Why Your Blog is Failing You

Why Your Blog is Failing You


Once upon a time, innovators shook up the traditional way of doing business by writing blogs to attract clients. These days, it’s proforma for a business to have a blog. In fact, if you don’t have one, you’re considered behind the times.

So, in a world where everyone’s blog is vying for attention, how do you make your voice heard?

You can, and should, buy social media ads, use Google Ads and use SEO. (Don’t know what this is? I can help, contact me today). This will bring people to your page. But once they get there, will they come back? What you need is good writing. This will help you to rise above the other blogs out there and keep people coming back.

People rely on blogs for education, instruction, and information. So, every time you post a blog it needs to be to be doing one of these things. And it shouldn’t waste your reader’s time while doing so.

Because there’re so many blogs out there, readers have a lot of choices. If you don’t give them what they’re searching for right away, they’ll go find another blog. Conversely, if they know they can rely on you for the information they seek, they’ll keep coming back.

This is why a well composed and written blog is a must. Here are the components you need for good writing:

1)     A central theme

2)     Writing that is easy-to-read and understand

3)     Content that is well-structured, allowing for the theme to be explored in a logical manner

4)     Focus on one topic per post

5)     Be concise and to the point

Sounds easy, right? Well, it can be difficult to prune what you want to say using these guidelines unless you have a lot of experience. Which is why it’s a good idea to hire a writer or editor. They know how to take your message and tailor it to be heard.

Due to the number of blogs available, you can’t get away with amateur writing anymore. Plus, if you’re trying to run a business, do you have time to write and rewrite and publish blogs every single week? Your time could probably be better spent. So why not hand the reins over to a pro?

Contact me today and let me show you how I can take your ideas and turn them into attractive, informative content your readers will enjoy.

 

The 3 Writing Apps You Need to Use Right Now

John Donne famously said, “No man is an island.”

I say, “No writer should be without an editor.”

I say this because it’s hard to see one’s own mistakes in their writing.

However, given that an editor is seldom available at your beck and call, (and even if they were you’d probably still want to do some editing yourself, beforehand), you can do one of two things:

A)    Impose upon a willing friend or indulgent lover

B)    Use one or more of the many writing applications available free of charge.

For argument’s sake, (and because tech is often more reliable/readily available than homo sapiens), let’s go with option ‘B’.

There are a lot of apps out there, but the ones I like the best are,

●       The Hemingway Editor,

●       Grammarly,

●       and the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer.

These apps are all free to use and they help you to find mistakes in your writing. Unfortunately, they don’t really help with the content of your writing. That’s something only a real human being, (like me ☺), can do. What these apps do,however, is help you to correct structure, style, readability, clarity, grammar and spelling errors.

The Hemingway Editor

Ernest Hemingway is famous for his to-the-point writing. His prose  is known for having short sentences and being straightforward. This makes his writing easy to read and comprehend. This is something all writers should strive for, especially those writing for a web audience.

The Hemingway Editor evaluates your writing and gives it a “Readability Grade.” This grade indicates how easy or hard your writing is to understand. The readability grade corresponds to the grade level a reader would need to be at to understand your text. However, this doesn’t mean that a Grade 5 score means that your audience should be a bunch of 10-year-olds. What it means is that your reader needs to be able to read at a Grade 5 level in order to understand your text.

For instance, much of Hemingway’s writing scores at a Grade 5 level, but the content of his work is aimed at an adult audience.

The app uses an algorithm called the Automated Readability Index to determine your readability score.

The app also indicates which of your sentences are “hard” and “very hard,” to read. It shows you where you can use simpler words and it highlights adverbs and passive voice usage, suggesting that you limit the use of these.

I use this app because I find it helps bring clarity to my writing, allowing my content to be better understood.

Grammarly

In high school, most of the writing I did took for in Microsoft Word. These days, however, I write more on social media, WordPress and Google Docs, than in Word.

The downside to this is that there’s no spell check on the web. There’s nothing more embarrassing than to post something with a spelling or grammar error. Thankfully, there’s an app for that.

Grammarly is a Chrome extension that works on every website. So when you post on Facebook, write a Tweet, compose a blog or engage in a sub-Reddit, Grammarly alerts you to any spelling or grammar mistakes.

CoSchedule Headline Analyzer

If nobody reads your content, does it still matter?

No.

If you’re writing for yourself and you don’t intend to ever have any readers, then good for you, but you’re in the wrong place. In general, you write for an audience. However, to get said audience to read what you’ve written, you first have to get their attention.

On the web and in print media, the first thing readers see is your headline. Therefore, it’s important that your headline is attention grabbing and/or click bait centered.

But what makes someone click on a headline or stop to read an article while flipping through a newspaper?

It depends on several things:

·         Keywords that the person is interested in and/or searching for,

·         Ability to attract attention,

·         Optimal length for search results and social media feeds,

·         Able to elicit emotion.

From experience, I know that it’s really hard to create a headline that does all these things. This is why the Headline Analyzer is such a great tool. It analyzes your headline for the above criteria and scores your headline based on how well it does these things.

You can play around with your headline until you get a score you’re happy with. The site also provides helpful articles on how to create high-scoring headlines.

Apps just not doing it for you? If you’re looking for a flesh-and-blood editor, then I’m your gal. Contact me today at amandalshore@gmail.com.

Become a Better Writer by Reading these 5 Books

Become a Better Writer by Reading these 5 Books

It’s a generally agreed upon fact that readers make better writers. You don’t have to be a voracious reader to be a great writer, but it’s definitely recommended. I also find that it’s both inspiring and educational to read books that talk about writing.

Why?

Well, writing is a dastardly task. It’s both the best feeling in the world and the hardest thing you may ever do. Which is why I find it useful to get advice from other writers. I firmly believe that you should never stop trying to become a better writer. It’s also extremely encouraging to hear that other writers are going through the same things you are.

The advice in these books has helped me to improve my writing and inspired me to greater heights. I hope they do the same for you.

  1. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Part writing advice and part memoir, this 240-page novel made me fell less alone in the world. In reading this book I realized that the things I struggle with in my writing are things a lot of other writers struggle with as well. This book also made me realize that there’s no ultimate “secret” to writing. It’s hard work and like anything takes dedication and a lot of revisions.

  1. Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark

This is the fundamental how-to guide on writing. Each chapter explores a crucial writing component in easily understandable and applicable terms. Whether you’re an experienced writer or a novice, this book is a must-read for everyone. Read this book, do the exercises, and you will become a better writer immediately. I guarantee it.

  1. Everybody Writes by Ann Handley

This book is designed for anyone looking to use their writing skills in a marketing and/or social media capacity. It explains how to write content for company and product blogs, landing pages, websites and more. If you’re looking to promote your business on the web, (and everyone should be), this is the book you have to read.

  1. Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich

This book is written by one of my former writing professors at Concordia University. It’s essentially a fiction writing course in a book. If you can’t make it to a classroom, this is the next best thing. And even if you do attend a writing course, I still suggest you use this book. Novakovich is an exceptional writer and you can’t go wrong by following his writing exercises.

  1. Web Copy That Sells by Maria Veloso

The key to any good business these days is what you put on the web. Which is why web copy is so important. This book served as my bible when I was working as a digital marketer. Veloso’s advice is perfect for selling any product or service. Take her advice and you will wow your clients.

Four Drafts Before the Final: Getting to the Finished Product

Four Drafts Before the Final: Getting to the Finished Product

Nobody sits down and writes a masterpiece on their first try.

Any writer who tells you different is full of shit.

The first time you sit down to write you can’t be worried about whether your grammar is good or your sentences are too long. What you need to do is write. Sit down and pour it all out on paper. It doesn’t matter at this point if anything makes sense. For the first draft, your only concern should be getting everything out of your head and onto some paper.

Once that’s done, then you go through your writing and pick out all the tangles.

The de-tangling phase is the second draft. This is where you edit to make your writing understandable and readable.

For this process, I find it useful to ask myself questions, such as:

  • Am I getting my point across?
  • Do the paragraphs flow together?
  • Are any sentences too long or too complex?
  • What sentences and/or paragraphs can I delete? [Every good piece of writing should have at least three things deleted from it].
  • Should I add anything?
  • Am I satisfied? Why or why not?

Once you’ve untangled the knots in your writing, it’s time to clean it up. This means line-editing.

Line editing is where you look at each and every sentence individually. Examine the structure of each sentence, check for grammar and spelling mistakes. Decide if you need to keep every sentence or if some are extraneous.

My preferred way of line editing is to do a re-write. I take a blank piece of paper and I write, (well, I type), out each sentence, one at a time. I find this gives me space to look at and play around with each sentence until I’m satisfied.

Then it’s time for the fourth draft.

This draft requires that you perform line-editing and content editing simultaneously. Read through your piece and make sure the line-edits you’ve made haven’t screwed up your content. Check that your content says everything you want it to say, in the way you want it said.

Now, put down your writing and walk away.

Seriously.

Go away.

Go play a video game, read a book or binge on some Netflix. Whatever you do, don’t touch your writing again until you’ve slept at least 6-8 hours.

Only after you’ve woken up and had your morning coffee can you look at your writing again. At this point, you need to read it over and try to be as objective as possible.

If you’re satisfied, submit it for publication. However, if you have a nagging feeling that it could be better—then you should still submit it.

Yes, I’m serious.

We are our own worst critics. Likewise, we can also think too much of ourselves. In either case, it’s hard to be completely objective. Which is why someone else needs to look at your work. You need someone to either confirm or disprove your feelings.

So, submit it to an editor or get a smart friend to read it. If you don’t have a smart friend you can use an editing app. (My favorite is the Hemingway Editor. )Take what your friend, editor or app has said under advisement. Make changes if necessary, then publish.

Rinse and repeat as needed.


Here’s what my first draft looked like Howmanydraftsdoesittakent


I can be your smart friend or editor. Drop me a line: amandalshore@gmail.com

Getting to The Point: Editing Tips to Improve your Writing

Getting to The Point: Editing Tips to Improve your Writing

I took the idea for this article from Mark Nichol. He wrote an article entitled, “A Basis for More Concise Wording”. I would have simply shared the article, but, and I’m sorry for being blunt Mark, but the post was poorly written. The gist, however, is sound advice.

Mark advises writers to improve their writing by making it more concise. Principally, he advises removing the phrasing, on a/an [blank] basis.

For example, instead of writing: “We mow the lawn on a regular basis,” write, “We mow the lawn regularly.”

What you’re doing is converting the adjective into an adverb and eliminating the phrase on a/an [blank] basis. This creates a sentence that is concise and to the point—my favorite kind of sentence.

HOWEVER, not all adjectives have an adverbial form. For instance, as Mark points out, ongoing is an adjective that cannot be made into an adverb. In this case, Mark suggests putting the adjective in front of the verb. So, “He sought counselling on an ongoing basis,” becomes, “He sought ongoing counselling.”

This advice also applies to variations of the phrase such as in a/an [blank]manner.
And since this post is all about being concise, that’s all I have for you today.


Are you looking to improve your writing? I can help! Contact me at amandalshore@gmail.com.

writing advice

Show and Tell: How to be a Writer that Readers Enjoy

You know the old writing adage, “Show don’t tell?” Well, just because something is old doesn’t mean it isn’t useful.

I’m a huge advocate of breaking the rules, especially writing rules, (but only if you can demonstrate you know how to follow them first). HOWEVER, in this case,I absolutely cannot stand when writers forget this rule.

Why is it so important to show rather than tell?

Well, let me ask you this:

Would you rather I tell you about a great spot to watch the sunset or would you rather I show you a great place to watch the sunset.

You’d rather see the sunset for yourself, right? Your readers feel the same way. They don’t want you to tell them about the really exciting party, they want you to bring them to the party so they can see for themselves how exciting it is.

A great writer makes readers forget that they’re reading, that they are in fact outside of the story. A great writer immerses the reader in the story by letting them experience the setting and action.

For example, here’s a great passage from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon:

Not touching, but with arms outstretched toward each other, they bobbed and weaved, still moving in a circle. Suddenly the circle split in half. Seven of the dancers moved clockwise, still in a circular motion. The others moved in the opposite direction. The two semicircles passed each other at increasing speeds, sometimes forming a complete circle, sometimes a double line. And in the center, the leader stood stock-still, giving again and again that mournful high-pitched call, in a language long since dead.

Let your readers see what you see. Don’t just give them a window to look through, open the door and let them in.

Want some personalized advice on your writing? Drop me a line at amandalshore@gmail.com

5 Writing Mistakes You Need to Stop Making Right Now

5 Writing Mistakes You Need to Stop Making Right Now

1.Run-on Sentences

A run-on sentence, in laymen’s terms, is a sentence that is crammed with information. It usually contains two or more sentences that have been mashed into one. And, as you can imagine, they make it hard for the reader to follow your train of thought.

Shorter sentences help readers better understand the point you’re trying to make. It’s also much more enjoyable to read something when you don’t feel as though you’re going to run out of breath.

That’s not to say that all your sentences should be short. That would be obnoxious. You need to mix up your sentence lengths. The rule of thumb is never to have more than two independent clauses connected by a conjunction. Or never have more than two complete thoughts in one sentence. And the thoughts shouldn’t be too long. And they have to be connected by a conjunction.

Confused, yet?

Ya, me too. Which is why when I’m worried that my sentences are becoming marathon-like, I turn to the Hemingway Editor app. This web app highlights sentences that are difficult to read, alerting you to sentences that need to be simplified.

2.Too Many Metaphors

A good comparison is like getting a new pair of glasses. Suddenly, you see everything clearly. Metaphors are a great tool for illustrating a concept or setting the scene for your reader. However, as the saying goes, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

The more you use metaphors the less compelling they become. Choose your metaphors with care and use them moderately.

3.Using Adverbs Instead of Strong Verbs

Adverbs are used to describe verbs. They give the reader more information about the action taking place. They also decrease a sentence’s effectiveness. What most sentences need is a stronger verb rather than an adverb.

For example,

“You can increase your running speed by wildly moving your arms.”

Wildly is an adverb. To make the sentence more effective, replace the adverb with a strong verb that illustrates the type of movement the writer is referring to.

I would write,

“Increase your running speed by flapping your arms up and down”

4.Keeping Your Babies Alive

I’m not talking about human or fur babies here. The babies I’m referring to are a metaphor for the sentences or parts of your writing that you absolutely adore.

These sentences or paragraphs make you gaga. You just can’t get enough of them. You point to them and say, “See! I’m a genius! Look how clever!”

The problem is that love is blind. When you love something it’s hard for you to be objective. Just like it’s hard for parents to recognize that their sweet little angel is actually a holy terror formed in the pits of Gehenna, so too can you fail to realize that treasured parts of your writing are causing problems for the rest of your text.

You can resurrect these babies, but only once you’ve first exterminated them from your text. Once you’ve removed these parts from your text, read it over. Then ask yourself if your text suffers without your baby’s presence. If you’re not sure, get an impartial reader to read the text with and without your “baby”.

Alternatively, you can do what many parents do and try to get it right the second time. In other words, pinpoint the issues your baby is causing and try to re-write it so the issues are no longer there.

For example, a treasured paragraph that sets the scene in your blog article has caused the point of your article to become lost. You can either  move the paragraph to later in the text or break it up into smaller pieces. Then find appropriate places to intersperse these pieces throughout the article.

Remember, babies are cute and squishy but they cloud our judgement. This is why you have to be ruthless and kill them. Your work will benefit, trust me.

5.Beating Around the Bush

Get to the point.

No, seriously. Get to the point.

Tell me why I’m reading this right away or I’m going to get frustrated and leave. And since the point of most writing is for people to read it, you want them to actually read it. So don’t beat around the bush.

Don’t write a lengthy anecdote about your dog and then get to the part where you say you’re going to talk about how dogs can detect cancer. First, tell me this article is about dogs who detect cancer and then illustrate your point with the anecdote.

Capeesh?

Need some more advice or an objective eye to look over your work? Drop me a line and I’ll see what I can do to help: https://theroughdraft.net/contact/