Category Archives: Persuasive Essay

Word Choices Matter in Campaigns

The candidate firmly grabbed the edges of the podium to present himself as a man who knows who he is and where he’s going. He stood tall, squinted at the camera, and clenched his jaw. Someone whispered, “I think he’s going to be president.”

Why?

“Because he looks like a president. He’s organized and seems to know what to do.”

It’s understandable. Like Homer Simpson, the candidate is funny. He makes headlines with raw rants and doesn’t apologize, which is something most of us can’t do without being fired.

Consider the case of Karen Fitzgibbons, an elementary school teacher who ranted on her Facebook page about the conflict between police and teenagers at a pool party. She offered an apology after her rant, but it was too late. She lost her job. It’s true. Many don’t want to be held to politically correct speak, but what is the impact of careless, personally insulting words?

Nick Kyrgios, a tennis player, made an off the cuff comment about another player’s girlfriend during a tennis match and was fined $10,000 in addition to being booed at subsequent matches.

In the case of the presidential candidate, the more journalists utter his name, the bigger his brand becomes. Case in point, we don’t have to mention his name, but you know who we’re referring to, right? If he wins the presidency, his companies win. If he loses the presidency, his companies win. It’s a smart strategy. Run for president to broaden your power and audience– earn high ratings by being outlandish. If the goal is “to eventually become bigger than Amway, now an $8.4 billion company and the giant in the field” and his product appeals to “those who own companies, which tend to do well in bad economic times, when people are broke, desperate, and angry at the system,” (NY Mag) jumping into politics pumps life into corporate holdings.

Can we excuse so many cringe-worthy slip-ups because of who the candidate is? He often limits the scope of his insults to one person or a smaller segment of certain groups. Then, he embraces and praises the remaining segment by promising to win their support. He dismisses legitimate concerns with creative spins. He ignores calls for apologies and avoids ownership for his offenses.

Advertising Age suggests that the candidate’s,

“eschewal of politically correct cant and plainspoken ways account for much of his mass appeal among a frustrated electorate, those same qualities may ultimately derail his bid for the nomination. And while it’s impossible to predict how long he can keep this up, it probably should go without saying that antagonizing the nation’s No. 1 cable news outlet isn’t a recipe for longevity.”

What else? It becomes difficult for parents to instruct their kids to stand up to bullies, when they’re justifying the actions of an adult version.

If bully speak wins, everyone loses. The door to strife or war swings wide open.

After Words Fail 
No one is perfect. How do you fix poor word choices after they occur? The public might embrace you– even with all your flaws, after an authentic apology. If you’ve made a career of embracing people, the public is probably more likely to forgive misspeak. Kelly Osbourne, who made a comment about Hispanics cleaning toilets, addressed her word choice faux pas with an immediate apology on Facebook. Then, the story disappeared.

Flood social media with new stories. Business 2 Community suggests putting “your writers in motion.”

While your legal team looks things over, gather together your writers for some old-fashioned SEO work. Use the keywords, phrases, product names and employee names in blog posts, social media posts and press releases. Make sure that you have the opportunity to really dominate Google’s results for those terms.

Everyone makes mistakes. Acknowledge yours and work on minimizing them as you move forward. And don’t think that just because you’re a candidate, you’re above it all. Your words and actions matter, too.

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Filed under Audience, Branding, Business Strategy, Persuasive Essay, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Social Media, Speeches

CBS Films’ #theDuff Targets Teens in Marketing Campaign

Invite Student Reporters to a Free Pre-Screening

It’s a clever way of marketing, but especially, it’s an effective way to reach teens.  CBS Films began promoting their latest movie, The Duff, by contacting teachers in charge of their schools’ publications. Feeling like royalty, the teachers’ students received free tickets to private pre-screenings of the film. The final cut releases to theaters February 20, 2015.  Think of it, SEOs.  Those students will write free articles about the movie for CBS and much of that content will end up on educational sites- just the kind you want for digital back-linking power.  Wow.

Create Your Digital Keyword and its Definition to Dominate Searches

What is The Duff, you may ask? As the mother of a teen that received a free ticket to one of those private, pre-release screenings, I joined her for “girls’ night” on a school night and found out that it stands for “Designated Ugly Fat Friend.” Lovely. But, smart. The movie can now add its name to duff’s Wikipedia entry to dominate Google searches for the term’s origins and meanings.

The start of the movie did not make me happy.  “Great, that’s all these kids need,” I thought, “another label that makes everyone in the room self-conscious about their social standing and value.”  The movie did come around to join hands and say, “We’re all duffs to someone, so be yourself and embrace it,” but eh, what I’m most interested in is how the movie is being marketed.  I reached out to CBS Films for comment, but they did not respond.

Include Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook Handles to Promote Interaction

We are truly in the age of social media.  The hashtag, #theDuff, is on the big screen and on the movie’s website, while the ending credits give the Instagram or Twitter handles for each of the actors.  The call to action is clear. Teens, whip out your phones, start following, and tell your friends. The Duff is on a mission to build an audience and earn revenues.

Provide Attractive Content

As a side note, the actors get “As” for chemistry. Light-hearted joking between the characters make this film a movie night pick. Girls, I just want to point out that Robbie Amell, who plays Wes and looks like a young Tom Cruise (one way to pull in your Moms), was born in 1988, which would make him a very old, high school senior at age 27! The same is true for Mae Whitman, who portrays the funny and down-to-earth, Bianca.  However, Bella Thorne- mean girl, Madison, was born in October 1997, and is a real high school junior this year.

Ask Your Audience to Promote After They Consume

The story line includes moments when the main character endures cyber-bullying after a video that was created about her goes viral.  The marketing off-screen is all about harnessing the power of viral because after the teen reporters watched the movie, they were invited to submit questions the next day to interview the actors in real time.

My daughter thought the interview was going to involve just the students in her publications class and the actors themselves, which was not exactly accurate. Her class stayed after school to wait for the late start of a webinar experience that included about 300 schools throughout North America.  All of these students submitted their questions, but only a few of those questions were selected.  Students took notes and then wrote articles for their schools’ newspapers, magazines, and classes.  These stories should be hitting the presses between now and the movie’s release in February 2015.

Smart idea, isn’t it? Why pay for your content when you can give out some free tickets to kids who have the power to reach other kids with their words? The Duff will reach its teen and tween niche in no time.

Jack pot, CBS Films, you even captured a mother who writes content for a living.  You get a little publicity as a thank you for the great experience she had covering your story and I get mother-daughter time to point out how companies influence the choices we make about the goods and services we consume.

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Filed under Audience, Branding, Business Strategy, Capturing Audience, Content, Content Marketing, Marketing, Persuasive Essay, School Websites, Writing for Children

How to Hook Readers without Swearing in Headlines

hookEverywhere you look, people are playing fast and loose with language—even on “family”-oriented sitcoms! Inappropriate language and cussing are becoming more and more commonplace, but that doesn’t mean they are in any way acceptable in articles or blogs. As writers, we should be able to use a wide array of language to catch the attention of the audience without cussing or using inappropriate language.  The headline is the part of the article that will make readers want to read—don’t waste that with poorly-chosen or inappropriate words. Here are some tips to catch readers’ attention without swearing.

Use clever wording to hook readers. Alliteration is always an amazing answer to your search for alternative wording! Alliteration, as demonstrated in the previous sentence, is the repetition of a letter (or sound) of words in a phrase, such as “She sells sea shells by the sea shore.” This requires you to flex your creative muscles in order to find the best words to use, but it also works as a great attention-getter in articles or blogs. Hooking readers with alliteration can also play throughout the article to keep hold of the attention of the readers and refer back to the title, making the article well-rounded and well-written.

Use an informative quote as your headline. Not only will this give readers a small insight into what your article is about, but it will show your readers that you’ve put in effort and done research as well as involving the community to produce a complete article. So many articles and blog posts these days are incomplete or poorly researched, so by showing readers that you put effort into writing because you enjoy it, it is likely that the work will shine through in the article and your readers will feel more engaged. Involving other members of the community also helps keep the attention of the readers, because they will be able to identify more with the article and it will be more important to the readers.

Reveal just a tidbit about your article. Paint a picture and reach out to the emotions of the readers. The goal of an article’s title is to pique the reader’s interest and reveal what will come in the article that will interest them. For example, if you’re writing a human interest piece about how the “downtown” portion of your city is taking shape, but it’s affecting pedestrians and bicyclists, try to portray the way in which the changes are affecting them. Try something such as, “Downtown Changes Mean Pedestrians and Cyclists Must Cross Paths.” The readers do not yet know whether crossing paths is a good thing or a bad thing, so they’ll keep reading to find out. The next challenge is keeping them interested paragraph after paragraph.

Use a question as a headline. “Will Changes to Downtown Spell Disaster for Small Businesses?” This asks a question that pertains to the community, the article, the readers, tugs at emotions, and may open up a new window of discussion. The audience will continue to read the article to find the answer, reasoning, and various expanded explanations as to why the question was brought to light. To ensure the undivided attention of the audience, use each paragraph for a different explanation or different reasoning before you answer the question at hand. Don’t overdo it, though, the reader will still want a quick, somewhat concise answer that won’t take them 45 minutes to sort out.

Overall, there are many ways to hook the attention of an audience without resorting to inappropriate language.  Alliteration, quotes, or questions and painting pictures for your readers to “pique and reveal” will create interest in your article.  Keep their attention throughout the article, which is the ultimate goal of any writer. PR Daily reminds us not to waste the space or take for granted the power that comes with a good headline because poorly-worded headlines are often simply skipped over by readers. Ask an editor to review your article to double-check that your headline works.

Get those creative juices flowing with the next article and write a strong headline to hook your readers! ~Hollyheadline

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Filed under Capturing Audience, Expository Writing, Introductions, Narrative Writing, Newsletters, Persuasive Essay, Revising & Proofreading, Words Which Sell

Famous Dead Authors’ Secrets for Writing Success

By Sara, My Web Writers Intern

It has been said that writers are born, not made. Some take that to mean that you are either born with talent, or you may as well not try. That’s probably bunk. If writers are born, they are born out of the sweat and tears of determination and practice. Whether you are drumming up SEO content or working on the next great American novel, writing well and employing the habits of effective writing are essential.

First, it’s important to practice.

Practice keeps you in the habit of writing and thinking about writing. Nineteenth century author C.S. Lewis, most famous for The Chronicles of Narnia, says that “what you want is practice, practice, practice. It doesn’t matter what we write… so long as we write continually as well as we can. I feel that every time I write a page either of prose or of verse, with real effort, even if it’s thrown into the fire the next minute, I am so much further on.”

Another prolific writer, recently deceased Saul Bellow, observed that “somewhere in his journals Dostoyevsky remarks that a writer can begin anywhere, at the most commonplace thing, scratch around in it long enough, pray and dig away long enough, and lo! soon he will hit upon the marvelous.” When you practice the craft of writing and pay diligence to it, you grow. Even if you write tweets for a business firm, you are bound to come up with more unique, interesting, and creative content when you practice. Imagine an athlete who only played her sport at game time — she wouldn’t be good at it and would not be long rewarded for her “efforts.” So practice, practice, practice. Start now. Call it writers’ Spring Training.

Having some “filler” in your drafts is o.k.

It’s certainly tempting for any writer to stop when we have so-called “writer’s block.” Larry Gelbart, though, says “don’t stop.” He wants us to put something there and keep moving. Recently I wrote an article on decade themed parties and decided to employ Gelbart’s advice. I could have stopped and stared at the computer screen when I was stumped on what to write about a 1970s party that wouldn’t be a tired cliché. Instead, I wrote, “too much Footloose not enough Studio 54,” and moved on to the 1980s. Later, while editing and revising, I realized Footloose wasn’t even set in the ’70s, but I understood where my mind was headed. If I had tried to flush that out in the first draft, I’d still be writing it. Listen to Larry. Use filler and keep writing.

Beware of clichés.

“Beware of clichés…. There are clichés of response as well as expression. There are clichés of observation and of thought — even of conception. Many novels, even quite a few adequately written ones, are clichés of form which conform to clichés of expectation.”

-Geoff Dyer

Geoff Dyer is not dead (here is his website), but this advice was too good not to share. Clichés are death to all that is interesting. I can’t say that clichés are never ok, because writing, like most art, only deals in absolutes for the strict business of breaking them. That being said, clichés are never ok. “It goes without saying” that the “early bird catches the worm” and “curiosity killed the cat” so a true “jack of all trades” would never to “keep up with Joneses” by recycling tired clichés.

If it goes without saying, then please, please, just don’t say it.

Ctrl-F and Delete those Adjectives

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

-Anton Chekhov

Adjectives are not the enemy here (Hint: its clichés). Adjectives can be a crutch, though. I recently read an article about a mama raccoon saving her litter of baby raccoons during a bout of bad weather. It passed through my twitter feed with the phrase, “mother raccoon shields her litter on turnpike from cold,” so of course I read it. I read it and said “awwww… how heartwarming and precious!” If the tweet had falling back on adjective addiction, I probably wouldn’t have clicked on the link following “Heartwarming and precious tale of courage.”

“Don’t say it was delightful; make us say delightful when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, ‘please, will you do the job for me?'”

-C.S. Lewis

Reflect on What You Wrote

In Politics and the English Language, George Orwell claims that a “scrupulous writer” will constantly, even after every sentence (so definitely before sending that tweet), ask him or herself four questions. I leave you with those four questions to take back to your own stack of papers and document files (and practice!):

What am I trying to say?

  1. What words will express it?
  2. What image or idiom will make it clearer?
  3. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

Other Articles from My Web Writers:

Tweet for ReTweets- Twitter Tips

My Favorite Writer and Online Marketing Websites and Blogs

What Stephen Covey Knew about Marketing

Tell a Better Story: Tips and Tricks from Mark Twain

Overcoming the Beautiful Little Fool

Annual Essay Contests You Shouldn’t Miss

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Filed under Audience, Capturing Audience, Conclusions, Descriptive Writing, Expository Writing, Narrative Writing, Persuasive Essay, Revising & Proofreading, The Writing Process, Web Writers, Writer's Block

Follow this Basic Style Guide for Writing in APA

by My Web Writers

Image Courtesy of the American Psychological Association- APAstyle.org

APA style is used broadly among academics, students, and researchers working in the social sciences and allows for the proper citation of the findings of others in a recognizable format. APA style breaks papers into manageable sections that help writers to effectively organize their thoughts and allow readers to more easily navigate material. Here are the basics to get you started.

APA papers should…

–          Be typed with 12-point font.

–          Use 8.5 x 11 inch paper with one-inch margins.

–          Contain a running header. The header should include the title of the paper flushed left and the paper number flushed right. The title page should be numbered page 1.

–          Contain four sections: Title Page, Abstract, Main Body, and References.

Title Page

–          The title page should contain the running head. Note that the title should be in all capital letters.

–          The following—title, authors first, last name, and middle initial if applicable, and institution affiliation—should be centered at the upper half of the paper and should appear on separate lines.

–          The title page should be double spaced.

Running Head: TITLE OF YOUR PAPER                                             1

Title

Betty Ann Sue

University of the North Pole

Abstract

–          An abstract should be between 150 – 200 words.

–          It should include a summary of the paper’s main research points.

–          Do not indent the abstract.

–          List key words at the bottom of the text by indenting, writing keywords in italics and then listing them.

 Main Body

–          The paper should begin with the title centered below the header.

–          Use headings for each section of the paper.

–          Double space.

In-Text Citations

In-text citations include the author’s last name, year of publication and page number. The year of publication is specifically important to the social science field because it helps readers to quickly identify whether or not research is current. Here are a few samples.

According to Patterson (2001), “The subjects exhibited nervous behavior in unfamiliar environments” (p. 56).

Patterson (2001) found that “the subjects exhibited nervous behavior in unfamiliar environments” (p. 56); this is different from his earlier studies.

He stated, “The subjects exhibited nervous behavior in unfamiliar environments” (Patterson, 2001, p. 56); this is different from his earlier studies.

Reference List

–          The reference list appears on a separate sheet at the end of the paper.

–          The title should be centered and plain text.

–          Citations should be double-spaced with no extra spaces between citations.

–          Entries should be alphabetized by the last name of the first author listed for each resource.

–          Make sure you have an entry for each resource cited in your text.

–          For entries that are more than one line, all the subsequent lines should be indented one-half inch.

–          EasyBib is a free site that generates reference pages in a variety of writing styles. Using this resource may save time when compiling a reference list.

Check out the basic web and book formats below.

The format for citing a web resource is:

Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Date of publication). Title of article. Title of Online Periodical, volume number (issue number if available). Retrieved from http://www.includeaddresswithfullurl

The format for citing a book is:

Author, A. A. (Year of publication). Title of work: Capital letter also for subtitle. Location: Publisher.

~Lindsey

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Filed under Citing Sources, Expository Writing, Persuasive Essay, Research Tips, Revising & Proofreading, Technical Writing, The Writing Process, White Papers

What Every Writer Should Remember from Freshmen English

By My Web Writers

Photo courtesy of SingleMomFinance.com

If your high school textbooks are gathering dust or long recycled, and you can’t remember how exactly you spent those arduous academic days, it may be time to brush up on a few of the basics from high school English, even if just to see which rules have changed.

In high school, teachers break down the components of a piece of writing so that students will have a vocabulary to help them in the writing and revision process. Seasoned writers can also benefit from evaluating their work with these tools. Let’s take a look at some of these components.

Audience

The audience is the group of people you expect or want to read your work. It is usually good to have an age group, education level, and some demographics in mind. This can be as simple as people who like pie or more specific like women with children in their thirties and forties. Regardless, your language and ideas need to be appropriate for the people you expect to read your work.

Consider what background information may be necessary, what important terms may need defining, and what kind of voice will appeal to your audience. When writing for a medical journal, the language and ideas may be more complex, because the writer assumes that readers have a certain level of familiarity with the discipline. Whereas when explaining a complex medical condition in an article on al site geared toward the general public, more familiar language may be used along with metaphors and similes that make the information accessible to those without a medical education.

If you’re worried about accessing a specific grade-level, Microsoft Word has a handy tool that estimates the grade-level and readability of your writing based on word, sentence, and paragraph complexity.  This can be enabled when you click on File, Options, Proofing, and check Readability Statistics. These statistics appear after you spell check your document.

 Purpose

What is your piece trying to accomplish? After reading, do you want readers to buy a specific brand of shoe, agree with a political argument, or know how to bake a cake? This should be clear to you the writer and should be stated directly or indirectly in your work. In an academic paper, the purpose is often encountered in the thesis statement. A thesis states what the paper plans to prove or explain. It is usually located at the end of the introduction paragraph.

 Organization

Regardless of the kind of writing you are doing, some method of organization is always necessary. Some common structures include, cause and effect, chronological order, and compare and contrast.  A recipe is usually organized with an ingredient list and then the steps are described in chronological order. A blog post about a political issue may compare and contrast the two sides of an issue by spending the first section explaining one side of the issue, it’s pros and cons, and then in the next section considering the other side.

In essays, each paragraph usually proves or addresses an aspect of the argument. One or more paragraphs may represent a point the author is trying to prove. Once that point has been supported, the writer is ready to begin a new paragraph.

 Evidence and Analysis

Any work that is making a claim requires some kind of evidence and analysis. Evidence includes the facts that support an argument. Analysis is the author’s explanation of why the evidence is important or how it relates to the argument. Evidence helps the writer to establish his or her authority and support ideas. Analysis helps the reader to make the same connections between the argument and the evidence that the writer is making.

 Grammar and Spell Check

Grammar and spelling mistakes can be off-putting for readers and threaten a writer’s credibility, especially where there are so many resources at hand to aid in proofreading.  Remember that different styles of writing often have different rules and call for different styles of documentation. Style guides are available on writing center websites for many colleges and universities. Purdue Online Writing Lab has an especially good guide for APA and MLA styles. Remember that Microsoft Word has spelling and grammar check, but doesn’t catch everything and sometimes makes unnecessary changes. So it is always good to proofread again. And of course, never turn in a piece that you haven’t read more than once.

Happy writing.  Class dismissed.

~Lindsey

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Filed under Audience, Capturing Audience, Content, Expository Writing, Grammar, Introductions, Persuasive Essay, Revising & Proofreading, Technical Writing, Writing Careers, Writing Resources

Nab These Call to Action Verbs

By My Web Writers

Spice Up Your Meta Descriptions

After writing your fiftieth, meta description using the verbs “buy”, “look”, and “find”, you’re probably snoring.  Imagine how customers feel.  If just one of the below “vacation rentals” entries sparkled, it would capture a gold medal for creativity and extra site visits.

Capture Visitors with Enticing Action Verbs

Retailers lose income opportunities when potential customers ignore blah snippets.  Even a lower ranked snippet can capture additional clicks if its meta description and titles are alluring. Bookmark these engaging verbs for use in your web writing efforts.

Absorb Accept Acquire
Amaze Add Ask
Attract Bestow Borrow
Browse Charge Claim
Clean Click Clip
Collide Cook Copy
Create Deliver Design
Determine Discover Disrobe
Download Dream Drive
Earn Embark Empty
Engage Enroll Execute
Extract Fall Fatten
Visit Flirt Follow
Fondle Gallop Gamble
Gather Gobble Grab
Guess Hobble Hop
Hurdle Hurl Hustle
Inquire Jingle Juggle
Jump Learn Lease
Lie Listen Locate
Lose Move Nab
Obtain Park Peek
Polish Print Publish
Punt Push Query
Realize Redeem Refresh
Register Rent Sample
Save Search Seek
Shimmy Skip Slink
Smell Snap Sneak
Speak Steal Stomp
Store Swallow Trample
Uncover Unveil Watch
Wet Whisk Win

Shake up the use of verbs to capture more clicks and entertain your customers!

~Jean

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Filed under Content, Descriptive Writing, E-Tail Category Content, Persuasive Essay, Product Descriptions, Words Which Sell