Writing and Editing

She read one too many sensationalist teaser headlines. You’ll never guess what happened next!

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She wrote a blog post about it. Have you noticed the increasing trend for sensational, teasing headlines like the title of this post? On my personal Facebook feed it seems a lot of pages are using them, particularly the more tabloid ones (Mamamia, I'm talking to you.) He introduced his ferrets to his baby rabbit. You won't believe what happened next! (What? Bunny carnage? Nope. Best friends forever from day one, totally breaking the first law of modern journalism: If it bleeds, it leads. But you guessed that before even reading the post, didn't you?) I find these teaser headlines curiously irritating. For a high percentage of them, they don't live up to their promise of surprise. But they do catch my eye, and make me hover my clicky finger over the link in an agony of Do I, Don't I; is it really worth me spending my time checking out that link, especially if it's a video more than three seconds long? In that respect they do exactly as they are intended to. What's your view on the sensationalist headline? Does it bug you? Is it beginning to annoy you? Or haven't you really noticed how it's gathering force on the internet?

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
writing

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

The wisdom of Solomon – David Solomon of Quiddity Business

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Every now and then we all meet people who give us a lightbulb moment - or more than one. It could be about work, it could be about life. It could be about both. I met up with David Solomon of Quiddity Business for a chat today, and lightbulbs were flashing left, right and centre as we talked over a cup of tea. The sky may have been grey but suddenly it was a much, lighter, brighter shade. Because I love words, I was interested to know the background of Quiddity as a business name. There's a hint of 'making a quid' about it, which brought to mind the way David can show his clients ways to run a profitable business. But he explained it's actually an Old English/Medieval Latin word. Its meaning is along the lines of "the quality that makes a thing what it is; the essential nature of a thing." (This definition is from dictionary.com) Read More

Fresh content boosts your SEO rankings

Posted by | Services, Websites | No Comments
Last month Google announced changes to the way it indexes and ranks websites. In a nutshell, it rewards sites which consistently publish fresh content. This is where blogs come into their own. Having a business blog on your website, which you update regularly, can give you an edge on your competitors. So can including regular video updates (hmm... now which huge organisation owns YouTube I wonder?) and maps (there's that organisation again). Google also owns blogging giant Blogger, but of course there are alternatives such as WordPress and other blogging sites which you can use and which will still see your content included in rankings. It's fair to say that most if not all search engines take their lead from Google. The complex algorithms behind Google's power are able to deliver remarkable results. For instance last year I wrote an article on my Blogspot personal blog mentioning the Melbourne Cup, with comments about a specific horse, jockey and year in the 1970s. I was trying to find out if anyone remembered the horse that came second (everyone remembers the winners). I typed the horse, jockey and year into Google ten minutes after I'd written my blog post - my blog post was the third site down on the first page. That's the power of Google. Ten minutes. If you have a fairly static brochureware website, which lists your professional services, I strongly urge you to write a blog or at least regular news to add to your site. Also too get yourself on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter and link those social media memberships back to your website. Maintaining a blog and social media memberships IS time-consuming, so budget a couple of hours a week if you can - at the very least one hour - to write updates. If you've never written a blog before and are not sure where to start and what to write about, find news items about your industry, link to them in your blog and comment on them; even if it's only a few lines it's your take on the news and how it might affect you or your clients. It's a good way to get started. You can also blog about your clients and how you've helped them (use "Mr X" if you need to!). Keep a notepad and jot down topics for your blog as they come to you. Now... go forth and get your SEO rankings up!

Chance or Opportunity? You decide

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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. Dictionary.com 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.

When good apostrophes turn bad

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Have you noticed how Apostrophe Man has been leaving his mark more and more often? How much marketing material do you receive, by email or hard copy, with apostrophes either in the wrong place or not there when they should be? Many of us use apostrophes to incorrectly denote a plural, eg: CD's $19.99, in the 1990's, PC's on sale now. You see this everywhere, don't you, and assume it's common usage. It might be used everywhere but it's still incorrect and pedants like me itch to get the TippEx out and fix it. These apostrophes are not denoting plurals, they are being possessive when they have nothing to be possessive about. In short, they simply shouldn't be there. Sadly even the most educated of us fall prey to inappropriate apostrophe usage; I've received many letters and emails from marketing managers and experts with degrees in communications who still get it wrong. This is a personal thing but bad punctuation does turn me off using or buying the product or service it's promoting. Then there's the confusion between its and it's. "It's" should only be used as a contraction of "It is". "Its" is actually a possessive pronoun like "yours" or a possessive determiner like "my". There are several good books about language and punctuation which are easy reads, can set you straight and ensure your marketing material doesn't fall prey to Apostrophe Man and his evil band of language assassins. One is the stalwart Style Manual produced by the Australian Government Publishing Service. The other is the marvellous Eats Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss, which you and your employees will fight over. It's serious, but also seriously funny. Both these books can be purchased at booksellers. End of gripe...go and check your marketing material and website now and consider your apostrophes! If you're in doubt about what's right, contact me to proof read your material for you.