Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dick McVengeance Speaks: Some tips on how to blog

(Image borrowed from

Today VAOJ has a real treat for its loyal readers: our very first guest author. I won't introduce him myself as he does so in his article below. Needless to say I have appreciated his support for some time and his comments have made him sort of a legend around these parts. So, without any further ado...

Welcome all, to the Visual Anthropology of Japan. My name is Brad Rice, and I'm a former student of Professor Fedorowicz and the VAOJ class. Sadly, my blog has been lost to the demons of web hosting, so I'm taking up a few minutes of your time with this post on the VAOJ blog to talk about, well, blogging. Currently, I am a blogger for Modern Method, writing about video gamesanime, and figures -- things which many of you have an interest in, I would assume. I've also done work for The Escapist and Gawker Media. 

With any luck, this post will help guide you from the realm of daily livejournal updates to something a bit more professional and marketable. Blogging is one of those things that anybody can do, but it takes a certain amount of talent and ingenuity in order to make it profitable. So, without any further introductions, let's get into this.

Use spell check. Or a copy editor.

Spelling, punctuation, and grammar are things that you need to have a decent grasp on when dealing with the Internet. Sure, when you're IMing your friends, you may use truncated phrases and misspell words, because honestly, does anyone care in an IM conversation? Well, when you're presenting yourself on a professional blog, you need to have your command of the English language at hand. Albeit my posts are written by a Mr. Dick McVengeance, I still make sure to spell everything properly and use the English language to its full extent.

On that note, you really should endeavor to utilize English however you can. There are a myriad of words at your disposal, and sentences can be constructed to divulge multiple ideas and form complex arguments -- don't simply fall back on short, uninspiring sentences.

Form your own voice.

The first thing I look for when hiring writers is whether or not they have a voice. Can I clearly hear someone saying all this? That's one of my critical tests. Thankfully, telling whether or not someone has a voice is easier than defining obscenity. But not by much.

Expertise and writing style are the two biggest things that drive you having a voice. I think this might work best with some examples. My colleague and good friend Aaron Linde is one of my personal favorite writers on the Internet, so let's focus on his articles. One of the best ways that he makes his articles entertaining is his mixes humor and personal experience into the article to deal with the topic at hand. In his Psychonauts article, he draws on experiences that most of the readers have had -- a pushy, disinterested game store clerk who doesn't care about anything beyond mass-marketed titles.

I pick Aaron because for the most part, all of your writing will be based on pulling in your personal experiences, trying to reconcile your lives at home with what you're experiencing while  you're here in Japan and taking photos. You tell your friends stories about what happened over the weekend, and so you just need to put those stories and the way you tell them into words.

Watch your formatting.

It's very easy to just write your ideas in a single paragraph, because, well, you're only talking about a single idea. That's a bad idea. Perhaps if you're writing an article that's all of two or three sentences, you can do that, but it's not recommended. Rather, you should break up your paragraphs based on basic ideas.

A good rule of thumb is to write three to five sentences before switching paragraphs. Sure, you might have a 150-word requirement for each post, or however many Professor Fedorowicz has assigned, but that doesn't mean you can't go beyond those requirements and really explore the ideas stated in your posts. Sure, I'm getting off topic here, but one thing that you really need to make sure to do is not to leave your ideas unexplored. I hate that more than anything when reading your blogs. People just go through and state some facts based around the photos they've taken, and then don't follow through and question the practices, or relate it to an anecdote or whatnot.

Conclusions are nice.

It's a chance to summarize everything you've talked about in the article, and perhaps bring up something new that acts as a capstone on the whole article. So, here's mine.

Writing articles is not something you can get done within 15-20 minutes. It does take some time to generate a post, and you should really try to address whatever issue you're tackling that week -- this is a chance to create a written portfolio that you can shop around to more professional areas like Gawker, AOL Weblogs, or even Modern Method.

Writing is not easy -- it's something you need to work at in order to get better at. You could -- and I know this is a radical suggestion -- write more than what's required in order to get more experience. Also, read more blogs. They don't have to be Japan-related -- it could be The Consumerist, Lifehacker, Joystiq, or anything else that catches your interest. Much like writing fiction, you only get better the more you read.

1 comment:

Joe said...


Fine words to blog by. Definitely good to know that it's okay to say something new in the conclusion instead of just a rehash.