Write … to the Point

– writing tips and tricks

Archive for the tag “Business writing”

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

Active and passive voice - what's the difference?

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

No? Active voice and passive voice?

Still nothing?

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

 

The difference between active and passive voice

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

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

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

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

 

 Using the active voice

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

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

 

Using passive voice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

How to recognise passive voice

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

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

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

 

Changing from passive to active

Active sentences follow a logical order:

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

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

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

e.g.                                        

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

 CHANGES TO:

 Bryce Courtenay wrote The Power of One.

  

Final tips

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

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

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

Cheers
Nerissa

 

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How to spot a good copywriter

How to spot a good copywriter

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

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

 

They have a portfolio

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

 

They prefer to work to a brief

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

 

They ask questions

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

 

They know how to research and reference their work

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

 

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

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

 

They are flexible, yet firm

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

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

 

They focus on building a partnership

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

 

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

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

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

Cheers
Nerissa

10 tips when writing for business

10 tips when writing for business

Writing copy for your business is very different from writing for other media. With many other companies competing with you for the same customers, it’s essential that your message hits all the right notes.

Here’s a list of things to consider when putting together your business communications.

1. Know your message

What do you want your potential and current customers to know? What’s the one key point you need to convey to them? While you probably have a few things you’d like to tell them, stick with the one message to avoid confusion.

2. Be clear

Once you are clear on your message, convey it with clear and concise writing. Use simple, easy-to-understand language, avoiding clichés and jargon. Write in short sentences and get right to the point. When your message is clear, you customers are informed.

3. Watch your tone

Ensure that your tone matches that of your audience. If you need to be authoritative, try not to be patronising. If you need to employ humour, ensure that it’s not full of corny ‘dad jokes’. Whatever tone you choose, your audience should feel a connection to you.

4. Remember your branding

What does your company stand for? What is your brand all about? Your written messages are another opportunity to increase your branding. Remember that when you write. If your brand is all about fun, then inject some fun into your message. If your brand is factual and scientific, ensure your message is factual as well.

5. Follow your style guide

This comes back to your branding, but ensure all your written communications follows the same style guide. Not sure what a style guide is? Put simply, it’s a list of ‘rules’ and ‘standards’ to follow with your writing, that promotes consistency, branding and marketing. If you want some tips on how to develop a style guide, click here.

6. Be professional

While standards of business communications have become more relaxed over recent years, always maintain a sense of professionalism. That means avoiding slang, text-speak, too many exclamation points (!!!), and language or topics that may offend.

7. Include a call to action

Don’t leave it to your readers to decide what to do next. Tell them. And make it easy for them. If you want them to call, then give the phone number. If you want them to email you, include a clickable link. If you want them to follow you on social media, include a clickable link. If you want them to visit their website — you got it — include a clickable link.

8. Don’t forget grammar and spelling

When you are busy paying attention to what you want to say, don’t forget about how you say it. Grammar and spelling really do matter. Communications that contain grammatical and spelling errors will only detract from your message.

9. Proofread before you send

Most of us do our best proofreading after we send — whether that be via email, social media or through the post. Check and double-check for errors before you disseminate anything. Some useful tips on proofreading can be found here.

10. Hire a freelancer

While this is not exactly a writing tip, it’s good to keep the option in the back of your mind. If writing is not your strong suit, or you simply don’t have the time to devote to crafting your message, consider hiring someone who can help. A good freelancer can help craft letters, blog articles, press releases, memos, training manuals, business letters or just about any other kind of writing you need.

Great writing is key for business. Using the tips above, you can greatly improve the likelihood of your key business messages hitting the right note.

However, if you would like help crafting communications for your business, please contact me. You’ll find I’m very easy to work with, and my rates will surprise you!

 

Cheers
Nerissa

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