24 March 2009 | Team Tamar

How reading leads to better blogging

Some people are hopeless writers and no matter how hard they try they’ll never write anything without confusing their readers. There are many people like this, so if you feel you are one of them, do not despair.

Because I write for a living, it comes easily to me, but I must confess it wasn’t always this natural. I obsessed for two days about every word of my first newspaper article, 600 words about a tornado which had inexplicably struck the North West province, before handing it in. Another three days of terror about a misplaced comma or a misspelt word and the paper was finally published, with my story front and centre, error free and my name at the bottom. It was also published online.

And the world kept turning. A few people said they had read it, a few said they hadn’t. It was a remarkably uneventful occasion for the rest of the world, but I somehow thought I would be lynched in the street for bad grammar. I wasn’t, and I still have that first clipping framed at home.

Luckily, writing a blog online is a little less stressful because you can always go back and change a misspelling, or rewrite an incorrectly presented factoid. Print is not as forgiving. On the other hand, blogs are permanently available online, to a lot more people, and are spread far and wide across the web at the click of a button. You might be able to change your blog, but by then it has most likely already been read, thanks to Facebook, Digg, Twitter and so on, by people right across the net. Which is the point, of course. Which is why it’s important to make sure your blog is spelt properly, is readable and is written in proper English.

The best way to increase your writing skills is to read. Read everything you can, critically. Read good books, magazines, other people’s blogs, newspapers, road signs and advertisements – everything you see. The more you read the better your writing skills will become. This is not a foolproof way to become the next BOB’s winner, but by reading good authors you will eventually pick up the difference between good writing and bad writing, your will start to recognise the correct way to spell many words,  and by pure osmosis, your skills will improve. Although, if you can't see the spelling error in this British road sign you might just have to go back to one.  


And you might just be able to meet new people, expand your circle of friends, perhaps even influence people…you will certainly be able to join in any conversation about just about any topic, as reading is known to improve your general knowledge and vocabulary skills too.

All good advice, yes? But useless if your blogs are dull and boring. Being interesting is far more important than spelling and grammar, but that alone will not carry your blog either. The trick to writing effectively is to write about something interesting, something you obviously care about, and then to clean it up into a readable blog.

I suggest you gather your thoughts, pick a topic and just scribble out whatever comes to mind. Put it aside for a few hours and then return to it. Once you have read it over again with a fresh outlook, you will quickly pick up errors and straighten out the text so it makes sense. Don’t be afraid to delete the rubbish and clean up the longwinded bits – rather be short and good, than long and dull.

Put it aside again and return to it when you have had a moment to forget it. Once more, read it again. If it makes sense, puts the right point across and is also easy to read, then go ahead and post it.

Team Tamar

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