Let’s talk about blogs

February 9, 2011 § 18 Comments

‘Blog’ is a word that I hate. It sounds like something repulsive, probably something that comes out of the mortal nose. I much prefer ‘weblog’, but in this rushed age, two syllables is far more than one can expect a person to write or say when they can get away with one. ‘Blog’ it is, then.

I’ve been writing blog posts at ‘Words About Words’ for a few months now. I’ve also been reading other people’s blogs more and more often. Some patterns are forming: things that I like to write about the most, things that I particularly like about other people’s blogs, and things that put me off a blog. We bloggers thrive on readers, of course, and ‘likes’ and comments, and I believe most of us would like to improve. In the interests of helping each other out, let’s talk a bit about what makes a good blog or a poor one. Here are my preferences.

GOOD BLOGLY THINGS

1  – Unusual topics. This is tricky, because with so many blogs updated every day, most topics one can think of will have been covered many times already. I by no means expect to be presented with unique topics every time I visit a blog, but the more unusual subjects covered –  or unusual takes on a common topic – the more interested I’ll be.

2 – Pictures. Is this shallow me? Maybe… but colour! Visual interest! It’s not that I won’t take a post seriously if it has no pictures in, but there’s no doubt that it helps.

3 –  HUMOUR. This is a big one, for me personally. It’s not always vital. There’s plenty of room for serious blogs about the craft of writing, with much helpful advice, and so on. But there are so, so many of those, and they are always competing with the large numbers of expert books available on the topic. I always make more room in my life for the blogs that can make me laugh.

4 – Related to the above point is: character. Personality. Dry essays about ‘how to write’ or endless lists of writing resources simply grow stale after a while. Blogs are different from other mediums because they allow room for personality. Show me yours!

BAD BLOGLY THINGS

1 – Poor presentation. I particularly refer to posts filled with mistakes in grammar, spelling and punctuation, especially with blogs written by aspiring writers. Everyone makes an occasional typo, but a lot of errors suggests a lack of professionalism. Running a post through a spellchecker before publishing it is a very good idea. Also, good paragraphing and, if applicable, use of sub-headings is attractive. I’m put off if I find myself presented with a largely unbroken wall of text.

2 – Too few posts. If I look at the homepage and the last post was five weeks ago, then in most cases I’ll move on. I certainly won’t subscribe, because I’ll feel like there isn’t any point.

3 – Too many posts. I know this seems contradictory, but it’s true. There’s a limited amount of spare time in my average working week, and that grows less and less with each passing month. I don’t have enough time to commit to reading anybody’s blog every single day; particularly since, in most cases, it’s really hard to write good posts every day. Too many of those posts end up being hasty, rushed, very brief, and essentially, not worth reading.

Also… too many posts gets to feel like spam.

4 – A lot of completely off-topic posts, especially when many of them are about personal topics which a complete stranger has no reason to care about. If the aim is to write a personal blog for family or friends, then of course it doesn’t matter, but if the idea is to write a blog about, say… writing, and you want to build a readership, then don’t make every other post about your kids.

Naturally these lists influence the direction I take with this blog. I like to laugh, and I like to make other people laugh, so I often write posts that are at least vaguely humorous. It helps to leaven the heaviness of life. Too much of the same thing grows wearisome, however, so I divert from time to time into some more serious discussions. Likewise, I write mostly about writing, but sometimes I write about reading too.

I have rate buttons up on each post, but they are rarely used, so I’m going to ask directly. Dear readers, thank you for being readers. What do you like about this blog that makes it worth reading? What would you prefer to see less of, or more of?

In the more general sense, what do we, bloggers and blog-readers, like and dislike in blogs? Why do we read them in the first place? Insights appreciated.

I leave you with this thought from despair.com:

How true.

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§ 18 Responses to Let’s talk about blogs

  • lyonesse2710 says:

    Don’t change a thing. Your blogs make me laugh pretty much every time I read them. They also make me feel faintly guilty about the shoddy attempts at blogging I make, I’m afraid – but that’s a good thing as well as it makes me try harder! 😉

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by charlottenglish and Boris Trucco, charlottenglish. charlottenglish said: Let's talk about blogs http://wp.me/p18yvK-5v […]

  • Miriam Sagan says:

    I enjoyed reading this–and in general it feels like good overall advice.

  • D says:

    The picture at the end is particularly suitable. It makes me think of mashed potato, and flat topped mountains, repetitive – five note tunes and people obsessed with they know not what (which for writers it not all that unusual I suspect).

    Not surprisingly another excellent, eloquent and incisive blog! Thanks Charlie 8o) (for those of you who don’t think smilies have no place in quality literature).

    • Charlotte says:

      I’m too much a child of internet messaging to object entirely to smilies. And they’re too cute to be banned, especially the ones with oversized noses or pom-poms and bows. That film keeps coming up lately, doesn’t it? Thanks for the positive commentary!

  • How true. There are times that I want to write about more random things, but I feel if I leave my main subject matter, namely, Baltimore, I will might have a difficult time getting back to it. I fear blogging too much and at the same time I make sure that I blog every 7-10 days. It truly is what’s best for my blog.

    The name of the blog is Baltimore Boy if you want to check it out. I started writing it because my girlfriend thought it might be good to pursue my artsy side while I’m not doing actor and writer type stuff.

    • Charlotte says:

      Scott, I like the premise of your blog very much; there have been some great things done with blogs centred on particular places and yours looks great. Keep it up! If you’re regularly inspired by another, unrelated topic, how about a second blog? Glad to hear a little confirmation on the question of too much/too little; a post every week or so sounds like a good schedule to me.

  • It really is time for some kind of new term to replace “blog” – the negative connotation, the slightly nauseating, guttural onomatopoetic effect of saying the word, etc.

    Bjournal? Bzine? Hang on, it’ll come to me…

    • Charlotte says:

      Keep trying, Byron – I’m relying on you to save the world from the terrible, terrible blogword. The right term’s in there somewhere, I’m sure of it – probably right behind the acronyms.

  • bigyellowbus says:

    I wish there was a way to like a post more than once!

    Exellent post, enjoyed reading it. A name change for blog would be nice, perhaps we should start a re-naming contest.

    Nice visual too. We “webloggers” sure can make a mountain out of a mole hill! 🙂

    Thanks for making me smile today.

    • Charlotte says:

      Hi, thanks for visiting and commenting! Nice comments make me smile, too. Thanks for the suggestion – maybe I’ll have a poll on the name. I’ve been looking for an excuse to try out that feature.

  • Ellie says:

    I think getting the balance for the number of posts really difficult. It depends where you take your advice, and most importantly, what you yourself enjoy about blogs you read.

    I have always worked on try to blog around three times a week, and not write more than 300 words per post. Any readers of my blog will soon confirm that I very rarely stick to this.

    Sometimes there is a need to say more…..or less as the case may be.

    As for pictures, I am rubbish at this. I always want to put in a pic, but very rarely have enough inspiration. Just like book covers, pics have my mind closing down.

    I managed to avoid having the off topic problem, I just simply made my blog about four aspects loosely linked. Maybe this means I have less readers, but I dont really care, they are all important to me…..tho so are my kids and yes they sometimes get the odd mention (mainly when im whinging that i haven’t had time to write), but they are definitely not a topic!

    Anyway, great post, as you can tell it definitely got me thinking!

    • Charlotte says:

      Hi Ellie, thanks for the great comments.

      Keeping to a word limit per post is a good idea. I know I get carried away on mine sometimes and write very long posts – so I try to curtail the next one to compensate!

      About off topic, there’s definitely nothing wrong with including personal details – on the contrary it’s great, as it helps to make your blog really yours. It’s only when most of the posts are about things that a stranger can’t engage with at all that it can be a problem.

      Readership’s a tricky question anyway. It may seem desirable to have a huge readership, because that’s getting lots of exposure for you as the writer, and it’d be great to think that so many people like your blog enough to keep coming back. On the other hand, it would soon become impossible to reply to all or even most of the comments, and it may even be hard to find time to read them all. The personal, conversational nature of the blog would fade, and I think that’d be a shame. So I suppose it’s about trying to strike a balance! (As with so many things).

  • Ellie says:

    I have to say, sometimes I get comments and I really don’t know how to respond. some people you just get, and others, well you just don’t!

    More readers may make this more of an issue, however, I am grateful to all those who do comment and I think it is something i need to get over.

    I read a post the other day and one of the comments was totally insensitive and unecessary. The author told them to never comment again. It made for interesting reading but I have to say I would have deleted it myself. I know it is a bit off topic to even mention this, but it is another difficulty that you have to adjust to.

    Blogging you open yourself up to a whole new world, and just like you don’t necessarily like all the blogs you read, you may not like all those who read yours. Oooh I feel a new blog post coming…

  • I’m glad I’m not the only one who dislikes the word “blog”.

    I have been told that short and sweet in terms of post length is the way to get people to read. I think it’s important not to drag on too long but posts where something interesting is left underexplored can be just as frustrating. I think so long as what you want to say is as complete as possible then it isn’t as important to necessarily impose a word limit. I tend to eyeball it.

    Also, as much as much as it pains me, at times, a writer’s personality can be just as, if not more important than what it is they post about. If there is some semblance of an overall theme and I enjoy the way a blogger conveys what they want to say, I can find myself reading about things I wouldn’t otherwise read.

    How do you find your reaction is to topics that are perhaps more personal in nature than those that are more academic, for lack of a better word?

    • Charlotte says:

      Hi Jonathon, thank you for visiting. I went for “weblog” on my new site as I still can’t stand the word blog. I think my preference as to blog length varies a lot – short and sweet has its merits, especially when you’re subscribed to a lot of blogs. But if the discussion’s interesting and well written (and, as you say, written in a congenial way by someone I like), I’m happy to read a thousand words or more.

      I generally like the slightly more personal blog posts as I don’t visit blogs looking for dry, long-winded academic writing. What differentiates blogs from other forms of discussion is the personal; it’s about holding conversations with strangers, not just getting on your soapbox and holding forth. Within reason though. There are a lot of blogs that talk way too much about the blogger’s pets and children and how their day went at the office and it’s hard to care about such things when you don’t know the person.

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