Tuesday, June 23, 2015

New Bloggers: Think Like a Publishing Professional

I’ve joked on more than one occasion that the great thing about the Internet is that it’s made everyone a publisher and the horrid thing about the Internet is that it’s made everyone a publisher. That may sound harsh, but I’m sure you, too, have encountered blogs that, for whatever reason, were difficult to read.

Before I was a mom and a blogger—heck, before I was even a sewer—I was a publishing professional. I’ve worked on print publications and the websites of national magazines in both editorial and production capacities. By following some basic lessons from my experiences, you can add a little polish to your posts.

1. Sleep on it. I’m amazed by those people who can bang out a blog post and send it live right away. Try sleeping on it or at least walking away from your computer for a few hours. When you gain some distance from your writing and read it with fresh eyes, you may see ways to improve what you’ve written or how you’ve written it.

2. Pretend you’re a new visitor. Read your posts through the eyes of someone who is new to your site and your projects. Even your regular readers won’t remember every post you’ve ever written; they may not even remember last week’s post. Help readers by providing some context.

For example, earlier this year, I took a Curves Class. I felt ridiculous repeating in every related post that I was taking a Curves Class and that it was offered by Stitched in Color and that it was challenging to me, blah blah blah. But I get hundreds of page views through link parties each week.  Many of those visitors have likely never been to my blog before. Without that exposition, I could lose those readers.

3. Link up to your other posts. This is a fabulous way to accomplish point #2. For example: Are you presenting a finished quilt? Then link to the WIP posts for the same project. Doing so could deepen a reader’s relationship with your blog or could provide information—pattern details, fabric lines, etc.—that you spelled out earlier.

I can’t bear a post without pictures, so here’s a pretty project from
the Curves Class I mention in point #2! Notice how I link up to the
post about that project? Yup, I’m taking my own advice from point #3.

4. Proofread your post before it’s live. I wish I could dig up the study I found ages ago about this point, but ridding your content of simple typos gives it—and you—more credibility.

5. Brush up on your sixth-grade grammar. The basic grammar mistakes I see in quilting blogs include issues with contractions, pronouns, and run-on sentences. For some basic rules on the grammar front, see the sidebar.

6. Ask a friend to review your post. It’s hard to proofread your own writing; you’re too close to it to read objectively, so consider asking for help. I used to be paid to proofread manuscripts, and I still miss things in my own writing. (It’s worth mentioning that I asked my sister to proofread my new posts and she wasn’t interested. Punk!)

7. Proofread your post after it’s live. Yes, proofread again because weird things happen—especially when they involve technology.

Here’s another gratuitous picture for you. This post originally
contained a misplaced quotation mark. I fixed the error after the post
went live and a few dozen people had read it (arg!). This was
an important quotation mark, people! Misplacing it changed the
meaning of the sentence!

8. Click on everything once your post is live. Broken or incorrect links are annoying. Check every one once your post is live. And if you add another link after the page initially posts, check that new link, too. Refer to point #7: Weird things happen—especially when they involve technology.

9. Occasionally review your top-level pages. I’m amazed at how many prominent sites have top-level pages riddled with errors. I’m sure it’s an issue of resources (and the fact that there are just 24 hours in each day), but those pages are important, too. Take a minute to check right now … Is your copyright current? If you have a list of links to other blogs or link parties, do all those links work?

One day I checked the search function I had added from Blogger to my right-hand navigation. No matter what I typed in, the results it gave me were my bio page. I asked a friend to check it out, and she encountered the same problem. I immediately took the search box down.

10. ??? I can’t think of a tenth tip, can you? If you think like a publishing professional, what advice do you have for new bloggers? Share your thoughts in a comment below.

A special thanks to Kim (Leland Ave Studios) for her feedback on this post.

Linking up to Tips and Tutorials Tuesday ...

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  1. Awesome tips! I am very much for writing a post and reviewing it the next day or two again before posting.

  2. Yep yep yep! I tend to post mine same day unless it's a post I work on over the course of a few days drifting back to it occasionally, but I always read it after going live and I like the content on my blog, it's what I would want to read from other people. I guess tip 10 is write about what you want to and not what you think people want to read, and you'll enjoy the process a whole lot more.

  3. Great tips - I am a huge fan of writing and proof reading on different days / sits at the computer screen. I think my 10th tip would be to link to your references and note them as such. It doesn't have to be full blown essay report style, but linking up to more than just yourself can be so helpful to others!

  4. Great post, Michelle! All really great tips! I am definitely guilty of not checking my links once a post is published, so I am going to make sure to start doing so after reading your advice!

  5. These are great tips. Just last week I realized that my copyright still said 2014. Ugh. My suggestion for tip #10 is to have links open in a new window/tab. I recently asked around and people said this was their preference for blog reading, for both internal and external links from a blog post. They don't want to lose their spot in the original post they were reading.

  6. Thanks for a great post, I used to be a sub-editor so know the importance of well written pieces. Mind you, I'm now enjoying doing the actual writing rather then checking someone else's! One thing I particularly hate are orphans and widows - single words left on the preceding or next line, I like to put in a couple of returns to even up the text, but that's just me :)

  7. 10. Don't put your trust into Spell-Check. Put into place some other methods to catch spelling errors, especially if you know this might be a weak spot in your writing.

    You need to know the difference between lead and led, choose and chose, breath and breathe, were and where, lose and loose, etc. ( e-t-c. NOT e-c-t.). And don't forget the ever popular their, there, and they're as well as to, two, and too.

    These are basic, some might even say simple, English words. Many times, usually because they are homonyms, spell check doesn't help with these types of words. If you're a writer, then your craft, or art, is in using words correctly. The truth is, if a reader sees you having problems with basic English, there's a real chance that he or she won't trust you to be a person who has written something worthy of reading. If there are many spelling errors then it becomes so distracting a reader definitely stops trying to decipher whatever the intended message was.

    If you're (not your) writing a blog, you are putting yourself out there (not their or they're) saying that you're a Writer. Most readers can understand a few spelling errors, but not a whole entry full of them. Unfortunately for many, spell-check is not as effective as they would wish. By writing a blog, you are assuring potential readers that your (not you're) blog will get across interesting information without clouding up your own message through lack of spelling skills. Writers should care about the clarity and correctness of their chosen words. It is important, and yet I see the worst (not worse) mistakes being made more and more often in places where one should never see it. No matter how professional the writer or prestigious the writing outlet, spelling errors seem to be rampant!

    Please, listen to Michelle! I do believe that if tips 1 through 7 were put into place, it would go a great way into helping you not need my tip number 10 quite (not quiet) so much!

  8. Haha, I'm totally one of those people who writes fast and posts. I always proofread at least twice (and as I go) but I always seem to find something else to change after I post. :)

    Thanks for the reminder to update popular pages. I have a selvage page that's my #2 page because of one quilt I posted, but all the images went away at some point! I don't know why! I just spent time updating it. :)


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