Over 1000 Web Articles, #amwriting and Still #Learning

Still #learning by Pexels CC0 Public Domain from Pixabay
Are you still #learn­ing? I am. It is a delight to look at each day and the learn­ing possib­il­it­ies. Triggered by a question asked about how blogging was differ­ent to other forms of writing and how we need to constantly learn and adapt.

Personal Journey

Footsteps by Unsplash CC0 Public DomainI have scribbled and played with words since boyhood in the 1960s. My mother lent me a typewriter when I was about 13, which I had to rebuild to make it work properly. I had typing lessons when 17, so can type with all fingers.
Landing my first job at the tender age of 19, led to a lifetime of writing to earn my living. I have written ever since in one way or anoth­er. For many years I wrote computer programs, and mine were always the best documented. After that, I started writing specific­a­tions, project reports and justi­fic­a­tions. My greatest skill was writing those business reports. It is an under appre­ci­ated skill or art form. My univer­sity days were during my late 30s and early 40s, once I had some life skills behind me.
Publishing a blog was something I first did in 2003 or 2004. Pity, I forget the name but also have little desire to redis­cov­er it, but I am sure it is still untouched on Blogger somewhere, if only I could remem­ber the email address and password used.

Still #Learning

To date, I have penned more than 1,000 articles on a variety of sites and garnered more than a million views. That is something I am proud of. But, at the same time, I am still learn­ing. Lessons are sometimes hard. Often you take years to learn them, instead of days.
When face to face with a person, I have always under­stood that puzzled frown someone gives when reading something I wroteIt usually means I have not adequately explained something. When you are working with other people it is easy to get feedback, they will usually tell you what they like or dislike. One aspect of business based writing is that there is always feedback, often too much especially the unhelp­ful variety. Some of the feedback is best ignored, but other correc­tions need inclu­sion, despite the looming deadline. Often the bosses words are the loudest and demand a response.
The person who one day told me, “loved the use of the dangling parti­ciple.” That made me very curious. I knew what a dangling parti­ciple was — a word inten­ded to modify a noun that is not actually used within the text. But, I could not find where I had made this mistake. Clearly I had outsmar­ted myself. But this is the type of feedback you rarely get with on-line public­a­tions. I am still #learn­ing.

On-line Writing — A Different Skill?

Skill by Congerdesign CC0 Public Domain from Pixabay
Writing on-line is an altogeth­er differ­ent skill. Even with the social web it is not possible to see facial expres­sions and discuss things with people as I used to, face-to-face, in business.
Firstly, with blogs, you may or may not get comments. The fact that you don’t receive any comments, isn’t a sign that your work was not well received. I have often received comments on Facebook saying how they loved what I said, but no comments on the origin­al post. This week, I had a very detailed comment on Facebook stating how they enjoyed what I had written and how helpful it was to the reader, as they shared my Facebook post. A pity Facebook comments are not recor­ded on your WordPress post.
Secondly, you may or may not get views. There seems little correl­a­tion between writing quality and the number of views a piece gains. One piece I wrote on a gener­al writing site had thousands viewing it, yet when I looked back at the article I used to kick myself for the errors that I had made. I later cleaned it up and published it on anoth­er site (after remov­ing the origin­al) where the number of readers was much less, although it has readers every week, even 4 years later.
Thirdly, as a writer your most import­ant allies on-line are your Social Media buddies. One of the reasons why I use tools like Buffer and Recurpost. They post mater­i­al at a variety of times during the day. This allows a wider reach, connect to people on the other side of the globe and have them access my mater­i­al as well. Social Media buddies will publi­cise your work to their friends once you have connec­ted and are the greatest ally in getting the word out. These buddies rarely comment and some don’t read your blog post, but they are great at getting the word out to others.

Looking to Improve

One charac­ter­ist­ic of a good writer is that they should always be looking to improve. One element of improv­ing is making your words more readable.
My first research in this area led me to a computer program written in 1988 called Readability. I still have the manual for this program in a hardback version (although I suspect the floppy disk has disap­peared long ago). This, based on the scores provided from Flesch – Kincaid and Gunning-Fog formu­las, would analyse the text that you provided the program. Today there are many websites that offer readab­il­ity analys­is for your work.
These readab­il­ity formu­las are helpful  but they are not perfect however. For example, there is an assump­tion that all long words (more than 6 letters) are hard to under­stand.  The scores assume average reading ability for your audience. Much depends upon your audience, they may all have doctor­ate degrees and there­fore the language for a 16-year-old is inappro­pri­ate. The technic­al words of your profes­sion can be tough for a lay person to compre­hend. If your mater­i­al focuses on the needs of your profes­sion then those technic­al words are an essen­tial part of your writing and need includ­ing. The words must be appro­pri­ate to your audience at all times. A case of still #learn­ing.

Readability is not the Only Requirement

Certainly under­stand­ing readab­il­ity formu­las can help you fine-tune your work. But, it depends on having the text grammat­ic­ally and syntactic­ally correct and free of spelling errors before­hand. It doesn’t detect that dangling parti­ciple, for example.
You may have seen the descrip­tion “passive voice” if you are a user of Microsoft Word. For many years I under­stood what it was, but not how to resolve it within my writing.
It is true that creation of long sentences can bring with it passive voice usage. However not all long sentences use passive voice and often short ones are equally passive. Generally writers use passive voice when they describe things that happen to people rather than actors doing things. Yet if you use phrases like “was read” or “can be” they are also passive. It s not possible to avoid every instance of passive voice, partic­u­larly in fiction.
The trick, at least for business writing, is to find active altern­at­ives. Keep the number of sentences contain­ing passive voice to below 10 percent of what you write.

Drop the Clichés

A Cliché is either a stereo­type or a phrase that is overused and betrays a lack of origin­al thought. Most people use them, do you? They include “fit as a fiddle”, “time will tell”, and “oppos­ites attract”. There is truth in the senti­ments, but we should avoid the words.
Perhaps, ask a question — will time tell? Maybe a challenge needs setting — be fitter than the fiddle!

I Love Sentences

CommaI know we break sentences down into their compon­ent parts, the words, the phrases, the propos­i­tions, each help build sentences. The key skill for a writer is build­ing sentences. My father was proud of build­ing houses and I am proud of build­ing sentences. As writers we must use sentences to aid a reader’s under­stand­ing.
Sentences come in a variety of lengths. Some are short. Others are long, expand­ing on the concepts used, provid­ing the detail neces­sary to aid under­stand­ing. Please adopt no hard and fast rule. Some purists believe in sentences of less than 20 words. I love longer sentences, they enable the writer to dive into details, break down propos­i­tions into their parts, explain those, whenev­er neces­sary, and at the same time offer some balance, a way to counter-pose ideas, yet keep them in close proxim­ity to the origin­al state­ment. Ironically, there are times when keeping sentences short adds words to the whole piece.
There is a flow to phrases, sentences, paragraphs and even sections. No writing formula demands a fixed sentence length. They ebb and flow accord­ing to the words used to explain the ideas being portrayed. They give facts, tug on the heart-strings, and may even be poetic or humor­ous to make the inten­ded point.
When readab­il­ity software warns you about the number of long sentences it is simply that, a warning. In gener­al there is nothing wrong with long sentences. They are not always complex to read, especially if they use common words. If less than one in ten of your sentences are long then you should have no problem being under­stood. A mix of sentences and a mix of paragraphs is best in my view. The long sentence surroun­ded by short ones can add variety. The writer’s art is one of creat­ing delib­er­ate sentences, struc­tured to create a specif­ic response in the reader.

Explain or Explore More

Glossing over a complex idea is unwise. People turn to blogs to learn something. If complex subjects are not explained, readers feel they have wasted their time. As a writer you must question who is reading your words? Ensure the level of explan­a­tion is appro­pri­ate, this is especially true of Business Blogs. It is better to add a section that some people skip over than gloss over the subject, missing the explan­a­tion altogeth­er.
Currently experts believe that the length of a blog post is better being 2,000 to 2,500 words rather than 500 to 600 words. There should always be ample room to add more detail. People read longer posts because they wish to learn something, it is a part of their profes­sion­al or person­al devel­op­ment. Most of my posts are 1,250 to 1,750 words in length and I do try to add learn­ing points.

Related Posts by Peter Giblett

You may take a look at the follow­ing for further inform­a­tion:

 

 

 

Buy Peter B. Giblett a coffee as thanks for his thoughts about still #learn­ing. What are you learn­ing? The images included here are from royalty free public domain image collec­tions, photo­graphs from Pixabay.

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. Open Letter: For You? Seeking Guest Post Contributors - GobbledeGoox

Your comments