Today’s Armchair BEA topic is a free choice selection. Since I’ve spent so much of my time this week writing posts for BEA, I thought I’d pass on some resources that I’ve found a great help when creating blog content.
First of all, finding the right word
Obviously you need a good dictionary like the Collins English Thesaurus so you can check you are using the correct spelling in your post. Although most word processing software programs these days come with automatic spellcheck you can’t always rely on them for accuracy. I do like to look up words myself. But there are many other tools. Here are 5 recommendations:
1. Plain English Campaign Guides
The Plain English Campaign is an organisation I admire enormously for their work in getting government departments, insurance companies and travel firms to simplify their official documents. The site gives you the basics on how to write plain English. The tool I find particularly helpful is the A-Z of Alternative Words – this will help you avoid writing that can be complex. Look up ‘acquire’ and it tells you the better word is ‘get’ or ‘buy’ as an example.
2. The Visual Thesaurus
This is a good resource for people who like to think in visual terms. It’s both a dictionary and a thesaurus. You type in a word and the tool creates word maps based on that entry. The maps branch out to related words. Although use of Visual Thesaurus requires you to take out a subscription, there is a free trial version.
This is more of an unusual tool. It’s really useful when you are struggling to find the right tense or when you are trying to avoid repeating the same word too much in a sentence. It enables you to search for words under different categories; for example you can search by “singular for “adverb for,” “past tense of” and you can also get help on how to pronounce your chosen word.
This one is good if you want to use headlines that involve a play on words. You put in a word and the tool gives you a list of common phrases in which the word appears.
If you are making a conscious effort to shorten the way you write (Plain English Campaign guideline is to aim for sentences of around 20 words), this is the tool for you. In The Shorter Thesaurus you enter a long word and get a list of shorter synonyms. Would be useful for Twitter users also.
Finding the right image
We all know what a difference a good image can make to a blog post. It’s not always easy to find the right one and stay legal at the same time. Here are some resources that can help you say within the law.
But first let’s touch on the thorny question of when it is ok to use an image you find on the web.
Often when you go to a site it will tell you that an image is free to use. That doesn’t give you carte blanche to use the image however – you need to make sure you understand the terms and conditions. For example, some images will be labelled in Google as Labeled for reuse which means the license allows you to copy and/or modify the image in specific ways. If you’re blog is not generating income, then that will generally be sufficient for your needs but if you are getting an income stream from your blog you need to look for Labeled for commercial reuse images instead and follow those terms and conditions.
1. Google Images
This is where most of us start off when we are looking for an image. Not all the images you see here are ones that you can use without breaking copyright law. You need to refine your search so that you only look for ” free images” using the small gear icon on the right side of the screen. Then select “Advanced Search.” and the correct image use type from the blue sign that says “Usage Rights.” You do need to know what image use types exist.
There are thousands of images on this site. Again you need to make sure you are using only those which are designated as ‘creative commons’ usage. Make sure you select the “Creative Commons” box in the Advanced Search page.
This could be a quicker way to find Creative Commons images since it finds images with all the attribution details and license info.
A rich source of good images. Those which are free tend to be smaller in size but that should be ok for a blog. If you need anything bigger, you pay for them.
Yes, believe it or not, you are a source for images. All you need is a digital camera and a tiny bit of technical know how to upload the image onto your computer. Instead of grabbing an image of a jacket cover from Google (which could get you into trouble) why not take your own photo of the book – maybe put it in the place where you do your reading to make it more distinctive than everyone else’s photo of that book cover. This is something I’m going to be trying out myself starting this weekend. I’m also going to be looking for a low cost graphic design package so I can create my own images. The last thing I want is a solicitor’s letter dropping through my letter box alleging I have stolen someone else’s intellectual property.