Five Blogs That Can Help Your Writing

It’s Sunday and I’ve been spending the afternoon reading blogs that other people write. A great way to spend Sunday afternoon.

Some were already my favorites that I’ve read for years. Others are new to me. All of them offer posts that can help you (and me) become better writers and to grow our freelance businesses.

I thought I’d choose five of the best that I read Sunday that you might want to read too. Here they are, along with their blog addresses. I’d really love to know which ones you like best.

One of my long-time favorite blogs is Kristen Kings InkThinker. Her post on “The Fine Line Between ‘Writing’ and ‘Being A Writer'” is a good one. One of her newest writing habits is to devote time each day to writing 2,000 words for herself before writing anything for anybody else. Kristen is a Virginia-based copywriter and consultant who offers tips, resources, advice humor and how-tos for freelancers and their clients.

Allison Winn Scotch’s Ask Allison is also a great blog. It’s said to help writers looking to break into the publishing world. Don’t fail to read “Talking Money: A Freelancer’s Salary.”

Liz Strauss Successful-Blog. In “26 Needle in the Haystack Blogging Topics,” you’ll find some great blogging information. What you won’t find is the author of the piece. I can’t tell if it was written by Liz Strauss or by Terez Howard, who Strauss thanks at the end of the post. But no matter the author, it’s a great piece. Don’t miss it.

A new one I’ve found is, the blog of R.M. Jacobsen. If you go there, you’ll come to “Agatha Christie and the Case of the Messy Notebooks,” a delightful little story about how Christie captured her notes in lowly notebooks. Lots of other clear and simple writing on this site.

I finished the day up at one of my favorite sites, The Urban Muse. This is the site for Susan Johnston. It has been twice named a Top 10 Blog for Writers, so you’ll know how valuable it is. One of the posts I read Sunday was “6 Ways to Liven up Your Copy.” I think you’ll agree that this is a valuable place to spend time on every week.

There you have my five Sunday afternoon blogs. I’d really love to know what you think about them. And I’d welcome comments from you about more blogs for me to explore.

Please leave a comment.

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About Mistakes That Make You Look Bad

Today I ran across another post that can help me improve my writing. Mistakes That Make You Look Bad was on the WritingThoughts site and I think it is going to be a valuable addition to what I do here. You, too, might want to consider using the tips in your writing.

This is what I do on Sundays–spend time looking at what other writers are doing or have done. This is the first time I’ve seen WritingThoughts and I was impressed. Laura Spencer is a freelance writer from North Central Texas with over 19 years of professional business writing experience. I think we can all learn from her solid experience.

Mistakes That Make You Look Bad discusses twenty common grammar errors that are easily fixable. I won’t mention all 20 (some are spelling errors, including misspelling your own name!), but I will include these:

Misplacing a decibel (which project would you rather take–the job paying $10.00 or the one paying $1000?)

Using a double negative. Not only unnecessary, they actually make your writing unclear.

Run-on sentences. She says that connecting a bunch of independent sentences with the word “and” stringing them into one long sentence is wrong. It is.

Using text messaging abbreviations. Unless you’re absolutely certain that the recipient knows that TTYL means Talk To You Later, it’s best not to use the abbreviation.

Using too many big words. She says that filling your messages with all of the four- and five-syllable words that you know isn’t the best way to show them what you know.

I agree with her that using these and the other mistakes really do make you look bad. Go take a look at all 20 of them on her site. You will, I think, become more aware of what you are writing and how the recipients will respond to you.

Writing Basic Business Profiles

Lots of writers write profiles. I’ve done quite a few myself. I’ve also sold quite a few of them and plan to sell even more. That’s because I write basic business profiles, a type of story that usually runs to about 1,500 words. They are well received by editors.

What are basic business profiles? They’re a basic type article that concentrates on an individual and his or her interest in a particular subject. It’s a basic business story, along with a bit more information about the subject.

Here’s the beginning of one I read recently in The NonProfit Times. The author was freelance writer Jeff Jones and the title was “Letting the Sun Shine in.”

A friend sent Bill Strickland an orchid. Struck by its beauty, he bought a beginner’s guide and asked area experts how to grow the flower. But he failed to sustain any orchids in his basement nursery.

Realizing he didn’t have the right environment, he set out to build a greenhouse. Nearly seven years later, Strickland, founder and visionary of the Pittsburgh-based Manchester Bidwell Corporation (MBC) effectively cultivated that one orchid into a 40,000-square-foot greenhouse. Horticulturists in training at MBC now grow thousands of orchids there, and 2008 sales generated roughly $265,000.”

Readers recognize right away that this is a business story and they are eager to find out how Strickland learned to grow the plants and how he grows thousands of them there every year. After that introduction, it’s no wonder that they will hang on and find out more….the basics of writing business profiles.

After that status statement, the writer moved along to show readers how the subject handles himself inside the firm. He talks about the problems Strickland faced in a way that show him in action. It’s very important to remember that you’re talking about the subject, not the problem.

Although it doesn’t happen in this story, often the writer will include more information about the person involved, about his or her family, children, homes, community activities and the like. When you are about 500 words from the end of your piece, you might move into your subject’s personal life. Actually, a lot of this — his or her office, attitude toward others working there and toward the company, hobbies, even religion — can be woven into the business part of the story. Be sure to let the reader know if the subject is single, married or divorced, and if there are children.

Readers, and editors, actually don’t seem to want much about controversy in basic business profiles. They seem to prefer the “chamber of commerce” approach to journalism. If controversy is very close to the company, you may have to report on it, but often it may not even be mentioned in the article.

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