Transforming Dreamers into Influencers

Category: Writing A Blog

Tools for Better Writing

Editing for Grammar and Clarity

Writing gets better with guidance and practice; with blogging, we get plenty of practice, but sometimes it’s hard to find authoritative guidance. Some writers enroll in classes to improve writing, but we don’t all have that luxury. Fortunately, there are plenty of techniques and online tools that can help us to identify grammar problems and even tutor us in clearer, more direct writing.

If you are like me, I have difficulty proofreading online. I generally compose in MS Word, which has built-in spelling and grammar-checking options. Then I print out my blog and read it aloud (when I’m all alone!), so I can hear any rough patches.

Lately, I have been using Grammarly as I compose. Now, I am a writing teacher, and Grammarly catches mistakes even I make. If you want to avoid the embarrassment of typos, grammar, and spelling errors, the free version of Grammarly is your friend, and the paid, premium version is even better. The free version will check for over 150 typical grammar and spelling errors, while the premium version will check for 250+ advanced errors, suggest vocabulary enhancements—great when you use the same word over and over, and indicate plagiarism. The premium version will even check for level of formality, distinguishing between academic, business, or creative writing.

If you are concerned about style, the Hemingway app’s free online version will check your prose for sentence readability, unnecessary adverbs, uses of passive voice, and phrases that have simpler alternatives. The desktop app paid version is relatively inexpensive: a one-time fee of $19.99. You can publish from the app directly to WordPress or Medium, and you can directly import text from MS Word or other word processing software, eliminating the need to cut and paste.

Good grammar and clear sentences reach more readers and save you embarrassment. Use the tools at your disposal to write correctly and to improve with practice.

Brainstorming for fresh ideas

Bloggers brainstorming

Writer’s block: we all get stuck from time to time, but did you know there are fun ways to create content and you don’t have to do it alone? Smart bloggers brainstorm with others to generate ideas.

Brainstorming with friends or family can move even the most stubborn blocks. The design firm IDEO uses seven rules of brainstorming to create lots of options, and these can be applied to overcoming writer’s block:

  • Defer judgment. Record all the ideas; refrain from saying that’s “good” or that’s “bad.” Just record them all.
  • Encourage wild ideas. You never know when you will come up with the seed of a brilliant idea in something that initially sounds crazy.
  • Build on the ideas of others. If your friend has a suggestion, add to it, refine it, augment it.
  • Stay focused on the topic. Sometimes it’s easy to get off track; bring the conversation back to blog ideas.
  • One conversation at a time. If you have a brainstorming group of four or more, make certain everyone is in the same conversation together.
  • Be visual. Draw your ideas; you are not trying to be a great artist, just trying to bring a new perspective to the ideas you generate.
  • Go for quantity. Generate a lot of ideas, and you will have some options.

Make a party of your brainstorming session: serve lots of snacks and libations. Offer prizes for the wildest idea or the person with the most drawings. Remember, those you invite to brainstorm are helping you out; treat them well.

Storytelling Connects Bloggers to Readers


Stories last even when the words fade. Storytelling is how we transfer experiences; your readers can visualize your story, you appeal not only to their intellect but to their senses, emotions, sense of order or recognition. Joshua Gowin in Psychology Today recounts research that reveals “telling stories builds empathy and . . . when you tell a good one, people act as if they’re watching it unfold before them.”

There are many different types of stories we’ll be exploring in this blog; one of the easiest to start with is the personal story because it grows out of your own lived experience. A personal story can connect you with your readers when your experiences resonate with theirs or when you describe your experiences so vividly that your readers feel as if they are right there with you. So how do you write a story that will connect with your readers?

Let’s say you are writing a blog post on bullying, and you want to tell a story of a time you stood up to a bully who took some of your Halloween candy. You can start by freewriting about the incident to prepare for a more focused brainstorming on an element that storytellers sometimes overlook: sensory detail. In our bullying story, you might think about a piece of candy that you were very sorry to lose. Spend some time brainstorming about the taste of that candy. Then go on to what it smells like. What does is feel like in your mouth? What sounds do you hear as you unwrap it? Why was this candy particularly attractive to you? Do you have memories associated with it? Really focusing in on both the sensory and associative details of the vital parts of your story can translate into a story that touches your readers.  Do this exercise for the costume you wore, for the way the bully was dressed, the street where it occurred, etc. Would you rather read:

He took my candy bar.


He robbed me of my Almond Joy with its sweet memories of the Hawaiian 
coconuts my grandfather and I had gathered on our final vacation together.

With the second sentence, you’ve raised the stakes and provided a reason why you may have had the courage to stand up to that bully. There are a few things to keep in mind when telling a story:

  1. Your story should have an obvious connection to the point of your blog, something to interest the reader and provide a context for what follows; it should have some sort of conflict or obstacle to overcome; finally, it needs to resolve that problem to give a sense of closure.
  2. If your story includes other people, disguise their identity or ask yourself (or better yet, ask them) how they would feel reading this story.
  3. Ask yourself whether this story could hurt you or your reputation; could it affect your day job? We’ve all heard stories of people fired from their jobs for what they put on the internet.

Make a connection with your readers; exercise the power of storytelling.

Inspiration and Integrity

We are inspired by those we see, talk with, and read. A picture in a magazine, a conversation at a party, or a book we read might be the start of a great post. Good bloggers are receptive to new ideas and trends that can spark an engaging blog entry, but it’s important to give credit to creators who originate ideas or other materials. Giving credit builds relationships and opens the world to your readers; giving credit is part of being an ethical blogger who respects the work of others.

The standards for giving credit depend on what you are doing with the material and the type of blog you are writing.

What are you doing with the material?

Do you find inspiration in someone else’s blog, book or interview? Is a writer a good example of the point you are making?  Give them a shout out with a link. For instance, in our blog on reaching different readers, we provide links to blogs that really speak to certain types of readers.

Are you using the information or ideas of someone else to make a point or to back you up? It doesn’t matter if you are using the ideas or the actual words: you must give credit to the writer. Maybe you are trying to make the point that workers who are aged 50+ are often technologically proficient, but have difficulty finding jobs. You might write: “John Hanc notes that employers may be skeptical of older workers’ abilities” if you are borrowing simply his idea rather than his words. Hanc is a good writer, however, and you may want to borrow a few of his words. If so, write “John Hanc writes that ‘If you are an older adult thinking of making a second career in the high-tech heart of the new economy, however, be prepared to face skepticism as to whether you can even turn on a computer’.”

Are you using an image or music from someone else’s site? Always contact the owner to ask for permission or look for a statement that defines what attributions or payment is required. A site such as offers many images that are free for personal and commercial use and have no attribution required. Some sources require attribution; YouTube has an Audio Library of music and sound effect, some needing no attribution and some requiring full attribution. For instance, if you are using “Jumpin Boogie Woogie,” you’ll need the following information: Jumpin Boogie Woogie by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license ( Artist: There are services that offer images for a fee such as Adobe Stock or iStock; generally, you can license one image or subscribe to get a certain number of images each month.

Let’s say you are reviewing Rebecca Makkai’s new novel, The Great Believers, and you want to use her author photo. In a case like this, her book is a product and she is the producer. It’s ok to grab an image of the book or the author to use in your review, just include a link to the author’s website (though writing to the author might be a good opportunity to share your blog).

What type of blog are you writing?

If you are writing a blog for the general public, it’s usually enough to include links in the text to your sources. This is what I have done above. However, if you are writing for professional readers or writing a blog where your authority is very important, you’ll want to include both links and a more formal bibliography at the end of your blog post. I do this with my posts on Kindler of the Flame, which is a blog for readers in higher education. If you are writing on legal or medical topics, such a bibliography warrants your credibility.

Bottom line

Responsible bloggers give credit to their sources. This can provide you with an opportunity to build relationships with other bloggers and experts as you request permission to use their materials. It demonstrates to readers and potential partners that you are a trustworthy source of information. Links to other sources can do a great service to your readers by broadening their perspective.

Starting a Blog—Who Are Your Readers?

Below you’ll find blogs that focus on the Instant Pot, the cooking device that seems to have taken over the Internet. I’ve described some of the potential readers for each blog; some of these folks would be interested in more than one of these Instant Pot blogs and all of the blogs appeal to more than just the readers profiled here. As a blogger, it’s your job to find an audience that is going to be interested in your unique perspective.

Of course, you have marvelous ideas and a way of expressing those unique ideas so that anyone will want to read your blog, but the problem with writing for everybody is that your posts become too general. Readers will quickly decide: Is it relevant to me? Is it important to me? To understand whether it’s relevant and important, bloggers must understand readers’ priorities. It can be helpful to assemble an array of profiles of the typical readers you want to reach.

Readers who face challenges

When you first open your Instant Pot, you face a learning curve, and it can be helpful to look at blogs directed to beginners with easy instruction for quick and successful dishes. Instant Pot Tips for Beginners is one page from a blog directed to beginners like the college student who lives with friends off campus, or the bachelor who wants to up his cooking skills, readers who have little cooking experience but who like to eat with little fuss. Other beginners might know a lot about cooking but little about the Instant Pot; or some of the readers might be busy parents who appreciate simple “dump-and-go” recipes.

Readers looking for detailed information

Amy + Jacky Pressure Cook Recipes takes a scientific, methodological approach to cooking in the Instant Pot that produces consistently good results. Readers who are experienced cooks will appreciate the results of their comprehensive testing of a dish before they post the recipe. This is also a blog for readers who want dishes that go beyond the usual.

Readers who want content to fit special needs

Two Sleevers focuses a lot on the Keto diet and dishes for those who want to eat healthy; it will also appeal to first generation southeast Asians who wants a lot of tasty Indian dishes without the laborious traditional preparation.

Readers in search of new approaches

5 Simple Things You Never Thought to Do with an Instant Pot will appeal to those familiar with the Instant Pot but want make it even more useful. Such readers may use more than one Instant Pot; for instance, gardeners might be interested to know they can sterilize soil in an Instant Pot.

Readers who want to laugh

Sometimes readers just seek a little diversion; Instant Pot Madness will appeal to a wide range of readers whether they have used Instant Pots or not. Such a reader has probably heard about the Instant Pot and wonders what all the hype is about.

Think carefully about your ideal readers and how what you have to say intersects with what they want to read. Through your blog, you can even expand the range of your readers’ interests if you gain their trust by writing engaging and relevant material.

Starting a Blog—Who Are You?

Starting a blog is a way to get your voice heard. The first step is to develop a focus for the blog that aligns with who you are. What do you want to blog about? Start by considering three elements.

Think about your interests

  • What are your passions?
  • What do you want to make more time for in your life?
  • What activities or thoughts do you want to cultivate?
  • What do you want to spend more time doing?

Think about whom you want to interact with

  1. Do you want to work alone or with a collective of other bloggers who share your focus?
  2. Do you want a chance to connect with experts in your field?
  3. Are you inviting comments and building a community?
  4. Do you want to blog about what you can discover by going out and about to concerts, restaurants, or museums?
  5. Do you want to stretch your comfort zone by taking up a new activity such as making books or training for a marathon?
  6. Are you happiest at home with a good movie, or in the kitchen, or at your sewing machine?

Think about what your blog will do

  • Commentary can include anything from your travel journal to your thoughts on the state of the economy. You might share your thoughts on the funny things that happen in your life or share a poem that is particularly meaningful.
  • Reviews are good excuses for getting out and enjoying cultural activities such as movies, restaurants, theaters, or concerts. If you are a homebody, you can review books, electronic equipment, or services.
  • Tutorials are great for sharing recipes and cooking techniques, crafting or artisanal projects. You can also teach your readers how to start a business, build a container garden, or ask for a loan.
  • Portfolios show off your creative work. Poets and writers, painters and sculptors, weavers and knitters, or makers of any kind can find a way to get their work before the eyes of the public through their blog.
  • Business Updates can let your customers have a peek behind the scenes, involve your customers, and build loyalty. Your dog grooming business might feature a different dog every week. Your wine shop is a great platform to inform your customers on the merits of new wines. As a printer, you can highlight new equipment that will serve your customers better.

As you think about the direction you want your blog to take, keep a notebook to capture your midnight ideas or those that come to you as you read or stand in line at the grocery store. Go out and do something interesting. Talk with people who share your passion. Hopefully, you will be writing your blog for a good long time; make certain you are spending your efforts on something you love.

Three Easy Steps to Jump Start Your Writing​

Do you want to blog, but you are not sure you can come up with ideas? Do you know you have a valuable perspective, but you don’t know exactly what you want to say? Do you want to communicate with the world, but you don’t know how to start? Most of us are full of ideas, and it can be difficult to pull out a good ideas and craft it into a focused blog post in a way that will make your readers just as excited as you.

One of the best ways to find what you want to say is to freewrite, a technique developed by Peter Elbow. Freewriting is wonderful because it is hard to do it wrong if you follow three simple rules:

1. Set a timer. Start with five minutes; lengthen the time as you become more
accustomed to freewriting. When the timer sounds, stop. This will be important to prevent or overcome writer’s block.

2. Write or type without stopping. If you can’t think of anything to write, write “I can’t think of what to write” over and over until you become so bored that something interesting comes to you.

3. Suspend your judgment. You cannot write anything wrong: you can misspell, ignore grammar, make lists, doodle, and even swear. This is for your eyes only. Never cross anything out; you may be destroying the seed of a brilliant idea.

The advantages of freewriting are that it gets the ideas down in a form you can work with. Sometimes we have too many ideas; freewriting unpacks them and spreads them out on the page, so you can see what you have. Sometimes we think we don’t have any ideas; this is a way to dig deep and pull those nuggets out and put them on the page. Sometimes we are so distracted by all the other obligation we have, we can’t get to our blogging ideas; this is a way to list those responsibilities out and clear your mind for more creative ideas.

Freewriting is a great start in creating content for your blog. Stay tuned for posts on writing great blog posts, sustaining the momentum, and generating income from what you have to say.