Business owners have very particular ideas about how they want things to sound. As they should. It’s their business, their baby. They want everything about it to be perfect.
But not all of us have a way with words. Few are able to craft just the right formula for verbiage. Even fewer can weave it into good storytelling. That’s where your prospective writer comes in. Writing styles differ just as much as business owners’ grand visions. So there must be someone out there for everyone, right? It would be fantastic if you could find that perfect person who finishes your sentences (and in this case, starts them too).
Below are three tips we’ve pulled together for finding a writer that gets you and can put what’s on your mind into their words.
Ask for writing samples.
Well, duh. This is the no-brainer go-to tactic for sifting through potential writers. Read through some of their previous work. If their tone sounds like yours when you talk, you found your writer. The written and spoken words are not the same. Well, they can get pretty close if someone who knows what they’re doing is in the driver’s seat. Make sure their personality is in line with that of your business.
Have a chat.
Talk to your potential writer. See if their tone of speaking matches yours. Do they sound like a scripted sales pitch when talking to you? Do they write their emails as if robots were reading them? Finding someone to embody your own words through theirs is like finding a new friend that you’d want to have continuous conversations with. Like any successful relationship, the spark has to be there in order for it to work out.
Do a test run.
You wouldn’t buy a car without driving it around the block first, would you?
This is the most important of the three tips. In fact, you can skip the first two altogether. Credentials on a résumé, past writing samples and recommendations mean diddly-squat if a writer can’t perform on command. Anyone can fake a résumé. But they can’t fake writing on the spot.
Give them a quick assignment that would resemble what they’d do for you if you gave them the job. This will show you how well they understand your instructions and how quickly they can perform under pressure. It’s the best way to see whether they can bring your vision to life with their words. And it gives them the opportunity to show you the scope of their writing quality in real time.
If you’re happy with what they produce on their test run, you met your match.
If you’ve edited anything for an extended period of time, you’ll understand how infuriating the tiniest mistakes can be. You’ll also know that intense feeling of wanting to flip a table, punch a hole in a wall (or face) or destroy whatever device you’re editing on. Excessive use of profanity is a given.
The following is our first crop of editors’ most-hated instances of wrongdoing to the written word. Please, please, please don’t make these mistakes. You’ll make the world a better place in so many ways.
1. Wrong placement of quotation marks
“I like to do things my way”, Mark said.
NO! It’s painful to even write that for the sake of proving a point. That comma before Mark needs to be inside the quotation marks. Same goes for periods.
“I like to do things my way,” Mark said.
“They told me I was wrong,” Mark stated. “But I persisted regardless.”
2. Starting sentences with Ands and Buts
Don’t get me wrong, this is OK in moderation. Some people, however, like to start every single sentence with them.
But then the main point gets lost. And that takes away from the whole. But does it really matter that much?
The main point gets lost. It takes away from the whole. It does matter.
See how eliminating the buts and ands solidifies the statement? When you’re reading through your work, simply ask yourself: do I really need it? In most cases, the answer is no. Drop it. Your writing can certainly afford to lose the added weight.
3. Using Ellipses (…)
But wait, there’s more…Ellipses ahead…
It’s unclear why people insist on using these three consecutive periods in formal and professional writing. They should only be seen in emails and text messages.
Believe it or not, it’s okay to end a sentence with a period. While it’s not wrong to use ellipses on occasion, it’s tacky as hell. Especially in headlines. (Please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t use them in headlines.) It has amateur and distasteful written all over it.
It looks more elegant if you use an em dash (¾) to separate ideas within the same sentence. Or a period at the end of a sentence telling you that something is coming. The only time to use ellipses is within a quote to mark off missing text that you’d rather not include, like so:
“Ellipses are reserved for rare instances, […] like this one.”
Stay tuned for more editorial hatred in our upcoming posts. There’s plenty more where this came from.
It’s a very hot term, increasingly thrown around amid other buzzwords like thought leader and target. And despite its popularity, SEO, or search engine optimization, is still a term not everyone understands.
As complicated (perhaps even daunting) as it may sound, SEO is actually a very simple principle.
What is it?
Let’s say you own a small accounting firm in Toronto. A potential customer searching for your specific services would type something like, “accounting services Toronto” into a search engine like Google. That set of words comprises what’s referred to as your keywords (another term you may hear a lot of).
Incorporating these keywords into your company’s web content (landing pages, blog posts, press releases, etc.) helps you rank higher on search engine results based on their frequency of use. Search engine algorithms take care of all that, thus optimizing your results. So there you have it: search engine optimization.
How do you use it?
With a bit of research, you can know what keywords are being used most frequently to search for you. Once these keywords are at your disposal, you can start incorporating them into your web content. Don’t overdo it though. Nothing is good in excess. Overusing your keywords is very obvious in writing. When you’re writing about accounting services in Toronto, it becomes clear to the reader that the services you offer are being overshadowed by your keyword stuffing. So use them sparingly, and in such a way that reads fluidly and naturally. If the fact that your business is located in Toronto isn’t imperative to the said point but you use it anyway, you sound like you’re trying too hard. And in that case, you are.
Where do you incorporate it?
As mentioned, SEO works its magic in any of your company’s online content; in any way you appear online. Your company website is the obvious frontrunner. Followed by (in no particular order) articles, blog posts, press releases, white papers and social media posts. By putting a little extra attention into the words you use, you can increase your search rank and maybe even get more people to your website. All the more reason to make sure it’s worth reading.
Like a bright red cherry on top of an already mesmerizing cocktail, certain words pack a punch that can liven up your entire body of writing. They can act like a pair of really flashy shoes, pulling together a generic outfit and making it memorable.
But which words to use? The English language has by far the highest volume of words to choose from than any other language. Which means you’re fresh out of excuses when you’re trying to find the right one. Now, what qualifies as “beautiful?” Beauty is, after all, in the eye of the beholder. And, in this particular case, dear readers, we are the beholders. Agree or disagree at your own volition. The real beauty in these words lies in their infrequency of use. It’s just refreshing to see rare words make an appearance in your everyday vocabulary so as to break the sameness of regularity.
So without further ado, here are some exceptionally striking words that we feel can carry the load of the rest when used properly. Give them a try. You’ll enjoy crafting your writing as much as your readers will enjoy reading it.
Poignant: (noun) evoking a sense of sadness or regret
Ephemeral: (adjective) short-lasting
Apt: (adjective) suitable in the given circumstance
Eloquence: (noun) using language in a fluent and persuasive way
Luminescence: (noun) light produced by artificial means
Effervescent: (adjective) containing bubbles in liquid
Entwine: (verb) to wind or twist together