Write … to the Point

– writing tips and tricks

Archive for the category “Copywriting”

Writing with numbers

Writing with numbers

Did you know there are rules and conventions surrounding the use of numbers when you write?

Many people don’t.

While rules surrounding the use of numbers and numerals in writing aren’t as strict as those that apply to spelling and grammar, proper use of them, or sticking to an agreed Style Guide can make your writing much easier to read.

Here are some basic rules to make your use of numbers more consistent.

Know when to spell them out
Generally speaking, numbers from one to nine, should be spelled and numbers 10 and above can be written using numerals.

Money talks
When discussing the subject of money, stick to numerals. It is much easier to read. When talking about cents, either write it in full (e.g. “sixty cents” or “60 cents”). Avoid “$0.60”.

Decimals
To avoid any confusion, use numerals when writing out decimals. (e.g. “1.5 per cent”, NOT “one point five per cent”).

Use a comma
Commas should be used in numbers of four or more digits to separate hundreds, thousands and millions, etc. (e.g. 1,500; 100,000, etc.)

Start sentences with words, not numbers
Avoid beginning sentences with numbers. Where possible, re-write the sentence. Where it’s not possible, then spell out the word. (e.g. “Twenty thousand people” instead of 20,000 people). In the case of spelling out compound numbers, use a dash (e.g. “forty-five people”, rather than “forty five people”).

Speeds
When writing speeds, it’s preferable to use numerals, simply because that’s what most people read when they drive. So, the speed limit is “60km per hour”, not “sixty km per hour”.

Years, decades and centuries
You should write the year using numerals (e.g. 2016). However, when it comes to decades or centuries, a spelled out version is preferable (e.g. “the nineties” or “seventeenth century”).

Time
When referring to time, keep it simple and use numerals when referring to time (e.g. “5.15am”, instead of “five-fifteen in the morning”).

Percentages can be tricky
Ultimately, it will come down to the style guide of the organisation you are writing for. If you work for a scientific or medical industry, it may be preferable to express percentage with the symbol ‘%’. However, in more formal writing it is preferable to use ‘percentage’ or ‘per cent’ instead.

Fractions
Fractions should be expressed in a format that is easy to read. That means the top figure in superscript, followed by a slash and the second number in subscript (e.g. “1/8”). Do not use the form “one eighth”.

Temperatures
When writing about degrees, always use numerals. For example, 9 degrees, NOT nine degrees. You may also wish to use the symbol “°”. However, remember that there should be no space between the numeral and the symbol. (e.g. 35°C).

What about recipes?
Recipes are less formal and need to be easy to read and understand. For this reason, express measurements in numeral form. (e.g. “2 tablespoons”, “1 ½ cups”, etc.).

Large numbers
Sometimes large numbers are best rounded up or down, and expressed as a combination of written word and numerals. For example, “200 million” is easier to read than “200,000,000”. However, if you need to write an exact number, use the numeral format (e.g. “200, 186, 348”).

Numbers close together
Every now and then, you will come across two different numbers written next to each other. For example, “we surveyed 12 45-year-olds”. In this case, spell out one of the numbers (usually the lowest number), so it looks like this “we surveyed twelve 45-year-olds”.

Depending upon the genre of your writing and who your audience is, you may find you need to bend some of the above rules a little bit. That’s fine. Just make sure that however you write, you are consistent across the board.

The best way to do this is to develop your own in-house Style Guide.

If you would like help developing a Style Guide for your business, or need help with your writing needs, please contact us. We would love to work with you.

Cheers

Nerissa

7 top tips for proofreading

 

7 top tips for proofreading

Have you ever sent an email only to realise you have made a spelling error? Or worse, spent thousands on marketing material only to realise there is a glaring error AFTER it has been printed?

If you have, you’re not alone.

Proofreading may seem like a simple task, but it’s probably one of the most important. After all, misspelled words can make you look ignorant — particularly if they are common words.

Why proofreading is important

Proofreading is the final stage of the writing process. It’s the part that comes AFTER you have finished writing, editing and re-structuring your work. And it should only be done after you have finished ALL of your editing revisions.

Contrary to popular belief, proofreading isn’t just about picking up spelling and grammatical errors, although this is an important aspect. Proofreading ensures:

  • your message is clear, concise and easy to read
  • your message is consistent with your brand
  • your message is consistent with your style guide
  • you have included key phrases or terms
  • your message is unlikely to offend anyone
  • what you are saying is accurate and true
  • you look professional.

Tips for proofreading

Most people only spend a few minutes on proofreading, hoping to catch glaring errors. However, after spending so much time crafting your message, you don’t want it all ruined by a careless, slap-dash approach to checking your work.

Here are some tips for proofreading:

  1. Don’t rely on spell-checkers — While they are useful, spell-checkers are far from foolproof. Some of them won’t recognise particular words and they won’t catch the wrong use of words (e.g. ‘your’ VS ‘you’re’).
  2. Don’t rely on grammar-checkers — These too can be useful, but grammar-checkers can also be problematic as they work with a limited number of rules.
  3. Proofread for one type of error at a time —Check for punctuation errors in one reading, and spelling errors in another. Trying to check for too many variables increases the risk of something being missed.
  4. Read your work slowly and carefully — It can be tempting to rush proofreading when you are very familiar with your content, but look at every word.
  5. Read your work out loud — This will help you identify content that sounds clunky and awkward.
  6. Read sentences separately — Focus on one sentence at a time, instead of rushing to the next one.
  7. Read your work backwards — This is a tip I learnt when studying journalism. It may seem awkward, but that’s the point. When you read it backwards, the punctuation, grammar and content won’t make much sense, forcing you to focus on spelling errors.

7 top tips for proofreading

When you should hire a proofreader

Proofreading becomes easier over time. The more you do it, the better you become. However, there are some instances when you really should hire someone to do it for you. Consider hiring a proofreader if:

  • You struggle with correct grammar, punctuation and spelling
  • You don’t have time to thoroughly proofread your work
  • Your professionalism rides on the accuracy of your written content, and you simply can’t afford any mistakes
  • You are too attached to the writing and need a ‘fresh pair of eyes’ to look at it.

It’s far better to pay someone to check for mistakes before you publish, than realise you’ve made them when it’s too late!

If you’re in need of a great proofreader at reasonable rates, we’d love to help you out. Contact us today.

Cheers

Nerissa

 

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

 

 

10 reasons why you should hire a copywriter

Why you should hire a copywriterWhen contemplating hiring a copywriter, one of the first questions is: “what will it cost me?”

Fair enough that you want to know what it will cost you in monetary terms, but do you ever stop to think what you actually get back in return?

  1. Copywriters save you time

 Outsourcing work (whether it be your accounts, cleaning or copywriting), frees up your time. Instead of wrestling with the time-honoured question of “there” or “their”, you can get on with building your business, sourcing more clients, or simply taking time to have that cup of coffee.

  1. Copywriters save you money

 Hiring someone to do the job properly first, is more cost effective than trying to do the job yourself and ending up with a sub-standard result. When it comes to business, particularly small business, time is money. Time spent fluffing about with ineffectual content, is time (and money) wasted. 

  1. They have fresh eyes

Hiring a copywriter external to your business is a great thing. They are able to look at your business with fresh eyes. They can quickly get an unbiased ‘feel’ for your business. They can determine if there are conflicting or confusing messages. They are able to identify what is working and what is not working.

  1. They can communicate clearly and objectively

Copywriters are experts at communicating. They can spot spelling and grammatical errors instantly. They can identify any industry-jargon that may be confusing to potential clients. They can also write objectively, something that can be difficult when you are too close to your own subject matter.

  1. Copywriters are professionals

Good copywriters are professionals. Many have qualifications in journalism or writing. Many have worked (in previous lives) in the marketing and communication field, thereby bringing a wealth of experience and knowledge to their current careers. Like all professionals, they usually invest money and time into developing their careers and businesses.

  1. Some copywriters are specialists in their field

Some copywriters specialise in different industries. While they can still write for the ‘general market’, hiring a copywriter who specialises in your particular field is a smart move. Not only are they well versed in the type of language used in that industry, they are likely to have a lot of background knowledge and experience in that field, and know exactly how and where to source information.

  1. Good copywriters can write across a variety of different industries

Good copywriters should be able to write across a variety of different industries for a variety of different audiences and media platforms. So if you have a ‘general’ writing task, it shouldn’t matter if they specialise in a particular area if you want to hire them for a ‘general’ writing task.

  1. Copywriters are creative

Copywriters can turn boring sentences into something that pops. In the digital age, fresh new content is vital. Hiring a good copywriter means that you will always have new content for your website, thereby making your site high-quality and favoured by Google.

  1. They can help with branding

Your brand is key to your success. Creating a brand helps customers identify with products and services they can trust. Engaging a copywriter can help you develop and strengthen your brand by ensuring your key messages and the way you deliver them are consistent. A good copywriter can also help you develop a Style Guide, to promote consistency in your writing, branding and marketing.

  1. Copywriters focus on writing

While it can be tempting to try to write copy yourself, how many other things are you trying to juggle? Can you honestly give writing your full attention and focus, or are you likely to be interrupted by other emergencies and tasks that simply can’t wait? If you employ a copywriter, their job is to write — nothing else. Which means your content is created quicker and easier than if you were to do it yourself.

If you’re ready to take your business to greater heights and want a great copywriter to help you get there,  contact us today. We’d love to help you.

Cheers

Nerissa

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