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How to customise your contents page in Word

It’s Word Tips time again and today we’re going to talk about customising your contents page.

Why do people customise their contents page?

Sometimes you have lots and lots of sub-headings in a document but you only want to show the main or main and sub-headings on the contents page, not every tiny sub-sub-heading.

In addition, you might want to change the style of your contents page or its individual font and layout. Here’s how to do it, with a worked example of changing the levels that are shown.

Reminder: how do I insert a contents page?

Here’s our document, with headings at H1, H2 and H3 level. I’ve marked these up with their heading levels already (see here for how to assign heading levels).

If we just follow the usual process for inserting a table of contents, we will create a blank page before this one, then go to the References tab and choose Table of Contents, then click on one of the automatic options that come up.

This is the result: a table of contents that includes all the headings in our original text:

How do I select which heading levels appear in my Table of Contents?

If you want to ignore all headings below level 2 (1.1, 1.2) then you need to customise the table of contents.

As before, select the References tab and the Table of Contents button. However, now click on Custom Table of Contents

This will give you this dialogue box:

There are lots of different things you can do here. For example, you can choose to show or not show the page numbers in the table of contents, and whether or not to align them. The preview panes at the top will show you the results before you click OK.

Options allows you to choose the style for the table of contents from a set of heading styles, and Modify then Modify again allows you to completely customise the appearance of the table of contents text permanently, with underlining, different fonts, etc.

At the moment, we’re concerned with eliminating the level 3 headings from the table of contents.Click on the arrows by Show levels to adjust how many levels are displayed:

And click OK. Here we have changed the number of levels to 2, and the result is this:

Even though the text still has the same headings and levels it had before, the table of contents now just includes those headings down to Level 2

This is part of my series on how to avoid time-consuming “short cuts” and use Word in the right way to maximise your time and improve the look of your documents. Find all the short cuts here … Please note that these tips are for Word 2010 and later for Microsoft. I can’t guarantee or check they will work in Mac versions of Word.

Do let me know if this has helped you – and do share with the buttons at the bottom of this article.

Related articles on this website

How to use headings styles – make your headings clear and consistent

How to set up numbered headings – ones that automatically update themselves!

How to create a Table of Contents – read the posts on Headings first

Table of Figures and Table of Tables – how to create these tricky ones

How do I add or remove auto-captions?

Two-line caption, one-line entry in the Table of Figures: how?

How to update Tables of Contents, Figures and Tables

Tables of Contents for editors – helping the editing process run smoothly

 
 

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Tricky words: What does falsify mean?

I occasionally write about tricky words rather than troublesome pairs on this blog, and here’s one that always makes me feel a little uneasy. When that happens, I look it up (a large part of being a decent editor / proofreader is knowing when to look stuff up), and I find I have had to look this one up a few times.

So, falsify.

The most common meaning for “to falsify”, in my opinion, is the one around making something become false. You might change something to mislead “We falsified the results to make it look like smoking is good for you”. You are effectively changing something, a document or some results, in order to deceive people. Falsification is the noun for the action of falsifying, and a falsifier does it.

But the other meaning is to prove to be false, or to disprove. In this case, it’s the opposite of verify, and is used in, for example, social sciences and economics texts (which is where I tend to find it). It looks odd to me when I read, “We falsified the results”, but here the writer is using it in this second meaning: “We proved the results to be false”.

To be honest, I’d rather move away from possible misinterpretation and use “we proved the results to be false” or “we verified that the hypothesis could not be proved” rather than “we falsified the results” or “we falsified the hypothesis”. However, my editing policy is to tread lightly, and it is an acceptable term, found in all the major dictionaries, so it’s not something I would change lightly (although I might make a note for the author if the text was going into general rather than academic circulation).


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Posted by on July 27, 2017 in Be careful, Writing

 

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How do I include quotations in my document? Should I change their language and spelling?

How do I include quotations in my document? Should I change their language and spelling?

Thank you to Vedrana Vojkvić for suggesting this topic to me via Twitter. She asked me for my input on a question she was discussing: what do we do if we are following UK spelling conventions and there’s a direct quotation that follows US spelling conventions? She also introduced the idea of [sic], asking to clarify that that is used only for actual errors in quotations, not just to highlight use of a different variety of English.

How do I include quotations in American English in my British English document?

This, of course, works both ways. If you are following US spelling and grammar conventions in your document and you need to quote something from a British English source, or you’re writing UK English and want to quote from an American source, should you change the spelling in your quotation to match the standard you are using in your main text?

Short answer: no.

Quotations are quotations from the original text. They should be quoted as they are, in the original.

When can I change a quotation?

There are a few occasions when you can and should change a quotation.

Note: every change you make to a quotation should be placed in [square brackets] to make sure it is clear that you have made the change.

  1. To make the grammar match the sentence in which the quotation is included. For example, you might write this: “Smith (2013) instructs the runner to ‘[go] with the flow, not setting off too fast’ (33), which is good advice,” where the original quotation ran, “A good runner goes with the flow, not setting off too fast”.
  2. When you need to explain something: “Smith (2013: 43) further states, ‘Those people [the running club members] can be very supportive’ in her seminal work.”
  3. When you need to cut text from the original quotation: “In this long passage, Smith (2012: 33) tells us to, ‘Watch out for your own over-excitement […] you must rein things in’.”
  4. If the quotations are in very archaic English and you have updated them into modern English OR the person you are quoting had a very individual use of punctuation or spelling and you have regularised it – in this case, you MUST state that you have done this in your introduction or a “Note about the quotations” at the beginning of your document. I would prefer to add modern English versions after the original in the first example and leave the quotations in the original in the second example.
  5. If you have translated the quotations out of their original language yourself – in this case, make sure to make a note of this in your introduction or a “Note about the quotations,” and if you have only translated some of the quotations, put a note [translated by the researcher] after those you have translated.

If you choose to emphasise something in the quotation that was not emphasised in the original, you must say that you have done this: “Smith says, ‘Everyone can run at their own speed and should not be pushed too far’ [emphasis added by the researcher].” (If the emphasis appears in the original, it’s good practice to add [emphasis in the original] after the quotation instead, to make that clear.)

When can I use [sic] in a quotation?

Almost never! I think that’s one for another article … However, to answer the original question, you would not need to use [sic] when quoting in one language (variety) in a text that is in another language (variety).

The golden rule of including quotations in your text

Always, always, always reference them fully so the reader can go and find them in the original!

This article has discussed how to insert quotations into a text, including what to do if they are in a different variety of English, whether you should change the spellings of quotations and when it is acceptable to change a quotation.

If you have enjoyed this article and/or found it useful, please do add a comment and/or share using the buttons below. Thank you!

 
 

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How do I highlight the text related to my comment balloon in Word 2013 and 2016?

I have already published a range of posts on issues with comment boxes or comment balloons, including ones on comment boxes suddenly going tiny, or comment box text running in the wrong direction, changing the language in your comment balloons. This article covers how to highlight the text that a comment balloon relates to.

Why can’t I see which bit of text this comment balloon is about?

As a default in Word 2013 and Word 2016, you can see your text and you can see your comments, but you can’t see which bit of text the comment refers to. Why? I have no idea. Microsoft tends to try to make things look simpler, but personally, I don’t find it helpful. It looks like this …

1-default

… and what we want to see is this:

3-result

How do I highlight the text that’s being commented on?

You can change the settings to do this by going to the Review Tab and the Track Changes area. You will see a box marked Simple Markup. Click on the down arrow to the left to access the dropdown menu:

2-comments

Select All Markup.

Now the text that the comment is about will be highlighted when you’re looking at the document:

3-result

Don’t forget …

This only applies to your individual view of the document on your particular computer / screen. If your editor, client or co-writer wants to change this view, they’ll have to change it themselves. Send them here to see how it’s done!

If you have found this article helpful, please add a comment and/or share it using the buttons below. Thank you!

Other related posts on this blog

What to do if your comment boxes go tiny in Word

What to do if your comment boxes start running from right to left

Changing the language in your comment balloons

Customising your comment boxes – everything you need to know

Customising Track Changes

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2016 in proofreading, Short cuts, Word, Writing

 

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Using a style sheet – for editors and proofreaders

DictionariesA little while ago, I wrote an article explaining what a style sheet was, mainly for my own clients, so I could send them a link when I sent their completed work and style sheet to them.

It struck me, though, that it might be useful to write about style sheets from the perspective of the editor / proofreader as well (I’m going to use “editor” to refer to both here, for simplicity, unless I’m distinguishing between the two).

I assume this will primarily be useful for people new to editing who are picking up tips from those of us who have been in the game a little longer. But whoever you are and however long you’ve been editing, do pop a comment below if you have anything to contribute!

What is a style sheet?

A style sheet is a list which spells out how things are to be done when writing and/or editing a text, including information on spellings, hyphenation and capitalisation, referencing and special information. Its aim is to keep texts consistent.

When you’re an editor, you will encounter three types of style sheet:

  1. Style sheets you receive from someone earlier in the process or general ones prepared by particular publishers, journals, etc.
  2. Style sheets you create yourself as you work on a project
  3. Style sheets created by the previous editor when you’re taking over a job or doing the proofreading for something that’s previously been edited (this is unfortunately rare, in my experience)

All three types serve the same purpose: to record the style decisions (more on this later) that have been made in order to keep the look, feel and detail of the text or texts consistent.

When you’re creating a style sheet, it might only be for a single use, for a single client (e.g. a PhD student). When one is created by a journal or publisher, it’s usually so that their “house style” will be consistent across publications and journal issues. But the idea is the same: it’s a tool that’s used to keep things consistent.

What do you mean by “style decisions”?

English is a funny old language. Even if you’re adhering strictly to one of the major style guides, (Chicago Manual of Style, Oxford Style, etc.), you will find there is still room for choice in some aspect of your text.

An example where even Oxford didn’t tell me what to do: I was editing a set of articles which included lots and lots of words and phrases in a different language to English. Each then had the English translation in some form before or after the foreign word. Of course, the articles were all written by different people who had used different ways to express this (word in italics / non-italics / double or single quotation marks and English in parentheses or not, italics or not, quotation marks or not). I was looking to make this consistent … but after some rules on what to do, Oxford told me to choose a way I did this as long as it was consistent!

There will also often be individual names, phrases, etc. in the text you’re editing which will need to be set out in a consistent way, which might not have rules.

An example where there can’t be any rules: your client has lots of interviewees and they’ve referred to them with a code to ensure anonymity. Do they put Respondent OH1, just OH1, OH-1, (OH1), [OH1], etc., etc.?

Although a client a while ago said that his first editor “kept it all in his head”, I prefer to note all of this down so I have it to refer to and keep things consistent.

What does a style sheet look like?

I’m sharing here an example of one of my own style sheets. Note that I have a little explanatory note at the top to explain what it is.

You can see that I set out the most common things that can differ (in my experience) and need noting down – s or z spellings, how the paragraphs are set out, how the headings and figure / table titles are set out, etc.

style sheet 1

In the second half, I go on to dates and numbers, how references are laid out, and some specific things to do with the particular text I’m working on.

style sheet 2

I find that a publisher’s style sheet is set out in the same way, although it might sometimes be online or a pdf with links.

If I’m working on a text destined for a particular publisher or journal article, if their own style sheet is very long and my text is quite simple and doesn’t need all that detail, I’ll often summarise the parts I need on my sheet anyway.

When should I set up a style sheet?

I set up one of these for any text that …

  • Isn’t for a publisher or journal that has its own style sheet
  • Is for a publisher or journal that has its own style sheet but that sheet is very long and complex and I can use a summary
  • Is more than a few pages long
  • Is being sent to me chapter by chapter (this happens with PhDs I work on)
  • Is going to form part of a larger body of work or a series (e.g. the regular publications of an organisation
  • Is being worked on with a colleague – this is quite rare but does happen

When and why should I send a style sheet to my client?

I pretty well always send the style sheet to my client along with my completed work.

I typically send it with a note in the email directing the client to my explanatory article, as I’ve found that most of my clients haven’t come across this before (I happen to work with a lot of students and self-publishers, as well as translation agencies; your experience may differ if you mainly work with publishers).

I will send the style sheet to my client if …

  • They’ve asked me a lot of questions about grammar and wording issues before we start (I will probably pop down the standard hyphenation and capitalisation rules on it if that’s the case)
  • They are likely to add to the text (for example if I’ve pointed out gaps or missing references)
  • They are sending me their work chapter by chapter – sending the style sheet with the first chapter can often nip certain issues in the bud, the client learns from it and they’ll be more consistent in the next chapter (I’m always so happy when this happens!)
  • They plan to send me regular publications, etc. – if they didn’t have a style sheet I provide one for their writers to use, making my work easier and less time-consuming and meaning they have less to correct
  • It’s a substantial document (more than a few pages)

Hopefully, having a style sheet from me will mean that the client will keep things more consistent in the future.

I do also mention that they should send this on to their proofreader if they’re planning to use one in the next stage of publication. This saves their proofreader from busily changing all the Chapter Ones to chapter 1 (or at least it explains that it was an active, considered choice on my part, and not an error).

Making changes to a style sheet

If I send my style sheet to my client mid-way through a project, for example with their first PhD chapter, I ask them to look through it carefully and let me know if there’s anything they’d like to change or they’re not happy with. Sometimes in this case I ask them questions (e.g. “You’ve used ‘Interviewee RD1’ and ‘RD1’ in equal numbers in your text; which one would you prefer to use throughout it?”). If they give me feedback, I record that, or if they ask to change something and their change does actually defy a stated grammar rule I will explain why I can’t.

Working with an established style sheet

If the text I’m working on is destined for a publisher or journal that has a full style sheet, I will of course obey that to the letter, to make things as easy as possible for the in-house editor or designer. Even if that means leaving footnote numbers before the punctuation, something I don’t like to do (but some publishers prefer).

If I’m proofreading a text that someone else has already edited, or I’m working on for example corrections in a PhD that someone else has worked on, I will use their style sheet to guide the changes I make. Even if I don’t approve of their decisions personally, as long as they don’t defy a rule of grammar, I’ll keep it consistent (even if I have to move a footnote number to before the punctuation!). I aim to make as few changes as I can at the proofreading stage, in order to keep corrections (and the chance of new mistakes creeping in) to a minimum.

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I hope this post has been helpful and given you some more information about why we use style sheets, where they come from, setting up your own one and working with your style sheet with your clients. Do pop a comment at the bottom or like and share this article if you’ve found it useful and interesting!

Related posts on this blog

What is a style sheet? For people working with editors

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2016 in Copyediting, Organisation, Word, Writing

 

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How to insert non-standard English characters into almost any text

text including eth and thorn in wordToday we’re going to learn how to insert non-standard English characters into Word and pretty well anywhere else where you might want to type some text.

What do I mean by non-standard English characters? I mean those characters that do not appear in a standard English alphabet, i.e. diacritics (letters with accents that you find in most European accents) and additional letters you don’t find in English, such as the eth and thorn found in Icelandic.

I’ll show you how to insert these in Word in a couple of different ways, and then share the best and most simple universal way to create these characters, as well as the special codes for some of my favourites.

Why would I want to type non-standard characters?

There are many reasons why you might want to type non-standard characters in your English documents / text / fields / whatever. Here are some of the reasons why I’ve done this myself:

  • As a cataloguer (and this is where I learnt about them and memorised some of the codes), I was required to catalogue in different languages, or enter people’s names which had accents on various letters into author fields.
  • I have a client called Jörg. He has to spell it Joerg in his email address and email signature. I prefer to be polite and spell it in the correct way when I email him and say “Hello Jörg”.
  • I’ve just been to Iceland. If I’m talking about places I’ve been or things I’ve read, I want to be able to use the full range of Icelandic letters – and they have two extra ones that we don’t use (nowadays) in English.
  • I work with bibliographies which might include non-English words with accents, etc. – if I need to add something or make a correction, it’s handy to know how to add the correct characters.

In many of these cases, I’m typing in a Tweet, a special piece of software or an email, as well as using Word for some of them. Many people know how to insert special characters in Word, but not everyone knows about the codes that you can use to pepper all of your communications with nice non-standard characters.

I’ll talk about Word first, and then broaden things out.

How do I insert special characters into my Word document?

There are two ways to insert special characters into a Word document. If you know the Alt-code for the letter, you can just hit Alt and a special four-figure number. More about that later on.

The official way is to Insert Character. This is how you do it (this works for all versions of Word for PC).

When you get to the place where you want to insert your special character, in this case an é at the end of café, go to the Insert tab (or menu in Word 2003) and choose Symbol from the Symbols area on the right:

Insert symbol word

When you press the Symbol button, a selection of commonly used symbols will appear (this will give you symbols that you’ve recently used; however, it will carefully offer you a range of popular ones if you’ve not used this method to insert very many symbols in the past). The one I want isn’t there:inserting symbols

 

You can now click on More Symbols to bring up the whole range:

More symbols in wordAt this point, a box including lots of symbols and special characters will pop up:

choice of symbols in word

You can now scroll down to find your symbol. Most of the common ones are on this default list. Here’s my acute e …

Selecting a symbol in word

And once I’ve pressed the Insert button, it will appear in my text.

It’s worth noting at this stage that a list of your recently viewed symbols is displayed in this window, and you can click on any of those and insert them in the same way. Word populates this with common symbols if you haven’t used this method to insert many symbols before (I personally use a different method), but as you use different ones, they will appear here and on that pop-up that appears when you initially click on Symbol (see above):

recently viewed symbols

One more thing to note before we press Insert: this screen also displays character codes. These are codes that you can use in conjunction with other codes and keys, including the Alt key method that I mentioned above. Drop down the arrow by From to get to ASCII and you will find a very useful four-figure code that you can use with Alt to insert non-standard characters into anywhere, not just Word.

Symbol codes

So, that’s how you insert a non-standard character in Word. What if you want to put one in Facebook, Twitter, etc?

How to use the character map on your computer to insert special characters

There is a character map on your computer that you can use to insert special, non-standard characters into any typing that you’re doing that will support these. Note that this works for a PC.

How do you access the character map? Hit the Start button in the bottom left-hand corner of your screen (in Windows 95 onwards and Windows 8.1, Windows 8 doesn’t have one but you can use the Win-R shortcut below), then choose Accessories / System Tools / Character Map:

Character map

You can also use this handy shortcut: Hit the Windows button on your keyboard and R together

windows key

or the Start button and Run and type Charmap into the box that appears:

Run charmap

However you get to it, you should see the character map, which looks like this:

character map

This looks a lot like the map in Word, and works in a similar but not identical way. Find the character you want, scrolling down or changing font if necessary. Click on it until it is highlighted (pops out of the box as below). Press Select and it will appear in the Characters to copy box below the grid.

character map select character

Once it’s been Selected, you will need to Copy it by pressing the Copy button (note: this means that you can select several characters in a row, if you have two non-traditional characters next to each other, for example). Copy will copy everything in the Characters to copy box.

character map copy

Note also here that in the bottom right you are given the keystroke or ASCII code Alt+0233 which you can use as a keyboard shortcut (more on that again later).

Once you’ve copied your character, you can paste it into pretty much any text box you want to, here in Twitter:

Inserting character into Twitter

 Using ASCII codes / keyboard shortcuts / Alt+ to insert special characters

The way I insert special and non-standard characters is to use these Alt+ ASCII keyboard shortcut codes that I’ve been mentioning all the way through this post. Hit Alt-0233 and you’ll get an é without having to click all over the screen, copy and paste. There’s a code for almost every character you could think of.

How do I know a load of these off by heart? Because I used to be a cataloguer at a library, and one of the things I did was catalogue foreign language publications, which were full of diacritics and non-standard characters. So, every day I would end up needing to insert many of these characfers into the cataloguing program we used. I, and everyone else, had little handwritten notes of the ones we used regularly. Here’s mine (yes, when I left the library in December 2011 to do this Libro stuff and blogging full time, I took my little bit of paper with me):

Alt+ codes notes

So there’s a little bit of Liz history you weren’t expecting (ignore the MARC codes at the bottom unless you’re a librarian, too). You, too, can have a bit of paper like this if you use non-traditional characters a lot – or you’ll commit them to memory, as I ended up doing.

How can I find out the ASCII codes for special characters?

You can use one of the two methods I describe above:

  • In Word: Insert – Symbol, drop down From to change it to ASCII and note the Character code
  • In Character Map: click on the symbol and look at the bottom right of the dialog box

or you can search for it online …

In this post, we’ve learned why we might use special characters and how to insert special characters in Word, Twitter, Facebook and any other places that you might want to insert text. If you liked this or found it useful, do please comment below and/or use the sharing buttons to share it! Thank you!

Related posts on this blog:

ASCII codes for common special characters

Other posts of interest:

This blog post was referenced in this one on using the correct degree sign in scientific writing, which is a great resource!

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2014 in Short cuts, Word, Writing

 

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Top 10 blogging sins

pens and ink bottleI’ve been talking about why and why not to blog recently. Once you’ve committed to your blog, it can be a bit of a minefield. Here are the top ten blogging sins that I see over and over again, or hear other people complaining about. No one can be expected to know everything straight away, and we’ve probably all made at least one of these mistakes, so hopefully I’ll help you to avoid the big, bad ones with this list.

1. Not having an RSS feed

File:Feed-icon.svg RSS is a way to allow blog reader software to collect your content whenever it’s  updated and send it on to any of their readers who subscribe to your blog This Wikipedia article explains it all and examples of RSS readers include Feedly.

If you look at the top of this blog page, you will see that I have an RSS feed logo in the top right-hand corner, and a link in the right-hand menu bar, and I also offer a link to subscribe by email. All blogging software will have something in their settings that allows you to add this. If you don’t add this link, it makes it that bit harder for people who want to subscribe to your blog to do so (they can usually put the URL in their reader software, but are they going to do that extra process? Not always). Not having a button to use to do it quickly and easily can give the impression that you’re not interested in people reading your blog. That’s probably not true. But I’ve seen people get really cross about this and say that they’re not going to look at a person’s blog any more if they don’t have this. I know … but if one person’s saying it, how many are thinking it?

If you get stuck trying to add this button to your blog, the easiest way to find out how, is to Google your blogging software’s name and “RSS feed button”. You should find a YouTube video or set of instructions telling you how to do it.

2. Not updating your blog

If you set up a blog and you then don’t update it, it won’t help you to get more readers or to promote whatever it is you’re promoting. Google and the other search engines thrive on updated, fresh content. If you don’t update your blog regularly, it will fall further and further down the search rankings and no one will be able to find it. If you want to write a blog, commit to updating it regularly.

I’ll be publishing a post about scheduling and keeping active with your blog posts soon, so watch this space!

3. Stealing content from other people

It’s fine to “reblog” other people’s blog posts onto your own blog (where a snippet of the post appears on your page, with a link to the real thing). It’s fine to link to other people’s blog posts and tell other people about them. It’s even fine to be inspired by another person’s blog or content – one of my friends has started a questionnaire series a little like my Small Business Chat one but with an emphasis on marketing techniques: similar idea, different content, that’s fine.

It’s not fine to lift content wholesale from another person’s blog or website. If you quote large amounts of text written by someone else, it’s just the same as if you were using that in an article or essay – you need to reference where it came from and acknowledge the author. It’s fine to talk about newspaper articles or reports in your blog and react to them, not fine to quote them verbatim, or quote people they have quoted, and not give the original source.

Never be tempted to take someone else’s content for your blog post. At best, you won’t get picked up by the search engines anyway (see below). At worst, you’ll find yourself slapped with a lawsuit for plagiarism! And it’s just not right.

4. Reusing content in exactly the same form

Say you’ve had a guest post on someone else’s blog and you’re really pleased with how it’s turned out – so much so that you want to share it. So you post it in its entirety on your blog, too. Not a good idea.

All of the search engines, like Google, like to offer their users varied content. So if the same content appears in two places, both places won’t come up in search results. Effectively, one of them will be invisible to search engines, therefore invisible to people searching for keywords that might lead them to that content.

To look at it from a different viewpoint, if you’ve published information in a guest post, the owner of the blog you’re guesting on will want to be posting up original content, not things that can be found elsewhere. Some people actually specify that the content must be original in their guidelines for guest posters. See more about this in a week or so when I blog about guest posts.

How do you deal with this? Publish a snippet of the post on your blog, with a link to that post. Put some of your own text around it, then the search engines will find your post and your guest post, both of you will get found and viewed, and no one’s copied anything. There are clever ways to deal with all of this in the coding behind your blog, but I’m guessing that most of us aren’t the kind to deal with that level of complication – I’m certainly not!

5. Being rude or negative

I feel like a  bit of a hypocrite writing this, because obviously this post is a little bit negative. But I’m also genuinely trying to help people to avoid making common mistakes! In the same way, I tried to make sure that my 10 reasons not to write a blog article talked about reasons for reviewing your blogging and content and making a positive decision. Whining and moaning and relentless negativity won’t make your readers like you any more than they would like you in real life.

Being rude can get you views in the short term. But it’s like those restaurants that people go to only because the waiters are desperately unfriendly. Fine for a laugh: but will they go back regularly for birthdays and anniversaries? Probably not. Even ranty blogs about politics or issues have to be constructive as well as rude!

If you want to have a rant or talk about a mistake you’ve made, try to vary and space out these posts, and make them as constructive as you can. We can all get a good blog post out of a bad experience, but make sure that you and your readers come away having learned something. I’m going to post soon about managing your social media brand, and this comes very strongly into that, too.

6. Posting inappropriate content

I don’t just mean lurid or dirty pictures here. If you want to share information about your management courses, then blogging about your exercise classes won’t get you the audience you want to buy your courses, unless you’re doing some very clever keyword placement and making the articles valuable to both groups of readers.

I have to admit to having a laugh at funny spelling mistakes as much as the next person. However, I’m careful not to mock or talk about or post pictures on this blog, because a lot of the people I work with as an editor are unsure about their English and using it as a second, third, fourth language … and would be mortified if they thought people were laughing at them (I don’t laugh at their English: I know I couldn’t do half as well as my overseas clients if I was writing in my second language. Bong joor toot le world).

7. Not giving your guest posters what they need

If someone takes the time to write a guest blog post for you to to give you more, fresh content, bring their fans over to your website, give you a marketing opportunity, etc., etc., then you need to do certain things to make the experience a good one on all sides. Chief among these, and something I see people having issues with all the time, is making sure that you provide live links back to their website and whatever it is they’re promoting, be it another website, their book on Amazon, or whatever. A live link is one that your readers can click on and be taken to their page, like this one which takes you to a post I wrote telling you how to add links to your blog posts!

Formatting guest posts that have come through in an email or an attachment can be tricky, full stop. I recommend pasting the text into a Notepad file on your computer, then pasting it from there into your blog post. Lots more on this in an upcoming article. But please make your guest blogger’s links live so that your readers can visit them online!

8. Not letting people respond to your posts

I like responding to blog posts. We all like responding to blog posts. We like to feel it’s a two-way conversation when we read something online, don’t we. But I still come across blogs every day that either don’t allow any comments at all, or make the commenting process so complex that people give up.

I have to say that the blogging software can be a culprit here. I can never seem to reply to Blogger posts, and WordPress itself can give the impression that you have to sign up to a WordPress account in order to comment on one of its blogs (you really don’t, you just need to add your name and email address).

Enable comments, even if you moderate and check all of them for spam (most blogging platforms allow you to set the level of moderation, for example, I hand-moderate the first post by anyone, and am alerted to all new comments, so I can check they’re not spammy or inappropriate). And listen to your readers – if you’re getting complaints about how hard it is to reply to a post, have a look at your settings and see if you can make it easier. One of my blogging friends has a note whenever you go to comment with an email address to use if the process won’t work – very helpful!

9. Not responding to comments

Allied to the above, if people take the time to reply to your blog, it’s only polite to take a moment to respond to them. Some people who get a lot of comments will do a general reply mentioning all of the previous commenters with a sentence addressed to them, and that’s of course fine. But I get a bit frustrated if I comment thoughtfully on a blog post and the author never responds. You don’t have to do it immediately, but I try to do it within 24 hours, a couple of days at most.

Conversations on your blog can be one of the most interesting things about blogging – so get out there and engage with your readers!

10. Only advertising, never helping

Yes, I and other people have told you again and again that having a blog will help your business. That’s true. But just blaring out adverts to your readers won’t make them keep coming back. Imagine two blogs, both about plumbing:

  • One lists the different areas of plumbing the plumber can do, and has carefully inserted keywords to attract the search engines
  • One talks about the jobs the plumber has done this week, including how she solved a particularly tricky question. She sometimes posts a question and answer about a common type of issue, like changing the washer on a tap

Which blog will you go to once, to find a plumber? Which one will you bookmark and read, share and tell other people about? Which one will actually bring the plumber more business in the long term?

I give away quite a lot of free advice on my blog, but just because I tell people how to set up a table of contents doesn’t mean that none of my clients ever ask me to do that now. On the contrary, seeing my expert advice, they trust that I can sort it out for them!

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That’s my personal top 10 list of blogging sins. Would you add any to that? Are any of those NOT sins in your book? I’d love to know what you think, and whether you’re enjoying this new series of articles all about blogging!

Related posts:

Top 10 reasons to write a blog

Top 10 reasons not to write a blog

Scheduling blog posts and keeping going

You can find a growing set of articles on blogging and social media in the resource guide. Do click on the share buttons below or comment if you found this article interesting or useful!

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2013 in Blogging, Business, New skills, Writing

 

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