Even speaking as an editor/proofreader and as The Grammar Guru, I have to say in all honesty that grammatical perfection is overrated. "Always" is, in my estimation, an impossible goal, and usually is inappropriate.
Let me explain.
If you follow me on social media, you know that I constantly urge followers to carefully spell check and proofread their business writing, regardless of the medium. Whether a social media post, blog post, article, or email, you will be judged (right or wrong, like it or not) on how you come across to prospects. You may appear careless or ignorant when neither is true.
And yet your authentic style of communicating may be casual, friendly, and all your own. Using ellipses (...) rather than dashes or commas may be your "thing" and there is nothing wrong with that. Using words and phrases in a way that is authentic to you but not necessarily perfect AP style is just fine. You will reach those people who are drawn to not only what you say, but how you say it. Bottom line: be authentic!
There are basic rules of conduct, however: using their/they're/there correctly, lay vs. lie, proper punctuation and sentence structure, etc. Ignoring these customs is what gets writers in trouble. There's a big difference between stylistic and simply incorrect. "Incorrect" leads to not only judgment, but mis-interpretation of your message.
When you're writing casually for friends and family, as long as your message is clear I can't see why it must be perfect...unless you're even more of a Grammar Guru than I am! But as I've stated so often, in business writing, perfection balanced with authenticity is the way to go.
Wisdom...or a great proofreader...understands the balance!
We're bombarded by information. Every day we receive input from emails, news feeds, phone calls, social media, television, texts, postal mail...it's overwhelming. And much of it is noise!
Here's what I mean.
Your brain receives so much data that it picks out items that are most familiar or pleasing to focus upon. The rest is merely noise, static, humming.
So think about this in the context of business communications. Every time you post on social media or send an email, are you adding to the noise or are you being noticed?
When you bombard your social media feed with unrelated posts just to get information out there, you're making noise. When you create a thoughtful, planned campaign of information sharing, you're being noticed by your followers.
When you send an e-blast just because it's on the schedule to do so, you're creating noise. When that e-blast is focused, clear, easy to read, and useful, you're being noticed.
When you write copy for your website just to fill it...yep, more noise. When that copy is refined, focused, authentic, and easily (and quickly) understood, then you're being noticed.
The next time you write something, review it with fresh eyes. Are you using more words than are necessary? Make your point concisely. Are you writing in a style that's authentic to you and your clients? Be YOU, not who you're told to be by others. Is your writing correct? Get some help from an objective third party so you don't turn off your readers.
Want some help?
One of my main services for clients is to help write copy that is accurate, authentic and aligned with the client's core values. How do I determine those things? Well, it's part intuition and part conversation!
You see, when I have an initial conversation with a potential client, I pay attention to what they say, how they say it, and how I feel as I hear it. There is great power behind words.
Does she use spiritual jargon because it's what seems appropriate, or because it's how she naturally speaks from her heart?
Does he speak quickly and precisely, or slowly and thoughtfully?
Is he a true professional, expert in his offerings to clients?
Does she say what she thinks others want to hear or what her heart wants to say?
These questions and more come into play when I work with someone.
Years ago I got advice from a coach who strongly suggested I change my message to reach a broader audience, and stop calling myself a "spiritual" VA. I tried that for a short while. A very short while. Why? Because she wanted me to stop being ME! I AM a spiritual virtual assistant, I DO want to work with a core group of expert heart-based practitioners. I AM AUTHENTIC!
If you want a client to trust you, BE you! Don't be like the other kids on the block. Create your offerings based on what you love to do the most, what you do the best (and those two are usually the same), and what will serve those you want to serve.
I'm not advising you to ignore what works in marketing and copy writing; data shows what works and what doesn't. But you can still present an authentic persona while doing what works...for YOU!
"I just had a baby looking for a job to work at home anybody let me I have great Information technology and networking skills."
This request came from a social media post I ran across. Granted it's social media, this young woman was requesting job leads, and yet her post was so poorly written I can't imagine she got many leads from it.
You never know where your words will go, or who might see and react to them. Especially in the energy / focus of employment, writing must be clear, precise, and error-free to present a professional appearance to any prospective employer. Regardless of the kind of position sought, your writing style gives the first impression of your intelligence, work ethic, and motivation.
You may be tempted to dismiss this thought as trivial, but think about it objectively. Let's say that someone who read this request copied it verbatim and sent it to someone who needed those services. That person will be reviewing many similar requests and resumes. and will evaluate next steps based on first impressions. The first impression of this writer is not professional.
The same applies to prospecting for new clients in your business. You want to help more people by having them hire you. What then is your first impression on others? Do your social media and blog posts appear professional? Do they clearly share the teaching and message you want to convey? Are they error-free?
I've had a few rebuttals when I share these ideas from people stating that skills and intent should be what matter. Perhaps, yes...however if your first impression creates a block in that path, then it's time to change!
(I know a great proofreader!)
Because I learn visually and kinesthetically, typing is an idea method for me to communicate my ideas. I prefer email to phone, and writing to speaking.
But if you communicate more clearly with hearing and speaking, until recently it's been more of a challenge to get your ideas out to your prospects and clients in the digital world. Now you have options!
The newest versions of Microsoft Word have a dictation function which works well. Apple also has free dictation software for mobile and computer, as does Google Docs. These are all free options, and as often happens with free, the quality is not quite as good as paid products like Dragon Naturally Speaking. But the increase in productivity may be worth the small error rate - as long as you proofread carefully (or hire someone to do so)!
Of course, the quality of your microphone has an impact on accuracy, as well as your tone and clarity of speech.
Time! It takes far less time to speak words than to type them.
Ability to multi-task: (Not always an advantage!) You can be doing laundry while dictating a blog post!
The ability to brain-dump: Get all your ideas out in real time, in stream of consciousness, with little internal editing. Do the cleanup later!
Disjointed thoughts: When typing, you can adjust your content for cohesiveness and clarity. Stream-of-consciousness dictation may make it hard to decipher your original intention when you go back to edit.
Awkward pauses: If have a temporary brain freeze, it may be hard to recapture your thoughts and get back on track.
You could, of course, simply record your thoughts and have them transcribed (or do it yourself), however this is so old-school and inefficient I don't recommend it.
The next time you need to write content, test these options for yourself. You'll find the best medium for efficiency and ease!
I have had several conversations in the last month regarding clients and associates either wanting to write a book or wanting to finalize one. Now, "book" is a loose term meaning everything from a short handout or e-book to a 30,000-word tome. In any case, there is something the person wants to communicate to others, something from the heart or the mind.
Just about everyone has some sort of book in them. You may excel at some sort of creative art and want to teach others. You may have profound realizations that changed your life and you want to share them with others. You may want to inspire people to do their best in the workplace, or the home, or in nature. So...big question...what is stopping you?
Now, two people I've spoken with in the last year had been "working" on a book for literally years. They'd get motivated and write or edit, then run out of steam. Why? Usually fear. In fact one person actually told me she had no desire to be noticed - I have to wonder, then, why publish? What's fascinating about that case is that, close to the end of our process, she became very angry about the fact that low resolution images could not be used in her self-published book, and quit her process entirely. I know that her fear created an "excuse" for her to not step out and be known. I hope she was able to resolve that, as her topic was a really good one.
Two clients have worked with me to assemble wonderful blog posts into a book. The writing is already done! Just a matter of patchwork to get it all to flow. One self-published a paperback, and the other created an e-book for download.
One former client is a career search expert - and I mean expert! She worked hard to assemble her best systems for success into a book, and she has the marketing knowledge to really make a go of it. How exciting!
Bottom line: If you feel inspired to share knowledge with others, do not let fear hold you back. There is a reason you felt inspired: someone needs to know or understand what you have to say. Write! Just WRITE! Get it all out on paper, then organize and see what can come of it. You can do this!
Unless you're a graphic designer, you may not think often about fonts, but if you have any online presence at all, they are important. In fact, if you've ever made a sign they're important too!
This post was inspired by the copious moving and garage sale signs I've seen this summer that are completely illegible from the road. The lettering is either too faint, or too small, or too sloppy. The lesson: what is the purpose of what you're writing? Does your copy work for that audience?
Now I'm not as addicted to fonts as Brock on "The Middle" (see what I mean here), but I do know that appearance and size of your copy is important to legibility, impact, and mood (yes, mood). If I want to evoke a playful mood and have something light to say, a sans serif font without much structure is appropriate (Comic Sans, Kristen, MV Boli). On a website like this, a serif font is important for easy legibility. Serif fonts are also used in formal business letters and documents.
Sorry, but size IS important! Bet you can't read this well. And this is WAY too big for a website unless it's a heading.
Color is also important. Be sure that there is contrast between your background and the text. I've seen badly designed websites and newsletters that have a brown background, for instance, with a lighter brown font.
In this digital age, there are hundreds of downloadable choices available to enhance your writing, whether on paper or virtual. Explore your options and consider your audience!
The answer is ... sometimes, depending. There now, isn't that helpful?
But seriously, a home-made website can be effective, depending on your needs and your business. As with many decisions in business, choosing the best resource also depends on your budget and expected returns.
If you're just starting out and have limited funds, you may want to consider starting on your own. A homemade website at the very least provides a landing page, an online presence for your contacts to learn more about you and your services. It is a passive resource - one to which your contacts would be directed to by other means (business cards, social media, etc.).
There are excellent DIY website solutions available at several price points. This site, for instance, is a home-made Weebly site, but other sources include Wix, Squarespace, Web.com. Many use the very easy-to-use "drag and drop" layout method, which is rather like building a puzzle.
If you are good at software and computer technology, you'll have an advantage over a complete newbie. (In fact, I don't recommend a complete newbie attempt this at all.) You'll discover how to add forms, surveys, message boards, advertising, or other perks to website effectiveness.
I can't tell you how many sites I immediately know are homemade because of the number of errors I see. I cringe when I see grammatical and punctuation errors that make the site owner look careless or ignorant. I have seen pages full of long paragraphs of text, which nobody wants to read on a website. That is not how to attract your ideal client! (This is why I developed my Website Review offering!)
BUT ... hiring a professional means you'll get all the other benefits of a truly effective website - SEO and visibility, increased traffic, interaction with prospects. A professionally built site is active - contacts find you through internet searches, and can interact with you using the tools available when the builder knows what he's doing.
Key to an effective site is to consider carefully all the aspects a pro will ask you:
If you are clear on these answers and feel confident in your ability to successfully execute them, then have at it! But when you're done, have a few professional friends review the site for appeal and accuracy, so your clients know they're dealing with a pro!
Are you contemplating starting or finishing that long-awaited book? Yes, long-awaited – your clients and prospects need to hear what you have to say! Think of all the experience you have in your field, all the expertise, tips, ideas, and enthusiasm. If you ever say to yourself, “Sure, but others have already said it better than I could!” then think again – nobody else has your unique filter, your individual experience, and that specific experience could be exactly what others need to connect with.
Also think about your own mentors, those from whom you have gained knowledge, a creative spark, or a push toward a goal. Imagine what it would feel like to be those things for others. It is thrilling to see the excitement generated by the transfer of ideas between like-minded people.
If you’re a “framework first” kind of person, then start with an outline. What general topics do you want to cover? Within each of those main points, jot down what you specifically want to talk about.
If you’re a “let it flow” kind of person, then do just that. Let the words flow, as if you were talking to a friend. Add the structure when you’re done – look at each idea you’ve written, and rearrange like a jigsaw puzzle into a logical order and structure for your readers.
Think too of what final format would be right – a brief e-book? A lengthier published work? A series of articles online?
There are many online resources to help you get going, and to help with final structure. First, GET IT DONE. Get the book out of your mind and onto paper, then decide how to best share with your public.
Have you ever taught a class or workshop and didn’t create any handouts, workbooks, or training manuals because you didn’t know how? Here’s your brief guideline!
Start by looking at your notes or script for the class. Type (or write) the key points you will teach. Under each, in outline format, type the sub-points. For instance, let’s say you want to teach a class on how to create an organic garden. Your key points could include soil, water, light, fertilizer, plants to choose, etc. Under the heading for soil, you might write what key components of the soil should be, nutrients, maintenance, etc.
Be sure to include some form of paper take-away for reference and marketing purposes. Your workbook or handout should include the key talking points (but not all the information you discussed), branding and contact information for your business, and perhaps other resources. Be sure it is professional and attractive in appearance, and reflects the colors and fonts of your branding.
If you are creating an actual workbook that you want students to use during and after class, you may need more expertise than you have, unless you’re excellent at Word or Pages. The workbook should reflect all the considerations above, but also be easy to use. Ensure sufficient space to write, offer open-ended and provocative questions to get students thinking and feeling, and offer clear organization of the material.
This overview of content creation will get you started on creating a more useful and engaging training or class. And when you need more help, you know where to go: LightseedsbyHolly.com!
Welcome! These stories, tips and tricks are intended to help you save time, and be more organized and effective in your work. New items will be added frequently so check back often.