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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How businesses can use templates

So I’ve posted about poor template use and given some tips on maximising your use of templates.

But maybe you’re wondering what sorts of templates you could use in the first place. Or whether it is worth the effort to prepare a template.

What are templates for?

Advanatges of using templates - and diadvnaatges of not using templates

Templates have so much to offer a business…

Templates are great for

  1. saving time as you don’t have to start a document from scratch each time you use it. This applies to commonly used documents (so you save time regularly) and infrequently used documents (so you don’t have to search for the ‘last time you did something like this’ to find the details).
  2. ensuring consistency over time and between staff members. A template means everyone says the same thing so there is no confusion.
  3. building your brand through consistency in style as well as consistency in the actual message. Imagine one staff member writes formal letters while another writes casual letters in the same circumstances – a template means both use the same style.
  4. ensuring all important details are included. In the rush of everyday, it is easy to write something and forget a particular detail; a carefully prepared template will have those details (either in full or as a field for you to enter the correct information)

So, what templates can we use?

Ok, that’s as easy as answering ‘what letters can we use in our business?’

There are many different things that can be put into a template for improved efficiency and branding. So this list is a sample to get you thinking of what can be changed in your business.

  1. one-off use of major business document templates like a style guide, marketing plan, business plan and personnel manuals. (Note by one-off I mean the template is generally used once but the document itself is updated periodically).
  2. regularly used documents such as sales letters, enquiry letters/emails, welcome letters, overdue accounts notices
  3. briefs for suppliers such as writers, designers, programmers
  4. an outline template for items such as blog posts, management reports and media releases
  5. general stationery can be set up as templates – for example, a letterhead can have the date/name/address/greeting fields prepared and a prepared minutes format can make reporting on meetings much easier
  6. technical and/or legal documents such as terms and conditions for competitions, customer contracts and instruction manuals/guides.

What other templates have you used that have made your business life a bit simpler and easier?

there, their or they’re?

With one exception*, my writing articles and blog entries assume some basic knowledge – if you are writing for business purposes, I assume you know the obvious rules of capital letters to start sentences, common spelling rules and the idea of paragraphs.

So I have never written about there/their/they’re – until now!

I have seen these words misused a number of times recently, and getting an email today from someone who calls herself a writer with the sentence “Their are some great news items ” was the last straw for me! (How can they own ‘are some great news’?)

If this is obvious to you, I apologise! If it isn’t, I hope this helps and I apologise for not helping you sooner!

There, they’re or their?

All 3 words sound exactly the same, but have totally different meanings and uses. Using the wrong word can make a sentence very confusing or just make the writer look silly – neither is what you want in your business (or other!) writing.

They’re is short for they are – so it is used as “They’re running late today”

There is not here – so it is used as “We will go there tomorrow”

Their shows they own something – it is used as “John and Betty will bring their car, too”

Imagine the following sentence with the wrong there/they’re/their spellings…

“They’re bringing their own car so we will meet them there.”

Use your words wisely!

* the exception is this article on basic grammar rules which I wrote to help a trainer with a communications module he was teaching.

A copyrighting expert?

Back in November, I wrote a post about the difference between copyright and copywrite. If you think about the actual words, it isn’t hard to tell them apart either (copyright is about rights for instance.)

Yet I have just come across a website with the following sentence:

we have combined many years of copyrighting skills to create magical letters for every occasion.

As much as the misuse of copyrighting annoys me, it being misused in a sentence where the writer claims to be an expert writer  is shocking. Of course, I am also curious as how to someone combines years to create anything.

Before I get on my soap box about people posing as experts and (in my opinion) trying to fool people*, let me give you a much better version of the above sentence:

Together, we have many years of copywriting experience which we use to create magical letters for every occasion.

* I don’t know anything else about the writing skills of the site using the above sentence so I am not commenting on their level of expertise or claiming they are unethical. It is just a general comment that I hate people presenting themselves as more than they are and errors such as this are sometimes an indicator of such behaviour.

example etcetera…

ABCsWriting a complete list can be tedious, so we tend to write out part of a list as a sample instead. Implying it is a sample even when we think we have written out the entire list, can also be useful – it protects you from giving an absolute.

So how do we imply it is part of a list? We start the list with something like ‘for example’, ‘such as’, ‘including’ or ‘something like’ OR we end the list with ‘etcetera’, ‘and so on’, ‘and more’, ‘or another…’ or ‘and similar.’

The key word is or – we start or end the sentence to indicate it is an incomplete list, not both.

“For example, we offer red, blue, orange, pink, etcetera” is unnecessary.

In fact, example means here is a subset of the whole while etcetera means there is more or the rest is to come. So the above sentence means “The subset is red, blue, orange, pink, and the rest”

“For example, we offer red, blue, orange and pink” or “We offer red, blue, orange, pink and other colours” makes more sense, is shorter and is correct!

So please don’t write example and etcetera in the same sentence!

Why use a professional writer?

Not many people actually ask me outright, but you can almost see the thought cross their mind – “why would I pay someone to write stuff for me? I know how to write a sentence.”

One very important reason some people choose to hire a writer is simply to save time. It is a task to be outsourced so you can spend more time doing what you’re best at. This is especially true for people who struggle over every word and find writing very time consuming.

Another reason is distance – a professional writer is not so close to your business so will have a clearer perspective of what needs to be said. When you are close to the business, it is easy to get caught in details that aren’t necessary in a marketing document for instance. And when it comes to something like an about us page on a website, many people find it hard to write about themselves anyway.

A professional writer (or editor) may just review what you have done – finding those little errors you can’t easily find in your own work. It is handy if you work alone and don’t have anyone else who can proof read for you.

Of course, a major reason for using a professional writer is to get words that work well, are easy to read and are grammatically correct. For some people this is easy to achieve, others have to work hard at it and some people just can’t get it no matter what they do. Even if you can write fairly well, if you aren’t experienced at writing in a certain way it may be worth getting a professional to do it for you. You can always use their work as a model for future projects.

I think of it this way – I can hold a pencil or paint brush and make marks on a page but I would pay someone else to actually paint something to hang on my walls. We all have our talents and I’d prefer to outsource to experts than try to find time to do everything myself. Which of course leaves me with more time for writing…