My 5 Worst Mistakes as a New Blogger
I got started blogging in the fall of 2010. It was before the anime world would witness the surging passion of Kill La Kill or the troubling despair of Puella Magi Madoka Magica. I had no idea where my dual passions for anime and writing would take me, I just knew I wanted to write.
And I was a college student who didn't know s**t, so my writing sucked. But, everyone sucks at writing when they're new, and that's not a reason to give it up. If you keep trying, and keep learning as you go, you will improve over time. What's important is to always go back and re-read your old work. Analyze what you did well as well as what you didn't do right, and what you could have done better.
So, when I do that with my own older articles, here are the main 5 mistakes I realize I was making with my writing.
5. Too Much Self-Referencing
Talking about yourself excessively is a faux pas, not only on a date, but on a blog as well. Also, you don't need phrases like "in my opinion", or "I think" or "I feel" too often on your blog. It's your blog, so everything on it is assumed to be your opinion, what you think, unless you're directly quoting or paraphrasing someone else. My rule of thumb for writing is, if some phrase or part of a sentence can be cut, it should be.
Plus, if I could erase one phrase from the entire internet, it would be "in/speaking from my experience". It's used in an obnoxious, pretentious, condescending way so often. It usually really means, "I'm right and you're wrong, I'm big and you're little". The thing is, you can't assume the person you're talking to online has less experience than you do. And even if experience taught you something cool, you don't need to go waving your experience around as if that makes you better, or as if experience is the only way to attain knowledge. If it were, Google Maps wouldn't be able to tell me jack, and my pizza guy wouldn't be able to find my house, assuming he's never driven in this neighborhood before. There is a right way to talk about what you know from experience, but it's too often used for dick-waving.
I'll also talk about this more below, but "in my opinion", "personally I think that", and so on are also phrases to avoid. If you want to state an opinion, just state it. Then, back it up with a logical argument and relevant facts. If you just say, "I believe Stripperella is the greatest cartoon of all time." So what? Much better is "Stripperella is the greatest cartoon of all time because it resists sexist stereotypes, does not take itself too seriously, and parodies the superhero genre, which is now the dominant genre of Western blockbuster film."
"In my opinion," stop right there. If I'm not being given a reason to agree with your opinion, I won't care about it. Assume your reader is an asshole. They don't care about who you are or what you think. They don't know you. What they do know is the topic you're writing about. So if you focus on the topic, instead of focusing on yourself, you're going to be more successful.
4. Too many adjectives and adverbs.
I can explain this as a result of the way we're taught to write in college. Especially when we're writing a paper with a minimum word count. A word like "Invariably" can be used in college to make you appear smarter, and to pad out a word count. But it sounds pretentious and is unnecessary in blog writing.
Invariably, Studio Ghibli was forced to increase its presence in the foreign market throughout the 1990s.
Studio Ghibli was forced to increase its presence in the foreign market throughout the 1990s.
Not only does the added word, "Invariably", not add anything to the sentence, but it gets in the way and makes the sentence a little clunkier.
One problem I have is that I like to say "basically". A lot. It doesn't help and is not needed in most cases. If I say, "Misa has basically no motivation, other than affection for Light", the "basically" in that sentence is only used to soften my speech. It means I was afraid to speak in any absolute terms. As I became more of an expert, I lost this fear. So now, I am more likely to say "Misa has no motivation other than affection for Light". "Basically" was my subservient way of apologizing for, or creating plausible deniability for my opinions. I was also writing the way I speak, which is not always good, because I use "uh", "like", and "basically" as filler words when I talk, and that looks terrible in writing.
I think I thought hearing that HubPages was "informal" meant "I should just write how I talk". What it actually means is, you should still strive for quality and clarity, but you don't have the same standards as an academic paper. I wouldn't even call HubPages any less formal, it's simply that the forms are different, in the way that jazz music and classical music both have genre conventions, even if those conventions are different, and one is a bit more relaxed. "Relaxed" and "no rules" are not the same thing.
So make sure you're cutting out unnecessary adverbs. This is a rule that's important to all writing. Unless you're writing a character in a fictional story whose manner of speech entails a lot of pointless adverbs, they are almost always to be avoided.
- Sometimes, an adverb modifying an adjective can be changed to just a stronger adjective. Like "very clever" can become "ingenious", or "extremely sad" can become "tragic".
- Likewise with verbs, like changing "walked really fast" to "ran".
- The trick is to try to say what you intend to say with fewer words. If you take too many words to say something, people might lose interest.
- Don't modify a phrase because you're afraid of asserting an opinion. "Sakura was sort of annoying." is wishy-washy. You either think she was or was not annoying. Say what you really think. You may worry about making people mad with a strong opinion, but I've learned that strong opinions get more readers.
3. Run-On Sentences
I learned not to do this in grade school, but you wouldn't know I had learned it by looking at my earliest blog posts. One problem with run-on sentences I have is the lack of hard-and-fast rules about them. What is and is not a run-on sentence is something that could be debated forever. Grammarians usually define it, as in this article, as a sentence that's joined incorrectly. Academically, a run-on sentence need not be excessively long, and an excessively long sentence could technically not be a run-on sentence.
My definition, an informal but intuitive one, is that a run-on sentence is a sentence that's annoyingly long, and hard to understand because of its length. It makes your work painful to read. It makes your readers work to understand you, when they shouldn't have to.
My new rule is: any sentence that could be cut into two or more sentences, should be. There are a few exceptions. Of course you may want to have some long sentences because a variety of sentence lengths is desirable. It may just be that what you want to say sounds better as one compound sentence than two simple sentences. But in general for blog writing, the simple sentence is king. Again, this could be a problem caused by how we're taught to write in college and high school. Teachers sometimes praise complex sentences, if done correctly, because they show that we know how to use semi-colons, conjunctions, commas, and so on. But just because you know how to do something, doesn't always mean you should. Simple clarity is the primary need in internet communication.
2. Not Backing Up My Opinions
Everyone knows the internet is full of opinions. But an opinion by itself is not enough for a blog article. Nor is a mere string of related opinions. You should think of your opinion, gut feeling, or impression of a topic a starting point. I see too many newbies writing articles where they seem to think that once they form an opinion, they're done. Sometimes in the anime niche, this will manifest as low-quality articles or videos, that consist only of lists of the person's favorite shows of all time, or favorite shows in a particular genre. Or a list of anime characters the person likes or dislikes.
But what's missing is the reason for their opinions. There is nothing remarkable about your opinion. It's not a story by itself. Your reasons and arguments for your opinion, or against alternate viewpoints, is what creates the story. That should be the point of your article. It's the difference between a thought-out review and clicking a rating out of 5 stars on Amazon or Rotten Tomatoes. There are millions or even billions of opinions out there online, about everything. What makes yours stand out is how well you anticipate counter-arguments and defend your position.
For example, say you hate Erza from Fairy Tail. To explain why, you would have to talk about what you think a good character should have or should be that Erza doesn't have. Then you have to back this up with research. In other words, give examples from the show that prove Erza lacks the traits you think are necessary for a good character to have. Your audience isn't inside your head. They don't know why you feel the way you do. So you have to put it into words. If that sounds like too much work, you need to go do something else.
1. Too Many Videos
Linking to YouTube seems like a good idea. It is good to enhance your blog articles with multiple media types, even though your primary product is text. Videos are popular and get a lot of views, so it feels intuitive to want to harness their power for your own articles.
But if I could only tell new Hubbers one thing, it would be to not. Especially not to have more than one video per article, if any at all.
The main issue is that YouTube's policies are always changing, and a video you love could be taken down at any time. I've had video capsules on old Hubs where I've had to keep changing the links, because the videos were lost. It's a pain in the ass. But also, HubPages and other blogging sites are primarily text-based platforms. You might say "no one reads anymore" but that's simply not true. Maybe few people are reading Great Expectations, but millions of people are reading blogs, like yours, every day. And many people do like to read articles. So assume that your reader is there because they want to read what you've written.
I tended to not assume that, and assume that people wanted glib lists of images and videos, with a little text in between. But articles like that will not do on HubPages, and usually fail to attract large numbers of viewers. So, using a lot of video cumbersome, especially if you will be maintaining these articles for years in the future. It also likely won't give you the results you're looking for.
Is there ever a need for a video in an article?
I still use them, sparingly. Sometimes it's good to have an expert or journalistic piece on the same topic. I can link their video at the end of my article, as a related thing my readers might be interested in, which is something I also do for related articles. I did that with my article about the link between autism and anime fandom.
If you're talking about specific YouTubers or YouTube videos, obviously. But I have majorly cut back on videos in my articles these days. Not necessary. Not helpful. Too much hassle.
Mistakes are how we learn and grow. If you're afraid to make mistakes, you can never succeed. Why? Because they teach us lessons we need to be taught. Some things can only be learned through trial and error. I actually treasure mistakes I've made in the past now, because of the valuable lessons I learned from them. If you're not sure where to start and have been writing for a while, go back and look at your first articles. Read them out loud. Read them backwards, a sentence at a time. Try copying them into a Word document and printing them out.
Notice mistakes? I bet you will. And in each of those mistakes is a gem. A lesson. Something to take away that will improve your future writing.