Website Content: Keep It Fresh

Keep It Fresh

Do you have a blog or website? There aren’t many businesses that don’t have websites these days. It’s almost like today’s calling card, and it’s rare to find an organization of any size that doesn’t have an internet address you can visit for information or shopping.

This is why keeping your content fresh is absolutely essential. If a potential customer sees that you still have last year’s Christmas sale posted in August, they will think, “Well, here’s a useless page. There’s nothing current on here.” If they find that your competitor has a page with fresh posts or reviews, they will likely be more attracted to that competitor.

Aside from the image that it projects, keeping new content on your page will also assist with search engine rankings.

That’s where blogging comes in. Frequent blog posts show that you are alive, active, and ready to do what you do, whatever that may be. Whether you have a car dealership, an office supply store, or a haunted tour bus, customers need to see that you are open and operating. When I am traveling with my family and looking for activities, I always go to Google to see what the top search results are. If I find a tour operator that has not posted any recent reviews or information in, say, a year or two, it makes me wonder whether they are still in business. I’m probably going to skip it and go to the next company.

Another thing a blog can do for you is show your potential customers how much you know. Show off your expertise a bit. Let them see that you know something about your industry. It may give you a competitive edge. “Hm, this guy sells widgets for twenty cents less. But this other guy over here seems to really know his widgets. I think I trust the guy who knows more rather than the one with cheaper widgets.” See what I mean?

If you’re uncertain how to come up with material or whether you have time for the task, you can hire a professional writer to write your blog posts for you. Contact me to ask how I can help you maintain your blog.

Advertisements

Proofreading services

While I do a good many travel and tourism related projects for clients, I am still willing and able to take on projects of other kinds. In fact, I recently handled a large project for a local water department, and have also been proofreading copy for various websites. I became so involved in travel writing about a year ago that I decided to jump back into the business with both feet, and I started a new travel agency. (It’s called Azalea Travel, by the way, and you can find it at http://www.southandbeyond.com, or by calling me.)
In the meantime, I’m still taking on new copywriting clients and jobs. Most of my inquiries of late have been for proofreading. I charge $4 per standard page, with a $30 minimum for simple proofreading projects. If it turns into a deeper editing job, we can talk about hourly rates or flat fees. In the meantime, why not make sure your newsletter or web page is typo free? Hiring a professional proofreader is a great and inexpensive way to make sure you put your best foot forward.

Pro Tips: You are what you read.

We all know the old expression, “You are what you eat.”  The idea is that whatever you put into your mouth affects your health.  You’ve probably also heard the expression, “Garbage in, garbage out.”  If you eat candy and chips, you are likely to be fat and feel terrible.  If you eat your veggies and avoid junk food, you will probably feel much better.  But did you know that the same is true for what you read?  It’s true!

Even the best of us, who know our grammar fairly well, can get twisted around and confused when we see the same mistakes made over and over by others on Facebook.  Social media has been, in my opinion, one of the greatest promoters of bad spelling and usage that our world has ever seen.  Think about it.  We used to only read newspapers and magazines that were held to the highest standards by editors.  Now, most of what we read is on the internet.  In addition to social media, there is a ton of “news” published every day on the internet which, at best, was done hastily and without enough proofreading.  Show me almost any internet news article, and I can find some errors in it.  The internet has made our society sloppy.  And when we see the wrong thing over and over, it becomes impressed upon us.  We are then likely to make the same mistakes we have seen made so many times, regardless of how solid our knowledge is.

Therefore, if you want to write better, you must resolve to read better books and material.  Stay off of social media as much as possible, unless your friends are all grammarians.  Read the actual print newspaper instead of internet news.  While not perfect, the print version is certainly more meticulously and professionally edited than most internet news sites.  Read good books from the NY Times Bestseller list or New Yorker magazine, instead of tabloids and trashy paperbacks.  Think about what you would like to emulate, and seek it out.

My favorite southern authors include Clyde Edgerton, Fannie Flagg, and Flannery O’Connor.  When I’d like to sharpen my fiction writing skills, I pick up one of their books.

Letting your mind go into something easy sounds attractive, until you realize it can diminish your communication skills.  Seek out a challenge for yourself today, and find a great book to read!  Your writing skills will improve for it.

Everyday Tips: Adverbs…forgotten, but not gone.

One thing that can really set you apart from the rest of the pack is proper use of adverbs.  In conversation, e-mails, and other communications, it’s fairly common for folks to drop the “-ly.”

Some do it because the rest of the world does it.  Others may have forgotten the difference between an adverb and an adjective.  Or perhaps you were sleeping in class on the day adverbs were taught.  An adverb, for those of you classroom-droolers, is a word that describes a verb or an adjective.  The adjective describes a thing.  It will indicate a color, texture, speed, or what-not.  The adjective tells you that the boat is red.  The adverb tells you that it’s bright red.  Now, everyone knows the verb is an action.  It’s something you did.  The verb says that you rowed the boat.  The adverb comes in to describe how you did it.  The adverb says that you nervously rowed the boat.

Common errors with adverbs are usually easily corrected (How are they corrected?  Easily.  That’s the adverb!  See what I did there?!) by adding an “-ly.”  Just make sure you don’t get carried away and add it when it doesn’t exist.  Here are a few nails-on-the-chalkboard examples, along with corrections:

“I’m real happy with this report.”  No, you’re not.  You’re really happy.

“Run down there real quick, and tell him we’re ready to start.”  Oh!  Double offense!  Instead, you should run down there really quickly.

Here’s a tricky one:

“He did bad on his presentation.”  Actually, he did badly.  But if it’s a sensing verb, the rules change.  “He feels bad about missing the retirement party.”  That’s correct.  If you say he feels badly about missing it, then that means that perhaps he’s bad at judging his feelings.  I’ve been guilty of getting carried away with myself on this one.  Grammar Girl clears up the confusion between bad and badly here and also gives a better explanation on linking verbs and action verbs.  She also gives a great example of a time when Cyndi Lauper’s grammar was better than Donald Trump’s.

Here’s another tricky one:

Did he do good on his presentation?  No.  He only “did good” if he went down to the corner and bought lunch for the homeless guy who stands there every afternoon.  If the presentation was expertly delivered and everyone applauded, then he did well.  Grammar Girl does it again right here with the superior explanation.

Navigating grammar rules on the spur of the moment can be difficult and can lead to confusion in misspoken communications.  However, when you’re e-mailing or writing, you have a little more time to check yourself.  For that reason, the standard is even higher.  If you’re unsure of your ability to effectively communicate through writing, then ask a professional for help.  Sometimes, they will proofread your work for very little.  In fact, in the copywriting world, proofreading is one of the least expensive copywriting fees you will ever pay.  It’s entirely worth it, and then some.

If you would like to know more about my fees and services, please use the contact form on this website to inquire.

Pro Tips: What’s your style? AP or Chicago?

All good writing should be consistent in style.  “Style,” in this case, does not refer to whether you like Chanel suits or Air Jordans.  Instead, it refers to a set of rules governing how punctuation, capital letters, and the like are used.  There are several different options in this department with the two most popular being Chicago Manual of Style and the Associated Press Stylebook.  The latter is most commonly abbreviated to “AP Style.”

So what exactly are these styles, and just why do they matter?  Obviously, AP Style is going to be used for journalistic endeavors such as newspapers, magazines, and other media.  Chicago style is quite often used in fiction and publication of other books.  In business writing, there are many times when the choice of style doesn’t matter.  However, what is important is to pick one style and stick with it.  Even a relatively untrained eye may notice that you used a comma before the “and” in a sequence in one paragraph, but didn’t use a comma before an “and” in the next sequence.  Or perhaps you hyphenated a word in the introduction of your document, then failed to hyphenate that same word in subsequent uses.  Whatever style you choose, consistency is the key for looking professional.  If you do not pay attention to these details, a potential client may think that you will be lax with other details concerning your work.

A variety of online stylebooks are available for a yearly fee.  Those fees are worth it, when you want to look like you’re on top of your game.  Please see the links below, if you are interested in navigating these styles for yourself.  Otherwise, you can always hire a professional writer to navigate them for you, and save yourself some time.

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/home.html

https://www.apstylebook.com/online/

http://www.grammarbook.com/grammar/cnt_gram.asp

http://www.apastyle.org/

Everyday Tips: Remembering the difference between there, their and they’re

Why is it so hard for people to use these words correctly?

My short answer to that question is a simple matter of time and attention.  We all had to learn this is grade school.  However, in a rush, we might not have time to stop and try to remember the differences between these.  We just keep typing and move on with life.  On social media, there is a general tendency toward sloppiness, I think.  “No one will notice,” or “None of my teachers are my Facebook friends, and it isn’t for a grade.”  People just don’t proofread on Facebook that often.

Well, guess what?  People do notice.  It’s really important, if you want to lend credibility to anything you are writing, to use the proper word.  And these words are not interchangeable.  They each have very different meanings.  Here’s a brief guide with some helpful facts that may assist you in remembering which one to use.

“There” is a place.  “I walked over there to find them.”  And it has the word “here” contained in it, which is also a place.

“Their” is possessive.  “Their dog was barking all night long.”  It contains the letter “I” which can remind you that the word is possessive.

“They’re” is a contraction for “they are.”  “They’re coming over with a bottle of wine.”  This one seems to be less confusing than the other two, but the best way to remember its meaning is by recognizing the apostrophe as a sign of the contraction.  The apostrophe means that two words were pushed together to become one, and that a letter was left out.  Hence, “they are” became “they’re.”

Particularly if you are posting on social media for your business, it’s important to use the correct word.  Not only will you be sure to convey the correct meaning of your message, but those who do know the difference between “there,” “their,” and “they’re” will be more likely to do business with you!

Everyday Tips: Lying vs. Laying (A Battle Royale)

One of my pet peeves is the rampant, incorrect use of “laying.”  Let’s examine the difference between these two words.

Obviously, the definition of “lie” which involves fabrication and/or fibbing does not apply here.

If the lowering of your own body is involved, then “lie” is your word.  You lie down for a nap.  Lie down to sleep.  You lie back in a hammock.  If you have too much to drink and pass out in a bar, you are probably lying down on a sticky floor.  This word applies to others, as well.  For instance, John is lying down under his desk to hide from his supervisor.  Are you lying down for this?  She can’t wait to lie down after eating that meal.  That possum will lie down and pretend to die.

“Lay” is used when it’s the object.  One can lay down a book or a pen.  Lay down the knife, until the children stop running through the kitchen.  And here’s one that we’ve all heard from our English teachers:  Chickens lay eggs.

Here’s a link to a fantastic guide that tackles past tense and gives a more complete explanation:  http://www.chompchomp.com/handouts/irregularrules02.pdf

Here’s the kicker:  one of the past tense forms of the verb to lie is actually lay.  If you didn’t read the link above, go back and do it now, as a refresher course on past tense.

As far as present tense, though, here’s a good test for lay vs. lie:

  1. Am I a chicken? If yes, then I lay eggs.  If no, then proceed to the next question.
  2. Am I putting an object (not my own body) down? If yes, then I may lay it down.  If no, then proceed to the next question.
  3. Am I lowering my own body into a reclining position? If yes, then I am lying down.  If no, then I may be asking myself the wrong set of questions.

This is simple, but confounds so many people.  And the misuse is so rampant, that it’s difficult to be right in a wrong world.  But use “lie” at the correct times, and you will set yourself apart from the crowd.