Writing


The Evolution of What I Write About

3rd April 2021

Something that I have been thinking a lot about lately is the content that I want to write about and how it's changed over the years.

When I first started writing online, I was focussed on writing about Apple, apps, and related technology news. At one point, I remember trying to cover all Apple-related news. That didn't last long.

Then I tried to do more app reviews. But after a while, this started to bore me as well. Since sometimes, it felt as if I was reviewing an app for the sake of it, rather than simply sharing something that I enjoyed using.

I've written a few blog posts about development and a few guides relating to development (which still get regular traffic). But I've never been the sort of person to spend most of their time on a particular thing, which means my development work is always done in bursts. So I realised that writing a development blog probably wouldn't be suited to me.

However, recently I've transitioned this blog to a "personal blog", and I think it's something I'm going to settle on for a while. I find it a lot easier to write about personal experiences, to share things that I've enjoyed, and also to sometimes comment on things such as news or other people's writing that I've read.

When I think back, there has always been a small part of me who just wanted to write something personal. But I think a more prominent role has always felt as if it wouldn't be that popular, so I shouldn't be writing about it.

That's also where my attitude has changed too. Whereas before, I would write reviews and cover news to appeal to as many people as possible. I've now adopted what may not sound like a very friendly attitude, where I don't particularly care what any "audience" may think about my writing. I write about what I want to write about, and I'm not contractual obliged to write about anything in particular.

It may seem odd to "not care" what your audience thinks, but I also believe that being more honest is better for myself and potentially for anyone that would be interested in what I have to say. But I'd much rather have no audience than have an audience that I don't want to write for.

I wrote about this a while ago in a piece called "Showing Your Own Perspective" but essentially, my point is that we should all be a bit more real* with our writing. Because I personally think there's so much more value to writing when it feels like there's a person behind it.

What Is Your Perspective?

6th March 2021

I wrote last month about showing your perspective and owning your biases. It’s something I’ve continually thought more about since transitioning this blog to become more personal, rather than try to attempt to write generalised reviews or present this site as a source for news.

Before I may have written about an interesting app in a general sense, explained its features, and analyses the pros and cons. But now I tend to write more about my own experiences with an app, good or bad.

I used to think that this type of review wasn’t worth writing, since if I’m writing about myself then it probably won’t apply to a massive audience. But I realised that when I was reading other people’s writing, while I was usually interested in the topic itself, I found the most value when the author made it personal and provided their own perspective. And that’s what I’m trying to do with my own writing.

Now when writing about a topic, I remind myself that if anyone reads my blog, they’re probably not coming here as their primary source of news. So I may as well make it personal because what else have I got? I’ve only got access to one perspective. My own.

My (Short) Experience With TAIO

6th March 2021

Continuing my quest to find the perfect writing app, I turned to TAIO (Text all in One). It's been touted as the next best writing app, with it's modern design, and extensive built-in automation support.

I must admit, that clearly I didn't do my research very well. Because as much as I love the level of appearance customisation, and the overall structure to the app, I did not realise that it is not available for Mac.

The developers are working on a macOS version, but don't plan on releasing it anytime soon. That's good news, and means I'll probably look at it again once it's out. Since by then I assume the overall product would have matured even more.

It's unfortunate, since I think TAIO has a lot of potential. But I really want to use one app across all of my devices. So for now I'll be going back to iA Writer.

That will be it for a while I think. I'll spend the next few days putting together some thoughts on what I took from the past few experiments. But I expect that I'll be sticking with iA Writer for a while.

This Is How You Write →

5th March 2021

Greg Morris, writing about how you should write. Not how you should write, but how you should just write, and write however you want, wherever you want:

While you are worrying about everyone else’s opinions on the correct way to do things, you’re not writing. While you’re casting aspersions on other people that do not do things what you consider is the correct way, you’re not writing either. There is enough room on the internet for everyone to publish, and not feel like they don’t fit. There is no way you should be writing, no perfect blogging for you to be doing, and no advise that needs giving.

— Greg Morris, This Is How You Write

I would suggest that although there are positives and negatives to some decisions when it comes to writing, for example you might a certain app fits you well, or maybe a specific platform is better suited. These decisions are refinements, and can be done once you’ve started writing. Because the most important part about writing isn’t where you’re doing it, the tools your using, or the look of your blog, it’s the process of writing itself.

Using 1Writer as My Writing App

5th March 2021

As you may or may not know, I’m currently in the process of finding the right writing app for me. I’ve tested many in the past, but so far I’ve experimented with Craft, Werdsmith, and now 1Writer.

The short answer is that it’s yet another app that doesn’t quite fit what I want.

In some ways it seems similar to iA Writer (which is my default app I use as a fallback) in that it has a utilitarian design, and has good Markdown support. And it doesn’t just support Markdown and convert it to rich text, you view the formatting as you write, which is something I prefer, and is something that apps like Craft lack.

One thing I really liked was that you can add external file providers to your library, so this allowed me to use the same folder I use for iA Writer. It’s one of the nice touches that I want in a writing app, because I want everything to have a level of flexibility so I’m not stuck in any specific process.

Flexibility is also a reason why I’m moving away from 1Writer, since I would prefer better automation support, either in the form of dedicated Shortcut actions or at least a URL scheme. A lot of my writing starts off with a shortcut to generate a basic template or link post, and while there is a Share extension, I’d prefer to have this fully automated.

The final reason why I’m not continuing with 1Writer is that it’s only available on iOS, and while I do most of my writing on my iPad, I still write a decent amount on my Mac. Which meant I was using iA Writer on my Mac and 1Writer on my iPad, and I think that’s a rather pointless scenario when iA Writer is available itself on iOS.

So, again I’m left with another app crossed off, but this past week has helped me to redefine what I want in a writing app. I want it to be flexible regarding putting data into the app, and also taking it out and publishing my writing to my blog. I want an app that shows me the raw Markdown, possibly with a few visible formats like bold/italic, but I want to see the raw file as I write it. And I also want this app to be available on macOS and iOS. There are a few other things I would like, but these few points are what I’m setting as a standard going forward.

I’ve got one more app lined up in my experimentation, and that is TAIO. It’s a relatively new app, and I’ve waited to see some opinions of others before I give it a go. Iv’e seen some optimistic opinions on it, so that is where I will head next. After TAIO, I think is when my my decision will be made. As of right now, I’d say I’m heading back to iA Writer, but we’ll see.

Hey World: A Love Letter to Blogs →

5th March 2021

Hey's new blogging service, Hey World, is certainly something that has caught my eye recently. I've got some mixed feelings about it, but I do think that it could be a very good alternative for people that don't want to have to go through various hurdles just to publish words on the internet.

Matt Birchler, using the Hey World service, seems to have similar feelings:

Hey World looks like it aims to simplify the setup process even more, and remove some of the mental overhead that comes with starting a blog. You don't have to think of a name, find a theme, and figure out what service you're going to use, you can just write an email like you normally would, send it to world@hey.com, and boom you've got a blog post. People can even subscribe to your future posts via email or RSS, so they can follow along easily and however they prefer.

— Matt Birchler, Hey World: A Love Letter to Blogs

Like Matt, I already run a self-hosted blog, and I'm not thinking about making any major changes anytime soon. However the attitude towards treating newsletters more like personal letters is something I can get behind. It's also one of the main aims I have with my newsletter.

The Various Types of Title Case

3rd March 2021

As you may or not know, I'm the developer of Text Case, a text-transformation utility app for iOS and macOS. The app now supports tons of various pre-defined transformations and allows the creation of custom transformations, however, the app was originally based around one format, title case.

As the name suggests, title case refers to the capitalisation of text that is to be used as a title. But it's not something that has an objective set of rules. Instead, it's more of a rule that's based around personal style choices.

The most popular title case standards I've heard of are AP (Associated Press), APA (American Psychological Association), and CMOS (Chicago Manual of Style), but there are countless more.

And including the next planned release for Text Case, it will support a total of 9 different title case variations. Some are quite similar, however, as people like to stick to certain standards, I think it's important that there's a lot of options in the app. And since I've had a few questions in theist asking what the difference is, I thought I'd write a post to explain the implemented rules.

Please note, the implemented formats aren't carbon copies of the official standards, as some of the rules aren't exactly feasible to build into an automated tool. For example, a few standards have the rule to keep the second part of a Latin species name lowercase, and AMA seems to have a few rules based around greek letters.

But from the perspective of Text Case, here is how each of them is implemented:

American Medical Association (AMA)

  • Capitalise first and last word.
  • Capitalise major words.
  • Do not capitalise coordinating conjunctions (and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet).
  • Do not capitalise articles (a, an, the)
  • Do not capitalise prepositions of three or fewer letters.

Associated Press (AP)

  • Capitalise first and last word.
  • Capitalise major words.
  • Capitalise all words of four letters or more.
  • Do not capitalise articles, conjunctions, or prepositions of three or fewer letters.

American Psychological Association (AP)

  • Capitalise first and last word.
  • Capitalise the first word after a colon.
  • Capitalise nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and pronouns.
  • Capitalise all words of four letters or more.
  • Do not capitalise articles, conjunctions, or prepositions of three or fewer letters.
  • Capitalise the second part of hyphenated major words.

Bluebook

  • Capitalise first and last word.
  • Capitalise the first word after a colon.
  • Capitalise all words except articles, conjunctions, or prepositions of four letters or fewer.

Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS)

  • Capitalise first and last word.
  • Capitalise nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.
  • Capitalise all conjunctions except coordinating conjunctions.
  • Do not capitalise articles of prepositions.
  • Do not capitalise "as" in any grammatical function.

Guardian

  • Capitalise all words except for "a", "an", "and", "at", "for", "from", "in", "of", "on", "the", "to”.
  • Capitalise the first word after a colon.

Modern Language Association (MLA)

  • Capitalise first and last word.
  • Capitalise nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and subordinating conjunctions.
  • Do not capitalise articles, prepositions, and coordinating conjunctions.
  • Capitalise the first word after a colon.

New York Times

  • Capitalise nouns, pronouns, and verbs.
  • Capitalise all words of four or more letters.
  • Capitalise "no", "nor", "not", "off", "out", "so", and "up".
  • Do not capitalise "a", "and", "as", "at", "but", "by", "en", "for", "if", "in", "of", "on", "or", "the", "to", "v.", "vs.", and "via".

Wikipedia

  • Capitalise first and last word.
  • Capitalise verbs, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, and subordinating conjunctions.
  • capitalise prepositions of five letters or more.
  • Do not capitalise articles, prepositions of four letters or fewer, and coordinating conjunctions.

Hopefully this has answered some questions that people have regarding the different title case variants. But if you have any more, then I'd be very willing to hear them. And if you spot something that isn't right, then please let me know!

Ghost on the iPad, a Review →

25th February 2021

Jeff Perry on the Ghost blogging platform, and his experiences using it on an iPad:

Aside from moving Tablet Habit to a newsletter format, I also moved the entire website from WordPress hosting on EasyWP to Ghost. As an iOS user, I was worried Ghost would be an inferior product on the iPad and iPhone compared to the desktop. I am pleased to say my worry was for nothing.

I wanted to share my perspective on using Ghost on the iPad and how I think Ghost can improve this going forward.

— Jeff Perry, Ghost on the iPad, a Review

I use Ghost to host this blog and my newsletter, so it's good to see someone else enjoying it. Jeff's experience seems to match up with mine, it's a great service, but it can still be improved in a few ways like he mentions.

One of the big reasons why I think I'll stick with Ghost is the member/newsletter support. Without that integration, I could imagine switching back to WordPress in the future. But for now, everything seems pretty good here.

My Experience With Werdsmith

22nd February 2021

As part of my challenge to find my ideal writing app, I turned to Werdsmith to see if it could handle my writing needs.

Werdsmith piqued my interest with claims about it being your “personal, portable writers studio”, it’s multiple themes, and “formats for every writer”. Initially, it seemed like it would be an app only for people like screenwriters, but I thought I’d give it a go anyway.

Sadly I was at least partially correct, it does indeed feel that Werdsmith is designed for a certain type of writer, and one that doesn’t seem to include myself.

Organising Your Writing

The first part of Werdsmith that made me think that the app wasn’t for me was the very simple document organisation.

There are two sections, ideas and projects. Writing starts as an idea, and then you can convert it to a project later on. This rather simple organisation makes me think that the app is best used with a minimal amount of projects. So not one that can be used with a large collection of well-organised documents.

Writing

The writing experience in Werdsmith is certainly distraction-free, the interface is quite minimal, and leaves you with just your writing.

However, the Markdown support is pretty lacking, and so are the formatting options in general. You have two headers, bold, italics, and quotes. So not exactly many options to choose from. Not even lists or images.

In addition to the formatting options, you have the option to set an overall format for the document. There are four to choose from, which I think shows the designed purposes of the app. The formats are text, novel, screenplay, or poem. I assume the text format was meant to be the one for general-purpose writing, but I honestly think it may as well not be there.

Export Options

There are export options, so it’s possible to use that to either move documents around or use it to trigger various automations. It’s rather simple, as it just exports the title and text contents of a document, but at least it’s there.

Final Thoughts

This review isn’t as detailed as it would have been if I had tried it out for a longer period, but that essentially shows how far I got with the app.

I’m not a novel or screenplay writer, so I can’t comment on how well it performs for what seems to be the target user, but I can say that it’s not the app for me. The document organisation, writing experience, and markdown support are all things that disappointed me. So while I may have liked other parts of Werdsmith, the fundamentals just didn’t click with me.

So it looks like I’ll be checking out another writing app, which I think will be 1Writer.