Wednesday, February 2, 2011

WotW: 5 things to do BEFORE you hit publish

You've probably done it before: hit publish without meaning to, or hit publish and then regretted it. Oops -- once you hit publish, your words are out there. You can't take them back. Yes, you can delete the post, edit it, or re-save it as a draft (effectively un-publishing it), BUT that post has already gone to your readers' feed readers (like Google Reader).  And THAT is the part you can't take back.

In the blogging world, as in the real world, it's easiest to get things right the first time. A misspelling isn't a big deal, but a pivotal misspelling might be, at the very least, confusing. Better spelling and grammar makes you seem more educated, reliable, and intelligent as well as making your blog easier to read -- definitely a big plus if you're looking for sponsors and never a deterrent to new readers, either.

A rant about X or Y might not be a big deal... but, then again, it might. That's why it's important to know your readers and know both what they expect and what they'll tolerate. Sometimes a rant becomes a chorus of "we understand!"; other times it becomes a firestorm that can burn out of control. (See #5 for more about this.)

So, to avoid the foot-in-mouth syndrome or just feeling a little sheepish and to keep your blog posts as put-together and intelligent as possible (because don't we all want to seem at least as put together and intelligent as we actually are, if not more?), here are my 5 commandments (really just suggestions... but good ones!) for what to do BEFORE you hit that Publish button.

1 - SPELL-CHECK. Seriously. Just click the little button. As a double-safety, turn on the spell-checker in your browser. It's usually a setting that can be turned on and off, so check your browser's settings. If you can't find it, let me know and I'll help. IE users: you'll have to use an add-on. Sorry. Just another reason to switch browsers. :)

2. Proofread. Yes, I know I'm an editor by profession. And now you know that too. But item #2 still stands -- proofread through your post at least once before you publish. Twice is even better. Spell-check often doesn't catch simple spelling errors because they're not spelling errors -- they're grammar errors such as "their" instead of "there" or mistyped words such as "art" instead of "are" or "kind" instead of "king".

So put your editor hat on for just a second and proofread, watching for words like those above or extra words or punctuation where you've typed something and then deleted it... and missed a word/letter/comma. Proofreading is also a good method to check that you've said what you mean to say -- stream of consciousness typing sometimes needs some clarification to make sense to someone not in your head, you know? :)

3. Check your post title. The Blogger spell-checker doesn't go there, and sometimes the browser spell-checker doesn't either. Not only is your post title the first thing your readers will see (especially readers using a feed reader), but your post title determines the post's URL. So, a misspelled post title is not only embarrassing, but also permanently memorialized in the URL. And a pet peeve to this here blogger. :)

4. Use the Preview button to scan the visual layout of the post. Blogger has a nasty habit of adding extra line spaces where they shouldn't be, plus the visual layout of your post is just as important as the actual words in your post. Most readers will skim all or part of your post, so be sure that the important things stand out. Check to see that paragraphs aren't too long visually (shorter paragraphs are easier to digest), that images are placed correctly, and that the whole post just looks right. Also, check the post title's length -- one line is best and I'd suggest not going over two lines for your title.

5. Think "how will this impact my readers?". For most posts -- those sharing projects, recipes, or just information about something or other -- the impact is more expected: hopefully, your readers will love it and lavish you with comments telling you so.

However, if your post is about anything politically/religiously/otherwise sensitive or any type of rant -- think long and hard about the impact on your readers. An occasional rant about the horrible day you've had might be okay, but most readers don't want to hear about only that, even if you are in the right or you are witty about it. And sensitive topics are sensitive for a reason -- people take offense, people get defensive, etc.

That's not to say that you shouldn't ever blog about a sensitive topic -- just be sensitive in how you approach the topic, and be prepared for some unexpected backlash, just in case. The best approach to any post written when you're feeling angry/upset/annoyed/etc/etc/etc is to just give it time.

Write the post, but leave it as a draft for a day or two -- avoid the knee-jerk "must publish now because I just feel so _____". If you're still feeling the emotion that prompted you to write the post in the first place, you're probably okay to publish it. If not, delete the post and move on.

What else would you add to the list? And thanks for reading!

Lu (or Lorene if you prefer) is the mom of one squirmy boy and the wife of a singing and dancing elementary teacher. She is the proud author of this weekly Wednesdays on the Web (WotW) segment here on Housewife Eclectic and spends the other days of the week blogging about crafts and whatever else comes up at just Lu.
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