Dos and Don'ts I've Learned About Writing From Hubpages
I am often given compliments on the quality of my writing. But many things I learned to do, and not do, on here happened through a long process of trial and error. So, without rambling (one of my Don'ts!), here is my list of Dos and Don'ts for writing well on Hubpages (and similar sites)!
Do: Respond to Comments
One thing people don't tend to focus on when telling newbies how to get started is how to respond to comments in a mature and professional, but relaxed and friendly, manner. You want to show optimism, wisdom, integrity, and inner strength when dealing with comments; you do not want to sound like you can't handle criticism. And it can be hard to do. Personally, I'm sensitive and I want to make the best article I can write every time, and I really stress over each word I put down. But even I don't always get it perfectly, and even I sometimes need to listen to my critics and see if they're seeing something valid I need to fix or improve upon. Not allowing comments makes you seem like you personally feel threatened by the possibility of people disagreeing with your points of view. What I recommend is:
- Try to answer every comment, and thank the person for taking the time to comment.
- Address criticism without getting too emotional or personal.
- Avoid insulting the commenter.
- Simply ignore and choose not to respond to negative comments. See the "Don't" about this.
- Try to keep a positive tone in your comments, even if you disagree with the person. Try phrases like, "That's a good point but," instead of "You're f*ckin' stupid because..." Show some class!
- Don't be arrogant. Especially if you're new, you should appreciate feedback from readers that you can use to improve for future articles. I like to comment on newbs' articles with tips about how they can improve for future articles. These comments aren't mean or "hating", they're me as a writer trying to help new writers out. Mature writers appreciate criticism, and the best writers got that way by taking other people's thoughtful criticism into consideration. You don't know everything and you're not perfect. To err is human.
Don't: Respond to Negativity
But while it's good to respond to comments in a thoughtful, positive way, of course not all comments are deserving of that treatment. You WILL get trolls. These people taunt you, trying to bait you into getting mad and confronting them, so they can brow-beat you endlessly in a vicious confrontation. Don't let that happen. You're in control of your comments. You should not censor it so that only love letters are allowed on your page and you tolerate no dissent, but you do not have to respond to negative trolls, either. If someone is just attacking you by calling you insulting names and trying to hurt your feelings instead of addressing your points or talking about your article, or going off-topic with bigoted rants, just ignore them. To respond to them is to validate them. They're like a toddler throwing a tantrum, you just have to ignore them until they're ready to calm down and talk to you like an adult. They're not even worth your time to stress on a response to, and they want a response from you that they can respond to, causing an endless argument that will just make you progressively madder and more frustrated. Don't feed the trolls!
Do: Use Short Sentences and Paragraphs
Being concise is something you should always strive for. This means that you have decided what it is that's important to say, and you've done enough planning to know how to get your reader to the point you're trying to make quickly. Wasting anyone's time in this day and age counts against you. Respect your reader's time.
Things I like to do:
- Incorporate bullet points and lists (like I'm doing here).
- Start a new paragraph if my old one is getting too long.
- Try to cut my sentences into a form that is as short as possible while still having a variety of sentence types, to not be monotonous, and saying what I think needs to be said.
- Distinguish well between what needs to be included and what would distract from your main focus.
It's also important that your writing flows from idea to idea. I like to do a new text capsule every time I have a new point to make or new idea to discuss. This lets me organize the flow of my content.
That also can be used as an outlining tool: simply organize your text boxes with given titles indicating their role (Introduction, Point 1, Point 2, Conclusion, etc.), and hit "Save Unpublished". Then, you can go back to the work later having an outline of what you're planning to say already in front of you.
Don't: Ramble or Be Disogranized
Whether you're writing non-fiction or fiction, it's always best, as I stated previously, to avoid wasting the reader's time. Things to avoid:
- Redundancy or overstating a point.
- Excessive detail, if it's not important to the "big picture" of your main message.
- Unrelated personal storytelling, which can distract the reader and confuse them about what your message is.
Basically, rambling makes you seem sloppy and disorganized. Being organized in how you convey your message makes you sound like someone who knows what they're talking about. You want your discussion of a topic focused on that topic. It should not include daydreams, personal gripes, emotional blathering, or too many changes in focus. Using this article itself as an example, I'm not straying from the topic of "Hubpages writing improvement techniques".
Use personal anecdotes only to the extent that the personal story given is concise and clearly supports your main point. In the realm of political and social journalism, I've often run across people trying to use their own personal experiences to prove a larger general trend, but you cannot easily generalize the big picture of social conditions from any one person's anecdote. In my own writing though, I've noticed, I tended to use more irrelevant personal narrative information in earlier work, and have since shifted to keeping my tone more neutral. This has helped me show more focus and concision in my writing.
Do: Use a Variety of Capsule Types
Hubpages staff will tell you this as well: a good Hubpages article is much more than text. You want to use pictures and videos to add audio and visual aspects to your article. I try to accompany at least one image with every paragraph. Polls are also good; they let your readers participate in the story and give their opinions. I like to use polls whenever I do a "Top Ten" sort of list, allowing my readers to vote on which of my "Top Whatever" is their personal favorite. A ratings capsule is a good way to end your review of something with a handy visual that summarizes your opinion. (Although, I wish Hubpages let you personalize these a bit more with symbols other than stars, or change the number of stars, or do partial stars.) Finally, I usually put advertizing capsules (Amazon and eBay and such) at the end, so they do not distract the reader's focus from your message. You're not writing an advertizement, you're writing an article. I find it a bit annoying when a Hubber crams side-ads for Amazon or eBay up and down across the whole length of their article.
Don't: Rely Heavily on YouTube, Have Distractions from Text
First of all, if you use too many YouTube videos, DMCA issues and other YouTube problems will end up taking the videos down and you will have to go in periodically and fix broken links. It adds up if you do lists of top movies or songs and include music videos or clips and trailers from movies in your article. Save yourself a headache and limit it to one or two YouTube videos per article at most.
Second, you don't want your page to become too 'busy' with too many types of media competing at once for the reader's attention. Keeping the pictures, videos, advertizements, and other non-text capsules organized and to a tasteful minimum is vital. It cuts out anything that might distract them from your words, your message.
The way in which you present your writing matters almost as much as the content itself. In a digital media era, there are a ton of content-producers and consumers. There is a vast sea of writing on the internet. The average blog reader is looking for quality blogs that they can bookmark or favorite for what they call "repeat business" in the service sector. When someone finds an article they like, they become a fan or follower, wanting to stay up-to-date whenever that person publishes another piece. Meaning that if you write one quality article, it can be the start of some people following your writing for years. But that also means that you have to follow quality with quality.
Don't give up, and don't stop improving!