editor

B2B Blogging with Polish and Panache

Need to convince your audience that you know your stuff? Then you better know your audience first. Now, you can better address them.

Ask yourself (or better yet ask them) how much do you already know about this topic? How interested are you in learning more? Why do you want to hear about it from me?

Now that you ideally have the audience’s attention, you must keep it. One surefire way to lose their interest is to misspeak. In writing, the equivalent is a glaring typo. Nothing says I don’t quite care about getting this all right like a big, fat spelling error. In this day and age of social media and texting, we’ve gotten quite used to seeing spelling and grammatical errors, but are we completely inured to these shortcomings?

If your senior management sends an email with a new company directive and you spot typos, just how seriously are you going to take the memo? It might inspire you to dust off your resume rather than fall in line with the new policy or initiative.

Likewise, how would your customer take it if you dashed off a proposal to them and it was riddled with errors? You get the idea. The same goes for website content, blogs and social media posts by businesses. No matter how casual we may become in tenor and tone, no business wants to leave a tweet hanging out there with a typo.

What about the style of your business blog and digital marketing? Are you striking the right chord? This might be one of the more challenging aspects of social media and blogging. Yes, you want to have a little fun, but certainly not too much. A seasoned editor can ensure your content captures just the right balance between informative and entertaining.

To be sure, you cannot please all people all the time and critics may still emerge. You just want to showcase as much good material as possible. To do so, hire professional, experienced marketers and copy editors. If you write your own content for websites, blogs, etc., then bring in an editor to review the material before it is published.

If you attempt some panache but it comes out as frilly or silly, the editor will put a stop to it. The editor might even add an appropriate flourish. This is what people in the craft call “good writing.” Yes, that is the technical term. This ability is not God-given. It is a talent honed with extensive practice.

When it comes to content marketing and good writing, employing a great editor will make your efforts more effective.

For more information, contact Katharine Fraser at katharine@adroitnarratives.com.

trading floor

Who Is Listening to Your Brand and How Good Writing Makes It Happen

Ever enjoyed an awkward moment in a meeting? Years ago, I was a young financial writer interviewing a guy who had gone from peddling beer to selling securities and found myself being yelled at by him behind a closed door just off a trading floor.

We sat on chairs facing each other, exposed without a desk or table. I fidgeted my skirt to ensure modesty. The air between us felt thick with tension and my eyes were fixed on my notebook as I tried to keep up with his rapid-fire comments. “Look at me when I am talking to you!,” he bellowed. The criticism was so sharp, I didn’t pause to come up with a polite response. I went Jersey on him. “What, would you prefer I not take good notes and misquote you?” Yes, I had a recorder (pre-smartphone age), but note-taking makes for a better use of time when writing for a daily newspaper.

He fell at ease, if only for a moment. He realized I was not an adversary. I wasn’t there to be his best friend either, but I wasn’t out to get him. Just then, there was shrieking coming from the trading floor by a man who evidently had messed up a client trade and was issuing a mea culpa. He couldn’t take back the error and no one could resolve it for him, so he opted for a form of primal screaming. My interview subject stood up and strode to the door. As he opened it, the shrieking man happened to be right there and immediately became stunned to be inches from the boss’s face. The boss man quietly seethed that the employee should cease all verbal emanation. This was quite effectively expressed with pithy, graphic language.

While I was amused, I wasn’t sure how to get all that into my story. After all, it’s not like I would be able to get confirmation as to how exactly the trader messed up and what was the underlying deal. And, I wasn’t sure I wanted to immediately alienate my new subject. Besides, haven’t we all had one of those days? At least, I witnessed instant karma: you snap at me, and then you look like you’re running a circus instead of a business.

Why do I tell you this story? Well, if you got this far, then you liked the writing. Moreover, I wanted to illustrate the importance of attention to detail. A writing professional is assiduous with note-taking, whether the act of writing or observing. A writer shows you rather than tells you what is happening. Now, ask yourself, how is the story of your business being told. Your marketing narratives needs memorable details. Is your marketing staff or agency listening and observing what is happening with your business and market? Does the marketing, in turn, reflect your core competencies and speak to your target market?

Good storytelling is a craft. It takes experience. And, in the digital realm, it requires strong writing skills. If you want Adroit Narratives to take care of your writing and editing, contact Katharine for information on hourly rates and monthly packages.

Woman writing on laptop

Why You Should Write Your Business Correspondence Yourself

LinkedIn just notified me a colleague received a promotion and offered me a one-click option to congratulate her. Unfortunately, that resulted in the following post being created and attributed to me: “Congrats [Name].”

Do you see the problems? For starters, that should read: “Congrats, [Name].” Also, I don’t like “congrats” because it connotes the person bestowing this good will cannot be bothered to write out the word congratulations. I deleted the post and wrote it my normal way.

Maybe “congrats Susie” doesn’t bother you. But it grates on my nerves. Just like poor grammar in holiday cards drives other people insane. Do not place an apostrophe after your surname to make it plural, e.g. “the Smith’s.” For further information on that topic, watch this fabulous PSA on how to make surnames plural (make that the Smiths).

“Congrats [Name]” is not something I would ever write. Thus, it is insincere. I keep hearing about how AI is making life oh-so-much easier for the busy professional.

Now, to be fair, I use Grammarly.com and the utilize the spelling and grammar check in Word. I just have no use for auto-generated digital communications.

It’s been a couple of years since Twitter users taught a chatbot developed by Microsoft to become an overnight racist. Social media has revealed another disturbing problem: many flesh-and-blood people do not know grammar and eschew spelling.

If you are one of those people with horrible grammar and spelling, banged out in all capital letters, I recommend you slow down and try to focus on one thought at a time. This way, your writing will be more cohesive. Another pro tip: forget about voice-to-text. It doesn’t work.

If you do either – crazy all caps rants or voice-to-text – in business email, texts or social media, then stop to ask yourself this: do I just not care about making a good impression? Do I want my customers to think I am a few sandwiches short of a picnic? C’mon, take a few minutes to check your own writing. And, check yourself, if you know what I mean.

Now, let’s review the positives of writing your own business correspondence. The recipient will recognize you took a moment to convey your thoughts, appreciate, advice or questions because the wording sounds like you. We all have our own signature manner of speaking and writing.

When I was a cub reporter at a business newspaper, a man in circulation sat at an adjoining table in the breakroom listening to reporters chatting over lunch. He picked out each person based on word choices and sentence structure that he recognized from reading our articles. He had never met anyone at that table before. But, of course, he did know the voices of the writers.

We also all have our own writing ticks. I will write you in lieu of your and also write your when I mean to type you. This is a nightmare I don’t care to share! Again, grammar checking is your friend. Better yet, read your wording out loud. By doing so, you will catch mistakes in grammar and spelling. Best of all, you will ensure the presentation comes across in your voice.

Elephant dancing on a glockenspiel

Are You Yelling? What’s with the All Caps in Online Comments?

It would be so lovely if social media platforms provided for italics for people to emphasize words. Why not? After all, websites can use italics.

Instead, we gentle readers of comments on news stories or comments on friends’ political posts on Facebook are thrown back by a barrage of all caps. I will refrain from blasting you with all caps, even for demonstration purposes.

The beauty of italics is the letters lean over, as if they are whispering to a confident or in a conspiratorial fashion. The italics are letting the reader in on something. Pssst, I want you to know I am applying emphasis to this word to stress a particular point. That is so much more pleasant and effective than all caps.

Also, the excessive use of all caps makes the writer of such a comment look deranged, as if the person is screaming, I refuse to follow your rules of grammar, syntax and civility, you M.F.-ers! Excuse us? The point is lost. Who cares what they were trying to say? Do you really want to work through a wall of angry all caps?

Granted, all caps were used in telegrams. So was the word stop. There is no need to write out stop and there is no longer a need for all caps. The U.S. National Hurricane Center persists in using all caps in portions of its bulletins, especially the opening line of an advisory, which is warranted because it is warning people about potentially deadly storms. The U.S. Navy, in 2013, dropped the all caps in its messaging system, a tradition stemming from the teletype machine.

Reviving 18th Century Rules of Capitalization

As an aside, you may have noticed that the above subhead is in all caps. That is because it is a sub-headline and such breaks in copy (text) are easy to see when set off in caps. It’s not a form of emphasis. Now, as for the rules of capitalization, please read on.

Many professional writers in the United States, especially news writers, use AP Style. This style guide will remind users that proper nouns are capitalized, such as a name or city, but not all nouns. Oddly, I keep seeing people capitalizing some nouns but not all nouns, as if possessed by a spirit that wishes to confound and confuse the living with randomly capitalized words sprinkled throughout a Facebook or Twitter rant.

Remember, you are seeking to persuade people to see your point of view. You are not writing the Declaration of Independence. So, drop the caps on all the nouns you wish to emphasize.

Yes, Spelling Still Matters

Are you being mocked by elitists on Facebook who retort that your flagrant spelling errors in news story comments make you look uneducated? Perhaps you are using voice-to-text to comment and that is why your text is as intelligible as an elephant trying to send Morse code on a glockenspiel.

Please, use your fingers and opposable thumbs to type out your comments. You may even take a moment to read it before sending. In a moment of self-reflection, you might even edit it for clarity. Just leave out the all caps.

Katharine Fraser

Crystal ball used for telepathy

Confusion Reigns in the Communications Game of Telepathy

Remember the game of telephone we played as kids in which one person starts the game by whispering a sentence to the person to their right? This goes around until the message circled back to the last person, who would say it out loud. With messages routinely garbled, hilarity ensued.

But have you ever played the game of telepathy? This is when you communicate to someone while assuming they know all the same facts that you do! Hilarity does not always ensue in these cases.

Sometimes the issue is minor, such as a scheduling mix-up. When a client called me today, he engaged in semi-small talk, including the basic how are you. When I said I was looking forward to meeting him tomorrow, it turned out the meeting was earlier today. It was then I realized why he was checking in with me. He was too polite to say, where were you? We then realized that the meeting schedule was miscommunicated. We pivoted to making another plan.

What about more nuanced or longer-running misunderstandings. You and a business associate or colleague could have been talking past each other without realizing it. I used to work for a corporation whose management training focused in part on this phenomenon.

A trainer asked if anyone ever thought someone else was an idiot. Once the laughter quieted, the trainer had a follow-up: what if the other person was simply armed with a separate set of facts than you? Furthermore, what if the so-called, hypothetical “idiot” actually had different marching orders than you?

Surely, we’ve all experienced that realization that another party or team is being instructed differently, even in the same company. I once had a boss who found it annoying when another team had a meeting to talk about how to integrate with our team, but did not invite him to their chat.

Or, perhaps you’ve been on the receiving end of a bewildering email. Sometimes, even in seeking clarification based on what you know the situation becomes even more confusing and/or aggravating. Now, you are just plain fed up. Before firing off an angry email in response, consider a different approach.

You could write something to the effect of, say, Joe, I feel like we’re approaching this situation from very different perspectives – maybe you know something I don’t know! Hopefully, you will diffuse any annoyance or worse emotion on the other end. Indeed, maybe he does know something you don’t know. Also, the dollop of self-deprecation may soften the tone. Joe might also realize it’s possible you know something he does not. At the very least, Joe should appreciate the neutral acknowledgement that something is screwy and you want to pleasantly clear it up.

Simply put, the game of telepathy is always a loser. Use your communication skills to gracefully ask questions, including open-ended questions that may elicit answers you did not expect. Listen as carefully as you speak to ensure you do not miss important information or cues. Best of all, if a digital dialogue is going nowhere fast, use the telephone function of your phone verbally make the connection!

Hands working a craft.

The Craft of Writing Content and Copy

 

When you visualize someone honing a craft, images of woodworkers or potters might come to mind. Writing too is a craft.

Old school news writers refer to their craft because good writing is a product that comes from forethought and practice. Writers learn their craft from more experienced writers, much like old time apprentices.

When it comes to social media marketing and digital content writing, I’m taking this analogy a step further and comparing these services to craft beer. Microbrewing harkens back to the old days when neighborhood bars sold locally produced beer. Of late, big corporate, multi-national brewing companies have rolled out brands that emulate local craft beers. They have cute labels and names, and their recipes differ from the flagship brand. In addition, some craft beer companies have been acquired by big brewers.

But craft beer purists will content this is beer blasphemy. It comes down, though, to consumer choice. Some people love basic big brewery beer and the price. Craft beer aficionados, by contrast, are willing to pay a bit more for a higher quality product with unique recipes and flavors. What does this have to do with social media?

Perhaps you’ve heard of white label social media. This is like buying beer brewed according to a single recipe that tastes the same in every outlet. It’s uniform. It may not be what you like. It might be perfectly serviceable, but perhaps not specific to your needs or desires.

Or, you could go to the local craft brewery and find they make, in small batches, highly specialized and sophisticated beers aimed at the palates and tastes of discerning customers. Likewise, hiring a local digital marketing company means the writer will craft your business storytelling to suit your local target audience. Something generic that works in another market or for a similar business will not meet your specific needs.

To learn more about the craft honed by Adroit Narratives, check out Katharine Fraser’s bio.

 

Graphic reading I love writing

No Such Thing as Free Writing

Here is my free professional advice: talent is not free. I recently received an unsolicited offer, i.e., spam email, from a guy offering his free writing services to me. He wanted me to post his blogs on my website. Riiiiiiiight.

My response included this tidbit of advice: “never work for free. Professional writing is a craft and it commands a price.”

Another offer for poor writing services arrived as as a comment on a client’s well-written article posted to their company website. See below – do you see the grammatical error here?

Best Writing Service

Get an expert academic writing assistance! We can write any post on any subject within the tightest deadline.

To correct the syntax, the first line should read, “Get expert academic writing assistance.” But, I’m wondering why this marketer is offering academic writing to a commercial entity. Don’t get me started on opening a sentence with the word “get.” Also, do they only provide a single service? Better make that “Worst Writing Services.”

Am I nit-picking? You bet. I used to get paid to pick apart other people’s writing. News editors see the darndest things. Many errors result from rushed writing, which is an occupational hazard for reporters writing about breaking news.

To give you an example, I will out myself as someone who may have goofed at some point in a 20+-year-career as a working journalist. I was covering a fire at an oil refinery or some such and urgently pulled together all the facts. This involves pressing and priming real people for information, not just running a Google search. I wrote a tight story with clean copy to quickly deliver the best information to our paying subscribers.

The story’s editor remarked it was excellent work, but for a crucial omission: the time element. The story’s first sentence left out the fact this disaster had broken out that very day. Why would I tell you this? To illustrate that good writing requires self-awareness.

There is an inverse correlation I have observed many times: the worst writers are the most confident. Good writers check themselves, use the dictionary, perform solo dramatic readings of their work to listen for and detect errors, and seek review by others. Bad writers think they nailed it. Bad writers are also the sort of people to offer their work for free. This reminds me of a job applicant for a reporting job who boasted in his cover letter he would “work long and hard,” if he got the position. The editor moaned, “No, I don’t want anyone who wants to work long and hard.” His premise there being that good writers can quickly synthesize information to deftly draft a compelling, error-free story.

If someone offers to write a blog for a buck (per blog, not the $1.50-2.00/word rate magazine articles can command), ask them how they can be so cheap. Ask them for a resume and work examples. Ask them if they provide content writing as a full-time profession. Ask them if they love writing. There are many factors that foster excellent writing skills, including relevant educational background and professional credentials, but the love of writing is essential too.

For a quote on my writing services, please contact Katharine Fraser of Adroit Narratives, LLC.

grammar

Why Good Writing Still Matters in the Digital Age

Digital content marketing displays for all to see what is good writing and what is plain terrible. To promote your business, which would you prefer?

There is even a trend of purposefully poor writing that is meant to be cute. This may have started when people needed to introduce the meaning of their memes. For example, they post to social media an image of a forlorn animal flopping on the ground or some such with the caption: My Monday Be Like. Or maybe, When You Start Mondaying. Whether you find these memes cute or annoying in your personal Facebook feed, ask yourself whether it is good for business. Depends on the business, right?

If you run a gym and want to encourage people to work out with you, a silly post about being tired but able to Zumba would be cute. If you are selling in the B2B arena, avoid memes. Really. Please don’t use memes in B2B. You are not living in an episode of “The Office.”

This casual, broken grammar vernacular is entering speech patterns and even being used on purpose in television ads.

ACCIDENTAL LANGUAGE DESTRUCTION

Separately, we’re all seeing language destruction in news articles, even those published by historically well-regarded newspaper companies. I recently saw a post to Facebook by the Washington Post that was grammatically incoherent and the commenters shredded the institution for this lapse. Having worked in news as a reporter and editor, I can attest that everyone makes mistakes.grammar

But, what we are seeing now in terms of mistakes is their prevalence rather than an anomaly. For example, today I read this phrase in a news story – “She has since changed coarse…” – and wondered if the writer and/or editor would even realize the mistake. In my estimation, this is occurring as news staffs at many organizations have shrunk due to budgetary considerations.

ABBREVIATIONS, ACRONYMS and OH NOs

Twitter’s 140-character limit seems to drive people into a fear of writing too long, so they write too short with weird little abbreviations. If you have to rely on the device of stringing together sets of capital letters, I suggest you try rephrasing that sentiment. Some acronyms and abbreviations are very well known, with many going back to the days of the telegraph, but try to avoid using more than two in a Tweet.

Finally, here’s an abbreviation often seen in Twitter that really needs to go:

“Please RT!”

Cheers,

Katharine Fraser, consultant, content creator and owner of Adroit Narratives, LLC

love writing

On Good Writing and How to Get It

When I tell people I am a writer, I tend to get two reactions:

“Oh, I could never write well.”

“Do you like it?”

For the latter, consider whether I would work as a professional writer for more than 20 years if I disliked it. As for the former proposition, the only way to become is a good writer is to do a lot of writing.

You also must be willing to take and incorporate critiques. In college, my two majors happened to require contrasting writing styles. In journalism, you start a story by telling the reader the upshot or outcome. For history, by contrast, you start at the beginning and build a case toward a conclusion. One day, my history advisor stopped me on campus to tell me that my writing had become “weird.” That was to say I opened a history paper with a news lede.

At my first newspaper job, I was blessed with strong editors who gently guided me away from writing too much or writing in a manner too fancy to get the job done. With good writing, there is no need to gild the lily. You just say it straight. Get to the point. Yet so much of what we read online buries the lede. For example, how many recipe blogs start out with hundreds and hundreds of words before mentioning the recipe’s ingredients and directions? To be fair, I publish a lifestyle blog that narrates my cooking adventures, but they are rarely more than 500 words and the instructions are higher up in the copy. By contrast, I have found myself scrolling and scrolling and scrolling down a recipe post before finding the recipe.

Now, to be sure, there is some SEO method to this madness, but let’s not get totally carried away by padding blogs with search terms. I also suspect that people who write meandering musings in their blog never had a tough, wise-cracking news editor bearing down on their copy. Remember, the whole point of writing something is to engage the reader. What is the use of bringing someone to your blog if you are boring?

You have just a moment to grab their attention, which is the objective of a news headline. That’s akin to a great Tweet or the opening of a social media post. In news writing, people ask themselves – before hitting the keystrokes – what is my lede? (Lede is old-time news spelling for lead sentence.) In other words, what is the most important, new thing you need to convey to the reader? For marketing a product or service, you should give the reader information they just may not have been aware of; this educational material shows you know your stuff and gives the audience a reason to know who you are.

Say you own a jewelry store. Running a social media post about the cheapest diamonds in town is going to send the wrong message. What if instead you crafted a post about an electric toothbrush being a diamond’s best friend? That made you curious, right? Turns out, some jewelers recommend using a electric toothbrush to polish your diamond. Just don’t use the same brushhead you put in your mouth. My point is social media is supposed to be fun and you can use elements of humor and surprise to be quirky in marketing. Still, don’t go crazy. If you are a small business and doing your own marketing, be sure to go to trusted friends as sounding boards and test out any wacky ideas.

The beauty of social media, though, is it more often rewards experiments than it punishes mistakes. Your experiment would have to be really, really awful to hurt much. I like to try different art or animations for the images. I play with video editing and photo editing on design platforms. As a result, I can stay fresh with content presentation.

The writing can be playful too. As for regular day-to-day writing for your newsletters and social media, have a coworker read it first. At the very least, they can clean up the copy to free it of typos, which can hurt your credibility. Finally, one piece of biased advice: do not publish yourself unless you are an experienced professional editor.

Cheers,

Katharine Fraser, Adroit Narratives