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You are making an impression…

Sigh. That’s my immediate response to a blog post I just read – sigh.

Doesn’t give a good impression of that blog or writer does it? Every time you write something that goes public, it affects how people view you – yet some people just don’t seem to get that. What’s worse is that this was a guest post on another blog so I assume they didn’t review it before accepting it. Silly as I closed the site after this post, and the rest may be great for all I’ll ever know…

I started reading the post in good faith but the poor expression made me skim the second half rather than read it which is never a good sign. I honestly only kept reading because I hoped the content would improve and justify it’s existence on a site I was reviewing. It didn’t.

Although appearing to be an article giving information, it was a poorly disguised ad for why company X is a good choice for design work – namely because they are young designers. I commented back as I don’t believe all young designers are good, nor all experienced designers lack passion.

Had I been given that article to edit or at least comment on, my suggestions for this article would have been:

  • make sure it all flows and that each sentence make sense
  • give balanced information (eg “while an older designer has experience, remember that new designers are keen to impress and may be passionate about their work” or “new designers have a lot to offer and you may find they charge less to get experience”)
  • introduce any specifics in the article, not just the heading (in this case the heading mentions web design but the article starts with ‘designing is a creative field’ – designing is more than websites)
  • use good grammar and punctuation (“give you the brand image as promised because; they want to earn a good name” does not need any punctuation in the middle and certainly not a semi-colon)

Just as I was leaving the page, I noticed the writer’s bio and sighed again. Nearly every word started with a capital letter (which is so annoying and completely unnecessary) and he claimed to be a ‘professional content writer’. With that example of his writing skills, he is not making a good impression for himself or the web design company paying him to write this article.

How do you respond to such poor examples of work?

Does it make sense?

I just read a blog post that jumped topics so I thought I’d give you a quick reminder to watch the flow of anything you write.

In the example I just read, one paragraph was an overview of a business change and the next paragraph commented on how a specific target seemed hard at the start. The target hadn’t been mentioned before so it didn’t make sense to me – a sentence or two in between these paragraphs would have explained the target and made the post flow nicely.

The reminder is to always check you haven’t skipped anything important for someone else’s understanding.

Maintaining the flow of ideas

Writing with disjointed ideas that don’t flow from one to another is not easy to read and not a good advertisement for you. So how can you make your writing flow?

  1. My first tip is to proof read everything you write – preferably after a decent break from it and by someone else for anything important. It is easy to write down things as they occur to you but reading it later will show the lack of flow
  2. Qualify any alternative perceptions, usually words such as although, however, despite and but will help things flow better. For example “I think chocolate is best. Caramel has more flavour” doesn’t flow as well as “I think chocolate is best although caramel has more flavour.”
  3. plan your messgae before you write it – if you know what each paragraph is about before you start,  you are less likely to include irrelevant material
  4. Remember that you don’t have to include everything you know about a topic in one piece of writing (even a thesis will have appendices and refer to external material!) Trying to include every fact and all points of view often leads to disjointed results so just include the details relevant to your purpose
  5. Check each paragraph covers only one idea and then review the order of the paragraphs so that information builds on itself and related ideas are in subsequent paragraphs. The beauty of word processing software is that you can move paragraphs and sentences around easily until they are in the right order for ideas to flow – not as easy to manage with pen and paper or a typewriter!

Is maintaining the flow of ideas in your writing something you consciously work on?

Keep ideas flowing

Have you ever read something and found a jump in ideas that distracts you?

I find it really annoying when the ideas don’t flow in a piece of writing – the change of topics or tense or perception may not seem major but if it makes me have to reread something to understand what happened, I tend to lose interest in the whole thing.

I came across the following example of this on a website where it is promoting cheap ‘reports’ to help small business people; the errors give me the impression of low quality pdfs rather than informative reports – what do you think from their description?

Too often I visit the site of a business mum to find there is only a contact form! The main reason I visit the site is to see where they are located as, where possible, I prefer supporting local business mums. There are a lot of different reasons for the lack of contact details.

This weeks *** report will look at five different contact methods you may want to put on you site as well as options for phone numbers, fax numbers, postal address and email address.

Buttons showing contact icons such as mail, email, mobile and twitter

A range of contact options are available

Yes, there are various reasons for not including contact details but how is that relevant when you are telling me how annoyed you were at not seeing any contact details! It also has no relevance to the next paragraph so makes the whole thing very disjointed.

I suspect they are attempting to not offend people without contact details rather than standing strong with their own argument. However, it has backfired with poor writing and an indication of weakness that detracts from their ‘expert’ stand in the report.

Here’s an alternative version that won’t offend, sound weak or be hard to read*:

Too often I visit the site of a business mum to find there is only a contact form! I understand they may have their own reason for not including contact details, but the main reason I visit the site is to see where they are located as, where possible, I prefer supporting local business mums.

This weeks *** report will look at five different contact methods you may want to put on your site, as well as some low-risk options for showing phone numbers, fax numbers, postal address and email address.

Having said poor flow of ideas is distracting, my next blog post will include some tips on how to maintain the flow…

*My changes are in blue to improve the flow plus some necessary improvements to the second paragraph so it makes sense. I didn’t totally rewrite it as I would for myself or a client!