May 20th, 2010
Tips, Tools and Tutorials
Print media is rapidly being replaced by online news sources, magazines, videos, and more. The Internet is a living, breathing document, and just about anything you do or say online can be easily edited. This causes many people, bloggers, site owners, and reporters to get a little lazy in their writing, proofreading, editing, and information-gathering efforts. Any SEO company will tell you that "content is king," but few of us realize that the king must be groomed before addressing his people.
The content you put on your site, the blogs you write and the comments you post all have the power to help or hurt your professional online reputation. If you write a comment that is rife with typos and spelling errors, most people will not give it much credence, and are unlikely to become interested in your personal or professional opinion.
Regardless of the new mediums for content generation and distribution, a professional blog should have the look and feel of a high-quality, widely-circulated newspaper or magazine. It is not acceptable to send out printed materials and brochures with a plethora of typos and editorial errors, so you should not allow those mistakes online either, regardless of it being a living document. We all make mistakes, but we should all try harder not to.
Quality writers are prolific; blogs posts, emails, and articles are spewing out of their eyes and ears on a daily basis. As with all skills, practice makes perfect. Anytime you create your own interaction of words, whether in type or print, you are practicing to become a better writer. Those emails are probably far from exquisite prose, but if you treat them as letters, then you are making a difference in your own writing skills. Even when you have nothing to say, or if you hit writer’s block, start writing song lyrics or a stream of consciousness and you will eventually find your voice.
Lengthy, flowery, and complicated writing is archaic in today’s age of instant gratification. Be concise. Say what you have to say in a comprehensible way, and save the obfuscation for the Poetry Majors at Brown. Internet readers do not gain value from your prattling drivel. If you find yourself losing interest in a particular topic, paragraph, or even sentence, stop writing. Go back through your work and choose the most valuable ideas. It is okay to use the “say what you plan to say, say it, then say what you just said,” method as a way to organize a post, but do so in a way that makes it easy for readers to scan the topic and decide if they are interested. There is a fine line between being overly conversational, and oddly formal. Be concise, eliminate the verbose diction, and just use layman’s terms.
Ideally, we could all sit down an hour before our blog post or other content piece is due, spit something eloquent and brilliant out, and go home. High quality content takes time, effort, and planning ahead. If you come up with a topic in advance, or even a list of topics, your brain will work on it without you even being conscious of it. Come up with one or two topics at a time, and jot down a few relevant bullet points to use in the post. When you go back to it a day or a week later, you will be surprised what your mind has to say about it.
With copy & paste features, we have a tendency to reorganize information within a post without paying close attention to its overall cohesiveness. When you move something within a post, consider retyping it instead. This will help you adjust it to fit the new section of the document, and let you know if you should change some of the surrounding text as well. Many people believe that editing is an insult to the artistic license, but spell check does not catch everything, and maybe you really meant from instead of form or Brian instead of brain. We all make these mistakes, but the best way to catch them is to proofread. Before you submit your article, turn to a new task for half an hour or so, then go back and read your article. This will help you see your work with a new set of eyes.
In a time where, “u r so gr8,” is typed by adults as well as 8-year-olds, it is easy to think that writing has taken a turn for the worst. However, people are writing more now than ever before. Just take a look at the hundreds of thousands of blogs that have popped up all over the Internet and you will see its continued popularity. Writing is not a dying art, quality writing has just been sick for a little while. It’s time we all restore its health!
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