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

  1. 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.

  2. 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,

  3. @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.

  4. Hello there. I’d like to invite you to read my comment policy found on my About page.

    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.

  6. TYMINSKA Karolina August 14, 2008 — 4:48 am

    Thanks for sharing that! Nice post. I just glanced through it.

  7. @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. :)

Comments are closed.

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