Rliberni's Blog – Radical language

August 2, 2010

The Best Kept Secrets of EduBloggers, Part 3 by Karenne Sylvester

Filed under: Guest posts — rliberni @ 11:30 pm
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Wow!! I am really thrilled to be ‘hosting’ part 3 in Karenne’s amazing blog series! 

Karenne is a well-known and prolific edublogger full of great ideas, thoughtful deliberation and wonderful insights into the world of EFL and the world of Edublogging in general. This is a must read series for any edublogger , whether experienced or just starting out. 

 It should inspire you to keep going if you’ve already started blogging or get going if you’re still thinking about it. 

  We would love to have your comments and don’t forget to follow the whole series!  


   Edo period Blogger Monk5. The Best EduBloggers Make Sure Their Posts Are Easy On The Eye and Easy On The Mind.


Even if your readership is made up of entirely academics,  

which it probably isn’t,  

the time the average reader is comfortable spending reading online, is generally less than 5 minutes.  

Most people tend to enjoy articles of 300-800 words unless it is immediately clear they are about to learn something completely new and interesting.  

As a general rule, readers skim through longer posts for keywords before deciding whether or not to dive in properly so try not to drone on.  

Even if you’ve written a very witty, entertaining or critical piece on a subject that your core readers generally have a marked interest in, try to stay under the 1000 word limit or they might end up clicking that back button…  

No matter how much jargon you can spout off or how many acronyms you can personally decipher, be careful about sprinkling too much of these in your text as you might turn off readers who don’t know what you’re talking about, who find all of that really intimidating. If you must, add explanations in parentheses.  

Aim to keep your writing conversational: a cross between a personal email they’ve received from a friend or colleague, a chat in the staffroom with respected teachers and neither talk down nor become a sycophant.  

Even if you secretly, secretly wish to become the James Joyce of the Edu-blogosphere, the Kazuo Ishiguro of the internet, keep that to yourself: there are many, many, many teachers who haven’t read them and for those who have, many really don’t want you to sound like that.  

Even if you want to communicate the depth, power and dynamism of Lev Vygotsky – don’t write the way he wrote. Instead try to write in your own voice, or if you must, like Sir Ken Robinson.  

Simple words communicate more and more effectively.  


Rules of thumb:  

  • Make your text snappy.
  • Write as if you know who you are writing to.
  • Do not write to get loved.
  • Get to the thrust of your point quickly.
  • Use the active voice.
  • The words “we” and “you” are much more inclusive than the word “I”.
  • Encourage your audience’s participation in your conversation by asking them for their opinions.
  • Present no more than three main points.
  • Break paragraphs into chunks of less than five lines.
  • Use bullet points when offering a lot of densely packed instruction.
  • Highlight keywords you want them to catch when/if they’re skimming.
  • Don’t be afraid to repeat your main points but cut redundant phrases.
  • Show, don’t just tell. Use photographs and other media to add back-story and/or proof you’ve done something in class with your students/trainees.
  • ALWAYS hyper-link to resources of authority, to the source of your original ideas; to fellow bloggers who have written on the same subject prior to your own article and whenever you mention household names.
  • Do not forget to edit.
  • Do not be afraid of white space: white space is your friend, you have as much of it as you want!

And while on the subject of white spaces, a recent poll revealed:   



6. The Top EduBloggers Write In Their Own Voices   

Many newbie bloggers are tempted to copy the style or content of popular blogs, in part because we all learned to write in the voices of other authors in school,   

the traditional way of learning writing, however,   

all that ever taught   

was how to ace exams.  

So they wind up with mirror blogs, usually about integrating technology into their classrooms.  

This is not the key.    

This is not the secret to EduBlogging success.  

Even if you are in this process, conducting experiments with web2.0 tools in your classroom and in the lessons you give, there are literally hundreds of thousands of other teachers who are doing this too: it makes you seem terribly unoriginal to be yet another writing about Wordle unless you are doing something with it that no one else has already done (use Google Blog Search to find out).  

Instead, focus on what it is you really know the most about, the learning objectives of your lessons and let the use of whatever tool you happen to have been using slip in as a side-bar, as a by-the-way.  

The biggest secret to becoming an absolutely amazing blogger is to write as you speak:   

with all its charm,  

with all its guile,  

and warmth,  

with your personal righteousness,  

your anger,  








frustration, opinionatedness, arrogance, thoughtfulness…  

Be Yourself…  

we read you to read you (not the more intelligent, polite, educated, funny you, you). As in life, the way your spoken words already attract listeners and how you initiate and spark conversations with friends so your written words will also.  


Tips & tasks:  

  • Insert photos in long articles to give readers a moment of reflection.
  • Turn much longer articles into a series of posts.
  • Record yourself reading posts out loud. Do you sound like you? Rewrite if not.
  • Inject stories of personal learning experiences and show how your readers can learn from them too – invite them to tell their own.
  • Talk to your readers not to yourself. The most important pronoun is not I, it’s you.



7. Great Edubloggers Edit Their Posts And Use Good Grammar.

It goes without saying really, doesn’t it?  

How important it is to use capitalization? Commas. The Spell-Checker. Don’t distract your audience by giving them an essay to correct. Edit your work before clicking publish. Let it sit a few hours.  

Many times when you come back to it you’ll find that entire paragraphs of redundant copy can be cut and sentences you thought you loved make absolutely no sense. Dropping this temptation will help you clean up drafts, enable you to provide outbound links to other blogger’s work which authenticates your text and will give you the new eyes that you need to find those terrible typos.  

Check published posts later the next day or week or month, there will be things you missed. Correct these.  

But don’t edit and you, a specialist Edu-Blogger might end up looking rather uneduc8d!  


is it?  

Is it that important?  

Playing with the rules can also get your articles, writing style and points noticed.  

Go on ahead and  

start paragraphs in the center of the page.  

Break up sentences if you must.  

Write overly long paragraphs followed by one  


Slip in an item of txtspeak if you happen to writing about Twitter.  

Turn prose into a poem.  

Remember, it’s your blog and we’re all participating in an  

emerging method of communication,  

so if you think you can get away with it:  

challenge accepted norms.  

After all, you can always go back to being staid and normal in the next post.  



What has been your experience? Do typos matter, do you have a friend who corrects your text for you? Do you have a good tip on finding one’s own voice? Did we miss anything in the Rules of Thumb?  

Do share your thoughts and experiences below.  

– o –  

Also read  

Prune that prose, by Gail A. Hornstein, Professor of Psychology  

Top resources to read on writing style for the internet:

Alertbox Jakob Nielson  


Image credits
Mike Licht, Notions Capital.com: Edo Period Monk Blogging  

Ian Farrell: Good Sentiment, Bad Grammar  

(c) KarenneJoySylvester, 2010. This guest post is part of a new series: Thoughts on Edu-blogging. For part 1, see Shelly Terrell’s blog and Janet Bianchini’s for part 2. Part 4 coming soon on Monika Hardy’s. Karenne is an ELT edu-blogger, a ESP:IT teacher, EdTech teacher-trainer and materials writer, originally from Grenada in the Caribbean. She currently lives in Stuttgart, Germany and blogs at Kalinago English and BusinessEnglish~5mins.  

Find her on Twitter as @kalinagoenglish.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Larry Ferlazzo and Karenne Sylvester, Berni Wall. Berni Wall said: Guest Post – The Best Kept Secrets of EduBloggers, Part 3 by Karenne Sylvester: http://wp.me/ptGdh-zg – a must read!! #edublogs #beltfree […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention The Best Kept Secrets of EduBloggers, Part 3 by Karenne Sylvester « Rliberni's Blog – Radical language -- Topsy.com — August 3, 2010 @ 12:03 am | Reply

  2. This is a great way to do a series. I should encourage MyEC bloggers to do something similar. We have yet to tackle the “guest post”. Sounds fun!

    If I can offer a tip about finding one’s true voice, it would be to carry around the handy dandy notebook for a while (As the old host of Blue’s Clues used to call it.). I always carry a notebook with me and it’s a great way to document your life and get the thoughts out of your head and into a readable version. Nobody is reading your notebook but yourself, so you actually start writing as you would naturally speak. You can also do this on a blog, but that delete button can sometimes get in the way of you saying what you actually mean. When I first started blogging about writing I used to jot my thoughts out on paper first.

    When it comes to content, take some hints from bloggers like the English Raven. It’s nice to know the real human side of people. We know Jason isn’t just a teacher. He’s also a dad, a writer, and a human who loves to get people laughing. Be real. And as Karenne says, leave some blank space and find the right image (she always does)!

    Comment by Tara — August 6, 2010 @ 4:38 pm | Reply

  3. Don’t know why or how I had missed this part of the series, but it doesn’t matter, I’ve just read it and it’s the best one of the series anyway. Thumbs up for the whole series, and high five for this post!

    you said “The words “we” and “you” are much more inclusive than the word “I”.” I agree, they are more inclusive, but I’m not sure if this is a rule of thumb, my favorite posts (and I believe this is true for other people as well) are based on the writer’s experience, ‘as his/hers’ = many I’s and My’s. That’s for me one of the greatest things about blogs that never happened on mags and tvs, more subjectivity and real voices, a person (I) talking to other people. Just like in a real conversation. Of course, there are always the self-promotional egomaniacs, but that’s not what I meant, you know that.

    question: Does it mention anywhere in other parts about bloggers that frequently change blog theme/background/colors? I’d love to know what readers think about it, IF they think about it. I’m never happy with how my blog looks and feel like changing clothes every month.

    Comment by Willy C Cardoso — August 12, 2010 @ 12:48 am | Reply

  4. […]  The best kept secrets of Edubloggers part 3  Karenne Sylvester […]

    Pingback by Using blogs to help your writing skills, the how, the why and the what « Rliberni's Blog – Radical language — September 10, 2010 @ 5:25 pm | Reply

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