24 Dec 2013

NumeroUnity.Com - An Inside View

Beautiful are those people
Who leaves their marks,
on sands of time
As dew on flowers
in zest of sunshine
Sweet as nectar
holy as divine

These lines are part of NumeroUnity, the blog under the microscope as part of the Indiblogeshwaris' Naughty and Nice programme. It is owned and handled by Ekta Khetan (hope I've got the surname right), a resident of Mumbai and a pretty girl.

The blog is impressive, just as the lines penned above. The design is clutter-free and simple, with share-on-social-media options at visible places encouraging the reader to do so.

NumeroUnity's Landing Page, with the author Ekta Khetan
The blog site (which I assume is hosted on blogger.com), is separated into 5 pages as follows:
  1.  Blog with NumeroUnity – A page which informs readers about the areas where Ekta can help businesses/brands improve their online presence. She states that she’s well equipped to handle writing projects, book launches, reviews of movies, restaurants, spas, white goods, etc., promotions, advertising, polls, giveaways and more.
  2. Blog Awards – This page talks about the accolades Ekta’s blog has won. They include winning the Microsoft Office 365 Contest, We Chat’s pan India blogging contest and one from Kitchens of India, among others. Plus she is a Mia Top Blogger for Tanishq and has featured in Spicy Saturday. Her article on Curry Bashing has been featured in MumbaiMirror too. Way to go, girl!
  3. Review – As the title suggests, this section includes reviews on films, books, food, products, and more. The page has links of the reviews posted, which means a reader can browse through the entire list of reviews at once. She can click on the link she chooses and not have to wade through content that doesn't interest her.
  4. What is NumeroUnity – This is the website’s About page. It briefly describes the owner's journey through the blogging world and talks about her likes and skills.
  5. Poems I Penned – It looks like Ekta loves writing poems. Almost every post of hers has a few lines of poetry. This section, however, has just 2 poems so far. You can bet more are coming soon.

Ekta's writing is fresh and unconventional. Unlike many bloggers, she doesn't rant about how unfair life is and how the world is not what she imagined it should be. She prefers using photos and humor in her posts. And it seems she is dead against men sporting a stubble, which is evident from the jab she’s taken at Shahid Kapoor & Ranveer Singh. The way she portrays an appalled Deepika Padukone and Sonakshi Sinha is hilarious.

Ekta could revamp the layout of her blog page a little. Archives, the option to subscribe and some good posts like the tribute to Michael Jackson and her interview are at the bottom of long pages. Plus, it takes a little effort of maneuver to one of her latest posts if you’re on another page. The Feedjit widget can make way for something which will ensure readers stay looped in on her site. And as is the case with all of us, writing skills can be further sharpened.

It’s a great blog site on the whole. One with 243 followers and 3, 00,000+ visits, she definitely is doing things right. Ekta is popular too – she gets at least 20 comments on each post. Awesome, isn't it? So guys, if you’re looking for your dose of humor, follow her website and Twitter handle. Rest assured, you won’t be let down. Cheers.

13 Dec 2013

5 Tips For Becoming A Better Writer...

For those who know me well, I read a lot. Ramya developed the habit in me, I think. Be it The Harvard Business Review magazine, mainstream or unconventional insights, books of aspiring authors or established ones, or simple blog posts... I read everything.

One thing evident, though, about us amateur bloggers and authors is our quality of writing. Our language leaves a lot wanting. There is a glaring valley (the Grand Canyon in fact) between us and established writers. 

As usual, I've been reading about it and pondering. Here are 5 tips I've come up with to improve our writing skills:

  1. Number of words: Keep your sentences below 12 words. When possible, make them really short. Research shows that a reader pays 100% attention to a sentence which comprises of 10 words. Thereafter, the reader’s attention span drops 10% per word. So if your sentence has 18 words, you've already lost your reader long back. Also avoid writing two or more sentences meaning the same thing. I remember reading a short story which went like ‘I was apoplectic. I was annoyed. I was hopping mad. My anger knew no bounds.’ OK, we get it. You were angry. But you don’t need to write 4 sentences to state the same thing, do you?
  2. Active Voice: Write in active voice. We Indians especially have the habit of adding the gerund (‘ing’) to our verbs. Constructing (see, I just did it) a sentence in active voice takes care of that concern. Also, it shortens your sentence. Writing in active voice significantly reduces the size of your post, allowing you to pack more content.
  3. Reduce adverbs: As far as possible, get rid of adverbs like ‘a little’, ‘very’ and the likes. There is no person who is ‘a little’ sad – he’s sad. No person is very humble – are you indicating that he’s more humble than a humble person by using the term ‘very’? Brian Clark (of Copyblogger) goes to the extent of asking us to replace each adverb with damn. If you can skip using damn before the verb or noun, then you can make do without the words it replaces. There is no difference in a person being polite and very polite. If he’s very polite, you can probably use ‘submissive’.
  4. Simple language: Using the word ‘coquette’ when you mean flirt or ‘agnostic’ in place of cynic will make few readers revere you. Most won’t enjoy opening a dictionary along with your post/book. Simple words which people can understand are easily accepted. Remember, a person thinks in images and pictures; not words. When she reads, you want her to create the image in her mind which you have sketched. And that can be done by using simple, yet effective words. Also, refrain from ambiguous sentences. Make sure your matter tells the reader exactly what you want to say.
  5. Grammar is King: No! Not content, grammar is king. Grammar comes first, then content. Nothing turns readers off more than poor grammar. Not knowing the difference between ‘its’ and ‘it’s’, ‘there’ or ‘their’ or missing out on pronouns like ‘a, the, an’ really puts readers off. If you want to be taken seriously as a writer/blogger, make sure your grammar rules are in place. This point doesn't need elaboration, does it?

Thus, you have 5 tips for writing better. What about you? Post your thoughts in the comments section below.

3 Dec 2013

Helping Others Too Much Hurts Them...

Garud, Lord Vishnu’s favourite devotee, was enjoying the sound of a sparrow singing on Mount Kailas. He noticed Yamaraj looking at the bird and frowning. Worried that the bird would probably suffer the wrath of Yamaraj, Garud picked the bird up and carried it over mountains and across the 7 seas. He left it in a dense forest on a tree full of succulent fruits. When Garud returned to Mount Kailas, Yamaraj was still there, but he was smiling. Garud asked him the reason for his amusement. Yamaraj said “The sparrow was supposed to die today, but not on Mount Kailas. He was to die at the hands of a snake on a tree filled with succulent fruits in a dense forest, 7 seas away from here.”

Often we try to help people because we know what’s best for them; decisions we take for them will do them good. While the intent is noble, this doesn't generally hold true. In fact it proves detrimental to the person more often than not. Just like my mom who tried to help a pigeon which frequents our house. The pigeon was trying to break a twig from a plant in our balcony – maybe for its nest. My mom broke the twig and kept it on the ledge. The moment the pigeon tried to pick it up, the twig fell down 22 floors. The bird lost the twig and had to start from scratch.
Lessons from Garud on helping people

“But if I don’t help the person, who will?” you may ask. Most people don’t need the help we offer. What we offer is what we want them to do; what we would've done if in their shoes. But we must help, mustn't we? We aren't animals. This trait of helping is one of the aspects which separate us from animals. So how should we help someone?

The answer is – by being there. A person doesn't need hand-holding when trying something new. She needs the reassurance that someone is there to fall back on needed, and that you have faith in her abilities. This not only gives her morale a boost, but also lets her tackle situations and challenges head on with a clearer mind. She gets to learn much more than she would if you were helping her out with every aspect. What is your motive? To let her learn to handle life herself or make her depend on you for everything? Take action accordingly.

This behavior of ours is not just valid for humans, but for animals also. A friend’s pet mouse was staying at my home for a few days. He was occasionally let out of his cage to roam around. On day one, he was terrified; he refused to jump even as high as half a foot. Rather than helping him out every time, I was merely around, letting him climb on me and using my slanted feet as slopes to descend. We repeated this exercise daily. By the end of day 5, he was happily jumping sofas, tables and heights with the finesse of a gymnast. He had conquered his fear through his own actions. And yes, I’ll take some credit in saying I helped him conquer it.

We often get emotionally attached when we decide to help a person, whether we have asked for help or not. As seen in the first 2 paragraphs, helping when not asked is more damaging than helpful. If we really want to help a person or animal learn, we have to let go of emotion – we have become detached. We have to let go of the feeling that the person will not be able to survive without our help. If someone asks you advice (the best help we love to give), ask them questions and let them come up with answers themselves. Don’t get impatient and try making them understand your point of view. Letting people (and animals) learn things themselves while having the comfort that you’re around not only makes them sharper, it also increases their respect for you. What’s more, detachment will give you peace of mind. That’s something we all need today.

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