Whether you’re a corporate blogger, a paid contributor or just a self-appointed scribe of modern culture, you’re destined to write a blog post or two that you’ll come to regret.
In rare cases, these are the posts you’ll be forced to take down or “clarify” multiple times. But most often, they’ll go unnoticed by everyone except you. They’re the posts that, in retrospect, just weren’t ready for prime time.
Today, I wanted to share five tips on avoiding posts that will come back to haunt you:1. Don’t use popular Internet lingo.
Co-opting Internet culture isn’t just irritating; it’s like giving your blog post an expiration date, one that likely passed months before you wrote it.
I’m a big fan of giving your blog — even a corporate blog — a conversational voice, but the key word is “conversational.” Would you actually say one of these phrases out loud in a professional environment? If not, leave the lingo on Xbox Live and write the way you talk.2. Sleep on it.
Thanks to the immediacy of social media, it’s easy to feel pressured into a quick reply when you want to write about something topical. But this sort of hair-trigger blogging also makes you vulnerable to rumor, retraction and overreaction.
I’ve long warned people, “Don’t blog angry.” But in a professional environment, it’s rare that people are writing in an emotional frenzy. More often, they’re just writing about initial reactions to breaking news. The next morning, they awake to find there was more to the story and that their snap judgments weren’t quite dead-on.
So next time you’re about to weigh in on something hot and saucy, make the hard decision. Leave it in draft form and come back in the morning. If it still holds water in the harsh light of day, post it with confidence.
3. Check your facts as carefully as your spelling.
Maybe it’s because I began my career as a newspaper reporter, but I never feel comfortable with second-hand sources. I love original, verifiable documentation.
But it’s become common practice for bloggers to quote bloggers who quote bloggers, etc. You end up with an increasingly inaccurate chain of coverage that never looks back.
So next time you’re basing a post on someone else’s post, follow the (often byzantine) trail of “via” links until you find the original. You should still give credit to the blog where you found it, but I doubt they’ll take offense if you spend some time checking their sources.
4. Being critical of someone? Call them up.
This is the one bit of advice that makes my fellow bloggers look at me like I’m some kind of backwoods rube who just wandered in off the carrot farm. But I still stand by it, even if I violate it nine times out of 10.
If you’re going to critique someone’s work, you should give them a chance to defend themselves. And one of the strange ironies of the Internet is that the phone is now more effective than ever as a way of getting in touch with someone right away.
I need to be better about this, and so does every other blogger. For all the talk of how bloggers are supplanting mainstream media, journalists continue to be superior when it comes to giving people a fair shake.
Calling sources is a standard and inescapable part of news gathering. But it’s also time-consuming and awkward. Unfortunately, it has never become a norm for blogging the way it has for journalism, and I feel strongly that our culture has suffered for it.
5. Read it out loud.
This is as easy as it gets. But it can also give you a harsh dose of reality.
Before you write a blog post — any blog post — you should read the whole thing out loud. Does it sound strained? Repetitive? Vague? Overly long?
You can learn a lot from the sound of your own voice. But you’ll learn even more if there’s someone else in the room. If you really want to test your blogging mettle, read it out loud to a friend, coworker or spouse. I assure you, it won’t sound the way it did in your head, and when you read the final product, you’ll thank yourself for doing it.
What are your secrets to responsible blogging? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.