How to Become a Better Blogger 3: Ethics and Links

women_blogger1 The Better Blogger focuses on what his or her readers needs to know and avoids saying more about the subject than they have to. It’s important to provide background but where less important information can be left out that’s the better way to go.

Brevity is an important goal in online writing. Longer posts can be intimidating. Many visitors will only scan long posts at best. The theory is that online readers have relatively short attention spans. Of course, there are exceptions, but in general I think it is good advice to think small. Keep it simple and clear. And when it comes to editing: when it doubt, cut it out. — Robert Stevenson in An Exercise in Brevity

Guidelines for Ethical Blogging

Over the years four basic guidelines for ethical blogging have been recognized.

(1) Be well informed about your subject

Blogging is, by definition, a self-directed process. There are usually no deadlines, other than those you assign yourself and  no one telling you what to do. You are on your own and free to write off the top of your head about  matters that are well known to you.

However,  it’s also important to recognize that bloggers have an obligation to themselves and to their readers to explore and research topics as fully as possible prior to writing and publishing.

  • Investigate the background;
  • Get the whole story;
  • Learn about both sides of the issue;
  • Seek out competing points of view;
  • Read what the experts have to say;
  • Get the facts straight.

As a professional writer and blogger, it’s important to keep a stash of resources and links to save time. Every blogger has their own unique list of resources and sources they call upon. These are just a few of mine. — Lorelle Van Fossen in Blogging Resources and Sources to Help you Blog

(2) Be honest

Beware of  the temptation to distort truth for your own purposes. Responsible bloggers comprehend  copyright and fair use limitations and what to do about copyright. They do not falsify facts, do not present a few facts as the whole story, do not present tentative findings as firm conclusions.  They do not plagarize and or present the ideas of others as their own.


(3) Use sound evidence

You need evidence to explain and support your ideas. When using evidence, be sure not to take quotations out of context, not to juggle numbers or statistics, and not to present unusual cases as representative examples. Use sources of information that are objective and qualified and link to them appropriately.

Links to your sources are important for at least four reasons: Verifiability, Acknowledgment, Examples, Context. 

1. Verifiability. Links to your sources allow me to verify whether or not your story is true. For this to work, though, they should point to hard news sources, not just another blog.

2. Acknowledgment. Sources permit you to acknowledge where you got your ideas and information from in the first place. These can include not only hard news sources, but also any blog or other source that sparked you to think about the topic. If the information is not generally known, though, include additional sources to satisfy the verifiability requirement. I sometimes handle acknowledgments with a hat tip.

3. Examples. Sources can help provide you with the kinds of examples you need to support your arguments. Since the internet is a hypertext environment, sources can also help you to pack more information into a post without providing loads of background details.

4. Context. Sources help locate your ideas within their broader context. By providing links to that context, you help your reader to understand how your ideas relate to other opinions and discussions on the internet, and on your own blog. In the process you provide additional value to your reader, giving her one more reason to return.

Mark Stoneman in Do You Link to Your Sources?

Take the time to examine and carefully select anchor text when you link. Search engines are designed to provide highly relevant search results and this is where properly selected anchor text comes into play. Anchor text is weighted (ranked) highly in search engine algorithms, because the linked text is usually relevant to the landing page. Use appropriate key words (search terms) as anchor text.

Anchor text can be used in:

  • Links on your home or main page – *important spot*
  • External links – links from other sites
  • Internal links – links on your pages
  • Navigation maps


(4) Employ valid reasoning

Avoid such fallacies as making hasty generalizations, asserting causal connections where none exist, using invalid analogies, and pandering to passion or prejudice.

A fallacy is, very generally, an error in reasoning. This differs from a factual error, which is simply being wrong about the facts. To be more specific, a fallacy is an “argument” in which the premises given for the conclusion do not provide the needed degree of support. A deductive fallacy is a deductive argument that is invalid (it is such that it could have all true premises and still have a false conclusion). An inductive fallacy is less formal than a deductive fallacy. They are simply “arguments” which appear to be inductive arguments, but the premises do not provided enough support for the conclusion. In such cases, even if the premises were true, the conclusion would not be more likely to be true. — Dr. Michael C. Labossiere in Fallacies

Photo credits
Related posts found in this blog:
How to Become a Better Blogger 1 Introduction
How to Become a Better Blogger 2: Online Privacy
Deep link posts: Bring your readers back again and again

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41 thoughts on “How to Become a Better Blogger 3: Ethics and Links

  1. Pingback: 10 Guidelines for Writing Engaging Posts | one cool site

  2. Pingback: Better Blogging: Powerful, Persuasive Writing « one cool site

  3. Loved, loved this site and will be back. Today I just launched my first blog ever. I am so excited to launch my blog the same day Oprah launched her OWN network. I have so much to learn and I am thrilled at the prospect of molding this blog like a ball of clay into something beautiful both in form and function.

  4. You really have a fascinating amount of information, I’ve been going back and forth through your links for hours! I’m brand new to the whole concept of blogs, and this is all quite eye opening.
    Regarding the idea of linking to sources, perhaps you will have some advice for a problem I’ve had with that. I often go straight to scientific and medical journals for much of my own research, but you can often only access them through the University libraries, some through the public libraries’ databases. Not realizing that the links didn’t stay open once I was in it, I would post the links on my facebook or in emails and get comments back from everyone else that they needed special passwords or codes.
    How do you link such source documents? Do you copy and paste the whole document, or do this screenshot thing of which you speak? Is that kosher with copyright issues? Or do you just put a list of references (a la scientific journal style) at the end and let those readers who have access do so, and the rest can often see the abstracts. Or should I just link to the abstracts generally? ( I find that unless someone has some background training in reading those papers, they don’t usually find them very comprehensible anyway).

    Thank you kindly,

  5. @cartercuty
    Thanks for the invitation but I don’t visit blogs and give advice. I simply publish what I want to share here and discuss what I have posted with those who comment here.

  6. Pingback: Resources for launching your online writing career « one cool site: wordpress blogging tips

  7. Pingback: How to make money by blogging « one cool site: wordpress blogging tips

    Hello there. I’d like to invite you to read my comment policy found on my About page.
    Apparently the subject of blogging ethics is one you need to work on. I do value comments but I am not a fool. Comments made for the purpose of link dropping are not welcome on my blog. I broke the link to your username in your comment and I also deleted the commercial link you left in it.
    I have some advice for you. Never underestimate the IQ of your fellow bloggers, and if you cannot behave ethically, then get the heck out of blogging.

  9. @legbamel
    I like your additional idea. Encouraging discussion is what blogging is all about. When I return from vacation I’ll be continuing the series and that’s a great inclusion for one of my upcoming installments. Thanks and best wishes. :)

  10. While an individual post may not require items one and three in their entirety, I hope that my blog, as a whole, incorporates all of these elements. One additional thought, perhaps a 2a, would be to encourage discussion and disagreement in your comments. Keeping an open mind and considering (perhaps even incorporating) new information should be a pre-requisite. We can’t always be right, regardless of research and logic. :)

  11. Hi Jim,
    Thanks for coming, reading and commenting. I hope you find the other installments in the series to be helpful too. Best wishes for happy blogging.

  12. Nice post! I came here via DIGG from blogcatalog. Glad I did! Best wishes, Jim

  13. @gingerbeer
    The answer is that it all depends on the kind of blog you have and who your readers are. Professionals writing academic essays have readers that will read long posts. Programmers giving complex IT instructions and including code snippets and screen shots also have technical readers who will read long posts. However, by and large your posts in other types of blogs should be shorter than the one I wrote above, unless they are pillar posts. Brevity is important when it comes to writing for the web. Perhaps the best way to get a handle on this is to write posts that do not exceed 350 words and see how your readers respond.

  14. My question is, what is considered an overly long post? I write about social issues and I am never really sure if I am going on for too long. I am used to writing 10-15 pages on a subject so I find the blog format difficult sometimes.

  15. Pingback: How to Become a Better Blogger 4: Essentials « one cool site: wordpress blogging tips

  16. You’re most welcome. Aside from the minority of sploggers who steal content, I do believe most bloggers are people of integrity. Best wishes for better blogging :)

  17. I began blogging by doing what I saw and what you describe was what I saw. Then I learned about anchor text and I shared what I learned with my readers. I’m glad you found the reminder. You’re welcome and happy blogging. :)

  18. Funny how, no matter how successful your sites are, or how much you write, sometimes you slip and forget about the importance of some of the basics. Thanks for reminding me of the importance of anchor text. It is easy to slip into the habit of anchoring terms like “click here” or “this page”.

  19. I agree that brevity is key. It can be hard to write short posts without leaving out key elements. But you’re right that people will lose interest. My biggest pet peeve are those who embrace fallacies! Great post.

  20. @Shefaly,
    Thanks for posting your agreement and support of the guidelines. Let’s hope we see ethical blogging spread like a cancer. :)

  21. Good points – it would be good if we could find, out of the 100M or so blogs tracked by Technorati, at least 100 blogs where every single post can stand up to scrutiny under the ‘evidence’ and ‘reasoning’ headers.

    The only times I have had ‘arguments’ in the blogosphere have been when I have challenged the evidence for being skewed a certain way and when the reasoning is loose and even fallacious. But then not everyone writing in the blogosphere has a graduate degree… :-)

    I mean seriously, these are ideal guidelines, but I really would love to know more bloggers who write in line with these tests of honesty, evidential balance and reasoning. Thanks.

  22. @Lyn
    Thanks for your praise on this installment. I value it. I’m looking forward to reading your money management articles. I’m also sending all my good thought Fifi’s way in hopes she will make a speedy and full recovery.
    Best wishes for happy blogging. :)

  23. I do believe that the vast and overwhelming majority of bloggers are also aiming to do an ethical job when they write and publish. Thanks for commenting.

  24. @Mike
    I have been enjoying both your videos and your posts. I admire your style of information sharing. You are a skilled and very entertaining writer. I’m so glad you found my post to be “on the money”.
    Happy blogging :)

  25. @Maria
    I’m so glad that I wrote exactly what you were looking for. I hope you will find all of the installments in the series to be helpful.
    Best wishes for better blogging. :)

  26. @msk08
    Yes I do agree with you. These 4 guidelines can and ought to be applied to writing and most particularly to journalism, as well as, to blogging. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  27. @John Feeny
    You have said: “The problem is most “active” blogs are valued on readership that create activity surrounded by mis-information or over the top opinions that have little or nothing to do with facts.”

    I concur with your viewpoint. What distresses me about political blogs is that many bloggers are actually relying on the slant provided by a single news reporter. Bloggers are not “journalists,” unless the seek out first hand information and state their opinions based on their own findings and other authoritative sources as well. Sadly this is not what I have witnessed and the kind of poisonous political blogging I have been exposed to turned me right off. In fact, I’m no longer reading political blogs at all.

    Thanks for your comment. It was most appreciated. :)

  28. @ the fearless blog
    I’m so glad that you approve of the 4 guidelines for ethical blogging. I think they to all writers but, like you I recognize that common sense does not always prevail and sometimes we need reminders. I hope you enjoy reading the rest of this series too.
    Best wishes for better blogging. :)

  29. @DeanJBaker
    Thank you for taking the time to read my post and to let me know that you found it interesting. I hope you will return and read the rest of the series as well.

  30. Great information. Being informed about your subject and being able to back it up with your researched notes is important. Also linking to those sources for verification for the reader is helpful. To write the messages you want to communicate in concise and clear form is hard to do, but it is important to keep readers coming back. Thanks for sharing. Lyn

  31. Your point about:

    * Investigate the background;
    * Get the whole story;
    * Learn about both sides of the issue;
    * Seek out competing points of view;
    * Read what the experts have to say;
    * Get the facts straight.

    Now that’s a mouth full. If you applied those key elements as basis for have a blog you would be vaulted to the head of the class. The problem is most “active” blogs are valued on readership that create activity surrounded by mis-information or over the top opinions that have little or nothing to do with facts.

    You could never apply this matrix to Political blogs. Most are hell bent on the fact their view is truth.

    Staying within a particular area is generally the hardest task. Being informative to the readership of expert opinions carries more weight than most realize. Done right it validates your position.

    Me, I still like the shock treatment now and then. It has it’s professional kick-back but those that know me understand I’ll fire the first shot.

  32. Greats tips with data to back them up…the basics of being a better blogger! I agree that brevity is best–I learned that lesson with my videos. Short and sweet (with good content) beats long and wordy (even with, sadly, good content).


  33. I am quite new to blogging and really had little idea what made up a good post. However, lately that is exactly what I have been wondering about. I was excited to see the title of this article because I had no idea where to begin looking for this information. Then all of a sudden it’s all here in this one brief and to the point post!

  34. Excellent post.
    You preface your post perfectly with Robert Stevenson’s piece and follow it up with a wonderful commentary. Although 1-4 make perfect sense, of the “common” kind, it serves us well to be reminded, for in our noble pursuits, we can easily lose track of what is truly necessary.

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