6. Reasonable spelling and grammar
This one might be exceptionally poncy of me, but I’m sorry, I just can’t read your blog if you don’t use spell check. Now, that’s not to say that a spelling error or using the wrong word will make me metaphorically throw down your blog and never touch it again. We all make mistakes.
I am absolutely mortified when I read an old FOG post and find an error in it. That happened the other day. I read an old post where I had written “towed the line.” I know better. Toeing the line is a military term for lining up for inspection. It refers to toes as in the wiggly things on the ends of your feet and line as in a straight mark from point A to point B. It does not involve towing anything. We’re not in a boat here. We’re not going water-skiing.
I share my failure with you to point out that we all mess up from time to time. It happens. What I mean by spelling and grammar in this instance is more along the lines of this:
I wrote a whole diatribe about textspeak before. The only place that type of language is acceptable is in a text message on a phone where you don’t have a full keyboard in front of you. There is no excuse for a blog post written in textspeak.
We’re all human, except for the other species who might be reading this, and as such, we all have shared experience. We all poop, sneeze, blink and fall on our butts from time to time. The whole reason stand-up comedy is funny is that you get it. You get it because you’ve experienced it yourself.
Blogs are much the same way. My experiences are different from yours because I am not you and vice versa, but there are some things we can all share. If I stumble upon a blog about Emperor Penguins, I might poke around and see what’s what, but odds are, I won’t revisit that blog regularly. I am not an Emperor Penguin. I’m not an ornithologist. I’m not a climatologist nor a studier of Antarctica. I don’t have an Emperor Penguin as a pet. Sadly, I’ve never actually met one.
I might chuckle at a joke about Emperor Penguins, but I won’t really get it because I’ve had no experience with them. Blogs are much the same way. If your blog is an Emperor Penguin, it probably won’t get me to come back very often.
I admit that this one is wholly subjective since I’m sure there are some people out there who are rapt with Emperor Penguins, but I am not one of them. Too narrow of a focus doesn’t appeal to me.
My favorite blogs are the ones that inspire me to commit theft. If I go to your blog and see an idea that’s balls out crazy or a contest to win something ridiculous by doing something ridiculous, I’m in. I’m not saying all posts have to be like this, but once in a while, a post that involves interaction from your readers is a really neat idea, even if you end up embarrassing yourself in the process.
This one is admittedly difficult to cultivate when you’re first starting out. For the first few years FOG existed, nobody read it. It existed in a vacuum and the only comments were from spammers. Eventually, somehow, through sheer luck, I built a community here of loyal readers who usually have something to say about something I’ve said. They comfort me, encourage me, inspire me, support me and laugh at me. I have the best readers in the world.
I love visiting someone else’s blog and seeing a lively comments section with engaged people sharing thoughts and stories. They disagree courteously and debate the merits of things. A good post doesn’t end at publish; it just begins there.
It doesn’t matter what your life experience has been as long as you’re honest about it. There’s something about reading a post where you can just tell that the author reached way down to the depths of their soul and pulled a secret out of the darkness; it shows. There’s no faking it. I don’t care what you write about as long as it comes from your heart.
This also applies to fiction. Some fiction feels forced because the author is reaching too far or trying too hard. Fiction should flow just like prose. It should all come from you.
Not every post has to be funny. In fact, I rarely read blogs that are straight-up comedy blogs. The only exception is Cracked and I don’t even read all of their articles, just the ones that appeal to me.
Take FOG, for example; I fancy myself a witty fellow, but not every post I write here is funny. In fact, a lot of them aren’t. I don’t typically try to be funny; it just happens. My favorite FOG posts are the ones where I reread it months later and I make myself laugh. You don’t have to be funny, but you do have to be yourself. I will take witty, clever, wry, sarcastic, ranting, doodles, puppy pictures or anything else that makes me smile when reading a post. I love when you tell me stories.
It all goes back to relatability I think. If you are not an Emperor Penguin, if you speak from the heart in complete sentences, if you are trying to engage your readers instead of just writing to a void, if you have interesting ideas and make me think, smile or even guffaw, I’ll be back.