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

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Gospel of Punctuation

Clark's Gospel of Punctuation
Let’s start with our “problem children,” the ones we have the most trouble with. 
  • 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. 
(Use these . . . . . . . Periods. They're free.)

Today's agenda

1. Blog essay topics?  Need two. Deadline Wednesday Feb. 1, 5 p.m, but 15 minutes today search
2. Fill in the sentence-Deadline Wednesday Feb. 1, 5 pm
"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__________________________. "

3. Sources?--possible today?
4. Feb. 2--Discussion and approval
5. How's your writing? --Blogblog comments-today
6. Power words? Blogblog comment?-today
7. Blog adoption beginning

Up for adoption:

For Thursday, Feb. 9

  • Search blogs for professional adoption.
  • List below three possible blogs and urls for adoption
Tuesday, Feb. 14 💗 Discussion; choosing blog adoptee, with backup
  • Complete comment below: "I'm choosing this blogger because _____"
By Tuesday, Feb. 21--First attempt at adoption contact. Guidelines soon.
By Tuesday, Feb. 28--If no response, to backup
By Thursday, March 2--Blog adoption confirmed, questions submitted by Thursday, March 9--Contact completed 

Essay deadlines:

Feb. 19--First paragraph, typed handed in to me
March 9--Posted on your blog, guidelines to come. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

How's your drama?

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.

Would you keep reading?  

"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."

Would you keep reading?
Check your last blog post. Did you use any of these?Power word list
What makes a "power" word? Comment below by 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 1.


Do you have the "Write" stuff?

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
  • Quotes
  • Paints pictures
  • Varies sentence strength
  • Paragraph control
  • Conversational
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 are not 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, Feb. 1.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Blog essay time

Need--two possible topics
What about blogs in the world interests you? (This should be something in relation to your blog.)

By  Feb. 1, 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. Wednesday, Feb. 1.

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

Note: This essay should be from 250-300 words. Instead of handing it in, you will post it on your blog, probably as a two-part series. It must include visuals, perhaps video
, plus links to sources. These will be viewed by the class. 

Due date March. 9.

Getting "ahead" in blogging

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,  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?

For bloggers, they're more important than ever. 
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).

Bookmark this evaluator on your blog or computer to test the heads you write. Spend 10 minutes playing with it.

Head's up!  

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Headline evaluator

Type wars

Why type are you?

Are you my type? Reading, and more


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 Jan. 23

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

Day 4 agenda

  • Review of blogs
  • Type wars
  • Typography--assignments
  • Discussion of requirements  Tuesday
  • 10 of ten? What find?
  • Reading Assignment -10 ways

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Find 10 in 30

Find 10 blogs of interest.
Take 20 minutes. Go to and to

What are the top two you like? Why?

Post below

Day three agenda

Set up--basic template

Names, set up,
Dashboard, gadget—pix by Tuesday
intro self as a gadget 
Assignments-- introductory blog post, and headline--what it's about, why you
Archive gadget
Email your url to me
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

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Test comment

Fill in these blanks and comment below

My blog is about______ and it's interesting because_________

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Day 2 agenda

  • Fact sheets
  •  class requirements-syllabus
  • Names and your blogs
  •  blogblog views
  • Getting ready
  • Reading  assignments—state of the blogosphere-discussion and comment
  • My blog assignment
·     --Eventually: Step by step
·     Dashboard
·     email me your url

"Assignment: By today, Fill this in--My blog will be  about________ and it will be interesting because________ .

   Add comment below.

Course requirements

1.       Faithful attendance. Grade will drop one level for each two absences after the first two. You may not make up missed in-class writing and take a 0. If you miss more than 5 class sessions, you will flunk. NO LATE WORK. Any late work will earn a “0.”
2.       Be on time to class. Three times late equals an absence.  If you’re more than 15 minutes late, it counts as an absence.
3.       Design and creation of a blog.
4.       The ability to write complete, grammatically correct, sentences.
5.       Weekly postings on the blog, including class notes, and speaker stories.
6.       Note: you must post every week, starting with week two, deadline end of class Thursdays. If you miss a week, you lose points for that week. —in other words, you can’t make those points up (at least 15).
7.       You must average more than one post a week to earn a grade higher than C. (Hint—in the past, students with the most posts get higher grades than those with minimal or insufficient ones).
8.       At least 15 blog posts of original content, minimum one a week, starting Jan. 19. Every post must have writing. Each post will be graded.
9.       Follow, and check BlogblogUCO, class blog every day. There will be weekly assignments on this blog, with deadlines. Missed deadlines mean a 0 for the assignment.
10.    Following a professional blog in your area, with blog report, 15-minute presentation to class, second half of semester.
11.    500-word essay on blogs in today’s world.
12.    Midterm and final exams.
13.    Note: Your blog must contain original writing. If it is a photography blog, you must have words with every photo, and the blog must have more than captions.
14.  If you have a medical condition that will mean extensive absences, you must notify the professor in the first week of class, with documentation. If you cannot attend at least 10 weeks of the semester, drop the class.
Required web sites:
Recommended web sites:
GRADING SCALE: 100-91--A; 90-81--B; 80-70--C; 60-69--D.
  • Creation, design, improvement and maintenance of blog—300 points—30 percent
  • Weekly posts—300 points—30 percent (15 posts minimum to be eligible for a “C”; 20 to be eligible for a “B”) More than 20 to be eligible for an “A”). Failure to meet these standards overrides other points.) Each post is graded on quality and quantity:
Blog post grade guide (15 possible points)
Original writing (3)
Grammar/Spelling (1)
Headlines (2)
Visuals (2)
Links (1)
Typography (2)
Design (2)
Creativity (1)
  • Blog Essay—100 points—10 percent
  • Blog presentation, paper—100 points—10 percent
  • Blogblog comments—100 points—10 percent
  • Midterm test, Final test, multiple choice—50 points each—10 percent
  • Total: 1,000 points
  • Note: The final test will be over blogging terms from the text and class, and comments from the speakers.
DEADLINES: Must be met. Absolutely. Period. End of discussion. Journalism is a deadline business. Accordingly, late work will not be accepted. Don’t bother to hand it in—you get a “0” grade. Absence is no excuse.
·      Since this is a class of discovery and living journalism, exact timetables cannot be guaranteed because of student discussions and individual interests. Flexibility is essential to quality education, not rote memory or lockstep schedules. Accordingly, the professor reserves the right to amend the syllabus, with notice to class, at any time, in order to facilitate your learning.

Getting ready

Take 10 minutes to scan this link.
Ideas for your blog
Then view this tutorial

State of the blogosphere assignment


2. What are two things you learned you didn't know about blogging, posted below by 5 pm Friday, Jan . 13.

3. What have you decided for a title for your blog?

4. Do you have a separate gmail account yet?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Day 1 agenda


What do you expect, what I expect?

What do you expect ?
Out of professors, this class, this department, this university?
(What makes a good professor?) 
What I expect of you
(What makes a good student?)
·   To write, speak well

·   To think critically
    (To ask questions)

·   To solve problems

·   To be creative

·   To act ethically

(Including respecting others)

·   To work hard

·   To be adept at technology

·   To be passionate

·   To act like this class is a job

(Be here, and on time)

Blogging and your future

Former blogging student:  Check out: The Suave Report InsideThunder 
I got this Facebook message :

Dr Clark, just wanted to pass along some info I think your students might want to know. If you're still doing the blogging class, I found another reason it is important.
First though, let them know they can start writing for cash right now. Freelancer, oDesk, eLance and such do pay the inexperienced like me. I started at $5 for 500 words, but was up to $15 for 500 in under 6 months. Through my Freelancer job, I got an offer to write for Mojo Motors, $30 an article. Not a bad rate for something that I enjoy and takes a little over an hour. Then, based on my work at that job, last week I got an email from Jalopnik (Gawker Media). They've asked me to work with Volvo on a series of articles promoting new cars. $250 each. I can deal with that.
I almost didn't get the assignment, because I don't have a blog up of my work, and she couldn't find me online. Please stress to them the importance of getting their presence out there now. And they can write for cash now, if they're willing to work for peanuts at first.
--Andy Jensen

 I got this email earlier:

Dr. Clark,

I wanted to take a moment to thank you for the comment you posted on my NewOK story and for tweeting out my success. Being published on the largest local forum meant a great deal to me, and I give much credit to you for helping me achieve it (You don't know how my inner dialogue screams 'Verbs! Verbs!' at me whenever I write!).

So, again, thank you.

I also wanted to share something interesting with you, that maybe you can pass on to to future blogging classes.

Like I'm sure many people wonder while taking a class based around blogging, one of the biggest questions I had was 'How can this skill actually help me make money?'  I got my answer by accident, actually, when I was looking to get my foot in the door at The Oklahoman and stumbled upon the job I now have.

"Content Marketing," the ad read.  I thought I'd give it a shot, hoping to meet the right people that could get me into news.

When I interviewed for the position, I was a little freaked by how much of my online history had been analyzed (a good lesson in how important Facebook and Twitter etiquette can be).  Old blog posts, website contributions and a bunch of other online traces of me were brought up.  The good thing, though, was that because I'd done so much of that (in a clean manner), the interview was more like a recruiting session -- they felt they had to have me more than I needed them.

Now, my job mainly consists of blogging -- blogging for clients, blogging to build lesser-known websites, blogging for myself even. And I'm nowhere near alone in this. The department I work in employs about 10 people like myself, as well as four or five specialty bloggers. To put it lightly: blogging is huge.

So, I wanted to share this with you in case that cliched "When am I going to use this in the real world?" question ever came up. You can tell them 'em that, odds are, they'll use it a lot.

Thanks again -- for everything.

George Darkow