This is part of the Blogging for Grasshoppers series
Remember the motto of the Olympic Games?
Citius, Altius, Fortius.
Image: scazon via Flickr, CC 2.0
Or, in English, “faster, higher, stronger.”
When it comes to a motto for blogging, I suppose one could apply that… but how would that be fun?
I mean, my blog posts will never run faster than a cheetah, or soar over tall buildings better than Superman (or my dog Suzy Q., for that matter), or be stronger than Mr. T.
I pity the fool!
The “fool” being my posts, of course. Not you. Never you.
When it comes to blogging, maybe a better motto – at least for me – might be shorter, tighter, funner (made-up word alert!).
You know how the gurus are always telling you to write shorter, shorter, shorter?
Aargh! How short can I get?!
Regardless of how you feel about lists (Twitter, or otherwise) or what everyone had for lunch (me, I’m much more interested in dinner), Twitter is a great way to start practicing writing good headlines.
When you have only 140 characters to do this with, it makes you evaluate every letter and every space you have at your disposal.
Not only do you have to fit what you’re trying to get across in that space, you typically also have to leave room for a URL (if you’re trying to link to something).
Over and above that, you may need to leave room for one or more hashtags, assuming you’re trying to use hashtags to share the post with folks who follow the hashtag but not necessarily you.
Talk about short and sweet!
2. Do a prÃ©cis exercise
When I was in high school, part of our English Language classes entailed what they called prÃ©cis exercises.
Essentially, we’d be given a few paragraphs – usually an excerpt from a story or essay – and required to condense them into far fewer words – say 50 – without losing the essence of the original.
The way we’d go about this was to create a grid on a lined sheet of paper – yes, we actually wrote longhand those days – and try and fit in all the words we needed into that grid.
Punctuation and hyphenated words were allowed in the same grid; so much angst went into figuring out whether or not a word was hyphenated or, in fact, two words.
Try it. It’s much tougher than it sounds.
When you’re trying to tighten up your blog posts, you are not trying to fit into the jeans have been hanging in your closet for the last 5 years, “because one day…”
You’re trying to get simpler, easier to read, more likely to be understood.
You may or may not have the Oxford dictionary at hand, but you certainly have it online.
Image: noricum via Flickr, CC 2.0
When you’re stuck for words, turn to the dictionary. This helps to not just expand your vocabulary, but prevents you from using the same word over and over again.
Not to mention using more readable – and speakable – words in your posts.
“Use,” instead of “utilize,” for example.
Check out Gini Dietrich‘s recent post on grammar pet peeves for more, especially in the comments.
Grand Cousin to Dictionary’s Poor Sister, Thesaurus is one of my favorite places to go when I’m trying to get my blog posts tighter.
Poor Sister would say, “reminds me of.”
Grand Cousin would say, “evokes.”
Poor Sister would say, “poor.”
Grand Cousin would say, “scanty.”
See what I mean?
This is a made-up word, so you have every reason not to take any of what I say from here on out seriously.
(You don’t have to take any of what I say seriously. On your own head be it.)
There are so many ways to do this, but I’m going to start with two.
There is something simply magical about alliteration.
“Around the rugged rock the ragged rascal ran.”
As opposed to:
“The badly-dressed idiot kept running around a big stone.”
Ok, so the second one might be funny (hey, I think it is), but it doesn’t have the lyrical power of the first.
6. Verse, not worse
Monday’s post, An Ode to Mondays, was an experiment in this.
I was stuck for a post and for some reason the word “ode” was playing in my head (oh, I know why! I’ve been re-reading Georgette Heyer’s The Grand Sophy!).
And it was Monday.
So I decided to write an ode – in the “ABABCDECDE” format – to Monday.
Could be worse. But at least it was verse. Heh.
Silly as it sounds, it’s a great way to try and break out of the mold.
Mold. Mould. Mold. Mould.
Bloddy English/American spelling.
Shorter, tighter, funner.
Maybe not Olympic material, but good enough for blogging, don’t you think?
What do you think? What are your tips to tighten up your blogging? I’d love to know.
I get the fact that I take more words to get my point across than say…Dilbert or Ziggy. But the really short blog posts really are meant for conversation starters and work well if you want to have a chat. If you have something to share that is important it takes details. But I find that bores people.
Reminds me of begging a couple I am close with in 2006 not to buy their home in Los Angeles. I soent many hours over a few weeks when in all sorts of inebriated states. No matter how many ways I explained the Housing Market in detail they didn’t care. It bored them. The by line in the news with home pices going up is all they cared about. And they lost their shirts. And then they bought Iraqi Currency telling me $250 would bring back $100k in a few years. And I was like Really?
The question is. Do you want a lot of readers who just accept your BS or less readers to truly find value in what you have to share?
What I love about your post @Shonali is that it reminds me of that Daft Punk Song. Harder Faster Better Stronger.
@Shonali And my point with the BS is there are some Rock Star Social Media Bloggers who I read their stuff and think what dumbasses they are. And yet they have a bunch of lemmings eager to jump off the cliff with them. Difference is the rock star takes their money. At least with housing plenty of bankers lost their shirts too.
@HowieSPM Don’t even get me started on the Rock Star Social Media Bloggers” who are dumbasses. When I commented on @3HatsComm ‘s post today about commenting :p, I said there are RSSMBs who might be considered RSs, but whose blogs I rarely read or comment on specifically because they are, IMHO, dumbasses and arrogant to boot.
Haha excellent delivery on some great pointers. I usually write a bunch of crap, then trim it down and try to make it simpler and easier to understand. These are all good way of doing so and I must say that alliteration is my favorite! That way even if it’s not the greatest post, it’s at least fun to read!
@JonHearty I’m sure you DON’T write a “bunch of crap.” Maybe just a wee bit of crap. :p Kidding!
Love alliteration. Once you get into it, it’s sometimes tough to write another way!
[…] Write something else: a poem or a word game may lead you to shorter, tighter, funner blog posts. […]
Did you and I go to the same school Shonali? Oh My, how I remember that excersise :). can you imagine how I use to do? LOL
I was better at memorizing and reciting Shakespeare’s sonnets ;).
All jokes aside – I did pertty well in English :). “Veni, vidi, vici” is my 3 word Latin motto for you there :).
Science on the other had – different story.
This was a fun little piece to read which makes a ton of sense.
The thesaurus is my best friend. I hate using the same words over and over in an article and therefore will always mix it up with synonyms.
As for the “funner” part – well, I do my best to keep you fine folks entertained lol.
The “tighter” well, I’m working on it. I make them very easy to read and understand – at least I hope. I just need to work on the shorter part – although I still stick to that GP of mine on gini dietrich ‘s blog. If you need to (as long as you remain relevant), are comfortable with it and can pull it off – sure. If not, stick to short and sweet. But I do a bit of both – contrary to popular belief hehe.
Great stuff over here as usual Shonali. Thanks for the light and useful read :).
@Griddy Ha, I can just see your grammar teaching bending over your notebook, glasses perched on the tip of her nose (of course it was a woman), saying, “Ingrid, HOW many times have we had this conversation?!”
I loved your GP post on gini dietrich ‘s blog, as you know. I think “tighter” can mean “shorter” at times, but for me it’s more about keeping the focus of your post in sight and not letting it run away from you to the finish line. That’s one of the things I like most about your posts; they are absolutely delightful to read, but through all the wandering and meandering we still know where we’re going. At least, I think we do.
The posts I have lined up for tomorrow and day after were clocking in at almost 2,800 words. 2,800! *I* think they’ll be really useful, though, so I decided to split them into two; still at close to 1,500 words apiece. I’d love you to come check ’em out if you have the time.
You know who else writes quite long but fab posts? shelholtz . Amazing stuff. If I woke up one day writing like him, I’d think I’d died and gone to heaven. Sigh.
@Shonali ginidietrich shelholtz LOL Shonali ;). Sounds about right.
I’ll be looking forward to reading those 2 posts – and I’d still read it even if it was one 2,800 word one. So would many people!
I’ll make sure to start reading Shel more often – thanks for the reminder :).
That was downright fun to read, Shonali. Never done a precis post either, but I do the equivalent when writing marketing copy. So it’ like you got the training early on. And I’ve been thinking of doing a poem post sometime soon…
@shakirah_dawud Thanks, Shakirah, glad you liked it! Yes, the precis exercises are certainly coming in handy now. Though as you will see, if you go through some of my other posts, I can rival even @Griddy when it comes to length, but I enjoy writing long – and sometimes it works.
@Shonali @shakirah_dawud @Griddy What is length of a blog? Its very subjective. If brevity was so important why is Tolstoy’s War and Peace or any Stephen King book so successful?
@HowieSPM @Shonali @shakirah_dawud @Griddy Flashbacks to college, easier to get through the epic long Crime and Punishment than the Heart of Darkness, which was a fraction the length. It’s about the writing, the message. If it’s good and keeps me interested, I can read for days.
@3HatsComm @HowieSPM @shakirah_dawud @Griddy Ditto – it’s very subjective. Don’t they say rules are made to be broken?
@Shonali @HowieSPM @shakirah_dawud @Griddy YES, though you need to know the rules first, to know how to break them effectively. FWIW.
[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Gini Dietrich, Shonali Burke. Shonali Burke said: [new post] Here's my blogging motto with apologies to the Olympics http://t.co/aGobGWE – what's yours? #blogging #socialmedia #pr […]
This, THIS is what you do when stuck for a blog post. Excellent, totally getting a linkback tomorrow. If nothing else you found a way to include Mr. T in a poetry lesson with made up words, totally rocks.
Never done a precis excercise but your point about editing is spot on: A quote I drop all the time, from one of my college professors: “Warm up on your own time.” Twitter and texting have forced us to edit, to pare down what isn’t needed so that we can quickly get to the point already. Using the right one word – via dictionary or thesaurus – in place of many other words can not only tighten a post, it can evoke :-) a different tone, more powerful meaning.
Using forms for alliteration and poetry can give a nice creative twist on a post, a framework to help when you’re stuck. IDK… may be too limiting. Perhaps I lack the creativity, just not sure I could wax poetic for just a few lines and have anything substantive to say, worth reading.
My tip for shorter, tighter, funner blogging: TMTOWTDI, but IMHO just KISS. Unless you think it’s TMA. J/K. No I’d say: stop. Shut up already, stop typing and start editing. Make your point or few points, then just stop. FWIW.
@3HatsComm Yay, a linkback! My scheming paid off. :p Seriously, though, thank you.
Love that quote: “warm up on your own time.” I will have to file that away for future reference.
I might be going out on a limb here, but I don’t think you lack the creativity for poetry. Even if you do it just for the fun of it, like I did with the ode post, it’s a nice little workout for ye olde graye celles. Heh!
OK – WHAT is TMTOWTDI?!!!!
@Shonali @3HatsComm I almost asked myself but I thought, “Shakirah, Davina’s talking to Shonali. She must know. You can ask in private and not sound clueless,” lol.
Too much to …somethin’-somethin’… it???
@shakirah_dawud As you get to know us, you’ll learn that @3HatsComm is the Acronym Queen. I’m thinking of having a special crown made for her.
@Shonali @shakirah_dawud I even linked a cheat sheet in one of my old comments. Teasing I just pulled that one off of it, not one I use all the time. BTW it means “there’s more than one way to do it.” I was just getting silly.
I LOVE that “warm up” line, use it all the time and loved the professor didn’t want to read pages of filler in our papers, really tought us to write efficiently. Served me well as I got away with 4-page papers (assignment for 6+) b/c I had it jammed with more facts, details, info. In our ADHD real-time results world, we can’t alienate readers with rambling, meandering posts. Gotta get to the point, get out of the way. JMHO.
@3HatsComm LOL, I know you did (link a cheat sheet) but OMG, I didn’t have it handy. :p @shakirah_dawud