Tuesday, June 18, 2013

What Your Blog Says About You: Part Four -- Presentation

This post is coming out of the original idea (almost two years ago) that spawned this series in the first place: presentation. Now, when I say presentation, I do not mean of the actual blog itself; I mean the posts. The look of the blog, the decoration, is a completely separate issue and one that I don't feel qualified to speak about as I barely pay attention to what a blog looks like. Maybe some people do, but that's not me. In the same way, I try, at this point in my life, to pay as little attention to the cover of a book as I can (but that's a post for another day (and something I've talked about before (somewhere))).

For most people, the number one thing that will affect whether someone will give your blog the time of day is post length. And, if you've been around my blog for longer than, oh, a couple of seconds, you'll see that this is something I completely disregard, but, in that, I'm in the minority. Most people want short posts. Short posts with, maybe, a list involved and, even better, pictures. And, if you really want to grab people's attention, it should be a picture of a cat being weird or spazzing out. But the real thing is length. People want to glance at your blog and think, "Oh, I have time to read that." If there is anything to make them think that they will have to come back later, most of them won't bother. So, yes, if you're really trying to bring in followers, I think it's good advice to keep your posts between 400 and 600 words.

Personally, I prefer longer posts with more substance, and I will keep a post open all day in order to finish it if I need to (as I sometimes do with some of Briane's longer posts). As such, I also prefer to write posts with actual substance rather than talking about talking about that substance as most people do. I'm more of the essay test rather than the multiple choice option. As such, I'm okay with the fact that some people skip over my posts as being too long. But it's something to be aware of in the way that you approach the way you post and has everything to do with the personality of your blog.

The next thing is a big one for me, something I hate and mentioned in part three, and that thing is constantly apologizing for not having posted recently. Seriously, just don't do that. So many people have what amounts to a running blog of apologizing for not having posted and promisings to do better. Especially those people with posted schedules. That's the worst. First, I'd say, just don't post a schedule. Do what you do and let that be it (sort of like letting your yes be yes and no be no without making promises you may break). But, really, I think most of the people that post schedules for what and when they're going to blog do it for themselves--to try and impose it on themselves--rather than to inform the reader of what's going on. At any rate, people with posted schedules seem to be the worst about actually following those schedules or posting in any consistent manner, and, then, every time they post, it's an apology for being behind or having not posted in three weeks or three months or whatever. Honestly, I don't care why you haven't posted. Whatever it was that caused you not to post was something that was more important to you than posting on your blog, and, actually, that's okay. You don't actually owe anyone anything. No one is paying you (probably) to be posting, so don't apologize for not doing it. Because, honestly, I don't care about your apology. And, especially, I don't care about reading an apology from you every few weeks. Tell me something interesting. So, unless there is some really interesting reason as to why you didn't post (other than that "life has just been SO busy!"), just get to the interesting and skip the apologizing. Really, people understand that there is a life outside of blogging (except, maybe, Alex, who I think may actually be a computer program that goes around commenting on blogs).

And, then, here's the thing that started this whole idea: If you are going to have a blog, especially a blog about writing or if you're writer with a blog about something else but as a representation of you're writing, LEARN HOW TO WRITE!

Having said that, I will say this:
If you're not a writer and have no aspirations to being a writer, it's not such a big deal. Which is not to say that you can be all slapdash with it, but I know I'm not very critical about the writing of people that just have a blog for fun-ish type reasons. I mean, most people don't read and write at that high a level (last I checked, it was 4th grade, but it's been a while since I've checked), which takes us back to the math thing: If you're not in a math field, I don't expect that you should be able to do advanced algebra or anything like that. Basic arithmetic, yes, but not the more complicated stuff. English is the same way. So, if you're not a writer and not trying to be a writer, I don't expect more than the basics and am not going to be... distressed... when that's all I see.

However, if you are a writer, learn to do it. Learn how to use proper grammar and punctuation. And practice it on your blog. Your blog should be a reflection of your style, and, if your style is not knowing the difference between "than" and "then" or "accept" and "except" or "site" and "cite," words that have distinct definitions and should not be so easily confused, then I'm not going to have much interest in reading any books that you write. And, well, probably, will not have much interest in following your blog for very long.

Just to be clear: I'm not talking about typos here; I'm talking about consistently using the wrong words. And, maybe, it's elitist, but, if it is, I can't help it. Learn your words. Especially "than" and "then." I hate reading through posts that use "than" every time "then" should be used. It makes me want to pull out my red grading pen, but, well, that doesn't work out so well with my monitor, so I have learned restraint.

And, really, if you're writer and most of your posts have to do with writing, I will have no respect for you if you can't manage to do it correctly while telling everyone else how to do it. The writing, that is.
[As an example, during a-to-z, someone had a post about the proper usage of semi-colons and, then, had a handful of incorrect usages in the post. Yes, I pointed it out only to have my comment deleted. The only thing that upset me about that is that blogger had at the end of the post something about letting her know if she'd gotten anything wrong. All I can say about that is "don't ask if you don't mean it."]

Having said all of that, yes, I do know that I probably have an unfair advantage in the whole grammar department, but I also view it as a writer's job to know, well, how to do the whole grammar thing. Especially the things that have hard and fast rules, like the definitions of words. I'm not necessarily going to get all picky on the commas. Not all of them, anyway, because, sometimes, comma usage is subjective and is dependent upon what the author wants the sentence to say. Sometimes.

So there's my rant. But, seriously, if you're writer, even if it is just a blog, you ought to have your best face on it. Sure, some people can't tell the difference, but is it worth the risk? [I have quit following more blogs because of the bad writing on the blog than for any other reason.]

All of that to say: how you present yourself is important. There are probably other things I could mention here, but I think these are the top three. Which wraps up what your blog says about you... at least for the moment.


  1. I agree, Andrew, about the apology posts. I'd rather not waste time reading why you didn't write a post.

    I like longer posts, but not too many blocks of text. I need visuals here and there.

  2. I'm a big believer in the "short post" theory. I try to keep mine about the length of the computer screen. It means I usually end up editing out a third of what I've written, but I think it's a good habit to get into.

  3. Your rant makes some good points. And I think it's awful that the blogger who asked for help deleted your comment. If you want to live in a perfect world, sit back, close your eyes and imagine it. Don't go out in reality.

  4. That's why I don't post writing tips on my blog!
    But I do aim for proper grammar. And it drives me nuts if there is a typo. (I will go fix it at once.)
    Apologies aren't needed either.
    Outside of the Ninja News and the IWSG, I don't have a schedule. I post three days a week and whatever has my attention that day. And I go for a variety within the post so everyone can find something of interest.

  5. I liked this series on blog posts. You make some very strong points. Although I enjoy writing, I don't really think of myself as a writer. I keep a blog mostly to entertain myself but , yes, it is cool when I know someone out there read something I wrote and was inspired to comment.
    I sometimes disappear from the blog world for weeks at a time but I don't bother to apologize. What's the point in that? I also agree that following the rules of grammar and punctuality add credibility to a blogger's writing. Thanks for the series.

  6. I have learned so much from your series, especially since I'm a fairly new blogger. Of course now I'm nervous about making mistakes. Thank Gawd, I know the difference between "your" and "you're"!

  7. At a conference I attended a few years ago someone mentioned a study that showed six hundred words was the ideal length of a blog post if you wanted to encourage comments. It's supposedly long enough to get into a subject yet short enough for people to consume quickly and form an opinion.

    After blogging for a couple of years now, I do believe it's a good length to go by, but it's up to the author to decide how they want to write. In your case, I usually save your posts until the afternoon when I have more time to read. In the morning I'm usually too rushed to read a really long post. And during IWSG days I really appreciate short posts, as there are so many blogs to read.

  8. I could not agree more with all your points. I, too, have skipped reading particular blogs because they are "writer written" and have many grammar, spelling and punctuation errors. I know I make mistakes, but I try extremely hard to reread what I've written and make corrections before I push the "submit" button! I hate it when I see that I've published something with a typo, so I'm almost always appalled at my auto-corrected text messages!!

  9. So that you're still following my blog means either I'm a good writer or you just really want to win the Box Office Blitz prize. lol

  10. WOO HOO! SHOUT OUT! The world noticed me!

    It seems boring to say "I agree with everything you said here," so I jazzed it up. But I agree with everything you said here.

    One thing I'd add: depending on WHY you blog, I think it's important to update every so often -- 2-3 times per week, at least, so that people keep coming back. It's a rare blog that I'll go back and look at if a week goes by without a post of some sort.

    Because I, like you, write longer posts, I've toyed around with ways to have shorter things -- pictures, etc., -- posted just to make sure, if you stop in, that you'll see something new.

    But I agree: "Sorry I haven't posted" is boring and it turns me off.

    One thing I think people CAN do? If you're going to be not posting for a while and you know it, tell them that. I try to say that if I'm going to be gone or in trial, or something.

    I think the biggest thing I get out your tips is reinforcement that you should be yourself. Especially with longer posts. I know most people don't like long posts and I know that lists/cats are the way to go, but I find them boring myself. I read longer posts, and I save them. I keep "Longform" open as a tab on my Kindle web browser, and right now I've been working on an article about an artist for the past three days, off and on. So I hope more people keep doing longer posts.

  11. Are you sure this article is 400-600 words? Brevity is very difficult to achieve and takes years to perfect. This article could have been shorter.

    Also, please try to break your writing into smaller paragraphs - It is easier to read.

  12. I read most people only read 20% of a blog post. So I agree that cats are important for any blog post.

    Seriously though, post length and formatting is an obsession of mine. I'm constantly trying to find the right balance between content and brevity.

    I've recently switched to an experimental list format that is working well.

    When a blogger doesn't care it's obvious. Not thatI holds it against anyone, but presentation does make a difference.

    The most important thing is good content of course.

  13. YES. I absolutely cannot stand those "sorry I haven't posted" posts.

    Maybe I should write a "sorry I haven't written a book this year" book. It's a full 250 page novel of me profusely apologizing for not writing a full novel.

    Oh, and fun fact about that whole 400-600 word thing: when Google is categorizing your website for its search engine, if they "crawl" over a post and it's below 300 words, it's automatically assumed to be of poor quality and pushed to the back. So on that note, 400-600 would actually be about perfect, not just for the reader, but for your SEO, too.

  14. D.G.: Unfortunately, I'm not often inspired to spend the time on providing pics for my posts.

    Kellie: Yeah, I get that; it's just not for me.

    Sheena: That's why I'm ready for the virtual reality revolution.

    Alex: I do hate when I find a typo in one of my posts, but, then, I'm okay with typos in a general sense. They can't all be caught all the time.

    Graciewilde: I'm glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for taking the time to let me know! :)

    JKIR,F!: Amazingly enough, in talking with the middle schoolers in my creative writing class, that particular thing annoys a lot of them, too.

    L.G.: See, I don't think 600 words is long enough to get into a subject. It's long enough to skate around the edges of a subject. It takes 1000 words to really break the ice and get into it for real.

    Donna: I try to always pre-write my posts so that I have time to go back later before I publish them to go over them a last time. That doesn't always happen, but, at least, I have the option.

    Michael: Thanks!

    PT: Oh, well, yeah, I want to win that, but I was following before you started that contest.

    Briane: Well, I, for one, will keep doing longer posts.
    I did talk about frequency; that was part 2, I think? And 2-3 times a week is what I said, so... yeah, great minds...

    Rajesh: Technically, no, it's not easier to read in smaller paragraphs. And the article couldn't have been shorter. It's the length I wanted it to be.

    Maurice: I can understand the drive to find that balance, but you know what it was for me? I just decided I wasn't going to play the "short attention span" game. And I do think it's a game. People 100 years ago weren't smarter than us, why could they do more sustained reading?

    ABftS: Well, I'm probably going to continue to disappoint Google with my post lengths, then. I wonder how many of them Google has come across and been, like, "Oh, man, this guy again! I'm not crawling that!"

    I think you should write that novel.

  15. Unfortunately I found this post too long for me especially when I have so many more to read. Pity because I usually enjoy your posts. But these have just been too long. Sorry.

  16. Gah! I apologize all the time for not posting before I ramble on for about 850 words filled with grammatical errors.

    Seriously, the only way I'm going to improve my writing skills is to keep practicing. The place I do that is on my blog. I continue to work with my CP on my many (and I mean many) writing flaws so in the meantime, I have my blog to torture you with, Andrew. =)

  17. Saw you comment over at "Beer for the Shower."

    Being new to blogging, your post was immediately intersting - I didn't have to read a little to see.

    Long blogs do not scare me. I've been a fan of words since learning to read in first grade and quantity does not bother me - boring does!

    Some of your blog I agree with 100%, some less but all was interesting.

  18. Jo: Well, at least, you left a comment. :P Tomorrow, I might return to my usual, more laconic, self.

    Elsie: Practicing is very important, and I can't say that a blog is a bad way to do that. The point of your blog, though, is not to tell other people how to write, so there is that.
    I haven't noticed being tortured, yet. :P

  19. David: Well, thanks for coming over, then!
    So would you say I hit at least 93% agreement on all points?

  20. If it's a quality post, I don't care how long it is. I personally hate cat posts, pictures, and pretend conversations between pets...tiresome.
    Grammar should be obeyed at all times, and yes, do use the correct word. OMG that drives me nuts.
    Excellent points here. I'll even do the math: I agree 100%. I'm good at math ;-)
    Tina @ Life is Good

  21. Tina: I don't go in for pretend conversations between pets or, well, most things, but I do do the occasional cat post, mostly because of how weird I'm discovering cats to be. My cat posts are quality, though!

    I'm assuming you remembered to subscribe this time.

  22. Andrew,
    That sounds about right. Honestly I would have to read it again to figure out what I disagreed with. Maybe I thought you wouldn't approve of my ending a sentence with a preposition. I didn't take offense at any of the cat statements even though I have one blog about cats and one where I do interviews/discussions with my current BFF who happens to belong to the Felidae family.

    Hope you don't mind me adding your blog to my links list but if so just let me know and I'll remove it.

  23. David: I don't always have a thing about ending sentences with propositions, just like I'm not gonna go all slap happy with my red pen on your commas.
    And I'll just avoid the cat blog (probably), and we'll be all good and stuff.

    Add away!

  24. I have also suspected Alex is a computer program. And that possibility is no less interesting, because then we'd have a computer program that writes damn good space opera. And I'd like to meet the team that programmed that.

  25. Callie: I don't think he was programmed. I think he's the result of spontaneous AI combustion.

  26. Still very impressive. Also impressed that he's choosing to write kickass space opera rather than seizing control of national defense systems, etcetera.

  27. Callie: I think that, rather than wiping out humanity, he/it's trying to subvert humanity through the blogging world.

  28. Love this post. This whole series has been brilliant. I've come to really enjoy your blog, Andrew, because of your lengthy and thoughtful posts. You tell it like it is and aren't afraid of criticism.... I appreciate that a lot. Honestly, you've become one of my top blogging role models.

    It's frustrating when self-proclaimed "writer's blogs" make constant errors in spelling or grammar or are just plain sloppy writers. I find myself casually tending to judge whether or not I would buy a writer's book based on their blog - and quite a few writing blogs I follow actually fail this test. If you're going to be out there, presenting yourself to the world, while at the same time selling something, you need to take a little extra time with how you are presenting that image - act professional.

  29. Lauren: Wow! Well... thank you. I'm glad I can be of some benefit. And you've given me an idea for my next IWSG post, so thanks for that!