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Good writers write good ... um, well ...

Writers cringe at poor grammar. Editors groan at improper usage of language or grammar. Publishers bemoan linguistical laziness and the all-too-frequent verbal faux pas.

Poor compositions may make us want to scream and shout and stomp our feet.

Of course, we all make mistakes, particularly in web writing. Maybe that’s the biggest peril of publishing without an editor. It’s sort of like walking across a tightrope without a net.

Sometimes we just need a good laugh, though, especially at ourselves.

Take a look at these rules of language, penned by Frank L. Visco and published in Writer’s Digest in June 1986.

My several years in the word game have learnt me several rules:

  1. Avoid Alliteration. Always.
  2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
  3. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They’re old hat.)
  4. Employ the vernacular.
  5. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
  6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
  7. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
  8. Contractions aren’t necessary.
  9. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
  10. One should never generalize.
  11. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”
  12. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
  13. Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.
  14. Profanity sucks.
  15. Be more or less specific.
  16. Understatement is always best.
  17. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
  18. One word sentences? Eliminate.
  19. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
  20. The passive voice is to be avoided.
  21. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
  22. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
  23. Who needs rhetorical questions?

Maybe mechanics are more memorable when they make us merry.
Stomping Man - ClipArt ETC

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Losing Friends by Limitless Linking

Is it possible for web writers and bloggers to lose friends on social networking sites by putting up too many links?

Indeed, it is.

Personally, I’ve been de-friended by a few family members and friends, simply because they did not take interest in article links that showed up in their news feeds on Facebook. Perhaps they never heard of post-blocking.

No harm done. Perhaps I’ll keep those folks on my Christmas greeting list anyway, although I need not include a “Thanks for reading!” in the comments on their cards. OK, I'm kidding ... sort of.

Online writers depend upon readership, which is largely based upon the promotion of article links.

These links may lure folks to read the posts we write. After all, writers write to be read, and the web writer’s livelihood is based on the popularity of his or her content.

Web writers earn a living through page-view revenues, which are usually based on a set percentage of advertising fees from the pages on which their writing appears. When online article pages load, paid ads may appear as well. Those who wrote the copy on those pages may receive a small share of the revenues from those promotional spots.

Bloggers may make money when readers click on ads, use embedded search engine bars, or purchase items through promotions offered on blog pages. The most popular blogs may not prove profitable, if visitors simply move along after reading. Lesser sites can be real moneymakers, if folks click through to shop and place orders after noticing advertisements in or around the blog posts.

*** Please note: This is a generic explanation about link-clicking, 
not an instruction to do so 
without actual merit or interest in the items offered. ***

Of course, the process is tightly policed. Bloggers are not allowed to instruct readers to patronize the promotions on their pages. Neither are writers permitted to click on the ads appearing on their own sites. Such behavior can lead to an outright ban.

Enter social networking.

Like other professionals (and particularly self-employed professionals), web writers are wont to share their work on Digg, Facebook, Linked In, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Twitter, and other social networking sites.

Many of us set up RSS feeds, so promotional links to new articles or blog posts appear automatically on these sites.

“Were you really up at 3 a.m., writing and putting links on Linked In?” a cousin asked me recently.

“Are you on Facebook all the time?” a neighbor inquired.

Nope and no way. 

Most web writers are too busy writing to sit and put up linked social networking status reports all day, although our auto-posts may make it appear otherwise.

Is it possible to keep social contacts and link promotion in proper context?

Maybe it’s all about balance. Isn’t everything?

Not long ago, hoping to offer my friends and family some promotional relief, I created Facebook fan pages for several of my regular feature columns and blog sites. I redirected most of my RSS feeds to these sites and invited relevant folks to “like” those pages.

Whew! Now the lion’s share of my article links goes only to those who actually may possess enough interest in those topics to click through and read. Can’t you just hear a collective sigh?

What’s more, I try to share photos, stories, quotes, comments and other snippets on these pages, instead of just loading them up with my article links. Frequently, I invite other writers to post links on related topics. I’m hoping it helps to mix things up a bit.

Here are a few examples of Facebook fan pages:

Here’s the bottom line:

Indiscriminate link-promotion can alienate folks – even those who love us the most in real-life. My immediate family, for example, may not be found among my subscriber lists.  Who knows? Maybe they’ve already heard too many of my stories.

But one thing is sure. Those who do subscribe have done so voluntarily, so they are likely to stick around awhile. Welcome aboard, gang, and thanks for reading.

Chain Link by KDS444
Creative Commons Licensing/Wikipedia Commons Photos

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25 ridiculously redundant phrases writers like to use

Redundant writing can be ridiculous.
Redundancy is repeating an idea again and again. (See? I just did it.) And it drives readers bonkers.

Remember Yogi Berra?

The Major League baseball player, coach, and manager has often been quoted for his language missteps and frequently redundant quips.

“It’s like déjà vu, all over again,” Berra said. Yep, that’s redundant.

Beware of these 25 ridiculous redundancies.
These phrases may be popular, but frequent usage does not make them correct. Grab that blue pencil, and take a look.

  1. 4 p.m. in the afternoon
  2. absolutely sure
  3. added bonus
  4. advance planning
  5. basic fundamentals
  6. close proximity
  7. completely perfect
  8. end result
  9. estimate at approximately
  10. false pretenses
  11. filled to capacity
  12. foreign imports
  13. free gift
  14. gather together
  15. invited guests
  16. merged as one
  17. new beginning
  18. plan ahead
  19. postpone for a later date
  20. repeat again
  21. revert back
  22. rudely interrupt
  23. still remain
  24. traditional custom
  25. unintentional gaffe
What commonly used redundant wordings bother you the most?


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Cutting Wordiness: Get Right TO It

Brevity can be beautiful! How many lines can you cut from your copy, simply by slashing these superfluous statements?

Look closely at the words you read and write. Can you spot any extra clutter or unnecessary words?

10 wordy ways to say “to”
You can remove every one of these phrases, replacing it with the simple word “to” for tighter writing. Most of the time, copy loses little or no meaning by the elimination of these extra words.

  1. aiming at = to
  2. as a means of = to
  3. as a route towards = to
  4. for the purpose of = to
  5. in an effort to = to
  6. in order that = to
  7. so as to = to
  8. so that = to
  9. with a view to = to
  10. with the goal of = to
Maybe you can think of additional wordy expressions that add length, but no value, to the word “to.”

Let’s get right “to” it. Say it, and send it, but don’t add to it.

Detective with Magnifying Glass

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Isn't everyday Workaholic Day for freelancers?

Freelancers and other self-employed professionals may be particularly prone to the perils of workaholism.

What is a workaholic?

The word “workaholic” is a portmanteau, meaning it’s a hybrid of two words: “work” and “alcoholic.” In short, a workaholic is a person who is addicted to work.

Workaholics may be driven, perfectionist, overachieving sorts. Or they may just be individuals who feel the need to complete as much work as possible, simply because self-employed freelancers essentially earn more money by producing more work.

In the print age, newspaper freelancers were known as stringers, primarily because they were paid by the inch for their printed columns (or strings).

In today’s cyber-age, writers may receive upfront payments and residuals (somewhat like royalties) for actual readership (or page views). Those who create the most copy and reel in the most readers tend to earn the highest incomes.

Or so we believe.

So we work ... and we work ... and we work.

July 5th is Workaholic Day in the United States.

Because yesterday was the Fourth of July (OK, you probably heard the fireworks), most folks skip work today. Others knock off early. Those devoted sorts who put in a full day today may be workaholics. (Or they may just have taskmaster bosses.)

Those of us who are self-employed can only blame the mirror, if our bosses are taskmasters.

Some of us left the proverbial rat race, where we worked like dogs. We hoped to find professional freedom, but we ended up working our a$$es off instead. (How’s that for a bunch of mixed metaphors?)

We don’t punch time clocks, but we sure have deadlines.

Maybe we are workaholics, after all. Happy Workaholic Day on July 5th.

By the way, if we’re really being honest here, I am not just a workaholic. I’m also a chocoholic, a horsaholic, a bookaholic,a horticulturaholic, and much more. Now, if I could only tear myself away from my work long enough to check out all those 12-step groups.

From: Superman Valentine
Public Domain Artwork/Copyright Expired

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Boost your blog's readership by commenting

Writers write for readers. OK, I may sound like the proverbial broken record, at least to those who actually remember records. I have certainly said that before. But it’s true.

What can bloggers do to encourage readers to visit their sites?

Quality content, consistent posts, niche writing, and appealing images are critical. Search engine optimization (SEO) is important.

Eventually, however, devoted bloggers discover that the weblog community tends to foster itself. Those who blog seem to enjoy reading other blogs. So how can participants invite other bloggers (and their readers) to visit and follow their posts?

Here’s a simple step, all too often missed, that sends readers to blogs like children and little critters to the legendary Pied Piper of Hamelin.

Commenting is a key to successful blogging.

I belong to a few online blogging groups, primarily for networking and technical tips. Often, we share ideas for promoting our blog sites.

Sure, we may Tweet links to our blog posts. We may include them in Facebook posts or put them up on Google+, Linked In, or similar social sites. Every link helps, if it positions a blog out there.

As vast and sterile as cyberspace may seem, a personal approach still works. Savvy bloggers read blogs a-plenty and leave pertinent comments on every post they peruse. 

Here’s a secret. (OK, maybe it’s not really a secret.)

Every blog comment form offers the reader an opportunity to provide a link to his or her own website. What’s more, the commenter’s name (either a real name or screen name) is usually hyperlinked to Google+ or another site of choice.

Ideally, a smart blogger will leave one hyperlinked title, leading the host blogger and that blog’s subsequent readers to a relevant post. (Click here to read Super-Simple Linking (how to make HTML hyperlinked blog comments.)

The blogger who reads, but does not stop to comment, are simply skipping an opportunity to share a link to his or her blog.


What makes a great blog comment?

Bloggers generally welcome intelligent and cogent comments that refer to their posts, revealing that readers have actually absorbed their content. Considerate readers try to incorporate keywords from blog posts in comments. This can give such entries a boost in search engines.

Comments on blog posts may be controversial or constructive, but they need to be courteous, or they may be deleted.

The biggest danger is for a blogger’s comment to be tagged as spam. Comments like “Nice blog” and “Why haven’t I seen this before?” may end up in trash folders or be robotically flagged. Likewise, those containing too many links are likely to be removed.

Consider these two pairs of commenting examples. Which of these comments would you rather see on your own blog?

“Fine post. Glad I stopped by.”
“I wish I had read your helpful observations about post-operative care for an appendectomy before I went through it myself.”

“Sweet blog! Have you tried the new XYZ techno-gadget with whiz-bang features?”
“Your insights on organic fertilization options for azaleas are practical and helpful. My garden flowers thank you.”

An intelligent and appropriate blog comment, including a hyperlink to a pertinent post (or to the commenter’s own blog) can reap benefits for both blogger and readers. Why miss the chance?


Pied Piper
ClipArt ETC
Word graphic 
generated by this user
on CoolText

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Do you cherish your writing career?

Writing is a craft and a profession, but it can also be a delight. Do you adore or abhor your work? Is writing a pleasure for you, or is it a plodding exercise in plunking out publishable prose?

Confucius, an oft-quoted ancient Chinese philosopher, said this about career choices:

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Do you agree or disagree?

Is this pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking, or is it actually possible to love one’s job? As writers, what can we do to ensure we enjoy our employment? What tips or strategies make it feasible for wordsmiths to choose career paths we love and to retain our relishing of our chosen endeavors?

Clearly, certain achievements rekindle a wordsmith’s passion for his or her profession.

Some writers rejoice to find their words published in print or online. Others are intrigued by receiving inside information, press passes, and access to unshared stories and yet-unseen secrets. A journalist, in particular, tends to experience exhilaration at being the first to break a bit of news to the world. (I've been there, and it's a blast.)

And, hey, it's fun to interview famous folks. Honestly, I feel a little like Forrest Gump sometimes, when I enjoy opportunities to interview individuals I admire. Often, I wonder, "Why me?" At the same time, I love to find out how such folks are simply regular people who happen to lead unusually interesting lives.

Still more may be blessed by bylines, writing awards, or other professional recognitions. 

Personally, I still gain inspiration and energy when I peruse my past portfolio of prized publications. Hey, it's fun to have a headline in The Christian Science Monitor or Business Week. It's a blast to find out USA Today or The Chicago Tribune has linked to an article on the publisher's website. I even smile to stick my pens and pencils into my AC Page View Millionaire mug, which I received a few years ago to mark  my first one million readers on the old Associated Content website.

The most altruistic among us find reward in the knowledge that the words they pen may benefit others.

Certainly, it’s not all about the money. Is it?

Money matters for sure, and few professional writers are willing to put pen to paper around the clock for free. But a real writer is likely to persist in producing publishable work, whether that pursuit is paid or not.

We journal. We dream into diaries. We reflect and reminisce and even rhyme. Writers simply write. It's who we are. Maybe we can't help ourselves. The trick is to find ways to earn livelihoods in our lifelong love of words.

If you are a writer, what is the best highlight you can recall in your own career?

Please share your story to encourage other writers. Leave a comment,  or share a link to your own related article or post.

Relaxing in the Field by Onderwijsgek
Creative Commons Licensing/Wikipedia Commons Photos
Tang Dynasty Portrait of Confucius
Public Domain Artwork/Copyright Expired
AC Page View Millionnaire Mug 
Photo by Linda Ann Nickerson/Nickers and Ink Creative Communications
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