Facebook Pixel
Join our Facebook Community

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

Posted By Darren Rowse 19th of April 2008 Writing Content 0 Comments

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.
Comments
  1. I can’t wait to hear the responses as this is something that I need to learn as well! Great question from Richard.

    A couple ideas are:

    1. Sleep on it. This has helped me!
    2. Share the post with some friends of yours that can review it for you.

  2. I always find one little mistake I want to fix after I publish my posts. Maybe I should get into the habit of leaving the post as a draft for an entire day before I publish it, and check over it several times over the course of the day.

    It bugs me that I change stuff after because in some RSS readers, when content is updated (even though it still has the same guid) it will show up as a new feed item. NetNewsWire does this, for example.

  3. I am a very impatient blogger. I usually finish a blog and post it right away. And then I will re-read it and find at least 5 mistakes. I am a horrible editor. A word of advise – get someone else to read it.

  4. I am a very impatient blogger. I usually finish a blog and post it right away. And then I will re-read it and find at least 5 mistakes. I am a horrible editor. A word of advice – get someone else to read it.

  5. Some of my posts seem to come out complete, at one time. Some I have written a paragraph here and there over a period of a day or days. I usually have about three to five posts partially finished all the time. I started them thinking I had everything I needed, but knew they needed something else. So I let the idea brew a little longer.

  6. The thing that I find most important to having a good post is time. This can be difficult for us because we can get behind on posts and need to publish one in a matter of hours to satisfy the days quota.

    Whenever I come up with a new idea I try to sit down and write the idea down in a paragraph. Then I leave it, for as long as possible. It is an amazing phenomenon but if I write down my idea I am more likely to think about it as the days go by. If I just think about it, and not write it down, I never seem to think about the idea again.

    That is my method concerning the development of the post, but the editing is a different issue. Time between writing the post and editing it is important, but sometimes having another blogger read over the post is very beneficial. The reader can help fix grammatical mistakes, but they also can say, “Hey, I don’t understand this part. Did you mean this…? Maybe you can write something like this…?”

    I suggest everyone get a blogging partner. Before each of you publish a post, send it to the other and have them read it. Make sure your partner wants to blog as much as you do. A blogger who puts out three posts a day, wont do well with a blogger who posts once every other day.

  7. I actually fall into the writers’ groove type of poster – I get into the groove and it just flows. I don’t think I have ever half finished a post or sort of decided not to post once I had written something down.

    it just comes naturally I guess.

    John

  8. I taught writing for 15 years and always told my students to get at least one night’s sleep in between drafts because our brain has a tendency to miss errors when I piece of writing is too fresh — this makes sense since we know what we meant and therefore tend to see that!

    But some posts are quick and easy and really don’t require multiple drafts. And I tend to leave published posts as is unless the error is significant. I think publishing new posts on new info is better than adding to an existing post, but I will be curious to read what others think!

  9. I think typos, etc., are OK to fix but you should get into a habit of checking spelling and grammar before you publish-its just a good idea. Changing, moving, or adding content is not a good idea, as it changes the article. Someone may have already read it, and taken away ideas that you may now be changing. If you do edit, use strike through or note it as an “edit” so the readers will know.
    I like to wait a day after I finish before I publish, or at least over night. I then re-read, make my final changes or additions, and then its done. As with anything in life, you can always keep making changes but you will never get it “perfect”.
    It is easy with a blog, since it is a sort of “free form” flow of ideas, to just continue your thoughts or ideas with another post instead of changing or adding to your previous posts.

    RC

  10. My journalism profs back in the day of wax and light boards advised:

    1) Read it out loud, preferably slowly, so you “hear” your editing mistakes, or read the whole thing backwards to reveal mistakes.

    2) One endearing but a bit chauvinistic prof said, “Write your news story like a woman’s skirt — short enough to be interesting, but long enough to cover everything.”

    3) I was also taught never to leave a question unanswered in the reader’s mind, but Liz Strauss from Success-blog.com advocates giving room in your writing from people to come up with comments and insights of their own.

    My rule is to always write with the reader in mind. By doing this, I know when adding a quote would help them get my point, or when tying up a loose thought would be helpful to their understanding, or when to wrap up with a thought-provoking question or idea, etc.

    These “rules” keep me from needing to do much post-editing, although I seem to forget tag adding every now and again, and I will go back and add them.

  11. I’ve always wondered the consequences of hitting the publish button after the initial publish. I always go back and find something…even if I leave it as a draft and re-read several times in one day.

    As for when a post’s finished… I’m with John Motson. Somehow it all comes together in the end without much thought or effort on my part.

  12. Once the publish button is hit, I don’t like to change anything. There are a few exceptions.

    I will change the following without making it obvious:
    -Spelling errors
    -Blatant typos or grammatical errors (such as “there” instead of “their” etc.)

    The frequency of these changes should be few if you are careful to proofread your posts.

    Things I will change, but will notify the reader (probably in italics “Edited to add…”:

    -Incorrect info**
    -Updated info**
    -Additional info**
    **If the update is important, it may require a new post to make sure it is not overlooked.

    As a reader I would not want to read an article and miss an important update because the author added it after the fact. I try to keep that in mind when publishing.

  13. I think its ok to fix errors after publishing a post. But do not make any major changes. If you need to make major changes then delete the post and republish it, when you are ready. Alternatively you can add new updates to the post.

    If these changes did not change core message of the post, I don’t think it’s necessary to let readers know about it.

    I wrote an article on 5 Effective Tips for Proofreading, please check them at

    http://www.webspear.com/content/5-tips-on-improving-the-accuracy-of-your-blog-posts-and-web-articles/

  14. I constantly and I mean constantly go back and check every recent post I’ve published, I mean like everyday. There are always new thing you may come across to ad to that post be it a thought, or a link that can make that post a better one.

    So as I come across new things I’ve learned that’s related to a post I have, always go back to the post and a the new resource of information I have found, I feel it’s never ending, unless you everything there is to know in the entire world or your subject there is always room to grow a post, or blog.

    There will be always something you missed or didn’t know and just found out about, and if you care about your blog/posts quality and user experience then you would care to go back and something useful to it.

  15. .DDA NAC UOY EROM RO GNISSIM GNIHTEMOS S’EREHT FI ENIMRETED DNA ESNES SEKAM TI ERUS EKAM UOY PLEH LLIW TAHT. YLLACITIRC TI TUOBA KNIHT DNIM RUOY EKAM DNA FOORP OT SDRAWKCAB TI DAER

    TRANSLATION – Read it backwards to proof and make your mind think about it critically. That will help you make sure it makes sense and determine if there’s something missing or more you can add.

  16. When there’s nothing left to take away.

  17. Unless I’m 100% happy with my day’s writing, I leave it to sit for a day, maybe even a week, before I come back to it. I’ve managed to salvage a few posts that nearly went in the recycle bin by letting them stew for a while!

    I aim to keep posts below 400 words and proofread, proofread, prune and trim!

  18. I have tended to update my posts occasionally, since my blog is newer with a smaller readership so-far, it is more so me fine-tuning my blogging style, etc.

    So I, like Richard, would appreciate the advice given here!

  19. I find this same problem when I am writing a large post. Quality of the content at the end is not as good as it is in the beginning.

  20. Let’s see what I can say…

    1 & 3) Editing a published post can definitely improve the quality of the post. Glaring errors, typos, spelling etc. are edits that should be taken care of as soon as they are noticed. For larger content structure sit on it for a bit and let it mull but if it really makes sense do some restructuring. I try to do a couple reads even after I’ve hit publish.

    2) If there is a very large change I usually add an (edit: reason) paranthesis to clue my readers in that I’ve done some serious revision or changed a notable fact .

    4) I generally put new ideas in new posts and refer backwards via linking, etc. to the prior post. This keeps me from messing with my older posts (and making them too long). Unless I made a mistake (see above) it’s generally a new post.

    I can’t really speak to the last one.

  21. I usually add updates as a separate post.

    For my most popular posts, I do a completely new version every 6-12 months.

    I use Blogger. If I edit a post after publishing, it’ll show up on my RSS feed twice.

    I don’t worry about SEO. I’ve noticed that “word of mouth” has been better at promoting my blog than search.

  22. well thats was a good post
    usually, when i post on my website i tend to write heaps but when i use Word or something else.i get lazy and write little

  23. As far as updates are concerned you have got to look at whether they actuallt warrant a new post on their own. If it’s just something that is only going to add a single point in one or two sentences then just add it as an update.

    It may be that you can link in an update with some of your reader comments but only add a new post it you have sufficient material to work with.

    In my opinion you should always let the reader know anything you have done.

  24. Richard:

    As most posters covered the grammar part pretty well, I’ll tackle the cerebral, ie, “Should new related ideas always go in new posts, or be added as “updates” at the bottom of existing ones?”

    This happens to me a lot, and you can handle it in a multitude of ways, eg:

    a) In Parts: As in write a multi-part post (Part I, Part II, etc.). If you feel like the post is getting too long, or you have separate parts of the same subject to cover, then this is an excellent remedy.

    b) Separate Posts: If the topic is the same, but you find that different tangents would make great stand-alone posts, then separate them out as separate posts, linking back to the first post as a foundational referencie.

    For example, this idea for this post came to me when I was ruminating on “x” which I discussed “here.” But, as it covers “blah, blah, blah,” I thought it would make a great topic to explore on its own.

    c) Updates: As you state in your post. If you do this, be sure to put links to all previous parts so that none of it is “lost in translation,” as it were, for readers.

    Hope this helps.

    Yuwanda

  25. Great question! I have struggled with this repeatedly. Sometimes when I go back and edit before Feedblitz has sent to my email subscribers (as opposed to RSS) it doesn’t go out to them at all. Has anyone else experienced this?

  26. Usually when I sit down to write a post, I have a pretty good idea of what it is I want to write. I don’t nessicarily know exactly what I want to write, but I know what I want to cover. When I feel I’ve gotten my message across, I spell check and do some small edits to fix my grammar, etc.

    However, I have been trying of late to do two things: include more pictures, and to shorten my posts. Unless I’m covering something really in-depth, a several page essay usually isn’t a good idea — especially since I’m not a fan of the “read more”-click-to-continue stuff ( although it might be a good idea for some of my longer posts ).

    One thing that also helps when writing posts is to try and focus on my niche. I’m still trying to figure out what that niche is, but trying to figure out what it is help me from writing posts that really won’t help me get any readers.

  27. Wow! This is great, thanks for posting it Darren! And some fab comments too, it’s great to share ideas.

    I agree with everyone who suggests we get a second pair of eyes, that’s a great way to pick up mistakes and check for meaning.

    @Richard I do my best to edit before i post, and and will change things afterwards if I think they make a post a pain to read, but I try not to fret too much about little things as Blogger is a pain to edit sometimes, it’s not worth the hassle for a minor typo … anyway, everyone makes mistakes now and then and we all need reminding of that sometimes, thank you, Richard!

    If I wanted to rewrite a post in any major way or at any length of time after first published, I’d probably do an update and then link that to the original. Though the truth is I never get chance to go back and read stuff, after one quick read through, as soon as it’s posted, to see what it looks like.

    @ Alejandro I agree, sleeping on it is also a great way to make sure we have said everything we want to!

    And if that’s not possible, any distance at all, perhaps writing in the morning and publishing later in the day, or going for a walk, or doing another piece of work. Getting on with other things for a while might flag up things we’ve missed, and going back to work with fresh eyes can’t hurt.

    :o)

  28. To know when to finish the post I would say:
    first decide the title, so you remember what you wanted to talk about. Later you can of course change it, but it will remind you not to go too far from the main topic. Reading the post after some paragraphs or as soon as you feel to be not on the right rail can be also useful.

    Improvements can be added very short time after after publising. If you know that many visitors have already read your post, than it would be better to leave it as it is and to write a new post as “errata corrige”. Readers will fell more involved in your thoughts, and will feel that the writer is not an immaterial being. It could encourage more comments, too. But if the changes are not drammatically big, if the meaning isn’t affected and it’s just a stylistic matter, than you can also improve the post.
    Pay attention not to rewrite posts that have already some comments. It would be incorrect, in my opinion.

    New posts are better in many cases becuase the readers who subscribed the feed will be informed of the new post but not of the changes you did in the old one.

    To care for traffic does not automatically mean to lose in quality. Sometimes it’s the opposite. Always remember who your readers are. There shall be friends readind, but also a possible future employer (who knows?), an expert looking for smart guys for an interview. You can never be 100% sure that there is nobody who is worth that you care for the contents between your readers. But what is actually quality?

    I think Darren could start a new discussion for this point… ;-)

  29. I am horrible typist.

    I used to publish right away and then be embarrassed when mistakes were pointed out.

    I find editing a post while in dashboard difficult. As well as pasting into Word the last few months I publish new posts as PRIVATE. I can more easily see if I need to add a graphic , more spacing, change wording, etc. This has worked well.

  30. I hate old content getting buried under heaps of young posts. Its great to resurrect them with little updates and linking them in new posts.

    If i ‘HAVE’ to write a master piece, i check it, mess it up, make duplicates on word, publish, edit….. :)

  31. HI,
    Speaking about posting I have a question for everyone on problogger.
    I run a finance blog and I am fairly new and I don’t know whether I should write about certain topics on each day (like real estate monday, stock market tuesday, internet business wednesday etc) or should I keep it mixed up everyday?
    Any tips would be great, just write em in the comments on my blog.
    Thanks Darren and all your guys
    Ryan McLean

  32. Hey all – glad to see this generating such an interesting discussion – and there are some really good take-away points here, like the advice from many people to “sleep on it”, or at least take an extended break and then read the draft again. I tend to blog topics about which I’m passionate, so my first drafts often contain far too many adverbs. Often when I re-read them later they come across far too strong and I have to tone them down!

    I empathise with everyone in the “impatient blogger” stable because I always want my thoughts to be “out there” straight away too, but I guess the disciplined approach would produce more considered posts. It seems the old adage of “think before you act” still rings true in the digital era.

    As Chris Thompson mentioned: it does concern me that if I update a post it might refresh the RSS feed inappropriately. I use Feedburner to handle all that stuff – does anyone know if it suffers from this problem? I guess I could subscribe to my own feed to find out (and I suppose *that* could be a good tip for those of us still playing around with our blogging setup!)

    Richard.

  33. …and, dammit, I just noticed *another* error in my latest post. Better correct it quick before you lot notice… ;-)

  34. Ryan Mac: I’ve seen some people who have a day like [Something] Monday, but I haven’t seen many people do it for each day of the week. So maybe pick two days out if you’d like to do [Something] day on a weekly basis.

  35. From repeated bitter experience, I know that no writing (blogs and others) is ever finished until SOMEONE ELSE has proofed and edited it!

    [email protected]
    http://thoughtsintime.co.za

  36. Hmmm, I don’t know if I’m the best one to give advice on this because it normally takes me A Long Time to publish a post.

    I start writing bits of it, I add in links (I often deep link to my other posts), I scrap parts, I move paragraphs up and down the page, I run the whole thing through spell check, and I read and re-read it using the WP preview.

    I’d like to be able to write quicker and maybe I will eventually.

    Because I take all that time, I don’t usually change anything after I post, but if I make small changes (ex: I’ve noticed in old posts that I should have put a link to another one of my posts “here” instead of “there” and have changed that) I don’t add notes for the reader.

    I have added lines at the end of some of my higher traffic posts, like hard coding “related posts” into my post, but that’s something that I didn’t note either because it didn’t really change anything.

    The times I’ve noted that something was updated was when it changed the content or if I had posted about something that was time-sensitive. Then I’ll use the text “update:” and bold it.

    That’s about it, I’m interested to see what everyone else has to say.

  37. Hi Darren,

    Been here once in awhile, but this is the first post I’m replying to. I’ve been blogging for sometime now, not making any money yet but looking forward to…

    I haven’t tried this before, because I’m just getting organized with my “publishing” as well. But I believe that when you think of a post, you should look at it as maybe five or six points you have to write about. When you get further ideas, see if it fits within a paragraph for one of the points, and if not, maybe it would be good to make a new post and link to it somewhere in your text.

  38. I find it is far too easy to get caught up in editing a post too much or adding too much to it. So, I like to plan my post by keeping just a few headings under that article topic. Then I stick to a few short lists or paragraphs for each of those headings and I don’t generally add any more to it.

    I always tweak the headings a bit and often save it as a draft to quickly re-read it the next day but just for spelling and simple mistakes, I don’t add any more to it.

    Also, sometimes I find myself just correcting problems on a post after it has long been published. If I get a lot of hits or comments on a post, I tend to look it over a bit more as I respond and then see more minor things to fix. No big deal though. I think some people spend more time tweaking what they want to say and not enough time saying it.

  39. I am in favor of sleeping through the night and looking at the article afresh. There are mistakes you will not normally spot and the writing is not as sharp.

  40. Writing posts can be a little like writing a novel or creating a work of art, in the sense that it is never 100% finished to our satisfaction. There are always improvements that could be made, but at some point you have to draw the line and say “that will do”, then move on to new content.

    For me that point is when I hit the publish button. Like others, I “sleep on it”, writing posts in a text editor and revisiting it over several days (not hard when you only post once a week!). By the time I paste it into WordPress and hit publish, I’ve usually done as much correcting and re-wording as I’m likely to want to do.

    Any typos that survive this process are probably minor enough not to worry about. Most readers don’t have the same expectations of literary brilliance from a blog post as they would from a book or journal article. If I think of any significant new additions or updates, I’d rather put it in a new post, linking back to the original.

  41. I don’t like to change a post too much after it is already published but when I want to add something or repair some of the mistakes I do it. I think it depends from person to person and maybe also what is the blog about.

  42. When i sit down writing a post, i generally complete doing with all my research and have a fairly good idea what i want to write. If i stumble across anything great / new then i add them eventually.

    As i keep improving my draft, i make it a point to go through the post once or twice before it is published.

    As far as the question is concern of how do i know the post is ready to complete, i just try reading it from a reader’s perspective. But i wish if i could have someone read it and suggest improvements to me.

    Once published, if any changes are there, such that i have to alter the text, i do it. Else for other changes i prefer adding an update note towards the end of the post.

  43. Grouping all the ideas together and co relating them is always a big task.
    Having full information regarding the topic and browsing the related sites gives me a fair idea about the missing points of my post.
    Any way all the above ideas are wonderful and thank you all for sharing your experiences.

  44. Drafting the article.. Hurm..maybe you’ll have a few draft which was firstly edited a few days ago. this means you have few days to write the article and inprove the article before become an output.

    erm..what I mean is..i call it buffer of articles..hehe..can i use that word..?

  45. I think you can modify the post after publishing. I don’t see any problems. Everyone makes mistakes so there shouldn’t be any problem.

  46. Anytime I have an idea, I create draft. As the idea builds, I add to the draft. I normally post a new entry three times a week, so when it comes time to post, I simply go to my drafts and decide which one I want to publish next. I’ll spend an hour or two tweaking and developing the content. I double and triple check for spelling and grammar… and then I publish it!

    The thing I love most about blogging is the ability to go back and add, subtract, edit, etc. If I published an article in a magazine… that’s it… I’m stuck with it… but the real power of my blog is that I can always make it better! I think that what life is all about… Continuous improvement!

    Doyle Slayton
    Executive Director & Sales Strategist
    http://www.SalesBlogcast.com

  47. when i fell tired….and need rest to get new idea

  48. One thing I have discovered – nomatter how many times you proofread and check, after the post has gone live you will *always* find one error!

    Also, if you read a post and realize you’ve missed a good point or two, write it down and save it for another post – you may be able to find a different angle for it in time.

  49. I usually write it, do a quick read of it, find a mistake, fix mistake, publish.

    Once it’s published and live, I do another quick read of the post, usually find another little error, fix it, and republish.

    For updates more than 6-12 hours from the time of the original post, I will usually type at the very bottom:

    UPDATE

    and I make the word UPDATE bold, then type the update after that.

    Hope this helps!

  50. How do you know when you’re done writing a post?

    The main thing is to keep your market/readers in mind: explain the topic thoroughly, but avoid over-explaining.

    Writing for newspapers is good training in writing to length – that “inner editor” teaches you when to stop. Explain your points and avoid adding extras that aren’t relevant. Add those to another post or ask yourself what they’d add? Chances are you don’t even need them.

    Christine Verstraete – http://cverstraete.com
    Coming May ’08: “Searching For A Starry Night” – A nosy Dachshund, a family curse… Can Sam find the missing miniature Van Gogh in time? – Quake/Echelon Press, http://www.quakeme.com – Blog: http://candidcanine.blogspot.com

A Practical Podcast… to Help You Build a Better Blog

The ProBlogger Podcast

A Practical Podcast…

Close
Open