Not 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This 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.
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.
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.
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.