Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Open Letter on Blog Feedback

This will be the first post in a series of 'open letters' giving you feedback on your blogging. (An 'open letter' is a published letter meant to be read by many people.)

Dear Students,

Firstly, please let me congratulate you on your blogging efforts thus far. I know that many of you have been very excited about blogging for different reasons: you get to be working on the computer; you learn a little more about using this technology; you have a personalized site, which is a little like MySpace; you have some freedom in terms of expressing your own ideas; your posts can be read by a wide audience; and you can get feedback via the 'comments'.

When this initial excitement has settled, we need to reflect on the educational purpose of blogging. Through your blog posts, you get the opportunity to discover your own VOICE as a writer. No-one else in the world writes or thinks quite like you. You get to choose the VOCABULARY that you think sounds just right for the ideas that you are trying to express, and for the mood that you are trying to convey.

Also, because you now have an audience for your writing, you will start to realize that each blog post should have a FOCUS. That focus should be obvious from the clues in your title and your opening paragraph, and it should be maintained throughout the post. It's fine for you to make the reader infer. However, readers will tire of following your blog if there doesn't seem to be any 'point' to your writing. A strong conclusion can leave a lasting impression on your reader.

To improve the ORGANIZATION of your posts, remember to use paragraphs. These breaks are like mental breaths for the reader, because they give the eye a brief chance to relax again, and the brain a chance to digest some of the information. Too many ideas in a single paragraph can clog up the reader's comprehension. Transitional words such as 'however', 'firstly', 'since', 'yet' and 'finally' help to sequence your ideas, and act as signals to the reader's brain.

ELABORATION is important, as it's frustrating for your reader if something interesting is mentioned, but then there are insufficient details. If your post is based on an article that you read, please provide a hyperlink. Similarly, feel free to use bullet points if it helps to list additional information that could help the reader. Always re-read your post before and after publishing, and edit it if you think of more details that should be included.

Even though the blog represents your personal writing space, it is still public. Therefore, there are CONVENTIONS that should be followed. One of these, as I have mentioned already, is hyperlinking to any other sites that you have used for the post, or to sites that will give the reader more information about people, places, events, or things that you have referred to in your post. You should edit for spelling, punctuation and sentence construction, as a courtesy to your reader. Otherwise the message that you are sending is that you don't really care about the quality of your own writing, and you don't respect your reader.

In summary, the aspects to consider are VOICE/VOCABULARY, FOCUS, ORGANIZATION, ELABORATION and CONVENTIONS. This is not intended to take the joy out of blogging for you. Instead, it should increase your satisfaction dramatically when you have people from the other side of the world not just reading your work, but deliberately searching for more of your writing. Now that's exciting.

Have a blogging good day,
Pat Wagner

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