Be a better blogger. Yep, that's what this BlogHer series is all about. Maybe you have some bad habits that need changing. Here are a few tips to move you in a new and better direction.
It isn't easy to change a habit. I recently managed to change a coffee habit. I am determined to drink free trade coffee. I felt lazy and didn't want to bother grinding the beans. I can't find ground free trade coffee, however. Big roadblock. Here's how I developed a new coffee grinding habit. I rearranged my kitchen a bit, put the grinder and a pretty new air-tight jar for the beans right next to the coffee maker. (Rearrange your physical space to encourage new behavior.) I started the daily grind. The minor rearrangement seemed to work as motivation. It took about a week to change to the grinding habit. (Force yourself to keep up the new behavior for several days. It will be a ritual in no time.) I know it worked, because this morning I had a guest on my couch and decided not to run the noisy grinder. I looked at that grinder with actual longing and felt inconvenienced by having to use pre-ground coffee. Habit changed.
My number one bad blogging habit is composing without a backup. That includes composing right in the blog entry window without saving the draft now and again. It also means not using some other tool to actually write the post before I put it into the blog software.
Learning to blog with a backup can save you (and me) from untimely crashes, loss of signal or connection, remote servers going down, and other nasty surprises. There are easy ways to develop the good habit of writing elsewhere or with backup and making sure the work is safe on your hard drive before you tempt fate on the live Internet. You can use any plain text editor, like BBEdit (my tool of choice) or Notepad. There are tools specifically for blogging like Blogo or Windows Live Writer that will post to multiple blog platforms for you and can be used in offline mode. The tools specifically for blogging have all the bells and whistles that help you insert links, images, and preview before you actually post to your blog.
Relying completely on your blog's formatting tools and refusing to learn any HTML tags is also a bad habit. There are at least three HTML tags you should learn to use: <a>, <img>, and <blockquote>. You don't need them so much in your own posts, as you need them when leaving comments on other folks blogs. Most comment forms will accept a little basic HTML. Take advantage of it.
Check out these instructions: How to Add Images to Your BlogHer posts and The TGB Elder Geek: Making Links. Instead of pointing you elsewhere for a resource for creating a blockquote, I'll explain how to do it right now. Put <blockquote> at the beginning of the quoted material. Put </blockquote> at the end of the quoted material. Simple, right? Reminds me of the other day when I asked my friend Becky Padilla what her name was on Twitter and she answered Becky Padilla. Some things are just easy.
Not proofreading before posting is another bad blogging habit. A careless typo, a mangled sentence you edited badly—there's always something that you can catch by proofreading your post two or three times before you push publish. One serious problem with the careless typos and mangled sentences is they get picked up in your RSS feed and get broadcast to the world. You may go back a few hours or days later and make a correction, but it's already in the RSS feed wrong.
Grammar Girl has some tips for improving your proofreading habits.
My primary advice on avoiding typos is to have someone else proofread your work. On the other hand, I know this isn't possible for things like e-mail or rushed projects, so here are four proofreading tips I've collected over the years.
1) Read your work backwards, starting with the last sentence and working your way in reverse order to the beginning. Supposedly this works better than reading through from the beginning because your brain knows what you meant to write, so you tend to skip over errors when you're reading forwards.
2) Read your work out loud. This forces you to read each word individually and increases the odds that you'll find a typo. This works quite well for me, and most of the typos that make it into my transcripts seem to be things you wouldn't catch by reading aloud, such as misplaced commas.
3) Always proofread a printed version of your work. I don't know why, but if I try to proofread on a computer monitor I always miss more errors than if I print out a copy and go over it on paper.
4) Give yourself some time. If possible, let your work sit for a while before you proofread it. I'm just speculating here, but it seems to me that if you are able to clear your mind and approach the writing from a fresh perspective, then your brain is more able to focus on the actual words, rather than seeing the words you think you wrote.
If you are not in the habit of spell checking, develop that habit as part of your proofreading routine.
Another bad habit is being inconsistent. You need to develop a consistent message and tone. It doesn't matter what it is, but it needs to be consistently "you." Your voice, your message, your concerns. For example, I know, when I read Giyen's Bacon is My Enemy that I'll probably be grinning about something, no matter how serious the post. She maintains a consistent tone, and as a reader, I depend on that and expect that.
I sent out a Tweet asking for bad blogging habits. I got these two responses from redwoodred:
redwoodred @vdebolt Bad blogging habit: swearing. Period.
redwoodred @vdebolt Thought of something else I do that I probably should limit: ellipses. I abuse them, but it IS my style to.
I think that if your ellipses and your swearing are a consistent part of your message and tone, then they aren't actually bad habits. . . . Damn straight. Redwoodred blogs at Beauty with Attitude.
There are many ways to be inconsistent. Not having a regular posting schedule—be it daily, weekly, or monthly—is a big one. Whatever your schedule is, find a way to work that blog post in each day or each week so that you post consistently. Don't do it later, schedule it!
Angela Booth at Blogging for Dollars is talking about being consistent to garner traffic and income, but she has some advice on how to build a routine of consistency.
Here’s the rule for generating consistent blog-traffic over time: when you start your blog, aim to blog once a day if possible (if not, at least five times a week) for the first couple of months. You will find that when you do, your traffic will start with a trickle and develop into a flood.
I know this sounds difficult, but the first four days are the hardest. After four days, you get into a rhythm, and you’re more productive. You also start to have fun. The biggest challenge to maintaining consistency in your postings is paying too much attention to your stats in the first couple of weeks.
Lorri Randle at MediaJoltz, said
- WRITE FIVE TO TEN BLOG POSTS AT A TIME. I need to take this to heart, it is hard for me to write everyday, so I need to pick a few topics and write ahead of myself.
Maybe you devote only Tuesday morning to writing posts for the entire week, but have a plan and follow it consistently.
You are probably organized and efficient at work. Why not transfer those skills to your blogging habits? Regard your blog as part of your job: it's your work. Treat it with the respect you would treat your day job and be a good employee for yourself.