If you, a colleague or, if you are a teacher, one of your pupils has been considering starting a blog, this list of must-do's may prove useful. I hope so.
Start a blog
The very first step in blogging is to start blogging. Anyone who says they are going to start blogging when they have more time, when they have completed their current assignment, or when they have done/been/had anything else that lies in the future is not a blogger. They probably never will be. Just get on with it.
(Clearly, I am assuming you had a topic or area in mind that you want to blog about, otherwise why would you even consider it?)
Refrain from publicising it -- for now
Be a secret blogger for a while, for three main reasons:
First, it will enable you to experiment with different platforms (Wordpress, Blogger, Squarespace et al) until you find one you really like.
Second, it will give you time to experiment with themes and colour schemes.
Third, it will give you a chance to get into your stride and find out what sort of blogging schedule is right for you. I'd suggest a couple of times a week to start with.
Know the law
I'm not a lawyer, and legailities tend to differ between countries anyway, but there are some universal things you ought to know about. When it comes to civil or criminal proceedings, ignorance is no excuse. Things to consider are:
- Copyright, which includes such considerations as attribution, the use to which the copyrighted material will be put, Fair Use (USA), Fair Dealing (UK).
- Libel. Fortunately, the law on libel changed in England recently, making it more difficult for people to start frivolous libel proceedings. Even so, it's a good idea to not write anything about people that could provoke someone into doing so. Apart from anything else, it would cost a fortune in legal fees to defend yourself.
- Declare affiliate links. As far as I know, it's illegal not to. Ditto those embedded advertising links and sponsored articles. But even if it is not illegal to not disclose such relationships, it seems to me a good thing to do anyway from a building trust point of view.
Please note: I'm not a lawyer, and I'm not offering legal advice! Just suggesting you make sure you know about such matters.
Take pride in your craft
If you're going to blog, please don't disrespect your reader by publishing non-proofed copy, verbose (aka pompous) writing, gratuitous swearing, incorrect words and other horrors that could easily be avoided.
Look, I know we all make typos that go undetected (mea culpa), and that one person's bad grammar is another person's innovative use of language. But I don't see any excuse for using, say, the word "continuous" when you actually mean "continual". So you will not be surprised to learn that my next "must-do" is...
Have access to good reference materials
I have suggested a list of the sort of reference resources every serious writer should have access to, in the post entitled A writer's reference toolkit: what?
There are plenty of resources online, though some have a rather suspect provenance. You may find that your local library (should you be lucky enough to still have one) can give you access to high quality online reference works. For example, mine provides access to the Oxford English Dictionary and Encyclopaedia Britannica.
If you were to buy only one book about grammar, style and so on, I thoroughly recommend Collins Complete Writing Guide. It's comprehensive, full of common sense and gently humorous. Unlike some books on grammar, it isn't an exercise in pedantry. (That link is an Amazon affiliate link, by the way.)
Read a lot
You can't write as well as you might if you don't read as much as you can. It's really as simple as that.
At the risk of stating the obvious, a blogger is someone who blogs. Not someone who thinks about blogging.