Write … to the Point

– writing tips and tricks

The importance of a client brief

The importance of a client brief

You’ve done your due diligence and found a great copywriter who has loads of experience, has positive reviews and is within your budget. You’re feeling pretty happy with your decision and are excited to start working with them.

After contacting them and having initial discussions, you’re even more sure you’ve made the right decision.

But when the copywriter sends you a client briefing document and requests you fill in several pages of information, you start to wonder if you’ve made the right decision. After all, isn’t it the job of the copywriter to do the writing?

 

What is a brief and why do you need one?

Believe it or not, the fact that your copywriter has sent you a brief to fill in is a sign they are on top of their game.

A great copywriter is someone who will write copy that meets your needs — not theirs. Which is why they require a client brief.

A client brief is a bit like a road map. It contains directions, guidelines and pertinent information in order for your copywriter to come up with the content you are paying them for.

A client brief reduces the chances of ambiguity and misunderstandings when it comes to your content, eliminating the need for countless (and sometimes expensive) revisions and rewrites.

In short, the more information you provide, the better.

 

A brief is not…

While it’s important to understand the purpose of a client brief, it’s also important to understand what it’s not.

A brief is not:

  • A list of terms and conditions of engagement — that should be a separate document and something I will address in a future blog post
  • A contact of agreement:  — this too is a separate document which outlines the scope of the project, (including fees) which both parties need to sign.
  • A promise — while a good copywriter will produce great content according to your specifications, they cannot promise particular outcomes such as website hits and clicks, or sales.

 

What should you include?

There are no hard and fast rules about what a client brief should include. After all, every writing project is different. However, the following gives you a good idea on what type of questions you may be asked.

  • Your business: What is your business (e.g. what do you do, your core operations) and how long have you been in business?
  • Your brand: What does your brand stand for? What is your tone? What are your values?
  • Engagement objectives: What is the purpose of this communication? Are you looking for a specific outcome or action (e.g. increased sales), or do you want to increase your brand awareness, and increase brand loyalty?
  • Target audience: Who are your primary and secondary audiences (e.g. age, gender, socio-economic status)
  • Audience persona: What are their interests, concerns, or personality?
  • Campaign objectives: What are the key messages you want your consumers to receive regarding your brand or product?
  • Key messages: Are there any key messages you want to convey in your content? Are there any messages that must be avoided?
  • Key words: Are there any key words that must be used, or avoided?
  • Type of message: Is this communication a blog piece? Article? Advertorial? Report? Tender? News article?
  • Tone: What is the tone of the message? (e.g. friendly, authoritative, casual, formal, humorous, etc.)
  • Content channels: Where will the content be published? (e.g. online, blog, print, social media, advertising etc.) How will it be published? (e.g. bound report, booklet, loose-leaf binder, electronic)
  • Images/graphics: Are there any images or graphics that must accompany the content?
  • Style guidelines: Is there an in-house Style Guide that must be followed?
  • Research: Is credible research required for this communication?
  • Examples: Are there any examples of existing material that you like?
  • Brand ambassadors: Are there any brand ambassadors associated with your product/brand?
  • Scope of the project: How big is the project? (e.g. one-off report, blog or article) What is the word length?
  • Budget: What is your budget for this project?
  • Deadline: What is the deadline for the project?

 

You still need to be involved!

Once you have filled in as much information as possible, your copywriter will get busy doing what they need to do. However, don’t think that your job is over just yet! As you are the client, you will be required to provide ongoing feedback or ask any relevant questions for the scope of the project.

If your copywriter requests further information or clarification from you, it’s because it’s relevant to the project. They really aren’t messing with your head!

Oh, and if you have a deadline for this project, then it will be important to provide information, reviews or feedback in a timely manner, in order to meet that deadline. So make sure you factor that into the scope of the project.

 

Take the time to brief your copywriter

One of the reasons you engage a copywriter may be because you just don’t have time to do the job yourself. However, I highly recommend you take the time to fill out a client brief with as much detail as possible. It may take an hour or two, but in the end, the detail in that document could very well be the difference between mediocre copy and fabulous copy.

Speaking of fabulous copy…. if you’re ready to hire a great copywriter — and are willing to fill in a copy brief! — then please contact me.

If you’re still wondering if you should hire a copywriter, then 10 reasons why you should hire a copywriter may answer some of your questions.

Cheers
Nerissa

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7 things you need to be a great health writer

A tablet computer on a desk - Health and Medical

If you’re new to freelance writing, you may be wondering whether it’s better to develop a niche, or to keep your market wide open.

For a newbie, developing a niche market can seem scary. After all, it does mean a smaller pool of potential clients. And when you’re starting out, you need all the clients you can get, right?

Not always.

Developing a niche can be one of the best things you can do for your freelance business. It means you no longer have to be ‘all things to all people’. Instead, you focus on becoming an expert in area or field. This means you can more effectively market yourself and bring in more clients than before.

If you have already been working in a particular industry or field, you may have already developed your niche. You just don’t know it yet.

That’s how I developed mine. During the 3 ½ years I wrote for a corporate wellness company, I developed many skills that most freelancers don’t have. And so when I eventually went out on my own, I decided to utilise these skills and market myself as a health writer.

 

The future of health writing

Personally, I believe health writing has a bright future. It’s no secret the healthcare industry is booming right now. A combination of an ageing population, along with an increased interest in health and well-being, has made this one of the fastest-growing industries.

As a result, there are more companies and agencies popping up devoted to healthcare. Along with them, are many more opportunities for health writers. Potential clients can range from pharmaceutical clients to health-related brands, through to government health organisations and private practitioners.

 

What makes a good health writer?

However, just because there are health writing opportunities doesn’t mean you are right for the job. If you want to make it as a health writer, there’s a few key attributes that may come in handy.

 

  1. Have an interest in health
    It sounds simple but it’s true. You really need to have some kind of interest in health. If you’re not interested in what you’re writing about, you’re going to find your work pretty boring.

 

  1. Know your market
    Who will you be writing for? While you may write the odd thing for an overseas client, chances are you will be focusing on content here in Australia, so you need to understand your market. What are the primary health concerns facing Australians? What barriers do we face when it comes to improving our health? Does our culture influence our health? Knowing your audience will help you tailor your content accordingly.

 

  1. Know how to research
    I can’t emphasize enough the importance of researching health content. There is so much conflicting advice in the health arena, it’s crazy. Many writers base their content on anecdotal evidence rather than fact. Or they simply rewrite copy from other websites without checking the facts. Publishing incorrect health information not only leads to lost credibility, but it may lead to a loss of income, or even a hefty lawsuit!

 

  1. Only use credible sources of information
    The information you present is only as good as the sources you glean it from. When researching health articles, ensure you use only credible sources of information, such as peak health bodies, government websites, or internationally accredited organisations. A newspaper report, or information posted on someone else’s blog is not credible.

 

  1. Be able to interpret scientific studies
    This skill goes hand in hand with researching. Being able to read and interpret scientific studies is a valuable skill. Referencing bona fide health studies improves your credibility as a writer, and adds weight to your story. Your readers will walk away knowing the information you presented to them is true. They also have a reference to go to if they wish to read further on the subject.

 

  1. Write in simple language
    When it comes to all writing, simple is best. When it comes to health writing, simple is a must. Writing on health, disease and illness can involve a lot of complex information. As a health writer, it is your job to ‘de-code’ this information, and write it in a form that the average person can understand.

 

  1. Write to empower
    While you are busy translating complicated information into an easy-to-understand format, please take the time to write it in a way that will empower the reader, rather than frighten them. There are many topics that are quite scary for the average reader, so it is your job to present the information in a way that will inform, not scare.

    As a health writer, my job is to present accurate, up-to-date health information in a way that is easily understood. I also see it as my role to empower and inspire people to make a change to their personal circumstances. By all means present facts (i.e. we all know that smoking causes cancer), but present them in a way that empowers and inspires change, instead of trying to ‘scare’ people into action.

 

Writer or blogger?

Finally, you need to know whether you are a writer or a blogger? You can actually be both, but you are likely to be more one than the other. If you are a blogger, then you probably have your own following and know your readers quite well. Your readers probably know your brand and what you stand for. You will also be used to writing in one ‘voice’ and this will be understood and embraced by your readers.

If you are primarily a writer, you need to be more diverse in your skills. You may be asked to write on a range of different topics and for a range of different clients. Each client will have a different target audience and therefore a different ‘angle’ for their story. They may also want you to use a different ‘voice’ (i.e. informative, expert etc.).

Knowing which category you fall into will make it easier for you to adjust your writing style accordingly.

So there you have it. My 7 tips for being a great health writer.

And if you are looking to engage a great health writer, please contact me. I’d love to help.

 

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

 

Health writers or hacks? 5 ways to sort fact from fiction

Health writer or hack? How to discern fact from fiction

There’s no doubt the health and wellness industry is booming right now.

An ageing population, coupled with greater awareness of the importance of staying healthy for life has contributed to an explosion in the number of healthcare, wellbeing and fitness business popping up all across the country.

Part of this this movement towards greater health and wellbeing is a plethora of ‘wellness warriors’, ‘health bloggers’, and other individuals writing articles and providing advice relating to health and medical matters.

But are these credible sources for information on health? And are those who write these types of articles qualified to provide such advice?

 

The problem with wellness warriors and bloggers

Firstly, let me state, there is nothing wrong with having an interest in health, wellbeing and alternative therapies. There is nothing wrong with using alternative therapies, and there is also nothing wrong with reading health information on the internet.

However, what you may not realise is a lot of information relating to health and wellness (and even medical conditions) found on the internet is inaccurate, unfounded, unproven, untrue, and downright dangerous.

Sometimes articles contain claims based on anecdotal evidence. Sometimes information presented is old and outdated. Sometimes it is based on pseudoscience, or ‘popular opinion’. At its worst, the health and wellbeing arena is riddled with claims and scaremongering tactics aimed at playing on people’s vulnerabilities and designed to lighten consumers’ wallets.

A recent case of ‘wellness warrior’ turned sour is that of Belle Gibson. A self-proclaimed health guru who claimed to have ‘cured’ her terminal brain cancer through healthy eating and natural therapies, finally admitted last year (2015) that all her claims were untrue.

Ms Gibson had a thriving business based on these false claims. She developed an app and companion cookbook, and wrote a blog on the subject. She also made a lot of money based on her lies. But until her story finally unravelled, thousands of people had put their trust in her.

 

How to determine if an article is credible

Ms Gibson is not the only person to make fake or incorrect claims regarding health and medical information. There are thousands of wellness bloggers, or website owners doing the same thing. Heck, even journalists get information incorrect from time to time.

And while innocent mistakes can be expected occasionally, health information is too important to get wrong the majority of the time.

Here are the top five ways you can determine if the information you are reading is likely to be credible.

  1. Is the writer sticking to facts or voicing an opinion?

A credible health writer will stick to the facts rather than voice their opinion. They will also write in a way to present the facts and empower the reader to make a positive health change if necessary. They will not use scaremongering tactics, nor pressure you to purchase a product or a service.

 As soon as there is a ‘sales pitch’, then it’s a safe bet that the information is biased towards getting you to make a purchase.

  1. Does the article use accredited sources of information?

Any health writer worth their salt will always defer to a credible source for health information. Even better, they will attribute, facts and figures to that source. For example, it’s easy to write :

“one in six Australians are affected by cardiovascular disease”.

But how do you know this is accurate?

A credible health article will refer to the source of the information in the body of the article:

“According to the Heart Foundation, one in six Australians are affected by cardiovascular disease”.

Credible sources of information can include peak health bodies and organisations, federal government websites, well-known medical schools and universities.

Other ‘wellness’ websites and blogs, newspaper reports and anecdotal evidence are NOT credible.

 

  1. Does the article link in with current information?

Great health articles make use of current research statistics. What is deemed as ‘current’? Anything published within the last three years. Medical information changes so quickly these days. With new research being published and statistics updated almost annually, there is no excuse to use old, outdated information.

However, some information and reports are only updated every few years, particularly if they are drawn from surveys that are conducted every few years (i.e. The Australian Census). If this is the case, always state which year your statistics are coming from.

 

  1. Does the article refer to current research?

Just like using current information, a good health writer will back up claims with current research. When citing research studies, the body of the article should mention what year the study was published and which organisation published it. The link to the original source of the study (not a news report or media release) should be included in references at the bottom of the article.

  1. Does the writer include a list of references?

A great health writer will attribute all sources of their information. The reasons for doing this are three-fold — firstly, to add credibility and weight to their story; secondly, to allow readers to search for further information if they need it; and thirdly, to cover themselves in case any of the information is incorrect or no longer current by the time the article is published.

 

A final word…

It’s important to remember not to believe everything you read online. Just because it’s published does not make it true. Even the best health and medical writers may make simple errors.

Health information found online should only ever be used as a guide (and only when you deem it to be credible). Your doctor is the best person to advise you about your personal health concerns and no amount of online ‘research’ should replace your own doctor’s medical opinion.

If you find information that contradicts your doctor’s advice, then speak to them about it. Don’t simply take the word of a ‘health blogger’, or ‘wellness warrior’, no matter how long they have been blogging or how many followers they have.

If you want to engage an experienced health and medical writer for your project, contact me. I’d love to help you out and ensure your content is factual and up-to-date.

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

A simple explanation of hyphens and dashes

A simple explanation of hyphens and dashes

Hyphens and dashes often look the same, but while they might masquerade as interchangeable symbols, they actually serve totally different purposes.

If knowing the difference between hyphens and dashes was hard enough, did you know there are two types of dashes?

Confused? Then read on.

 

Hyphens

Hyphens are most commonly used to connect two or more words or numbers into a single entity.

They can be used to join compound words…

eye-opener

up-to-date

 or to join numbers…

forty-four.

 They can also be used with prefixes when a word may be ambiguous

re-sign (as opposed to resign).

Sometimes word processing programs will automatically hyphenate a long or compound word, if it can’t fit onto the page, however this setting can usually be turned off. You will most commonly see long words hyphenated in printed material (i.e. books and magazines) where space for print is limited and the published needs to utilise every available inch of white space.

 

Dashes

Dashes are different and shouldn’t be used interchangeably with the humble hyphen. There are two types of dashes:

The ‘en’-dash (n-dash)

The ‘em’-dash (m-dash).

 

En-dash

The en-dash is twice the length of a hyphen and was originally the width of the capital letter ‘N’.  (It can be made in Word by holding down CTRL and the subtract key).

The en-dash is a nice little fellow, who likes to unite things together on the page. It is most commonly used to indicate spans of numbers, times and distances. For example:

Pages 57–83

9am–11am

Melbourne–Sydney.

 

The en-dash can also link prefixes to words.

non–English speaking background

post–workout.

 

Em-dash

The em-dash looks similar to the en-dash, except it is three times the length of a hyphen. Originally, it was the width of a capital “M.” (It can be made in Word by holding down CTRL-ALT and the subtract key).

The em-dash performs a totally different function to its brother, en-dash. Where the en-dash unites, the em-dash separates, and is used to separate parts of a sentence, particularly if there is a sudden change in direction of thought, or when emphasis is required. For example:

I drove all the way into the city — you know how much I hate that — only to find out my appointment was for next week!

Em-dashes are often used instead of parentheses (brackets). However, in more formal writing, it is preferable to use parentheses over the em-dash.

Because em-dashes are used for emphasising a particular idea or phrase, you should take care not to overuse them in your writing.

As to whether there should be a space between the words and an em-dash, it’s pretty much up to you. Some style guides say to omit a space and others say to put one in. Just make sure you follow the advice outlined in the style guide you use, and are consistent with how you use it.

 

QUICK TIP:

If you find it difficult to remember the difference between an en-dash and em-dash the following tip may help.

The en-dash being the shorter one, brings things together, while the longer em-dash tends to lengthen the distance between, or separate the elements.

 

If you want help sorting out hyphens from dashes, or want someone to do all the writing for you, please contact us. We’d love to help. 

 

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

 

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

 

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