Home » 2015 » October

Monthly Archives: October 2015

A Review: Grammarly — a Help or a Hindrance to Online Writers?



Blogging on Three DevicesNot long ago I heard by way of the social media that Grammarly was a great little program for checking grammar and spelling online. How many of us don’t make typos or accidentally use the wrong word? I seem to have trouble with my shift key when typing a capital I, for example. It’s a pain to go back and correct it, and sometimes I even have trouble seeing the mistake when I proofread. I expected that Grammarly would solve my problems. So I installed it to Chrome as a browser extension.

Now I’ve been using it for about two weeks. I’ve had a chance to see it in action. Sometimes I love it and sometimes I hate it. Like most applications of this sort, it cannot read my mind. I have a graduate degree in English and taught high school English. I have also been paid to proofread and edit the application essays of international students to graduate business schools in the United States. I know the language.

Either some of what my professors taught is now obsolete, or Grammarly isn’t as accurate as I am. It makes what I consider to be grammatical errors when it urges me to add or get rid of commas, change verb tenses, and make other changes that would hurt, not help, my writing. I also often catch my mistakes before Grammarly does, and just as I’m about to correct them, Grammarly pops up with a screen to “help” me that gets in the way of my correcting the mistake on my own by covering up the text I am trying to correct.

I would probably be better off editing the document on their website. It’s not such a problem there. When you edit the document on their site, the mistakes are just underlined in red for spelling errors and green for grammar and usage errors. Then you just click the word and Grammarly points out the suggested corrections. If you want to use them, you click their corrected version. If you think they are wrong, you click to ignore them. You don’t have those annoying pop-ups. Here’s a snipped example of what Grammarly did when I uploaded this document  to them. This is the first paragraph before I corrected it. To accept their suggestions, I would click on the green. For an explanation, I would click the down arrow. To ignore, I would click the x at the end.

*******************************************************************

Snip of Grammarly Corrections 1
Snip of Grammarly Corrections 1

*******************************************************************


Grammarly is most useful to me when I make mistakes in typing or when programs auto-correct me incorrectly and put the wrong words in. It makes it really easy to change my frequent mistakes in typing, especially in the use of the shift key. It also catches me when I accidentally use the wrong homonym. For example, if I type What do you hear Jamie? Grammarly might pop up with a note that asks “Did you mean to say Here?” I then click to ignore. Grammarly missed telling me that I left out a comma. The sentence should really read  What do you hear, Jamie? But if I type Are trees are dying. Grammarly might ask me if I had really meant to say Our instead of Are so I can be aware of my mistake, which a normal spell checker would miss, and correct it with a click. Eight Ate is a humorous way to learn your homonyms.

Although Grammarly might be thought of as a blessing to those learning English, it might be a curse, instead. Grammarly does often make mistakes. I am using the free version and I don’t know if the premium version is better or not. In the free version you are often told you are making a grammatical error by, for example, using the wrong tense of the verb to be. Usually this is in a phrase where I’m using a participle as a noun or an adjective. Here’s an example: The man mowing the lawn is my friend. Grammarly might prompt me to correct mowing‘s verb tense, but I’m using it as an adjective to modify man, not as a verb. When Grammarly makes these kinds of suggestions, it usually does not give you a solution you can click. Instead it mentions the problem, and you have to know the language to know how to correct that mistake yourself.

Here’s another snip from some nonsense I uploaded to Grammarly for correction. I deliberately made mistakes to see what Grammarly would tell me. Grammarly’s suggestions are on the left.

*******************************************************************

Snip of Grammarly Corrections 2

 

*******************************************************************

I give Grammarly a “C” on its suggestions here. It missed correcting the first sentence which ought to read James hates sleeping. It did catch me using Our instead of Are. It did catch the error in gets and suggested a proper correction. I think it missed the first error by thinking that James was a plural noun instead of a name ending in s. This shows that no automated program will catch everything. A program like this is only useful for those whose English skills are sufficient to know which corrections are valid and which suggestions to follow. It is a good cross-check to use after you’ve done your human proofreading.


If you are not yet proficient enough in English to discern which suggestions are valid, you need to have an accurate English handbook on hand for reference. Here is one I use myself, Writers Inc. I first found it when I was teaching my children at home and I thought it was the best English writing reference I had seen for the secondary level. It is user-friendly and it’s easy  to find what you need. It has a complete proofreader’s guide that answers any questions you have about punctuation, grammar, usage, and mechanics. In addition to that it tells you how to do any kind of writing project you may encounter as a student with model writing examples. It is not only useful for students, but also for writers who need a quick reference. For example, it has several pages of homonyms and easily confused words explained so that it will be easy to tell if you were using the correct word or whether you should take Grammarly’s suggestion to change it to another word. It also explains how to fix the most common sentence errors. I love having this book on hand.

The way you write a sentence makes all the difference in what it means. Be sure you say what you mean. Proofread what you write. Use aids such as a writing handbook or a program like Grammarly. Making one mistake with a comma could cost a life.

 



A Writing Prompt for Flash Fiction Writers

Writing prompts can help us get our fingers moving over a keyboard when we are fresh out of ideas. Photos often act as writing prompts for me, but I wanted to throw this one out for any of my readers who might want to use it.

A Bench Where Lovers Often Sit on Moonstone Beach in Cambria, © B. Radisavljevic
A Bench Where Lovers Often Sit on Moonstone Beach in Cambria, © B. Radisavljevic

Whenever I walk the boardwalk at Moonstone Beach, I can’t help looking to see who, if anyone, is sitting on what I call “Lovers Bench.” I don’t know if anyone else calls it that. It sits here close to and looking out at the ocean. It is partially hidden by a tree. It is a private hideaway, which although visible, seems to be respected. People may peak (or even take a photo from a respectful distance), but few would approach or disturb anyone sitting there. You can usually see a couple sitting on this bench, but I waited until they left before taking this picture because I didn’t want to cause embarrassment.

When we visited Moonstone Bach on another Sunday, the bench was empty and the light was right, so I took this shot of the bench itself, up close. That is how I happened to see all the hearts and initials. I am quite sure this bench would tell many stories if it could talk. I am not good at making up these stories, since I don’t write fiction. I would love to see what any flash fiction writers reading this are able to come up with. Perhaps someone with a good imagination might even use it as a seed idea for a novel. If you can’t see all the initials and hearts, just click to expand the photo.

Lovers Bench in Cambria, © B. Radisavljevic
Lovers Bench in Cambria, © B. Radisavljevic

So I throw out the challenge. Write a story this bench might tell and leave a link to it in the comments. If you are a member of BlogJob, you might leave a note on my wall that says you took my challenge and post your link to it. If you don’t belong to BlogJob yet, why not join today? I am looking forward to reading your stories.

Pictures and content are original and may not be used without permission, B. Radisavljevic, Copyright 2014, All Rights Reserved . Permission is given for anyone who writes a story based on this bench photo as suggested here to use it in their story if they link back to this post at the bottom of the story and include this attribution near the photo where it is visible: © B. Radisavljevic, used by permission.

All About Groups on BlogJob

Groups Are a Great Way to Get to Know Other Members So You Can Help Each Other

BlogJob Group Members Help Each Other
BlogJob Group Members Help Each Other

If you recently joined BlogJob, you’ve probably been invited to join one or more groups. Maybe you have even started your own group. Groups are a wonderful way for those of us using BlogJob to get together and talk about a common interest. To help make the site function well for everyone, I have some suggestions for both those starting groups and using groups.

Should You Start a Group?

Before you start a group, click on the forums button at the top of whatever page you are on. This is especially important if you just have a question to ask. The place to ask it is in one of those forums. If you don’t see your question in one of them, start a new topic in the appropriate forum. Don’t rush to start a new group to ask a question like ‘How do I change the default tagline in my blog.” Those kinds of questions can be asked in the Website Design forum. There is also a Support Forum for questions about how the site works, payment, etc. Ask simple questions in the forums.

If you start a group just to ask a question, once it’s answered, there’s nothing left to discuss in your group and it will be dead. Groups are all about discussing subjects many people are interested in. If you start a group just to ask one question, many people will think you are just trying to get points. Your group will also die soon because there will be nothing to talk about anymore.

If you would like to get many members with a common interest together to discuss many aspects of that interest, it’s appropriate to start a group. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet found a good way to search for the existence of groups already formed here. I’d love to have a list of all public groups available so that all people with the same interest could join one large group that is more active. If you suspect a number of your friends share your interest, it might pay to start the group and invite them.

How to Manage a Group You Created

Starting a group and inviting people to join is just a beginning. The directions on how to set up your group are under the rewards tab. Some group leaders think that after they set a group up, their responsibilities are over. That’s simply not true if you want your group to thrive.

A group needs an active leader to keep the group healthy. One way to do this is to take leadership. Open the group forum. Start a few question topics. Use the group home page to link to new forum topics so that people will participate. Check your group for new activity at least every two days to respond to new questions and comments. Allow members to invite others to become members. The more people you have in a group the better the discussions will be.

How to Use Groups

Use BlogJob Groups wisely.
Use BlogJob Groups wisely.

Groups are a great way to get to know other BlogJob members with similar interests. Don’t join groups just to get points. Join groups with topics you are really interested in and then check them often and interact. See if there is a new topic in the forum. Maybe you could even start one and then announce it on the home page so other members will notice. Your group creator may not know how to use the forum yet. Help out. The more you are able to interact in the forum and encourage others to do so, the more points everyone will earn.

I would recommend that you only join groups with creators who have demonstrated they are active in participating in the discussions on people’s walls and in some of the established forums. Join just a few groups at first. After all, ten is plenty to help you make friends and get participation points if the groups are active.

I belong to 67 groups now and many of them were mistakes to join. I’d leave them, but I lose points if I do. If you reject an invitation for an iffy group, you will probably get another invitation later. You don’t have to decide immediately to accept or reject. Take some time to think it over. You won’t be sorry. I think 25 groups is a good number to ensure you always have an interesting topic to talk about.

Whether you create groups or join the groups of others, take an active part and have a good time. You will be helping each other meet your goals here while you learn from  each other.

 

Making Friends and Getting Followers At BlogJob and Other Writing Sites

Making Friends When You Are A Newbie on BlogJob

How to Make Friends in Online Writing Communities
How to Make Friends in Online Writing Communities

Everyone wants to make friends on a new site. That’s the first thing many people think about when they join. Just as in real life, online friends are the relationships that help you succeed in your writing life and on any given site. It would seem, then, that making as many friends as possible as soon as possible is good stategy. You should plan that strategy carefully.

There are many styles of making friends and accepting friend requests. Some people join a site and start sending friend requests to every name they see before they do anything else. I don’t think that’s a good idea. Many people are like me and only accept friend requests when they think  they will want to interact with that potential friend and read his writing. The only way to judge that is to have something to read. When I go to a potential friend’s wall, I want to see more than a row of “X and Y are now friends.” I want to see some activity in groups besides just starting or joining them. I want to see if you have set up a blogging site yet and posted to it so I can sample one of your posts. I want to see if your blogs will be on any subjects I’m interested in.

My Strategy for Making Online Friends in Writing Communities

Face on WallHere’s a stategy I recommend to newbies on any social site where one wants to become connected to others.

  • Send friend requests only to people who already know you from another site until you’ve posted something to read that tells people more about you.
  • Be sure you post your photo before trying to make friends. Otherwise it seems you aren’t serious about being active.
  • Post an update on your wall to introduce yourself. In it you might want to list the sites where you have been and your user names there so that old friends from other sites will recognize you. Mention the interests you will be likely to write about. You might want to mention whether you are young or old and your marital status or information about your family or job. Maybe you could mention a bit about where you live — urban or rural area, big city or small town. This gives potential friends an idea of what they may have in common with you.
  • Join a few existing groups and be active.
  • Send friend requests to people you see posting and commenting in groups and forums if you feel a connection with them. If in doubt, check their walls to see what’s there.  Respond to what they’ve posted on their walls. That gets you noticed in a positive way. Read a blog post they’ve written and comment. That will really get you noticed in a positive way, as long as your comment is thoughtful and not spammy.
  • Check the walls of people who send you friend requests before accepting if you haven’t noticed them being active. See the last dates of their activity. If it’s more than a week ago and they don’t have blogs, they may not be planning to hang around. People often have good reasons for an extended absence of a week or more when they are normally active, but if a person joins, makes a few friends and joins a few groups and doesn’t post much in those groups, chances are that person will drops out soon and the relationship won’t help either of you in the long run.

Maintaining Online Friendships

Share What Friends Write
Share What Friends Write

Once you have started making friends, pay attention to them. Try to visit the walls of at least three active friends a day and read their blog posts and updates. If they are good for a general audience you connect with on social media, share their work. You can see which friends have the most recent activity by looking under the ad under the points history on your wall, profile and invitation pages. Try to visit one or more of your groups every day and try to post or respond to something in them. Visit groups you have started every day to make sure they stay active.

If you do these things, you will soon have more geniune friends in writing communities than you can keep up with. Do the best you can to help others succeed, and they will help you, too. That’s how social networks and writing sites are supposed to work.

Getting Started with Blogging with WordPress

Three Ways to Blog with WordPress

There are three ways to start blogging with WordPress. You can host your own WordPress blog where you have full control over everything, but also the responsibility for maintaining and updating your site. A free alternative is WordPress.com where they take care of the maintenance for you. You may be in charge of your own backups, and that may not be free. Before signing up for a WordPress.com blog, be sure to read and understand their terms of service or you could lose your blog. The third alternative, which is normally free, is to write for a blogging or revenue sharing site that uses a WordPress platform. In my opinion, BlobJob is the easiest of these to use and profit from. You can join BlogJob here. Other sites I know of that use a WordPress interface for publishing are Daily 2 Cents and  Writedge. There are probably many others I do not know about.

 

Self-Hosted WordPress

Getting Started with Blogging with WordPressThis is the most expensive WordPress blogging option. I have used many WordPress hosts.  Domain name registration and hosting fees, as well as various optional expenses like automatic back-up of your site, can vary. I had been happy with Hostgator as a web host for my main website for several years, but after it was sold, I wasn’t as happy.  I have since switched to SiteGround hosting, and I’ve been very happy there. I choose the Grow Big hosting plan because i started a new blog and migrated my old site. You can have multiple blogs on a Grow Big Plan, so it seemed the best deal  for me. Now I know my WordPress site there is speedy and secure.  Their tech support answered all my questions and walked me through getting my domain migrated properly, even though my situation was more complicated than some others.  There is a toll-free tech support line if you run into any problems, although you can install WordPress itself with a click from the easy-to-access control panel. Get your hosting from SiteGround here. Most web hosts have a similar way to install WordPress, Weebly, and other free site builders. Installation is usually  the easy part.

I’d like to make a plug for the Pajama Affiliates ad above. I signed up for an Affiliate Master Class they offer because I simply wasn’t making many affiliate sales no matter how hard I worked. I decided when I saw what kind of money these people I had known at Squidoo were making it would be worth the small investment to learn from them. The teacher, Leslie, made over $50,000 on Amazon alone in December, 2015. I saw the proof.  I also looked at some of her posts and could immediately see why she was getting sales. Since I only made about $13.00 on Amazon for the entire year, I knew Leslie had plenty to teach me, and my friends who were already enrolled in the course told me how valuable they found it. Clicking the image above will take you to a page that describes all the video courses that are currently open. Some of them are on sale as I write this,  but since everyone won’t read this in time I suggest you just click this link for current pricing. I have already learned enough to make a difference so I  just signed up for two more courses that were on sale, The Buyer Keyword Bonus course and  the Free Advertising with Social Media Course.  I know the Keyword Course is going to pay for itself, and I’ve only seen the first video. This sale only lasted until about January 3, 2016, but courses often go on sale for a limited time, so it doesn’t hurt to click. Clicking costs you nothing.

Setting Up Your WordPress Site

Choose a Theme

After installation comes set-up. This is the tricky part. You will first need a theme.  You will  need to decide if you want a free theme or a premium theme (not free.) I think it’s best to start with a free theme. There are lots of choices. Some are better for those who want to sell products from their sites. Others are better for those who want to show off photos. Some are very plain for those who just want to write their thoughts. I personally like free themes. My favorite is Twenty Fourteen because I’ve used it the most. You can see it on this post from Barb’s Writing Life, a self-hosted site. I like it because it has two sidebars, and I can get a lot into those. I just switched my free WordPress site over to that theme, as well, since I started that blog before there was much of a choice and it needed a new look. It was to the point where I didn’t even want to see it anymore. I haven’t finished customizing it yet, so it’s still a work in process. I have also used Twenty Fourteen on one of my BlogJob blogs, The Sky is God’s Canvas. If you compare the three pages, you will see the full potential of this theme for those who do affiliate marketing and / or want to display their Facebook page, twitter tweets, etc.

Decide what you want to accomplish with your blog and then choose a theme that has what you need. Some have no sidebars, some one sidebar, and some two. Some allow for large header images and some are very plain. I suggest you look through the ones offered, activate the one that looks best at first glance, and then write a post. After that, preview your post and see how it looks with that theme. If you don’t like it, try another.

Customize Your Theme

There is much you can do to customize a theme, but I’m going to start with the first things everyone should do. At the very top of your blog and / or on your dashboard, you will see the word customize. Save your draft, and then click Customize. If you are looking at your dashboard, Customize will appear to the right of it when you mouse over Appearance. Under the name of your theme you will see several headings. The first is Site Identity. Click it. You will find a place to put the title of your site. This can be changed, but your URL can’t be.

Under that you will see a place for your tag line. The default tagline on BlogJob is “Just Another BlogJob Site.” Most of the blogs I visit on BlogJob have left it there. Why would anyone do that? It’s a great place to put a short summary of what your site is about that will add valuable keywords for Google to find. You’d be better off to delete the default if you can’t think of your own tagline than to leave it there. Select the default, delete, and replace with something better. Your title and tagline will show in your header.

The other thing you can do is something I did for the first time on this blog. You can make a favicon (also called a site icon here.) It has to be at least 512 pixels square. It should represent what your site is about. It will show in the browser tab for your site. I found a free public domain image on Pixabay, cropped it to square, and resized it to 600 pixels long and tall to make the square. You don’t have to do this, but you can.

How to Manage Widgets

Another thing you should do at the very beginning before you publish your first post is to get rid of any default widgets in your theme you aren’t going to use right away. They just look odd. If you aren’t selling anything, you don’t need a shopping cart widget. Remove it if you don’t sell products. If you chose a commercial theme, don’t add a product tag cloud or product list unless you are actually selling products from your site. Instead, use the widget for a tag cloud. I also got rid of my meta widget. No one is authorized to log into my site but me, and I didn’t see why I needed this.

I can almost hear someone asking me, “That sounds easy for you, but how do I add and remove widgets?” It depends upon your theme. This image came from “Twenty Fourteen” and until recently this method is the only one I knew about, and this is the hardest. The only reason it’s hard is because the diagrams of the sidebars where you put widgets are at the top right of the page and some of the widgets you will want to use are at the very  bottom of the left. If I wanted to add the Jetpack twitter feed, I would have to find it at bottom left and drag it to a space that will open up on the sidebar where I want it. Just to make it easy to understand, let’s say you want to add (BuddyPress Log In) to the left sidebar. I would put my mouse on the widget on the left and drag it to the right sidebar. As it approaches the sidebar, a new space will open. If you need to put information in your widget, click it, fill in the blanks, and save. If you don’t like where it is placed on the list, just drag it to the position you want it in.  The only hard part of this is the hand and eye coordination if the widgets you want are on the bottom.

blogjob-adding-widgets-800

 

The hardest part of  this widget set-up for me is removing widgets. It’s like adding them except you go backward. Instead of dragging widgets from the left to the sidebars, you drag the widgets you don’t want to the very bottom of the left of the page and stick it in an inactive widget slot, which should open up for you when you get there. The image below shows the very bottom of the widget page.

Removing WordPress Widgets
Removing WordPress Widgets

What you can’t see in this image is the widgets you want to remove because they are all the way to the top right. You have to go up there, grab the widget, and just keep dragging down to the left until you finally see the inactive widget box. Sometimes I get to a barrier that stops my mouse before I get there and I have to start over. Persistence pays.

Arcade Basic Widget Panel
Arcade Basic Widget Panel

Some themes have an easier way to manage widgets. Take a look at this BlogJob site I did with the Arcade Basic theme. When you first begin your blog there’s a link from the landing page to customize in a large button. If you click it you will see the Customize Panel again, and at the end of the list you will see Widgets. When you click it, you will see this. If I click First Sidebar, it will open to that list of what’s on that sidebar. Click the Add a Widget button and the list of what you can add will appear. Drag it to where you want it.

To remove a widget is really easy. Just click on it in the open sidebar where it lives and click Remove at the bottom. It’s history.

 

 

I think we’ve covered enough for one session. Please ask any questions in the comments.

 

Skip to toolbar