Writing and Editing

I know, right?

Why I can’t stand people saying ‘I know, right?’

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It’s the verbal equivalent of The Teenage Eyeroll, a nasty little phrase which makes me grit my teeth every time I hear it: ‘I know, right?’ There’s a vast difference between ‘I know’, and ‘I know, right?’. ‘I know’ tells me that the person I’m chatting to understands what I’m saying or agrees with me. That ‘right?’ tagged on the end instead conveys this to me: I’m superior to you, I know more about the subject we’re talking about than you do, and I’m not interested in your point of view, so you can shut up right now. It’s rude. It’s condescending. Earlier this week I was watching Anh Do’s Brush With Fame on the ABC, and Anh’s guest was Kate Ceberano. I’ve always admired Kate; she’s talented, funny and gorgeous. However, I was shocked to hear her say, “I know, right?” when she and Anh were discussing their respective appearances on Dancing With The Stars and the hectic and arduous rehearsals they both undertook. Anh didn’t even blink. I would have been putting my palette knife down and ending the conversation right there. Sorry, Kate, I’ve lost a wee bit of respect for you. That ‘I know, right?’ made you sound like you didn’t want to hear Anh’s anecdote, that you weren’t interested in it. Rude? You betcha. Should we ever meet, dear reader, and in the course of our conversation you say, ‘I know, right?’ to me, please don’t be offended if I slap you. I just may not be able to resist it.

Using quote marks correctly – grammar dilemmas

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Quote marksI was in year 4 at school when the concept of quotation marks was introduced to our class. Because I was a smartypants I had been writing stories for years using quote marks to contain my characters' speech, and the initial lesson on quotation marks was a validation of what I'd already been doing. I had taught myself by reading novels and noticing how quote marks went outside commas and periods. It all seemed pretty logical. And it is. So here's a quick lowdown on how to use quote marks. Read More

Apostrophe Catastrophes – The Greengrocer’s Apostrophe and other grammar dilemmas

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ApostrophesOK, hands up if you've heard of The Greengrocer's Apostrophe. This is an apostrophe incorrectly used with an 'S' after it to form a plural of a word.  You'll see it not only in the greengrocer's shop but widely in the retail sector, online and in print advertising.  Here are some samples:
  • Potatoe's $4.00/kg, Apple's $2.95/kg  or Tomatoe's $5.95/kg (should simply be Potatoes, Apples or Tomatoes)
  • 1000's of DVD's on sale (should be 1000s of DVDs, or, even better, thousands of DVDs)
  • P's and Q's (yes, really. Ps and Qs is preferable)
  • Our Rate's are the best in town (should be Our rates are the best in town)
Apostrophe Man strikes again! An apostrophe does not a plural make in these cases. Read More

When to use “that” and “which”.

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that or which?The English language is a glorious thing, allowing us to express ourselves with passion or dispassion, with brevity or at great length. It can also be a minefield full of potential grammatical errors or confusion. For example, when do you use 'that' in a sentence, and when do you use 'which'?  Both words are pronouns used to introduce clauses in a sentence. Let's have a look at when only 'that' will do:

He picked the toy that was broken.

Dogs that bark are too noisy.

'That' introduces a 'restrictive relative clause'. Before your eyes start glazing over, this means that without this clause the sentence doesn't make sense. Think about it. "He picked the toy." Which toy? Read More
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When imitation goes beyond flattery

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Imitation is said to be the sincerest form of flattery, according to the old adage. But when does imitation blur the line and become plagiarism? It's very tempting to copy and paste from the internet; after all the information is there and who is going to notice? People copy and paste all the time, right? Here's a quick reference to keeping out of trouble online. There's a right and wrong way to use other people's work you come across on the internet. Let's have a look at the definition of plagiarism according to plagiarism.org, a website aimed at the education industry but relevant to all of us: Read More

I’m just not a txt-speak person

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old phonesRemember the days before smartphones? When normal mobile phones could only send short text messages? Was it the short messages or the sheer frustration of having to tap a key several times to use the letter you wanted which led to the abbreviation abomination known as txt-speak?  I suspect it was a bit of both. Even in those early days, I resisted using abbreviations such as 'u' for 'you'. Whenever possible, I spell words out. I may, on occasions where I'm in a tearing hurry, send a text along the lines of  "Ok, c u!" but oh dear, it's just not me. My pet hate in txt-speak is using 'ur' for 'your'. Ur was a city in ancient Mesopotamia. That's the first thing I think of when I see 'ur' in a text message or email. In high school we had a passionate Ancient History teacher whose name escapes me, but I can see her now, small and dark, vigorously gesturing as she spoke about Ur and the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. She could see them in front of her, smell the smells, feel the desert heat, and she tried her best to bring it all to life for a classroom full of vaguely disinterested fourteen year old girls. So. I was fourteen and ur was Ur. Pronounced Err. If I wanted to abbreviate the word 'your', I used 'yr'. 'Yr' was used extensively by Jack Kerouac and the beat generation in the late 50s, and the use of 'yr' for 'your' goes back to the late 1700s. Confusingly, 'yr' is also a modern abbreviation for 'year', but unless you are extremely thick, you'll realise which context of 'yr' people are using when they write to you. I confess to using abbreviations such as LOL, BRB etc on Facebook and social media. Heck, I even speak LOLspeak, that feline language created by the Cheezeburger people. The English language is forever changing (unlike French, which is strictly controlled by l'Academie Francaise), and the way we speak and write reflects that. I'm happy to embrace change, but to a point: I have never used 'ur' for 'your', and I never will. I just find it offensive to my psyche. I'm a dinosaur. I suspect in fifty years time spelling and even grammar won't matter for the majority of people; we will be a society dependent on computers who will happily spell and correct for us. If I'm still around, you can bet I will still be resisting using 'ur'.
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Publicising your blog post via pings, rss and social media

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Now you've written your post you need to publicise it using pings,rss and social media.

Pinging

WordPress settings can automatically send your blog posts to a list of sites including Google, Feedburner, Technorati, Yahoo and more. Users can add these sites under Settings | Writing. I set all my clients up with a long list of sites in this section, starting with PingOMatic, so their blog posts have a wide reach. There has been comment about WordPress causing 'ping spam' in that every time you update an already published post, a new ping of that post is sent to the ping services and search engines. Unless you are a compulsive editor who insists on making changes several times when a post is published, this shouldn't affect you. One or two edits are fine. Ideally though, keep your blog posts in draft mode and use the Preview button until you are completely satisfied with your post. There is a plugin for WordPress users which lets you control when and how you ping your posts, but I have read mixed reviews about it and at this stage have not installed it for my clients.

RSS

I enable RSS feeds for all my client sites - again this helps with SEO and allows visitors to subscribe to those feeds and get the blog posts in their email inbox. For some of us this may be a bit of an old-fashioned way to do things as social media is now a more savvy way to spread your word. But again, it helps with SEO.

Social Media

Ideally this element is a blog post in itself! Firstly I am not a social media coach, so I won't be giving you a strategy on how to use social media for your blog or business. Everybody's business is different so social media channels that work for you may not work for someone else. Having said that, you are likely to have a Twitter account and Facebook page and probably Google+, or at least one of those. If you have Twitter and Facebook, it's easy enough to set your blog posts to send directly to Twitter and have Twitter post them on your Facebook page. There are plugins which do this on WordPress sites - and on other software too. An obvious tip for your Facebook page: once you've posted your blog post to your Page, do go back to your personal account and share it with your friends too! This gives you the opportunity to tag people in your status update to encourage them to look at your post - something you can't do with an automated post. You may like to consider using Hootsuite to manage all your social media networks, saving you time and effort. This could be a real time-saver if you regularly use more than two or three social media channels. There is a cost involved in using Hootsuite after a 30 day free trial. Ping.fm (soon to be Seesmic) is another tool to integrate your blog posts with your social media accounts. LinkedIn gives you options for feeding your WordPress posts and your Twitter feeds to your LinkedIn profile. Networked Blogs provides social media sharing options and the option for syndication. If you are a prolific blogger and post at least two articles a week, then syndication is a must. Obviously you want your visitors to share posts they like on your site, so it's important to give them some sharing options on each post. I include a sharing plugin for each of my clients so visitors can share posts through a number of social media channels. An example of these is showing at the bottom of this post. I hope this post has provided a basic explanation of ways to publicise your blog. The more it gets 'out there' the higher your search engine ranking will be. Do have some ideas or strategies you'd like to share? Leave a comment below and let's get chatting about it.  
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Key points for writing a good blog post

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So, what makes a good blog post? Let's look at a few key tips.

A killer title makes your visitors read on

Firstly, your killer title. We've spoken about that one in this article - but a killer title is nothing without killer content!

So does the first para - if you've planned properly

What about that opening line or para? Does it have impact? A good method is to ask a question... and then reveal the answer as the blog post unfolds. Another way to grab your reader's attention from the first paragraph is to have a great one-liner or unexpected anecdote as your opening para. Jeremy Clarkson is very good at this! You can offer something exclusive, e.g.beginning your blog post with a claim such as "In this post I'm going to teach you how to save $50 a week on your grocery shopping." You do have to back up the claim with relevant information or follow up material if that is what you're promising, otherwise you'll lose readers or potentially become the target of bad press on social media channels (and remember that people spread bad news quicker than good). Statistics are also a good starter. Couple that with a question - "Did you know that 99% of ginger cats are male?" - and you have a great opener.

Step back a bit - are you on target with the theme of your blog?

Before we get into content, let's step back a bit and consider what your blog is about. Is your blog consistent in what it addresses? If you market your blog as a photography or camera review, don't start getting off topic and talk about, for example, traffic in your street. Good and popular blogs are consistent, they have a theme. Obviously if you have a business you're going to blog about what you know. If you're a project manager your topics will generally revolve around ways to improve project management. You may be an expert in your field and have plenty of knowledge to impart. If you have a retail site, introduce and review new products in your post - and of course include a link to the product in your online shop. For legal blogs comments on new legislation and how it affects their clients is an obvious one. But what about personal blogs? What makes them successful? Again, it's sticking to one theme. Take, for example, Lovely Bicycle! (The exclamation point belongs to the blog name.)  Blogger Velouria started out around three years ago as a blogger who hadn't ridden a bicycle since her high school years. She'd decided to get back into riding. Initially the blog was about her test riding and choosing a bike. She had few followers. With a compelling writing style, and each post concentrating on a particular subject, Velouria shared her learning experience with her readers and gained followers by the day. Her followers consisted of experienced cyclists and people like herself, who were learning about bicycles. As Velouria learned more about many aspects of cycling and the engineering behind bikes her followers have grown and now she has monetized her blog and it's not uncommon for her to get more than 70 comments on some of her blog posts. Now THAT''s successful! Why has this blog worked? Because Velouria has shared her learning journey, has asked for help and comments, has investigated why some things work for her and some don't and shared her thoughts concisely - and not without a sense of humour either.

OK, so that's the theme sorted. Now what about those posts?

Now, back to content. Let's quickly look at a few pointers to keep in mind: Keep your article between 350 and 1000 words. People don't want to read a novel but less than 350 words can be detrimental to your SEO. Try and have a link every 120-200 words, it helps SEO. Ascertain what your keywords are and make sure they are in the title and in the first sentence or at least para of the post. If you need assistance in determining your keywords consider using a service such as SEO Scribe, which does help you write a good post. Use your keywords wisely. Ideally you shouldn't use any keyword more than ten times per blog post, otherwise your post could be deemed as spam. Use H3 and H4 tags - sub-headings in other words. Search engines love them. We all know that regular posts help raise your SEO, but there is no excuse for writing an article that doesn't have a point or a reason for being just to put your weekly blog post out. So, your post must have a reason for existing. Don't write for the sake of writing. Give your reader a reason for reading your post. Having said that, your articles should each address individual topics, or points. If you have to, divide your posts up into two or three posts if you have two or three strong ideas or points in one post. Encourage your readers to get involved - to comment, to give their opinion, share their experiences. In other words, a call to action. Ask a question of your readers. Yes, I know I've covered that earlier where you could ask a question and give the answer, but you could ask a question and ask your readers to supply answers. If you are selling something, ask people to buy - don't be shy! But don't do the hard sell either. At the least ask people to simply click on a social media share button if they liked your post. We are all so used to clicking "Like" it's no hardship. Once you've written the first draft, do edit and proofread. Check that you haven't overused your keywords.  Check your grammar, check your spelling (remembering that spellchecker can sometimes turn your sentence into something unintelligible). If you are unsure, run it past a colleague or ask a proof reader like me to help out. Print your article out and read through it - are you putting your point across, clearly? Do you have a call to engagement from your readers? Does it all flow well? Overall, does it make a point? Does it have a reason to be published?

A picture is worth...

Yeah, we know. Those 1000 words I mentioned earlier. So do use an image if you have one which depicts your topic. Feel free to use more than one, particularly if you're writing a personal blog as opposed to a business blog. Give your image an ALT tag so that readers with impaired vision can have its title read out to them. ALT tags help SEO too.

You've hit publish. Now what?

Ah, this is a topic for another post - getting your article out there on social media and other marketing tools. After all, this post is about writing a post, so I'll be sticking on topic with this one! As for this topic - has it helped you? Let me know and leave a comment below.
writing

Our writing team is growing

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We are delighted that marketing and business writer Genevieve Hinds has joined the Arion Productions team. Genevieve has recently returned from ten years working in the USA, where she held high-level marketing positions, ran a successful and award-winning marketing agency and authored a book on guerrilla marketing for small business owners. Genevieve has worked with major corporations such as 3M and Merrill Lynch as well as coaching small businesses on achieving growth and ROI. Genevieve is blessed with a natural ability to write, and write well. She loves writing marketing copy. Sales flyers are her delight. She can turn tech speak into marketing speak, engineering into English. She's a killer with the red pencil when she's in editor mode. In short, she's what your business needs to revise existing material or write new material. Whether it's a corporate brochure, a sales flyer, or copy for your new website, you need to talk to Genevieve. Contact us now to discuss your projects and how Genevieve can help you.