Blogging’s 8 Commandments

I confess to sometimes forgetting that I am still, in relative terms, a newcomer to blogging (notwithstanding a respectable post count, between fledgling‘s archive and Makurrah’s Blog).  More precisely, blogging has been part of my writing life for less than a year, coming on the heels of decades of work in other contexts and formats.  This becomes an issue, for example, when I undertake to write here about matters that have, in the past, generated essays, articles and books, most of them published by academic journals and university presses.  These endeavors have, more often than not, taken many months to see the light of day, given the typical interval between submission and publication in the sphere of academic presses (before the advents of electronic journals and ebooks, at least). 

So as I contemplate a short series of posts (already begun) reprising my “epistemology of media lag argument” (so dubbed by a friend and fellow traveller,  Tom Levin of Princeton University) in the context of the sometimes extravagant claims currently being made for the “real-time” Web, I feel the need of an effective reminder of the differences (they are multiple) between conducting this effort on Makurrah’s Blog and writing with the idea of a book as the horizon.

To this end, I returned just now to a text that I found helpful as I began blogging last fall:  The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging (I would recommend it to anyone starting out in the medium, or finding themselves at a loss once they’ve launched).  I was seeking a citation from another old friend, David Bromwich, a Yale prof who also blogs for HuffPo, about the post as form.  I found it in Chapter 4, “Finding Your Voice,” which contains a sidebar that lists “The Huffington Post Rules for Great Blogging.”

1.  Blog often.

2.  Perfect is the enemy of done.  [Where have I heard that one before?  Was it the Wall St. bailout, or health care reform?]

3.  Write like you speak.

4.  Focus on specific details.

5.  Own your topic.

6.  Know your audience.

7.  Write short.

8.  Become part of the conversation with like-minded bloggers.

Bromwich (known in overlapping writerly circles for his mastery of the long form) is cited under Rule #7:  Write short.  Here is the full paragraph in which the quotation appears.

We live in an ADD culture.  Though you can write as much as you want on the web, we know from experience that unless the reader can see the end of your post eight hundred words in, a good portion of them will stop scrolling down.  [Are you still with me? – Ed.]  Even eight hundred words is an intimidating block of text.  Break it up with a picture or pull quote, and definitely with some links.  If you find that you can’t do justice to your point in eight hundred to a thousand words, consider breaking the thought up into two or more posts.  David Bromwich, a professor of English at Yale and HuffPost blogger says, “A good post is a single thought or observation or anecdote, clearly expressed and directly conveyed.  An essay may cover several topics; a post easily grows tiresome if it aims for more than one.”  [emphasis added]

Thanks, David, and point taken.  Now if I could just come up with a mnemonic device to help me recall all 8 rules (I’ve never done well at internalizing rules – please don’t ask me to recite the 10 commandments).

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Filed under Books, Media, Reading and writing, Tech, Weblogs

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