Picture"Three Clocks Care Not for Daylight Savings Time" image by servus @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/servus/16117730/
My recent article in DeHaan Services, "Make Time for 2014 Daylight Savings Time in Canada", is just in time for the change to DST in both Canada and in the USA.

It includes a note about changing the batteries in your smoke detectors, and a link to the whole world's scheduled dates for switching between DST and Standard Time.

I also mention doing some comparison shopping online for a brand-name
alkaline 9 volt battery pack. Frankly, I was surprised that the web retailer's price was lower than the local hardware store's regular price.

I classify my article as a public service announcement.

One Timely Writing Tip for a PSA

Today's writing tip suggests a category for your blog.

Do you blog about handy tips and tricks? Do you cover current events? If your writing topics include facts or practical life suggestions, read on. (If you cover gossip, jokes, or your inner feelings... this category might not be for you).

Try including a PSA (Public Service Announcement) article in your blog from time to time.

One reason for writing a timely PSA, such as my Daylight Savings Time topic, is that there is a spike in readers looking for that information. News agencies and casual acquaintances mention a current topic, so they contribute the "buzz" for that news.

Another reason: the topic is right there in front of you. You may have been stuck for the theme for a blog post; but now you have your inspiration.

If you already are building a reputation for facts, helpful hints or practical suggestions for people to follow, then your reputation as a credible source lends weight to your PSA article.

On the other hand, it's not such a good idea to add one serious category to a blog that normally doesn't carry such themes. It's all a matter of building credibility as well as satisfying your audience. If they come to you for laughs or tears, they probably don't want to read your advice on when to set their clocks for Daylight Savings Time.

Thanks for reading about Daylight Savings Time in 2014.
Picture"Allocation Preferences Example 1" : Image by Mike DeHaan
All my "Preview..." articles feature my original images that will appear in a future article in an online site which I don't own or control.

Picture"Allocation Results Example 1" : Image by Mike DeHaan
Today I'm about to send an article to Decoded Science. (Update): "How to Divide Indivisible Goods Fairly: Algorithm for Dividing Assets" was published Feb. 23, 2014.

Picture"Allocation Preferences Example 2" : Image by Mike DeHaan
(Updated): On Feb. 23, I updated this blog post with the link to my published article.

The point to writing an incomplete preview article is to publish my original images in one of my own web sites before they appear elsewhere. That establishes my copyright.

(Added Feb. 24, 2014): I've also written a promotional blog post in DeHaan Services. "How to Avoid Envy when Dividing the Spoils" adds some Canadian content because I'd interviewed one of the contributing authors, a professor at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Picture"Allocation Results Example 2" : Image by Mike DeHaan
Now that the main article is published, I've added a writing tip to this blog post.

One Writing Tip on Useful Images

(Updated): Today's writing tip is a guide to adding useful images to an online article.

The basics:
  • Always have at least one image.
  • Always follow the terms of use for images that you use from elsewhere.
  • At least the first image should be eye-catching and creative.
  • The images must contribute to the message or meaning of the article.
The above images that I made for my "How to divide..." article help explain the contents. But they aren't eye-catching, or especially creative.

Since I couldn't find what I wanted as the lead image, I asked my editor for help. I loved the image that was added to the article. It fit with the contents, but I would never have thought of it... or anything like it.

So this writing tip is to be sure to illustrate your articles with at least one terrific image. Use the images to explain your message.

Thanks for reading about dividing indivisible goods.

Picture"Map of Todmorden Mills, Toronto" image by Mike DeHaan
My recent DeHaan Services article, "Six Civic Museums for 2014 Family Day in Toronto", answers the question of what to do with this mid-February holiday. It continues my blog's series of annual frugal events in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area.

One Family-Friendly Writing Tip

What's more "family-friendly" than saving time? That's today's writing tip. Save some time writing your next article by re-using existing artwork, illustrations or images.

Today I re-used two images for my DeHaan Services article. The map is one that I'd created for a previous article about an event at Todmorden Mills. (It's hard to describe the location with mere words).

The other image in that article is a great photograph taken at Fort York in Toronto.

The map is just plain useful for my readers; and the photograph has great aesthetic value. Besides, the Todmorden Mills section of the article is nearly at the end. By then, readers will have despaired of seeing any illustrations whatsoever.

Don't re-use images so often that your readers think they've read the article already. That's especially important if you cover the same topic with a new slant. But if you haven't used the image in a year or so, it's safe to re-use that picture.

Thanks for reading my article about celebrating 2014 Family Day.

Picture"Groundhog Not Afraid of his Shadow" image by Barbara L. Hanson
My recent DeHaan Services article, "A More Crowded 2014 Groundhog Day in Canada", reported that a mysterious new woodchuck plans to take her place in predicting weather on Feb. 2, 2014.

I hope to learn more about Dundas Donna on Sunday, and will update that article when I learn more. In the meantime, it does point to a number of Canadian and American groundhogs who already have established themselves as weather predictors.

One Newsworthy Writing Tip for Groundhog Day 2014

I'd written about Groundhog Day previously, and had made a list of the sites to re-visit for 2014.

However, an evening newscast mentioned that Dundas Donna would make her debut this weekend. That launched my new article in time for Groundhog Day 2014: Feb. 2nd.
My quick research then provided the specific angle: she's not just new, she is still shy about her appearance, her experience in weather prediction, and in booking appearances.

Today's newsworthy writing tip is to pay attention to news items. You cannot write about everything that popular media serves; but pay attention for issues that fit your niche. Dundas Donna, the latest weather-predicting woodchuck, should be an ideal celebrity guest at the type of event that I write about in DeHaan Services. Just keep alert for news about your interests, and find a way to write about those items.
Picture"Major US Shooting Incidents by Date" : Image by Mike DeHaan.
Welcome to this Preview article, in which I establish a copyright to images that I personally created.

I'm publicizing my upcoming Decoded Science article, "Trending Statistics for Major Fatal US Shootings", for which I created these images. (Now published!)

Picture"Fatal US Shooting Incidents Graphed by Date" : Image by Mike DeHaan
To establish copyright for a picture or diagram, I simply publish that image in a blog that I control, before sending it to another site to illustrate an online article.

Picture"Days Between Major Fatal US Shooting Incidents" : Image by Mike DeHaan
After that, I return here to publicize that article and add a writing tip.

I also publicize my article in DeHaan Services, and often add a Canadian note for my fellow citizens. Unfortunately "Statistical Trends on Major Shootings in the US and Canada" is still a bit of a work in progress; no-one has spoon-fed me a report on Canadian shootings.

Take a Writing Tip from your Editor

This is such a simple writing tip, that I can't believe I haven't mentioned it before.

I wrote the article because my editor at Decoded Science pointed out the topic and some references.

Remember that editors rise to their positions by virtue of having an instinct for readers' interests and worthwhile topics, as well as a professional ability to reduce cluttered prose. So take their suggestions seriously!

Thanks for reading about how I came to write about the statistics of major fatal shootings in the US.
Picture"Urban Canadian Flags at HBC" by PinkMoose (Anthony Easton)
My recent DeHaan Services article, "When is the 2014 Family Day in Canada?", pins down the dates for this very diversified Canadian holiday.

Unlike national holidays, Family Day in Canada has different names and even different dates, depending on the province which celebrates or ignores it. Canada may pride itself on its diversity of people, cultural heritage and ethnic backgrounds; but we bring it to a new level in our treatment of this February holiday.

One Family Friendly Writing Tip

Okay, I admit that today's writing tip is only "family friendly" because the overall topic is "Family Day 2014 in Canada". Nonetheless, here it is.

I jumped at writing this article early in January although the holiday waits until mid-February. That's faster than my usual schedule.

Why the rush? I happened to read an ad promoting a Family Day activity just this past week. I thought, "If those people are already advertising, then I'd better get my article out in front of my readers".

So this writing tip is simple. If you see "your" topic being raised before you were ready, then you've nearly missed your opportunity. Be early, rather than late, to chime in with your unique viewpoints. After all, your readers deserve to find your best work, rather than someone else's, the first time they look for that information. And they might not bother looking a second time!

Thanks for reading about Family Day 2014 in
Picture"Mascots at Toronto City Hall in Winter of 2010" image by happyworker
Start the New Year by "Finding Your 2014 New Year Levee in Toronto or in the GTA".

My DeHaan Services article explains what a "Levée" is,
and lists a number of venues in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) as well as in the City of Toronto, Ontario, where we can hobnob with dignitaries on either New Year's Day 2014 or on Sunday Jan. 5th.

Is This an Annual Writing Tip?

Certainly the annual tradition of holding a "Levée" lends itself to writing an annual article.

So if your blog deals, at least in part, with annual or recurring events, by all means write about them.

This may be my most common writing tip for inventing topics. If your topic comes up on some regular basis, you can plan ahead to research and write about it.

You probably don't want to put yourself on a treadmill; but most of us cannot invent completely new topics for each deadline.

While DeHaan Services specifically covers frugal annual events (among other topics!), you can find seasonal or recurring themes in many other niche markets:

  • Gardening;
  • Home Maintenance;
  • School versus Summer vacations Sports;
  • Travel Destinations.
So spend some time thinking about your seasonal topics. Or go back over your blog, and see what recurring themes you've covered.

And thanks for reading about the 2014 New Year's Day Levées in Toronto.
Picture"Lemonade Stand" image by Celeste Lindell @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/64401168@N00/485938950/
The old adage says that when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.

This past week has been a "lemon" of a week for me. Although several aspects are still not within my control, one thing is.

"My Worst Week of 5K Training for the Resolution Run" explains the problems, and how I'm dealing with a setback in my running program. It's a suitable topic for my DeHaan Fitness blog.

Since that article promised a follow-up story, I added "My End of 2013 Resolution Run after a Bad Training Week". Did I rejoice or weep after the run?

Resolution Run? What's That?

My "5K to Couch in One Bad Training Week" article in DeHaan Services explains and links to the Resolution Run.

It also explains the "5K to Couch" reference!

One Fit Writing Tip

Today's writing tip is simple, but it's new on this site.

If you encounter an obstacle, and especially if you discover a way to overcome that problem, write about it.

Many readers may face the same difficulty, so you have a ready audience. Some will be inspired by, or learn from, your example. So share your knowledge.

In my case, I know how to handle a glitch in my 5K training program.
That's the inspiration for my article.

Don't just make lemonade from life's lemons; open a lemonade stand too!
Picture"School Shooting Incidents in 2013 in the USA" : Image by Mike DeHaan
Regular readers realize that posts named "Preview of..." know that the first purpose is the copyright notice. I hand-crafted the above image, and want to publish it here online before it is shown elsewhere.

Now that "Risks of a School Shooting versus an Airplane Crash" has been published in Decoded Science, this promotional post is complete.

A reader had asked about the risk of being involved in a school shooting as different from an airplane crash. Do the statistics surprise you?

You probably will never need an airplane crash attorney; but what about suing for trauma after a school shooting incident?

Also read "Statistical Risk of Airplane Crash versus School Shooting" in DeHaan Services for a few Canadian examples of school shootings and airline incidents. Do my anecdotal recollections support or contradict the main article's conclusion?

One Thankful Writing Tip

Regular readers also expect a writing tip based on "how I came to write the primary article".

Today I'm sitting comfortably in my church, using their internet connection and electricity. Most of Toronto is recovering from a power outage caused by an ice storm. While my neighbourhood's electricity was restored within a day, my home's wires were severed from the grid by a tree limb.

However, we're fortunate that there was only minimal damage; and blessed because neighbours are helping us cope. If our church were not available, I'm sure that we could have bunked with the folks next door, or across the street.

I'm also hearing about others in similar circumstances, either giving aid or being helped. Meanwhile, the professionals are quietly repairing power lines, while experienced volunteers staff "warming centres" for the coldest or frailest.

So my article is perhaps the smallest Christmas miracle of 2013, and the least significant achievement compared to staying alive, warm and fed.
Picture"Matrix" image by Lakeworks via Wikimedia Commons
One little irony in a writer's career comes when a reader asks about a topic currently under investigation. My recent "Preview" article here shows that I had been thinking about vectors and matrices already.

Then a Decoded Science reader asked about practical applications for matrix math. I quickly responded with "Practical Uses of Matrix Mathematics".

As a writer, I'm a bit disappointed, since I'm still working on building a series of online articles to include this narrow topic.

On the other hand, it's gratifying that someone, somewhere, was willing to ask that question.

If you want a pointer on where to start learning more about matrix math, that's covered in my online article in DeHaan Services, "Practical Matrix Mathematics in Canada". The same principles work in other countries, but I like to keep a Canadian perspective for my home blog.

One Responsive Writing Tip

One joy of writing for Decoded Science is the clever "Ask an Expert" section, which invites readers' questions even if the topic had not yet been covered.

Let me encourage you to consider the same approach in your own web sites.

This writing tip actually comes with a warning or disclaimer: if you don't respond quickly with something useful, you may lose readers.

Decoded Science enjoys the advantages of having a strong managing editor and a variety of experts willing to take on challenges. In fact, that's part of the process: the editor will flag a topic for the appropriate writer, who usually jumps at the chance.

You don't need to solicit readers' questions to apply a similar discipline. In fact, you should practice by simply:

  1. Read news items or new background material in your field of expertise.
  2. Challenge yourself to research and write about the topic, with a specific question and a tight deadline.
  3. Review for quality: is it accurate? Is it well written? Did you make your deadline?

Whether or not you ever respond to requests from your readers, this approach should help in your own writing.

Thanks for reading about my quick response to a matrix math question.

    Mike DeHaan

    Mike DeHaan began writing professionally in 2010 as the sole proprietor of DeHaan Services.To see this information with the best background image, please refer to "About.Me",  befriend me at Facebook, or circle me at Google+.


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