Getting to the bottom of ELT blogging

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How to keep regular?

 

I know. Another post where I write about writing. Well, blog about blogging to be precise. I had planned to move on from the introspection of recent posts, but my number one reader and encourager @CliveSir requested I write a post about blogging. How could I refuse?

One small thing, before we get started. Could language get an evolutionary wiggle on and find a new word to describe the act of “blogging”? I’ve always had a problem with it. Something about its onomatopoeic quality makes me think of toilet matters, which is why I can hardly restrain a shudder when someone says “I feel a blog coming on”, “just blogged” or worst of all “freshly blogged”.

Anyway. Let’s get to the bottom of this.

Why blog?

I’ve been pondering this for the last few days. Of course, loads of commonly given reasons spring to mind: you’d like to share your ideas with other teachers, you want to log successful lessons for your own future use, you hope to develop as a professional, you wish to reach out to others in the ELT community. All of these reasons can be boiled down to one main driving force for bloggers: you want your work to be read. And you want your work to be read by as many people as possible.

There’s no use pretending that this isn’t the case. I saw you having a sneaky wee peak at your stats when you thought no one was looking!

Of course, I don’t really know why you blog (do feel free to tell me in the comments though). I blog for a number of reasons. There is a discipline and freedom inherent in blogging: the discipline comes from having to sit down and write a weekly post, and I am, of course, free to write whatever I like.

I’ve found some nice work openings through blogging too: another good reason to keep the posts coming.

So the next question logically follows on from this, and it is:

How do I get people reading?

There’s a marvellous post from Ben Naismith on this subject, which is definitely worth a read if you haven’t already come across it (useful advice in the comments too).

In this post, Ben sets out a list of points for aspiring bloggers to follow, e.g.: having an attention grabbing title, creating interest with multi-media, and appealing to authority. (Ben’s advice comes from insights he has gleaned from ELT bosses  Rachael Roberts, Hugh DellarScott Thornbury and Jeremy Harmer.)

So far, so good. Yet, of all the points Ben makes, the one I most emphatically agree with is that there can (and should be) exceptions to these rules. Slavish adherence to a formula will only result in a kind of “blogging by numbers” and an outpouring of formulaic posts.

While I think Ben provides a range of generic conventions to be aware of, exceptions to these rules (if posts are well written, interesting and informative) will always be both charming and welcome.

People will visit your blog if you have a sexy title. They will visit your blog if an eye catching photograph grabs their attention. But will they read it? This is when you have to be wary of the aforementioned stats. They record visits, but they do not tell you whether or not people have actually read your words.

Top tips

  • Keep posts short. (I struggle with this, I really do). But reading long posts online can be sore on the old eyes. Edit ruthlessly.
  • No one will read you if they don’t know you. Get out there. Comment on the posts of others. Do some of the dreaded self-promotion.

 

What to blog about?

My first blog was aimed very much at teachers and was, first and foremost, a teaching diary although it did include some lesson ideas too. I moved blog a couple of years ago, mainly because I thought WordPress blogs looked smarter. I felt that making a fresh start would be quicker than clearing up my old hopelessly cluttered and directionless scrap book style blog.

So, I started again. My first post looked at ways of teaching the Independence referendum (admittedly this was probably not going to be all that much interest to teachers outside Scotland). Unsurprisingly perhaps, the first few posts had all the clout of a fart in an abattoir.

Since moving on to focus on matters pertaining to resource design and writing, I’ve seen a lot more blog traffic. It also seems as if readers haven’t been scared off by slightly more personal posts either: my last account of how I got into ELT writing has been my most popular yet.

Top tips

  • Keep a blogging note book with you at all times. That way, you’ll be ready to jot down ideas when inspiration strikes.
  • Experiment. Review a course book or an app. Interview a teacher or writer you admire. Respond to something another blogger has written.
  • Got a strong opinion about something? Don’t keep it to yourself. I think it was Geoff Jordan who wrote a post about how the world of ELT blogging was altogether too safe and polite. While I think Geoff went too far in the other direction, I think there is definitely room for a little more controversy in the ELT blogosphere.

 

How do I keep myself regular?

In the first flush of blogging euphoria you might feel tempted to trot out a blog post every couple of days. Don’t. Write the posts by all means, but squirrel them away for future use. There will be lean times ahead, and having a “here’s one I prepared earlier” post to publish when you are in the middle of a house move, meeting a deadline or having a nervous breakdown can be a sweet and wonderful thing. Of course, this rule doesn’t apply if the post written is a topical hot potato. In that case, it’s much better out than in.

Top tips

  • Set time aside for blogging: an hour or so every week. Don’t rush it.
  • Keep active. Actively engaging with the ELT world will ensure you always have something to say. Going to a webinar, attending a conference, reading blogs and books by other ELT writers should keep things moving.

Rather self-consciously now, (in light of my previous comment about blogging by numbers) I’m going to end this post with a question. Do any of you lovely bloggers out there have any other good insights or personal stories about blogging?

I really would love to hear them.

 

 

 

 

 

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8 Responses to Getting to the bottom of ELT blogging

  1. ljiljana havran says:

    Hi Genny,
    Thanks for your great posts on writing & blogging. I liked your top tips very much, and this is a really good one: “Got a strong opinion about something? Don’t keep it to yourself.” I think that Geoff’s post on ELT blogs which “are part of an online philistine culture where complacency is encouraged and robust critical discussion is frowned on” was an excellent one. There is definitely room for more controversy in the ELT blogosphere. I don’t agree that Geoff went too far in the other direction, though. I wish there were more people in ELT as straightforward and incisive as Geoff Jordan.

    A lot of tips and interesting comments on blog habits can be found on Zhenya’s blog (one of my favourite ELT blogs): https://wednesdayseminars.wordpress.com/2015/01/08/blogging-habits-1/

    Thanks again, I’m looking forward to your next post. 🙂

    Ljiljana

    • joco75 says:

      Hi Ljiljana,

      Great to see you here – I’m really glad you’ve enjoyed the last few posts.

      I totally agree with you (and Geoff) that we ELT bloggers need to be less complacent and more critical. There must be a way of doing this which doesn’t directly and repeatedly target the personalities and work of individual writers though. Don’t you agree?

      Thanks so much for putting me onto Zhenya’s work on blogging – this is great. Loads of interesting links and some good ideas in the comments section too, I see!

      Thanks again,

      Genny

  2. CliveSir says:

    I really enjoy your writing, Genny, especially the little personal bits, and I’m delighted to hear that your web stats show others enjoy them too. I like the gentle quirkiness (eg “first few posts had all the clout of a fart in an abattoir”) – I know your last post says you were advised to avoid it but I disagree!
    I think I fall in the “chronically constipated” category but a few years ago, in Asia, I used to blog regularly and gave these as my reasons:

    To keep a journal for myself
    To keep in contact with family and friends
    To inform and share
    To counter isolation
    To crystalise thoughts
    For the pleasure
    To reflect
    As an aide-mémoire for my fallible and failing memory
    To let off steam
    To develop and benefit from my PLN

    I guess there are many reasons 🙂
    Clive.

  3. joco75 says:

    Thanks, as ever, Clive for your very kind words and encouragement. 
    I’m sorry to hear about your current constipated state. It seems to me that many of the reasons you give for blogging in Asia would be equally valid now you are home though. Aren’t they?
    As for the quirkiness, I think today’s post might have gone beyond the pale (I still think this saying would make more sense if it was “go beyond the pail”). For the record, I have never, ever written a lesson on constipation. Perhaps I should.
    Thanks again, Clive. Hope things get moving soon.

    • CliveSir says:

      Another field you could explore is humour – you’d be great!
      At the risk of sounding like a stalker, I went looking for a post I remember you wrote four years ago and reread it. Your style was good then but you’ve honed it now… you’re getting better and better!
      I need to write something on connecting Syrian refugees with the Granny Cloud – maybe that’ll be my “syrup of figs” 🙂
      C.

  4. joco75 says:

    You need to write that post, Clive. Sounds fascinating! I’ll look forward to it. 🙂 And thanks again for all your kind comments – I’m momentarily lost for words…

  5. Ben Naismith says:

    Great post and thank you for the kind words. Hopefully reading all of your reasons for blogging will remind me / guilt me into doing a bit more.

  6. joco75 says:

    Thank *you* Ben for providing me with the inspiration for this post! I’ll be looking out for your next post! No pressure… 🙂

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