C’mon Photoshoppers: give me a break

photos,images,pictures,colors,howtowritebetter.net,how to write better,Suzan St MaurPhotoshop and its competitors certainly have given photographers the chance to enhance and manipulate images to a degree that would have been unthinkable even a few years ago. But has this colorful freedom gone a bit too far? [Read more…]

Duchess of Cambridge’s b**bs: can’t the media find something else to write about?

I know it’s old-fashioned to tut-tut over the tabloid press and its cheap titivation (sorry…) but what a megafuss we’re looking at over this whole BosomGate issue and its implications…

Are the European (and no doubt other nations’) red-top / tabloid papers really so devoid of anything interesting to write about that they have to slap up tacky stories on their front pages about this nice girl’s neat but frankly rather small and un-fiddled-with mammary jobbies?

Men’s fantasy time … ZZzzzzzzz….

Here we go. Never mind metrosexual or gay men’s interests: from the frothing-at-the-mouth feeding frenzy over these saucy (yawn) pictures of Kate we must assume that all European (and Irish) men don’t give a sh*t about her intelligence, grace, poise, devotion to UK PLC, etc. and are only interested in her physical attributes. This is the image that the foreign journalists are painting with their written commentary on the issue – not just the photographs.

But wait a minute. Are the supposedly pro-royal, pro-Kate British press really backing her up for the bright, brave girl she is, even fully clothed?

Or are they basking in the reflected publicity these tacky photographs are generating by supposedly supporting her … while writing articles that cold-heartedly cash in on the whole rather boring and tedious story of which the only sensational element is two B cup b**bies?

If you want to write about b**bs…

Much as I find the whole issue of b**bs a little sensitive (I’ve only got one now, after breast cancer, but that one is a reasonable size) I really think the paparazzi ought to focus their half-mile-long lenses on b**bs with rather more substantial grunt.

Not only would this provide more gratifying mammaries for the tabloid oglers and voyeurs, but also it would enable the paps to save money by reducing the length of the lenses required and the need for the Photoshoppers to work their magic.

Also, it would save tacky journalists’ time by cutting down on the need for written explanations of why there’s such massive international hysteria over what amounts to – frankly – two fried eggs.

“She’s just another celebrity”

…so said the Irish newspaper that published the fried eggs unashamedly. No, no. Go find another “celebrity” with – this time – highly promotable, industrial-size assets for you to write  about and photograph.

And lay off this poor kid who has had the gross misfortune to enter the British royal family and become the next media victim … albeit with a less than mountainous front, but a world-class brain and her feet planted firmly on the ground.

Is a lawsuit the right way forward?

After all that has been written and portrayed, the royals are really between a rock and a hard place. No lawsuit might encourage the long-lensers to get even more acrobatic … and a lawsuit draws more attention to what really should have been flushed down the media toilet right from the start.

What do you think?

Now, here’s plenty to write about (and write well):

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

 

photo credit: Keith Laverack via photo pin cc

Pinterest: boost your pinterpix with some great pinterwords

With all the fuss going on about the exponential growth of Pinterest and how to do everything with it short of performing micro-surgery or splitting the atom, I’ve been quietly observing and thinking about how to write for it. Yes, I know it’s visually based but words matter here as much as they do everywhere.

A picture is worth a thousand words – PLUS…

My take on creating really good Pins is to enhance your images with some great captions and hooks. With these you can add some extra spice and intrigue into your images and encourage readers to look into the stories further … especially useful if you’re using Pinterest with an eye on business.

Remember that you’re limited to a total of 500 characters. That’s somewhere around 80 – 90 words, but your Pinterest screen will cut you off when you go over the limit so you’ll know when to stop anyway.

Add your own hook to media headlines to flag up the main issue

My hooks are in capital letters. Media headlines are in italics.

BE WARNED: “Painful womb condition endometriosis linked to higher risk of ovarian cancer.”

SHEER INSPIRATION: “In diary extracts raw with emotion, Shane Spall reveals how her film star husband overcame ‘terminal’ cancer and is now fulfilling a vow he made to her on his deathbed”

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT WHALING? (THIS BREAKS MY HEART) “Japan has ended its whaling season with less than a third of its annual target, said the country’s Fisheries Agency.” The whaling ships headed home from the Antarctic Ocean this week with 266 minke whales and one fin whale, falling short of its quota of about 900. The agency blamed “sabotage” by anti-whaling activists for the shortfall.”

I OFTEN WONDERED WHY I FIND MYSELF HUMMING A SONG: “Earworms: Why songs get stuck in our heads”

Use an intriguing mini-headline and catchy and/or useful caption for your own Pins

HERE’S A BIG MAC FOR PEOPLE WITH A SWEET TOOTH … brilliant birthday cake by my clever cousin in Ottawa … especially love the fries with ketchup! She makes fab cakes and other desserts to order… (pic of one of my cousin’s amazing cakes…)

ONE OF MY TENANTS: Gypsy Vanner – Anglo Arabian cross (Mom’s in the background.) Now 6 months old and “practising how to be a stallion” … what a handsome little chap he was as a newborn, here! (pic of baby horse)

NO-NO: when grooming horses’ feet, stand to one side facing their rear end. If horsey, here, raises his/her right hind leg in a hurry that fetlock will go smack into the rider’s face. Ouch… (pic of someone grooming horse’s feet the wrong way)

EVER HEARD OF THE “CANADIAN HORSE?” This is “Charbon,” a stallion I met (but declined a ride on – was too chicken…) who typifies this vigorous breed. More than 100K of these horses were exported to the USA during its Civil War, and the breed is said to have influenced even the mighty US Morgan horse. Was threatened with extinction in the 20th century but now is flourishing again in Canada and beyond.

Use your own sense of humor to enhance already amusing images

WHAT NEXT – COSMETIC BOTOX FOR BEARS? “Brown bear exfoliates using rock as a tool”

YOU PUT BUBBLE BATH IN? I HATE BUBBLE BATH … grrrr  (pic of tiger underwater with bubbles, snarling ferociously)

IS THIS A MEXICAN HAIRLESS PUPPY WITH A BAD CASE OF MANGE? OH, SORRY … Chanel is making eyebrow art a thing… (pic of model with jewel-studded eyebrows)

JUST GO AWAY. I’VE GOT A HANGOVER. (pic of one of my dogs in my bed…)

WHY MY CONTAINER CORN WAS A BIT STUNTED LAST SUMMER (pic of one of my cats asleep in a plant pot)

Infographics: pictures or tortures?

Increasingly I’m seeing infographics on Pinterest and although they are an interesting phenomenon in themselves (I’ll be doing a post about how to write for those soon, so watch this space) I wonder just how many Pinterfolks click through to the final, final image to read all those lovely bits of tiny text spread around in a cute diagrammatic format.

Especially when there are clearer, more viewable images about other stuff on their Pinterest home pages which don’t require a powerful magnifying glass to view.

Much as I’m longing to spout an opinion on infographics here, I will zip my lip and shut up. For now.

Using images that may be subject to copyright restrictions

I know that this isn’t about writing but as everyone is chewing on this one right now, here is my take on it. I have asked many, many people – several of whom are experts in this or that – what the b*lls-out reality is here.

I have received widely varying responses but one comes through loud and clear – wait until a case is brought and a judge makes a ruling.

In the meantime, what do I do about an image I put up on Pinterest but didn’t photograph myself (where an attribution is possible?) I thank the copyright owner for the kind loan of the image and include a link to his/her/their website. Probably counts for diddly squat in a court of law but at least it’s honesty on my part and hopefully may enhance business traffic through to the copyright owners.

Some useful Pinterest resources

Here are some blog posts and other resources you may find helpful if you’re just starting out on Pinterest, and even if you’re an existing user these links might be handy for you too.

Pinterest? But what about my writing?

This may be of Pinterest to you

Pinterest: measuring your pinfluence

5 industries that should be on Pinterest right now

Sourcing great images for Pinterest

5 ways brands can use Pinterest to boost consumer engagement

Why I’m not putting all my eggs in the Pinterest basket just yet

Pinterest being taken over by marketers? Don’t make me laugh

Can Pinterest become a small business’s new best friend?

What is your experience of Pinterest so far? Would love to know and share your thoughts. (And if you want to follow me on Pinterest, click here. Especially if you enjoy a good chuckle…)

Now, let’s pin up your  writing!

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

“English to English: the A to Z of British-American translations”…more than 2,000 business and social terms from the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand

Great images: how they bring your blog posts to life

Great images: how they bring your blog posts to life

Interesting images: a great way to bring your blog posts alive

Although these are not strictly speaking a writer’s responsibility, no writer can afford to ignore the importance of visual thinking. There is no way that one element of a blog post can be developed in isolation from the others: the internet is a multi-faceted, multi-media environment. In fact more now than ever before, words and pictures have got into bed with each other.

Video, too, has asserted itself as a keen online medium but as for its harmony with print text – well, that’s another story for another time.

So what really can work as still images to support your blog posts, articles and everything else you produce online?

Images? Do I need to draw?

No. All you have to do is broaden your scope out from the “words only” approach, and attune your mind to seeing your whole blog post (or other text issue) with all its elements as one overall concept.

And with a) a huge variety of free art and pictures on the internet plus b) the simplicity of taking good pictures of your own, sourcing great images is really easy. You just need to know what you’re looking for.

Warning: a bad image is worse than no image at all

Too often I see blog posts in which the author has stuck a pretty picture which, although pretty, bears absolutely no relation to the blog’s subject matter and therefore contributes nothing at all. If you can’t find an image that adds something to your words, don’t use one. Instead use bold cross-headings, pull quotes and other visual cosmetics to break up plain text and make your post more inviting to the eye.

Offensive images of any kind should be avoided, unless your blog post is about one of two things:

1.Drawing attention to some stark, shocking reality that your readers might not be aware of, e.g. the object of a charity fundraiser

Great images: how they bring your blog posts to life2.A humorous subject, provided that your audience will find whatever scatological or other off-colour illustration you use to be genuinely funny

What images work best?

Images that work best, for me, pick up on points in the text – not necessarily the main points, but on points for which an illustration lifts their prominence and contribution to the post.

I personally love humor and even in serious posts, I’m attracted to images that pick up on points in at least a witty sort of way, if not in fall-about slapstick humor.

As long as you’re careful not to stray over into areas of bad taste – e.g. using a humorous image in a post about death or illness – I think these slightly amusing illustrations help to lift the text and make the whole reading experience more entertaining.

What’s more to the point, however, is to keep your images relevant without repeating what you’re saying in the text, but rather using them to provide an extra dimension to it.

For example, if you’re writing about brass screws, there’s little point showing more than perhaps a thumbnail pic of a brass screw because everyone knows what they look like.

In this case, you need to use images that show why screws are better than steel ones … how much nicer they look when in place than other kinds … or perhaps a picture of them being made.

Where should they appear in the blog post?

Many blogging experts believe that you can use images to draw the reader’s eyes into the text to begin with, then use subsequent ones to continue guiding their eyes onwards down to the end. Unless there are good reasons why not, you should try to alternate left-right-left-right so as to keep the flow going.

Where a picture shows a definite inclination to one side, always ensure that it inclines inwards towards the text – not away from it. With images not containing any text of their own, it’s easy to “flip” the picture to whichever side you want using your Microsoft Office Picture Manager program or equivalent.

Great images: how they bring your blog posts to lifeSo for a blog post about ponies, you’d use this picture on the left hand side of the text:

 

Great images: how they bring your blog posts to life…and this version on the right hand side of your text:

 

Where can I find good images for free?

I (and many of my blogging friends) use Stock.Xchng which offers thousands of free images – be careful, however, to check their usage conditions as some require you to contact the photographer and gain permission, even though there is now charge.

Another good source that I use a lot is Photo Pin … a huge database of “Creative Commons” images. Just be careful to tick the correct option when searching; if your site is in any way commercial, use only images from the commercial category. And then simply cut and paste the short lines of HTML on to the bottom of your post.

There are many more libraries of “free stock pictures” – have just Googled that phrase are there are more than 63 million results, so that should keep you going for a while!

What about original material?

Great images: how they bring your blog posts to lifeLike most people these days I carry my phone around with me everywhere I go and I watch out for interesting signs, scenes, vehicles, etc. that might come in handy to illustrate a blog post one day. Here on the left is a good example of a sign I saw recently in Baltimore, Maryland…

Particularly if your blog is about a very specific topic or business, you are well placed to capture images that you know will work well to enhance your blog posts. Happy snapping!

Get writing even better blog posts:

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

photo credit: canon7dude via photopin cc

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