Vivek's blog: Three blogging 'mistakes' that aren't

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Three blogging 'mistakes' that aren't


Some mistakes aren't mistakes at all.

For example, if you mentioned that something is your forte (as in 'something you're good at'), but pronounced it 'fort,' a lot of people would make fun of you. But that usage comes from the French, and 'fort' (rather than the common Italian-style 'fort-ay') is perfectly acceptable.

A lot of bloggers focus on mistakes. Often, there's a good reason - which is why my post yesterday was about five common mistakes in blogging and how to avoid them.

But there are some 'rules' of blogging that are all but useless. Cast these aside as though they were the split-infinitive rule and you'll free up your blogging.

Nonmistake #1: Letting the fundamentals slide.
I love the mechanics of English. I'm happy to debate the finer points of grammar for hours (well, minutes) on end. I grow livid when I hear someone say 'between you and I' (or when someone tells me that a 'livid' person has gone red rather than white).

But in blogging, it's OK to be a bit sloppy. Just a bit.

Why? Well, here's one take: at a conference last March, Oracle's Gareth Llewellyn remarked that if you don't make the occasional typo, people start to 'question whether you're human.'

Although I initially recoiled at this philosophy, I've come to terms with it. The best blogs out there are bursting with fantastic ideas and observations. Often it's as though the writer can't type fast enough to keep up with her mind. As long as the final product is coherent and respectfully presented, it can be highly engaging.

I'm not saying to stop editing. You must respect the reader. But if timeliness is of the essence, get your thoughts out there, and get the interaction started. You can always tidy up later.

Nonmistake #2: Not giving a toss about 'best practice'
There are a lot of terrible blogs that tick all the 'do this and your blog will be successful' boxes. They have great lead images, engaging headlines, rich media and a surfeit of keywords. They are concise and direct. They ask questions of the reader.

But they have no soul. Give me a creative genius who knows nothing of blogging rules. Give me beautiful content over keyword stuffing any day. Give me something so perfect in its current form that wedging it into a technique-driven formula would kill it.

Don't get me wrong. Technique can help. Many folks can use all the tips and tricks and still come away with something meaningful. But if you have to choose, go with the heart. The rest can come.

Nonmistake #3: Updating only when you have something to say
It's true that frequently updating your blog is a Very Good Thing. It's frustrating to find a blog you like and then have it languish on the vine while its author is busy procrastinating or watching monthlong Doctor Who marathons.

Don't take the concept of rapid-fire updating too far, though. When the great idea hits, get it down as soon as possible. But if you're starved for creativity, don't force it. That's how you end up with insipid posts about what you just heard on the news or how someone in the restaurant said something really annoying. Save it for Twitter.

Many among you will be reading this post saying to yourselves, 'Well, that was a truckload of obvious.' Believe me: not all these principles are universally understood. Think about all the blogs you've seen that sacrifice passion for pedantry, meaning for maxims, and fun for frequency.

I'm passionate about great blogging, but I've held court for long enough on the subject. My next post will probably be on plot. Yes, plot.