Sometimes we freelance writers/bloggers are going to make mistakes in our reporting. Be assured that it happens and it’s not the end of the world. Even popular, reasonably credible newspapers have had to correct misinformation they gave. Maybe you’re worried that as a type of journalist we share some responsibility for misinformation. On one hand, if we aren’t 100% sure that the information we’re feeding from is correct and we don’t add a disclaimer in our own article that what we write is subject to change as more information becomes available, we are responsible for continuing to spread the misinformation. On the other hand, just like the popular, reasonably credible newspapers, we can redeem ourselves by apologizing for the misinformation and providing the correct information.
In that case, how might we go about creating a quality apology note? Take a look at an early apology I made.
The backstory: I issued an apology about a post I made supporting the Paid To Click (PTC) website BuxBerry when it was in the early stages of going under. I had no idea that the reason I was seeing so many advertisements on BuxBerry was that the administrators wanted to work all the ads they committed to showing out of the system so they could then shut down. My mistake was not realizing that the never-ending supply of ads was to shut down the website rather than the administrators being generous with handing out new ads.
This apology isn’t as embarrassing as I thought it would be, but if you thought it was a bit overboard thrn you’re correct. It reads more like a “poor me poor me” confession than an apology. There’s at least the clear sense that I would eventually issue an apology statement about misleading my readers, but this paragraph doesn’t say “When I wrote the article promoting this PTC website, I thought the flood of ads was a way for users to stay loyal to the website. I learned that this was the opposite, that BuxBerry was in the early stages of shutting down. I apologize to anyone I may have mislead.” If I wanted to use this blog post to sort through my thoughts, which is the purpose of Blogging Blahs, then what I should have done is keep this post but then include an official (and not personal) apology in the promotional article I wrote about BuxBerry.
Different mistakes may require different apologies. An apology about promoting a PTC website that is going under needs to state the corrected information (maybe with screencaps of official announcements if any exist) but that’s all you can do. An apology about some news event taken from a newspaper or news aggregate needs to include the corrected information and links to additional correct information. It doesn’t have to be as many links as a post called “Linky Goodness”, but let readers know where they can find more of the correct information. An apology for information aboit products on sale would mention the correct products and how much they are. The key is thst when you correct any misinformation, you do it in a way that gives readers what they need to know without blaming yourself. I can’t stress it enough that mistakes do happen.
If I didn’t create at least one blog for whining, I would be a downright unpleasant person. You might call me an oversensitive entity in that I easily feel emotions and have a burning need to express said emotions or else I can’t move on with my life. When I can’t express my pent-up emotions to a human in a face-to-face conversation, I turn to my dedicated gripe blog. It is amazing how physically freeing it is to write down everything in my mind (even if it’s not the quality blogging I usually pride myself on). In some cases I have felt a literal weight off my body and in other cases I feel my body cool down once my emotions (usually “ragey”) are out in the world. If you’ve never experienced it yourself, the best way to describe it is that it just feels good. That said, I have been wondering if having a blog devoted to gripes (or, as I said in my title, for whine, whine, whining) is appropriate for a self-proclaimed professional freelance blogger.
The additional positives to keeping a dedicated blog (or two, three, four…) are:
- As bloggers are still humans and need a place to blow off steam, the gripes blog is a good outlet. If we’re going to be updating our blogs anyway, it’s so convenient to switch from a more hard-hitting blog to our personal blog.
- Writing a gripe blog post is another style of writing.
- The gripes blog shows a more “real” side of the blogger. We get to be more open in how we write our blog post because gripes don’t have to be perfect or polished.
All these qualities are legitimate. If I had to pick one positive that can persuade a skeptical reader to be in favor of keeping a dedicated grips blog, it would be that the gripe blog post is another style of writing. I’m sure we were taught in various English classes that when we write, we need to tailor it (our writing style) to our audience. The gripe blog post is a more casual style and our audience is the general public. More people can relate to a gripe post than a niche-based post, so as the blogger we get to practice our more casual, conversational style.
That said, there are compelling reasons that we professional bloggers should carefully consider if having a gripes blog is a good idea.
- Some readers may not care to sort through blogs to find or avoid the dedicated gripes blog. If we are consistent in the blogs we maintain, our readers will trust reading new blogs by us. It can throw them if we are known for niche-based blogs and then suddenly we start a gripes blog.
- Some people really don’t like reading gripes. We run the risk of alienating potential readers.
- Some people like reading gripes as long as they aren’t personal gripes. News aggregates run into this when some of the content is one person’s experience and opinions about something. Readers will comment “Why is this even published? Nobody cares what some random woman (usually, although men are not immune) thinks!”
I like keeping one dedicated gripes blog in addition to a personal quotes and responses blog and I would recommend all professional bloggers do the same. What are your thoughts on this?
Yesterday a friend on BogJob sent me a message via status update thanking me for maintaining the BlogJob group “Writing World”. They explained that many group creators don’t maintain the activity on their groups so it’s nice to have a more active group. I would be lying if I said this didn’t boost my ego. More importantly, this message got me thinking about how often to post content. While this message referred specifically to posting status updates to BlogJob groups, I am expanding it to be any professional writing.
The obvious answer is “Post whenever. It’s your writing” but it’s not as simple as that when you are writing as a serious career. Your audience wants content and not creating anything for them runs the risk of them moving on to more consistent writers. Note that blogging can be more susceptible to this because the post is instant gratification while writing for a magazine (whether online or in glossy print) has understandable gaps between writing the article and seeing it published. In any case, professional writers have content commitments that casual writers are less likely to face.
I always check in with myself before writing an article concerning the time crunch. If I’m writing about Kindle Daily Deals or other offers that have a limited time frame, for example, I have to publish my article on the day I see the deals and it helps considerably to get the post published by early afternoon. While I can skip days entirely if there are no interesting deals, this kind of post needs to be written more often than not because I consider it a regular feature.
Are your articles focused on deals? This means you’ll want to post regularly to keep your readers in the loop.
“That doesn’t help me if I write about news and politics” you might say. That’s a good point. While there’s also timing involved in writing about an event as it’s still hot, the news media tends to cover breaking stories as new information becomes available. If your writing is current event based but you don’t even jump on the story until there’s more information, you can still write an article as an overview of events up to what you know. As for how often to post about the news, it really varies on why you cover it. If you’re writing in short blurb style to cover the daily news, you’re committing to writing daily posts. If you choose the most interesting-to-you stories to go in-depth on, you can choose what news and what days to report.
No matter what you write about, a good rule of thumb is to imagine yourself as the audience. How often do you want to see content from the writer? If you aren’t receiving regular posts, would you continue following the writer’s work or would you move on to a more regular writer? Your readers may be more understanding of gaps of time between articles, but using yourself as the guide is still a good way to figure out a good publishing system.
Quick, tell me what’s wrong with this list:
- Chocolate tortoiseshell
- Spicy tortoiseshell
- Hot tortoiseshell
- Tortoiseshell-calico (tortico)
- Tortoiseshell-tabby (torbie)
If you said “It’s not meaningful” or a variation of that, you nailed it. Even I, the creator of this list, can’t tell you why it was worth writing because honestly it’s just a collection of words. Creating lists is a more casual, fun form of writing, but there are still tips and tricks for adding interest for your readers.
First and most important, consider the purpose of creating the list. In addition to making money, it needs to add something to humanity’s knowledge. Even lists on comedy websites like Cracked have a reason for existing, usually because the writing style entertains readers while the content educates them. The sample list of tricolor cats would exist because I’m a huge fan of these beautiful fur colors and want to share what they are and why I think they’re so beautiful, so essentially for education, information,and persuasion.
It’s not enough for us writers to know the purpose of our list; We have to clearly express it to our audience as well. Before we launch into our list, we should provide an explanation of what we expect our readers to take from the list. For example:
These beautiful fur colors are often misunderstood by everyone, even self-proclaimed cat lovers. The following list will detail what the various tricolor cats look like and what makes them special to their fans.
When we start writing our list, it’s fine to create an outline (“skeleton” as I would call it) so that it serves as a guide for what we’ll write about. We should expand on our list later, giving details that are relevant to the purpose of our list. This is when our list becomes meaningful because now readers can look at it and say “Okay, I see what they mean.” Using my example, the list itself might look like this:
- Calico-These cats are mostly white with distinctive patches of auburn (red) or gold and black fur. They have been studied by scientists who think there is a link between calico obesity and human obesity.
- Chocolate tortoiseshell-These cats are mostly black or very dark brown with brindled fur of auburn (red) or gold and cream fur. Fans of the chocolate tortoiseshell call them “quirky” and say they are full of “tortitude”.
There are mixed thoughts on whether the list should have a closing paragraph or not. I recommend closing with a few sentences or questions for the readers, but this is optional. Just be sure to end on a strong note.
Readers I now turn to your knowledge of lists. Is there anything I missed? What adds interest to a list in your mind? Do you prefer reading lists or traditional articles?