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TechCommGeekMom’s Guide on How to Write a Blog Post

MP910216414One of my former professors recently asked me for a small favor. Her first-year students are writing up blog posts after attending a plain language presentation, and she asked if I could provide some tips for how to write a great blog post, in light of the work I’ve done with this blog. Of course, I said I’d be happy to oblige.

Of course, that meant I actually had to come up with some actual tips! After some careful consideration, I think there are a few key elements I’ve found that make a blog posting successful.

First, it’s all about the mind set. I don’t think many people necessarily know what they want to say, or think of themselves as “bloggers.” So, the primary step is to have the right attitude. My blog post titled, “I’m not a writer. Wait…you say…I AM?” outlines this concept. As I said in that post, I never thought of myself as a writer until very recently, and in some instances, I still don’t. It’s all about the attitude and the right mind-set of having to write.

Second, I would simply say to write from the heart, and don’t be afraid to speak your mind. Use the blog post as if it’s a one-sided conversation with someone else out there on the Internet. You might not know who your audience is, but that audience is out there! I would know–this blog just passed the 9100 all-time hits mark at this writing, and it’s still counting towards that 10,000 hits mark! (Remember, this blog started out as a combination of a grad school project and a whim a year ago. I never expected anyone to read it at all!) It’s important to have an opinion when writing these posts. If you thought that the presentation was boring, you should say so, and say why. If you liked it, then say so, and why. People are attracted to blogs because of the opinions of the writer. It applies in social media too, if you think about it. Why do we follow certain people on Twitter, Facebook or Google+? Because there is something about the point of view of a particular person or group that you find interesting, entertaining, or informative. The same thing applies to blogs, which is really a long-form extension of Tweeting, if you ask me. 😉

Third, make sure that if you don’t have all the facts, admit to not having all the facts. It’s okay if you aren’t the world’s foremost authority on a topic, but supply support or backup for what you do know when you can. For example, if there’s a link to a recording of the presentation you saw,  include it in the blog post, so other people can listen, then read your interpretation. If possible, include a small image (like the one I have above) that helps to visually set the tone as well. I rarely leave out an image, and if I do, it’s because it’s related to curated content that doesn’t have an appropriate image to post.

Fourth, even though you have an opinion and you’ve presented your facts, don’t write unprofessionally. What I mean by that is don’t use profanity or be offensive, and make sure your grammar and formatting is as correct as you can make it. Your blog is just like a portfolio or the clothes you wear. It is a reflection of you, and you want to present yourself in the best light possible, even if you are speaking about something controversial. I know I’ve written about controversial topics in the past, but I would try to provide my point of view as clearly as possible, with as much supporting evidence as I could provide. You don’t need to be über formal, but you have to respect your reader’s intelligence. If you do this,  he or she will respect you in return, even if the reader has an opposing point of view, and will continue to visit your blog.

Lastly, edit, edit, edit!  Even as I’ve written this post, I’ve reviewed it, and proofread, and re-written several sections multiple times. It’s like any other writing process. Nobody nails the perfect post on the first try. There have even been times where I’ve written the post, saved the draft, and walked away for a while to come back with new insight or a fresh eye to tweak it some more.

I think this covers the basics of how to write a great blog post. Be yourself, present yourself in the best light as you write your words, and have fun with it! This is what has worked for me, and hopefully it can work for you, too. You might be surprised by the response you get as a result.

(Good luck, PTC 601 students!)

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I’m not a writer. Wait…you say…I AM?

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I still remember sitting at my little desk at school one Friday afternoon when I was in first grade. It was the early seventies, and Friday afternoons were usually the time where all of the kids would have a little free time to paint, play, build puzzles, etc. I remember working on some sort of story, drawing the pictures and writing my words on the lines provided, and thinking, “When I grow up, I want to write stories.” I was told that people who wrote stories were authors, so for a while, I went around telling people I wanted to be an author. It sounded a little more prestigious to me that being something else at that age.

As time went on, I lost that desire to be an author because I lost my initial love of writing. I had lots of ideas in my head, but I didn’t know how to put them on paper in a way that captured someone else’s imagination in the same way that it was in my imagination. I grasped at figuring out how to write lyrical details in my stories. I also ran out of ideas. It was just a few short years later that my concept of being an author–let alone a writer–died. I hadn’t even graduated from elementary school. My perception was that writers were really smart and creative people, who were huge book lovers who wanted to create the same thing. Writers and authors were so imaginative that they created whole books of wonderful stories with such intensive details. I could never come up with such a thing. I succumbed to just trying to learn to read books for pleasure (and for me, it took a lot for a book to give me pleasure, since I was often forced to read for school or even during the summers), and while I read plenty of fiction, I also read a lot of non-fiction. I tended to gravitate (and still do), after a while, towards non-fiction simply because I felt I could relate to the people in the various biographies or history books that I read. And let’s face it…sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

As I got older, my grasp of grammar was always good, but talking about literature in any language hurt my head. When I went away for my undergraduate studies, I initially declared my major in International Affairs, but then switched to History when having to take literature classes in French for the IA degree just made me ill. It was in my last two years of college that I had a great mentor (Thanks, Dr. Hughes!) who convinced me that I was a good writer and editor. I couldn’t understand how this professor thought my writing was good when most thought it was just okay. I thought he was just being nice. My best friend would always ask me to edit her papers, and she would end up with an A while I ended up with a B. But did I think I was a good writer? No.  Better than average? Maybe, but not really a good writer. I was not creative, but I could research the heck out of a topic, and pull together quotes and facts really well. But that wasn’t writing…or so I thought.

As my professional career took off, I had to write response standards for consumer affairs departments of major companies. I had some great training in the process, I will admit, but some of it just seemed second nature to a point. Proper grammar, using manners when writing, and just writing coherently seemed to be a skill that I had in great quantity.

It wasn’t until I got to my first post-stay-at-home-mom job that I started to understand that my writing skills were not as shabby as I thought. With a little more training in technical editing (although I didn’t know it was called that), I was starting to get pretty good at it, and…blimey…I liked doing it. Going to graduate school  sealed it for me. Suddenly, I was writing at the highest academic level I had in more than twenty years, and I was getting very good grades. What? That can’t be right. I’m not a writer…I’m a web designer…yeah…that’s it. But a web designer who took editing courses and liked that too. It was a weird conundrum for me. For over thirty-five years, I had not thought of myself as a writer, and here I was…writing.

This blog has been the pinnacle of realizing the truth. Sure, I might not be the great American novelist who will be winning a Pulitzer Prize or Newberry Medal anytime soon. But being a writer simply means being able to express your voice however you want to express it. Being a writer is saying what’s on your mind, but being able to substantiate what you are saying as well.The response I’ve gotten from this blog has been enormous to me, even though by some standards it’s still on a very small, niche scale. And believe me, all the attention I’ve gotten is highly appreciated. I think it’s that it’s a childhood dream that was long forgotten come true. I might not write fairy stories, and I’m not a journalist, but I am a writer.

This realization crystallized for me in the past six months due to several requests I’ve had to write articles for other sources. First, it was to help talk about my experiences at Lavacon’s Adobe Day. Next, it was the request to write some articles for my local STC chapter for the next couple of newsletters. But I think it’s the latest writing requests that I’ve have me excited. I’ve been asked to write some articles all about the 2013 STC Summit–before, during and after the event. I’m really excited about doing all this writing! While it’s not like I haven’t been trained in how to be a writer, everything I’ve done–especially in the past year–has lead to this. I am REALLY a writer now! I speak about what I know as well as what I don’t know, and I speak from the heart. I share stories and information as best as I can. If someone else can write it better, I share it as well.

I’m a technical writer, and it suits me. My training in history and my experience in business, as well as my training in technical communications has brought me to this point. I look forward to continuing to write here, and I’ll be sharing all those requested articles here as well, referring to their respective sites, once they are published.

Now, about that book…not sure about that yet. That creativity block is striking again. Perhaps someday I’ll have a revelation and it’ll come together.

In the meantime, if you are reading this, thanks for helping me become a writer.