For when 140 characters are not enough.

Looks Count for Blogs Too

Looks Count for Blogs Too

The first reflective blog posts based on the readings are coming in for my Teaching Writing Online class and I must congratulation all the early writers have done their first reflective post. The module ends on January 28, so yea early writers! There is even have one comment, a choice they all have that gives extra credit but really, is something to do because it extends the conversation. Based on the blog posts so far though, I have two (and a half) tech notes. That is what I call something that is about style or formatting that should be done, but may never be done it I don’t bring it up early on. It is style, and thus not as important as the careful writing and thinking that the posts so far have shown, but it needs to be done, especially the in-text citation, and at least it is easy to do.  

First tech note: When blogging about an article that has page numbers, treat it like a print source, which it actually is even when it is accessed online. Issue fix: Use page numbers in the parenthetical. In fact, since these are grad students and they make it clear what the source is and who the authors are right in the paragraph, all that is needed in the parentheses is the page number or page range. Now, one of the readings for Module 1 has page numbers but is accessed through a link. Besides the parenthetical cite for the page number, the link needs to be included in the post. This should happen naturally, with what is called a contextual link. For example, The Rhetoric of Distraction: Media Use and the Student Writing Process by Patricia Portanova is an example for this. It is part of the book Social Writing/ Social Media: Publics, Presentations, Pedagogies, edited by Douglas M. Walls and Stephanie Vie, book that can be ordered as a print book from University of Colorado Press. It can also be read on the web or downloaded as a PDF for either the whole book or chapter through the open access version on the WAC Clearinghouse. Here is how you make a contextual link: Type the article title and use the link button (looks like a piece of chain) to insert the URL. If you do that and also give the author name (not in the link), you’ve done what is expected for a web piece that cites. I would say the link is even more important than a full citation at the end. The full, written citation is nice to have and it is the convention for more formal web pieces, but the link is essential.

Next, when using a quote, put the period after the parenthesis like this one from the previously mentioned Portanova one: “Individuals can only hold a certain amount of information within working memory before experiencing cognitive overload” (248). This shows that the citation is part of that sentence, not the next one. When using a block quote, the parenthesis can and should be right after the sentence. Also, it may not make sense, but when using a contextual link, even if it is an article title, do not use quotation marks. Finally, using ellipsis is not as much of a thing in the past two MLA editions. Don’t use them at the start or end of quoted partial sentences. If a chunk in the middle is skipped, go ahead and use ellipsis, but better usage would be to do a scholarly paraphrase where the key phrases are quoted and paraphrase the rest. Think of this–writers normally would not end a quote as an incomplete sentence, and that would be the only reason I can think of for an ellipsis at the end of a quoted sentence. One more punctuation issue that I haven’t seen yet this semester, but since I’m teaching three writing intensive courses I will. When using “scare quotes” (That’s an example right there!) and they end at the end of the sentence or end a phrase, put the punctuation inside the quote. Why? because we aren’t British. This is the standard for American usage. The other way is seen in print when the source is using British usage. Here is a correct example: Heidi’s grandfather appeared to be an “old curmudgeon,” but readers know that he had a soft heart.

One last tech note–sometimes odd formatting can happening a blog post, usually because the writer drafted in Word and pasted the post. An example I saw was a post with several blank lines between paragraphs instead of the usual one. This might have been writer-choice, hitting return multiple times, but I suspect the writer drafted in Word and pasted. Please don’t do that. It is far easier to draft in the Add New Post page. If your blog software still has a text box instead of blocks and you don’t like the size of the text box, you can enlarge it by dragging the lower right corner. That is true for the text box in Blackboard as well. Of course, Wordpress just radically updated the appearance and functionality of the Dashboard and that update includes the Add New Post page. It feels roomier now with the “blocks” concept. It is also supposed to be easier to use and I was hesitant at first because I’ve used the old way since 1999. I had to get used to it just like you. It didn’t take long. I’m using it now with this post and once I started typing, the old familiar ribbons of icons appeared, so maybe change won’t be that scary.

Anyway, the Add New Post page in meant for drafting and you can even preview the draft for better proofreading. More importantly, writing your post is what that page is for, and it makes doing those things that make a blog bloggy so much easier–things like links, images, and video. If you think about it, word processors are primarily meant to produce flat  documents such as paper or paper-mimicking files. Blogs are for producing web documents and web documents are dimensional. So, use the Add New Post page to draft, add in links for sources when you have them, use images when they help (screenshots, photos) and link to videos or other resources when you find them. All of that is so much easier with a blog and one of the genre’s strengths.

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