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Improving your writing skills: Lessons learned online

The best way to improve your weblog is to improve your writing. No amount of search engine optimization and membership in blog rings can make people regularly read your site if the articles are poorly written. A newspaper editor once said: “the easiest thing for the reader to do is to quit reading.”

Some people are born with a gift for writing but for most of us, improving our writing skills is a tedious but rewarding process of continuous learning and rewriting.

Fortunately for us, there are a lot of good websites that offer tips on how to improve our writing skills. Here are some of the sites that I frequent. I hope a few bloggers find the list useful. If you know of other sites, leave the URL in the comments field.

News University. The website was put up by Poynter to help journalists improve their craft. The site offers a lot of free courses. Here are the courses I found very helpful:
* Cleaning your copy
* Get me rewrite: The craft of revision
* The lead lab
* The Writer’s Workbench: 50 Tools You Can Use

Poynter. Poynter is probably the best online resource for journalists. Here are some articles I particularly like:
* The long and winding road
* Performance under pressure
This article convinced me that I should continue blogging. I started blogging in November 2004 but the effort was half-hearted. I started blogging only because I wrote a story on deploying a website using open source content management systems like Nucleus CMS, Blog CMS and Serendipity – all blog engines. But when I read this post, I decided to keep on blogging (in lieu of keeping a work book) as a way to improve my writing.
* Writing Hacks
* Five Easy pieces
* Inside the writing process with Don Murray
* What Lies Beneath: The Iceberg Theory of Writing
* “The Sound on the Page”: An Interview with Ben Yagoda
* Rejecting Our First Draft Culture: Strategies for Revision
* By Way of Advice: Seven Style and Voice Tips

The Slot: A spot for copy editors: This website by Washington Post editor Bill Walsh is also a good site for writing and editing tips. Walsh also keeps a blog.

If you have the time, make sure to read all his tips but if you’re in a rush, here are a few you might want to check:
* Parallel construction
* Caption writing
With most content management systems offering a user-friendly interface to post photos, this tip will prove useful to those who post images in their blogs.
* Is it e-mail or email?
* Reproducing answers sent through e-mail

No Train, No Gain
* 13 ways to become a good writer
* Make your story sing

Basic prose style and mechanics

And of course, Elements of Style

For other tips on improving your blog, read this excellent series by Darren Rowse: 31 days to building a better blog.

By Max Limpag

Max is a journalist and blogger based in Cebu City, Philippines. He is co-founder of the journalism start-up InnoPub Media.