Write … to the Point

– writing tips and tricks

Archive for the category “Article writing”

Active voice, passive voice — what’s the difference?

Active and passive voice - what's the difference?

Remember back in school when you learnt about the different ‘voices’ in your writing?

No? Active voice and passive voice?

Still nothing?

Well that’s okay. This blog post will explain all you need to know about active and passive voice, and when you should use each voice.

 

The difference between active and passive voice

In its simplest terms, active voice occurs when the subject of the sentence (or performer) is performing the action. For example:

Tom loves Jess. Tom (the subject) is performing the act of loving.

Passive voice is when the subject receives the action. For example:

Jessica is loved by Tom. Jessica (the subject) is receiving Tom’s love.

 

 Using the active voice

It is generally recommended to use active voice when writing. Active voice is clearer and more succinct. It clearly identifies the action and who or what is performing the action. It is stronger, and enables us to communicate our message more effectively. It also can be used to point the reader in a particular direction

Active voice has a kind of energy that passive voice lacks. It is the perfect choice in business writing — particularly when using a ‘call to action’ (e.g. ‘Call us now!’). And it is usually the choice for creative writing.

 

Using passive voice

While passive voice is often wordier than active voice, it is useful to use it in certain situations. For example, health writing often use the passive voice, because the ‘performer’ is less important than the action.

e.g. Carbohydrates are found in fruits and vegetables.

While using active voice in scientific writing is sometimes preferable, passive voice is useful because it is considered inappropriate for scientists to insert themselves into the paper.

e.g. The subjects were tested instead of We tested the subjects.

Passive voice is also used when the performer is unknown, irrelevant or obvious.

e.g. Every year, thousands of people are diagnosed with cancer.

It is also useful when hedging around a topic. You will notice that police officers, managers and politicians often use passive voice when they don’t want to, or are unable to identify the person who has performed the action.

e.g. Mistakes were made and the procedures were misinterpreted.

 

How to recognise passive voice

As we have seen, using passive voice is not wrong. However, active voice is preferable in most cases. To determine if your writing is passive, look out for the following tell-tale words:

  • be
  • is
  • are
  • a
  • was
  • were
  • has been
  • have been
  • will be

If any of these words appear, then you have written a passive sentence.

 

Changing from passive to active

Active sentences follow a logical order:

i.e. doer of action (performer) + action + receiver of action

To change a passive sentence into an active one, simply:

  1. begin the sentence with the doer of the action
  2. make the verb active
  3. put the receiver of the action after the active verb

e.g.                                        

The novel The Power of One was written by Bryce Courtenay (passive)

 CHANGES TO:

 Bryce Courtenay wrote The Power of One.

  

Final tips

Remember, passive voice has its place in writing too and in some instances if preferable. The type of voice you use in your writing will depend upon what you’re writing, who the audience is, and what the aim of your communication is.

But if you want your message to be snappy and clearly understood, always choose an active voice.

If you need help deciphering active and passive sentences, or just don’t want the bother of doing it at all, please contact me.

Cheers
Nerissa

 

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How to spot a good copywriter

How to spot a good copywriter

Unless you’ve been given a personal recommendation, it can be hard to know if the copywriter you’ve chosen is good at their craft or not.

While spelling and grammar are both important when it comes to copywriting, they aren’t the only measures of success you should be looking for. So to help you discern the good writers from the hacks, here are a few qualities to look out for.

 

They have a portfolio

A good copywriter will have a portfolio (e.g. samples of published work) and will be happy to share it with you. They should also be happy to provide you with a list of clients they have worked with. Understand however, that due to the nature of some projects, writers aren’t always able to provide you with actual copy they have written for some clients. In this case, client testimonials may also work well.

 

They prefer to work to a brief

An experienced writer will ask for and prefer to work to, a client brief. A brief is important for both parties. It contains vital information to assist the copywriter to come up with the type of content you are seeking. It will also save you money, as it reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings, and the need for expensive re-writes and revisions.

 

They ask questions

You know you’ve found someone who will do a good job when they ask questions and seek clarification when they are unclear on something. Steer clear of the copywriter who seems self-assured and seems to ‘know it all’ when it comes to your needs — unless of course you have delivered a very detailed client brief to them!

 

They know how to research and reference their work

The craft of copywriting sometimes requires the writer to undertake research. This is particularly the case when it comes to health and medical writing. If your content needs some background research, make sure the writer you engage knows how to research, where to research, and how to correctly reference this information. After all, YOU will be responsible for the accuracy of the end copy, not the writer you hire.

 

They have a good understanding of the industry they are writing about

This is not a pre-requisite, but it does help. Engaging someone who understands your industry will save you time and money. For example, if you need someone to write about diabetes, hiring a health writer who understands the key health concerns facing the general population will result in better and cheaper copy, than someone who specialises in financial technology. Better, because they are familiar with the topic and the health concerns unique to diabetes, and cheaper because they won’t need to spend as much time researching the topic as the fin-tech expert.

 

They are flexible, yet firm

Flexible but firm? Yes. Your copywriter should be reasonably flexible when it comes to considering suggested changes and revisions to text. They should also understand that you, as their client, have other priorities to juggle, which may mean you can’t always drop everything to attend to their queries.

However, they should be firm when it comes to providing you with a quote, their terms and conditions of contract, as well as changing deadlines, or the scope or focus of the project. If the deadline or scope of the project must change, then you should both negotiate these changes. Chances are, they are juggling more than just your project, and need to fit your needs in with the needs of their other paying clients.

 

They focus on building a partnership

When engaging a copywriter, you should want more out of the relationship than just good copy. Look for someone who views your working relationship as a partnership. While price is obviously a factor in hiring someone, having a good working relationship with someone who understands your brand, your needs and the way you work is priceless. Once you find someone like that do all you can to keep them. You will find they will go the extra mile for you.

 

By all means, the above isn’t an exhaustive list but it will certainly give you a few things to think about when selecting a copywriter.

Want to know if you’re a copywriter’s dream client, then click here.

And if you’re ready to work with me, or have some questions, please contact me. I’d love to hear from you.

Cheers
Nerissa

#paywriters

#paywriters

Over the past few weeks my frustration levels have been building.

In short, I am sick to death of businesses advertising for, and expecting people to write for them for free.

  • People building their businesses at the expense of others.
  • People exploiting my profession, and thinking it’s okay.
  • People who don’t understand the value of a professional writer.
  • People who think it’s okay to expect others to work for nothing.
  • Businesses that profit while their ‘workers’ get paid nothing.

Don’t get me wrong. There are lots of businesses out there that do value professional writing and pay people accordingly. To those businesses, I say a huge ‘thank you’.

I have been lucky enough to be commissioned to write for some fantastic companies and businesses that do pay me what I am worth. And in return, I give them high-quality writing with great service.

However, there is an alarming trend among job ads for writers; the expectation for us to work for free, with many conditions attached to this so-called ‘volunteer’ role.

So I started thinking — what if I had the same attitude to other professionals?

How would my job ad look if I had the same expectations as many of these other businesses do?

So here it is:

Writer looking for people to do their job for free

Hi! I am a writer who is looking for people to work for me for FREE.

There are so many writing ‘jobs’ advertised that are not willing to pay me any money, so I figured there are plenty of other people who are also willing to work for nothing.

I am looking to hire a wide range of people — from a cleaner, landscape gardener, car mechanic, orthodontist, physiotherapist, personal trainer and even an ironing lady (I especially hate ironing) — but you must be willing to work for no monetary payment.

However, your hard work will not be in vain.

Instead, you will gain valuable experience and I will even let you take photographs of your work to display in your portfolio, which will help you gain further work. I will also provide great references for you, to anyone else who is wishing to employ you.

Of course, once word gets around that you are willing to work for nothing, you may find it difficult to get paid work. And best of luck trying to pay your grocery bill or your mortgage with ‘experience and exposure dollars’.

But nevertheless, I am willing to offer you this wonderful opportunity to get the word out about your services.

So, if you would like to join my team of highly professional people, please let me know. You must be willing to work hard, be a team-player and be flexible about working hours.

Of course, I will require samples of your work, references, and a minimum commitment from your end in order for this arrangement to work.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

What do you think? Would you apply?

I am looking for any kind of professional who can deliver high-quality service in a timely manner, so if your particular skill is not listed here and you’d love to work for me, please reach out.

In the meantime, if you believe writers should be paid their due, do me two favours.

  1. Stop writing for free if you are a writer
  2. Share this post and get the word out that writers are professionals who deserve to be paid.

 

If you would like to hire me (for money), please contact me. In return, you will receive high-quality writing, exceptional customer service and a promise to never take your business for granted.

 

Cheers

Nerissa

#writersareprofessionals #writersdeservetobepaid #paywriters

 

8 Ways reading helps you become a better writer

8 Ways reading makes you a better writer

Can you imagine a chef who never ate at a restaurant? Or a musician who never listened to music?

What about a writer, who never read?

Truth is, if you aspire to be a good writer — regardless of whether you are writing fiction, poetry, or marketing copy — you need to read.

Reading is a great pastime. It provides a way to visit different worlds and meet different characters. It provides an escape from the (sometimes) mundane aspects of life. It provides an opportunity to rest the body (how many of you move around while reading?), and it offers an affordable way to de-stress.

But beyond purely pleasure, reading is one of the most important tools available to help you become a better writer. So how does it help?

  1. You improve your vocabulary

The more you read, the more words you are exposed to. The more words you are exposed to, the better your vocabulary, and the more interesting and dynamic your writing becomes.

  1. Your spelling improves

Similar to the point above, the more words you are exposed to, the better your spelling will be. One of the most important and effective ways for children to become better at spelling, is to get them to read. So if your spelling needs a bit of work, then get reading!

  1. Inspires new ideas

Reading opens up new worlds, new characters and new ideas. The more you read, the more inspired you will be to create new worlds yourself — whether it be fiction or a world where your marketing copy screams off the page. Reading shows you different ways of approaching different subjects, which leads to more interesting copy.

  1. Helps you understand your genre better

Whether you write advertising copy, scientific journals or health pieces, reading in your genre will help you understand your genre better. It will give you a base knowledge and a solid understanding of the market you are writing for, which will allow you to adjust your style accordingly.

  1. Helps you learn language conventions

Whether you know it or not, reading helps you learn the rules of grammar and language conventions, without having to do boring grammar exercises, or learning the rules of grammar by rote.

  1. Connects you to the rest of the world

Reading connects you to the rest of the world. It allows you to learn new things, and become more educated in a range of different subjects. Reading material can give you something to talk to others about, and provides a platform to examine your core beliefs and how you relate to the world. And when you have a good understanding of who you are and what you stand for, your writing becomes stronger.

  1. Improves your knowledge

The wider you read, the more knowledge you will have. Don’t limit yourself to one or two topics. Sure, American History might be your passion, but read more widely. The more you know, the more interesting you will be. And the more interesting you are — that’s right — the more interesting your writing will be.

  1. Improves brain function

Finally, reading has a positive impact on overall brain health. It helps overcome stress, improves cognitive function, helps keep your brain active into old age and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. And you know what that means? You’ve got more time to write!

So the next time you feel guilty about grabbing that book, remember you are doing your writing, and your career, a great big favour!

If you’re looking for a great writer to help you with your project, please contact me. I’d love to see how I can help.

Cheers

Nerissa

 

So you want to be a writer…

Becoming a writer - Write to the Point CommunicationsSo you want to be a writer but not sure how to begin?

Rest assured, you’re not alone!

Writing can seem like some mysterious craft that only a select few can do. But really, writing is one of the easiest (yet hardest) things you’ll ever do.

Easy, because all you need to do is begin writing.

Hard, because beginning (and continuing) takes creativity, courage and lots of discipline. And even then, you often question whether what you have written is worth reading.

But before you settle for a career as a writer, there are a few key questions you should ask yourself.

 

Why do you want to write?

What is it about writing that thrills you? Does it thrill you or only interest you? Have you always liked writing or is it something you’ve only just begun to enjoy? If you could write anything in the world what would it be? What do you hope to get out of writing?

 

Do you want to earn a living from writing?

Writing for pleasure and writing for a living are two very different things. Firstly, writing for pleasure means just that — for your own pleasure. There is a kind of luxury in being able to write what you like when you like, and to indulge in your creative side.

Writing for a living means writing for other people. Very often, it means writing to a brief — which means producing a piece of writing for a specific purpose and specific audience. It may involve writing content that you find boring or hard to understand. It may mean interviewing people to hone your story. It may involve copious amounts of research. In short, it can be very hard work, but also very satisfying in producing something that someone else values.

 

What do you want to write?

When the word ‘writer’ comes up, most people think of a novelist. And while writers do write novels, there are many different styles of writing, all of which are valuable and fulfilling. For example:

  • Fiction: Even the world of fiction has many genres and sub-genres (i.e. fantasy, science-fiction, drama, romance, children’s fiction, young adult fiction)
  • Poetry
  • Plays and scripts
  • Marketing and advertising
  • Journalism
  • Copywriting
  • SEO writing
  • Medical writers
  • Health writers
  • Education and training writers
  • Tender and Bid writers
  • Legal writers
  • Academic and research writers

The list could go on and on….

If you have some idea on what you’d like to write, then you’re halfway there.

If you have aspirations to write a novel, fantastic. But remember, many successful authors earned their keep by writing in some of the fields listed above, while they were writing their masterpiece.

 

Do you have a niche?

What do you like to write? What interests you? What are you good at writing? Have you had experience in writing for a specific industry or field? What are your natural talents? Can you combine those with your love of writing? Developing a niche market for your writing, instead of spreading yourself too thin trying to write everything, can lead to a very lucrative and successful career.

 

Do you need new skills?

Finally, you need to ask yourself if you need new skills? Perhaps you want to become proficient at SEO writing, but need some training in the concepts surrounding SEO. Maybe you dream of being a health writer, but need to learn how to research and reference academic research. Writers should always be honing their skills. Sometimes it’s just putting your bum on the seat and writing, but other times, you need to acquire new skills to keep your career moving forward.

If you want to be a writer, then go for it. It’s wonderful, it’s scary, it’s boring (sometimes), it’s difficult, it’s inspiring, it’s exciting, it’s rewarding and it’s courageous.

The best way to begin is simple — just begin.

If you’d like to work with a writer who has superb skills in health and medical writing, shoot me an email. I’d love to have a chat.

Cheers

Nerissa

The one thing you can do to make you a better writer

Become a better writer

Most writers struggle with their writing sometimes. Whether it be writer’s block, or working out the best angle your article should take, some days this writing business is hard work.

Have you ever noticed though, that once you get away from your desk and go for a walk, or engage in some exercise, the floodgates open, and all of a sudden, you know exactly how to tackle your story?

That’s because regular exercise has proven benefits for brain function.

The reason you often come up with ideas for your story while walking is because walking can boost creativity by up to 60 per cent. [i] If you engage in an aerobic workout, your creativity levels are boosted for up to two hours! [ii]

 

All exercise benefits your brain

But don’t worry: You don’t have to don the lycra and head out the door to your local aerobics class prior to every writing session. Just incorporating regular exercise into your routine will help those brain cells function better. Numerous studies have proven it.

For example:

  • regular exercise increases memory and the ability to learn new things [iii]great if you are tackling new subject matter!
  • regular aerobic exercise changes the brain to improve memory and thinking skills [iv]definitely handy if you have to interview someone and think of really cool questions to ask.
  • just 20 minutes of exercise, facilitates information processing and memory functions [v]even writers can find 20 minutes to spare!
  • exercise increases levels of brain-derived proteins (known as BDNF) which are believed to help with decision making, higher thinking and learning [vi]definitely things that help with writing.
  • cardiovascular exercise improves overall brain performance by creating new brain cells [vii]who doesn’t want new brain cells?
  • people who exercise on a regular basis are more productive than those who do not engage in regular activity [viii]that means less time behind the keyboard, and more time for other fun stuff. Not that writing isn’t fun…

 

Tips for more exercise….and better writing

Now you know that exercising regularly will help your writing, how do you go about fitting it in? Well, there are many ways to go about it. If you are a freelancer or work from home, you have even more flexibility when it comes to physical activity.

You could:

  • commit to a regular exercise class at a time of day that suits you
  • go for a quick walk when writer’s block sets in (or check out these tips to beat writer’s block)
  • take regular breaks from your workstation, even if it is just to use the bathroom or make a coffee
  • perform regular stretches
  • walk around while you are on the phone
  • suggest a ‘walking meeting’ rather than one behind desks
  • walk to the café for your morning coffee….and your afternoon one!
  • incorporate more movement into your day (e.g. physically get up to talk to a colleague instead of emailing them, or take the stairs instead of the lift)
  • cycle on the weekends
  • take up a team sport.

If you’re the kind of writer who likes to sit at your computer for hours on end, drinking bottomless cups of coffee, getting into the habit of exercise may be tricky. But the benefits are worth it. You’ll increase your creativity, your productivity and may even improve your career prospects as a writer.

Why wouldn’t you want that?

Until next time.

Nerissa

 

PS. Here are the references if you’re keen to read further.

[i] Journal of Experimental Psychology: Give your ideas some legs: The positive effect of walking on creative thinking, Oppezzo, Marily, Scwartz, L Daniel, July 2014 Vol 40. No 4, pp1142-52,  http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2014-14435-001/

[ii] British Journal of Sports Medicine, Exercise enhances creativity independently of mood, H Steinberg, EA Sykes, T Moss, S Lowery, N LeBoutillier, A Dewey. September 1997, Volume 31 no. 3 pp240-45, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1332529/

[iii] Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory, KI Erickson, MW Voss, RS Prakash, C Basak, A Szabo, L Chaddock, JS Kim, S Heo, H Alves, SM White, TR Wojcicki, E Mailey. VJ Vieira, SA Martin, BD Pence, JA Woods, E McAuley, AF Kramer. 15 February 2011; Vol 108 no. 7; pp-3017-22 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21282661

[iv] British Journal of Sports Medicine, Aerobic exercise increases hippocampal volume in older women with probably mild cognitive impaiarment: a 6-month randomised controlled trial, L F  en Brinke, N Bolandzadeh, LS Nagamatsu, CL Hsu, JC Davis, K Miran-Khan, T Liu-Ambrose, 7 April, 2014 (online) http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2014/03/04/bjsports-2013-093184.abstract?sid=ecff0a48-d4fd-4a9d-b34a-156ca915a79e

Brain HQ, Physical Exercise for Brain Health, http://www.brainhq.com/brain-resources/everyday-brain-fitness/physical-exercise

New York Times, Want to be More Creative? Take a Walk.; published 30 April 2014, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/30/want-to-be-more-creative-take-a-walk/?_r=0

Harvard Medical School, Regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory, thinking skills; published 9 April, 2014, http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/regular-exercise-changes-brain-improve-memory-thinking-skills-201404097110

[v] Science Direct, Effects of acute bouts of exercise on cognition, Phillip D. Tomoporowski, published 4 December 2002;  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0001691802001348

[vi] Physiology and Behaviour, Aerobic exercise improves hippocampal function and increases BDNF in the serum of young adult males, EW Griffin, S Mullally, C Foley, SA WArmington, SM O’Mara, AM Kelly, 24 October 2011; 104 (5) pp934-41 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S003193841100308

[vii] Neuroscience, Aerobic exercise is the critical variable in an enriched environment that increases hippocampa neurogenesis and water maze learning in male C57BL/6J mice, ML Mustroph, S Chen, SC Desai, EB Cay, EK De Young, JS Rhodes, 6 September, 2012, 219: pp62-71 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22698691

[viii] Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Employee self-rated productivity and objective organizational production levels: effects of worksite health interventions involving reduced work hours and physical exercise, U von Thiele Schwartz, U Hasson, August 1011, Volume 52 no. 8 pp 838-44 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21785369

 

Are you a copywriter’s dream client?

Are you the ideal copywriting client

When it comes to engaging a copywriter, most people want to know how to engage a good one.

If you’ve ever contemplated hiring a copywriter, your main concern was probably quality and cost: ‘How can I find a brilliant copywriter who won’t cost the earth’. Am I right? Be honest!

As well as wanting someone to deliver high-quality copy at a reasonable rate, you are also looking for someone who will deliver it fast, be flexible to your needs, and provide excellent service along the way. You may even interview a few different people before you find what you are looking for.

Well, what you may not realise, is that good copywriters screen potential clients in the same way that you screen your copywriters.

Yep, that’s right. We screen our clients.

The question is, would you pass the screening test?

 

What copywriters really want

Many people assume that freelance writers are continually on the hunt for work. While that’s true in some cases, or at certain times of the year, it’s often not the case at all — which is why we can be fussy when it comes to entering a partnership with a client.

The ideal client can mean different things to different copywriters, particularly as many of us specialise in different areas. However, there are a few key things we look for, when taking on a new client:

  1. You are pleasant to deal with. If we are going to have an ongoing, or even short-term relationship (and of course I mean business relationship), then you need to be friendly and pleasant — both via email and phone. First impressions really count in this instance.
  2. You know what you want and why you want it. It may sound obvious but many clients don’t really know what they want. You need to be specific and be able to provide us with as much detail as possible. Some copywriters will provide you with a questionnaire/briefing document to garner information. Please take the time to fill it in. ‘Copy that pops’ or ‘Information for my webpage’ is not sufficient detail.
  3. You do not, I repeat, DO NOT haggle with a quote. Our quote is based on many things, including the complexity of the job, the hours we anticipate it will take, and the level of expertise we bring to our craft. We are professionals. Clients who haggle with a quote usually screen themselves out. If you wouldn’t haggle with fees set down by a doctor’s surgery or a legal practice, then please don’t do it with us.
  4. You happily sign a contract of agreement. Don’t worry, this isn’t a document promising your first-born. It’s simply a contract outlining the scope of the project, the agreed deadlines and fee structure — all of which has been discussed. By signing this, you are simply agreeing to engage us for the work required.
  5. You think of us as professionals. Copywriters might be a strange bunch to you, but at the end of the day, we are professionals. We have chosen to write for a living, which means we are probably pretty good at it, and have invested time and money in developing our skills. If you recognise and understand that, you already have one foot in the door!
  6. You meet all deadlines. That’s right — you have deadlines too! In order for us to meet your deadlines, you need to be able to provide us with information and feedback in a timely manner. Very rarely is your project the only one we are working on, so in order for us to meet your deadline, please help us by responding to us when we contact you.
  7. You don’t hover. You know those parents labelled ‘helicopter parents’? Well, there are such things as ‘helicopter clients’. These are the people who email their copywriter several times a day to ‘see how the job is going’ or to ‘remind you we need the work by next week’. We’ve got it! It’s all in the brief! And no, you don’t need to leave a message to make sure that we received your email!
  8. You pay your invoice, including any deposit required, by the due date. I’m sure most copywriters have been burned by clients who haven’t paid their bills. I know I have. That’s why one of the screening tools we use is an upfront deposit before any work begins. If you pay that, we know you are serious about us working with you. We also know you are likely to pay the full amount at the end, and we won’t have to waste precious time chasing money. If you balk at paying a deposit, then don’t be surprised if we balk at working with you.
  9. You provide referrals and testimonials. When you are happy with the quality of work and the service we provide, you happily refer us to other clients. You may not know anyone who needs our services immediately, but our ideal client will recommend us to other people for future jobs. Similarly, if asked, you will provide us with a testimonial that we can use for our own marketing purposes.

 

What if a copywriter says ‘no’ to you?

Sometimes we may elect not to take on your job. It can be for a variety of reasons — we can’t complete it within your time-frame, we don’t have the expertise that you require, or you simply haven’t passed one of our screening tools.

If we don’t take on your job, know it has nothing to do with you personally. It’s simply a business decision that we have made. However, where possible, we will refer you to someone else who may be able to help you.

So you if you are ready to work with a brilliant copywriter (who charges reasonable rates), contact me today….but only if you pass the screening test above!

Cheers

Nerissa

 

 

How to use the 5 Ws (and a sneaky H) for more engaging content

5 WsAs a journalism student, I was taught the 5 Ws of how to write a news story.

Who, What, Why, Where, When; plus the sneaky ‘H’ — How.

Who is the story about?

What is the main point of the story?

Where did the story take place?

When did the story take place?

Why is the story important?

How did it happen?

Fast forward some years (more than I’d like to admit), and I still use this formula when writing content. The only difference is the definitions of the above have been slightly tweaked to suit blogging and long-form articles.

By applying the 5 Ws (and the one sneaky H) you too, can generate engaging content for your brand.

Who

Who is your target audience? Who will be reading your blogs and articles? Who is affected by this topic? Who will benefit by reading this article?

Knowing who will read your content helps enormously when it comes to style and key messaging. It will also help determine what type of language to use. (e.g. If you are writing for a technically minded audience, you can probably use a bit of industry-jargon, whereas if you are writing for the lay person, you would consciously avoid jargon and technical terms).

What

What are you writing about? What are the key messages you want to get across?

When you understand the key messages your article or blog needs to convey, your writing will become more concise and to the point. No one likes to read articles that waffle on and end up saying very little.

Where

Where will your blog or article be published? Will it be in print or electronic form?

Having an idea where your piece will end up and the format it will take should give you some idea of your audience and will therefore help you target the piece. Knowing your reach (and who they are), will also help when it comes to promoting your own work via social media.

When

When will your article be published? Will it coincide with an event/launch/season?

Knowing when your article is due to be published will also help you come up with content. For example, some publications have longer lead times than others — (i.e. magazines and journals often plan three to six months ahead). Keep this in mind as you write. While you may be writing an article during summer, the content required may be winter-focused.

Why

Why are you writing your blog? What do you hope to gain from publishing your piece? Why is the topic important?

Do you want to increase awareness of a particular cause, showcase your business/talents or do you want to generate more business? Having a clear idea of what you want your writing to achieve will ensure that you write it with the end in mind. There is no point writing something simply for the sake of writing.

How

While the question of ‘how’ is slightly less important, it’s still worth considering.

The ‘how’ of your content may be one of a few questions:

How will the reader benefit from this content?

How are you going to promote your piece?

How can you leverage this piece of writing to generate more clients/customers and brand exposure?

So when you plan out your next blog post or article, ask yourself the 5 Ws and that sneaky H, and see how your content will benefit.

If you are wondering whether your business needs a blog, there are 4 things you must consider before going ahead.

If you already have a blog, and would like help planning and writing for your business, please contact us. We would love to work with you.

Cheers

Nerissa

12 ways to beat writer’s block

12 ways to beat writer's blockYou know the feeling. You have an article due, time is ticking and you’re coming up blank.

The more you try, the more blank you become (if that’s even a thing?!).

Then you start to feel stressed, overwhelmed — the article you thought would come together relatively well, now seems more complex than ever.

ARGH!

Writing can be a tricky business. You need to be creative, coherent, and concise. Most of the time, you have to be ‘in the zone’ to get the job done. The zone is where the magic happens. It’s when your fingers can barely move across the keyboard quick enough, as the thoughts tumble out of your head. Adrenalin flows through your veins and words appear on your computer screen with little effort. What’s even better is that when you go back to edit them, you marvel at how well everything flows and fits together.

Yet ‘the zone’ doesn’t always happen. It can come and go — usually disappearing when the pressure is on and you MUST meet your deadline.

So what do you do, when writer’s block sets in?

12 tips to beat writer’s block

I have suffered from writer’s block numerous times. I will probably continue to as long as I write. However, I have found the following tips have helped me. They are in no particular order, and some days, I need to engage in more than one of them, before my brain kicks into ‘writing gear’ again.

  1. Relax — It’s important to remember that writer’s block happens to everyone — even the most experienced and proficient writers. So chill out, and don’t get upset about it. The more you can relax about it, the quicker you will return to your ‘creative self’.
  1. Just write — “But I’ve got nothing!”, I hear you say. It doesn’t matter. Just start writing. Anything. It doesn’t matter what it is. It can be as simple as: “The cat sat on the mat.” But set yourself a goal to just write whatever comes into your head for 10 minutes non-stop. Most of it will be rubbish of course, but the simple act of writing, will help your head get back into the game and beat that writer’s block.
  1. Write a plan — If you are stuck on how to start your article, plan it out. Write simple bullet points of the key things you want to cover. Then start to flesh those out with one or two sentences. Come up with a working title (you can change that to something more snappy later), and you are on your way.
  1. Read other articles — Research other articles online that are similar in topic to the one you need to write. Sometimes seeing the way someone else has approached the topic can get you thinking differently, unlocking your creativity.
  1. Listen to music — Sometimes you just need to do something totally different, but something that will make you feel good. Put on your favourite song and sing along or dance. It will relieve stress and anxiety, and may unblock your writer’s block. Just make sure you put a time limit on your dancing, otherwise your writing time may turn into a dance party for one!
  1. Write down some goals — Forget about your article and do some goal setting. Think about what else you want to achieve in your life and make a plan, using the SMART acronym (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely). Write down action steps. The simple act of goal setting can stir up a fire of motivation and excitement. All of a sudden, you will feel ready to take action — and you may be ready to put that form of action into writing your article.
  1. Research — Leave your current article for 30 to 60 minutes and conduct some research for another piece you need to write. A page of links to information you require for other articles gives you a good starting base for them, and it leaves you feeling like you have actually accomplished something, other than banging your head against the keyboard in frustration.
  1. Rest your brain —Fatigue can lead to writer’s block. If you have been doing a lot of writing of late, or if you have just come out of a particularly productive ‘zone’, your brain may get tired. Give it a break and do something else that doesn’t take much brain power. Tidying your desk, folding the washing (if you work from home), or cleaning out your filing cabinet are pretty mindless tasks.
  1. De-clutter your desk — Our environment often influences our productivity. If you workspace is cluttered, your mind is likely to be as well. Take 30 minutes to clean your desk and declutter. You may be surprised at just how motivated you are to work once you have a clear space in front of you.
  1. 12 ways to beat writer's blockRead something — Pick up your novel or that magazine you’ve been itching to read. Give yourself 30 minutes to get lost in another world. Reading someone else’s work sometimes motivates you to write your own!
  1. Go for walk — Research has shown that going for a walk can boost your creativity by up to 60 per cent [i], so don those runners to get over your block.
  1. Grab a coffee — A cup (or two or three) of good, strong coffee can help you focus, and get your brain into gear.

All of us think differently and work differently. So try a few strategies and see what works for you. And if you come up with any more ideas on how to beat writer’s block, I’d love to hear from you.

Cheers

Nerissa

References:

[i] Journal of Experimental Psychology: Give your ideas some legs: The positive effect of walking on creative thinking, Oppezzo, Marily, Scwartz, L Daniel, July 2014 Vol 40. No 4, pp1142-52,  http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2014-14435-001/

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