5 Sites to Strengthen Your Writing Skills

This post is by Ashe Mischief

 

I read once, “Not all great writers make great bloggers, and not all great bloggers make great writers.”

 

The written word. It’s the foundation that most blogs are built upon (there are blogs that are video- or photograph-based, making the written word obsolete). All of the blogs I read rely on the written word to communicate ideas, opinions, reactions, and emotions.

 

I believe firmly in cultivating your own individual voice as a writer. I also believe firmly in cultivating that voice with a strong writing foundation, especially if you want to become a professional blogger.

 

Blogging is a global practice– readers can come in to your site from Japan, Australia, France; they can come in from your neighborhood, from Lisbon, from St. Petersberg, and from Honolulu.  You can find inspiration in blogs from Norway, Japan, or Brazil.

 

When considering an international audience, it becomes all the more important that your writing is easy, clear, and understandable.

 

We all see posts encouraging us to make sure we haven’t mixed up they’re/their/there or its/it’s and affect/effect.  But what else is there to making sure your posts are structurally sound and written for maximum audience benefit?

 

I’ve compiled a group of five sites with excellent writing tips, from grammar to structure and publication, to be used in blogging, your academic essays, professional writing, or your secret novella.

 

5 Sites with Great Writing Tips:

 

  • Writing Tips for Non-Writers Who Don’t Want to Work at Writing: This page is so amazing for interjecting humor, honesty, and practical knowledge.
    • “Don’t use words you don’t really know.” Use words you know. Use words your readers will know.  Use simple language whenever you can.  I see this problem so often, and let me tell you-misusing a word only makes you look bad.
    • “Punctuate, damn you” includes great tips of the various kinds of punctuation, and when to use it.  I had a writing professor in college who spend 15 minutes during one class each semester explaining when to use commas, colons, and semi-colons.  That 15 minutes was invaluable and kept me from failing many papers.
    • “Front-load your point: If you make people wade through seven paragraphs of unrelated anecdotes before you get to what you’re really trying to say, you’ve lost.”  For writers who love controversial posts, exposes, interviews, and more– this is the tip for you (and for me!).
    • “Try to write well every single time you write.”  I love this tip.  From tweets to text messages, status updates and emails, practice your writing everywhere you go.
  • Copyblogger’s The Ultimate Blogger Writing Guide:
    • “Write in a conversational style.”  This might make you say “huh?” a bit, since this post is about breaking you from outside of that.  Conversational writing can be strong writing.  You don’t say “gr8” you say “great.”  Don’t write what you wouldn’t say or how you wouldn’t say it.
    • “Be specific.” Such a great tip! Don’t write, “The fabric on these boots is gorgeous,” but try writing “the fabric on these boots have gorgeous leopard print pony hair.”
    • “Organize your thoughts. You don’t need a detailed outline for most writing. But you do need to know what you want to say before you say it.”  I have a lot of blog posts that are sitting in my drafts, because I have a topic, but I haven’t organized my thoughts for it.
  • 10 Things a Blogger Must Check Before Hitting Publish: This site contains great tips that are outside the realm of writing, but are really valuable points for all bloggers (like adding back links and a catchy heading).
    • “Sources, Credentials and Related Articles: Never forget to add links and give credits to those blogs or websites” Don’t be an asshole– if someone else has a great idea, inspires you, or you’re writing a response to them, be sure to credit and link back to them.  If you don’t, people WILL notice
    • “Opening Contents:  You must avoid writing off-the-topic and bogus things on the opening lines of your post, specially in the first paragraph. If you do so, many readers will go away from your blog ultimately affecting your blog and its credibility.”
  • Ernest Hemingway’s Writing Tips for Bloggers: A little humor to leave you all on and, once again, humor mixed with wisdom.
    • “Write the tip of the ice-berg, leave the rest under the water” What a beautiful metaphor for how we should blog.  I’ve found that, when writing more in-depth articles, if I try to cover everything in one post, I end up feeling confused and overwhelmed.  By writing the tip of the iceberg, you’re opening yourself up to regular series on your sites, as well as more post opportunities.
    • “Accept that writing is something you can never do as well as it can be done.”  No matter how many editors we have or how many times we revise, mistakes happen. Errors get through.  It’s a natural part of the writing process.  Damn the Grammar Nazis and go with the most simple and effective writing you can.
  • Writing Checklist: While academically focused, it offers great tips, and is a great final checklist before hitting PUBLISH.
    • “My sentences begin in different ways.”  This is a tip I remember learning in high school and, I find, whenever my writing feels weakest? It’s because I’ve begun multiple sentences in the same paragraph with the same word.  It becomes really repetitive if every sentence begins, “This is….” and “This says.”
    • “I used strong verbs.”  This tip is reiterated many times throughout the other posts, in various ways.  Use active verbs, not passive verbs.
    • One that is often overlooked– “I have periods at the end of my sentences.”  When leaving comments, writing posts– use your comments! Especially for those whose language may not be native to your own, periods really help to establish your train of thought.

 

Next week I’ll be reviewing Problogger’s Copywriting Scorecard for Bloggers, a 100+ page e-book that takes you step by step through writing and editing your post, making it SEO-friendly, and hitting publish.

In the meantime– any writing tips you’d like to share? Foolproof tips that have helped you bring your C- blogging up to a A?

 

Image by greg.turner

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32 Responses

  1. Jessica - HAUTE HAUS

    This is such a helpful post! I’ll make sure to visit these sites as soon as I get home from work.

    Personally, I’m not attracted to blogs that don’t have any writing. Adding a short paragraph to a picture or an image can make a difference, bloggers!

    Thanks always,

    Jess
    HAUTE HAUS

    Reply
    • Ashe Mischief

      I’m note attracted to ones without writing either– afterall, it’s one of the biggest ways to communicate yourself to your audience!

      Reply
  2. Christy L.

    Great tips Ashe! I think it is really important to represent yourself well no matter what. You never know who is going to read that sentence fragment or misspelled comment no matter how unimportant it seems. I hate when I see awful writing on the internet from supposed writers.

    Reply
  3. Evie

    Another really helpful post Ashe. Thanks so much. Going to read up on those links now!

    evie x

    Reply
  4. the clothing menu

    good point about making sure to use punctuation in comments! i don’t remember if i do that all the time.

    Reply
  5. Annching

    Great tips – nothing damages a great post like a grammar mistake or bad writing, and I’ve definitely seen it! I try my best to put my best writing out there – takes a little bit more time, but I think it’s worth it for my readers and myself.

    Thanks for the tips!

    Reply
  6. lisa

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this wonderful post, Ashe. I’m a technical writer by trade so I understand that writing is something one has to work at and it doesn’t always come easily. But it still irks me when I see simple mistakes in people’s posts that could have been prevented.

    Also worth mentioning: There’s no shame in tweaking and republishing a post if you find a typo or grammatical error, or if you feel that a certain sentence isn’t as strong as it can be.

    Reply
    • Ashe Mischief

      Thank you for the comment, Lisa! While I’m not a perfect writer myself, I do strive to try and keep my skills up to snuff. It DOESN’T always come easy, but if you’re treating your blog like a job, then writing shouldn’t necessarily be easy, should it?

      “Also worth mentioning: There’s no shame in tweaking and republishing a post if you find a typo or grammatical error, or if you feel that a certain sentence isn’t as strong as it can be.”

      SO AMAZING and true! I go back all the time and tweak and edit posts if I catch something not quite right in them…

      Reply
  7. Chic 'n Cheap Living

    Great list of resources – thank you!

    I have no problems editing posts if I see a grammatical error or passive, awkward sentence.

    I find that sitting on a post for a few hours and rereading it helps the editing process as well (so many things come to late with posts I’ve actually held for a while).

    Reply
  8. Diana

    I recently purchased a copy of Elements of Style because, oddly, it’s the SEO standard vogue right now. While I still find it rather dull, I sometimes alternate with the grammar book The Deluxe Transitive Vampire which is infinitely more fun to read, but the fun detracts from me learning the correct grammar.

    I also write long-form -i.e., for print. (Print is still alive in some areas.) I’m amused at how the blogging tip says “write well every time you write” because one of the first things you learn in long-form writing is that it’s OK to write badly on a first draft; we expect to write a frew drafts before we unleash our works upon the world.

    What a difference pushing a button can make!

    Reply
  9. Michelle Christina

    Nice round-up—I especially like the copyblogger.

    And I think the most important thing to do, whether you write a lot or a little on your blog, is to be concise and edit your copy down to an engaging, thoroughly expressed thought.

    I’m still working on that though, it’s hard! +_+

    Reply
  10. Emily Belleau

    thank you for this list! very helpful and a great checklist when creating a post for one’s blog. I’m definitely going to refer back to those sites and keep improving the quality of my posts.

    xx

    Emily

    Reply
  11. Style Geek

    I enrolled in a journalism class this semester in hopes of strengthening my writing, especially because I cover local events monthly, but I learned more from The Ultimate Blogger Writing Guide than I have in the past 10 weeks of class.

    Thanks for the sites!

    Reply
  12. Vinda Sonata

    this is such an amazing article.
    i agree that bloggers should be able to cultivate their own voices.
    the part which mentions to be simple is the best one. i love it when someone writes with simple verbs, but somehow manage to pull off deep sentences.

    thank you for sharing ashe.

    Reply
  13. devorelebeaumonstre.

    I really enjoyed this article along with the tips. I was actually just speaking with someone earlier in the evening about how I hate when I find a really great blog & the photos & outfits are beyond fantastic but when it comes to the content of the post there’s a million spelling errors or just plain stupidity in the composition. I always leave feeling irritated because there’s these gorgeous photos but no substance.

    Reply
  14. britt

    This post is SO helpful…The points in here are so simple, honest, and easy to understand. Two minutes in and the topic of ‘front loading’ a post completely struck a chord. It also led to me stopping half way through so I could post this comment and thank you for writing this!! ok, going back to finish the rest of it now…

    Reply
  15. Anonymous

    There is a lot of great information here! However, I found the following example to be a little off: “the fabric on these boots have gorgeous leopard print pony hair.” The subject and verb do not agree… perhaps “The fabric is a gorgeous leopard print pony hair”? I find subject/ verb disagreement can be distracting at times. Otherwise, these are all fantastic tips and a wise selection of articles that are sure to help many!

    Reply
  16. esther

    helped me so much, i love blogging but i am truly hopeless at the English thing terrible i know

    one thing i have learnt though don’t use smiles i did when i first started out and boy oh boy they looked childish.

    esther xxxx

    Reply
  17. fotiosmegas

    χρησιμα θα ειναι αυτα που λες και συμβουλευεις στη γλωσσα σου, απο οτι μπορω να αντιληφθω, αλλα η μεταφραση τους, στη δικη μου,…σκατα!
    Βρισκεις ακρη, λοιπον. εσυ;
    Οχι, ρωταω, για να δω αν μπορω να βρω και εγω.

    Reply
  18. fotiosmegas

    Ιντεπεντε, τσάκω πεντε…!
    Στειλε οδηγιες δυνατες, τωρα στο παρα πεντε.
    Μεσανυχτα απο HTML(κες) ιντριγκες και γλωσσες…
    Δεν μπορω να γραψω μια ετικετα…σκεψου να δεις για παραπερα. Ολα βουνα και ρεματα…
    Και παρολα ααυτα ξεκινησα και εγω να γραφωωω…κοιτα να δεις θρασος!

    Reply