Friday, August 1, 2014

Blogging – The 5 Most Popular Blog Post and Article Formats

By Karen Cioffi

It’s a content marketing fact: Blogging is one of the most effective authority building, persuasive, and money-making marketing strategies.

This being the case, it means you need to regularly post content to your blog. It may be multiple times a day, once a day, three-times a week, once a week, or once a month.

No matter what, you need to post to your blog on a regular basis. While I did put ‘once a month’ in the list, to blog effectively you should be blogging more than that. Conservatively speaking, once a week is the minimum.

But, suppose you’re motivated and want to post to your blog three or more times a week. What do you write about? What blog formats can you use? How do you keep it up?

The 5 Most Popular Blog Post Formats

To make life easier, there are certain blog post formats or templates that you can use. Kind of like a fill in the blanks template. These templates will give you quick to follow guidelines and make the writing process quicker and easier. So, let’s get to it. Here are the five most popular blog post formats:

1. The How-to Blog Post

The how-to post is about providing instructions or steps to explain to the reader how to do something and people love them. The post should answer your readers’ question or provide the solution to his problem. In other words, as with all your posts, it should be informative and helpful.

The writing process is standard: address the target audience and note the problem (the introduction); give the solution (this is the body of your post), give the conclusion.

Aside from your post title, the introduction is where you will turn your readers’ attention to interest. This section will motivate the reader to read on.

2. The List-based Blog Post

The list-based format is simply providing a list of things. It may be “10 Steps to a Lighter You”. It may be “5 of the Most Important Opt-in Words There Are.” You get the idea. Choice your topic, create your title, and list the advice or tips.

This post format is another one that people love. It’s easy to read and easy to follow. And, if you scan the articles you read, like me, it’s easy to pick out the information pertinent to you.

When writing in the list-based format strive for organization, sequencing, clarity, and use bullet points or numbered sequencing. Make sure that each step flows into the next logically. You always want to keep it simple for the reader.

Tip: Bullet points should be used when the information within each point has little text. Numbered paragraphs should be used when the points have more text. This article is an example of the need for numbered paragraphs.

3. The Content Curation Blog Post

Before we get into the format, let’s go over what content curation is. In simple terms, it’s using someone else’s content on your site by linking to it. You lead into the source content with your own perspective and ideas. Then add text leading the reader to the original source. You might use: ‘To read more about this, go to . . .’ Or, you might use: To read the original article, go to . . .

The idea is to link to the source article through a ‘more reading’ setup.

The benefit to you is saving time. You don’t have to write a full post, yet you get fresh content that will be helpful to your readers. The fresh content and fresh viewpoint helps increase your authority and helps build you into the ‘go to person’ for your niche.

You do though need to make sure the content is relevant to your site and it’d be a good idea if you leave a comment on the original article’s post.

Another benefit to this blog format is trackbacking. Linking to the original source’s post will bring the attention of the source site to your site. 

4. The Newsjacking Blog Post

The newsjacking blog post format is about making use of headline news within your industry/niche. This type of post is usually timely. It’s very useful if you want to be the one to bring breaking news to your audience.

Another way to use newsjacking is to create an in-depth analysis of the breaking news or simply give your perspective, after the fact. Just be careful not to plagiarize the content. You can reference the news content, but be sure to make the post content your own

You can also use newsjacking with the curation format.

5. The Slideshare or Video Blog Post

This format takes advantage of visual (and audio) content, in place of all text.  This format helps break things up a bit. People love visuals. Adding videos or Slideshare presentations spices your blog up.

Along with adding variety, the visual posts allow you to actually demonstrate tricky topics. For example, when explaining how to use hyperlinks or deep links, it’s much easier for the reader to SEE how to do it, rather than read about it.

Just like the other formats, you do need an introduction explaining the problem and how you can help fix it. Then lead into the video or Slideshare presentation with something like: ‘Watch the video to see how it’s done.’ Or, use ‘Flip through the Slideshare I created to demonstrate just how to do it.’

Here’s an example of a Slideshare post:

Article Marketing – Optimize Your Blogger Blog Posts

Summing it All Up
Blogging is a must if you want to create and increase visibility, readership, leads, and sales. But, simply blogging isn’t enough, you need to know how to blog effectively. Using these five blogging formats will help you keep your blog posts fresh and keep your audience engaged and informed.


Original article source:

Karen Cioffi is an Online Platform and Website Optimization Instructor. You can check out her services at: Build an Online Platform That Works


I hope you found this information interesting and helpful. Too advanced, not enough, just right? I’d really love to know, so please leave a comment – good or bad.

P.S. If you liked this article, PLEASE SHARE IT!


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Monday, July 28, 2014

Pull Your Reader's Heart Strings

When your character is caught up in the heat of the moment you want the emotion that you evoke to be authentic. She finds out that her best friend took her lunch money without asking. The neighborhood bully is spreading lies about him behind his back at school. The day has finally
come for her to pick up her new puppy at the shelter.

Resources such as the series by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi can help: The Emotion Thesaurus, The Positive Trait Thesaurus and The Negative Trait Thesaurus. But unless the emotions come from deep inside you, the writer, true feelings that you have experienced, whether joyful or filled with pain, may not ring true when expressing your character's feelings.

Take a Leaf from an Actor's Playbook

To cry on demand, according to Wade Bradford, in "How to Cry: An Actor's Guide to Crying and Tears,", an actor need only recreate into her own true emotions, by:
  • Tapping into her memory: a sad experience that resulted in overwhelming grief or pain. Caveat: An actor must be in tune with her past.
  • Choosing the right memory for the right moment.
  • Finding ways to connect script lines with personal moments when a memory isn't enough. Some ways this can be accomplished is by thinking up upsetting events that didn't actually happen to the actor. What if someone talked her into going on a roller coaster ride on the highest, fastest roller coaster in the world, and she's afraid of heights? Her dog fell down a dry well and is lying on the bottom, hurt?
Where Writers Have It Over Actors

In the July 1, 2014 post, "4 Tips for Writing Great Scenes," by Ingrid Sundberg from her blog ingridsundberg, Sundberg describes the  importance of creating emotion in scenes. The first tip is to make sure your scene has dramatic action, " . . . the action the protagonist takes to resolve the problem he has suddenly been faced with." Sundberg quotes Robert Mckee in STORY: "Well plotted stories are built on stringing together the scenes that have dramatic action. These are the important moments within the character's life that move the plot forward." Tip two asks, "Is there a significant emotional change in the scene? A great way to tell if your scenes have dramatic action is to check and see if there's a significant emotional change;" i.e., having the character start the scene happy
and leaving it sad.

Here's where you express your own true emotions.Think of the main emotion expressed, jot it down and reflect on it. If need be, consult your personal feelings and a resource such as The Emotion Thesaurus. After writing the scene, the next day (after a rest) see if you've shown the utmost emotion so that your reader may experience and identify with what your character is going through.

Create a Personal Emotion List

To tap into your own authentic emotions, try keeping a notebook or computer file of your own poignant moments. Every time an experience happens to you or occurs to you, add it to your list. The seventy-five emotions listed in The Emotion Thesaurus can jumpstart your list, with such topics as envy, guilt, happiness, denial, and confusion. Here are a few of my personal emotions I've thought of so far.

Surprise: The Elephant Foot Story

Early one spring for Mother's Day my family wanted to get me a wild-bird-watching gift to enhance my love-of-birds hobby. They found a cement bird bath, not fancy, but an excellent addition to my growing collection of books, bird feeders, bird clock--you get the picture. The problem was, where to store it until the allotted day. Knowing me and that I would not notice, they contrived to hide the bird bath in plain sight. They turned the stem part upside down with the wide-mouthed tub stored next to it on the garage floor, right next to where I parked my car.

On Mother's Day morning I went outside and was completely surprised to find the birdbath set up in the garden filled to the brim with fresh water. When asked if I had noticed anything different in the garage on the days leading up to Mother's Day, I said, "You mean the elephant's foot?" For that is what my mind told me I saw all those days when getting in and out of my car. Needless to say, this story has become part of our family lore, which to this day I haven't been able to live down.

Scared/Afraid: An Unwanted Parking Lot Visit

On the day of my dental appointment I ran a quick errand at the grocery store and made it back to my car with minutes to spare. I had my hand on the door handle when a man walked up and asked if I would give him a ride to a location about twenty miles away. Instinct told me I had only seconds due to the sinister look on his face. He took a step toward me just as I pulled the door handle and jumped in, mumbling that I had to hurry to the dentist's office. I locked the door and sped away. A second longer and I may not have gotten away.

Sad: Rabbit in the Road

I debated whether to include a recent sad event that happened to me. Originally, I thought I'd include only fun personal stories. One of my daughters changed my mind. She told me that sad stories run deep and therefore are unforgettable. This sad event, as I tell it, still brings tears, which qualifies it for my Personal Emotion List. Just two weeks ago while stopped to pick up the morning paper, I saw two cottontail rabbits in the middle of the road. One lay flat and unmoving, the other very much alive, sitting with its chin resting on its parent/sibling/cousin's lifeless body. A movement from our car sent the live rabbit scampering into the underbrush. I rode tearfully away, with an intense twist in my heart, as if gripped by a fist. The experience planted itself immediately in my heart as one sad occurrence I will never forget.

If you're pressed for time: Perhaps all that is necessary is a simple index with notes jotted beside each emotion you want to elicit. Whatever method you use, the important thing is to endow your character with the truest emotion possible so your reader can laugh, cry, be annoyed, right along with the character in your story.

Photo courtesy of

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, recently completed the online Fiction Course with, and is currently taking Joyce's Picture Book Essentials course. Linda has published over 40 articles for children and adults, six short stories for children, and is in the final editing stages of her first book, a mystery story for 7-9 year olds. Follow Linda on Facebook. 


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Great Books 101 - Ancient to Medieval


I love that word when it comes to anything, but mostly when I can learn something new.

Hillsdale College is offering a free online course, Great Books 101 - Ancient to Medieval. If you need a refresher course or are unfamiliar with some or all of these classics, consider digging into some writing from our past.

Along with video and audio lectures by Hillsdale's professors, you will find the reading excerpt, a short quiz, and discussion opportunities with fellow students. After a final exam at the end of the course you will receive a certificate of completion.

The books offered are:

Homer, The Iliad

Homer, The Odyssey

Sophocles, Oedipus Rex

Virgil, The Aeneid

The David Story

The Book of Job

St Augustine, Confessions

Dante, Inferno

Chaucer, Canterbury Tales

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Our minds are like sponges and sometimes they get a bit dried up. When we find the time to keep learning, our minds are refreshed. Who knows where it will take us? A word, a thought, or perspective will expand our knowledge base and creativity. As I have been reading these classics, I have had fresh ideas for my own writing.

I hope you take time to get a little learning in this year and reap the benefits!

  After raising and homeschooling her 8 children and teaching art classes for 10 years, Kathy has found time to pursue freelance writing. She enjoys writing magazine articles and more recently had her story, "One of a Kind", published in The Kids' ArkYou can find her passion to bring encouragement and hope to people of all ages at When It Hurts

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Writing Time

Too Little Time?

By gnuckx [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Sunset, Italy 
How much time do you spend writing per day? I know many of us are not able to settle down for five days a week as professional writers. We juggle home/family commitments, other jobs.

But take a second or two once in a while to review your precious writing time and consider how much of it is truly spent in the white heat of creation.

I spend far too long writing articles. I excuse this by saying I need thinking  time.

But if I'm honest, that should be happening while I make the beds or wash the dishes. How long does it take to jot down a few bullet points or dictate a memo when you have an idea on the move?

With an outline and a few headings, the article or blog post is as good as written.

Or Too Much?

Too much time can be as much of a drawback as too little. Many authors think that having more time to write will mean they write twice as much.

In fact, this is rarely the case. The secret is not time but focus. And my focus is demonstrably sharper when deadlines loom and time is of the essence.

Set a timer, how much can you write in ten minutes? Work with happy music and a driving beat--how fast do you write?
Do you write at your fastest every day?

And if you do, please tell me how you do it.

For an in-depth look at the importance of focus, see this article by Karen Cioffi-Ventrice on productivity strategies.

 Anne Duguid is a freelance content editor with MuseItUp Publishing and she passes on helpful writing,editing and publishing tips from time to time at Slow and Steady Writers 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Planning a Writing Retreat

I have written about writing retreats here in the past. Last month, I was on vacation and made that into sort of a writing retreat, but since I can’t do that again for awhile, I started thinking about other things I could do instead. And then it came to me: a one day writing retreat for my local writers group. I suggested the idea to them and was asked to start planning something.

For this first time out (maybe it could become an annual event), we are going to stay in town to keep costs low. I picked a part of town where there are restaurants, outdoor seating areas, a walking trail, public library, hotel and a university. Plenty of places to use for a day-long or half-day writing retreat.

The first thing I did was to make a list of things that might be important to a group of writers. This list by no means is complete. There may be other things that are important to you or to your group. You may use my list and add to it. Perhaps brainstorm with some other writers.

  • Goals – What do you want to get from the retreat? Write a chapter of your novel? Complete a book? Start a book? Write an article? Try out some new writing prompts.
  • Location – Do you want to stay local or go out of town? If spending at least one night away from home, where might the group want to stay? Hotel, bed and breakfast, cabin by a lake?
  • Length – Will it be for one day, a weekend, a week or longer? What about a particular day, week or month?
  • Writing time – How long do you want to write? Maybe the entire retreat, half of it, a few hours a day? Are there other things you would like to do besides writing during the retreat?
  • Work area – Will you be sharing your work area or will you be working alone? Indoors, outdoors, table, bench, library, café. Are there a number of cafes on the street or neighborhood where you plan to go? Try café-hopping while you write.
  • Social activities – What other activities and sites are available? Walking trails, shopping, museums, theaters or spas might be nearby. Get some exercise, do something besides writing, relax, have fun.
  • Meals – Will you eat together as a group or separately? Share the cooking, dine at restaurants, pack a picnic lunch, have some snacks. And don’t forget beverages, including wine.
  • Writing kit – What do you need to bring with you to help you write and to provide inspiration? A tote bag filled with items such as notebooks and pens, laptop, books, magazines, photos/art, music, etc.
  • Conversation – What will the group talk about? Bring a book on the craft of writing to discuss, an experience you want to share, suggestions on how to overcome writers block.
  • Online or offline – Will you forgo email and social media? It might be ok to do some research for the book or article you are working on, but for most of the retreat, try to stay away from the internet.
  • Types of clothing - What kinds of clothing do you want to wear/pack? If you wear a literary or writing t-shirt when writing, would that make you work harder? Perhaps it’s a shirt you got at a writing conference, ordered from NaNoWriMo or purchased from another source. You might get some compliments and comments on it when you are out and about!

I have a kit which I will use during the planning and at the retreat. The Writer’s Retreat Kit: A Guide for Creative Exploration & Personal Expression by Judy Reeves is a boxed set of cards and a book. This set covers the planning of retreats and includes lists of writing prompts. It’s full of ideas that writers will find useful, whether the retreat is far away or at home.

What would you like to do on a writing retreat? Have you been on a retreat? If so, what did you do? Feel free to share your ideas and experiences here.

Debbie A. Byrne has a B.S. in Mass Communication with a minor in History. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and is working on her first children’s book.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Taking a Break from Writing: Finding Inspiration in a Summer Writing Hiatus

My critique group usually takes a break during the summer.  With all the summer activities, it’s hard to find a time that fits our summer schedules, and even harder to find time to write.  I usually try and keep writing during this break, but not this summer.  

This summer I’m giving myself a “hall pass” to escape from my writing room.  I normally schedule my weekly writing time on my calendar.  It almost always includes Saturday mornings and a few other sessions during the week.  For July and August, I’ve decided not to pre-schedule my time and not worry if I don’t write. 

Instead of writing, I’m travelling and getting out into nature.  I’m working on those house projects I never seem to get done.  I’m visiting the local museums and catching up with friends and family.

AND… I’m looking around for inspiration.  I use my phone to keep notes on writing/subject ideas.  For me, summer is a fertile time to germinate ideas for future projects.  Three of my projects this year, were ideas from last summer.  By September, I hope to be re-energized and ready to sequester myself with my computer. 

If you’re struggling to write this summer, consider taking a hiatus from writing for a few weeks.  It might just be the antidote for a stalled writing project.

Mary Jo Guglielmo is writer and intuitive life coach. For more information check out:  

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Gracious Acceptance - 8 Ways to Deal with Critiques.

Last month we saw 10 ways to improve the way we critique. Let's now take a look at the different ways we may respond.

Say you have submitted an article to your critique group, and you've received several responses. How do you react?

Here are eight possible scenarios:

1. "I love it when Jane critiques my work. She enjoys my writing so much she rarely corrects anything."

Jane is not critiquing your work. She's patting you on the back. This is of no value to you as a writer.

Don't you need encouragement? Certainly, but not to this degree, especially from a critique partner. Surely there should be some encouragement in the crit as well? Yes, there should. And hopefully she has given you some along the way. But telling you you're good will not improve your writing.

2. "I dread opening Jim's critiques. They usually resemble a blood bath."

Hmm. It could be that Jim is over heavy with his corrections. It could also be that he's the best critic you have. Don't be put off by the amount of corrections. Look for a bit of encouragement, but definitely look to see if his comments are justifiable. In which case, give thank for his dilligence, and tell him you appreciate his help.

3. "I find Mary's critiques difficult as I don't feel happy with the changes she insists I make."

You don't need to feel happy. You need to see if it improves your writing. If you don't like the changes she suggests, don't follow them. She is not telling you that you must make them. It's not Mary's article, it's yours. Ultimately the acceptance or rejection will be yours. Don't feel you have to follow every suggestion in your critiques. Absolutely not!

4. "I get indignant with Geoff's critiques. I often end up challenging him which leads to a healthy debate."

No, no, no! You should never enter into a debate when someone critiques you work. If you don't understand a comment, by all means ask for clarification so you can be sure what they mean. Then just say "Thank you for your time" and move on. If you agree, follow through. If you don't, disregard what doesn't resonate with you. But do not argue. He will never critique your work again--rightly so! Even trying to explain what you meant to say is not the correct approach. You're not going to be next to your final readers to explain. So if he hasn't got it the first time, perhaps you do need to follow his suggestions.

5. "I get confused when four people tell me to change the same thing, but in different ways."

Of course you do. Take a good look at the comments and decide which suggestions you prefer. Which are closer to what you want to say? When I work through a critique, I do it paragraph by paragraph. I belong to a big critique group and often have 5 or 6 crits of the same article. I look at the first section and check all the comments, then edit accordingly before moving on. Just this last week, I received two suggestions for the same paragraph. I liked them both. Which to take? I copied both sets of comments to my working copy and continued with the article. By the time I reached the end, it was clear which of the two suggestions would work best for me.

6. "It doesn't seem like my article any more, now that I've worked on all the critiques."

This can happen. You've lost your voice. This you definitely don't want to do. Go back to the original and take a fresh look at it. (Never save over your first draft.) Check your critiques again and if necessary start over using less of the suggestions than before. Won't this take a lot of time? Yes. But do you want to be published or don't you?

7. "I often read critique points and choose to ignore the suggestions because I don't agree."

That's your prerogative. Take a good look at what they're saying though, before you decide to ignore them. But let me say it again—it is your article. You know what you want to say. You'll find this especially relevant if you've written in British English for an American market. American spelling, punctuation, grammar, and even words are often different. If only one says, "We would say XXX" and the others don't comment, you're probably safe to leave it alone. But if they all say, "Your comma should go here . . ." listen to them! Don't take the attitude of "I'm writing in British English." If you're writing for an American market, you shouldn't be! Learn from the Americans in your group.

You will always find suggestions you don't like, and that's fine. Analyse what they're saying. Be sure you understand their suggestions. Make sure your work says what you want it to. Then feel free to ignore them and move on. But above all . . .

8. "I accept the critiques with grace and appreciation, even though I may not use all the suggestions." 

The person has taken time off that he or she could have used for their own writing, to help you. Do not argue with them. Do not point out they are wrong. Just accept their suggestions gracefully, and move on. If you don't understand what they mean, by all means ask for a clarification. But appreciate their suggestions, and use what is helpful. Then move on.

Over to you. Any comments, or additional questions you may have in connection with the above? Do you have any examples of times you've reacted in any of the ways mentioned?

Further Reading:
How to Tread Lightly - 10 tips on doing a critique by Shirley Corder.
Critiques are Essential by Karen Cioffi-Ventrice
Finding the Right Critique Group by Linda Moore Kurth

SHIRLEY CORDER lives on the coast in South Africa with her husband, Rob. Her book, Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer contains 90 meditations based on her sojourn in the cancer valley.

Please visit Shirley's Write to inspire and encourage website or at, where she writes to inspire and encourage those in the cancer valley. You can also meet with her on Twitter or FaceBook