Welcome!

I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy! Tash

Email updates

Refer to older posts…

Blogging services

Australian Women Bloggers Directory by Blog Chicks

read

Why support children learning to read?

I came across this great infographic outlining why children need to be able to read.

As well as being a good message in itself, the infographic also supports Buk Bilong Piknini (a charitable organisation funding books and reading programs for children in Papua New Guinea).

Buk Blong Pikinini Infographic about children reading

What do you think – why is it important we encourage children to learn to read, and then read some more?

I would also encourage everyone to help ensure our children are literate – whether by donating to groups such as Buk Bilong Pikinini, helping at schools or giving books as gifts, every bit helps.

Helping children learn to read

I frequently help at my children’s school by listening to children (usually not my own!) read and helping them build the skills of sounding out new words, ensuring the words make sense and getting a full understanding of what they are reading.

Why do I (and many others) help these children?

  1. learning to read opens many opportunities for children – through learning, ideas and comprehension
  2. the sooner they learn to read, the easier other aspects of school become – delayed reading can limit other learning and become a downward spiral for education
  3. I love reading – books give me pleasure, ideas, an escape and relaxation – and I hope to share that pleasure with children
  4. all the children benefit by their classmates being able to read – teachers can concentrate on contact rather than reading if all students can read competently (for their age) and each child can contribute more ideas and experiences if they are well read
  5. seeing me place an importance of everyone being able to read, encourages all the children to value reading
  6. seeing people volunteer to help at school also teaches children about community spirit, generosity and being able to make positive change in small ways

What have you done to help children (or adults for that matter) learn to read and enjoy reading?

Reading efficiently saves money

Last September I wrote about a report that showed efficient writing can save money for businesses. Obviously, the second part of that is reading…

So as well as writing efficiently and avoiding unnecessary words, you can save money by making it easier for people to read the words.

Making reading easier

You may want to get all your team to do a speed reading course, but I think there are probably better ways to help people read your business materials 🙂

So here are some simple to implement tips for making documents easier to read:

  1. split long paragraphs into shorter ones whenever possible – long chunks of text are harder to read and absorb, plus they look more intimidating
  2. keep decent margins on the page so the text is not overwhelming
  3. be generous with headings and subheadings – not only do they make the text easier to digest, they make the page more visually appealing
  4. use the layout and images to make the page inviting – the same information will be read more if it looks interesting and easy to read
  5. work to avoid paragraphs and lists being divided across pages – it is distracting to turn a page part way through a sentence or idea

Thinking about documents you find easy to read, what features do you find helpful?

If you haven’t thought much about the look of your writing, why not try adjusting the appearance of a page of your existing text and see if you can see a difference – or test different looks on different people. I’d love to hear your results!

7 reasons to write efficiently

So Ron Denholm showed us the costs of writing inefficiently, hopefully inspiring people to write succinct documents with simpler words.

However, reading costs aren’t the only reason to write efficiently…

  1. a shorter document is visually more appealing so is more likely to have people start reading it
  2. It saves people reading time and therefore money – great if the people are in your pay and good service for your customers
  3. if it is easier and quicker to read, more people will actually read it so your message will reach a greater audience
  4. quicker and easier to read also increases the likelihood that your readers will absorb the information and/or be persuaded by your argument
  5. the proportion of relevant keywords will be higher in a reduced word count so it’s probably going to do better for your search engine results
  6. it is much easier to proof read fewer words and shorter words so it will also save you time, especially for documents that end up with multiple rounds of feedback and editing
  7. shorter documents require less paper which can save money and the planet! It also means that designers have more space to add images or adjust the layout to best suit the document

 

Working on goals

Do you have some big goals that you’re struggling with?

I just read a great blog post about goals – well, Julien specifically wrote about the goal of reading a book a week but I like some of his points for general goal following.

Side track – a goal of reading a book a week is great, especially if reading is not something that comes naturally to you. I admit my biggest issue with reading a book a week is that I love long books and with 4 kids, one a week is a challenge! With literacy week here this week, though, maybe it’s a challenge you may want to consider…

The best points Julien made about reaching goals…

  1. break it down into reasonable steps so it’s less overwhelming. For instance, based on books of 250 – 300 words, read 40 pages a day to reach 52 books a year. To get 100 blog or facebook subscribers in 6 months, aim for 4 a week. To finish the Tour de France, start riding your bike for an hour a day and build it up to 6 hours a day!
  2. set up a routine  – it’s much easier to follow steps when they are habit and you don’t have to think about it
  3. keep up to date or ahead – letting yourself fall behind (especially early on in a goal) can be disheartening and makes it less likely to be achieved. Don’t accept excuses – do build up some credit to cover issues later.
  4. Cheat a little occasionally to stay on track and interested. Surprised by that one? By cheat a little I don’t mean lie to yourself but just take the easy option occasionally. So if you’re reading is falling behind a book a week, deliberately choose a short book you can finish off fast. If training for the Tour, ride your exercise bike instead of hitting the streets in a storm. Building a blog readership – post a really short post or a summary of old posts instead of sweating a long post. Cheating like this is much better than stopping your actions altogether.
  5. You don’t have to be linear all the time. It depends on your goal, but sometimes allow yourself to go a – b – c- f – e – d- t- g- h- k instead of following a straight line. This will keep you moving if one step hits a delay and can provide some variety if you’re loosing momentum and interest.
    What does this mean in a practical sense? Going back to our earlier examples, if you can’t get into book 4, put it aside while you read books 5 and 6; instead of riding an hour uphill every day put in the occasional day of two hours on the flat; skip a post on your blog and submit a guest post somewhere else.

So what do you think – will these tips help you reach your next big goal? Share your goal here and the impact of these tips, too, if you like.

Improving your writing

Whether you write a lot and just like learning more or you feel your writing needs a lot of work, you can do many things to improve it. I was reminded of this recently by reading a blog post about the impact of Twitter on a writer.

Here are some quick ideas you may be able to use:

  1. if your writing is too long winded, use Mallory’s trick of thinking of each sentence as a tweet – with 140 characters it is hard to waffle on!
  2. read as broadly as possible – you are learning about writing every time you read something so reading different styles will teach you more
  3. think about what you read – not all the time, but occasionally put some conscious thought into the words used to send a message
  4. practice – there is nothing better at making you a better writer than to write, so write!
  5. study writing – maybe learn to spell a new word each week, read some tips on good writing, follow some blogs about writing (well done – reading this means you’ve already started!) or grab a grammar text book
  6. offer to edit and read over someone else’s work, too – teaching is always a great way to cement things in your own brain, and you may be amazed at what you can learn from others’ mistakes. What’s more, being able to see how others can improve their writing will probably build your confidence
  7. find someone to give you some honest feedback (on specific pieces or overall) and maybe some tips on areas you need to improve – I’ve done this with a few people and it does help them hone their skills

Writing’s main importance is in being able to communicate, to express yourself (or your business) to others effectively. You don’t have to be the world’s best writer but you can choose to improve and not be the world’s worst writer!

Why read a guest blogger?

Many blogs use a guest blogger from time to time, some use guest bloggers all the time; in fact, Matt Coddington suggest that just about every blog will include a guest blogger at some point in its lifetime.

A guest blogger simply means someone else writes a post or series of posts that are published on another blog. For example, I have done some guest blog posts at The Study Gurus. Sometimes it is one or two posts, sometimes there are many posts in quick succession and sometimes a number of guest posts are added over a longer period.

As a reader of a blog, why would you read a guest blogger in a favourite blog? Or would you actively not read it at all?

encouraging links to your blog

On the assumption you want people to visit and read your blog, it is a good idea to get people to link to it.

Incoming links obviously lets more people see your blog exists and is also good for your SEO (search engine optimisation – in other words, getting search engines to list you high in their results).

I think the single step that is most effective in getting links is quality content – no one will link to your blog if you don’t provide useful or entertaining information. Regular additions to your blog will help bring people back, too, and repeat visitors are more likely to link to you.

Having said that, here are some more specific tips to increasing the number of links to your blog…

  • link to other blogs – only some will reciprocate but it is polite and shows you are part of the blogging community. People seeing your comments may lead to visitors to your blog  or someone else linking to you
  • write something controversial or outrageous (but stay within your brand and identity or it’s all for nothing!) and ideally back it up with your reasons
  • summarise complex issues relating to your topic to help people understand what’s going on
  • disagree (nicely) with someone or a ‘well known fact’ in your industry
  • participate in something unusual and interesting – it could be a treasure hunt across the web, running a competition, blog action day or a local event
  • join in or run a blog carnival
  • offer something valuable to readers – an eBook, a theme, plugin, a sample, etc – that they will be willing to tell others about
  • write something very funny – people love sharing jokes!
  • report on something new – if it is based on research or observations only you have access to, even better
  • be the first to review/announce/do something
  • stay topical – for example, post information relevant to an upcoming event, discuss a news item in relation to your industry or give ideas for the current season
  • get involved in guest blogging – either posting elsewhere or inviting people to post in your blog
  • come up with your own terminology for something – sometimes phrases just stick but people like to read how it originated

It is also important to make your blog and posts appealing so remember the usual things like paragraphs, good spelling and grammar, using pictures as appropriate or for interest, use white space and avoid clutter.

The last tip is to actually ask for other blogs to link to you – but managing that is probably worth a post on its own!

Where blogging can lead you…

When writing a blog, you know that anyone could be reading it – in fact, you hope someone important (important to you and your business) will come across it and bring you some tangible results. But it is easy to forget how public our blogs are and how what you write can count.

Kylie of Tilda Virtual got some great feedback from her blogin February – she gave a genuine review of QuickBooks and they surprised her by reading the post and calling her to thank her.

That’s not to say anyone should write posts to attract attention instead of giving good information and/or opinions (as that can backfire as it is less interesting to read.) It does mean that each post should be relevant, accurate and written honestly – this builds your credibility and is more appealing to read, plus it may just bring in some unexpected results like Kylie’s.

Where to place a business card?

Since posting about international business card etiquette, I have read more about different culture’s practices. One site discusses business etiquette in Australia and I couldn’t resist seeing what they advice non-Australians. They wrote:

Business cards are often used in business dealings, but Australians don’t fuss about them. It is acceptable to hand over and receive a business card with one hand. It is good practice to put your counterpart’s business card on the table during the meeting, although some people will put it straight in their pocket.

It got me thinking – should a business card go on the table or into a pocket?

Obviously, if you are at a stand-up networking event, there is no table so cards go into a pocket (or bag or diary). And if you receive a card in passing, a pocket is appropriate.

Personally, if I am in a meeting and receive some business cards I leave them on the table in front of me, face up. Not only is it a good reminder of people’s names and titles, I think it shows respect that I value their card enough to keep it in sight. In those same meetings, I have seen people leave cards on the table and others place cards in holders of their document folder (so they could still see the cards but were also protecting them), and that does feel better than seeing my card go into a pocket (sometimes without even a glance).

I think it may be different at a meal-based networking event, though. In that case, I often put the card straight into a pocket to protect it from food spills and being lost amongst the dishes and table paraphernalia. Sometimes, I hold the card for a while as I talk to the person sitting next to me – it makes me more familiar with the card and the person, plus I think it is respectful to listen as they talk rather than fiddling with cards and pockets/bags/card holders.

Where do you place business cards as you receive them at a table? Is this habit or have you consciously decided to do it that way?

Use your words wisely!

Email subjects

Like the heading of an ad or article, the subject of an email is important.

For one thing, if someone needs to find some information you sent them, it is much easier to sort through emails if the subject clearly identifies the email contents. I have been known to send the same person three emails in a row so that each topic is in its own email for easier sorting and answering, rather than one long email covering three topics.

If you are emailing someone new or sending out an enewsletter, your choice of subject can mean the difference between someone reading it or deleting it. Some points to consider in writing your subject are:

  • avoid hype and over-used words as many people can’t be bothered with more of the same
  • be honest. For example, I recently received an email via my website with the subject ‘business cooperation’. The subject interested me so I read it only to find it was purely an ad for their services. Not only is their subject dishonest, it annoyed me so much I would never use their services and added their email address to my junk mail list.
  • relate it to the reader –  and that is easier when you know more about who you are emailing in the first place. As an example, “help with your marketing” has more appeal than “we offer great marketing services” but neither will appeal much to a retiree or a school child!
  • personalise it if you have the technical ability to do so – but be warned that trying to personalise it and getting it wrong is not good. Yes, I have received emails addressed “Special message for {add name}” – the word ‘you’ would have been a better, safer option
  • add an enticement or call to action – sometimes a time frame can help, such as “sale this weekend only”
  • keep it as short and simple as possible – for one thing, some people’s email system doesn’t give much space for the subject so if it takes too long to get to the point, people may miss the point altogether

How often do you put much effort into your email subject? And I’m curious – do you usually write the email or the subject first?

Happy writing!