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How do You Know When You’ve Finished a Post?

Today I’m posting a reader question as a discussion starter. It comes from Richard King:

Hey Darren – I blog casually and largely for my own benefit but I read your blog because I occasionally flirt with the idea of “doing things properly” and I think you post some great advice. Recently I’ve come across a problem that I think you and your readers would have some valuable opinions on:

how do you know when you’ve finished a post?

Let me explain. Often, my draft posts are not much more than a few links to something I want to blog about. As I work, I continually add sentences, revise them, move them around, follow new trains of thought and throw other bits away. Gradually the post takes shape until eventually it’s in a fit state to be published. So far so good, but I can’t seem to stop myself spotting ways to improve the text even after it’s been published, pinged round to both my readers’ RSS feeds, and generally indexed by all and sundry.

  • Is it good practice to continue to make improvements after I’ve hit the magic publish button?
  • If so, should it be obvious to readers that’s what I’ve done?
  • What about simply re-wording a sentence or changing the order of content around?
  • Should new related ideas always go in new posts, or be added as “updates” at the bottom of existing ones?
  • What’s the best strategy for generating traffic, and does that conflict with the best strategy for ensuring quality content?

In short – what’s your advice on post-publish editing?

So that’s Richard’s question (or 5-6 questions). Who has some answers, experiences, suggestions, stories or ideas to share??? Leave them in comments below or if you’d rather write it up as a post on your own blog just leave a link in comments so we can all benefit from your wisdom.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Kelly says:

    Darren, Richard,

    Proofread carefully first, but what you missed, you can change. One interesting tip I have heard is that if you discover a typo and leave it, you may get more people commenting, and since people don’t like to leave anything too negative (“You spelled bananana wrong”) all by itself, you’ll probably catch some real thought, too. I am too much of a perfectionist to test this theory.

    No to content editing. You liked the wording when you hit publish, move on with no regrets. As many others have said, sit on it a bit longer so you’re sure first, if needed. Blog readers move on fast to your next post and they do not sit and analyze your sentence structure, so don’t you do it either.

    New related ideas should *always* go in new posts (linking back is very good), unless the update truly is an error or something that has changed about what you said and it makes the story different: for instance, if you linked to a company and they no longer offer the product/ service you mentioned, a later reader will be confused or worse, think you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    In that case you write at the end of the post or the end of the offending sentence, “UPDATE:” then very briefly explain the change.

    Think of it the way newspapers do retractions: is it a material difference to what you wrote or obviously incorrect? Those are updates. Everything else belongs in a new article.

    Regards,

    Kelly

  2. Claudia says:

    Hi, all,

    Been following your blog for months, Darren, and consistently find excellent information.

    I agree with Doyle and mr.eims about keeping several drafts around to play with. As far as proofreading goes, when you can’t find anyone at 1 a.m. to look at your post, try opening a new draft, copying your original content, then changing the font and size and reading through again. Frequently that will ameliorate “blog blindness” long enough to find errors.

    Another trick, although not as kind to trees, is to print it out and re-read. Sleeping on it is perhaps the best method, but simply walking away from your post and participating in some other activity, preferably healthy, can give you a new perspective and bring you back to the topic refreshed, with new eyes.

    Richard, your question “when am I finished,” reminds me of my favorite dog, Sabine. She was not allowed to beg at the table, but would sit quietly. At some point I would put down my fork, and she would intuitively know that I was finished, even if I didn’t know it myself.

    There comes a time in every piece when you have put all the components together, shuffled paras, added or subtracted modifiers, check for grammar/spelling/punct errors, and that sense of satisfaction and completion is achieved. We are frequently our own worst critics, and if we wrestle and craft our words long enough, we will intuitively know when it is time to either fish or cut bait (which usually means creating a lot of drafts).

  3. Claudia says:

    Case in point: I fired off the last post and only read through once before submitting. Now that it’s up, I see that I used the wrong tense “check” when I should have used “checked.” Since this is a comment section, I don’t have the option to go back and fix it, so if I want to make the correction, it will have to be through a new comment. Wonder if that should be the default? That path could lead to endless self-correcting posts…and we’re again left with the question–how do I know when I’m finished? LOL

  4. Brad V. says:

    I often write my posts offline, in advance and continue to edit and tweak them before hitting that “Publish” button. Ironically, it’s usually after I publish a post that I end up finding most mistakes and stuff I want to change.

    I’m not sure if there’s ever a point where I say “This post is finished” because in theory I could edit and tweak forever. The “endless edit” is almost worst than never editing at all because your post will never get published.

  5. Mike Lierman says:

    When I start writing an article rarely do I ever have to stop and and reword or move things around (except when I am doing reviews on security software).

    I will admit (and I saw this in some above comments) that sometimes (not often though) I will come up with an idea and about half way through I can’t go any farther because I’m missing an important part or it’s not the write time to post it because I posted something like it not too long ago or it’s not the write time to read something like it. Or I will start a post and decide I want to do a different post(s) first.

    For the most part though I start writing and the flow just picks right up and I know what to say. In the past I have had problems with that when I didn’t thoroughly re-read and just published it and later found that I had incomplete sentences or thoughts.

    See what happen (at least to me) is that once you get in that groove and you are able to just write it, often ideas are mostly there but some sentences are messed up (not just typos). So I have found that I need to re-read at least 2-3 times for a pilliar post and at least 1 good through read. Sometimes if the Pillar post and a crucial part to my blog that I can reference other posts to then I have my friends read it first.

    Here is the order I do things:
    - Think of the idea and what message I want to get across (this usually works well but don’t spend too much time doing this)

    - Type out the article (this is where the groove comes in, I am able to just write it)

    - About half way through I check the beginning of the article to the point I am now at and keep the message going (kinda like a Linksys Wireless Extender)

    - I usually make my recommendation at the end if the article is a pillar

    - I proof read/spell-check and check the layout of the paragraphs

    -I read thoroughly as if I was a reader on my site

    -Change anything I need to and post

    If anyone wants to see how I write and how I layout my paragraphs (it may or may not help you) feel free to check out my posts on my site: http://www.techdata.phinxfx.com

    Hope my comments help those who don’t know where to begin!
    -Michael L.

  6. slobu says:

    Make a post. Read it. Edit it. Read it. Edit it. Read it. Edit it. Post and forget (unless new information becomes immediately available.)

    It’s easy to obsess over ones one work. Take the mistakes and comments as lessons for the next post.

  7. T.C. says:

    I’m still pretty new at blogging, but so far, I write my posts, edit, and publish in one sitting.

    Once I decide on a topic, I pretty much know what points I want to cover and experiences I want to share. When I get it all in, I throw in a quick conclusion and start editing. As I’m writing though, I am constantly re-reading and making sure it flows and make small changes here and there. As many of the commentors have suggested, once finished I re-read my post out loud to find any errors I’ve missed.

    Having a partner is also a good idea. My blog has two authors anyway, so we constantly bounce ideas off one another and help edit each other’s posts.

  8. Rob O. says:

    For quicky typos or grammatical blunders, I never hesitate to tweak a post.

    I think it’s completely legit to edit an older post to provide additional info, a correction, or a link forward from it to a newer, related entry. I’m not talking about doing a George Lucas-style overhaul, just a minor tweak. On posts where I do this, I indicate it with a little red “Update” notation, so it’s more apparent. (You can take a look at my Me, Metrosexual? article for an example.

  9. Rob O. says:

    Sheesh, I got off on a tangent and kinda sidestepped the real question…

    I’ve had the problem of not knowing when to say “when” a number of times. I typically compose my posts off-line over the course of a few hours or even several days – it’s rare that I have time to whip out an entry in a single sitting – so I have plenty of chances to tweak & tune. Which can easily lead to overthinking or overworking a post…

    Sometimes I’ve found that a blog post that I can’t seem to call “finished” is a good opportunity for a series. Just look for breakpoints and simply spread your article across a short series of posts. This gives you ample chances to revisit the topic and offers your readers several easy-to-digest, bite-sized goodies.

    And of course, leaving a post kinda unfinished or open-ended can often spur responses from your readers…

  10. WereBear says:

    If you find yourself continually tweaking a post, it’s a sign. You either have more to say, and should consider a subsequent post on the same topic, or the ideas are still forming and you should not publish right away.

    If your problems are in proofreading, you have gotten some great tips already. But if it’s in the elusive pursuit of perfection; that’s a fool’s game.

    Perfection is not given to us. We should strive for excellence… and leave it at that.

  11. Darren Rowse says:

    Hope you got some answers here Richard.

    My only advice is to try giving yourself a time limit. ie set a deadline when the post will go live and then go with it.

  12. Marek says:

    I write for a Dutch blog about cars. This is my opinion on the questions asked by Richard:

    - I think rewriting might come across as not totally supporting your own statement. By rewriting it, I feel you take the impact away.

    - Should you rewrite (for instance, when it’s a news article and the news has been updated), don’t touch what you’ve already published, but add a section with the new information. Put “Update :” above the paragraph, so readers can tell that is the piece they haven’t read yet. Also, I put “(Update)” behind the title of the article, so readers know that there has been an update.

    - Same answer as the first. Except for when you spot a spelling or grammatical error or a typo, you should always correct those immediately when spotting them, no matter how old the article is.

    - If the article which the new idea relates to is still at the top, then you can put it in that article as an update in the way I’ve pointed out in the second answer. If not, post the idea as a new article, but refer to the old article by hyper linking to it in your new article.

    - You can use SEO tactics, but I think that blogs will generate traffic if they’re good and genuinely sincere. If you write about something you care for, people will notice it and you will get your deserved attention.

    Hope this advice pleases you!

    Marek

  13. Yeah, I will change spelling and bad grammer, but not whole ideas.

    I think it is better to write a new post to expand anything you wanted to change, and it is appropriate to do that to continue the conversation. If the change is not worth a new post, then it is probably not worth the change.

    I proof my posts in a browser window to give myself a different perspective which helps pick up errors. I also now batch write when I can, so that I have a second proofread immediately before posting.

    Cris