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Tag Archives: jargon

Five reasons not to blog

closed sign - reasons not to blog

You don’t have to write a blog. It’s not the law. Here are five popular reasons not to do it.

1.You can’t be bothered. Really, what’s the point? Your marketing is working fine, you don’t need any more clients, thank you very much.

If you’ve got a steady stream of leads, and more of the kind of work you want to do than you can handle already, then maybe you don’t need to blog. But if you’d like to pull in additional leads, get referred more, and build your business, then maybe you should give it a go.

2. You don’t want to give information away. And why would you? You worked hard to learn all this stuff, publishing it for free is a crazy idea.

People buy from people they trust, and it’s hard for people to trust your expertise if it’s all locked away in your head. Sharing some of your ideas and experiences in a blog is a great way to show not only what you know, but your individual approach. Being helpful and sharing pays off. As far as know I haven’t lost any writing work through writing about how to write.

3. You’ve got nothing new to say. The internet is awash with blogs. The world doesn’t need another one.

Well, yes, that’s true. But you do have something original to say. Think about the way you solve your particular clients problems and write from that perspective. Don’t worry about being a world authority on your subject, just be the great guy who knows his stuff and gets it done.

4. You’re not a writer,you’re a lawyer/architect/IFA/designer/*insert your own job title here.

True, but you probably can write well enough. Be clear, to the point, and avoid jargon. Don’t think of it as an essay written to impress, write it as you would say it, and you’ll find your voice. (And if that doesn’t work, you can always cheat and get someone like me to write it for you.)

5. You’ve got writer’s block. You know you need to do it, but the blank page is staring at you and try as you might, it just won’t work.

We’ve all been there, but the way to get out of it is to take action. Write something silly, write something provocative, write anything. The act of crafting ideas into words will get things moving, and once you’re in the flow you can switch back to the subject you’re supposed to be writing about. Or not. The best blogs sometimes start in the strangest places.

This blog was supposed to be ‘How to write a brilliant article,’ but I was distracted by helpful Twitter responses to my question ‘what holds your writing back?’ That one’s coming next, so watch this space.

The 7 deadly word sins

apple with 'sin' written on it

(Or 7 words you won’t find on Valuable Content websites, and which shouldn’t be on yours.)

We write lead generating websites for businesses, so we get through a lot of words – thousands of the things. There are some we try not to use any more – either because they’re overused, or because they’re not clear, or because we just don’t like them.

1. Solutions. Offering solutions to a clients problem is a hackneyed way of saying you can help. Next time you’re sitting in a traffic jam count the number of vans with ‘solutions’ written on them. Dry rot solutions, office furniture solutions, decorating solutions. Be more specific about exactly how what you do will improve your client’s situation.
2. Facilitate. Don’t use it if you mean ‘set up,’ or ‘organise.’ It’s a bit of a prissy word, sounds like you’re trying to make something simple sound more important.
3. Orientated as a suffix, like results-orientated, or worse, solutions-orientated. Of course you work towards resolving the client’s problem. Just bunging ‘orientated’ on the end of a word doesn’t help show your method or describe your USP. Say how you do it, specifically.
4. Focused as a suffix. Or worse, focussed. See above. Results-focused, solutions-focused, we don’t like it.
5. Dynamic. Maybe we’re getting old, but we don’t really like dynamic agencies. For a start it’s a bit of a cliche, a lazy way of saying you’re not lazy. Plus, if you say you’re dynamic we imagine you wearing patterned socks and running round screaming into your Blackberry like an Apprentice wannabe. We’d rather see examples of original thought and genuinely helpful content.
6. Passionate. Being passionate about customer service makes you look a bit silly. No one believes it, so don’t say it. Caring is good, so is attention to detail, but passion? Save it for your lovers.
7. Synergy. Paradigm. Proactive. Just stop it.

If you want help writing the right stuff, let me know on 07985 015300

The really Valuable guide to ‘Things to give up for Lent’

chocolate coated strawberry

Chocolate, wine, and cake – just three of the things that aren’t on Valuable Content’s list of things to give up for Lent.

We hope you’ll find our real selection more useful. Read on for a quick-fire list of the things we’d like to kiss goodbye today.

1. Jargon.
There’s always a better way of saying it. Make your content clear and accessible to all your clients. An independent view on what you’re writing can be handy to make sure you’re not slipping in phrases in that will alienate your readers.
2. Flash websites with no function.
There are still a few about, and we’d like to see them gone. Design your website with your user in mind. We guarantee they’ll want useful information that helps them solve a problem over something gimmicky any day.
3. Spamming people with messages, over and over again.
If you’re not getting results, you need to try something else. Search your content toolkit for a different approach.
4. Websites you can’t update yourself.
Your website should be the hub of your marketing – the living breathing centre of your business – bursting with relevant news, blogs, and information that potential clients will love. If every change demands a phone call to your designer, the chances are you won’t make them. Switch to a blog based site, we’re sure you’ll thank us for it!
5. Tweeting without listening and engaging.
As more and more businesses wise up to the marketing potential of Twitter, the good Tweeters are becoming clearer, and rarer. They’re the ones that talk as well as promote. Good Tweeters retweet others’ links, and say ‘thank you’ when you retweet theirs. Twitter’s not a free listings page, it’s a conversation that can engage and entertain as well as inform. Join in and play nicely, that’s the Valuable Content way.

What’s on your list? We’d love to know. And if we can help you with social media, new websites, or content for your business, please get in touch.

Writing rules you should break

Business writing can feel like a balancing act. trinians titles cartoon On the one hand you want to get your point over in an engaging way, on the other you want to appear professional. So how do you get it right?

Here’s a quick guide. Three writing rules you should break, (and three you shouldn’t.)

Rule 1.
Write in proper sentences.
Not a straightforward point, and I’m not advocating the death of punctuation. Rather I’m suggesting you treat your sentence structure with a bit of flexibility. I sometimes think of sentences as hand and footholds for the reader, as they climb their way through your writing. Sometimes it’s good to reach an easy one. A very short sentence, coming after a series of longer ones, makes an impact. Like this.

Of course ‘like this’ is not technically a sentence at all, but if it works to make your point, then why not use it? I don’t have a problem with one word ‘sentences’ either. If they contribute to the flow of your writing and help the reader understand what you’re trying to say, then throw a couple into the mix. Simple.

Rule 2.
Metaphors belong in poems.
Poetry is full of fabulously inspiring literary rule breaking and business writers can steal a trick or two. Metaphors are a quick win. Poets seek images that have an emotional resonance to make lasting connections with readers. Connection is your number one aim with a piece of business writing too.

I don’t mean scattering your website with moonlit walks and hosts of golden daffodils. Rather that you think laterally and creatively when you’re writing. If an image comes to mind when you’re trying to describe a process, or an idea, (like my climbing metaphor in the first point) don’t be afraid to use it. Seek them out and give your writing more impact.

A word of caution. Because metaphors and analogies make real connections with readers, it can get confusing if you throw too many in, or keep switching themes. For example, if you’ve set up your writing with driving metaphors – full throttle, stuck in gear, hair pin bend - and then you change to sailing ones -full steam ahead, stormy weather, choppy waters- your reader will become disorientated. Sea sick, even.

Rule 3.
Long words impress readers.
Your English teacher at school probably gave you a big tick when you managed to wiggle some complicated piece of vocabulary into your essays, but you won’t get full marks for it in business. Simple straightforward words are better. Don’t say ‘cascade’ when you mean ‘tell’, don’t say ‘strategize’ when you mean ‘plan’, don’t say ‘empower’ ever. Just don’t.

And an even quicker guide to those you mustn’t break.

Rule 1. Spell it right. Although our language is flexible and evolving, you do need to spell everything correctly.

Rule 2. Punctuate properly. Don’t forget your full stops and capital letters. Your aim is to make your reader understand. Taking away the punctuation is like taking away the road signs – no one knows when to slow down and when to stop.

Rule 3. Don’t get your ‘it’s’ and your ‘its’ mixed up. People get awfully irate about it. (My rule – see whether ‘its’ could be replaced by ‘his’ or ‘her.’ If it can’t be, you need the other one!)

If you need help with shaping up your business writing, give me a call on 07985 015300.

Six steps to great web writing

A funny thing comes over some businesses when they start putting together their web copy. Rather like having a posh ‘telephone voice’, they write about themselves in an artificially ‘proper’ way.

Instead of saying ‘we run coaching workshops for new businesses’, they’ll write ‘we facilitate training sessions to leverage success for business.’ It’s a bit like having Hyacinth Bouquet answering your office phone. More than a little off putting.

When I’m writing web copy, I imagine I’m telling someone in the same room. My tone is conversational. I use the same words to explain something that I’d use if you were sitting next to me. Good web copy makes a connection with its reader. Lacing your sentences with unnecessarily long words puts your readers at a distance, and that’s not where you want them.

Sometimes I think it’s a confidence thing. People don’t feel they’ll be taken seriously if they talk in everyday language. Big words are good for hiding behind. My advice would be to take a deep breath, and just tell it how it is.

Top six web writing tips

1. Be clear. Say it out loud before you write it down.
2. Use short sentences. They’re easier to understand.
3. Keep technical language to a minimum. Of course some pages demand it – especially if your offer is a technical one. But your Home page and About Us copy should certainly be straightforward.
4. Be accurate. A conversational tone doesn’t mean you can forget your grammar. Good grammar makes your writing make sense.
5. Get to the point. There’s no room for rambling digressions in web copy. Users want information fast, so cut anything superfluous and give important stuff room to breathe.
6. Be yourself. Connect with your reader.

Untangling difficult messages

picture of ball of tangled wool

So your project is crucial, but it’s not straightforward. People glaze over when you try and explain it to them. Not good.

Perhaps you’re too close to it. Maybe you’ve fallen into that dark place we call the jargon trap. The place where words get tangled, jargon creeps in, and meaning evaporates.

Jargon is like mumbling. Sorry, what did you say?
It stops people from understanding you.

Even the most complicated business message can be written in beautiful plain English. It’s the opposite of dumbing down.

I can help you untangle your message,
and write it in the appropriate language for your audience. Speak loudly and clearly.

Five Ways to get your business voice right

The case for promoting your business with clear compelling copy is already won. No one would argue that it’s good to be waffly and confusing. Likewise the need for accuracy. Spelling and punctuation matter, because getting them wrong makes your communications look unprofessional and this reflects badly on your brand. You know that already.

But how do you do it?

Here’s my top five tips for creating a clear business voice.

1. Short sentences are better than long ones. Really, they are. For example, if you’re reading this hoping to discover the reasoning behind my implication that the length of both word and sentence impacts upon the readability of said article, or web page, then by this point you might be becoming a little weary of it, wondering aloud to yourself, maybe quietly, maybe not, when, oh when, will it ever reach a conclusion, and I might say to you, maybe quietly too, or I might shout it, or even sing it as an operatic soprano might, in top C, that it’s not going to.

So, short and sweet is better. Cut sentences down. Be ruthless. Don’t be frightened of full stops, they’re your friends, so use them.

2. And it’s the same with words. Don’t say ‘facilitate’ when you mean ‘help.’

I’m not saying limit your vocabulary, English is full of beautiful words, but if there’s a simpler way to say it, then use it. Your aim is to be clear and easily understood. Get potential clients from A to B without losing them on the way in a maze of confusing words and meandering sentences.

Twitter is great for getting you to cut down on the waffle, and it’s good to keep that discipline in mind when writing other copy too.

3. Create a team. Your voice should reflect your brand. If you’re more than a one-man band use ‘we’ when you’re talking about what you do. We help our customers like this. ‘We’ is inclusive and engaging, and can put you on a level with your potential client. But… read on…

4. Look lively. Get some energy into that copy to engage potential clients. A good trick for creating a compelling business voice is to look at the first words in each of your sentences and make sure they’re different. Long lines of ‘we’s are dull; ‘we do this,’ ‘we do that,’ yawn, yawn. Throw in some new ones. Shake it up a bit.

5. But our business is different. What we do is highly technical and specialized. There’s no way round the jargon.

Potential customers need to see how you solve problems for people like them. Expertise can be a stumbling block if you just dump it in somebody’s path. Take a step back and get some perspective on what you do. Ask your clients what they like about you, and I guarantee it won’t just be your technical know-how. If you’re good, it will be your problem solving abilities, the fact you keep your promises, the way you use your skills to make their businesses run more smoothly. A powerful business voice communicates these qualities first, and lets the expertise speak for itself.