You have 8 seconds to catch me!

October 14, 2021 § Leave a comment

Your website copy needs to put up a good fight for my attention.

If your website copy hasn’t got my interest in 8 seconds, I’ll be off. It could be and, is most likely to be, your competitor’s copy I’ll be reading next and if they do a better job, I’ll give them more of my time.

It’s not just me who has the attention span of a flea. Data collected for online reading patterns shows that we’re all the same – your potential customers included.

Diddle around or make your copy a hard read and you lose a reader AND the chance of a sale.

Your website copy needs to:

  1. Get to the point. Visitors haven’t got time to read details like how long your business has been going before they find out what exactly it is you offer.
  2. Explain what you can do for them. Don’t bother to talk about how wonderful you think you are. Of course you think that.
  3. Be chatty, friendly and engage visitors. My blog post Let’s get chatty with the written word explains what you need to know about using the right language. Whatever your product or service is, people will seek out the techy stuff if they need to know it. Most don’t so won’t. They’re looking for a solution and just want to know if you have it.
  4. Be written so that a 12-year-old would be able to understand it. Successful web copy is usually pitched at the reading age of a 12-13-year-old. People haven’t got time to work out precisely what your copy means. You either tell them straight or they move on.
  5. Say it succinctly. Of course when you’ve hooked a reader they’ll want to make sure you know what you’re talking about and will have a look around your website for more information, maybe some customer testimonials and possibly case studies involving past work. So there is a place for lengthy copy but you’ve got to get them interested first. Your home page, the logical order of your site and the clarity of your words need to get their attention straightaway so that you can reel them in.
  6. Get it right. Nothing, nothing. nothing switches off reader interest more quickly than a mistake – in spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence flow. Visitors will be on and off a badly written page before you can say “Whoops!” And there’s no room for excuses like “anyone visiting the site will know what we mean.” Make errors on your website, aka your calling card and you’ll get prospective customers wondering where else you’ll be happy to make mistakes.

Good design has a big part to play in the success of a website and will hopefully attract attention in the first place. But the right words will make sure the content keeps that attention. You only have 8 seconds to persuade a potential customer that your website is the one they’ve been looking for. Choose your words wisely.

Let’s talk: the all-purpose CV

September 15, 2021 § Leave a comment

There are many reasons you may need a CV right now and many reasons that the one you usually send out is not quite right.

Chances are, you may be applying for a job role that hasn’t ever featured on your CV before. You won’t be the first to decide to (or have been forced to) change track as far as your career is concerned. There are pilots stacking shelves in supermarkets so you won’t be alone in having to set sights a little lower than usual.

There are single job vacancies attracting hundreds of applications and what we’ve got to do is get your CV at the top of the shortlist. What makes it stand up to the competition and, most importantly, stand out from the competition?

Are there any typos? (Please don’t rely on a spellcheck. The spellcheck says yes to ‘They’re over there eating their picnic’ but also yes to ‘Their over they’re eating there picnic.’)

Free CV writing sites can churn out exactly the same reports on each CV it receives (I know that because I uploaded mine and my son’s and received the same comments for both) so you can’t rely on those.

Whoops – bad punctuation can change the whole meaning of a sentence

Grammar…I can put that right for you.

But something you probably haven’t considered is reordering the information in your CV so that it becomes an all-purpose document about YOU that can be used for most job vacancies and APPLY to most job vacancies. The specifics can be left to your cover letter.

Oh, the joy of having a CV that you can send over to a batch of vacancies instead of reordering it for each one or, worse, bypassing some jobs you KNOW you could do because your CV doesn’t punch out your strengths for the role and you don’t have time to edit it.

Call me, Julie, on 07946 450708 and let’s talk .

Your copy’s a reflection of your company. Make sure it does you credit.

October 29, 2020 § Leave a comment

Your copy is a reflection of your company and how you work.

If your website is littered with mistakes, potential customers will worry that your work is slapdash too.

The same goes for anything else you use to spread awareness of your company – sales letters, social media posts, ad campaigns. It’s vital to iron out any problems with punctuation, spelling and typos.

People will judge you on your copy, make sure it does you credit.

Why a copywriter doesn’t need a copyeditor

October 7, 2020 § Leave a comment

Take a break and come back to your work later

I tell people time and time again that the worst person to read and check copy for mistakes is the person who wrote it. It’s good advice and I’ll always stand by it.

However it does beg the question that if I’m writing copy – one of several services I offer – who checks it for me?

The quick answer is: nobody.

So do I employ the advice I’m happy to hand out? Honestly…no.

There are reasons for that though

Number One: I wrote this blog the day before I posted it! As random as that sounds, it plays a big part in getting words right. It’s an absolute fact that, as you write, you tend to read what you think you’ve written. However if you take a break and revisit the words an hour or a day later, you’ll spot errors you wouldn’t have otherwise seen. Today I didn’t see mistakes in the blog but edited sentences that I realised were unnecessarily long.

Number Two: Writing is my job. It may sound obvious but, of course, it’s true. While you may have spent years training to be, for example, a counsellor, I spent years training to be a journalist and many more years honing my skills to edit other people’s work. The written word, grammar and punctuation is what I’m an expert on. Using the counsellor example again, I may be able to dish out advice but there’s no way I could ask for payment for it in the same way a trained counsellor could.

Number Three: I know (among other stuff!) to check little words. The likes of ‘in/it/is/if/on/has/had’ are some of the tiddlers that often get away. They’ll pass a spellcheck because they’re spelt correctly – it’s up to you to make sure they’re used correctly.

If you’re 18 and starting out you could have a go at Number Two. More helpful to more people will be Number One. Whatever stage of your career you’re at, Number Three is essential.

A day in the life of a spellcheck

June 25, 2020 § Leave a comment

Teddy bares – or is it teddy bears? A spellcheck wouldn’t know

A client gave me an ebook to proofread the other day. In one sense there was NOTHING wrong with it. In another, there was SO MUCH wrong with it.

I could see straight away that it had gone through a spellcheck. There were tons of mistakes but each one, in itself, wasn’t a mistake.

For example, there were THREE Chapter Twos. ‘Chapter Two’ was spelt right every time so the spellcheck had done its job. The spellcheck doesn’t care that you’ve made a massive error, repeating the same chapter title three times. It cares that you’ve spelt Chapter Two properly. The spellcheck isn’t worried that your mistake has made you look amateurish and impacted on the index, knocking all pages out of order.

Customers will make up their own mind about you when they see the quality of your copy – even if writing has nothing to do with your business.

There was a variety of its and it’s, sprinkled throughout the text, randomly used wrongly – but, as far as the spellcheck was concerned, the words were spelt right every time.

Then there were the theres, theirs and they’res and the you’res and yours.

Most plurals were denoted by apostrophes – as in ‘client’s’ when it should have been ‘clients’. An apostrophe never, ever, ever – no exceptions – pluralises a word.

All language was Americanized even though this was a London-based company wanting to appeal to London-based customers. That’s also down to the spellcheck because many people use it without setting it to the right language.

I could go on but let’s just say punctuation and grammar left everything to be desired. There were few spelling errors but words were used in the wrong contest (I know that last word should be ‘context’ but I’m giving you an idea of where the spellcheck says ‘OK’ because it is OK as far as spelling is concerned.)

When I talked to the client about the extent of the damage, he said that it was probably a result of staring at the copy for so long to make sure the message was right.

I get that. The last person you should rely on to check and knock your copy into shape is YOU.

I lost faith in the offer because the copy was spelt so badly

October 10, 2016 § Leave a comment

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I want to do yoga – frankly I need to do yoga – so when a Winter sun/yoga offer plopped into my inbox it looked just ‘the thing’. I was nearly on my way to find my leggings and book my place. And then I read the copy.

Seriously?

They wanted me to believe that there were professionals at the end of this venture into yoga which, they explained, means union of “body, mint and spirit.” (Please note: this is the sort of mistake your spellcheck can never pick up because although the word’s completely wrong, the spelling’s entirely right so there’s no reason for the spellcheck to question it.)

‘Whether’ was spelt ‘Wether’, sentences were constructed inside-out and back-to-front and the punctuation thrown randomly at the copy like confetti.

This was a three-paragraph email. It’s not hard to get that right – language/writing clearly wasn’t their strength, and they should have given the job to someone who could have polished it up properly. Then more people would have actually followed through, found their leggings and booked a slot.

When I see a company can’t be bothered to spell properly, I wonder what other corners they’re cutting.

Mind your language – would-be customers will doubt your professionalism if you don’t – and you’ll do nothing for your reputation.

I could of screamed…

September 11, 2013 § 1 Comment

…when I realised how many people actually thought ‘of’ was the right word to put before ‘screamed’ in that sentence!

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We live in a world where there are so many opportunities (texts/Facebook, for example) for people to prove that they didn’t listen much in their English class – where the teacher would have taught them to write ‘have screamed’. Am I sounding a bit old-school? Can’t help it.

Another howler that drivers me bonkers is the mess that’s made with there, their and they’re. I’m not going to insult anyone by explaining what each of them means because I’m sure everyone knows, they just don’t bother to choose the right one and select any old right-sounding ‘there’ in the belief it will ‘do’ Well, it won’t – for me  or for many others who are particular about the language. Same muddle goes for too and to – two is stretching the case a bit. Then there’s it’s and its. Why not just spend another nano-second to work out whether ‘it is’ something or possession is involved.

THE most common written error award has to be handed to misuse of the humble apostrophe and, in particular, misuse of the apostrophe to denote plural,  eg. photo’s. There’s no logical reason to put an apostrophe there but the poor little mite gets mangled and squished into all sorts of places it has no right to be. I wrote about it in more depth here: Apostrophe Protection Society 

Although, weirdly, it’s so often overlooked when it’s really needed – rudely and routinely dumped, for example, by those who want to know what ‘you’re’ doing but chuck a ‘your’ in place of the right word.

What’s your bugbear when it comes to the written word?

People may forgive. They won’t forget

February 1, 2013 § 1 Comment

Have just had a debate with someone who was telling me that he writes his own website copy because he believes that customers will forgive the ‘odd spelling mistake’. After all, he pointed out, he’s not in the ‘words’ business. He’s a life coach.

I don’t get it. Here’s a man who wants us to trust him with our lives and he can’t be bothered to make sure his site’s spelt properly! Or that it’s grammatically correct, for that matter.

“Also, they know what I mean even if I’ve got an apostrophe in the wrong place,” James said. “You’re just being picky because it’s your business.”

I think that’s true – people will understand what his copy is saying. But the same people, in their search for a life coach, without question will be looking at several sites and because James thinks it’s acceptable to present his services complete with spelling and grammatical mistakes, he’s given them the impression that he’s a bit sloppy and not very professional.

They won’t forget that when they come across a site offering a similar level of life-coaching expertise, finished off properly with all apostrophes in the correct places!

“Of course you’d say that – you’re a copywriter,” he said.

No. Come on. Think about it.

There are two messages we (and I’m counting myself as a consumer here) usually get when we come across a badly written piece of marketing copy:

  1. The company is careless – and if it’s careless when it’s trying to sell itself what’s the rest of the service going to be like?
  2. The company couldn’t afford to get it right – that doesn’t bode well.

This is how my discussion with James ended: I’ve got a rough idea of what it takes to be a life coach but I wouldn’t attempt to do the job – he, on the other hand, has had serious training and can offer solid skills. I’ve had serious training as a copywriter and offer solid skills.

Your website is your online shop window, people judge you on how you present yourself and a copywriter can help you make the most of your presence. It’s not good enough just to have a website…the content is key.

And it’s corporate suicide if your (sic) getting you’re (sic) message messed up!!!!!

Apostrophe Protection Society!

February 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

The  wham-bam, willy-nilly use and abuse of apostrophes drives me bonkers. It seems every day I see another way in which the poor little mite is mangled: either unnecessarily heaved into a made-up word (like RT’s or CD’s) or left out of ‘your’ or ‘its’ just at thewrong moment. The apostrophe must be the most badly taught and misunderstood piece of punctuation in the English language – or don’t people care?

Well, I’ve just found someone who does. He runs the Apostrophe Protection Society (I can sleep better at night now knowing there is one) and the good man dedicates his life to teachingapostrophe good practice. After a lifetime in journalism, John Richards decided in retirement to set up a website on the subject of his pet peeve, the apostrophe and, more specifically, the abuse of it. He thought a few like-minded people might respond but within a month had more than 500 letters of support from folk all over the globe. Eleven years later, the APS is still going strong.

Which brings me to the rules. Is it because they’re so simple that some people try to over-complicate them?

Apostrophes are used to denote:

  1. A contraction or missing letter: don’t, haven’t, won’t, it’s.
  2. Possession: Bowler Hat’s website, a month’s rent

And that’s it!

Apostrophes have nothing to do with plurals so CD’s, RT’s, GP’s, sofa’s, for example, are all wrong because those words were intended to denote more than one of the items. I saw those particular mistakes recently in a variety of places (one is obviously Twitter) but there are also many good apostrophe-catastophes on the APS website. I would have thought they’d all come from cheap and cheerful street vendors or retail outlets but you’d be surprised: check out the errors from the BBC, Facebook and several district councils.

Some of the mistakes you see there are really cringeworthy: not so much the ‘Honk if your Horny’ handwritten notice which can easily be corrected with a flick of the pen but more the ‘ALL BLACK’S’ printed tee-shirt – how much would it have cost to recall that run? And, of course, if those on Twitter remove the apostrophe from their RT’s it gives them one more character to play with in their tweets. That’s never a bad thing when you have a limit of 140 characters but it makes perfect sense if it’s actually correct.

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