Using quote marks correctly – grammar dilemmas

Posted by | Writing and Editing | 3 Comments
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

When to use “that” and “which”.

Posted by | Services, Writing and Editing | No Comments
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

Free websites – you get what you pay for.

Posted by | Marketing, Services, Websites, Writing and Editing | No Comments
FreeThis year I've seen a couple of campaigns designed to get Aussie businesses online with free websites and free domain names or free lessons on building your own. I won't mention them by name simply because - well, it's bad for my business! I don't build sites for free (but mine ARE affordable). However with anything that's free, you get what you pay for. (Note that you can have a blog site with static pages hosted on WordPress, Typepad or Blogger, and you can access a range of templates, all for free, however you can't host these sites on your own standalone domain name, and this post discusses sites hosted on your own domain name.) Yes, you can get up and running with your own website all by yourself, but I would suggest that if you go down that route, contact someone like me for assistance with graphics, SEO, and as part of that SEO copywriting. These days anyone can put a website up. You might have the best product in the world, but unless you know a bit about how keyword analysis works, how search engines work, and how to write copy that will use the system to your advantage, you're not going to get found. SEO is a real art, and with search algorithms changing at a rapid pace in line with website evolution, you need to constantly tweak your copy and keywords. I've seen so many small business sites let down with poor grammar and punctuation over the years that I highly recommend having a copywriter help you with your website material. The worst offenders are apostrophes: often popped in where they don't need to be and left out where they do, incorrect tenses and misuse of plurals. Poor grammar and punctuation looks unprofessional. Competition is tough out there. As well as SEO-friendly copy on your site and great graphics and images, telling your own story could make the difference between people buying your product or someone else's. People remember stories; they engage with them. Simply saying "Buy my widget because it's the cheapest" won't differentiate you from the competition, even with a good price. Saying "Buy my widget - I developed my widget as a result of there being nothing on the market that quite did the job. It took me ten years of experimenting to get it right, to tailor it especially for our local market and local needs..." is far more memorable, human and compelling as a sales pitch. People can relate to you and trust you. Look and feel is also a big part of the web experience. You not only have to grab your readers' attention with copy in the first five seconds, your site has to look professional and coherent. With free websites you are often constricted as far as design goes; apart from your logo there won't be much to differentiate you graphically from another business which has taken up the free site offer. Most free sites have a very limited number of templates and unless you're a whiz with coding or know someone who is, a limited number of options you can do with those templates. Often too you may be limited as to the number of pages or menu items you can list on your free site. You might not be able to expand your site in the way you want down the track. Free sites mightn't let you feed in your twitter and facebook feeds or offer a range of widgets and plugins. These are all items to think about if you're considering taking up a free site offer with your own domain name. Unless you're a marketing, copywriting or graphic expert, consider spending some money and getting professional help with your free site, or take the plunge and have a unique site developed. Domain names are cheap at the moment - from $9 a year and hosting with the fab Crazy Domains guys starts at $54/year. I can start you off with a micro-site to which you can add your own pages and menu items from $495, and it won't look like a free site built on the same template 50,000 other Australian businesses are using.

Chance or Opportunity? You decide

Posted by | Writing and Editing | No Comments
Maybe I'm just getting grumpier with age, but these days I tend to mentally edit a lot of what I read in newspapers, magazines and online. One of my main causes to get out the mental red pencil is the use of the word "chance" when the writer was really describing an "opportunity". What's the difference? I was taught back in communication school there's quite a lot of difference between the words, although both may mean similar things. Let's a have a look at the meanings of both. offers the following meanings, among others, for chance: –noun 1. the absence of any cause of events that can be predicted, understood, or controlled: often personified or treated as a positive agency: Chance governs all. 2. luck or fortune: a game of chance. 3. a possibility or probability of anything happening: a fifty-percent chance of success. 4. an opportune or favorable time; opportunity: Now is your chance. And it says this about opportunity: –noun, plural -ties. 1. an appropriate or favorable time or occasion: Their meeting afforded an opportunity to exchange views. 2. a situation or condition favorable for attainment of a goal. 3. a good position, chance, or prospect, as for advancement or success. You can see areas where both words overlap (ie meaning 4 of chance is similar but slightly different to meaning 1 of opportunity), but let's look at using them in context. One of my clients is Ryde Business Forum, and I organise many events for this association. In the invitations I write, I offer members and guests the opportunity to hear a keynote speaker, not the chance. Chance suggests a gamble in what the visitors might get out of the occasion - it could be good or it could be rubbish; opportunity suggests they're going to hear something to their advantage. If I'm organising a charity auction, I advertise that bidders have the opportunity to win the object of their desire - this isn't a game of chance, they have to put the highest bid in to be successful. If I'm organising a charity raffle, then ticket buyers are told they have a chance of winning as they don't, unlike an auction, have any say over the outcome. If you are writing a media release, copy for your website, an invitation to an event or other promotional material, think carefully before using chance or opportunity to make sure you're using the correct word for the situation. It does make a difference to the way your readers will perceive you and your chosen topic. If you're confused about which word to use, drop me a line on the contact form you'll find on this website!

Lost in translation…

Posted by | Writing and Editing | One Comment
Sydney's a multicultural city, and people whose first language isn't English can sometimes find it hard to market successfully to a wide and sophisticated audience. You can have the best idea, product or service in the world, but you need to be able to tell people about it clearly and professionally. That's why one of the services I offer is editing material for people for whom English is a second language (ESL). Often these people can speak English fluently, but written English can be a much harder challenge. How many of us have had a giggle at the "Engrish" photos people have posted on various websites showing signs, products and other material translated into English, which either don't make sense or are downright suggestive. Admittedly most of those photos are taken in countries where English isn't readily spoken. Writing in a language that isn't your native tongue is hard and fraught with spelling, punctuation and grammar dilemmas which could leave you looking less than professional. Sometimes words and phrases just get lost in translation. My editing services help ESL speakers engage with their Australian audience without losing their own personality. I met a lovely lady at a function very recently; she's Chinese and is a super sales person with a vivacious personality. We got chatting and I told her some of the things I did in my business, and she's keen to talk more with me about my proof reading and editing her hard copy marketing materials. I'd love to help her, because she's very professional in her outlook and honest in her business, and it wouldn't take much to rework and polish her marketing documents. I've put a call in to her office and we'll see what comes of it. First impressions count, and if you get a flyer or brochure in your letterbox that has spelling errors or sentences that don't make sense, what's your first impression of the company that sent it? Are you going to trust them and use them? Or do you think, "Hmm, if they send out information full of mistakes, how good a job are they going to do?" Think about it. If you know someone I can help, or if you ARE someone I can help, contact me now to talk about my rates, which are very reasonable.

The power of editing

Posted by | Writing and Editing | No Comments
I was reading a memoir by an Australian author a few weeks ago. I won't name and shame, because that would be unfair; especially as this was the most badly-edited book I'd read in a long time. Blimey, the punctuation was painful! Commas in the wrong places, colons and semi-colons inserted apparently at random because they're punctuation marks and deserve to be used. Every proper name (ie Christian name, name of town) was italicised every time it was used. By the time I crawled through Chapter Three I was in two minds: do I get the red pen out and do a proof on the book as I go, or do I write to the publishers expressing my frustration at trying to read something so unreadable? Both options would make me feel better and I opted for the latter. The publishers replied within a day, and I could feel their embarrassment jumping off the screen. The book had slipped through the system with minimal editing in an effort to get it printed. The author has now written a follow-up, which is being heavily edited (my heart goes out to the editor). The first book, which the publisher wished they'd pulped before too many copies got loose, is going to be reprinted next year after a heavy editing session. I offered my services there. The subject matter was one that really appealed to me and I'd have a ball turning it into readable English. Now when I bought that ill-fated book it was on the remaindered pile, despite only being published the year before. That's sad news for a local author with a good tale to tell. I suspect the poor writing style had something to do with the remaindering. Really, there is no excuse for not presenting a well-written document to the world, whether it's a memoir of your fantastic time living overseas for ten years, or a company newsletter with a casual feel. Casual doesn't mean sloppy, by the way. You can be friendly and casual and still conform to the rules of punctuation and grammar. This post is an example. It IS worth asking an editor to check your work. Isn't it better to have a second pair of eyes go over your work, make any necessary corrections - especially those little typos which may have slipped your notice after you've redrafted something many times - and leave you with a document that presents a professional image to your clients? I get numerous e-newsletters in my inbox every week; most are well-written and professional, some make me wince. The ideas are good but the grammar and punctuation isn't. Editing is a powerful tool that can make a massive difference to how people perceive you and your company. If in doubt, try it out! Mention this post and I'll give you an hours' worth of editing for free. Contact me if you're interested.

Websites: Ryde Business Forum

Posted by | Portfolio, Services | No Comments
Ryde Business ForumWe work with quite a few not-for-profit organisations to give them a smart presence on the web. This is Ryde Business Forum's site - RBF is the umbrella Chamber of Commerce for the Ryde area and the site is updated on almost a daily basis. Sabrina Ferguson is responsible for co-designing the site with Martin Sekel of Street View HQ and she maintains the site. Apart from external articles sent in to RBF for the news page, she writes all copy for the site and provides nearly all photographs. Visit the website.

Tell the world without it costing the earth

Posted by | Featured | No Comments

We work with a lot of small businesses, and we know how hard it can be financially to market your business. If you don’t have a website, you’re not in the game. You need professional-looking brochures and flyers people can download. You need to be found by search engines. Doing all this yourself takes time, and as we know, time is money, especially when you’re running your own business. But most website and marketing companies charge a bomb, right?

Arion Productions is a business communications company – that means we help you with all aspects of communicating what you do to the big wide world. You can use as little or as much of our service portfolio as you wish. Whether you simply want a brochure designed to an existing look and feel, or a whole new identity for your company including a website, we can do it. We can even take photographs for you.

Importantly, we can help you write compelling copy for your marketing materials and media releases, so your company has a professional identity.

Best of all, this service doesn’t cost the earth. Contact us to find out more.

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Need words? Ask us!

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We offer copywriting and copyediting facilities for websites, reports, newsletters, books, advertisements, eBay listings or anything else you want written well.

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