Friday, July 29, 2005 


In my intro post, I asked the question "what do you blog about?" There are an estimated 16 million blogs and that number is steadily growing. This is an educated guess, but there is no way that each and every blog discusses a unique topic. So let's face it, except with very rare topics, someone is probably already blogging about any topic you can think of. So should you forget about it? Of course not. Some of those 16 million blogs have been abandoned. Others are not updated very often and are probably are losing readers. Even many more of these blogs are poorly written.

"But," you say, "aren't blogs personal diaries? Does writing quality matter?" Well, blogs started out as "public" personal diaries, but they've changed and now are only the semblance of a personal diary, especially with business blogs. And yes, writing quality always matters. The charm of blogs is that the writing is on a personal level. So while the writing does not have to be perfect, it has to be entertaining and understandable. Too often these days, the Internet perpetuates bad grammar and poor spelling. There are also the ubiquitous typing mistakes that usually come from typing too fast and not checking, and which make you look like you're stuttering mentally. I'm guilty of that, unfortunately far too often.

My beef, though, are people who write but simply cannot spell, have horrendous grammar, and who get angry if you correct them, even if it's part of your job as an editor. Sure, people make mistakes - I'm one of them. But if you cannot communicate, you should not be writing. When I was publishing my print magazine over a decade ago, I had one book reviewer who was in the English program at the university I was studying at. While he was a nice guy, never got angry, and seemed rather intelligent, his spelling skills were pathetic, especially for someone in the English program. He had a neat little trick that he performed which "justified" his spelling mistakes and endlessly boggled my mind. Microsoft Word was his word processor of choice. He would write up his book reviews and run spell-check on each one. Whenever the spell-check feature told him that a word was either spelled incorrectly or not in its dictionary, this guy would add the incorrectly spelled word. So henceforth, his spell-check would not catch these errors and thus that made him "right". He actually showed me how his dictionary had the incorrectly spelled words, so how was he wrong? When I questioned him, as his editor, on his editing technique, he did not seem to care that he was unable to spell fairly simple words. In deflection, he'd claim that his professors thought so highly of him that they were recommending him for entry into some big American university for an advanced English degree, once he finished his Bachelor's. My eyes hurt from rolling them so much that I had to ask him to stop writing for me. It upset him, especially since several of his friends wrote for me - very good writers in fact - but I just didn't have the time to edit him. The sad thing was, he might actually have made a good writer eventually, but he was too stubborn to care about improving.

So while I'm not saying that you have to be an English major or a Journalism graduate, it is important to be able to communicate. Grab yourself a few reference books. If you do not where to start, call your nearest college, ask for the English or Journalism department, and ask if someone might recommend a few reference books. Then go to your library or bookstore and grab several reference books. Take a few non-fiction writing workshops. Do whatever you have to to improve your writing, including writing a lot and reading even more.

That said, getting a good handle on proper grammar and spelling isn't enough to make your blog popular. In fact, since in everyday speech we rarely use proper grammar consistently, I repeat that your blog grammar does not have to be perfect. Far more important is your ability to write with some authority, whether it's simple musings on life, a narrative of a trip across the country, or mini-articles on technology, science, health or business. How do you gain this authority? I am paraphrasing and interpreting here, but inspirational American writer William Zinsser mentions in his book, "On Writing Well", that the first million words you write are just practice. After the millionth word, you have a stronger ability to say what you really want to say in your writing.

How do you get to that magical millionth word? How can you possibly write that much about anything? I started by writing reviews of everything and anything - music, concerts, books, restaurants, movies, comic books - for those free local weekly newspapers that are now everywhere. Then I added interviews, profiles, and articles. For five years, I wrote as much as possible, even to the point of annoying editors by constantly asking them if I could write about this or that. Pretty early on, I also managed to get weekly or semi-weekly columns in a number of weekly papers. (This is much easier to do at your local college paper.) Then I lucked out and got myself a book contract. Well, "luck" isn't quite right. It was very hard work, taking up day and night for nearly 4 months. I've never written so much in so short a time. And writing about technical matter needed balance. I also found myself working on numerous short stories and novels that year. (However, I have not yet the confidence about my fiction to send it out to editors.)

If, like me, you enjoy writing fiction or other creative writing such as poetry, feel free to explore this path. For me, creative writing balances the non-fiction writing. While I do get pleasure from it, since I never seem to finish more than a handful of stories, there is also much frustration. With non-fiction, I can research the topic at hand and get some semblance of satisfaction from being able to complete the writing. (Of course, the more I learn about fiction writing techniques, eventually the less the frustration I will likely have.)

One other type of writing that, if done well, can mean great blogging skills are personal opinion pieces or op-ed (opinion-editorial) pieces. These are written in a personal tone of voice, so they are both a source of content for blogs and a jumping-off point for other types of blogs. Opinion pieces are essentially short essays about anything you have an opinion on. Op-ed pieces are more focused and usually refer to a currently popular topic in the news. These are typically written by editors-in-chief of newspapers, but with the growing popularity of blogs, anyone can write them. Whether anyone reads your opinions, though depends on how well you communicate.

Whichever type of writing you prefer, you can probably blog it. Write well, confidently, and often. Tune in again, same blog channel, for more about how to blog.

(c) Copyright 2005 Raj Kumar Dash,



Two of the hottest growing trends on the Internet right now are "blogging" and "RSS". If you are reading this, you already have an idea of what blogging is about. (Please see for a blog about RSS.) The word "blog" is short for "weblog" and originally referred to the electronic diaries that some people posted on the Internet a few years back. Now, many businesses are using blogs to discuss topics either directly or peripherally related to their business.

What's the common factor, then, between personal and business blogs? Well, it's supposed to be the tone of voice in the writing. A blog, since it is a sort of electronic diary, has a very personal, one-on-one tone of voice. This is speculation, but the personal tone of voice may be the reason blogs have become so popular over the last 6 years. Further speculation would suggest that not maintaining a personal tone of voice in a blog means readers are unlikely to return. As well, not adding frequent new entries will not only have an adverse effect on the number of new readers, but with some Blog/RSS search engines, your relevancy goes down steadily.

So what do you blog about? Unless you are blogging for dollars, blog about whatever you like, whatever you know or want to learn about. Blog about whatever you feel most comfortable and confident writing about. This will show through in your writing. If you are not confident about whatever you are writing, you might as well not bother blogging. Choose a topic you enjoy and either know a fair bit about or are learning about.

How often do you post? Where should you host your blog? What do you do when you get writer's block and can't think of anything to write? When do you learn to call it quits with a blog? This blog about blogging attempts to answer these questions in an unstructured manner. I may not get to the answers for all of these questions right away, but I'll get to them eventually. Feel free to post comments and ask questions.

Happy blogging,

the chameleon

(c) Copyright 2005 Raj Kumar Dash,


BlogSpinner-X serves two primary purposes. Firstly, it houses the original version of my Blogspinner blog, and contains the full-text of my older entries. Secondly, the more recent entries are excerpts of the full-text entries posted over on Blogspinner V2.0. In other words, the "X" stands for "eXcerpt".

About Me
I'm a geek/ philosopher/ composer/ artist/ cook/ web programmer/ consultant/ photographer/ blah-blah-blah who is also a published writer and author. This is one of several blogs that I write.

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(c) Copyright: 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,