Better blogging made easy

If blogging is just writing, why is it so hard to do well? Maybe because it’s not just writing, or at least it shouldn’t be. Journalism students who ought to know the basics seem to struggle with blogging as much as anyone else. They aren’t sure what to write about or how to make it interesting.

George Daniels, who teaches journalism at the University of Alabama, has broken the process down into five basic steps. The first and perhaps most critical step is to have an audience in mind when you write your blog, even if it’s a class requirement.

The purpose of the blog is not to take a boring academic assignment and dump it out here online for all the world to see. You’re building a work habit that prospective employers are (hopefully) going to admire.

Keeping the audience in mind should help you choose a subject that will “attract some interest or elicit a response,” Daniels says. When people do respond, engage them. Blog often, so you’ll feel more comfortable doing it, Daniels advises, but don’t write too much in any one post and don’t just post text. Include photos and graphics whenever possible.

Mindy McAdams of the University of Florida says blogging the right way also means including links–and not just any links. Good links add context and depth to stories, or point to sources the reader might not be familiar with.

Stupid links include (most) links to Wikipedia or the home page of a news site or blog. In the first case — duh, do you think people can’t find Wikipedia without your help? In the second case — a specific article can be useful, but a link to the home page is, again, something everyone can find without your link.

That may sound harsh, but it’s a good reminder to consider the value of a link before including it. McAdams doesn’t say you should never link to Wikipedia. Some entries can provide useful background. But as she points out, mentioning Italy and linking to the main Wikipedia entry on Italy is downright useless. Please don’t bother to do what I just did!

Do recognize that your blog represents you. Take time to craft each post and pay attention to what works best. Even if the blog you’re writing now doesn’t survive past this semester, what you learn from the experience could stand you in good stead, but only if you take it seriously.

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