Keep your copy lively, factual, tight, clear, short and linked to sources. Here are my blog writing guidelines: lessons I’ve learned blogging since 2002. K
While basic writing talent is innate, many of the skills for writing compelling blog posts can be learned. Here are some guidelines gleaned from blogging since 2002.
Here are my basic blog writing guidelines for creating posts that are readable and sharable:
Keep your copy lively, factual, tight, clear, short and linked to sources
Content creation tips
1. Be Interesting. Sounds simplistic, but most posts aren’t. And most posts don’t get read or shared because of that.
2. Inform, don’t sell. Blog posts are not sales sheets or ad platforms.
3. Share what you know. People like posts they can learn from. Don’t worry about giving away ideas. Those are a dime a dozen. People who can make ideas work are rare as hen’s teeth.
4. Learn from David Letterman: Make Top 10 lists. e.g., 8 Surefire Data Strategies for Fundraising Success; 7 Unbelievable Fundraising Letters
5. Use current sources. Don’t link to studies from 2009 in a post you write in 2015.
6. Include a call to action: Ask readers to do something, e.g., follow on Twitter, find out more about X, click to get the whitepaper.
7. How-to and how not-to posts are highly shareable
8. Select an interesting visual: A picture is worth a thousand words. Make it compelling and be sure it will work well on a mobile device
9. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Blogging isn’t brain surgery..Don’t get pompous or dictatorial.
Writing & style tips
1. Write in a human voice and use first-person. If the post isn’t informing, inspiring, entertaining or making someone’s life better, you’re not done writing.
Stiff, formal writing is only for lawyers. And you know what Shakespeare said about them.
2. Select a compelling, catchy title: something that compels the reader to want to learn more.
3. Write short posts, short paragraphs, and lots of subheads. People who read blogs skim. Only someone with too much time on his/her hands will read a big, 2,000 word-long blob of copy. Write short, tight sentences and paragraphs. Too Long, Didn’t Read (TLDR) is your enemy.
4. Link, link, link. Don’t steal other people’s stuff. One thing that distinguishes blog posts from dead-tree journalism is that bloggers link prodigiously.
Link to any other blog or website you mention. Link to articles, books, products, bios, explanatory materials on other sites that you mention in your blog.
Always link to information that clarifies or gives background on information and opinions in your post.
5. Don’t use acronyms. Use the words the first time you mention a name or industry term. i.e. NonProfit Organization (NPO) and then use the abbreviation in the subsequent mentions. Don’t assume that everyone who reads what you write knows what you mean by acronyms.
6. Write less. Aim at keeping your posts to about 400 words. Keep sentences and paragraphs short. Use the simplest possible word and sentence structure. Omit all unnecessary content and words.
7. Use numbered or bulleted points whenever you can. Use subheads every few paragraphs, even in a 300-word post.
8. White space is your friend. It makes reading from the screen easier. Nothing is harder to read than a solid block of copy on a computer screen. Only 16% of people read every word online. Format your posts so that your main points stand out.
9. Forget what you learned about business writing in school if you graduated before 1990. Go ahead! Start sentences with “and” or “but.” Don’t be afraid to break archaic rules. But, jeez, follow all grammatical rules that provide clarity to your content.
10. Read your post out loud and make sure you don’t get stuck on complex construction. If you trip on a word the midst of reading a sentence aloud, re-write the sentence. Try the Hemingway app to help clarify your writing.
11. Do not over-use bold text emphasis on words and phrases. Bold text is appropriate as a topic point in lists, but not within a paragraph or list.
12. Writing takes time. Writing is about re-writing. Edit yourself. Use spellcheck.
Questions to ask yourself before you hit “Publish”:
__ Is the topic clear to someone who only reads the headline?
__Does the lead paragraph tell who and what the story is about and why the reader should care about it?
__ Is the angle you’ve used likely to seem newsworthy?
__Would someone who knows absolutely nothing about this topic understand this post?
Can publications keep trolls from making nasty comments? Is there a way to prevent rants by people who haven’t even read the article?
Some great ideas are being tried. At NRKbeta, the tech vertical of the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK, potential commenters have to take a three question multiple-choice quiz about the article before commenting. The goal? Make sure they have actually read the post before commenting.
I have often been surprised, and frustrated, when comments on my articles are (a) longer than my article; (b) take me to task for not mentioning something I have written about; (c) commented on the previous comments, which had nothing to do with my story; (d) are just plain nasty.
“We thought we should do our part to try and make sure that people are on the same page before they comment. If everyone can agree that this is what the article says, then they have a much better basis for commenting on it.” NRkbeta journalist Ståle Grut told Joseph Lichterman at Neiman Lab.
“We’re trying to establish a common ground for the debate,” NRKbeta editor Marius Arnesen said. “If you’re going to debate something, it’s important to know what’s in the article and what’s not in the article. [Otherwise], people just rant.”
NRKBeta is not alone in trying to build tools to curb troll’s comments. Last week, Google and Jigsaw launched Perspective, an early-stage technology that uses machine learning to help identify toxic comments.
How Perspective Works
Writing in Medium, Jared Cohen, President of Jigsaw, explained, “Perspective reviews comments and scores them based on how similar they are to comments people said were “toxic” or likely to make someone leave a conversation. To learn how to spot potentially toxic language, Perspective examined hundreds of thousands of comments that had been labeled by human reviewers. Each time Perspective finds new examples of potentially toxic comments, or is provided with corrections from users, it can get better at scoring future comments.”
It will get better over time, as it is exposed to more comments on more sites. It’s currently being tested by The New York Times and The Economist.
Keeping the Trolls at Bay
There is also CivilComments, software platform by a startup which crowdsources comment moderation. Users have to moderate other comments before they can post one of their own. It’s being offered to news organizations.
The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Mozilla Foundation, and the Knight Foundation recently launched the Coral Project, an initiative to create open-source tools to help news orgs improve their on-site community.
Can these platforms keep the trolls at bay? Can they make online conversation more civil? Can they help human editors who now have to sift through thousands of comments on sites like The Times? Time will tell.
“Endangered” series inspired by and devoted to wolves
My friend, the remarkably talented Italian painter Ester Curini had never seen a live wolf until four years ago, when she visited The Wolf Conservation Center in North Salem, NY. She describes the experience as life changing.
She explains that she was inspired right then and there, to create an exhibition devoted solely to wolves. Wolves are, she says, ”one of the most misunderstood and persecuted animal of all time.”
Curini, who now lives in New York, says that a blog post by Rob Klavins’ A Eulogy for OR-4 “which broke my heart” inspired the studies that led to this exhibition. This is the award-winning painter’s third solo show.
Curini is entirely self-taught
She only began painting on canvas in 2005. She has a business degree, and no formal art training. Curini, who is entirely self-taught, first spends time with her subjects, to learn about each one’s unique personality. “Working on this show has been a journey,” she says.
Look very closely, at her paintings. You’ll see Curini’s reflection in the eyes of each of her subjects, who are looking intently at her when she takes the photos that are the basis of her paintings. As you can see in the detail, below, she then meticulously paints every hair of her subject, spending months on each huge canvas.
The 72″x48″ acrylic on canvas paintings in this show took four years to create. After visiting with the wolves to get to know the personality of each one, she works from photographs. In her paintings, she isolates the figures on seamless white background as “my way to concentrate only on the essentials that matter.”
The Wolf Conservation Center, located in South Salem, NY, is private not-for-profit organization founded in 1999 by Helene Grimaud. Their valuable mission is to promote wolf conservation by teaching about wolves how they are essential in our ecosystem.
“Repurposing the technology to do good, not just buy goods.”
Amazon Dash Buttons are $5 product-specific buttons that you tap to automatically reorder that product. Stick one on your washing machine, and when you run low on detergent, tap! A box of Tide shows up two days later. Similar instant gratification is available for hundreds of other products.
Designer, programmer Nathan Pryor wondered “why reserve that instant gratification for physical goods? Why not push a button and do some real good?”
‘We’ve got the best tax evasion system God ever created’
Welcome to the Netherlands” a hilarious video from the satirical news show “Sunday with Lubach,” welcomes Trump in a style inspired by the new American monarch’s grandiosity. The video has gone viral, with 15 million YouTube views in less than a week.
Comedian Arjen Lubach, says: “The whole world was watching for the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States. Because we realize it’s better for us to get along, we decided to introduce our tiny country to him. In a way that will probably appeal to him the most.”
Best Wall, Best Ponies
“We speak Dutch,” the video mentions. “It’s the best language in Europe. We’ve got all the best words. All the other languages failed. Danish…total disaster. German is not even a real language. It’s fake.”
And Lubach notes: “We’ve got ponies. We’ve got the best ponies. You can ride them. You can date them. You can grab them by the pony.”
The punchline: “We’ve got the best tax evasion system God ever created. You’ll pay nothing.”
Founders Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman, a screenwriter and architect, respectively, are encouraging crafters to knit one or many copies of the simple rectangular “Pussy Power Hat” design. The project is also providing downloadable patterns for crocheters and people who sew to make similar hats. People are urged to mail the hats to the project for distribution at the march, or bring them along.
The site has a hat registry, and a Hat Tracker where the average registrant is making approximately eight hats. The goal is 1.7 million hats, but there is no official count available.
Yes, the project’s Mission Statement says, “pussy” is also a derogatory term for female genitalia. The goal is to reclaim the word and make it a symbol of empowerment.
“The best part of the hat project might be its connection to the tradition of craftivism, an art form that uses conventionally feminine crafts (needlepoint, knitting, quilting, and the like) in subversive acts of protest. Some people knit pink blankets for World War II tanks. Some cross-stitch banners against mass incarceration. Some crochet hats that look like cat ears … to wear at a march for women’s rights. Taking a domestic craft and turning it into a symbol against misogyny makes a more powerful statement than any connection to pink or pussies.”
So far, the organizers say, knitters range in age from seven to 99, and they estimate that some 200,000 hats have been made.
Suh and Zweiman told Catherine Pearson at The Huffington Post that they “believe the project has struck a nerve because knitting is at once meditative and communal, giving women and men time to, say, reflect on what’s at stake for women’s health under a Trump/Pence administration and to connect with others in yarn shops and in classes.”
Donald Trump’s Tweets can move markets. The free iOS Finance app Trigger lets you know if one of the companies in which you hold stock comes into his crosshairs.
The company has introduced a special “Trump Trigger.” The trigger “gives you the ability to trade stocks based off of Trump’s tweets about public companies,” they write. Basically, says the company blog, the trigger works by notifying you in real time if Trump tweets about a publicly traded stock that you own.
Help for Individual Investors
Trump has tweeted about companies from Apple to Amazon to AT&T — and that’s just the A’s. In some cases, such as when Trump blasted Boeing for the cost of a new Air Force One jet, the aerospace company’s stock immediately fell nearly 2%.
While professional investors have the tools and algorithms to stay on top of market moves, Trigger says, “individual investors do not have the appropriate tools to react in an automatic fashion – until now.”
Beyond simple “IF this, THEN that rules”, using techniques in natural language processing, the company says it wants to help individual investors make more rational decisions by having better information.
Happy New Year! While I have to admit that I’m pretty terrified of what’s ahead for us under Trumplethinskin, I want to wish you a peaceful, easy, successful, healthy, and fun year.
Please resist the temptation to ignore the news, although it is strong. It is essential that we do not allow ourselves to accept a world that embraces hatred, racism and xenophobia. Please don’t be complacent. Please help love to triumph. Be present and be involved.
Ever wonder how Santa Claus got so popular? Marketing, my friends. Santa is a marketing genius. He has to be.
So-called high level Santas can make $10K a season in an upscale mall. But they got to know how! And they have to go to school. And attend conventions. And have good websites.
Santa Marketing 101
So, this July, more than 800 Santa and Mrs. Claus impersonators, plus a variety of elves, gathered in Brandon, Missouri for the 2016 Discover Santa Convention. There, they swapped beard care tips in between baseball games and workshops like “Pro-Level Santa Career Business,” “Marketing Your Santa Services,” and “Santa Schedule, Organization and Planning.”
Being a successful Santa isn’t easy, and it doesn’t come cheap. The Discover Santa convention rates start at $1,200. You should have a natural beard (unless you want to be Mrs. Claus, in which case a beard would not be advisable, a jolly outlook, be somewhat overweight and be prepared to spend a couple grand on your outfits and accessories.
PhD in Santaclausology
Some even come looking for love, like the lady in the video who said she wanted to find her own Santa and who shared that she was getting hit on all the time.
And then, of course, there’s the famous School4Santas.com . Single registration is just $259.00, couples $369.00.
In addition to classes like “Talking With Children”, “Santa as a Business” and “Your Magic Wardrobe,” School4Santa awards diplomas. You can earn anywhere from “AssociateOfSantaClausology” to a Doctor of Santaclausology (PhD). The latter, says the website “… is presented to those individuals who in addition to attending three previous School4Santas, and receiving their Bachelor Master and Advanced Master diplomas, have registered for a fourth school and arranged to make their dissertation at that School4Santas.”
If you’re thinking of a career change (must love children) you’d better get cracking. 2017’s Discover Santa Convention is around the corner.