Ten Tips For New Bloggers

Blogging, like anything else, can be difficult to get in to when you don’t know what exactly to do and how to do it. Writing for a blog, and writing in general, takes practice. Writing my first blog was a much slower process than writing blogs are for me now. With all that I’ve learned, my writing is much more fluid. I’m no expert on blogging but I hope that what I share with you helps to some extent.

  1. Blog about something that interests you. If you can freely choose what to blog about, then pick something that you like or would like to know more about. It makes the process much more fun.
  2. Be yourself. Let your personality shine through your writing.
  3. Get to know the blogging platform you are using. When I first started using WordPress, I was lost. With the help of others I learned how to set up my blog and where the essential basic things were. From this basic knowledge I explored a few things and was able to enhance the appearance of my blog and my writing.

    Ryan "Jingles" Seecrest updating Twitter

  4. Comment on other people’s blogs–your friends’ blogs and professionals’ blogs. I probably wouldn’t have done this if it wasn’t required for class, but I learned its value over time. When you comment on other people’s blogs, you create conversation that builds a connection and stimulates growth. Being assigned to comment on other blogs got me reading blog posts that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and I learned a few things. It also felt nice to receive comments on my own blogs, especially when one of them was from a complete stranger (ie. someone who wasn’t required to comment). Read the post I wrote on commenting if you want to learn more.
  5. Incorporate multimedia. That is one of the advantages of digital writing. You can add pictures, videos, slideshows, and sound to make your posts more engaging.
  6. Write short paragraphs and bullet or number things where possible and appropriate. People scan when they are reading off a computer screen.
  7. Try to post regularly. It will keep others coming back and like I said before the more practice you have, the better you get at writing.
  8. Give credit to where credit is due. Cite where you get ideas or quotes from.
  9. Use proper grammar and proofread. It’s good to write conversationally but that doesn’t mean you abandon sentence structure, spelling, punctuation, and other grammar rules.
  10. Use tags and create categories. They will draw people to your posts and categories keep your blog organized.

Is the World Wide Web Becoming a Filtered Web?

There is no doubt that the internet is quickly progressing and changing. One of the changes that has been made is the way information is filtered. In Writing for Digital Media class we watched “TED Talk by Eli Pariser: Beware online ‘filter bubbles’” and responded to it. It was great to watch a speech given with a strong point of view and some strong graphics to go with what he was talking about. 

I agree with what he was saying to a certain extent. I definitely think it’s important that the internet is able to inform us on what is going on throughout the world, both the good and the bad. In the his speech Eli made a strong point knowing is a a good part of being able to contribute to society. Furthermore, when people share knowledge of things that are occurring locally and globally, conversation is advanced. So let’s pop the ‘filter bubble’ by being more thorough in our searches and finding substantial news along with other information of significant importance.

I was surprised to find out that Google shows different results for each person. On the other hand, If we make a search specific, then we will be able to find anything. The internet does not block us from information. The information is out there; it is just not as easy to find it in as short of a time.

In the case of Facebook, I think it is convenient to have filters because it helps you to narrow down what you want to see. Eli said that his conservative friends were no longer coming up on his news feed, but the simple solution would be to just make a list of conservative friends so that they are only a click away.

Here is the video if you are interested watching it.

Ultimately, I think it is more important to focus on any real life bubble that may exist in our life. Sometimes it can be difficult to get out of when you live on a college campus (especially the Southeastern University resort that is fenced in from all the drugs, homelessness, and brokenness of Lakeland, FL). We hear about the needs of our community a lot but until we actually get out on the streets where the violence takes place and work to make a change, then we remain in our own little bubble.

Transforming Your Graphics by Informing Your Graphics

What are infographics?

Infographics are images that provide information visually. Infographics are used for signs, maps and data presentation. A couple examples for data presentation are a pie graph or a bar graph. Daniel Adams defines them as “visual presentations of information that use the elements of design to display content. Infographics express complex messages to viewers in a way that enhances their comprehension.” There are several elements that make up infographics: visual elements, such as color coding and graphics; content elements, such as time frames and statistics; and knowledge elements (the facts).

There are also several types of infographics.

  • Cause and effect infographics explain causal relationships between various physical or conceptual stages.
  • Chronological infographics displays an event or process over time.
  • Quantitative infographics give statistical data.
  • Directional infographics guide readers through information.
  • Product infographics combine images with data to make it easier to comprehend large amount of information in a small space; they are instructional in nature.

How could one be useful in a story for your client?

If an infographic is aesthetically pleasing, then it could help to draw the reader in to learning some important facts that he or she may otherwise overlook. Adams states, “Infographics communicate complex data quickly and clearly, and they are considered to be effective worldwide.”

How do infographics accomplish this task?

  • They organize a lot of information in a neat and thought out fashion.
  • They help to analyze data in order to discover cause-and-effect relationships.

How do you go about creating one?

“Some great tips for designing infographics:

  • Keep it simple! Don’t try to do too much in one picture.
  • Decide on a colour scheme.
  • Research some great facts and statistics.
  • Think of it as a visual essay: ensure your arguments hold and are relevant.
  • Remember that it’s all about quickly conveying the meaning behind complex data.
  • Draw conclusions.
  • Reference your facts in the infographic.
  • Include your URL so people can be sure who made it.
  • Plan and research.
  • If required, use free software to create simple graphs and visualisations of data.
  • Use vector graphic software to bring these visualisations into the one graphic.”
(Tips were taken from Angela Alcorn’s “10 Awesome Free Tools To Make Infographics.”)

Here is a list of a few different ‘create your own infographic’ sites that I found:

There is also free software out there like TableauGapMinder, and Inkscape. It is also possible to use software like photoshop to create your own. Photoshop is good way to incorporate typography and make your infographics look nice.
Although it isn’t yet available, Visual.ly seems to be a promising site for creating infographics. It will be interesting to see how easy it is to use. Here is a video on their take on infographics.

Here are some great tutorials on infographic creation:

Here is an interesting video I found on how infographics are being used with the iPad.

Have you created infographics yet? What do you use to create infographics? Where in media have you seen infographics being used?

25 annoying communication habits—of other people

The communication habits and styles of other people can be awfully irritating. It’s never you and me. It’s always someone else.

That’s the consensus in my training programs when I ask people about communication hang-ups, quirks, and pet peeves. OK, I admit I’m certainly guilty of a few (not saying which ones). How about you?

Complete this sentence: “I get annoyed with other people and their communication habits when they …”

1. Interrupt me.

2. Finish my sentences.

3. Fail to look at me.

4. Chew gum loudly.

5. Type on the computer while we’re on the phone.

6. Mumble on a voicemail message.

7. Lack clarity in project directions.

8. Write their “out of office” message with spelling errors.

9. Complain, criticize, complain, criticize…

10. Say their phone number so fast on a voice mail that I can’t get it after replaying it seven times.

11. Ask me how I am and their facial expression clearly reveals they aren’t listening and don’t truly care.

12. Keep repeating information and making conversations and correspondence painfully long.

13. Inject nervous giggles or laughter into conversations that simply aren’t funny.

14. Forget to say their name in a voice mail message.

15. Try to impress me by “topping” whatever I say.

16. Get distracted with their gadgets and technology in meetings, conversations, and networking events.

17. Talk too fast or too slow.

18. Give wimpy handshakes.

19. Send a three-page email when one paragraph would suffice.

20. Plan lengthy meetings with no agenda, and then order food.

21. Speak louder to people with accents.

22. Deliver presentations in a monotone voice.

23. Eat while on the phone.

24. Call people out (in social media) in public instead of sending a private message.

25. Forget to update their voice mail to let people know they are on vacation for two weeks.

The red flags are up my friend. What can you do to improve your communication?

Susan Young is editor of Ragan’s HR Communication, where this story first appeared.”

I found “25 annoying communication habits–of other people” on PR Daily and thought it would be helpful to others. It was written by Susan Young.

Once Upon a Tweet: An Introduction to Storify

With so many social media sites out there now, we are beginning to see ways in which they are being brought together. At first, it came with such capabilities as connecting your tweets to your facebook statuses if you so desired. Now there are sites like Storify, which enables you to create stories by using content from social media. You can take tweets, photos, and videos from an array of social media sites and bundle/organize them however you want to in order to tell a story. You are also given the option of adding text to tell a story. With tweets, statuses, photos, and other elements constantly being updated, Storify gives you the ability to not loose ones that really matter to you and ones that you want to share in the form of a story with others.

Storify is easy to use because you can just drag and drop elements. In just one click, you can notify all the sources in the story. Anyone who reads your story can choose to retweet something in it or respond to any of the sources on their own. Storify is also easily added to any site by embedding it. Even better, Storify works with your WordPress!

A great feature to Storify is the Google Chrome extension. This extension allows you to drag the “Storify This” option from the bottom of Storify to your book mark bar. This allows you to highlight anything and click the bookmarklet so that it is added to your story and cited. You can also choose to Storify the whole page.

Storify would be great to use for bringing all kinds of perspectives on an event or topic together. It is similar to tagging in this way, however different in that you are telling a story through all the perspectives and different bundling of elements.

Make sure to also check out the Storify blog for more helpful tips and up to date info.

For those of you who have 20 minutes to spare, I will leave you with this interesting interview with the creators of Storify. One of them has a heavy French accent that makes it all the more interesting. For those of you who just want to get started, forget the video and go for it!

The creators talked about some of the ways that they have seen people use spotify so far, such as during elections and for a wedding. What are some creative types of stories people could use storify for?

10 Tips for Writing Effective Headlines

Headlines have the potential to grab people. It is all about what you make of them! They can turn a scanner into a reader. It is most likely the first thing a reader will see aside from pictures. They also help to break up your writing in a clear way. Here are some tips in attempting to do grab a reader’s attention with headlines:

  1. Make them brief, straightforward, active, and useful.
  2. They should add another layer of information and not just repeat something that has already been said.
  3. Use subheadings when an article or story is longer than 350 words.
  4. It is more about informing the reader than entertaining the reader. When in doubt, leaving the rhyming out.
  5. Avoid abbreviations, slang, idioms, colloquialisms, and puns.
  6. Explain what the article or story is about in the simplest of terms. The headline should make absolutely clear what the story concerns. This is especially important for digital writing because if your heading states what the article is about, then someone using key words to search for the topic will find it easier.
  7. Skip articles such as “a,” “an” and “the,” especially when starting the headline.
  8. Make the first word important. Grab the reader as soon as possible. Try avoiding using “the” as the first word.
  9. Do not start all headlines with the same word. The same word repeated would confuse.
  10. Use clear type and legible colors, and make the text big enough to read. A headline should not look like this:
Student Found With Gun in Beverley High
While much of what is shown in Jay Leno’s segment “Headlines” on the Tonight Show are mistakes within an article or ad, here is a humorous segment for your enjoyment. Hopefully Leno will help you to see why these tips and proofreading are vital to your writing.

Commenting Like a Pro

Commenting on blogs adds a whole new dimension to blogging. As Barbara Nixon says, “Respond to others’ posts. Become a part of the blogosphere. Blogging should not be lonely.” Having the option to comment gives the reader a voice. It turns your writing into a conversation if the comments are thought out and go beyond the simple, “I agree,” or “That’s dumb.” As Kipp Bodnar notes, “Its true value lies in the opportunity to build long-term relationships. Leaving thoughtful blog comments can be one of the best ways to start a relationship with an influential blogger in your industry.” (Click here to read more of Kipp’s advice when it comes to commenting on blogs.)

Here are a few tips for writing blog comments:

  • You should be specific about what it is that you are responding to.
  • Elaborate on why you agree or disagree.
  • If you aren’t sure how you feel about a blog because you were confused by it, ask the author of the blog to try to explain what they are saying in a different way. This could even motivate them update their blog in order to clarify what they are saying.
  • Ask questions. Questions bring about new ideas which further conversation.
  • Proofread your comments before posting them. The comment section does not mean you have permission to slack off when it comes to grammar.

Often bloggers can be more bold than they would have the guts to be in person. It’s like they have a virtual safety forcefield. As a Christian, I believe what the Bible teaches and one thing that it teaches is that out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. If this is true that our attitude/tone in comments, no matter how different the viewpoint, should be loving. When it comes to controversial issues and hotly debated cultural issues it is important to comment with grace and truth. Stand up for what you believe in, but do so in a manner worthy of saying you love God and all of his creation.

What are some of your favorite professional blogs to comment on?

Smart Sentences

Letters become words and words become sentences. Being smart in how you write your sentences is key to successful digital writing. The way you construct your sentences will affect the way your reader responds to what they see.

In looking over the “Sentences” post of “Construct Clear, Compelling Copy” in the Yahoo Style Guide, I learned some key yet simple concepts. As Professor Nixon states in “Word Nerds Unite: 19 of William Safire’s Best Fumblerules of Grammar” it is important to “avoid run-on sentences they are hard to read.” Run-on sentences are often a result of rambling which Ben Herrman lists as one of the don’ts of digital writing. Being concise is absolutely necessary for creating a clean compelling copy. If your word order makes sense and your grammar would be approved by Grammar Girl, then you are making it easier for the reader to process through what you are trying to communicate. Also, when sentences are short it is easier to scan through.

 

Constructing a clear sentence doesn’t stop there. There are more key concepts:

  • Do not have sentence ADD; focus your sentences. This means you don’t give more than 1 main point in a sentence.
  • Put the most important information at the beginning of a sentence. If someone is scanning it is where their eyes will first be drawn to.
  • If you list something, explain it in the same order you listed it.
  • Breaking up a subject and verb with a parenthetical statement in between can cause confusion.
I was surprised by one of the key concepts: try not to split infinitives or phrasal verbs that include an adverb (such as turn off or log on). This surprised me because when I talk I say, “Turn the lights off,” instead of saying, “Turn off the lights.” I see how in writing it can create a clearer copy. I was also surprised in finding out how using some negative wordings such as “Don’t forget,” “Unfortunately,” and “cannot” should be avoided. Positivity invites the reader in instead of pushing them away. I would’ve probably said something like, “Don’t forget to finish your blog before midnight, otherwise you cannot receive credit for it,” instead of saying, “It is important to remember to complete your blog before midnight in order to receive credit.”
One thing I would like to know is whether or not your last sentence in a paragraph should sum up key information like it should when writing an academic paper.
I hope to practice some of these key concepts and gain some readers as I write digitally throughout my life.

Review of “Cleaning Your Copy”

This week’s News University’s course was “Cleaning Your Copy: Grammar, Style, and More.” This course was very thorough and helped me review quite a bit of grammar rules. Last semester I took English Composition II, and I was required to read Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing by Mignon Fogarty. While some of what was covered in the book was review for me, Grammar Girl offered many creative tips to help people better remember grammar rules that can sometimes be quite tedious. This News U course refreshed much of what was covered in Grammar Girl’s book, but also covered some things I do not remember being in the book.

What I learned:

  • I’m better at post-tests than pre-tests.
  • It is important to pay attention to location when using modifiers.
  • There is not a substitute for his or her, and them is not a substitute for he or she.
  • Who and whom refer to people, while that and which refer to animals or things.
  • Whom is to be used when a person is an object.
  • The abbreviations Ave., Blvd., and St. should only be used with a numbered address. “Southeastern University is located on Longfellow Blvd.” is an incorrect sentence.
  • Compass points used to indicate directional ends of a street or quadrants of a city in a numbered address should be abbreviated.
  • Ages used as adjectives before a noun or as substitutes for a noun need hyphens. For example, “My 32-year-old professor, Barbara Nixon, makes learning about writing for digital media interesting and fun.”
  • The states Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah are never abbreviated in copy, and you should keep a list for the ones that are.
  • Spell out numbers less than 10 in distances.
  • Colons are used between two sentences that present contrasting ideas and between two clauses when the second thought adds to the first. You are to capitalize the first word after a colon if it is a proper noun or the start of a complete sentence.
  • Use farther for a literal distance. Use further for time or degree.
What surprised me:
  • For singular common nouns ending in s, add ‘s unless the next word begins with s. I thought you just always were supposed to only add the apostrophe.
  • Adding an s to afterward determines whether you use the correct word or not. Using afterward is the same as using toward.
  • It’s not all right to use alright.
This News U course covered everything that I would have ever wondered about grammar. Anything and everything that I have struggled with when it comes to grammar was reviewed.
Questions for the reader:
  • What do you struggle most with when it comes to grammar?
  • What do you want to know more about after reading through the News U course?
  • What works for you when it comes to cleaning your copy? How many times do you proofread?