I look forward to the new Community Pool posting each Monday and admit what turns me away faster than seeing a spider on my Facebook feed is poorly edited work. I have a short attention span and if I see something in the first two or three sentences that I want to correct, I give up. The Community Pool, from what I have seen, is a generous forum offering assistance and positivity. New and established bloggers ask for help and constructive feedback (or feedforward, to keep it positive) and as much as I like the interaction with other bloggers, I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings when they ask for feedback. I have occasionally mentioned the odd spelling error, but I usually keep my feedback to the blog layout, rather than content.
I thought I’d share some of my tips to help your writing look more professional and more appealing, and hopefully to give the reader that little bit of whatever they are looking for when they click on your title, because their time is precious too.
Read Your Title
- Work from your title – if you are going to discuss your ‘Walk in the Park’ but spend all your post writing about feeding the ducks, your title doesn’t link to your work. Your title is ‘When I Fed the Ducks’.
- Now, if your walk in the park encompasses feeding the ducks, throwing a stick for your dog and buying an ice-cream from the ice-cream van, then yes, you’re telling us about your ‘Walk in the Park’.
- So to summarise: if when you are writing, your words take you somewhere else, and that’s a fanciful way of saying you didn’t stick to the brief, that’s fine; quickly amend your title to suit your new piece. After all, it’s your blog and your choice.
Check Your Spelling
- Spelling is quick and easy to check on the computer. Pay attention to the squiggly red or blue lines underneath words as this identifies that something isn’t right. Sometimes the computer gets it wrong and the squiggly red line means nothing. You may want to add a known correct word to your dictionary.
- You may have written a word and the computer has auto-corrected the correct spelling but the wrong word. Read your work slowly and correct any errors in the draft. Auto-correct changed my word ‘contraction’ in this article to ‘contraption’, I corrected it immediately.
- Of course, you could just have made an error. If you see it, fix it!
- Homophones – words that sound the same but have different meanings.
- Two: the number. Too: also (and other synonyms). To: is a preposition which refers to a place, direction or position.
- Their: belonging to someone. There: over there. They’re: a contraction of they are (the apostrophe replaces the space and missing letter ‘a’.
- Your: belonging to you. You’re: a contraction of you are.
- Where: place or location. Were: a verb, e.g. what were you up to? Wear: clothing. We’re: a contraction of we are.
- A word on contractions: they’re standard – you can’t make new ones up. Use as you like for informal writing, such as blogging. Do not use in formal writing as, certainly in my academic career, they were frowned upon.
- Final word on contractions: think for a moment, how do you say ‘would have’? Would have? Or would’ve? Both are correct. A common error I see frequently is ‘would of’ when people mean to say or write ‘would have’ because they are thinking ‘would’ve’. Just. Please. Don’t. It’s incorrect. I hate it!
- Apostrophes have several uses in grammar, below is a short introduction.
- As we have seen with contractions, they replace the missing letter or letters.
- They also denote possession, such as, Fiona’s flowers, Ruby’s blog. In those two examples the apostrophe is a possessive apostrophe, the flowers belonging to Fiona and the blog belonging to Ruby.
- Singular: the hero’s medal. Plural: the heroes’ medals. Both possessive; one singular, one plural.
- When the word ends with an ‘s’. Where the apostrophe appears after the first ’s’ formerly no second ’s’ was necessary – like my example. Latterly, it has become acceptable to have a second ’s’ after the apostrophe, for example, heroes’s medals. I prefer it without.
- Apostrophes. THEY DO NOT DENOTE PLURALS! That is what the ’s’ is for!
- So, ‘the heros medal’s’ is incorrect – not only have I failed to give the hero ownership of the medal by omitting the apostrophe, I’ve also added an apostrophe before the ’s’ in medals to denote a plural.
- Some further correct examples:
The doctor’s surgery – one doctor, with one surgery
The doctors’ surgery – more than one doctor, with one surgery
The doctor’s surgeries – one doctor, multiple surgeries
The doctors’ surgeries – multiple doctors, with multiple surgeries
Edit your work
- Don’t just finish with a flourish and publish, sit back and wait.
- Edit your work with fresh eyes, preferably wait a day or two (or even longer if you can).
- Read out loud several times. If you trip over your words when reading it, chances are your audience will too.
- Ask someone else to read it and check for errors. Constructive feedback is a good thing.
- Reduce any overlong sentences into two or more sentences to make reading easier.
- Check your grammar and your spellings.
- Don’t be repetitive. Check the thesaurus and use other synonyms when appropriate.
- Edit each sentence individually for structure and length. Sometimes you can delete several words when you add one succinct one. For example, ‘in the world’ can be replaced with ‘globally’.
- Does your work accurately reflect its title?
- Do your paragraphs link to each other so your prose flows naturally?
- Does your introduction define the parameters of your work?
- Does your conclusion round up all points raised?
What about length?
- It’s your choice, it’s your blog.
- However, it is recommended that blogs should be between 400 – 800 words.
- Obviously bloggers can be more productive if their posts are shorter.
- It is a subjective choice for the blogger to write a post, the length of which being as long or as short as he or she pleases, it is also the same for the reader. And there are many readers out there that are happy with reading a longer post as long as your subject is engaging.
- I fail miserably at writing short posts.
I have previously edited multiple academic papers, including several final-draft dissertations and have come by the above points through experience. Hopefully the guidance I have offered will be of use to those who frequently request some constructive feedback to improve the quality of their writing.