Write … to the Point

– writing tips and tricks

Archive for the month “May, 2015”

Why your business needs a style guide

Why your business needs a style guideNo, we are not talking about fashion. Although having personal stylist would come in handy some days.

The kind of style guide we are talking about is one that applies to your writing. If you write anything (regardless of your industry), you need a style guide. Even if you are working solo and do all the writing yourself, you still need a style guide. If you have multiple people writing for your business or brand, a style guide is vital.

What is a style guide?

In its simplest form, a style guide is a set of ‘rules’ and ‘standards’ to follow with your writing. It promotes consistency in your writing, your branding and your marketing. Consistency is vital across all media channels — websites, emails, letters, social media, blogs, newsletters, reports, etc. — as it fosters professionalism and high standards in your business.

What does a style guide contain?

How long is a piece of string? Seriously, your style guide can contain whatever you want it to contain, from spelling right through to your logo and branding. However, the most common thing style guides contain, are the following:

Language/Style — what voice do you use in your writing? Is it conversational or formal? Is it professional or hip? Knowing who your audience is and understanding their needs will help you decide.

Spelling — what spelling format will you follow? Aus English, UK English or US English. Some words are spelt differently in different countries (e.g. ‘colour’ for Australia and ‘color’ for US). You audience will largely dictate which form to use. Some style guides have a section devoted to words commonly used in their writing. Resembling a dictionary, it provides a quick reference guide on which words to use or avoid, and the preferred spelling (including capitalisation).

Numbers — don’t forget about numbers because they will pop up more than you think. The most accepted style of writing numbers is to write one to nine in words and 10 and above in numbers.

How will you express dates? Is it ‘1 January 2015’ or ‘1/1/15’ or even ‘January 1, 2015’?

What about fractions? Is it ‘1 1/2’ or ‘1.5’?

There is also the question of time and currency. And don’t forget about percentages. Will you use the more accepted ‘per cent’ or the symbolic ‘%’?

Common words and abbreviations — depending upon what industry you are in, there are bound to be some words that you use more often than others. For example, in the health-writing niche the following are commonly used:

* well-being Vs wellbeing

* wholegrain Vs whole grain

* type 2 diabetes Vs type II diabetes

* dietitian Vs dietician

* vegies Vs veggies

There may be no hard and fast rule as to which form to use. You simply need to decide upon one and stick with it.

You also need to decide upon your style when it comes to abbreviations. The most commonly used are ‘e.g.’ (example) and ‘i.e.’ (for instance).

You may also use abbreviations for organisations within your writing — for example, the World Health Organisation (WHO). Because some organisations may have the same abbreviation (Country Fire Authority and Continence Foundation of Australia), it is always wise to spell out the organisation in full with the abbreviation in brackets afterwards. Once you have spelled it out in full, simply use the abbreviation when referring to that organisation for the remainder of your piece of writing.

 Formatting — this means what font you use, the colour and the size. It also refers to your paragraph spacing, underlining, and use of dot points. How will you write your headings? Will they be bold or in UPPERCASE?

Logos — If you have a logo (and what business doesn’t), you need to be clear about how it is used. Things to consider are colour logos, black and white logos, sizing, etc. Your logo is part of your branding so ensure it is consistent across all forms of media. Some brands have different components to their logo, so if this is true for you ensure you know how and when each component is used.

Referencing — If your writing tends to draw upon references, know how you will attribute them. For example, do you refer to the source in-text (e.g. according to the Heart Foundation….) or do you use endnotes (e.g. Heart disease is the leading killer of Australians 1). There are also different referencing styles, so decide which one you are going to use and be consistent with its use.

Developing a style guide may take time and effort. However, it is time and effort well worth spending if you want to develop a professional and consistent brand.

Need to develop a style guide but not sure where to begin? We would love to help. Simply contact us and we will be in touch.

Cheers

Nerissa

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How to spell the trickiest words

Words you need to spell correctlyThe Homophones

Very few of us are perfect spellers. Many of us are not even good spellers. However, we should all know how to spell commonly used words.

Bad spelling and poor grammar can distract from even the most interesting piece of writing. In fact, if the person reading your bad spelling can actually spell, chances are they become more irritated with each badly spelled word.

When unsure of how to spell a word, many resort to sounding it out. But what happens when there are a number of words to use, but they sound the same?

Words that sound the same yet have completely different meanings are homophones. They often litter blogs, online comments and even newspapers and magazines. You cannot rely upon spellcheck to pick them up for you because they are correctly spelled — you have just happened to use the wrong one!

So, to help you out, we have made a list of the most commonly misused homophones, along with some little tricks that may help you to remember which word to use.

  1. Your and You’re

These two words are probably the most misused, but cause many a reader to grit their teeth in annoyance.

Your means something belonging to you — as in your car or your pen

You’re is actually the shortened form (contraction) of ‘you are’ — as in you’re amazing or you’re smart.

Tip:

In the case of ‘you’re’, the apostrophe simply takes the place of the ‘a’ in the word ‘are’.

  1. Their, there and they’re

These words also cause havoc among writers, more so than the above two words — because in this case, there are three words that sound the same!

Their means something that belongs to someone else — as in their car or their pen

There is a location — as in over there or there it is

They’re is similar to you’re. It is the contraction for ‘they are’ — as in they’re amazing or they’re smart

Tip:

‘Their’ contains a clue. It contains the word ‘heir’, which means a future owner. So use ‘their’ when talking about something belonging to someone else.

With regard to ‘there’, it contains another word meaning location: ‘here’. So use that when referring to a place.

‘They’re is similar to ‘you’re’. The apostrophe simply replaces the ‘a’ in the word ‘are’.

  1. Its and it’s

Two little words can cause big problems when it comes to writing.

Its means it belongs to something or someone — as in the dog ate its food

It’s is short for ‘it is’ (similar to ‘you are’ and ‘they are’ in the above examples) — as in it’s too late to feed the dog.

Tip:

In the case of ‘it’s’, the apostrophe takes place of the ‘i’ in ‘is’.

With ‘its’ the ‘s’ is close to the ‘it’ means someone is keeping their belongings close.

  1. To, too and two

These may not be as confusing as the words we have already mentioned, but they still get mixed up.

To means ‘in the direction of’ — as in we are going to the shops.

Too means ‘also’ or ‘as well’ — as in we are going to the shops too.

Two is a number — as in the two of us are going to the shops.

Tip:

In the case of ‘too’, there is an extra ‘o’ which is like an extra person tagging along.

‘Two’ begins with ‘tw’, just like the words ‘twins’, and there are two of those!

  1. Loose and lose

Many people confuse these two words, despite them having different meanings.

Loose means ‘not tight’ — as in his pants were loose.

Lose means to ‘cease to have something’ — as in he was about to lose his pants.

Tip:

When the word contains two ‘o’s, the word is ‘loose’. When you lose an ‘o’, the word becomes ‘lose’.

  1. Sight, site and cite

Not as common as the above words, but these can still cause problems.

Sight refers to your vision, or the act of seeing — as in she was a sight to behold.

Site refers to a location — as in the building site was a mess.

Cite means to quote or refer to — as in always cite your references when you write.

Tip:

‘Sight’ is spelled like ‘light’ and you can’t see without a light.

‘Site’ often describes where building work is taking place. The ‘te’ at the end of the word reminds you that there is probably a tradesman’s entrance to the site.

‘Cite’ is spelled with a ‘c’ so this reminds you to make sure the points you are making should be correct (cite your references).

  1. Affect and effect

These two words can trip up even the best of spellers.

Affect is a verb and means to produce a change or influence something — as in how will the new rules affect you?

Effect is a noun that can be used as a verb. It means a change that has occurred — as in the new rules had little effect on me.

Tip:

‘Affect’ is usually used to describe something that is going to happen, while ‘effect’ means that the change has occurred. ‘Affect’ starts with an ‘a’ which comes before ‘e’ in the alphabet. The ‘affect’ happens before the ‘effect’.

By no means is this an exhaustive list of homophones. In fact, you can probably think of dozens more words with different meanings and spellings that sound the same.

However, if you can remember how to use the above words correctly in your writing, you are sure to be a step ahead of everyone else.

Until next time.

Nerissa

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