Two key focuses of my blog are Blogging/Writing and General Education. The ability to write is a critical skill no matter what sector you aspire to go into. The better you get at it, the better off you’ll be. The following contributed post is entitled, 5 Tips To Improve Your Writing Skills.
Writing is one of life’s most underrated skills. Of course, there are many ways to make money from being a great writer. You could craft a Booker Prize winning novel, work as a freelance copyright, or create and monetize your own blog. These are all respectable ways to earn a living, but writing is not just useful as a means to financial success. It is a valuable skill in its own right.
Whatever career you are in, there is a good chance you have to write occasionally. You may have to draft business proposals or create Powerpoint presentations to deliver to clients. Monthly reports, marketing plans, press releases, financial statements: all of these are examples of the written word in which a miscommunication could be disastrous. Even if you are in a manual line of work, you probably still have to send emails or participate in Whatsapp conversations.
Being able to write well makes you more articulate and helps you get your point across in a much more concise and meaningful way. This can benefit you when convincing a client to do business with you, asking for a pay rise, or getting yourself out of trouble. But how do you become a better writer if you’re not naturally talented with the written word? Here are five tips to improve your writing skills.
The best way to become a better writer is to read profusely. This way, you can absorb different techniques and styles and gain a better understanding of what makes for good writing. Look at things like vocabulary, sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation. Consume a variety of different texts from novels to news articles to scientific journals. Eventually, all this content will rub off on you and you’ll develop a keen eye for excellent writing.
Write a lot
Practice makes perfect, so make sure you devote some time each day to write. It doesn’t have to be public or even meaningful, as long as you make an effort to put pen to paper. Start a journal, publish a blog, or even just scrawl down some random thoughts in a notebook. The more you write, the more comfortable you will become and you’ll soon cultivate your own unique style.
Take a course
If you’re a complete beginner when it comes to writing, it is a good idea to learn from an expert. There are many courses and workshops that can help you develop your writing skills and turn your passion into a profession.
Once you’ve started writing for real, you need to become a perfectionist. It’s not enough to just churn out a blog post and hit publish. Be ruthless with the editing process and scrutinise every paragraph, sentence, and word. You need to be able to get your point across in as concise a manner as possible.
When you’re a writer it can sometimes be hard to see the wood for the trees. That’s why it can help to get feedback from an impartial observer. Ask friends and family to read your material and offer their criticisms and advice for how you could improve it. You’ll soon learn to identify your own flaws and work on them.
Two key focuses of my blog are Blogging and Writing, and Technology. For new bloggers, there is much more to blogging than simply having novel and exciting writing ideas. There are also strategic and technological considerations as well. Once you understand these elements, you can have a lot of fun and achieve your goals, whatever those are. The following contributed post is entitled, Ways to Enhance Your Blog for Modern Audiences.
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Things on the internet are constantly shifting and changing. So if you’re still blogging in the same ways you were 10 years ago, you’re probably not doing it right anymore. That might sound harsh but if you want to enhance your blog and reach an ever wider readership, you really do need to keep in mind the needs of modern audiences.
If you think now might be the right time for you to start making changes to your blog and how it operates, we’re here to help you with that. There are many ways in which you can make your blog more modern and meet the needs of modern audiences.
Each of the tips we’re about to discuss will help you get the fundamentals of good blogging right. And by doing that, you can ensure your blog is fit for purpose for a long time to come. So read on now to find out more about what you need to know about enhancing your blog for modern audiences.
Make Sure the Blog is Properly Categorized
First of all, you’re going to need to make sure that your blog is organized and planned out in the correct and proper way. That means putting proper categories in place and ensuring your posts are tagged correctly can be found in their corresponding category. It’s a simple thing but it matters.
It’s about making sure that people can find what they’re looking for when they visit your blog. If the task of finding content becomes difficult and frustrating for them, they’re definitely not going to stick around for long and you can be sure of that. So it’s worth taking the time to make your blog navigable.
Make Sharing Content Simple
You should also make it as easy as possible for people to share your content. If people are having difficulties finding that share button, they won’t share your post; it’s as simple as that. After all, they’re not gaining much by sharing your content.
It’s you who benefits when your readers enjoy a post and subsequently want to share it with their followers online. You should use share buttons and layouts that make it easy for them to do this. It’s not rocket science but it’s certainly something that you’ll need to go out of your way to put in place.
Use Clear CTAs
What do you want your readers to do? Calls to action are very important on most modern blogs and that’s something that can’t be denied. You should try to find a CTA that’s relevant to your blog and that your customers can get something out of.
Maybe you have an email list and you can use a CTA to prompt visitors to sign up to it. This is good for you because it affords you greater email marketing opportunities going forward, but it’s also something that can appeal to your readers too because they’ll then be able to read your regular newsletter.
Cross-Link to Other Relevant Content
As a blogger, you want to make sure that people are visiting as many pages on your blog and reading as many posts as possible each time they visit. Ideally, you don’t want them to simply read one post and then leave again. And cross-linking is the way to get this right.
So whenever you write a post, take the time to find other posts that are connected to it or relevant to the subject of the post in some way. When you do that, you can link to those posts within your current post. This will encourage clicks and encourage readers to stick around for longer.
Use a Web Design Service if You Don’t Have the Necessary Skills
If you don’t have web design skills and you want to update the aesthetic of your blog, you should definitely think about using a web design service such as Caltech Web. These days, people expect a lot from a blog and they might be immediately put off if your blog looks outdated.
There’s nothing more revealing about a blog’s age and relevance than the design. If the design looks like it hasn’t been changed in 15 years or more, then you’ve got a problem. You should try to update it at the earliest opportunity.
Learn to Write More Appealing Headlines
It’s imperative to create headlines that are going to make people want to click and read your content. That doesn’t mean that you create headlines that are false and misleading because that’s not the answer to this issue either; a balance needs to be struck.
Learn to write headlines that are interesting, catchy and appealing. They should be relatively short and to the point, and you can then follow them up with longer subheadings that help to give the reader a better idea and understanding about what they can expect from the post.
Ensure There’s Great Visual Content
The right images and other kinds of visual content will be vital on your blog. If you want to make sure that people stick around and pay attention to your blog, you need to be using visual content in one way or another. This helps break up the text and keeps things interesting for the reader.
There are so many examples of visual content that can be used, from good images to video content to infographics. Make an effort to include as much of that stuff as possible in your posts if you want to keep them interesting and visually appealing.
Be Open to Collaborating with Others
These days, it’s very common for bloggers to collaborate with other bloggers and online personalities. This might not be something that you’re used to doing, but it can be a great way to keep your readership interested and to expand your reach and make your blog known to more people.
You should try to be more open to collaborating with others because there are benefits. It can be as simple as guest blogging, so if you haven’t tried that before, it’s a good place to start for you. It could do more for you than you might expect.
These days, there are so many analytics tools out there to help you understand your audience better than ever before. You should definitely be making the most of these because you can then optimize and improve your content when you have a fuller understanding of what your audience actually wants.
Take the time to understand keywords and search terms that you feel are relevant to your blog and your target audience. You’ll be able to capture readers better and ensure relevant people have the chance to see and click your links via search engines with the right SEO approach.
Write About Those Things
Writing about the things you find out your audience is interested in is key. You need to be offering up content that’s relevant to your audience otherwise they simply won’t keep reading it. It’s as simple as that. Do your best to make sure that you don’t leave your audience behind.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t express yourself and explore new ideas through your blog content because you can. But the desire to do that also needs to be balanced with the needs and wants of your audience members.
Keep Your Content Readable
Readability is an important factor when it comes to writing blog posts. If your style or writing becomes too unwieldy and complex, people will likely turn away. Keep sentences relatively short and always read over your posts before publishing them, and do so with readability in mind.
You might even want to hire an editor or simply ask a friend to read the post over before it gets published. An outside perspective and an extra set of eyes can make a huge difference when it comes to assessing the readability of your work. That extra person might point out some things you haven’t noticed yourself.
Respond to the Responses
Interaction is key as a blogger. As your blog’s audience starts to develop and grow, you’ll find that people are interacting with you on social media before and maybe leaving comments under your blog posts. If that’s the case, you should try your best to respond.
People will really appreciate that added interaction that comes with doing so. They’ll see the human and personal side to you and as such they’ll feel much better connected to your personal brand and the blog you run. That can only be a good thing from the perspective of retaining readers.
Blogging is a challenge and there are no quick fixes or easy answers. If you want to get to where you need to be with your blog, it’ll only come about through hard work and action. Make the most of the ideas above, but don’t feel confined to these changes. Find your own way forward; it’s your blog after all.
The first principle of my blog is Creating Ecosystems of Success. The idea for this piece came to me at least six months ago. As a writer, sometimes you have ideas that roll around in your head for a while asking to be put on paper. Sometimes the timing isn’t right and then one day, that time comes. This blog post will bring together multiple topics: entrepreneurship, writing and life skills. In fact, I plan to gradually create a series just on writing and blogging, and I hope you enjoy this piece. The images used throughout this piece are from one of the business cards I had made up for myself, when I was a writer for the Examiner.
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“What are you getting for that?” Someone I dated several years ago asked me this question with a bit of snark and petulance in her voice. I suspect it was because she felt that she was competing with my writing activities which had become my passion. I was writing for the online publication, the Examiner, in addition to a host of other activities I was involved in. The Examiner had several rules for its writers, and one of the biggest rules was that contributors had to publish something at least once a month. So, during that time I was always literally ‘on the clock’. Once two weeks lapsed without publishing something, they’d send an automated email reminding you of their policy and its consequences.
“What are you getting for that?” I did receive ‘something’ from the Examiner as I pumped out article after article for them. The publication paid it’s writers on a commission, though it was admittedly only ‘peanuts’. It was by no means enough to pay the mortgage, and it was enough to only get a lunch from time to time. My significant other at the time was tickled when I told her what I typically got for the effort I was putting in.
The dollar amount I received didn’t necessarily bother me though, as deep in my heart I knew that I was after something else at that time. I was after something that couldn’t be easily spent up or paraded around. The most valuable compensation I received from the Examiner wasn’t the money, it was the experience!
“Have you ever thought about taking a writing class?” The impetus for writing for the Examiner was the dream of a book I wanted to write. On a visit back to Buffalo, I showed my mother, a trained writer herself, a sample of what I’d written. I watched nervously as she quietly read it on the couch. She softly responded with the above-mentioned question which was as they say, “letting me down easy.” The message clear though. I may have had some great story ideas, but I needed to learn how to write.
She was right, but I had to go forward with my dream somehow. Thanks to my friend George, I’d read the Passion Test and knew that I had to give it a legitimate try. But where was I going to learn how to write quality content consistently?
Two things happened at the same time right around 2014. I found The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD and took a couple of writing classes there. One was a personal short essay class, and the second was a beginner’s Science Fiction class. I also took a workshop about publishing.
“In order to become a writer, you have to read a lot and you have to write a lot!” As noted in the story of my blog, Dr. Gerald Early gave me this advice back in 1995 when he presented one of his books at the SUNY College at Brockport. He recommended that I could start writing for the school newspaper. I didn’t take his advice back then, but I remembered his advice 20 years later when a woman named Kelley recommended that I apply to write for the Examiner. By chance we met at a STEM fair at Bowie State University.
I subsequently applied to be an “Examiner” and they accepted me. I specifically applied to be an “Education Examiner” as everyone had to specialize in an area. What ensued was a writing adventure that lasted for two to three years. Education was a vast umbrella and I could make almost anything fit under it. I was particularly interested in: education, science, money and life stories about my path as a minority scientist and others.
In addition to their time stipulation, the Examiner had other guidelines. They didn’t want a ‘blogging’ format, so the use of “I” was limited and highly policed. They wanted large paragraphs to be broken up into smaller ones, and they wanted the pieces to be as short and concise as possible. They also gave us the Associated Press’s guidelines to follow for properly abbreviating states, for reporting dates and times, and even for what and what not to capitalize in the titles of our pieces. Lastly, we were to add hyperlinks to our pieces, but only legitimate sources. “Wikipedia” wasn’t considered a legitimate source.
Being on the board of directors of the Friends Arlington’s David M. Brown Planetarium, I had a guaranteed supply of stories nine months out of the year, and the board enjoyed the free coverage. In addition to any education or life-related pieces I wanted to write, there were always current events in the news that were worth discussing. The racial controversy in the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks’ locker room comes to mind. The blackness of quarterback Russell Wilson was questioned by some of his teammates which set off a firestorm.
The retired and controversial professional basketball player, Charles Barkley, openly talked about the black community’s, “dirty dark secret”, regarding education and, “talking white”, which further fanned the controversy. With my own experiences, I wrote a piece backing up Barkley which temporarily vaulted me into the number one ranked education writer, as it was so racially charged.
When you logged into your online ‘dashboard’, the Examiner ranked its top five or 10 writers in your area. The number one spot was usually held by a woman who I’ll call “Nancy G”. Nancy must’ve written for the Examiner fulltime and didn’t have a ‘nine to five’, because she was always pumping out content.
It was amazing. Some of the black commenters were so worked up over my supporting Barkley’s position, that they confronted me in the comment section of the article which surprised me. It was very educational as I learned about how people can be racially ‘triggered’, even by members of their own race over things that are true. I’ll probably revisit this in the future.
I eventually learned that the internet is like a vast ocean where people are looking and fishing for different things. As a writer, unless you see your number of subscribers rise, or you see your social media likes/shares spike, you don’t know who is looking at your pieces. That said people are out there watching you, even when you don’t know it.
In January of 2015, I was contacted and offered the opportunity to interview actor Hill Harper regarding his collaboration with the National Honor Society (NHS) on its “Honor Your Future Now” campaign. Afterwards I also got to interview the President of the NHS, Dr. Jonathan Mathis. It was a lot of fun and something I never thought that I would do. It was the first of many interviews that I’d do when writing for them.
“You should work to learn, as opposed to learning to work!” This quote from Robert Kiyosaki’s anonymous “Rich Dad” is one of the many riddles found within the Rich Dad Poor Dad series. In his books, Robert’s core messages are about wealth creation and financial independence. He discusses how individuals who are interested in becoming ‘investors’ and ‘business owners’ should be willing to first seek out the knowledge they need to create their wealth, even if it means working with someone or on projects, for little or nothing simply to acquire the knowledge, experience and expertise which can be leveraged later.
This was in part what I was doing as I wrote for the Examiner. I was acquiring the experience as I had other bigger projects in mind further down the road. Up to that point though, I hadn’t had any experience writing my own pieces, and publishing them. One of the biggest rules the Examiner warned us about up front, was that of ‘quality control’. That is every piece we published had to be polished and ‘squeaky clean’ in terms of grammar.
In 2013 I gained a “Press Credential” at the “Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference”. I had published pieces for the Examiner for at least two years and earned the right to directly publish my pieces and bypass their editors. I was hoping to get ‘news worthiness’ for the piece which meant that it had to go up within 48 hours of the conclusion of the event.
Either by doing too many things at once, or just becoming complacent, I tried to publish an overview of the conference which was riddled with errors. One of the main errors was a misspelling of then President Barrack Obama’s name. The Examiner staff flagged it and reprimanded me. I was so embarrassed as I read their editorial comments.
It was my second or third piece which was below standard and my right to publish without the editor’s approval was revoked. I should’ve known better, but before the Examiner eventually closed its doors, I got the privilege back, though I had to earn it. The lesson was clear; don’t attempt to publish poor quality work – a lesson I’ve brought with me here to my own blog.
What I got from writing for the Examiner making ‘peanuts’ was the experience – something money can’t buy. The hours of writing, creating content, and my mother editing my pieces were all to set up some other writing projects I’d always dreamed of writing, and to be able to start my own blog. Back to Robert Kiyosaki’s riddle, depending upon what you’re doing, and what you want to do, acquiring the experience is the critical piece which sets you up to make the money later. It’s one of the reasons he and others stress being “life-long learners”.
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In the process of writing and earning those peanuts from the Examiner, I gained the experience, confidence and I developed my own writing process which includes:
• The initial conception of the idea;
• Creating the first draft of the idea;
• Revising the piece two-three times, and approving of it myself before sending it for final editing by someone else and;
• Making any revisions after final editing as some last-minute ideas sometimes trickle in.
Much of this is not new by the way. I do liken it though to what Berry Gordy learned from working in the automobile industry. He learned the process of creating quality cars and then he translated that knowledge into creating quality records. So, in summary, while earning peanuts while writing for the Examiner, I learned:
• To write quality content (my own ideas and actual events); • To use visuals with the pieces (with attribution when necessary); • To add quality hyperlinks to my pieces; • To write using the Associated Press’s guidelines when applicable; • To identify specific ‘tag’ words (used five times) in my pieces so that the piece will more readily show up in any Google searches and finally; • To add the links to my other work at the end of pieces to allow readers to see what else I’ve written in that area or others.
I incorporate all these elements here on my blog. So, yes, sometimes to perfect your craft, or to learn from an expert/mentor, you may need to do it for free or next to nothing. As Stephen Covey stated in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “Highly effective people start off with the end in mind!” Furthermore, as Stephen King said in On Writing, if it’s something you love doing, no one will have to force you to do it, and you will likely do it for little or nothing, at least initially anyway.
In closing, thanks to the advent of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), my blog-platform has begun generating more than just peanuts and I’ll just leave it at that. Again, this will be the first of many pieces I’ll generate on blogging and writing. Stay tuned for more. I want to thank the Examiner for letting me contribute to their website.
I want to acknowledge my mother’s eldest sister, my Auntie Melva for introducing the money-term ‘peanuts’ into my vocabulary as a kid. I first heard her use it in one of her many spirited discussions one day with her siblings. That might’ve been my first time in life comprehending that words in the English language can have multiple meanings.
I finally want to thank my mother for helping me along on this adventure. She’s edited most of my stuff. Also, many of the seeds for this were planted several years ago in elementary school when she insisted that my brother and me learn proper typing technique. Neither of us understood why we were doing it at the time.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. The following articles that I wrote for the Examiner which have been updated, revised and republished here on the Big Words Blog Site:
If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and or leave a comment. To receive all the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site. Please visit my YouTube channel entitled, Big Discussions76. You can follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, and Twitter at @BWArePowerful. Lastly, you can follow me on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.