Five Questions I Ask Myself Before I Hit Publish

Wednesday, February 18, 2015 0 No tags

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Call it paranoia, caution, overly analytical, or wise: but I don’t click the “publish” button on my blog post drafts lightly.

When I first started blogging, and I would write a post that made me ask “what do I not like about this?”, I wouldn’t always know how to proceed. I knew it needed a little tweaking, but I couldn’t always put my finger on what needed to change. Over time, however, I learned the things about my own writing style that annoyed me, and I was able to organically develop a few questions to ask myself when I was trying to figure out what exactly it was that was bugging me.

So here they are: the five questions I ask myself before I hit “publish”.

1) If this sentence feels necessary, but questionable, does it necessarily need to be in the post? Or is it better suited as social media commentary?

This one has come in really handy. Sometimes I feel the need to apologize for a blogging break, or add something else to my title, but I feel it sounds too self-conscious in the actual blog post. Most of the time, when I ask myself this question, the answer is that it would make a great facebook caption to the post instead! I feel I can be a little more insecure on facebook or twitter, where I am trying to connect on a different level, than in my blog posts. :) What a relief!

2) Has my attempt at clarity gone too far?

This one sneaks up on me. It often happens when I spend too much time writing a post: I start over-explaining my point until I just start to sound like I am apologizing for having an opinion. This one can be hard to catch when you have been re-reading your work for the past half hour, but then that magical moment comes when you try deleting a sentence. And then an entire paragraph. And if it all still works? It’s the best feeling. Superfluous words are truly the stuff of nightmares.

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3) Is this self-indulgent?

This question is usually followed by other questions like, “what is my motive for writing this” and “am I just preaching”? Occasionally, I will feel passionately about a topic and sit down to slam out a blog post in a matter of minutes. Every once in a while I am able to salvage them, but they usually stay in my drafts and become what I like to think of as “a nice little diary entry”. And that is where they stay. You are welcome.

Self-indulgence in writing can take many forms, however. It can appear in a post that doesn’t invite conversation, or in a post that has more ideas than concrete thoughts. I am very, very paranoid about self-indulgent writing.

4) Is there anything I can get rid of?

This was a hard lesson to learn, and one I am still learning. But I have been rewarded for trying because erasing words is so much fun! This is similar to question #2, but broader in that I am just looking for repetitive ideas or sentences that simply don’t add anything to my idea.

With #2, the guilty sentences are usually all clustered together. With this question, the culprits are more subtle and spread out with more of a “divide and conquer” attitude that really irritates me. I get a certain amount of personal satisfaction when I can happily erase a sentence I have grown attached to for the greater good of the post. It makes me feel like a martyr. Which isn’t a problem. Don’t worry about me.

5) Have I missed any spelling errors or grammatical mistakes?

I hope this one is obvious. I don’t always catch mistakes, but I do try to avoid them whenever possible. Of course I am not a perfect grammarian, and there are times when I actually choose to forego a rule of syntax for the sake of sounding conversational (GASP!). But this is blogging. Not a dissertation.

And there you have it. Those are my favorite handy dandy troubleshooting questions.

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Everyone’s writing style is different, and we all have our own pet peeves, so I would love to know: what questions do you ask yourself before you hit publish? Or, if you are a reader and not a writer, I would love to know what writing styles rub you the wrong way. Do tell!

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