Stop Telling Students “Said is Dead;” They Shouldn’t Use Anything Else

One of the most fun, yet annoying things I’ve ever done for my oldest daughter is to undo the writing “rules” her teacher taught her in the 7th grade.

“Paragraphs have to be 3 – 4 sentences long. Don’t use contractions. Don’t start sentences with ‘and,’ ‘but,’ or ‘or.’ Don’t end your sentences with a preposition.”

When she was in the 7th grade, I had told her not to follow one of her writing rules “because,” I said, citing my full 20+ years of experience, “it’s stupid.” She did, and when the teacher corrected her, she said, “My dad told me not to do it, and he’s a professional writer.”

Nude woman with the words "write or be written off" written across her front shouldersBelieve it or not, that was the end of that little rule, although the teacher did explain that she wanted my daughter to at least know the basics, so she could understand what rules she was breaking.

“They shouldn’t be rules in the first place,” I started to tell my daughter, but my wife stopped me.

Now that my daughter is home schooled, and writing (especially blogging) has become a central part of my daughter’s education, I’m able to teach her the right way to write, and not the school way to write.

And yes, there’s a difference.

This is What Happens When You Focus Too Much on Math

I was more than a little annoyed and disheartened to read John Warner’s “Said Is NOT Dead” article on InsideHigherEd.com.

Recently, the most disturbing news I’ve heard in a long time came across my Facebook feed. It was supplied by Matt Bell, a writer and creative writing teacher of my acquaintance who had heard this very troubling thing from the students in one of his classes.

They told Professor Bell that when it comes to tagging dialog in their fiction, “said is dead.” He inquired where they learned this, and they answered, “school.”

This is what annoys me about our educational system. We have people who don’t write teaching people how to write. We make science teachers have a background in science, history teachers have a history degree. And yes, I know English teachers have an English degree, but they’re usually readers, not writers. Or they’re not very good writers, otherwise they wouldn’t be telling students to use “enthused,” “squealed,” “chortled,” and “shrieked,” instead of “said” and “asked.”

That’s not good writing. That shows you have a thesaurus, and it’s actually very distracting. The whole point of dialog is to relay a conversation, not show how clever the author is. I want to hear the people speaking, I don’t want to see how many different emotion words the author knows.

To paraphrase Warner’s friend, Jim Ruland, “A tag on a line of dialog is like a tag on a garment: you’re not supposed to notice it and it’s slightly embarrassing when you do.

By teaching “said is dead,” these teachers are violating two other important rules of writing:

  1. Don’t use adverbs. Don’t describe a verb, use a better verb.
  2. Show, don’t tell. Don’t tell me she’s enthusiastic, describe it through her actions.

Good dialog should flow like a good TV show. When you have good actors doing good dialog, you don’t need a lot of visual fluff to go with it. When you’re writing dialog, you don’t need all that pap and fluff to tell the reader what to think. You show it with the rest of the narrative or the other character’s reaction.

Teachers Need to Learn to Write

Writing is easy. Writing well is hard. And the better you get, the harder it gets. But people who teach grossly incorrect ideas like “said is dead” are making it harder for people who actually want to write for a living.

Anyone who has to unlearn a bad habit is at a disadvantage compared to the people who learned good habits early on. Teachers who tell their students “said is dead” — or any of these other grammar and language myths — are doing their students a horrible disservice. And employers like me end up with an entire generation of students who couldn’t write their way out of a wet paper bag without a quiver full of adjectives.

Teachers, if you want to help your students be good writers, start writing yourself. Write essays and short stories. Don’t just read them, produce them. Invite professional writers and college writing professors to your class to talk about what the writing life is like. Start reading blogs from professional writers and creating writing teachers to see what kinds of advice they’re giving and what ideas they’re teaching.

Give them sound writing advice that every professional writer is following in the real world, and not something from the Pollyanna School of Saccharine Pap.

(Update: As my friend and published novelist, Cathy Day, said in the comments below: If any K-12 teachers find their way to this post and feel inspired to focus on their own identities as writers, this is just what they need: The Indiana Writing Project (or if they don’t live in Indiana, many states off similar summer institutes).)

Three Unrelated Skills to Make You a Better Writer

Every writer gets the same advice when they’re starting out — write every day, read a lot, practice writing exercises — but that can only get you so far. There are other skills to develop.

It’s like a baseball player who only practices hitting and catching. Yes, those are important skills that he needs to practice over and over. But there are other skills he can practice that will also improve his playing ability: lifting weights, sprint workouts, and even off-season work like chopping wood and playing basketball, will improve his ability to swing a bat.

Erik Deckers speaking in public

Doing this taught me to be a better writer.

For writers, there are related skills they can develop, through other activities that exercise their writing muscles, but don’t actually have them writing the same same stuff over and over. These other activities can improve your communication skills, which will ultimately improve your writing.

Twitter

I always thought I was good at concise writing, until I fell in love with Twitter. After using it for a year, and learning how to fit a single thought into 140 characters, I realized I was doing that in my regular writing. When I went back and compared my work to the previous year, I could see how everything was tighter, and how I expressed ideas more fully with fewer, better words.

Twitter has especially helped my humor writing, because I’ve learned how to set up a joke and deliver the punchline in a single tweet. This has had a huge impact on my humor column writing, because I’ve been able to squeeze more jokes into the same number of column inches.

To learn how to tweet effectively:

  • Distill your thoughts into the most expressive nouns and verbs.
  • Cut the adverbs.
  • Use adjectives sparingly.
  • Avoid first person references. Instead of saying “I had lunch at @BoogieBurger,” say “Had lunch at @BoogieBurger” or even “Ate at @BoogieBurger.”

(This last one is more of a space saver, but it also teaches you how to write with greater punch.)

Want to make it a real challenge? Avoid abbreviations if possible, and never, ever use text speak. Then, make your thoughts fit into the required space. That’s the best training you can ever do for yourself.

Public Speaking

If you speak in public, you already know how to deliver information clearly and directly, making it easy for your audience to understand and be interested in it. If you’ve been doing it for a while, you’ve already got a speaking style. (And if you don’t, find your local Toastmasters club, and learn to speak in public.)

As you develop that speaking style, try to tailor your writing style to match it. As you’re reading, imagine yourself delivering the material to your audience. If you speak with strong declarative statements, write them. If you’re funny in person, be funny on paper. If you’re calming to your audience, be calming to your reader. Basically, your spoken word choice and delivery should affect your written word choice and style. And as more people hear you speak, the more they’ll hear your voice when they read your work. Match the one to the other in tone, word choice, and even rhythm.

Storytelling

I don’t mean become the kind of storytellers you see at festivals or hear on The Moth, although that helps. Rather, focus on telling stories to friends over dinner. The story should have a beginning, middle, and end. It should create suspense, and have an interesting payoff at the end.

If you can easily tell those kinds of stories out loud, you’ll learn how to tell those stories on paper. Any story or blog post you write should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It needs to have an interesting payoff. (Of course, with blogging and journalism, the payoff comes at the beginning, so you’ll need to learn how to deliver the punchline first, and turn the setup into its own a-ha! moment.)

As you’re writing your articles, write it as if you were going to deliver it in public, but as a five-minute story. If you can shift the storytelling architecture to your writing, that makes your work easier to follow. You learn how to keep people involved from a post or article from beginning to end.

These are the three skills I have worked on over the last several years, and they have made a big difference in what, how, and how well I write. And I’m always looking for the next new challenge or skill to master to make it even better.

How about you? What challenges are you taking on yourself to become a better writer?

Can You Make Money Blogging? Maybe.

Can you make money blogging? Will you get rich? Does it lead to the same illustrious career as, say, a biz-tech nonfiction book writer?

No. No. And mostly.

Unfortunately, blogging is not the way to untold riches, despite what the people who offer courses on “how to get rich blogging” tell you.Big bag of money. Sure wish it was real.

The best way to get rich blogging? Write a regular blog about how to get rich blogging, offer webinars about it, charge people $799 to attend. Tell people how to write a blog and host webinars.

Otherwise, the odds of you getting rich from this are about as good as you getting rich as a singer or actor.

Because the amount of time and effort you’ll put into everything else but blogging — marketing, promotions, PR, programming, design — is about the same amount of time and effort you’ll put into anything else you want to do, like starting your own company, selling a product, or launching your singing or acting career.

No, Seriously. Can You Make Money Blogging?

Okay, yes. You can make money at blogging. It’s not a lot, but there are ways to make more money than others, but some are easier.

Let’s say you have a fairly popular blog, netting around 10,000 visitors a month. It’s taken you a couple years to get to this point (which, if you thought you could get there after a couple weeks, forget it). There are a few options open to you:

  • Banner advertising. This is the easiest option, and the first one most people think of. It’s also the lowest paying, because you’re trying to get visitors to click through the ads. Even if you had a 1% clickthrough rate (which would be awesome), 10,000 visitors would equal 100 clicks. And at $.05 per click, that’s $5 — “cheeseburger money,” as Jason Falls calls it. What’s worse, you’re constantly trying to fill space, and end up spending a lot of writing time selling instead. There are advertising services I’ve seen that will place ads for you, but they’re still struggling to get advertisers to buy in. Think of it this way: In the late 90s and early 2000s, banner advertising was all the rage, and was how a lot of Internet news sites were trying to make money. The fact that they’re not around anymore should tell you something.
  • Google AdWords You make a few cents on an impression, and several cents on a click-through. You’ve got the same issues as banner advertising, although you’re not chasing down advertisers. It’s more passive. The more traffic you get, the more impressions you get. I have one friend who paid for his son’s college with the banner advertising on his site, but he wrote on it every day and promoted the bejeezus out of it.
  • Affiliate sales. A definite possibility. Of course, this takes a lot of social media networking (more than the actual writing), because you need for people to trust you enough to click through your ads. But I know a few people who do it, and they make pretty decent money this way. Not quit-your-day-job money, but they can eat cheeseburgers every day.
  • Product reviewer. This is the least likely way to make actual money, even worse than banner advertising. BUT! it’s a great way to get cool stuff, because companies are always looking for product reviewers. They’ll send you a product, or passes to their business, and ask you to write up a review (this is called blogger outreach, and is becoming a staple of marketing/PR people). If you’re a mother of young children, you may be able to sample a week’s worth of new diapers in exchange for a writeup. Or you get to try a family-friendly restaurant for dinner. It won’t put cash in your pocket, but it will pay for the occasional night out or get you something useful. As a travel writer, I occasionally get to take little mini-vacations around the state. You can’t accept money for reviews though, since that would be unethical, but you usually get to keep the product.
  • Ghost blogging. This is the biggie, the one and only way you can definitely make money blogging. On the downside, it’s not your blog. You’re writing for someone else, and your name will never be seen in public. On the upside, you’re a professional copywriter, and you can demand professional copywriting wages. In fact, of all the blogging jobs I know, this is the easiest way to make a full-time living. (My company, Professional Blog Service, is a ghost blogging agency.) However, it also means you have to be a very good writer. Good writers get good money. Okay writers get okay money. And beginning writers get beginning money. Still, if you know what you’re doing, have a decent grasp of the English language, and can spell all your words correctly, you’ve got a good chance at becoming a ghost blogger.

Ghost Blogging = Ghostwriting

Photo of an empty desk with a laptop, computer speakers, and a coffee mug.

The ghost blogger hard at work.

Ghost bloggers are basically ghost writers. A ghost writer is a writer who works for someone else and publishes their work under that person’s name. They’re never seen, never heard from, and they moan about the injustice of it all. They’re ghosts.

A ghost blogger makes their money by being marketing copywriters, only they’re specifically trained to write for the web. They know the SEO requirements and tactics, but more importantly, they can write SEO copy so well that the reader still enjoys reading it.

While there are still only a few people doing it, it’s a growing field. That’s because blogging is important to search engine optimization (SEO), but now content marketing — using content to educate your customers and sell them on your product’s benefits — has become the watchword of 2013.

In fact, given all of Google’s algorithm changes over the past couple of years, and the importance their placing on written content, 2013 is going to be the year of the writer. If you’re looking for a field to break into as a writer, this may be it.

Photo credit: Money bag – 401(K)2013 (Flickr, Creative Commons)
Ghost writer – Erik Deckers

How to Make a Living as a Writer

A lot of people dream of making a living as a writer, or at least making money from it, but it’s getting harder, thanks to the Internet.

Stupid Internet.

The irony is that the thing that’s made it easier for people to get published has also made it harder for people to get paid for doing it. And yet, it has also created new ways for people to get paid for writing.

But here’s the sad, scary irony — you will almost never make a decent, full-time, support-a-family living as a professional writer.

Paul Lorinczi, president of Professional Blog Service

Okay, we’re NOT really ghosts. I mean, you can actually see us.

Every other novelist I know, and I know a few good ones, makes their living doing something other than writing novels. Most of them make their living as teachers, and they write novels as their nights/weekends job. (Even William Faulkner was a postmaster. One of our country’s greatest novelists, and he sold stamps!) The few magazine writers I know only write articles as a sideline. And I have yet to meet a blogger who writes for himself or herself as their only source of income. (There may be a few in existence, but I haven’t met them yet.)

Here’s why:

  • Novelists get paid advances, and then receive royalties on book sales. Advances and royalty checks are getting smaller as publishers’ margins get smaller. So unless your last name is Grisham or Patterson, you’re not going to make a living this way, unless you work it at constantly. There are a few novelists who write 10 – 12 hours per day and produce a novel a month which they sell as ebooks, but they’re few and far between.
  • Magazine writers get paid a few hundred dollars. Let’s pick $500 as a nice round, almost-attainable number. If you wanted to make $60,000 per year, you would have to write 10 magazine articles per month. That’s doable, but you’re working constantly, more than you would at a corporate job. Also, you’ll take quite a while to reach that level, so be prepared for a few years of that constant work at little to no pay.
  • Nonfiction book writers (me included) make squat from our book sales. I own my own business. My friend, Kate, is a freelance book editor. Other authors support their book sales with public speaking gigs, or use it to promote their actual business.

The sad truth is that it’s very difficult to make a full-time salary solely from writing, unless you’re a journalist, and even those people are facing uncertain futures.

The Secret to Making Money as a Writer

There’s really only one way you’re going to make money by sitting down at a computer and churning out words by the bushel: write for someone else.

Seriously, that’s it. That’s all there is to it.

The people who make money writing are the people who don’t get to put their name on their work. They give up the credit and recognition in exchange for a paycheck.

Political speechwriters get paid to write speeches for people who will never give them public credit. They don’t get to put their name above, and the speaker will never say, “I’d like to publicly thank my speechwriter who crafted these words.”

Marketing copywriters write copy that makes hundreds of thousands of dollars for their employer, but they never get to put their byline on a brochure. (They also rarely get any bonuses for their work, even if their work directly led to a 30% spike in sales.)

In my own company, we ghostwrite for other people, not ourselves. This blog post right here? I’m publishing it under my own name, but I won’t get a dime for it. I’m hoping it will attract the attention of a client who’s willing to hire us though. Instead, we write blog posts for clients under their name, help them win search, and convince clients they know what they’re talking about. But because we’re ghosts, we don’t tell anyone who our clients are.

For people who want to make money by, as Hemingway put it, sitting at a typewriter, opening a vein, and bleeding, be prepared to do it for other people. Farm out your talents as a hired gun and craftsman. An ink slinger and a wordsmith. The pro from Dover who does what no one else can.

Ultimately you have a choice: be well-known and struggle, or be hidden and satisfied.

My suggestion is to do both. Write for other people during the day, and write for yourself at night. Ultimately, you’ll get the best of both worlds.

Content Marketing Tip: Don’t Put Everything You Know Into One Blog Post

That 3,000 word blog post you spent hours researching, writing, editing, and polishing?

Yeah, I’m going to need you to go ahead and delete that.

Why? Because no one’s going to read it.

Think about it, unless you’re a big fan of #longreads or ESPN’s long-form sports writing site, Grantland, very few people want to read 3,000 word blog posts, no matter how good they are.

A lot of bloggers try to cover everything they can in a single post, thinking they only have one shot with their readers to show as much knowledge as possible.

Don’t do this.

Eggs in a basket

I’m sure there’s a clever metaphor in here somewhere.

If you want your content marketing efforts to be effective, don’t try to cover everything at once.

600 Words Max. Seriously.

Last week, I wrote a blog post, Five True Gems of Blogging Advice, where one of my tips was “don’t plumb the depths of your knowledge in a single blog post.”

That is, don’t explore everything you know about a single blog topic in one post. Break it up into little bitty, bite-sized chunks, and explore each tiny facet of the issue in an individual post.

For example, one of my keynote talks, Ten Secrets I Learned In 24 Years of Writing would make a great blog post. And to keep from boring the reader with a massive crush of words, I could write 2 – 4 sentences about each point. But that wouldn’t give me time to fully explain what each secret means, how you can apply it, or why it’s even important.

What would make it better is to break it up and explore each secret further, and more in-depth, spending 400 – 500 words on a single secret — 600 words maximum, and that’s pushing it — finally resulting in ten separate blog posts.

Splitting up your blog posts into smaller chunks will do a number of things for you:

  • You have more to write about. A few weeks ago, I wrote about Google AuthorRank and how to take advantage of it. I could have written one long blog post about what it was and how to use it. And the whole thing would have been a few thousand words long. Instead, I was able to turn it into several posts, and I could spend more time on each facet.
  • It establishes your credibility. Who do you perceive as being more knowledgeable about a topic? Someone who did a one-off, or someone who writes about it frequently. The multi-post writer is going to have the advantage, because they can share new knowledge as new developments arise. The one-off writer has written the “definitive” work, making it harder to revisit.
  • It boosts your SEO. Google wants to see a lot of content about a single issue. It helps them understand what your site is about. Talk about a topic often enough, do some internal linking, and Google will associate your blog with that topic and keyword. Soon, you can outrank the bloggers who only did a single post on that same topic.
  • It brings readers back. If you can write several posts about a single topic, you become the go-to authority on that topic, and as people discover one post, they’ll check out your site to find more knowledge. That’s why it helps to have a “Related Content” plugin (like at the bottom of this post). And as people visit that related content, that also boosts your SEO.

Remember, content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. You’re not going to win anything by churning out epic posts that should be ebooks. We’re a society of skimmers and fast readers now. You need to match your readers’ reading style, not force them to adapt to your writing preference.

Photo credit: whateyesee13 (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Five True Gems of Blogging Advice

After yesterday’s post, Five Pieces of Blogging Advice I Wish You’d Stop Giving, Rogier Noort challenged me to come up with five “true gems” of blogging advice.

Oooh, now that’s a challenge. The problem is, there’s so much blogging advice out there (the first of which is always “write good content,” which inspired yesterday’s post to begin with), I was hard pressed to come up with five good ones that most people don’t know. But I accepted the challenge, so here we go.

1. Trick Out your Author Bio to Take Advantage of Google’s AuthorRank

I’ve written a lot about Google AuthorRank, and its growing importance. If you want to improve your search ranking, tie your blog’s bio to your Google+ account, and add your blog to the Contributes To of your profile.

Next, go to Google+ and upload a recent photo of you. Not you as a child. Not your child. Not your dog. Not you and your best friend. Not a picture of you at the beach, sunset at your back, from 100 yards away.

Your. Smiling. Face.

Then, whenever a blog post you wrote appears on a Google search, your face and name will appear next to your result, and people are more likely to trust it (i.e. click on it and read it).

2. SEO is Not Dead

The whole point of search engine optimization was to help Google understand what websites were about. If you wrote about Hungarian football, you would use that phrase in your title, a few times in your blog post, in your keyword tags, the meta description. And if you write about it frequently, you may even want a category with that phrase.

If you did this right, Google would assume that your site was an important one for Hungarian football. This made people do it more, because they saw it helped their pages show up higher on Google’s search results pages.

The problem, was people abused this so much, Google greatly lowered the value of the SEO efforts everyone was making. That’s what the Panda algorithm changes were all about. (Penguin was more about devaluing low-value backlinks.)

But that doesn’t mean you should stop doing SEO. It’s still valuable, it just doesn’t add to your SEO juice. Just quit thinking that you need to do it perfectly and efficiently to beat the competition.

Just remember, in order to find you, Google needs to understand what it is you do. If they understand what you do, AND you do all the other stuff right (i.e. have good time on site, low bounce rate, and high click-through rate), then Google will place you higher. But crappy content with great keyword placement will not rank higher.

Remember, you’re writing for two audiences: the reader and Google. The human reader is more important, but Google can make or break you.

3. Start Using Schemas

This is the new SEO. If you want to have a serious impact on your SEO, use schema tags like Address, City, Region (state), and postalCode (ZIP code). The reason is because Google (and Bing and Yahoo; Schemas is a joint venture among the three) is starting to recognize what lines of text mean.

Think of it this way, when I write my name — Erik Deckers — Google doesn’t know what it is. They just see an ‘E,’ an ‘r,’ an ‘i,’, and a ‘k,’ and so on. But, if I put the code around my name, then Google says “Oh, ‘Erik Deckers’ is the name of a real person. Whenever we see someone search for that name, we’re going to show the pages that tells us Erik is a real person.”

That code looks like this:

<span itemprop=”name”>Erik Deckers</span>

The same is true for addresses, especially when it comes to local searches on Google. Right now, if you do a search for our address — 5348 Tacoma Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46220 — all Google sees is a string of letters and numbers, and they’ll look for the identical string on all websites and blogs.

But if I tag it with the schema code, like this:

<div itemprop=”address” itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/PostalAddress”>
<span itemprop=”streetAddress”>5348 Tacoma Ave.</span>
<span itemprop=”addressLocality”>Indianapolis</span>
<span itemprop=”addressRegion”>IN</span>
<span itemprop=”postalCode”>46220</span>
</div>

then Google recognizes that as a real address, and they’ll pop it to the top of the search results, and show it on their Map.

If you still want to do SEO, then start using schemas. It’s a laborious process though, because most everything has to be done by hand. There are some plugins for it, but they’re not as effective as the actual hand coding. At the bottom of this post are some schema tags that were created by the SchemaFeed plugin, which unfortunately is no longer available.

Schema tags

4. Don’t Plumb the Depths of Your Knowledge in a Single Blog Post

That is, don’t explore everything you know about a single blog topic in one post. Break it up into little bitty, bite-sized chunks, and explore each tiny facet of the issue in an individual post.

For example, one of my keynote talks, Ten Secrets I Learned In 24 Years of Writing would make a great blog post. And to keep from boring the reader with a massive crush of words, I could write 2 – 4 sentences about each point. But that wouldn’t give me time to fully explain what each secret means, how you can apply it, or why it’s even important.

What would make it better is to break it up and explore each secret further, and more in-depth, spending 400 – 500 words on a single secret — 600 words maximum, and that’s pushing it — finally resulting in ten separate blog posts.

That does two things for you: 1) It gives you something to write about for several days, and 2) it really establishes your credibility as someone who is very smart about that topic. After all, if you know enough to write 20 – 30 blog posts on a single topic in 3 months, you certainly must know a lot about it, right? (Just smile and nod.)

This blog post would have also benefited from a similar treatment. But I was challenged to write five true gems, and I’m über competitive.

So, you can write that overarching post, like this one, as sort of a preview, but then break it up into separate posts, one for each point, to expand on it, broaden your topic base, and make you look like an expert.

5. Use Videos to Increase Time on Site

One of the indicators Google uses to determine whether a blog post or web page is any good is to look at how long people will spend on the page. That’s also known as Time On Site.

We already know — because it’s one of those pieces of remedial blogging advice we hear over and over — that photos and videos will increase the click-through rate on a blog post (which is another signal for the new SEO). But did you ever consider that the proper use of video will increase your time on site?

If you embed a decent video that supports your point — create one yourself, if you can’t find one — people will watch it on your site, not YouTube/Vimeo. And the longer they watch the video, the longer they spend on your site. The longer they spend, the more Google values that page.

You can accomplish the same thing by having a few photos on your site, to give people something to look at for a few more seconds. The longer they spend, the more your Time On Site goes up.

That doesn’t mean you can just load junk videos and crappy photos in the hopes that you’re going to trick people into spending time on your page. Once they realize you have nothing to offer, they’ll never come back, and your misguided attempts at trickery will backfire badly.

 

Those are my five true gems of blogging advice. Thanks to Rogier Noort for challenging me to write them. Does anyone have any of their own blogging gems? Leave them in the comments.

Five Pieces of Blogging Advice I Wish You’d Stop Giving

I don’t know why I bother sometimes.

(“I don’t know why you bother ever.”)

Whenever someone writes a “five blogging secrets” post, I keep thinking, “maybe this is it. Maybe this is the one. Maybe this blog post will have at least one useful blogging tip that I can use.”

But it didn’t. It doesn’t. It never did. It was written, just like every other post on blogging, for the absolute beginner, who, given the constant bombardment of amateur advice, no longer exists in this world. We’ve polluted the Internet so much with useless, remedial blogging advice that it’s gotten into the water, and our children are born knowing the five most important steps to successful blogging.

I’ll admit, I’ve given this advice. Hell, I still give it in talks, depending on my audience and who I’m writing for. But everyone is giving it. I’m seeing it all over the goddamn place, and if I see much more of it, I’m going to scream at someone.

So, please, if not for me, then for the good of the country: stop it. Just stop it. Stop giving the same damn advice over and over and over again. Stop copying and pasting each other’s “five blogging secrets” posts.

These are the five pieces of blogging advice I want you to stop giving.

  1. Write good content: Blah, blah, blah! People say this like it’s The Most Important Advice Ever. It’s stupid, vile, and utterly useless, because everyone a) knows it, and b) thinks they do it. “I think I’ll write completely utter crap,” said no one ever. The problem is, everyone already thinks they write well, and that their work is just as good as everyone else’s. Even the conspiracy theorists who write 10,000 word treatises in a single day think what they’re producing is gold, and they’re surprised the world isn’t beating a path to their door. Telling people to write good content is like telling people to breathe or chew their food when they eat. It may be important to hear for anyone who’s brand new to blogging, but the people who know enough about the Internet to find the blog post where you shared this little piece of dreariness have already seen this more than once.
  2. Grow your social network: Really? I thought having my brother and a couple friends from work following me on a Twitter account I rarely use was a guaranteed step toward social media rock stardom. So you’re saying that the more people who read my stuff, the more success I’ll have? BRILLIANT! Give that man a Pulitzer prize for extreme cleverness! Next week, check out my new wealth creating blog post, “buy low, sell high.”
  3. Find your niche/passion: Okay, this one might not be such a Duh! piece of advice, but I’m tired of it. Anyone who has a barely detectable pulse has heard this one before, so it’s nothing new. Combine this with item #1 — write passionately about your content — and Tony Robbins will personally punch you in the nose.
  4. Erik's Tumblr Feed

    Alright, alright, fine! I have a Tumblr feed. But I have it ironically.

  5. Create value: Value is in the eyes of the beholder. And if you’re giving advice like this, there’s a whooole lot of beholders who are more than a little annoyed with you right now. Everyone perceives value in their own way. While I might think your literary comparison between Dr. Who and Mr. Ferrars from Sense and Sensibility is completely useless, there are plenty of Dr. Who/Jane Austen fans who would disagree with me loudly. No matter what you create, there will always be someone who finds some value in it, somewhere. So as a piece of advice, this is value-less.
  6. Blogging is Dead: Muh-huh. And what are you reading right now? That’s right, a blog. And what’s that place where you share all your photos and pithy little comments about your friends and their quirky hats and ironic bow ties? That’s right, your blog. What’s that? You have a Tumblog, and that’s not a blog? The hell it’s not. That’s exactly what Tumblr is, a blog for people who can’t read more than three sentences without their lips getting tired. One day, when you grow up and move out of your mom’s basement, you’ll start writing longer pieces of content, like a job application at a coffee shop. Until then, stop telling people blogging is dead. If your world view can be summed up in 140 characters and a retro photo filter, that tells me it’s not a world view worth listening to. Stick to bumper stickers on your fixed gear bike.

Just once, I would love to see someone share some useful blogging advice that did not include any variations of these five completely useless tips. While I know many people are still new to blogging, I don’t think anyone would ever knowingly violate these little “gems.” You can stop sharing them, and move on to the next lesson.