BlogHer 2011: The Write Brain | Essential Writing and Editing Skills

Published in: Just For Fun

BlogHer 2011: Essential Writing and Editing Skills
Speakers from left to right: Jane Byers Goodwin, K.T. Bradford, Polly Pagenhart

Talk about fantastic! My first of two BlogHer sessions here today was one of the most interesting classes I’ve taken in a while. I love it when the instructors actually sound like people you’d like to get to know in real life. I actually laughed out loud a couple times!


As you can probably tell by the title of this post, the first session I attended here today was about writing and editing, two very important aspects of not just blogging, but also day-to-day life.

Most of us probably have the need to convey something clearly in print, and so I hope that even if you aren’t a blogger, you’re still able to take something useful away from this.

The speakers…

Jane Byers Goodwin

Social Media Specialist, Writer, Speaker, Internet Watchdog, Absentminded Professor, Education Advocate/Critic, Mommy

K.T. Bradford

TechGeek, ChicGeek, Just Plain Geek — Writer at and Android Central

Polly Pagenhart

Utterly unable to contain myself to 140 chars. But will try valiantly. Wish me lu-

Here are some tidbits I grasped and managed to jot down. These shouldn’t be taken as direct quotes, as I was repeatedly distracted by all of the stylish looking girls in the room. 🙂

K.T.: The biggest thing I’ve learned is that writing is rewriting. My biggest message today would have to be that the first draft you put out there might be pretty good, but you shouldn’t be afraid to rewrite.

K.T.: Most of us have learned these skills [about grammar] at one point, but they get pushed aside because we’re busy, etc. The purpose of this session is to help you tighten up your prose so that it makes the fullest impact.

JANE: Often the first draft is the one that comes out that’s closest to our hearts, but people will notice your grammar and your spelling before they notice your message. Often if your spelling and grammar aren’t good, your message will be lost. With my students, I call this the trust factor.

K.T.: What underpins good writing? Voice does have quite a bit to do with it, but having an authentic voice isn’t necessarily about writing the way that you talk. It’s more about making sure that the things you’re passionate about are being delivered clearly. Try not to let grammar rules trip you up too much.

K.T.: Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott, is really an excellent book. In it she has a chapter called Writing the Sh*tty First Draft. You should never be afraid to write a sh*tty first draft. Don’t be afraid to let that first draft come out in your natural voice. The first draft is where you want to let your authentic voice shine through without it being blocked by editing. The best way to preserve your voice is to just let it out.

JANE: Spell check is not your friend. Spell check hates you. Spell check is your enemy. Use it for a once through, but it doesn’t know the difference between affect and effect.

JANE: Serious pieces require serious checking. Little folksy pieces, not so much. Never use a four-syllable word when a two-syllable word will do. It makes us sound pretentious, and none of us need to do that unless we’re writing about fine wine.

BlogHer 2011 Essential Writing and Editing Skills
Spell check was here…

K.T.: Every time you change the subject you need a new paragraph.

When you write, pick a tense and stick with it. Don’t go back and forth between past and present tense.

POLLY: Knowing your audience and knowing your purpose helps a lot. Knowing your audience helps your voice. And also, eliminate redundancy. When you edit, try to go through and look for repeated words you can change. A thesaurus can help, especially if you make an effort to learn the sometimes subtle differences in meaning between synonyms.

JANE: Words are a lot like people, and some of our histories are a little more colorful and interesting than others. Every word has a history. Some of their histories are boring, and some are quite interesting. Testimony and testament, for example. In the olden days, people would grab their testicles when taking an oath. Today, when people talk about testifying, testimony or testament, they’re really talking about their nuts. Knowing the history behind words can really make using them a lot more fun.

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,



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So far, 20 people have commented on this article. How cool is that?

  1. Harshleen says:

    Thanks for sharing your notes Karen……enjoyed reading the post 🙂

  2. Jessi says:

    Yay! It sounds like you’re having a good time. When i was little I wanted to be a writer. I would write “books” all the time and even a a little “About the Author” page I wrote at the very end. But then I realized that I hate proof-reading and rewriting and probably wouldn’t get very far without those skills.
    Jessi recently posted … Buxom Lipgloss in Lacey Swatches and Review

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jessi,

      That’s adorable. I hope you saved some of those books. 🙂

      Got any plans for the weekend? Sleeping in better be on your agenda, LOL!

      • Jessi says:

        You better believe it lady! I so excited to go to bed tonight and not have to worry about an annoying alarm in the morning! It’s the little things isn’t it?!

        Oh, and I think My mom still has the books I wrote. One was about a princess who got mad at her family and shot them to the moon with a cannon, but then she felt bad about it and let them come back.
        Jessi recently posted … Buxom Lipgloss in Lacey Swatches and Review

  3. Anna says:

    Talk about six degrees of separation! I was at Clarion West with Tempest. If she’s still around, go and tell her that Anna the Other English Girl told you how funny and brilliant she is,even when she wants bonking over the head with a frying pan!

  4. Jenn says:

    So jealous that you’re there. Thanks for posting this. 🙂

  5. Anna says:

    KT = Tempest

  6. Erica says:

    I teach, so this passage is really useful. Thanks Karen!

  7. Nina says:

    what an awesome read — thank you for sharing, Karen!

  8. Nina says:

    this is weird. i just replied to thank you for sharing an awesome read and it disappeared again. :-/

  9. Nina says:

    last try. thanks for sharing, karen.

  10. “people will notice your grammar and your spelling before they notice your message. Often if your spelling and grammar aren’t good, your message will be lost.”


    i’ve had to stop reading blogs because of bad grammar and spelling >.<
    dani@callitbeauty recently posted … Have Dry Lips? Korres’ Lip Butters Will Come To The Rescue!

  11. Super helpful post, thanks for taking down all those notes to share with us 🙂 And interesting tidbit about testimony. You learn something new every day!
    Makeup Morsels recently posted … Tasty TGIF Tidbits 8/5/11: My Bananigans Fail

  12. Fee says:

    Hi Karen, first time on your blog today and I can’t tell you how much it pleases me to see this post as well as your emphasis on grammar/spelling accuracy in the ‘guest post’ guidelines. I’m like Dani above – there is one pretty well-known UK fashion blog that I read regularly but in nearly every post I have to get past the grammar/spelling errors and typos; it’s infuriating. Whether you’re writing about philosophy or fashion, macro-economics or make-up – it’s still writing!! I’m glad I’m not the only pernickety one 🙂

  13. Jane says:

    Thank you so very, very much for those kind words. It was genuinely. . . wait for it. . . awesome. . . to have you in our session.

    Your post made my day.

  14. lee says:

    Interesting read. Thanks for sharing this as I have learned something from it. 🙂

  15. Thanks for sharing! This is really helpful advice. Wish I could have been there myself!

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