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Stop, look, and edit

wait before you publish blog

If your New Year’s goal was to blog more for your business, then we congratulate you. Creating a steady stream of valuable content really is the best way to carve out your niche and get your message out to the right people.

Once you’ve got into the swing of writing, you’ll come to recognise the euphoria that accompanies the finishing of a great blog article. There will be five minutes when what you’ve just written is the most important thing that’s ever been written in the entire world on that subject. There’s not a moment to waste – you have to share it now, this very second, your life and the sanity of the world depends upon it!

There’s also a drive to be finished with it, particularly if you’re in the grip of the resolution fuelled New Year’s spirit. Ticking it off your things-to-do list would make you feel better, so you’re itching to upload.

The very best thing to do now is not to press send, but to save the document, close it, and go back and look at again tomorrow with clearer, more cynical eyes.

Just a few hours distance should make you better able to check the piece for the following common mistakes.

Five things to do before you press ‘publish’

1. Is it on target? It felt like it was at the time, but writing can be deceptive sometimes. Ask yourself if it is genuinely useful for your clients?  It might be that some simple tweaking is all that’s needed to pull it back in line, or it might be that you need to put it on hold for longer. Great ideas are never wasted, but they do need the right format to fly. Don’t be scared of pulling something if you know it’s not right.
2. Have you missed any words out? Easily done when the prose is flying. Check your copy slowly and carefully to make sure it makes sense.
3. Have you repeated words? Again, it’s a common mistake when you’re writing fast. Check again.
4. Is it spelt correctly? Is it the right word? Spell check picks up most errors – but it won’t pick up mis-substituted words. Don’t let something go out until it makes perfect sense.
5. Is the grammar right? Developing a natural and engaging tone of voice doesn’t mean you can stop writing proper, like.  Inaccurate grammar halts readers in their tracks, and it makes your writing hard to understand.  If you’re not sure, ask someone else to check too. Even if you are sure, a second pair of eyes is never a bad idea.

So, do start writing, and keep at it, but make sure you build a window of editing and reflection time into your blogging schedule. And Happy New Year!

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How to write less, and say more

How to write less, (and say more.)

tower blockYou know that sinking feeling you get when you click on a web page, and the text is far too long? Pulled in by a great headline, but confronted by a dense slab of over-wordy words, the chances are you’ll just click elsewhere to find what you wanted more quickly.

So how do you stop that happening? It’s easy. Follow these copy rules to keep users happy.

How to write less (and say more.)

1. Be very clear about the purpose of each section. Knowing exactly what your readers want to find on makes it easier to start shaping the content.

2. Don’t try to make too many points on each page. Focus on getting one message across strongly, rather than showering the page with weaker points. You can always add more pages. An engaged reader will be eager explore further, and drip feeding little by little works better than a huge wall of text.

3. Work on your sentence structure. Rid your lines of slow-you-down conjunctives. So no ‘however’s, or ‘moreover’s, or ‘hereby’s.

4. Using active verbs in the present tense gives the impression of purpose – just what you want to make readers feel they’re getting somewhere fast.

5. Short sentences make for an easy read.

6. Metaphors condense ideas and feelings succinctly, so weave some in and cut straight to the heart. Pick ones with an emotional resonance to pull readers in and make them more receptive to your message.

7. Focus on the first words of each sentence. If you’ve written a succession of ‘the’s, you need to think again. Starting with the subject of the sentence gives your writing impact and purpose.

8. Can the ‘can’s. Don’t say ‘we can deliver x,’ say ‘we deliver x.’

9. White space helps your readers breathe. Overloaded webpages make me feel like I’m stuck in a tube train during rush hour. You might be telling me something interesting, but all I can think about is getting out. Give your carefully crafted text some space and people will want to read on.

10. Make it scannable. Use headlines as scaffolding to sum up your main points and give your content structure. Signposting with headlines is a great way to make web pages fast rewarding reads.

And finally,

11. Embrace editing. Write it, leave it, come back with new eyes and cut out anything that isn’t absolutely necessary.

If you need help sharpening the content for your website, call me on 07985 015300