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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

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Proofreading tips

Proofreading a printed copyOk, proofreading is boring – not many people actually enjoy the thought of reading their work over and over again to find errors. It’s a bit better proofreading someone else’s work, but most people still don’t want to do it.

However, like many things in business and in life, it is necessary.

Necessary that is if you want a professional finish to your written materials.

So here are my tips to make it as easy and painless as possible:

  • hire a proofreader! Ok, I added this point for fun as a plug (yes i can proof read and edit for you!) although it is a valid option
  • get someone else to read it for you – fresh eyes are more likely to spot errors and other issues
  • use a spell check to find the obvious typos (e.g. teh and yuo) BUT do not rely on it alone as it will not pick up the wrong word (e.g. know and now are both real words) and may not use your local or preferred spelling (e.g. color vs colour)
  • leave as much time as possible between writing/editing and proofreading (or subsequent rounds of proofreading) – a few days is ideal but overnight is a minimum. If time really is short, do something else in between so your mind has ‘forgotten’ some of the details
  • read it out loud – your tongue often trips over things your eyes would accept
  • read it backwards – that way you will read the actual words instead of the sentences so spelling errors are more obvious
  • print it rather than read it on a screen – not only is this easier on your eyes, it gives a different visual perspective and you can even read it away from your desk. I find curled up on a couch is great for editing printed documents…
  • change magnification of the text – seeing it bigger sometimes makes words stand out more

Some tips will suit you more than others, some will be more appropriate for particular documents, too. However, using a range of techniques (especially for more important documents) will help you achieve a higher quality document.

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?

Learning from SEO spam

Last week, I wrote about SEO offer spam emails. Having just received another one of these annoying emails, I thought I’d give some examples of why I don’t trust them…

We can put your site at the top of a search engines listings. If this is something you might be interested in, send me a reply with the web addresses you want to promote and the best way to contact you with some options.

Sincerely,

First Last

So what is wrong with this email?

  • no greeting is rude. Even if he didn’t want to take the time to research my name, he could have said “Hello” at the minimum
  • who is he? There was no other information to help me identify his business or contact him except by reply email
  • if he doesn’t know what my website is (so how did you email me then?) how can he be sure he can help my rankings improve? Maybe I’m already at the top, maybe it’s a family site I don’t care about rankings for, maybe a thousand different things that mean his service is not relevant
  • what does he mean by ‘top of a search engine listings’ anyway? Top of page 10 in Google is still top but not something I aspire to! Top for an irrelevant or obscure keyword won’t help me either. By not being clear, he missed an opportunity to show me he knows what he is talking about and starting some trust.
  • where is he located? Yes, we could deal via email which means his location isn’t too important, but knowing he is overseas helps understand time differences. Further, I would be more likely to hire an Australian as they understand my market better and I don’t have to deal with the dollar value.

Whilst I hope you don’t send out spam to get business, the above tips will hopefully help you avoid answering spam like this and help you write better sales emails.

Use your words wisely!

 

 

Writing useful tips

Yesterday, I wrote about the value of giving clients some tipsto develop a relationship with them as a form of marketing. Of course, the tips need to be useful for your clients and presented well to be an effective marketing tool for you.

Try the following tips to make your tips effective:

  • keep each tip simple and preferably short
  • only give each tip once– repetition is pointless and boring
  • make sure the tip is clear – give an example if you think it will help
  • brand the page – add your logo and URL as a minimum, but consider coloured paper or a professionally designed template
  • make the tips genuine – giving general statements everyone knows is pointless and won’t show your customers your generosity or your knowledge/skills base
  • avoid jargon so it’s easy to understand
  • check for correct spelling and grammar– although full sentences aren’t necessary in a bulleted list of points
  • be consistent in your presentation and writing

Taking some effort to get your tips good is worthwhile as you can use the list over and over. It can be given to clients as a printed page or emailed as a pdf.

Do you already have a tips sheet? Have you checked it recently for the above points and to make sure it is still current and accurate?

Welcome tips

Catching up on some reading over the break, I came across Melissa’s post on using welcome kits to help get repeat customers. It is an interesting idea, and one used by membership places and some real estate agents.

Melissa gave a number of suggestions of things to potentially be included, one of which was a set of tips or an article to help customers maximise what you’ve sold (or at least told) them. I think it’s a great idea – you are providing a value beyond the expected as well as keeping your name & brand in front of them, and the cost is minimal. In fact, if you compare it with the cost of marketing and advertising for new customers, it is a real bargain!

Tomorrow, I’ll post some tips on making your tips valuable 🙂 But here are some ideas of tips you could produce:

  • tips on how to use a media release (this one I’ve been doing for years – first time clients I write media releases for get a sheet of related tips)
  • tips on how to clean your product, especially if you go beyond ‘clean with soapy water’ and explain how to deal with likely spills and stains
  • an article on search engine optimisation (SEO) with all web designs
  • tips on uses for business cards with a card or letterhead design or when helping them with a new phone number
  • a list of items that can be tax deductions for new bookkeeping or accounting clients
  • an article on how to hold a violin/saxophone/flute/etc with all new instrument purchases
  • a checklist of business set up tasks for clients you help with new accounts/website/insurance/logo design/etc
  • tips on energy saving with all new appliances and computers
  • a conversion chart when you sell cooking or craft items

What tips/articles do you give out to new clients – or what have I just inspired you to produce? 🙂

Use your words wisely!

September Newsletter

Our September newsletter is now available and was sent out earlier this month!

One key message in the newsletter is that Word Constructions is closed to new projects between 12 September and 5 November as I am on maternity leave.

The other topics covered this month include: the importance of taking a break from work, no matter how impossible this may feel at the time it is important for your health, and how crucial it is for your business to know the audience.

You can subscribe to receive this newsletter monthly for helpful writing tips and information.

Business writing ideas newsletter

Finding material to blog about

Some days, words will just flow onto your blog, but there are times when it is harder to know what to write about. It’s normal to have days where we’re less creative, or are tired, or overwhelmed or a multitude of other things that get in our way.

A week or so ago, I looked at a new blog – well, newish as it replaces a previous blog by the same person – and noticed a few spelling errors. Knowing the blogger, I let her know about them and thought nothing else of it. A few days later, I noticed that Melissa had added a new post in which she talked about fixing those errors I had pointed out and the importance of proof reading.

This reminded me of how we can find blogging (or article or newsletter, etc) topics from the simple events that happen in our business and personal lives. Small events can remind us of important things or create a useful learning tool. So here are some suggestions for next time you are stuck on what to write…

  • questions clients have recently asked you – e.g. I recently explained bleeds to a couple of clients and I have been asked if I do editing of articles (which I do!), and both of those could become a blog post
  • tips you come across from other business people – for example, I shared some decluttering tips I gained from a workshop I attended
  • mistakes you see in others’ work – not as a means of criticising others, but as a means of learning from their mistakes
  • turning points and changes in your business – either just to let people know of them, or as a means of teaching others alternatives

By including little things in your list of ideas is a good way to increase the amount of topics you have to write about.

Use your words wisely!

 

To complement a compliment…

Did you know that compliment is not the same as complement? They actually have quite different meanings so using the wrong word can make a reasonable sentence into nonsense!

compliment – expression of praise, greeting, positive comments
She complimented the floral arrangement on the table.

complement – to complete or make a whole
The new couch complements the room nicely.

Can you see how complete complementary things are as a reminder for which spelling to use?

Promoting a blog

Most people who start a blog would like to have some people read it 🙂 And many would like more people to read their blog – whether it is to promote their business, share their passion or express their opinions and experiences, they want someone to read what they have written.

So how can you promote your blog, getting more readers?

I have found a few blog posts recently that cover parts of this topic so I thought I would share them before I gave any tips of my own…

How to Drive Traffic to Your Blog Through Word of Mouth Marketing

Powering Up Your Blog With These 26 Power Lists/Rankings (the list is handy, but the site isn’t impressive with many faulty images, etc)

101 Internet Traffic Generation Strategies – Part 1 Not all the tips will be relevant to your blog, but you may get some ideas.

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!