Category Archives: Professional writing tips

Stoned sitters and other errors: Why Proofreading is a must

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Proofreading is tedious and boring. However, if you want to deliver an effective message, proofreading is a must. On the other hand, if you skip it, get ready to answer for embarrassing mistakes. Below are a few cringe-worthy examples from my own life:

  1. I sent an email to reschedule a meeting with members of another department whom I had never met and apologized for any “incontinence” (instead of inconvenience). I bet the recipients thought twice about meeting with me after that.
  2. A coworker opened a personalized sales letter with  “Hello, Virgin” instead of “Hello, Virgil.”
  3. My sitter, meaning to give an update on my son Jimmy, sent a text that read, “Joint great this morning. Not crabby at all!” Stoner child care or auto-correct? Thankfully, it was the latter.

It’s tempting to skimp on proofreading when you’re busy or a deadline is breathing down your neck. Or maybe you feel you’ve read through your copy enough times already, but what you don’t realize is you’re not seeing it with “fresh eyes” anymore. Typos have a habit of lurking in plain sight for everyone else but you. That’s why it’s worth the effort to establish a routine and involve coworkers or proofreading vendors to lend their eagle eyes.  Also, there are plenty of resources out there to help you with proofreading. Below is a short list:

  • Grammar Girl: A great blog and podcast that will help you find the answers to any question about grammar and good writing in general
  • Resource books like the AP Style Guide, Chicago Manual of Style and more (Check out our blog article on these and other valuable writing resources.)
  • Proofreading vendors, such as www.ProofreadNow.com

Your audience won’t notice that a piece has been thoroughly proofread, but they will notice when that essential step has been skipped. If you’re still not convinced that proofreading is a must, maybe the infographic below the “Continue reading” tag will persuade you:

Continue reading Stoned sitters and other errors: Why Proofreading is a must

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Brag professionally with effective press releases

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Effective press releasesWhen an established publication chooses to print positive information about you or your organization, that’s not just free advertisement – that’s validation. You can grab that priceless space, whether in print or online, by learning how to write effective press releases.

So, if your organization has earned bragging rights for an event, accomplishment or significant development, grab your pencil and get ready to write: Below are some tips to help you write press releases that are professional and more likely to spark interest.

Create a newsworthy angle
To write effective press releases, first develop your story to make sure it’s newsworthy. That will help ensure it grabs the attention of editors and entices them to include it in their publications. For example, instead of using your press release to announce your new CFO, focus on the new direction the CFO will take, how this will positively impact the organization, what customers and investors can expect from this new hire, etc.  Angle the story of the press release to show how readers might benefit by your organization’s actions. Continue reading Brag professionally with effective press releases

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Creativity tips: Unlock your genius

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brush and paint 2The page you’ve been staring at has been blank for an hour. Now, the cold fingers of self-doubt tickle the back of your neck, and you begin to despair: “If only i could find inspiration for creativity, this page would be filled by now!” Like Mom placing a bowl of hot goulash on your desk and a reassuring arm around your shoulders, I’m here to tell you, “Don’t worry so much!” Try a few proven creativity tips and you will fill that blank page. Continue reading Creativity tips: Unlock your genius

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Mrs. Schlepke’s substitute: Helpful reference books

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writing reference booksYou have a writing assignment, and you’re typing away in a flurry of inspiration. (Or is it desperation because your deadline looms?) Suddenly, a question pops into your head that makes you come to a dead stop: Should you use “affect” or effect”? Or maybe this is the question: Does the period go inside the quotes or outside? How about: Do you put commas in a date, and if so, where? Actually, it could be any of a hundred nagging little questions whose answers lie buried in the high school English class detritus left in your unconsciousness.

Instead of relying on dusty memory or calling Mrs. Schlepke, your freshman English teacher, out of retirement, it’s much easier to make sure you have a few handy-dandy reference books within reach. When writing professionally, whether for your job or for your career, it’s imperative that you present as close to a perfect communication piece as possible. Grammar, punctuation and spelling mistakes look sloppy and unprofessional. And you can’t rely on spell checker alone. If you’ve used “effect” when the correct word is “affect,” your mistake will go unnoticed by spell checker. Continue reading Mrs. Schlepke’s substitute: Helpful reference books

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Bragging with style: Effective press releases

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Write press releasesWhen an established publication chooses to print positive information about you or your organization, that’s not just free advertisement – that’s validation. You can grab that priceless space, whether in print or online, by learning how to write effective press releases.

So, if your organization has earned bragging rights for an event, accomplishment or significant development, grab your pencil and get ready to write: Below are some tips to help you write press releases that are professional and more likely to spark interest.

Create a newsworthy angle
To write effective press releases, first develop your story to make sure it’s newsworthy. That will help ensure it grabs the attention of editors and entices them to include it in their publications. For example, instead of using your press release to announce your new CFO, focus on the new direction the CFO will take, how this will positively impact the organization, what customers and investors can expect from this new hire, etc.  Angle the story of the press release to show how readers might benefit by your organization’s actions. Continue reading Bragging with style: Effective press releases

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Why do I feel jittery after drinking coffee?: How to create FAQs

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coffee FAQFAQs (frequently asked questions) have become a marketing communications staple. You can find them on websites, flyers, and in brochures. People think they’re helpful because they can find their particular question and quickly get an answer without having to read through a jungle of copy. And FAQs can be about any kind of product or service, from complicated, technical components to something as simple as a cup of coffee.

FAQs can also reduce the number of calls to customer service, and they show customers your organization understands their needs.

What do they want to know?

If you find yourself having to develop FAQs, before you write a single word, think about who your audience is and consider what their particular concerns might be. It’s a good idea to seek input from sales and other field personnel, customers and/or coworkers to develop your list of questions. You might find it helpful to develop your FAQs around the journalistic basics of who? what? when? where? why? and how? Continue reading Why do I feel jittery after drinking coffee?: How to create FAQs

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News you can use: Learn how to write newsletter articles

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Meet the pressSo, you need to develop a newsletter. You have the design ready to go, but you need more than lorem ipsum for the content. Where do you start? Well, here are some basic steps to writing a newsletter article:

  1. Consider your audience
  2. Determine your message
  3. Gather info
  4. Write the copy
  5. Include photos and/or graphics

Who are your readers and what will you tell them?

As with any communication piece, when you start writing newsletter articles, your first step is to consider your audience and the overall message or purpose:

  • Will the newsletter go to prospects?
  • Or to your organization’s employees?
  • Is the purpose to establish your organization as a helpful expert?
  • Or are you trying to persuade to purchase?
  • If your newsletter is internal, are you simply informing your co-workers?
  • Or are you trying to motivate your sales team?

Continue reading News you can use: Learn how to write newsletter articles

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Writing direct mail copy that sells

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Mailbox 2

You’ve got some great ideas brewing for the design for your marketing communications piece. But the copy is another story – so much to say but such little space!

Don’t fret yet! This is the first in a three-part series of articles that will give you copywriting tips for various marketing communications pieces. We’ll start with writing tips for direct mail copy, and future topics will include:

  • Developing newsletter content and writing articles
  • Writing frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Continue reading Writing direct mail copy that sells

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Writing clearly, saying it simply

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Window cleaning 2I recently received an email that demonstrated to me why writing clearly is a neglected skill set. An executive at the corporation where I work sent it, and it opened with these two paragraphs:

Organizational Announcement

“As we set our sights on the future and begin to transform our industry, it is essential that we have the right talent in place to drive growth and business success.

“For the past several months, my team and I have focused on long-term success planning and talent development. As part of those discussions, Ebenezer Geezer, the West Region president, informed me of his intention to retire at the end of this year.”

Wow, that’s a lot of lead-in before we get to point: Ebenezer Geezer is retiring. I, along with thousands of others in offices and cubicles across the U.S., got this email in the middle of a busy workday. How many actually read to the last sentence of the second paragraph? Did you?

I think the email should have been written more like this:

Organizational Announcement

“West Region President Ebenezer Geezer is planning to retire at the end of this year. We will greatly miss Ebenezer and his talent for cost cutting. My team and I, however, have a plan to make the transition to a new West Region president as smooth as butter. So, no worries, folks! This change won’t affect our profits or, most importantly, your jobs. So, keep working!” Continue reading Writing clearly, saying it simply

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Waiting for inspiration? The science behind creativity

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Colorful pillars

The page you’ve been staring at has been blank for an hour. Now, the cold fingers of self-doubt are starting to climb the back of your neck, and you begin to despair: “If I was truly creative, this page would be filled by now!”

Like Mom placing a bowl of hot goulash on your desk and a reassuring arm around your shoulders, I’m here to tell you, “Don’t worry so much!” You ARE a creative person, and if you give yourself a chance, that blank page will get filled.

Creativity as a habit

First of all, researchers believe that all human beings are naturally creative, and there is no conclusive evidence that some people are inherently more creative than others. Instead, it seems that creativity is actually more a habit than a trait. Continue reading Waiting for inspiration? The science behind creativity

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