Now that everyone’s on Facebook, everyone’s a writer. Everyone has an opinion that they believe the world deserves to hear – and many of them are right.
Too bad, though, that much of that writing is more about writers’ needs to be heard than about enlightening the rest of the world. And too bad it’s not the kind of writing that trains them to write blog posts that others want to read.
If you’re starting a blog, beware of the three biggest blogging blunders:
1. Navel-gazing, not informing
Hands down, the biggest problem I see among bloggers I edit is a level of self-indulgence that leads to “writing” that amounts to little more than brain dumps.
There’s little to no structure. There’s no sense that the bloggers are any more qualified to write about their topics than their readers are. And there’s no sense that they know whom they’re writing for — besides themselves, of course.
When I get posts like this, I bounce them back to the bloggers marked with comments like “Spare us the hot air and do some research — balanced research” (okay, I’m usually a little friendlier than that), and “Come up with an outline (and use headers to keep yourself on track).” As fixes go, they’re pretty easy. It usually comes down to reining yourself in.
2. Lack of self-editing
Another common problem I encounter is a simple lack of self-editing. Apparently, we’ve become so lax about the written word that many of us can’t even be bothered to read back over what we’ve written. But, please do. I’ll charge you less, and I’ll be less likely to misunderstand what you’re trying to say and therefore less likely to create an error.
Without exception, the fewer mistakes there are to catch, the fewer mistakes will slip past the editor.
When you don’t have an editor – and most bloggers don’t – the onus really is on you to catch your errors. That’s an easy fix if you take the time to read over your post at least once.
3. Using someone else’s work without giving them credit
And the prize for most surprising problem I run into in blog editing is plagiarism — the taking of someone else’s ideas or work and passing them off as yours.
I’ll be reading along and suddenly there’s a shift to a purely informational voice (and a mysterious vanishing of spelling and grammar errors), and I’ll realize it’s time to run the plagiarism-checking tool. Sure enough, the source often turns out to be Wikipedia or a nonprofit’s “What We Do” page or a think-tank article. When I tell bloggers about my findings, they’ll almost always say something like “But how many ways are there to say that? It’s just information.”
I sympathize. When someone has figured out the most efficient way to say something, the rest of us can only find ways to be less efficient. But look at it this way: It’s an opportunity to insert your own style and prove that you’re worth reading.