Learning to network

November 12, 2006

Stemming the flow

Filed under: Publishing — Arthur M. Gallagher @ 10:34 pm

From my blogging beginnings (all two weeks ago) I was worried that my prose would run away, and my posts become boringly long. I’d already managed to work out a couple of ways to avoid this happening, when today I discovered that it didn’t actually matter, even if I did start to write too much.

This is my “novice” blog, in case you didn’t spot the name. I am merely learning, recording my lessons, and (increasingly importantly) sharing what I discover. I quickly realised that if I wanted to step beyond this into a focused writing channel, that could stand a chance of maintaining a regular readership, I should start out by setting out a “terms of reference”. Despite the fancy sounding name, I see this as some simple statements about what I will write, how, who it is aimed at, and most importantly where I will draw the line. I’m not saying this will never change over time – but the way I work, having this written down helps guide me in what I write.

The second key to clear focused and entertaining writing, that I learned whilst studying how journalists use English, is sub-editing your own work. This basically involves re-working your writing to get the structure right, make sure the piece flows, and mercilessly chopping out all the superfluous little words, phrases and habits that somehow creep in when we speak. Combined with this is the idea that the article should start with a single paragraph that gives an overview of the article, summed up in a few short sentences – rather than “giving the game away” like you might think, this actually helps people recognise that they WANT to read the article thoroughly, rather than starting the first couple of paragraphs and getting bored before getting to the exciting bit, if there even was one.

Anyhow, today, thanks to a comment thread between two people who visited this site, I learnt that its not necessarily critical to write as little as possible. Ashish C. mentioned to Michael Sync the fact that you can use a “more tag” to force a reader to have to click before they see the rest of the article, and that prompted me to learn about it. You could retort, “but, Art … you mean you never saw that little icon above you in the WordPress editor that allows you to split your post?” – but I would find an excuse like “trying to focus on what I am writing”.

 So, anyhow, now I can waffle on as much as I want, without filling up my main page too much – just stick a “more” quicktag after a couple of paras. However, more powerfully, once I do learn to create my proper first paragraph, summing up the article, then I can hide the rest behind the “more”, and only show it to people who are really interested! Ok, I’ll admit that I did not ruthlessly subedit this particular post, but I have at least tried out the leading paragraph before the more.

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