When I was teaching, I’d always try to stress to my students how important it is to completely understand plagiarism and why it’s a horrible idea. I’d cite instances of reporters being fired from major publications and schools (especially colleges) suspending or expelling students for plagiarizing work. These, of course, are lessons and tales that all students hear about…
… and forget as adults, it would seem.
Now I’m a writer. I spend a good deal of time interacting with other writers, reading blogs, and immersing myself in what it means to publish online. It’s rather astounding to me that there are people who make careers out of online publishing (or try to) and still don’t truly understand what plagiarism is.
The general belief is that, “Oh, it’s just when you copy someone’s writing.”
Plagiarism is much more finely nuanced than simply copying someone’s writing. In fact, that’s something of a frustrating reduction.
It’s also one that serial plagiarists commonly use to excuse themselves from other dubious “borrowing” practices.
Because so many writers with good intentions don’t fully understand all the ways in which a person can plagiarize, they’re committing the act unknowingly. That’s a pretty big risk to take, as it only takes one major publication calling you out before you can land yourself in a world of trouble, legal fees, and lost trust.
Content creation is a big job, and businesses don’t always have the time or resources necessary to support it in-house. Instead, they’ll often turn to some kind of secondary source, such as outsourced content or freelance writers to help them build out the content on their sites.
Unfortunately, this method can be rather hit-or-miss for the businesses involved. When a freelance writer or content generation firm is good, fantastic! You’ve found yourself a gem.
But what about when they’re not so good? What about when they don’t seem to have a good enough grasp on your material? What about when they aren’t able to convey your ideas as well as you might like? What about when you find yourself making so many edits to their work that you wonder if it’s worth your investment at all?
Caption: Keeping a notebook with you is a great way to work on developing your writing voice.
Content creators often miss a crucial step in the process. This step comes between the initial idea and the moment they hit “publish” on the finished product. I’m not talking about doing keyword research, optimizing the content, or proofreading the post.
I’m talking about failure. I’m talking about total crap writing.
Read a few blogs. You can tell right away which ones have a good command of voice and which ones sound like they were possibly written by Ben Stein (which is to say flat and pretty boring). You probably much prefer the ones with a strong voice, right? It gives the site character.
The difference between the blogs that are informative as well as fun to read and the ones that make your eyes glaze over with the generic-ness is that the good ones learned from being bad. In reality, everyone starts as a bad blogger. This is perhaps not in writing skill, but we all struggle to find our voice and our purpose for creating content.
March 4th is National Grammar Day, a day when all of us word nerds geek out for grammar. While the day serves as a celebration of language, that celebration also inherently raises awareness of what it means to write and speak well.
The Internet has changed the way we write and speak. Part of the reason that blogging has become such a useful way for businesses to humanize their brands is because of the conversational tone that it allows. People researching products and companies would much rather read something with some character (read: brand humanization) than something that’s sterile and lacking personality.
Still, just because blogging is a bit more relaxed than, say, academic writing, it doesn’t mean you can get sloppy. Blogging is still writing, after all, and writing skills are among the most important to have. It’s important to be cognizant of grammar rules so that you sound interesting and intelligent! Remember, especially if you’re blogging for your business, that how you write says as much about your personal brand as it does about your company.
In honor of this year’s National Grammar Day, here are some little tips that you can start implementing today (and every day) to help you make a big difference in your writing.
Growing up, I wrote almost as much as I read. I kept notebooks full of stories, stuffing them into my backpack to take them to school and type them on the computers. Invariably, anyone and everyone who read anything I wrote between birth and age 16 said something like, “Wow, that’s really good!”
What was that about everyone being a critic?
After tenth grade, I found myself heading off to Susquehanna University (my future alma mater) for a week-long Writers Workshop, conducted as part of Susquehanna’s nationally recognized Writers Institute.
During that one summer week, I learned a tremendous amount about writing and myself as a writer from Drs. Gary Fincke and Tom Bailey. The most important lesson for me, as a fairly sensitive person, was in regards to constructive criticism.
When you’ve spent your entire life being told what a great writer you are, it can take the wind right out of your sails when someone tells you otherwise (especially the first time). I would go on to attend the Writers Workshop again the following summer, and, upon enrolling as an undergrad at Susquehanna, declare writing as my first minor. But that first lesson in constructive criticism has stuck with me.
Whether you’re writing creatively, for academia, or blogs, one of the most important aspects of writing is often overlooked: the ability to give and receive constructive criticism.
In this world, you’re either an extrovert or you’re not.
People get the wrong idea about introverts. They think we’re perhaps a bit too shy or that maybe we just can’t keep up with rapid-fire conversations happening around us. In general, there’s an awful lot of negativity associated with being an introvert, especially in the business world.
‘How will she work as part of a team?’
‘How can he contribute anything meaningful to the conversation when he’s so quiet all the time?’
Plenty of people talk about introversion like it’s an unattractive quality and some affliction that can’t be overcome. The truth is that introverts are just fueled differently than extroverts. We’re in our own heads quite often. The quieter we are, the more we’re thinking and generating ideas. It’s not that we don’t know or don’t “get it,” but we’re just considering all avenues. It’s not that we can’t work with clients, but that we like to think about our approach first. And it’s certainly not that we hate being around others and prefer only to work alone. In fact, I find that working as part of a small team can actually boost my “introvert superpowers.”
Whether you’re doing it as a hobby or as part of your job, blogging can be tough. Everyone and his grandma has a blog these days. It becomes more and more difficult to get yourself noticed, regardless of how many times you tweet the link or post it to Facebook. Sure, your mom might be reading your blog along with a handful of your friends, but what about people you don’t know? What about people in your industry?
Blogging success doesn’t happen overnight, and everyone measures it differently. Some sites are disappointed if they don’t hit a million unique views every month, while others are excited to get a few hundred thousand. Bloggers like me (and maybe like you) get excited over numbers that are much, much smaller than that.
The key to building a readership that keeps coming back is to give them a positive experience when visiting your blog. This includes everything from layout to readability to your interaction, and beyond. Those successful bloggers that you admire so much didn’t get to the top by spending fifteen minutes every month or so typing into WordPress and immediately hitting “Publish.” They honed their craft because, essentially, that’s what blogging is.
If you want to get yourself on the path to blogging success, for every step you should take, there’s another you should avoid. Below are five common mistakes that bloggers make. Lots of bloggers, in fact (because none of us are perfect, right?). So if you find yourself thinking, “Hey, I do that,” you’re in good company. It doesn’t mean that you’re a bad blogger. It just means that you, like me and everyone else, have something to work on.
Today I celebrate my one year blogoversary with Business 2 Community. I’m pretty pumped about it!
You see, a year ago, I was basically stuck. My last full-time teaching position had ended in 2009, and with education being in the state it’s in, I knew it was going to be difficult to find another one — especially because I’m certified in English (like a million other people). I wasn’t completely sure that I even wanted to teach anymore in current conditions, but I just wasn’t sure what I did want to do. I was growing tired of sitting idle in my parents’ house. Most of my time and energy had been going into working on my second NaNoWriMo novel, but by mid-January, even that was coming to a standstill.
One day I was browsing through job listings on Craigslist, looking for anything in the Philadelphia area that I might be able to do. My search was pretty un-targeted. Why Philadelphia? My neck of the Central Pennsylvanian woods isn’t really booming with jobs. I have friends and family in the Philly area and like it there. More on that later.
In the writing/editing posts, there was an internship listed for a blog — B2CMarketingInsider (now known as Business 2 Community). The ad said I could build a writing portfolio and they would provide guidance. I could take the writing as far as I wanted it to go. A little voice in my head told me that this was exactly what I needed, especially as I was already an avid blogger (I celebrated my ten year blogoversary this past July — crazy!). I had writing skills, so why not see where they could take me?
I’m not really one for New Year’s Resolutions, and there’s certainly been no shortage of those in the blogosphere lately, anyway.
I am, however, one for blogging resolutions.
In some form or another, I’ve been blogging for over a decade now. One thing that I’ve never managed to pin down was a regular process for commenting on other blogs that I read and love. There’s really no good excuse for this; it’s just an aspect of blogging where I’ve dropped the ball. Though I know how important commenting is for personal reasons (show love for your blogging friends!) and professional ones (SEO, anyone?), I’ve never managed to stay on task.
Pretty much like every time I’ve decided to take up going to the gym.