Official blog of Clark's Blogging for Journalists class, Mass Communication department

Thursday, September 22, 2016

When blogging becomes a "slog."

Read this in the New York Times.

Comment below by 5 p.m. Monday, Sept,26.

1. What did you learn about blogging from this article?
2. What is the importance of passion and love in blogging?
3. Your suggestions on how could the problem be avoided?  

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Punctuation pariah

Yes, that's what the post from the Bremner Editing Center at the University of Kansas J-School said today. This struck me as important for two reasons.

I'm a Bremnerite. He taught the editing class I took at the University of Iowa years ago. He was not long out of the priesthood and on his way to becoming the editing terror and guru of the English speaking world. We loved him, and he influenced my method of teaching as much as he did my passion for editing and effective writing. He taught me how much words matter, and the way we write them. The editing center offered these free punctu-icon sets.
Here's the link:
There's another reason. One of the pleasures of my life is writing a monthly column for the Oklahoma Publisher, for the Oklahoma Press Association. It goes to all the newspapers in the state. This helps me keep in touch with "my people," Oklahoma journalists. It also keeps me "published," and working as a journalist. The column, "Clark's critique," has two parts--the first about general journalism subjects of interests, and the second, a quick review of what the state newspapers are doing in term of content, ideas, etc.
 I know, this just shows my anal side, but this stuff matters when you deal in words.

"Broadcasters pronounce better, but newspaper people punctuate correctly," joked Mark Thomas at one of the Journalism Hall of Fame ceremonies. 
After looking at some of our stories, I'd have to add, "Sometimes." I also know that many of my students have not had grammar since they were in eighth grade. As an old English major who repented and turned to journalism, I know the Gospel of Correct Punctuation may have been amended some for us heretics, but the basics are the same. Correct punctuation is essential for accurate writing. 
So here is the Revised Version of the Gospel of Punctuation, also known as Clark's Easy Reference Punctuation Guide for Journalists.
Let’s start with our “problem children,” the ones we have the most trouble with. Clip and put it near your computer. 
The apostrophe--We have an apostrophe catastrophe in this country.
1. Contractions, possessives. It's and its are the most misused in the country. Its is comparable to his and hers (a pronoun). It's is a contraction for it is. There is no its'. I saw a sign once that read "Deliciou's Apple's.
2. With plurals:
  • With regular singular nouns ending in s, "Mark Thomas's job is to lead the  OPA.
  • With regular plural nouns, add only an apostrophe, "The Thomases' children…."
  • With irregular plural nouns, add an apostrophe s,  "The children's
  • Never add to a noun that ends in s if there is no possessive. Wrong: "These word’s…"
  • If it's a compound noun, only the last word gets an apostrophe: The editor-in-chief's job…..
  • Compound possessives, only on the second noun, Lewis and Clark’s journey…

   Colons--Avoid. They stop the reader's flow in the sentence. They always come at the end of a complete sentence: He bought five vegetables: cukes, tomatoes, corn, okra and radishes.  Do not use it in the following manner (as in this sentence): He bought the following: cukes, tomatoes, corn. Rewrite both. He bought cukes, corn and radishes.
   Exclamation marks--Avoid! Especially more than one at a time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They show you don't know how to write for emphasis, and cheapen your writing like all those ads in the inserts that put exclamation marks after every item: "Hair Dyer”! Two speeds! Black or brown! Wall mount!  Etc. You should use it in a quote only when clearly called for. “Don’t use exclamation marks!” Clark yelled.
   Quotation marks--In America quote marks always, always, always go outside the period and comma. Question marks and exclamation marks depend on context.  This includes single quotes: “I told you he said 'I quit,'" Clark yelled. With question marks, quotes go inside if the quote is a question as in "Are you cold?" he asked. But outside like this, Did Clark say, “Question marks go inside quotes”?
   Commas--the most debatable. Best rule--Always use for clarity, and according to AP style on addresses, etc.  Other than that, try omitting or rewriting to avoid as many as possible. 
1. Use with a non-restrictive clause or appositive (one that's not essential). Clark, who grew up in New Mexico, lives in Oklahoma. vs. The man who was bleeding from the wound died in 20 minutes. Try to write around it and cut the words. Clark grew up in New Mexico and lives in Oklahoma. 
2. In a series, omit the comma before the last item: He loves tomatoes, iced tea and jalapenos. Your English teacher and others would insert a comma after iced tea. That's called the "Oxford comma." Oxford is in England. This is America. Journalists don't use it except in rare cases where needed for clarity.
3. Setting off introductory clauses and phrases, In the beginning, God created….  Or Although the city council met for five hours, it took no action. It's usually better for us to rewrite it and get to the point first. After five hours the council accomplished nothing. No comma because it's essential to the meaning, it's shorter, and easier to read. Get to the point.
Always ask yourself if you have a question about punctuation, “Why do I need this?” or “Why am I using this?” Most grammatical problems can be cured with short sentences. (Lots of periods)

Up for adoption: assignment, deadlines

For Tuesday, Sept. 27:
By the end of Monday, Sept. 26:
  • Search blogs for adoption. (for discussion Tuesday, Sept. 27)
List below three possible blogs and urls for adoption.
  • Blog Essay:
List below three possible online sources, and urls 

Tuesday, Oct. 4
Blog adoption chosen.
Thursday, Oct. 6
First paragraph of blog essay (including thesis statement), handed in at 12:30, typed, on paper.
Thursday, Oct. 13 
 Contact made  with blog adoption, checked in class

Blog essay guidelines

  •  500-word essay
  • Due OCT. 18 at start of class--No email
  •  Blogging and its impact on an area of your interest.
  • Organization:
  1. Intro, thesis statement
  2. What your views are, citing weblinks.
  3. Conclusion
  • To be typed in 12 point, Times New Roman font. double-spaced. One side of the paper.
  • This essay is worth 100 points.
  • Warning--A misspelled word costs you 50 points. If I find one, I quit grading, give you a 50 and an F.
  • Grammar, punctuation, other errors cost five points each.
  • No fancy covers. First page, your name, Title of paper, and start writing. Staple pages together. List links and other sources separately at end of essay.
  • You will also submit the paper as an attachment to, so that I can submit it to for plagiarism check, if I think necessary. 

Blogging tools for your interests

Browse this list for Ideas.

Grading your posts

Each of your blog posts are evaluated based on the following criteria:
1. Minimum of 15 for a C
2. Consistency--at least one or two a week (up to 20 points each)
3. Original content, not just cut and paste (60 percent)
4. Writing quality(10 percent)
5. Length--just a few words and or photos and minimum effort are not sufficient (25 percent)
6. Timeliness (5 percent)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Using quotations--have you made "eye" contact with your reader?

Quotes are eye contact. No eye contact, no story

  • ·      A story without quotes isn’t much of a story, no matter the subject, for it lacks a human angle.
  • Nothing involves a reader more with a person than hearing them talk, reading their words.
  • ·      Readers’ eyes automatically go to quotation marks.
  • ·      Above all you use good quotes, quotes that are not long, but get to the point, that are original, that show passion and character and insight.
  • ·      Accuracy is the prime rule. Everyone is afraid of being misquoted. You must assure your subject of your accuracy.
  • ·      Paraphrase long quotes, ordinary quotes. “Clark said that quotes are important.”
  • ·      Find your best quote—use it high in the story.
  • ·      Save you second best quote for a possible conclusion, or near the end of the story.
  • ·      Quotes start paragraphs.

What have you learned so far?

Two of the most important things you have learned about your blogging so far?
Comment below by the end of today.

How your presentation will be graded

2016 Blogging/ Name__________________
Blog reviewed ______________________________________________
100 points
URL ________________________________________
5 points--1.     History of blog How long blogging? Why? Changes? Growth? 
1          2          3          4          5
15 points--2.     Facts of the blog Who is the blogger? (Age, profession, etc.)Purpose, Does it make money?   Geographic location? 
1          2          3          4          5
10 points--3.     Statistics  Followers, hits. etc.
1          2          3          4          5
10 points--4.     Unique In what ways?
1          2          3          4          5
10 points--5.     Strengths, weaknesses
1          2          3          4          5
10 points--6.      Advice of blogger (-20 percent if not contacted)
1          2          3          4          5
10 points--7.     Influence and ideas
How influence your blogging?
What ideas did you get?
5 points--    8. Scroll through screen, illustrate
5 points--    9. One page outline, including your name, blog name, url  to class,
15 points-- 10--3-page summary paper to Clark, with name of blog, blogger and url, and post your paper on your blog, under " What I've learned ."
5 points--   11. Overall presentation quality, time

Blog adoption guidelines

This assignment is not related to the blog essay. 100 points, 10 percent of your grade.
1. Presentation to be 15 minutes long
2. 1 page outline to every member of class
3. 3-page paper, handed in day of presentation to professor
4. Post your paper on your blog, with screenshot of blog
5. One or two items from each presentation will be discussed for final text questions. Your outline is your study guide.   

“We want a sense of what makes this blog effective, and to learn from the blogger’s experience.”

Presentations will start Nov. 1 --we set presentation schedule Oct. 19

  • You must show the blog visually in your presentation, scroll through it and discuss.
  • You must interview the blogger, by email or on the phone. I recommend you contact them soon to make sure they know what you're doing. Last minute, "they did not respond" doesn't cut it
  • If you cannot make contact, you will need to choose a different blog.
  • One page outline of main points handed to every member of class and professor (25 total) while discussing it:
  • List the Name and url of the blog.

1.     History of the blog—

a.     How long blogging?

b.     Who is the blogger? (Age, profession, etc.)

c.      Purpose?

d.     Geographic location?

e.     Number of followers?

f.      Does it make money?

g.  Why do they blog?

2.     What makes this blog unique?

3.     What are its strengths?

4.     What are its weaknesses?

5.     What is the advice of the blogger?

6.     What do you like and dislike?, and why

7.     What did you gain that influences you and your blog?

  • You will post your presentation outline on your blog, with a screenshot of the blog.

Color is important

Read this What color says
What do the colors on your blog say? Comment below, by 5 pm Monday, Sept. 19.

Monday, September 12, 2016

How readable is your blog, and your writing?

For your blog, test on this Link
For your writing, enter copy Here
and Here 

Gunning-Fog levels
6 TV guides, The Bible, Mark Twain
8 Reader's Digest
8 - 10 Most popular novels
10 Time, Newsweek
11 Wall Street Journal
14 The Times, The Guardian
15 - 20 Academic papers
Over 20 Only government sites can get away with this, because you can't ignore them.
Over 30 The government is covering something up

Gunning-Fog Index

The following is the algorithm to determine the Gunning-Fog index.
  • Calculate the average number of words you use per sentence.
  • Calculate the percentage of difficult words in the sample (words with three or more syllables).
  • Add the totals together, and multiply the sum by 0.4.
  • Algorithm: (average_words_sentence + number_words_three_syllables_plus) * 0.4
The result is your Gunning-Fog index, which is a rough measure of how many years of schooling it would take someone to understand the content. The lower the number, the more understandable the content will be to your visitors. Results over seventeen are reported as seventeen, where seventeen is considered post-graduate level.

Your blog essay begins

Needed:  two possible topics!

What about blogs in the world interests you?
By  Wednesday at 5 pm--select two possible ideas for your midterm blog essay for discussion in class Thursday. Post in comments below.

1. After discussion, you will choose a topic  and you will  the following sentence and commented below.

This is an essay about (Subject) and it is interesting because ____________________. My thesis (the main point of the paper that I'm supporting with my sources) is__________________________.

2. Also: list three probable links as sources and be ready to explain them in class  by 5 p.m. Monday, Sept. 26.

Potential organization (outline) :
1. Introductory paragraph, what the subject, problem, focus is. ending with your thesis statement.
(Example: "Blogging has changed the way newspapers have covered the news.")
2. Two or three paragraphs, citing sources to back up your thesis. 
3. A short concluding paragraph
4. List of links for your sources

Essay will be due  Oct. 18, at first of class 100 points (10 percent of grade)

Going for "the drama," and Do you use "Power Words"?

Go for the drama. What does that mean?
"The three of them stood there, holding three hand made signs, protesting Trump, as a constant stream of all kinds of people flowed by, heading for the rally inside the Oklahoma City convention center yesterday.
"Two of them are students at Oklahoma City Community College, the other a student at Mid-Del High School. 
I spotted them as I rounded the south side of the building, curious about the types of people and the event. No, I didn't have tickets and intended to hold up my own protest sign, hoping to find others.
"They were the only ones,  there of their own volition. Two were registered Republicans, one wearing a Tea Party shirt. The other was too young to vote."
Check your last blog post. Did you use any of these?Power word list
What makes a "power" word?

How you can Improve your blog writing

Clark's Advice
       Know the reader

       Grab attention--go for the drama

       Make it interesting

       Short sentences, paragraphs

       Organize with reader in mind

       Write to express, not impress

       Tell a story

       Have fun

       If I wrote my story without notes, what would it say?

       Concise structure

       Goes for drama

       Specific details


       Paints pictures

       Varies sentence strength

       Paragraph control


       If the reader took a test, what do I want him to remember?

Every blog post should start with this sentence in your mind: "This is a blog post about_____, and it is interesting because____." If you can't write that in your head, you ar enot ready to start writing.

How does your blog writing measure up?
Read Show, Don't Tell, and comment below something you learned that will improve your writing. By 5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 14.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Headline evaluator

How effective are your headlines?

Analyze  it on this Link

Getting "ahead" in blogging, and labels

When I started writing a monthly newspaper trade column  20 years ago, the Internet was relatively new, as was email. There were no blogs, no Facebook, no Instagram, no twitter. Digital cameras were high priced. 

I remember teaching headline writing in classes and for the Oklahoma Press Association.  At the time, I always said the headline was the most important element on a page, because it accomplished four different chores at once. They grab attention, tell the story, rate the news, and help dress up your pages.

Today, there are still headlines, and all of that is still true. 
But while the way we write headlines has changed dramatically with digital type—rather than having to “count” spaces, we just tap a key to reduce or enlarge sizes to fit, they’re more important than ever.

In fact, they accomplish even more. Ever hear of SEO (Search Engine Optimization)?  Of course you have. 
Tell me,  isn’t that what a good headline has always been? (That's also why you need to put labels after each post...they help your readers search for your ideas, and increase SEO) 

And today, as our attention spans get shorter and shorter thanks to digital media and the explosion of speed delivering news in all media, they’re crucial to attracting impatient, hurried, distracted-by-other-media readers.
I just “read” the New York Times this morning. How? By scanning the headlines on the computer.  Check any other news outlet on line. People scan the headlines and expect to come away with a general sense of what has happened. We’ll go back and read the ones we want more information in later. All the Internet search engines spend lots of money trying to come up with catchy headlines to attract you to their pages, and thus boost ad hits. 
Nothing new, is it, except the media and the speed?

 I’ve found I need to teach my blogging students how to write “headlines” on their blog posts. I took it for granted until I found my blog traffic going up depending on the words in the headlines, and that most of my students had no clue. 
All those old headline practices and tips that I’ve taught, or written about in the past have changed with the digital world. To me, there are only two rules in headline writing these days: 
Be accurate. Don’t be boring.
They are one important key to attracting readers to your posts.
So, here’s a brief how-to checklist on writing  headlines, in any media, especially blogs.
  • What’s the key point of the post?
  • What will most appeal to your readers?
  • Make a list of the strongest, most concrete nouns and verbs
  • Have you chosen words that are trending in search engines?
  • Use action verbs when possible
  • Use short words   
  •  Look for anything unusual 
  •   Is there any play on words you can use to heighten interest?
  • Use the shortest words possible 
  • Use the biggest type you can (for print version)
  • Use consistent legible type (no fancy fonts)
  • Get to the point early
  • More label heads are ok—one or two strong words—with or without a verb (Let a subhead add essential details)
  • Edit—ask yourself if you can write it more briefly
What makes a bad headline? A good one? Students: check the headlines on your posts and see how they measure up.
Below, comment on one thing you will improve.
(A version of this article appeared in The Oklahoma Publisher, the statewide newspaper of the Oklahoma Press Association, under "Clark's critique).

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Add a signature

Here's the tool for your personal Signature

Type Wars

Font wars

Are You My Type?

Also check"Top 100 Fonts"

2. How does the type measure up on your blog? One good thing, one weakness? Comment below by 5 pm Wednesday

Read  this:

Clark’s Guide to

Readable Typography for Blogs

(Or anything, for that matter)

1.         Serif—Easiest to read
2.         Sans Serif—harder to read the smaller it is or the more of it there is
3.           Most body type should be about 12 point in size

4.           Script is hard to read--invitations only

5.           Italic is hard to read


    Only Center Type
on invitations
and titles,
not on body copy


8.                  REVERSE TYPE 
should be at a
And bold
And small san serif 
is hard to read
As is colored type
on reverse  
10.             Screens can make type hard to read

Especially over sans serif

Or heavy and colored screens

11.               Weak colors disappear

12.               Colored type isn’t as effective
As black type, or dark type on a light background

13.      Don’t  Mix Lots of Type Faces

14.            Stick with a few
                  that are compatible

10 ways to make your blog shine

Read this Link on improving your blog.
By 5 pm Wednesday, Sept. 7 what did you learn that you can use? Comment below.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Blog checklist

By end of today, your blog should have:
  1. Title
  2. explanation (what this blog is about--optional)
  3. Your photo
  4. Your bio
  5. Blog archive gadget
  6. Date of each blog post at top of post
  7. Introductory blog post

Find 10 in 20


Take 20 minutes. Go to and to

1. Choose one of the blogs you discovered today.
Comment below to write a  paragraph evaluation of the blog, addressing the following ideas:
  1. What are its strengths?
  2. What ideas about blogging and your blog do you get from it?
  3. What are its weaknesses and how could be improved?
Be sure to include the link to the blog

2. Comment below by 5 p.m. Monday Sept. 5. If you have trouble, email to me by that time..