Jun 302015

Blogging and Social Media experts will tell you a blog should have at least 10 to 12 pillar posts. A pillar post is one which is timeless. It always applies, and will lead readers to your site as long as it exists. These articles – or posts – serve as the foundation of any blog.

Since most blogs exist to sell something, the advice makes sense. Look at any store and you will see it does the same. Seasons and fashions change, fads and trends come and go, and technology changes everything, but certain common items are always available. Swimsuits and snow shovels are seasonal, but socks and underwear are always essential.

Blogs, like stores, are not all the same. A hardware store is going to have the same basic items from season to season or even year to year. You might find snow blowers replaced by lawn mowers, but hammers, screwdrivers and drills don’t change much.

You might think a trendy clothing store – one highlighting the latest fashions – would be an exception. But while the look might change, the purpose doesn’t. A party dress is still a party dress, even if the lengths and sleeves and materials change. A little black dress can come in many forms, but they say every girl needs one.

Websites featuring one or more blogs vary in the same way. You find sites emphasizing topics which don’t change much over time, while others focus on the trending fashions, breaking news, or the latest technology. A site reviewing the latest phones will be different from one marketing guitars.

However, both sites will have pillar posts giving basic information. Perhaps the phone site will explain basic cellular technology while the guitar site provides the history of guitars.

The purpose is to lay a foundation. A blog, like a store, needs to provide a reason for those “just browsing” to come in and look around. It is a basic principle of marketing, and it applies just as much to the on-line world as it does to the brick-and-mortar one.

It might also offer a life lesson. Once, people memorized certain quotes from literature, favorite sayings, or scripture versus because they spoke to how the individual saw himself. They served as a foundation for making decisions. They helped define who the person was. They were often repeated to others to explain actions. They were pillar posts.

We all know people who seem to need to be part of the latest trend. They want the newest technology, watch the latest hit shows, and repeat whatever fashion dictates. They are like a boat with lots of wind in its sails but no rudder and no master, skirting quickly across life’s waters in no particular direction, without destination or purpose.

We all need pillar posts in our lives. We need those foundational ideas on which we base our actions and on which people can come to meet us and learn who we are – and who we are not. Otherwise, we are just drifting without an anchor. What are your pillar posts?

Jun 232015

The 500-word, five paragraph essay seems to be a lost art. Do English teachers even teach it any more? If they do, they must not spend much time on it, because I find many teenagers who lack the skills developed by writing this type of essay. The five paragraph essay should be brought back with a vengeance. It provides a structure which can be utilized in more lengthy types of writing. It provides training in outlining and planning a composition. Most importantly, it gives practice in logical thinking and in constructing an argument.

The five paragraph essay, with its introduction, three supporting, and concluding paragraphs, has been criticized as being artificial and useless. But this same structure has been used throughout the history of Western Civilization. Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them. One or two points are not enough to make a strong case. Four or more points can still be effective, but you run the risk of losing your reader.  For more challenging arguments, you must expand each section to more than one paragraph. You have a ready made formula that works. Why shouldn’t every educated child learn how it’s done?

The formula gives you the beginning of an outline before you even start. You just decide on three points you want to make to support whatever statement you are trying to prove, and then add information to support each point. Actually, each paragraph — or section in a longer essay — is a miniature essay in itself. Each body paragraph needs an introductory sentence stating the point you want to make, one or more sentences to support the point, and a concluding sentence to re-emphasize the point you are trying to make. The outline practically makes itself, leaving you to concentrate on what is most important — the content of your argument.

Determining what to include in an argument to logically support the point you are trying to make is perhaps the most important skill to take away from an education. Once an essay is written, if it fails to convince the reader of the point it is trying to make, the argument needs to be changed. Do the three points make the strongest case for your thesis? Do they contradict each other in any way? Do they really answer the objections your opponents might have? The five paragraph essay is a safe, simple way to learn to ask and answer these types of questions.

In conclusion, the 500-word, five paragraph essay is an unbeatable teaching tool. Extensive practice writing this type of essay provides a prototype for more involved writing, builds skills in planning and outlining, and most importantly provides an opportunity to learn logical thinking and argument construction. Once students can reliably construct a paragraph, they should immediately begin writing short, five paragraph essays. By the time they complete high school, they should have the skills and knowledge to move on to longer pieces requiring more involved arguments.

Jun 192015

Welcome to The Eclectic Essayist. Here, you will find writing about everything — or at least anything. If you have eclectic interests and are unafraid of strong opinions, this is the place for you.

The plan is to post at least one essay a week on a variety of topics and in a variety of forms. These will be supplemented by video essays in the coming months. The intention is to entertain, inform, and enlighten.

The first essay will be posted as soon as the site has been tweaked. In the meantime, feel free to comment and suggest topics.