Update your style

First, let me say I’m a fan of the AP Stylebook.  And that’s not merely nostalgia on my part, having been educated on AP and “The Elements of Style.”  Despite some people’s criticism, I love how AP is continually updating its entries to reflect modern usage, context and events.  (An example:  The update I received on how to spell “bedbugs” just in time for a trip I was taking that required a hotel stay.) AP style has long tamed the chaos that can result from writers making their own decisions over specific word choices.

But I’m pretty intrigued by Yahoo’s new style guide.  I’m intrigued because it’s interesting to watch as Internet or browser search companies become media companies (witness AOL’s Patch and HuffPost acquisitions and Google’s new Think Quarterly, in addition to Yahoo). I’m intrigued, too, because the guide really does seem to tackle head-on writing for the web.  In addition to mechanics, it offers advice on writing for a world-wide audience, shaping text for a mobile device, and making your site accessible, among many other things.

I suspect it’s not going to replace my AP guide on my bookshelf (or on my smart phone, for that matter).  But it just may earn a place between AP and “The Elements of Style.”

Be Excel-lent

Just as we were beginning our CAR and data-driven reporting unit for the semester–including an introduction to Excel–Poynter published  this:  Learning is a key for success in today’s newsrooms.

I was excited by the timeliness of the post, because it’s not such an easy task convincing writers that they need also to be numbers people.  This article could help me make my case.

And I needed it, because, see, I’m not all that good at math myself.  Or at least that’s what I’ve convinced myself of since I took my last math class back as an undergraduate.  (And that block to math has led me to all sorts of red-in-the-face moments in my classroom when I’m attempting to do simple math like put students into groups by counting off–counting off, for goodness sake!)

So, to persuade my journalism students that data is important and that Excel is a computer skill that can put them ahead of the pack, I need all the help I can get.   That doesn’t mean I’m an expert at Excel.  In fact, one of the things that I’ve realized in learning Excel myself is that, although Excel does the heavy lifting, I don’t always initially understand the math Excel is helping me compute in the first place.

That’s why I’m even more appreciative of those kind souls out there who are trying to throw us writerly mathophobes a lifeline:

Has the Well Run Dry?

One of the things we keep bringing up not only in this class, but also on the newspaper staff, is the need to write frequently for your blog. We talk about how you can’t build a following if there’s little to follow. We discuss how the posts don’t need to be long, just interesting and consistent.

And then there’s my blog.

If these students were my kids, I could default to “Don’t do as I do; do as I say.” But they are not, and I can’t. So, in an effort to put not only them, but myself, back on the right track, I’ve been thinking more about what is keeping them–and me–from blogging regularly. In fact, in a moment of synchronicity, one of my students came to me with just this concern yesterday.

Turns out, what’s holding her back is that she had envisioned–and stated as a goal right on her blog–doing lots of interviews with and profiles on local artists. That takes time. A lot of time. It’s less like blogging and more like starting her own webzine.

All of which is laudable. But between her job as features editor of the school paper, her regular classes, and her work, these more footwork-intensive entries were not going to materialize.

So, what was? That’s the question I, too, had been mulling over, as I grappled with why I wasn’t blogging either. What was in order–besides a pep talk–were concrete ideas. My first idea was to blog about my own struggle with consistency.

You’re reading it.

But I doubt anyone would find that tolerable after one entry. Something interesting or useful must, therefore, follow. Turns out, many people need that extra push and many others are providing it. Here, then, are some websites to inspire your blog writing:

100 Ways to Find Ideas for Your Blog Posts

How to Find Ideas for Your Blog Posts

13 Ideas to Inspire Your Blog Content