” instead of “I’ve found” and “you may notice.” In standard writing, there is no proscription against these forms. So you can choose whatever level of formality you’re comfortable with. In a blog, you can be very casual. Continue reading

Don’t neglect punctuation and usage on your blog

Back in the day, amateur bloggers could often get away with sloppy craft. The novelty of the medium meant readers were very forgiving. Even today, the readers of someone’s personal blog may not care about slips such as using intrical to mean integral. But the more professional your blog is, the more you’re expected to maintain high standards of craft.

Most business people are good writers. They’ve had to be to succeed in school and work. And people who self-identify as writers usually write very strong prose. Paying close attention to the quality of your writing is a must if you’re blogging to build your business or platform. Continue reading

Three Elements of a Good Blog Post

When writing your blog post, keep these three elements in mind.

Attention-getting headlines are a must. Write your headlines with your reader in mind. Think about what sort of terms people would use on Google to find the subject you’re writing about. Put that term in your headline.

Back in my newspaper days, when I was producing content for the Orlando Business Journal website, our speed course in search engine optimization included an example of what not to do, citing the news agency whose article about an airplane crash in the Hudson River was titled “Jetliner’s Icy Plunge.” Well, of course no one was doing web searches for those terms. Continue reading

Do Your Research, but Not Too Much

Research can be a great source of ideas. It can also be a huge time sink. If you’re doing research solely for a single blog post, set a limit on your time. Decide when you will stop researching and start writing. For most blog posts, an hour or two should be plenty. Then stop and work with what you have. You’re writing a blog post, not a book.

Well, maybe you are writing a book. That’s a whole other issue.

If you’re studying a complex topic that requires more time to fully understand, then consider writing multiple posts about it.

studying research writing

Photo by Mikhail Lavrenov • freeimages.com

Let’s also look at this from another angle. If there’s research you need to do to succeed or stay current in your business, consider blogging about it. Continue reading

Introduce Your Readers to Someone New

Writing a feature about someone in your business can be good for almost any blogger. Nonfiction bloggers can feature industry experts, and fiction writers can highlight other authors whose readership is similar to the one you want to reach. There are several different ways to do a personality story:

Profile—This type of article is what you usually see in magazines. It uses multiple sources to tell a story about a person or create an impression of their character. Here’s an example: “Profile: Author, Humanitarian, and Pulitzer Prize Winner Sheri Fink.” Note that the article opens with an anecdote about her work in Iraq and closes with a mention of the danger inherent in the work. That’s an effective use of circularity. Continue reading

Types of Articles You Can Write for Your Blog

In my last post, I alluded to some different types of articles you might write for your blog. Every blog post doesn’t need to be instructional or inspirational, although those are two of the most popular types. Depending on your blog’s purpose and audience, you may want to specialize in a particular kind of post, or you may want to mix things up with a variety. Here are just a few options. Continue reading