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How to use important points…

Notes on teh end of tree branches

Conferences notes can lead in many directions, every one can be important and strong. You just need to find the right notes for you.

There are great quotes around. Some of them can be very inspiring or lead you to new ideas that can change your life.

I think we all come across great sayings, lyrics, words that make us think. Yet it is so easy to forget them in the everyday or hear so many at once that the wisdom doesn’t have the opportunity to really sink in.

Seminar and workshop notes

As I am watching the twitter feed for PBEvent, I can see many nuggets of information and wisdom that are great and worth taking note of.

For example…

Final roadblock – the comparison trap. If you’re compelled to compare, compare yourself now to when you started. Not to others. Darren Rowse

How do we do what we were born to do?, asks @ClareBowditch. We Begin. Carly Findlay

The best businesses and blogs solve a problem in the world. ProbloggerEvent

I am trying to write down those that really stand out to me – which is sometimes a challenge to keep up with the feed speed and write. But it is obvious that getting information solely through the twitterverse is limited in two ways.

For one thing, it is going past so fast that I can assess something is important and/or useful but not really process it.

The other is that there is no background context. This means I may be missing part of the point, of course but also that there is less opportunity to absorb the bigger picture and get my own ideas sparked by little things said.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m loving the technology that allows us to share in the event despite not being there! Twitter is live and awesome, virtual recordings later, it’s all good!

And I often shares tidbits of information when I attend a conference, webinar or whatever, too as it helps me cement ideas and I like to share. And I figure tidbits are better than nothing.

Making use of those tidbits or information and wisdom

So how can we maximise these bits of stuff we’re getting via tweets or quote websites and the like?

Please share your ideas and how you learn from others in the comments below – I want to learn rather than get overwhelmed or miss the very points I notice!

So some ideas from me to get us started…

  1.  focus on one medium at a time – trying to keep track on twitter and Facebook while listening to recordings will send you mad I think! I’m watching twitter now and recordings later.
  2. write down some of the points that really stand out for you – you just can’t write them all down!
  3. if following on Twitter, retweet some of the good ones. It helps share the love obviously but also gives you a reference point to go back to for information later
  4. if people share links, open them but leave them until later for reading – blog posts and the like will wait 🙂
  5. I know tweets are short, but feel free to shorten them if it helps! As long as it still makes sense to you, skip words and abbreviate other words
  6. Join some conversations where you can – it can add depth to things. Obviously not easy on a busy twitter feed but it is interesting and works along the usual social media premises.

Have you ever followed a live feed for an event?

How did it go? Did you learn enough to make it a worthwhile experience?

 

 * image courtesy of 123rf

Without context, messages get lost

In an article about Australian Standards on what I thought a national-focus site,  the following section stood out…

The retrofitting of automatic sprinkler systems became a mandatory requirement for existing aged care facilities in January 2013. Similar requirements also exist in Victoria and Queensland.

Fire sprinkler image over WA, not rotecting the rest of Australia

Does a national law only cover one state?

So two states have similar laws to the national laws? Why are the national laws not, well, national?

Or is the author just assuming everyone knows he is writing about a particular state because it is so important and somehow obvious?

Or was something edited out that made it clearer in the draft?

Fire safety is important – but so is clarity so people understand your message.

Clarify your context…

When proof reading and editing, always make sure you read your writing from start to finish to check the correct context is in place.

A better way to write the above sentence (and I’m guessing which state is the assumed one!) would be…

 

In January 2013, the retrofitting of automatic sprinkler systems became a mandatory requirement for existing aged care facilities in Tasmania, Victoria and Queensland.

I think it would also be nice to add another sentence along the lines of “The other states are reviewing their laws” or “Currently the other states have this as a voluntary measure”. I prefer to get the whole picture, but that could just be me!

If you want to avoid similar errors, let me know – I offer proof-reading and editing services as well as writing 🙂

Price your message in context

At about the same time as I learned about aiming your content at your target audience, we looked for and bought another house and I learned another lesson from real estate agents.

In this case, the lesson was to understand your product specifically in the selling context.

First, the story… We found the house we wanted (and still happily live in) and decided to go for it at auction. The agents had shown disinterest in selling us the property (there was no way they would open it up outside of the allotted inspection times for instance) which is symptomatic of the whole situation.

We won the auction – yah!

The price was great – still a lot of money but cheaper than we would have expected. A house in the same block but on a main road and in bad condition sold for $500 more just a week earlier.

Signing the paperwork, it was obvious the owners and agents were very happy with the price as it was well above reserve.

Good to see a win-win for everyone.

Of course, the agents were less happy when they heard about the $500 more house near by. And were last seen driving towards it to see for themselves.

The point was that the owners had used non-local real estate agents who obviously thought our suburb was “lower” than the houses they usually sold so they devalued the property. They hadn’t done any research in the area so did not know the value of the land or comparisons with house styles in the area.

Our win but a valuable lesson – if selling, use someone who knows the product in the context of how it is being sold.

It’s like knowing you won’t get the same price for something at a school fete as you would in a craft shop in a tourist area.

Do some research to know your product, the context and what prices the market will accept.

Adjust your content to match, too – for example, ‘excellent value’ will work in many contexts, ‘exclusive touch of luxury’ will be out of place and ineffective at a school fete and ‘bargain bin’ does not inspire high prices.

Have you seen prices skewed because someone hasn’t understood the context or target market?

Making your sentences effective

Put a few words together and you have a sentence; put some carefully chosen words together and you have an effective sentence. And effective sentences have much more power in communicating a message and helping your business.

If you look at two sentences saying the same thing, there often is not a right or wrong version. For example, ‘Tash is a professional writer based in Australia’ and ‘Based in Australia, Tash is a professional writer’ are both perfectly good sentences.

However, one form of a sentence may well be more effective in a particular context. Think about the purpose of the sentence – is it an instruction, a description, an inducement or an explanation? An explanation or instruction needs to be as clear as possible while an inducement may be effective with a hint of mystery.

When reading one of your sentences (or comparing multiple versions of a sentence), the following list may help you determine which is the most effective for your purpose.

  • clarity – can the sentence be easily understood on the first read?
  • meaning – does the sentence give the correct meaning? Mixing pronouns, making it too long, over using punctuation and inappropriate word use can all obscure the meaning
  • flow – does the sentence move smoothly or are there bits that break concentration and flow? Of course, a deliberate break in flow can emphasise a point, but generally a smooth flow is your aim. Flow with the surrounding sentences is also important
  • congruent – do all the words join into one unit that works logically? do all the words seem to belong there?
  • concise – does every word deserve its place in the sentence? If in doubt, try the sentence without that word and see if it is more effective
  • prominence – are key words and ideas shown as the most important? Generally, the words at the start and finish of a sentence carry the most weight so that’s where key words are placed for greatest effect

When testing your sentences against this list rememebr that reading them out loud can be a very useful tool – your tongue and ear will pick up issues your eyes may miss.

Cannot or can’t?

I was recently asked if it is grammatically better to use can’t instead of cannot.

Actually, both words are grammatically correct and context is the best basis for choosing which word to use.

When writing something formal, the word cannot is more appropriate; when writing soemthing informal and casual, you tend to use words as you would speak them, so can’t is quite appropriate and used more often.

There is nothing wrong with using either word in any context, but matching the word to the context helps the flow and style of your writing.

 

SMS shorthand

Like pretty much anyone else, if I am sending a SMS message I may use short forms and abbreviated words – it’s quicker and easier on a small screen and keyboard. Although it is becoming less necessary with smart phones.

However, as a professional writer, I cringe every time I see shortened words in other contexts.

There is no need to use SMS shortcuts on a website, in a newsletter or blog, or in any other business or professional document. Personally, I don’t think there’s much need to use it in personal emails or letters, either, but I’ll leave that alone!

Reading information about a business, we want to know if we can trust the business and that they will provide a professional service*. If the business can’t even be bothered writing out full words, they do not inspire trust that they will provide much for customers.

Examples…

1. Only days ago a friend forwarded me an email she had received. The subject of the email was “Here’s to a gr8 ’08!” and she forwarded it to me with the comment that she hadn’t even bothered reading it because the subject “really put me off!”

With something like an email subject, you only have one chance to entice people to read it, so don’t lose that chance by not using full words.

2. A while ago I was asked to review someone’s website for a service based business where she really needed people to trust her. The entire homepage was full of U (instead of you), lower case letters and other SMS-type words. Had I not been reviewing it, I would not have even read the page  – again, you only have a short time to grab a visitor’s interest on a website so make first impressions good.

So, go back to basics – use good grammar, spelling and expression to present a clear message even if you think your audience understands or relates to SMS texting language. Understanding it is not the same as respecting it away from mobile phones.

* By professional service, I mean service that is appropriate, courteous and business -like so it includes customer service in a retail setting as well as services from a service provider such as an accountant, lawyer or writer.

Blogging endings

Writing a business blog may have the purpose of promoting your products or services, and that’s fine.

But making a blatant sales pitch in every post isn’t going to win you any friends, or many sales.

I have seen more than one blog which ends every post with something like “Did you like this tip? Why not buy my book/enrol in my course to learn more? Here are 3 features of my wonderful book/course” BORING!

Sales pitch after sales pitch means people will either stop coming to your blog or (if your tips are good) stop them reading the end of each post.

Much more effective is to build a relationship, give some great content and have links to your products/services in the static parts of your blog. If a product or service some up naturally in the course of posting, by all means mention it and add a link – just don’t make a habit of it if you want your blog to be well regarded and seen as credible.

So what ending should you use? In short, use a natural ending to the topic or use a friendly good-bye message. That’s it!

Happy writing!