Write … to the Point

– writing tips and tricks

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

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

FREE: Reference material to help you write health content

FREE list of health referencesIn previous blog posts, we’ve discussed the importance of building credibility as a writer and given you tips on how to develop content for your health blogs.

In this post, we’re going to share with you some important reference material that will help you write your health content, and build your credibility.

Why use references?

Referencing is vital when it comes to health writing — or any factual type of writing. There are millions of health-related websites and blogs out there, with many of them offering conflicting advice and information. What’s worse, is that the majority of health information (from what I have seen), is not referenced appropriately.

Referencing is important for several reasons:

  • It ensures the information you provide is accurate and up-to-date
  • It reassures the reader that you are providing them with accurate information
  • It helps build your credibility as a writer
  • It helps gain trust from your target audience
  • It enables your reader to go to the source of the information for further detail.

How to reference

We will talk in more detail on how to reference information in a future blog post. However, when you do reference material, it’s important to quote the original source of the information, rather than make a general statement.

For example, writing, “According to the Heart Foundation, more than 46,600 Australians died from cardiovascular disease in 2013” is preferable to: “Over 46,600 Australians died from cardiovascular disease in 2013”.

When it comes to referencing research studies, simply saying “a study found x,y and z” is not enough. You need to quote the actual study and provide a link to the original study. For example, “a 2010 study by Harvard University, published in Some Journal, found x, y and z” (Reference, detailing the authors, title of study and where it was published should be provided in text or as a footnote, along with a link to the study).

What to reference

There are some definite DOs and DON’Ts when it comes to referencing. Two of the biggest are:

DO use credible reference sources, such as official organisations, peak bodies and accredited government agencies.

(NOTE: Wikipedia is NOT a credible source of information)

DON’T quote information from other articles, particularly if they have not used references.

So where should you go for credible information?

Well, you’re in luck, because here is my list of top places where I source my health information.

FREE list of resources

GLOBAL

 INTERNATIONAL

AUSTRALIAN

Peak bodies

Australian Government Websites

Remember, referencing is critical if you are writing for the health and wellness sector, so always make sure you use credible and reputable institutions and organisations when doing your research.

If you would like help writing your blog or health and wellness content, check out the great variety of Blogging Business Packages we have available. Or, you can simply contact us to have a chat about your needs.

We’d love to hear from you.

Until next time

Nerissa

Health blogging: 6 ways to develop content

6 ways to come up with health content

Health and wellness is a boom industry. In fact, Euromonitor International predicts the industry will continue to grow and become a trillion dollar industry by 2017. [i]

Along with this boom, we have seen an explosion in the number of health and wellness websites and blogs over the past couple of years. And if global predictions are accurate, the number of these will continue to grow over the next few years.

If you work in the health and wellness sector, you may have a blog. (If you don’t but are wondering if you should, take a look at our previous post Blogging for business: 4 things to consider).

However, having a blog and writing it regularly are two different things. After all, how do you know what to write about?

How to generate health content

Because the health and wellness sector is such a big business, it should be relatively easy to come up with content. Right? The first step however, is to know what the purpose of your content is. Do you aim to:

  • show case your knowledge as an expert?
  • sell your services?
  • recruit new clients?
  • offer value-added service to your existing clients?

What you aim to do will influence your content.

Planning health content

Your blog should reflect an aspect of your business. There are many industries within the health and wellness sector. For example:

  • Nutritionists/dietitians
  • Alternative therapies (e.g. aromatherapy, herbal medicine)
  • Personal training
  • Weight loss
  • Beauty therapy
  • Manipulative therapies (e.g. physio, chiropractors, osteopaths, massage therapists)
  • Sports coaches and specialists (e.g. running coaches, sports psychologists).

When planning blog content, you should always try to relate it back to your core business.

6 ways to develop content

So you know what you want to achieve with your blog, and the area you are going to focus on. But where do you get your ideas from?

Here are our top tips:

  1. Health awareness days/weeks/months — With so many health awareness days, weeks and months on the calendar, there is bound to be something you can link in with. For example, Heart Week provides an opportunity to write a blog with a number of different approaches — eating for a healthy heart, how to recognise a heart attack, exercise to improve your heart, etc.
  1. Latest research — Researchers all over the world are making new discoveries relating to health all the time. A quick google search will yield links to news reports. Simply use the information (citing the original reference if possible to build your credibility as a writer), and make it relevant to your audience.
  1. Latest statistics — Health organisations often release new statistics on a regular basis. For example, new obesity statistics offer a platform to discuss issues surrounding sedentary lifestyles, taking up a new sport, mindful eating, avoiding fad diets, etc.
  1. Use the experts — Draw upon content from other professional organisations. For example, if you are a physiotherapist, you may wish to utilise graphics illustrating posture, developed by the Australian Physiotherapy Association, and write an article about correct posture in the workplace. You may also wish to interview an expert on a particular topic that is related to your field.
  1. Link it to current events/news stories — Newspapers, online magazines and even Facebook are full of stories of people who are battling conditions such as cancer, motor neurone disease, diabetes, etc. Use these stories as a platform to discuss a topic related to this story, and once again, relate it back to your business.
  1. Write about how you help people — This is not a ‘direct plug’ for business, but rather a value-adding service. For example, if you are a personal trainer, you can write about how you have turned someone’s life around and include pictures and even an interview with one of your clients. Similarly, a beautician may write about how they helped someone overcome chronic acne.

Successful blogging involves providing useful information your target audience can relate to, and providing it consistently.

If you would like help planning and writing your health and wellness blogs, contact us. We would love to work with you.

And keep your eye out for our next blog post, which will show you the best websites to use when researching for your health writing.

Until next time.

Nerissa

References:

[i] Euromonitor International, Health and Wellness the Trillion Dollar Industry in 2017: Key Research Highlights, published 29 November 2012; accessed 28 July 2015, http://blog.euromonitor.com/2012/11/health-and-wellness-the-trillion-dollar-industry-in-2017-key-research-highlights.html

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/

Building credibility as a writer

Building credibility as a writerAs a health writer, I come across thousands of health articles every year. Just googling the term ‘health blogs’ brings up 628,000,000 (yes, 628 million) results.

That is a huge amount of web pages.

More and more people are turning to the internet for information, particularly health information. The internet can be a fantastic resource for information on health and wellness. However, there are countless websites containing inaccurate, unreliable and even dangerous information.

The problem with online health information

Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org) is just one of these websites filled with inaccurate information. This free-content encyclopedia, offers information on a wide range of topics, including health and wellness. It is the most popular general reference site on the internet with 439 million unique visitors every month, as of June 2015[1].

However, its popularity does not assure accuracy, as a 2014 study discovered. Researchers found that 90 per cent of the information for costly medical conditions (e.g. heart disease, diabetes, lung cancer, major depressive disorder, osteoarthritis) was incorrect. [2]

A further study found that information on Wikipedia relating to drugs was often incorrect and outdated. [3]

What is even worse is there are thousands of bloggers out there writing about health topics, who either don’t have a background in health, or don’t bother to fully research their subject matter.

I’m sure the same could be said for the majority of industries.

An opportunity to build credibility

If you are a freelance writer, lack of high-quality information provides you with an enormous opportunity to build your credibility.

Not all information found on the web is inaccurate. However, if you know how to source information from credible sources, you can use this to your advantage.

Knowing how to search the internet efficiently, source research studies, read and interpret research studies, and quote your references is a valuable skill, so do not underestimate it. In a world where unreliable information is everywhere, use your skills to stand out from the crowd.

A case study

Building credibility as a writerRecently one of my clients asked me to write an article on orthorexia. If you are unfamiliar with that term, orthorexia describes those who are unhealthily obsessed with healthy eating. I had some basic knowledge of the subject, but needed to do quite a bit of research to garner enough information to write an article about it.

One of the sources I used was the website written by Dr Steven Bratman, MD, who first coined the term ‘orthorexia’. He is a world-renown expert in the area. I used information from Google analytics, as well as information from the Dietitians Association of Australia and the U.S.-based National Eating Disorders Association. In total, I had seven references to back up a 1,000-word article.

Somehow, Dr Bratman discovered the article I had written and read it.

On my client’s website where the article was published, he wrote: “This is really an excellent article on orthorexia — and I can be quite critical! Well done.”

He then tweeted the article twice, stating: “Nice article on #orthorexia.” and “In fact, I would go so far as to say that this is an excellent article on #orthorexia”.

Taking the time to thoroughly research the article, and attribute my sources resulted in a high-quality, accurate article, and the world-renown expert in the area singing its praises. My client was pretty stoked, particularly as her article was shared and her website received extra traffic.

You have to be happy with that.

Regardless of what field you write for, thoroughly researching and referencing your articles is a very easy but powerful way to build your brand and your credibility as a writer. And the more credibility you build, the more work you can generate.

We would love to help you out with high-quality, fully researched and referenced blogs or articles for your business. Just contact us.

Cheers

Nerissa

References:

[1] Wikipedia: About, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:About, accessed 22 July 2015

[2] R T Hasty, R C Garbalosa, V A Barbato, P J Valdes Jr, D W Powers, E Hernandez, J S John, G Suciu, F Quereshi, M Popa-Radu, S San Jose, N Drexler, R Patankar, J R Paz, C W King, H N Gerber, M G Valladares, A A Somji, Wikipedia vs Peer-Reviewed Medical Literature for Information About the 10 Most Costly Medical Conditions, The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, May 2014, Vol. 114, pp368-373 http://jaoa.org/article.aspx?articleid=2094583, accessed 22 July 2015

[3] T J Hwang, F T Bourgeois, J D. Seeger, Drug Safety in the Digital Age, The New England Journal of Medicine, 26 June 2014, Vol. 370. pp2460-2462, http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1401767, accessed 22 July 2015

Why spelling matters – even when it comes to coffee

Yes, yes. Spelling matters, but only for the ‘important stuff’, right?

Wrong.

You see when it comes to communication, everything is important.

Your spelling ability (or lack thereof) is a direct reflection of you, your standards and your business.

Rightly or wrongly, people will judge you according to your use of the English language. They will also make assumptions about who you are, how you run your business, how reliable your products are and how interested you are in your potential customers.

How do I know this?

Because I do it all the time.

I’m the first to admit I am a bit of a Grammar Nazi. Spotting spelling errors in a piece of writing (particularly marketing material), is a bit of sport for me. Sometimes the errors are funny; sometimes they are hilarious. But most of the time, they just make me cringe.

Berrie muffuns and cappachino

On a road trip earlier this year, I came across the following in a McDonalds store:

Why spelling matters

What is a mixed berrie muffun?

Professional? Hardly.

While most people would probably laugh off the mistake and realise that they were offering a ‘mixed berry muffin’, I for one deliberately avoided said ‘berrie muffun’.

The poor spelling made me feel the people behind the counter were careless, uninterested and slap-dash. I felt if they were not interested in the details that the customer actually saw, how attentive would they be when it came to policies, procedures and health regulations that the customer does not see?

I felt if they weren’t interested enough to check the sign promoting their wares, they obviously wouldn’t be interested in me, the paying customer.

They lost a sale from me because of their spelling error.

Here is another sign I came across while travelling:

Spelling matters

What is a cappachino?

Do you see what is wrong with it?

I was going to order a cappuccino, until I saw they were selling ‘cappachino’. I figured that if they couldn’t spell it, they certainly couldn’t make it. And so I left the shop empty-handed.

Certainly, the above are small examples, but both instances resulted in a lost sale and left me with a negative impression of their business.

However every now and then, a spelling error can spell (pun intended) disaster.

The importance of an ‘s’

Earlier this year, an extra letter ‘s’ caused a 124-year-old Welsh family business to go bust, leaving the UK government with a £9 million ($17 million) legal bill.

In 2009, Companies House, part of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, mistakenly recorded that the engineering firm Taylor & Sons Ltd, had been wound up.

In reality, it was another unrelated company Taylor & Son Ltd (not Sons), that had gone broke.

However, despite Companies House trying to correct the error three days later, the damage was done. The company had already lost credibility with their suppliers, with all 3000 of them terminating orders and credit facilities were withdrawn. Within two months of the spelling error, the company went into administration.

In January of this year, a High Court judge ruled that Companies House was legally responsible for Taylor & Sons’ catastrophic loss of business and ultimate collapse. They are now facing a multi-million dollar legal bill.

Spelling matters

Whether you are selling coffee, muffins or own a multi-million dollar company, spelling matters.

Correct spelling successfully communicates your message, while incorrect spelling distracts and confuses.

The way you spell displays your standards of business to potential customers. Correct spelling leaves a good impression of your values, your branding and your business. Incorrect spelling causes potential customers to question how seriously you do business and how attentive to detail you may be.

Like it or not, the way you spell may be the difference between gaining a customer and losing one.

In a world where businesses are madly competing against each other and first impressions count, spelling matters. In many respects content is not king — appearance is. How often do you judge someone, or something based on appearance alone? That’s why spelling counts.

Even if you are the poorest speller on the planet, it is your job to ensure the words you use are spelled correctly.

You can use dictionaries (the old-fashioned kind, or the online versions); you can use spell-checker (although this has its limitations); and you can get someone else to proof your work — preferably someone who can spell!

Just make sure your work is free from spelling errors.

If you need help with proofing, editing or spelling, contact us today — and we will be happy to lend a hand.

Cheers

Nerissa

Why your business needs a style guide

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

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

What is a style guide?

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

What does a style guide contain?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* well-being Vs wellbeing

* wholegrain Vs whole grain

* type 2 diabetes Vs type II diabetes

* dietitian Vs dietician

* vegies Vs veggies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers

Nerissa

How to spell the trickiest words

Words you need to spell correctlyThe Homophones

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Your and You’re

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

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

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

Tip:

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

  1. Their, there and they’re

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

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

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

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

Tip:

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

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

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

  1. Its and it’s

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

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

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

Tip:

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

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

  1. To, too and two

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

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

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

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

Tip:

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

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

  1. Loose and lose

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

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

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

Tip:

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

  1. Sight, site and cite

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

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

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

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

Tip:

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

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

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

  1. Affect and effect

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

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

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

Tip:

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

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

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

Until next time.

Nerissa

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