6 Ways to Give Your Blog a Checkup

Jul 21


How healthy is your blog? When new readers check out your blog, they will likely scroll down to read your older posts. Take a look at the blog as if you were a new visitor. How does your layout look?

If you’ve had the same ads on for several months, and no one is clicking on them, maybe it’s time for a change. Maybe the logo you created three years ago just doesn’t appeal to you anymore. Check the list of older posts. Are there any typos or errors? Is there a better photo that you found after publishing? You can still change things that have been published, and it won’t change the date of the post. Making your blog better is always worthwhile. Keep reading for more ways to improve the health of your blog.

1. Write headlines that grab readers

Are your headlines clearly written? Do they let readers know what to expect in your post, or what’s in it for them? Check your older titles for typos or spacing problems. A brief blog title that is “tweetable” will get you more pageviews than a longer one. You can help publicize your posts with share buttons. It’s easier than ever for readers to share your content. If you didn’t know about share buttons when you set up your blog, it’s very simple to add them now. Check the “Help” section of your host’s website for instructions.

2. Don’t be too formal


Your casual, conversational tone is often the quality that blog readers like best. Don’t use long words to impress, when a shorter word will do. If you see phrases that are clunky in older posts, do a quick edit so your writing meets your current standards. Should you use slang in your writing? Of course! Just do everyone a favor and spell your slang words correctly.

3. Look sharp with great design

Even with free blogs, you can find thousands of options for design templates, photos and fonts. Be consistent with spacing above and below photos. Keep previewing the look of your post before publishing. Odd things can happen with placement, especially if you have imported text (with proper credit and links, of course), images or video from another source. You might need to learn a little about HTML to understand how to correct glitches in layout. Your blog host’s help forum can be a great resource, especially if you are new to blogging. A nice design that enhances what you have to say will help bring readers back. If you can’t find the look you want, browse through other blogs to figure out what is appealing about their pages. Just as you would tear out magazine pages when shopping for furniture or paint colors, start gathering samples of blog designs that you admire. Print out their home pages for reference. See what your five favorites have in common, and then tweak your own design.

 

4. Remember that some like it fast

 


Shorter blog posts means more people will read the whole post. It’s not that your stories aren’t interesting, but most readers don’t have much time to read your post. If it’s easy to scan, it’s easy to read. If you have a personal blog, often your best posts tell stories with lots of detail. But if you are blogging for business or to give advice, try to be brief. Shorter sentences and paragraphs may be more effective for you.

 

5. Be easy on the eyes


Long runs of text are hard to read, and might even scare off readers before they can appreciate how interesting your posts really are. Using attractive colors and fonts, and organizing text into numbered or bulleted lists can make the post more readable and appealing. Black type on a white background is the most readable. If you’re using a dark background to set a certain mood, you could be turning off some readers or simply making it hard for them to read. Enlarging the text font on a dark background might help.

 

6. Don’t get distracted

Take a realistic look at how much time you spend on different tasks relating to your blog. You could spend hours searching online for just the right photos to illustrate your post. You may think the task is fun and adds value to your blog. But sometimes it’s better to just write a new post! Providing great content is your goal.

Make a schedule for your blog. You might try to post every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. You can easily pop in at least one Facebook update each day. Use a site like HootSuite to schedule your tweets throughout the day, so you don’t feel tied to using Twitter all day long to publicize your blog. Plan your days so that you spend enough time writing and editing, and not too much of your valuable day (or late into the night) on other things. Do take the time to look at other blogs. Leaving comments, making sure they know you’re following them on Twitter or “Liking” their Facebook page builds relationships. Other bloggers can give you great support and advertising.

 

Schedule regular checkups Periodically take a look at your blog with a critical eye. There are thousands of blogs out there, and you should make sure that yours reflects your best effort. With proper care, and maybe an occasional facelift, your blog will live a long and healthy life.

 

Grammar School: Me, Myself and I

Jul 21

 


Speak for yourself

Knowing when to use I or me in a sentence causes a lot of confusion. Some people are so afraid of using me when they should be using I, that they introduce a new mistake: using the pronoun myself incorrectly. We can now clear up the question of how to properly use the pronouns memyself, and I in your writing.


Use I to refer to yourself when you are the subject of a sentence.

  • I am going to the annual Twins Club dance.
  • I can’t wait to see Dwayne and Wayne there. 
  • I hope those mean triplets don’t crash the dance again.

 


 

 

Use me to refer to yourself when you are the object of a sentence.

  • Sharon gave me two tickets to the ice show.
  • She showed me the costumes her sisters will wear.
  • Karen told me the show would last about an hour.

 



 

I am not myself 

Confusion about using me or I leads to the incorrect use of the pronoun myselfMyself is no better than I as an object.

Myself is not an all-purpose replacement of me or I.

 

Trying to avoid using me, many people will incorrectly substitute myself, as in “The waitress brought the soda to my sister and myself.”

 

  • The waitress gave the soda to my sister and (memyself or I).

 

Hint: It is easier to tell if you should use me or I (instead of myself) if you separate the sentence into two new sentences.

 

  • The waitress gave the soda to my sister.
  • The waitress gave the soda to me (not I).

 

You would never say “The waitress gave the soda to I.” So you can tell that the correct word to use is me.



 

Hint: The word myself shouldn’t be used unless it comes after an I in the same sentence.

  • I prepared dinner myself
  • I consider myself fortunate to look like this.
  •  have never had many problems myself, but I know some people who have.
  • The reporter asked if I myself had ever had that particular problem.



 

Now that we have answered the question of how to use memyself and I in your writing, let’s close with a quotation from actor Cary Grant. (That’s him pictured above, young bloggers.)


      My formula for living is quite simple. I get up in 

      the morning and I go to bed at night. In between,

      I occupy myself as best I can.   (Cary Grant)

Grammar School: Using the Comma

Jul 20

 
 

How do you use a comma?

The comma has several uses in English grammar, all related to marking off separate elements within a sentence.

Some rules are flexible, but most of the time, commas belong in very predictable places. 

1. Use a comma between two independent (main) clauses, before a coordinating conjunction (and, but, yet, or, nor, for, so). 

Ricky: Lucy’s actin’ crazy.

Fred: Crazy for Lucy, or crazy for ordinary people?

2. Use a comma to separate items in a series or list. The comma goes after words, phrases, or clauses that appear in a series of three or more. You don’t have to include a comma before the final and, but if your sentence could be confusing without it, go ahead and add the comma.

Lucy: Hello friends, I’m your Vitameatavegamin girl. Are you tired, run-down, listless? Do you poop-out at parties? Are you unpopular?

The answer to all your problems is in this little bottle. Vitameatavegamin contains vitamins, meat, vegetables and minerals.

3. Use a comma after an introductory phrase or clause that precedes the subject of the sentence.

June: You know, both of you boys should watch your grammar.

Beaver: Gee, Mom, this is Saturday. They make us watch it all week in school.

4. Use a pair of commas to set off interruptions.
The two commas set off words, phrases, or clauses that interrupt a sentence.

Ozzie Nelson: They say the best indication of a man being in love is loss of appetite. Oh, by the way, is lunch almost ready? I’m starved.

Bud Anderson: (holding a letter up to the light): Can’t see a thing.

Jim Anderson: Bud, as long as it’s addressed to me, do you mind letting me have it?

Ralph: I have got an explanation for it. I’m a mope. But I love you, sweetheart, honest I do. You’re the greatest.

Alice: Oh, Ralph!

In Conclusion

These examples should clear up the confusion regarding the use of commas in your writing. It can also be said, just as thousands of kids have told their parents since the 1950s, that television can be very educational.




The Wizard of Blogs

Jul 18

 
 

 

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

You might have felt a bit like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” when you took the first step toward starting a blog. You were entering a new world, unsure of how to get to your destination. There are many similarities between Dorothy’s journey to meet the Wizard and your experiences after becoming a blogger.

images-12

 
Why, Oh, Why Can’t I?

There was probably a moment, after reading someone else’s blog post, when you thought, “Why can’t I do that, too?” When you decided to make your idea a reality, you felt excitement and probably some nerves, too. You were tempted by the thought of doing something creative, being challenged, and making connections.

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Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Your path as a blogger will not always go in a straight line. It’s possible to get a lot of good feedback at first, then struggle if your numbers drop. You might feel a summer or holiday slump when your regular readers are too busy to check in often and leave their funny comments on your blog.

We all love getting comments, and if they slow down, you need to just keep going, and not get discouraged by little bumps in the road. When your readers have a chance to come back, they can easily scroll through and read the posts that they missed.

WizardYellowBrick
 
You Never Know Who’s Watching

It’s very tempting for us to constantly look at our blog stats. We want to know how many people have seen the post we just spent days putting together. We look to see if anyone has mentioned us on Twitter, or if a new reader likes our Facebook page. We leave comments on other blogs that we enjoy, and we wonder if anyone will click though to our own sites.

When I first got hooked on reading blogs, I had a morning ritual of reading some of my favorite ones before doing anything else. For a long time, I read faithfully through every post and most of the comments, but I never left a comment myself.

Like most people who weren’t bloggers several years ago, I didn’t have a Twitter account, and I didn’t know what it meant to follow a blog on Google. I didn’t subscribe. I just liked reading the posts. I checked in every morning to see what was new, and the bloggers had no idea who I was or how much I liked what I was reading.

Keep in mind that your stats can tell you a lot, but you might not realize  how much someone out there looks forward to reading your next post.

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You’ve Got to Have Friends

Dorothy’s friends were committed to giving her support along their journey. You can easily develop new relationships through your blog, with your readers as well as with other bloggers. Even if you start out with only a few connections, they can give you friendly advice, useful tips, and publicity through their own blog connections.

A blogging network will teach you all you need to know about improving and promoting your blog, as well as offering support from other bloggers going through the same challenges.

WizardWitchHourglass
 
Time Is Not on Your Side

Time can be your biggest enemy. You could spend hours a day browsing around other blogs, looking for funny or helpful tweets to retweet, or checking in on Facebook.

The blogs that you’ve always enjoyed reading may have inspired you to start your own. Unfortunately, once you started your own blog, you didn’t have as much free time to read your old favorites.

Try to spend 80 percent of your time writing, and 20 percent promoting and networking. Even if you’re not feeling very creative, you can start a few rough drafts that can be refined later when you’re full of energy and ideas.

WizardScarecrow
 
If I Only Had a Brain

You give your brain a real workout when you write. Putting out quality information, while trying to make sure your spelling and grammar are impeccable, takes more than a little brain power.

Letting typos and grammatical errors slip through can really affect the image you are trying to project. If you hope to make money with your blog, increase your exposure, or get other writing opportunities, you need to look professional.

WizardTinman
 
If I Only Had a Heart

Blog posts can be so personal, and you are opening your own story up for scrutiny and possible criticism. It takes a lot of heart and soul to share yourself like that. Personal blogs might look easy, but sharing very personal subject matter is not.

I once read a blog that had a riveting story of the blogger’s past problems with drugs and alcohol. Her story read like a novel, and I felt that it took more heart to write that story than I have seen in a long time. Hopefully your stories aren’t so painful or intense, but your own personal experiences and emotions are valuable for others to read.

WizardLion

If I Only Had the Nerve
 
Some parts of the blogger’s job aren’t fun; they can actually be a little scary. If you’re writing a personal blog, you may have the urge to share your feelings, but you worry about violating your family’s privacy. Maybe you’re afraid of getting a nasty comment on a post.

Some bloggers have mixed feelings about trying to promote their blogs, especially if they’re not naturally outgoing. You might be nervous about telling friends and relatives what you’re doing, and may at first feel most comfortable connecting with other bloggers.

WizardDorothy
 
You’ve Always Had the Power

Glinda the Good Witch told Dorothy that she had always had the power within her to get back home. You might not feel especially confident about how things are going along your own blogging journey. If you worry that there are too many blogs like yours out there, just remember that you are the only person with your unique personality and voice. If you stay committed to expressing yourself honestly, you will end up right where you want to be.
 
WizardTheEnd
   

All photos from The Wizard of Oz.

Grammar School: Using Who or Whom

Jul 14

 

 


Who’s who (or whom) in Hollywood


If you are unsure about how to use who or whom in a sentence, you’re not alone. Whom is often ignored in casual speech, but it’s not hard to learn how to use whom properly, once you learn a special trick.


The difference between who and whom is exactly the same as the difference between I and mehe and himshe and her. 


Who (as well as Ihe, or she) is the subject: the person performing the action of the verb.

  • Who went to the nightclub?
  • Who had the champagne?
  • Who forgot to invite Frank?
  • Who brought the dame?

 

Whom (as well as me, him, or her) refers to the object of the sentence or phrase; the person to whom, about whom or for whom the action is being done.


Whom is also the correct choice after a preposition: with whom, of whom, from whom.

  • To whom it may concern
  • To whom did you talk today?
  • Whom does Ava love?
  • With whom did you dance?


Hint: Use the he/him method to decide which word is correct.

he = who

him = whom

Like whom, the pronoun him ends with m.


When you’re trying to decide whether to use who or whom, ask yourself if you can substitute he or him. If you can answer the question being asked with him, then use whom, and it’s easy to remember because they both end with m


Audrey Hepburn, who appeared in the movies Funny Face and 

My Fair Lady, was considered one of Hollywood’s greatest style icons. 

She married actor Mel Ferrer, with whom she starred on Broadway.


Test: Ask yourself who (or whom) did Audrey Hepburn star with? She starred with him, so with whom is correct in the sentence above.


If you’re trying to ask, “Who (or whom) do you love?” the answer would be “I love him.” (not “I love he.”) Him ends with an m, so that’s your clue to use whom.


If you are asking, “Who (or whom) won the Academy Award?” the answer would be “He won the Academy Award.” There’s no to indicate whom, so you know to use who.


Note: Even if you are talking about a female, use him for the test to see if you should use who or whom.



Actor Cary Grant chose his stage name 

because of actors Gary Cooper and Clark Gable, 

for whom the initials C and G had proven lucky.



 

To whom was Jane Wyman married? She was married to actor 

Ronald Reagan, who later became President of the United States. 

Reagan, from whom Wyman was divorced in 1948, eventually 

married actress Nancy Davis, who became First Lady. 


Lena Horne, who was famous for singing “Stormy Weather,”starred 

in the 1943 film Cabin in the Sky, featuring an all African-American cast. 

Vincente Minnelli, with whom she may have had an affair, directed the film.



Whom did Grace Kelly marry? She married Prince Ranier  of 

Monaco and became a princess. The woman for whom a Cinderella 

story seemed to have come true later died in a tragic accident.


Elizabeth Taylor broke up the marriage of Debbie Reynolds and 

Eddie Fisher. Their daughter Carrie Fisher, for whom her parents’

 divorce was not totally devastating, later said, “The best thing Elizabeth 

Taylor did for me was getting Eddie Fisher out of our house.”


Now you will be able to use who and whom properly in your writing. If you’d like to learn even more about who/whom, subjects and objects, or whoever/whomever, you can look at the excellent websites below. They may not include any Hollywood glamour, but you’ll be even smarter than the average movie star.



Further Reading

For more on who/whom and subjects and objects of a sentence, see GrammarGirl.com and WikiHow.

If you’d like to read about whoever and whomever, take a look at Grammar.about.com. 

Vintage move magazine cover images sorted by decade and year at Lucywho.com.


Grammar School: Using Who or That

Jul 09

 


Who is that?

 

This topic is a little controversial, because certain sources will say that who and that can be used interchangeably. Some people may agree with that, but the person judging your writing ability may be a stickler for proper use. If you know the rule for using who and that, you’ll never make a mistake. 


Who refers to people  (The man who walked in smiled at me.)


That refers to things  (The fish that got away was enormous.) 


 


Honestly, those ladies who wear boxes that have mailing addresses on them are going straight to Weirdsville.

 



Mom, anyone who sees me walking to school like this is going to think I’m really neat! Everyone is going to want to see my helmet that makes jet plane noises!




Oh, Alan, if you want to wear goggles that have Super Radarvision when you walk to school, I’m sure it will be just fine. Other kids who see the goggles and helmet will probably just admire them from a distance.



Now that you are clear on the proper use of who or that,

anyone who sees your blog will read posts that always make a great impression.


 

Grammar School: Using Accept or Except

Jul 09


When do you use accept or except


The words accept and except are frequently misused. You could make a simple spelling error or typo, or maybe you don’t know the real definition of each word. Either way, readers will judge you on the language you use, so let’s clear up any confusion right now.


Accept is a verb (action word), meaning 

  • to take or receive  (Sandra accepted the gift.)
  • to agree to  (George accepts the terms of the contract.)
  • to respond in the affirmative  (Dorothy will accept the job offer.)


Except is usually a preposition or a conjunction (showing a relationship or connection), meaning 

 

  • with the exclusion of  (All the boys went to the treehouse except Billy.)
  • excluding, not including  (The baby ate all of her dinner except the creamed spinach.)
  • but, other than  (It was noisy everywhere except the school library.)


 

 

Certainly, Ronald, I’d be happy to accept your 

marriage proposal, except that I can’t stand to be 

around you for more than ten minutes.



You have to accept this call from the reporter. 

Everyone except Rock Hudson wants to hear your statement.



 

Dear Sorority Sister, accept the invitation to 

your wedding. Too bad the groom’s eyes 

will be on every girl there except you.



I’ve decided to accept the fact that 

everyone adores me except my mother.

 

 

We should accept the fact that the quality of your writing affects the impression that you make on readers or customers. People will continue to make these common grammatical errors, except for you.

Grammar School: Using “It’s” or “Its”

Jun 27

It’s Confusing

There is a lot of confusion over the use of it’s and its.

We didn’t always have this dilemma. The Word Detective has found that in the past, the contraction of it is was ’tis. Only when ’tis came to be regarded as an archaic form in the 19th century did the use of it’s as a contraction of it is push out the use of it’s as a possessive.

It’s is a contraction of it is or it has.
  • It’s surprising that an alien has landed in the high school football stadium. (It is)
  • It’s been a long time since anything interesting happened in this town. (It has)

Its is a singular possessive adjective that indicates ownership.

  • The dog is hiding in its bed.

Note: His, hers and theirs also indicate ownership. They all end in s, but none of them ever uses an apostrophe.

Copyblogger tells us an easy rule of thumb: if you’re not sure which word is correct, read your sentence out loud using it is instead. If that sounds goofy, its is probably the right choice.

  • It’s alive and it wants to eat everything in its path.
  • It’s surprising that the alien has left its own planet.
  • It’s never easy when your house is vaporized right off its foundation.
With any of the common grammar mistakes that we discuss at Blog Rehab, if you are aware that you might make a mistake with a word, you should use that as a hint to take your time. Check all of your copy several times before considering your post ready to go. Don’t be too determined to “get it out today” if the end result is less than your best effort.

Saturday Morning Cartoons Schoolhouse Rock’s “Interjections!”

Jun 24


Hey! I’m Learning!

The Schoolhouse Rock! animated cartoon series led to an entire nation of 8-year-olds walking around singing about the parts of speech. The animated shorts were broadcast on ABC beginning in the early 1970s.

One blogger remembers the series well: “We’ve been seeing Schoolhouse Rock! here from time to time and the boys have gotten a big kick out of it. They can’t believe my hubby and I are familiar with the songs. It’s funny how the lyrics came back to us after so many years.” The episode about interjections came out in 1974.

Lyrics to “Interjections!”

When Reginald was home with the flu,
The doctor knew just what to do
He cured the infection
With one small injection
While Reginald uttered some interjections…

Hey! That smarts!
Ouch! That hurts!
Yow! That’s not fair givin’ a guy a shot down there!

Interjections (Hey!) show excitement (Yow!) or emotion (Ouch!).
They’re generally set apart from a sentence by an exclamation point,
Or by a comma when the feeling’s not as strong.

Though Geraldine played hard to get
Geraldo knew he’d woo her yet
He showed his affection
Despite her objections
And Geraldine hollered some interjections…

Well! You’ve got some nerve!
Oh! I’ve never been so insulted in all my life!
Hey! You’re kinda cute!

Interjections (Well!) show excitement (Oh!) or emotion (Hey!).
They’re generally set apart from a sentence by an exclamation point,
Or by a comma when the feeling’s not as strong.

So when you’re happy (Hurray!) or sad (Aw!)
Or frightened (Eeeeeek!) or mad (Rats!)
Or excited (Wow!) or glad (Hey!)
An interjection starts a sentence right.

The game was tied at seven all, uh-huh,
When Franklin found he had the ball.
He made a connection
In the other direction,
And the crowd started shouting out interjections

Aw! You threw the wrong way!
Darn! You just lost the game!
Hurray! I’m for the other team!

Interjections (Aw!) show excitement (Darn!) or emotion (Hurray!).
They’re generally set apart from a sentence by an exclamation point,
Or by a comma when the feeling’s not as strong.

So when you’re happy (Hurray!) or sad (Aw!)
Or frightened (Eeeeeek!) or mad (Rats!)
Or excited (Wow!) or glad (Hey!)
An interjection starts a sentence right.

Interjections (Hey!) show excitement (Hey!) or emotion (Hey!).
They’re generally set apart from a sentence by an exclamation point,
Or by a comma when the feeling’s not as strong.

Interjections show excitement or emotion,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah… YEA!

Darn! That’s the end!

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