Category Archives: Writer’s Block

Nothing Fits “All of Your Needs”

The phrase appears everywhere.  Our service or products will fit “all of your needs.”  Wow!  This is it.  I’ve hit the Holy Grail.  ALL of my needs.  Where do I sign up??  I need a new wardrobe.  I need someone to wash my dog.  I need more time to watch Shark Tank Tuesdays.  I need a vacation.  And on and on…

The reality is, nothing fits “all of your needs.”  Not any one person, company, or product.  A search of Google yields about 121,000,000 results for “all of your needs.”  That large a number says that there are a lot of people and businesses that believe they can do it all.  (Humorous sidetrack:  the number one search result on Google for “all of your needs” returns a link to a Bible passage from Philippians 4:19 that says, “And my God will meet all your needs.” Score one for the big guy.)

Delete trite phrases

Delete trite phrases

One of the lessons that should be taught to content writers during their Marketing 101 course is to avoid using the phrase “all of your needs” in copy.  Forever.  In fact, there should be a law against using such a trite phrase that’s guaranteed to underdeliver.  Besides “all of your needs,” the Harvard Business Review released their own Bizspeak Blacklist of overused word phrases that display an absence of actual thought.  Some offenders:

  • Think outside the box

  • Mission-critical

  • Hit the ground running

  • Push the envelope

  • Value-added

  • Level the playing field

SHIFT Communications took overuse of a trite phrase one step further and sampled 62,768 press releases from 2013.  Their goal was to find the top 50 most overused words marketers penned in press releases.  Do you use (or overuse) any of these:  new, first, most, leading, best, great, largest, better, special, or better?  If so, you are not alone.  They made the 50 most overused words in press releases list for 2013 along with mobile, professional, current, real, and top.

4 Steps To Avoid Trite Marketing Phrases

  1. Describe what makes your item or service unique from others like it.  This is your chance to take a 30-second elevator pitch and translate into a few short sentences.  Some items to cover in your written description may include a guarantee, something that will be fixed, benefits when used, and specialties that will stand out from the crowd.

  1. Wrap your product around words that trip the senses.  Effective copy crafts words that make the reader believe they cannot possibly live without the product or service.  Paint a word picture that appeals to one or more of the five senses.  Create a sensory experience with words that let’s the reader see a vision, remember a smell, or desire to touch.  For inspiration, click on a few of the products from one of the best eCommerce brands today that knows how to appeal to the senses.  The Duluth Trading Company uses humor through the words on their t-shirt product descriptions.  One solves the problem of confronting the unsightly shock of happening upon someone with a much-feared “Plumbers Butt.”

  1. Share a true story or testimonial.  For marketers, nothing is better than word-of-mouth referrals where one customer sells another on a product or service.  BazaarVoice, a leader in gathering product or service reviews, reports that items with positive feedback convert 12.5% better than those without.  Let the praises of your customers sing for others and add their words in a quote format to your marketing copy.

  1. Appeal to the imagination.  The art of poetry is lost.  Bring wordsmithing back with words that evoke images for your products or services.  Words to Use is a website that can help remove writer’s block and find the right words about anything.  Can you describe a rose?

While you won’t be able to entirely eliminate trite phrases from your writing, editing with a mind toward using words with sizzle will bring your marketing prose to the next level.

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Filed under Blog Writing Tips, Content, Descriptive Writing, Narrative Writing, Revising & Proofreading, The Writing Process, Words Which Sell, Writer's Block

Information Overload – Ideas for Making Content Connect without the Clutter

By My Web Writers

Sometimes the information we have is so wonderful, that we want to share it all. We want to give our readers, customers, and site visitors all the delicious details of the information we have, but sometimes it’s just too much to handle, and websites are left looking cluttered. Get past the information overload and start making your content connect without the clutter.

Prioritize

Whether you’re starting a website from scratch or rearranging your current site, you’ve got to prioritize your information. Think about what you want site visitors to see first, and what could be pushed further towards the bottom.

Menus

Too many menus will only create clutter, but one main menu at the top of the page is always a good idea. It should be an easy and organized way of showing site visitors where they can find what they’re looking for. Don’t have too many items in your menu. It’s a good idea to condense your menu to 5-8 categories, and then have drop-down subcategories off of that.

Introduction

Welcome site visitors with a brief description of the purpose of your site or business. Keep it short and simple, though. Too many words will quickly drive people away. Content on your homepage should be kept at a minimal and never, ever look cluttered. So keep your introduction to the point.

Don’t fear whitespace

Whitespace isn’t necessarily white, it’s any space that doesn’t include text or graphics. It is NOT wasted space! Whitespace is a common element of all designs in both print and online. If every last area on your page is covered in something, it will definitely have a cluttered look. When leaving whitespace on a page, however, always make sure it is towards the outside- the sides or the top or bottom. Otherwise, it will appear “trapped” and look awkward.

Avoid too much animation

Sometimes it’s nice to have a flashing phrase or a dancing mascot, but too much movement will make your content seem elementary and unprofessional. Your site visitors should feel comfortable, not like they’ve just struck the jackpot at the casino.

Picture perfect

Of course content is made stronger with visual aids. However, if you have a lot of visual aids, they can make things look cluttered. If you feel a lot of graphics or photos are necessary for your content, put them in an album that can pop out in a new window, instead of putting them all directly in your content. Also, remember that photos should be high-quality and only enhance your content, not deter from it.

Get a second opinion

Try arranging your content in different ways and ask people which they like best. No one knows better than your customers or site visitors. They are the ones who visit your website frequently to check out your great content. Ask them how they would like things arranged, and make sure they don’t feel your content is cluttered.

Cluttered content is something no one wants to see. It will turn people away from your website in a flash, even if you’ve got great content. So take the time to prioritize, rearrange things, make some menus, and always remember to make things easy for those navigating your content. Taking the time to do so will be well worth it when people enjoy checking out your content more than they did before. ~Natalie

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Filed under Business Strategy, Content, Writer's Block

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

Put a Little Romance in Your Vocabulary- 10 Synonyms for Love

by My Web WritersLove in Paris

People commonly extoll the need for more words for love in the English language. For example, Counselor Sheryl Paul  argues that so many people struggle in love because our culture is committed to a single word and a single ideal for what we feel for each other. Others point to the plethora of words meaning love in other languages. While these points certainly have merit, perhaps English is getting a bad wrap. After all, one thesaurus offers 47 synonyms for the common word “love.” This Valentine’s Day (I’m assuming, can be cut if not and start from:) spice up your love life and your vocabulary by using a different, or more specific, word to express feelings of love.

love languagesHere are ten strong synonyms to convey love:

Adulation: Adulation implies enthusiastic praise and flattery. Sometimes it even connotes worship. Offer your love adulation. Write him or her a letter showering them with praises and flattering reasons why you love them. Describe a character’s expressions as adulation. Adulation is probably best for more established loves. Adulation too early can come across too strongly.

Affection: Affection can mean an emotional fondness, closeness, or concern. It can also connote physical caresses. Lovers can offer one affection, but the word can also be used to express love between friends, family members, and colleagues.

Amour: Amour spells romance. Call an affair, liaison, or passionate love affair and amour, either as a euphemism or to imply the ardor of the connection. You could also call someone with a tendency to fall in love (or lust) amorous.

Appreciation: Granted, it’s not as sexy as “amour,” but appreciation can convey love in a way that lets the other person know they aren’t taken for granted. Tell someone you love you appreciate them to express your gratitude or to acknowledge the reasons why you’re glad to have them around. Appreciation works well for co-workers and friends as well as more intimate relationships.

Enchantment: Enchantment means magic. Use enchantment to imply the magnetic quality of a lover or particular traits that captivate.

Fidelity: Fidelity, or faithfulness in a relationship conveys allegiance, ardor, or constancy of attachment. Fidelity is commonly used to express steadfastness in marriage or family, but it can also be romantic. Let your partner know that you’re on his or her team.

Friendship: Friendship or companionship adds affection and love to many relationships. Let your friends know you love them, or tell your partner she/he is your best friend. Though less fiery than romance, friendship is often equally satisfying.

Infatuation: It’s just a little crush. Infatuation can express that tightness in your chest you feel around a new love. Describe an early or fleeting love as an infatuation. Or, use infatuation as a way to describe an old love that still gives the lovers butterflies.

Respect: Respect implies admiration or feelings of equality or appreciation. Respect is a key component of love. Describe a strong love as imbued with respect. Telling someone you respect them can also be a way to convey your feelings to a colleague or friend.

 Zeal: Zeal is an enthusiastic devotion to a person or a cause. Often zeal has negative connotations, but it doesn’t have to. Describe the love of someone coming on too strong as zealous or the lover as a zealot. Or, you could express your strong love or admiration as a zealous attachment.

Use one of the above words to portray love with more nuance and clarity or to express yourself with more creativity. You might also be interested in our tips on how to Tell a Better Story. Use our Call to Action Verbs in connection with these synonyms for love for writing that captures ardor, enchantment, or steadfast affection as well as your audience’s attention.  ~Kasey

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Filed under Keywords, Words Which Sell, Writer's Block, Writing Resources

Pick Up the Pen: Essential Tips to Overcome Writer’s Block

By My Web Writers

It’s all too common – that moment when you jot down a word or two and your mind goes completely blank. Writer’s Block couldn’t be more appropriately named. Quite literally the ideas that were once swirling inside your head become so clogged that you can feel the pressure building. This pressure materializes into frustration, anxiety and anger until you feel that there’s nothing left to do but walk away.  STOP!  Before you tear up your notebook or turn off your computer, first try these 5 essential tips to overcome even the worst case of Writer’s Block.

Focus on writing for YOU – So much stress can come from the perceived pressure that your writing has to be perfect and has to impress an entire audience of critics. Instead, get into the mindset that first and foremost this writing is for you. You’re the storyteller and at the end of the day, if you like what you wrote and enjoyed doing it, it’s a success. You’ll be surprised what this “no-pressure” mindset can do for getting your creative juices flowing again!

Create an “Inspiration Database” – Moments of inspiration and the time you set aside for writing don’t always coincide. Sometimes the best writing inspiration comes at odd hours of the night or when you’re busy working on something else.  Don’t lose this inspiration, but don’t let it dictate your schedule too much either.  Keep a notebook, word doc or phone app where you can immediately jot down your ideas. When you do find time to write, start by surfing through these notes and recall this inspiration. You may even be inspired in a whole new way on second glance.

Start with a skeleton – The thought of creating an outline for your writing is very elementary, but that’s likely because it’s also very helpful! It’s easy to become frustrated and mentally blocked if you feel like your ideas are all over the place and not really connecting. Write down the main points you want to hit in your writing, organize them for how they make the most sense and then as you write, simply connect the dots!

Think beyond the laptop – Be aware of the cues that trigger your own Writer’s Block. For example, a blinking cursor on a blank word doc can be an overwhelming sight for anyone. Another cue might by an empty notebook that inspires more doodles than it does words. Once you know what your cue is, avoid it! Don’t be afraid to try a different way of writing like starting off with Post-Its or using a big colorful marker on a dry-erase board.

Set small goals…and reward yourself for reaching them – When you know you’re at the beginning of tackling a 5+ page paper, you can cause yourself to mentally shut down before you even write one word.  Instead, give yourself small goals, like writing one paragraph or one page, and then define a reward.  Maybe you give yourself a 2 minute web surfing break or a quick snack. Not only does this make each smaller task seem more manageable, but you may also be surprised by how inspiration can take over and you want to keep writing long after meeting your mini goal.

So what are you waiting for? Get inspired and get writing!

~Stephanie

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Five Everyday Places to Write Inspiring Content

By My Web Writers

The challenge: Find writing locations that help you write inspiring content.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? It’s not.

We’re all different. Then throw in this whammy; We all find we react differently to stimuli. Sometimes the silence drives us nuts, and at other times the interruptions of daily life send us down a meandering path away from the written word.

What environment will allow your creative juices to flow and write inspiring content? Experiment with these ideas and find the right combination that works for you.

Your Writing Nook

It’s your go-to place. Mine is in the basement with a bit of white noise and plain walls.  Pretty simple.  My journal notes and images I’ve captured are near. This lets me focus on ideas and helps my mind sort its way from idea to words.

Stephen King in the book “On Writing” says, “In truth, I’ve found that any day’s routine interruptions and distractions don’t much hurt a work in progress and may help it in some ways.  It is, after all, the dab of grit that seeps into the oyster’s shell that makes the pearl…”  However, for me,  too many distractions end up being a truckload of sand that smothers the process. What happens when I look up and see bills spread out, business cards staked-up, and task lists reminding me of to-do items still to be done? It’ll just take a minute becomes an hour.

Writer Jeff Goins recently reminded me, “There’s a lot of junk that gets in the way of good writing.” Before you can write clean, clean up your workspace. You will feel better and have less distractions.

And about those 42 open browser tabs tempting me to visit? The Strict Pomodoro browser add-in blocks distracting sites for 25 minutes and then gives me a five minute break. This time management principle states that regular, short breaks allow for better productivity during the writing phase.

Sometimes you need to break away from your writing nook. Here are four more ideas:

Library

Finding your place back in the stacks eliminate most distractions that get in the way of writing. The added benefit is you have a compete reference collection at your fingertips. Take headphones and play white noise or music if the library is too quiet. My favorite: University libraries. They are usually quieter and have more nooks.

Coffee Houses

We either love ‘em or hate ‘em for writing. Then I figured it out.  I have meeting coffee houses and writing coffee houses. They aren’t the same. The crowds at the ones I use for writing either don’t know me or are frequented by other writers that understand “writing protocol.”  Plus, new research referenced in The Atlantic found that the ambient noise typical of a coffee house enhanced performance on creative tasks.  P.S. I write better when I order throughout my stay and tip the staff well.  It’s not a free office.

 The Deadline Room

A friend, and published author of multiple books, has a point in each project where he goes to his father-in-law’s vacation condo and completely immerses himself in writing.  No Internet, no family, no normal daily routine.  House-sitting is another option. Another writer creates marketing copy for a hotel in exchange for a place to do his deadline writing. Most of us, with a little thought, can find a similar solution.

Parks

Natural light, flowers, and the sound of water is a great combination for me to re-energize. Early morning, when it’s still peaceful out, is a good environment for writing. My spot is on the shore of a small lake and many times it is perfectly still.  I can’t count on mother nature to cooperate all the time. But when she does, it is my best place.

Finding places to write inspiring content has been one of my biggest challenges. These places have been solutions for me at different times. Where is your best place to write?

~Don

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Blog Writing Tips, The Writing Process, Time Management, Writer's Block

Stay Focused! Five Tips for Summer Writing

By My Web Writers

With the warm weather of summer comes a variety of distractions that pull everyone outdoors.  Some writers have the option of sitting outside and enjoying a glass of iced tea while they write on their laptops, while others rely heavily on indoor, desktop computers for their major writing projects.  What is the best way to combat the beautiful summer weather and concentrate on getting your work done?  Here are a few tips and tricks for you to try.

  1. Make a schedule!  Especially if you have other things that demand your attention, you’ll need to make a detailed schedule.  Use bright colors and make it clear and easy-to-read.  Then, post it near your writing workspace so you’re always able to see it when you’re at work.  By doing this and checking off each task as you accomplish it, you’ll be able to stay on track.  List what your projects are and when each part is due.  Edyta and Co has a great example of office organization.
  2. Set aside time each day for writing.  Make sure your family and friends know what time you have set aside each day.  Set small goals within that time, so you’re able to chip away at the big picture.  You’ll feel a huge sense of accomplishment every time you’re able to cross something off your list.
  3. Turn your cell phone off!  Almost everyone nowadays has a cell phone that allows them access to the Internet, to Facebook, and many other things.  The easiest way to eliminate this distraction is to shut your phone off during that time you have set aside to work.  Once you focus and zone in to your tasks, time will pass quickly and you’ll be ahead of your scheduled work.
  4. A change of scenery can help.  While, yes, typically the office setting is the best in which to accomplish your work, everyone reaches the point where they cannot be inspired to write in their office anymore.  If you have a laptop, simply try working at your kitchen table.  You could even try a local coffee shop.
  5. Plan ahead!  Sometimes unforeseen circumstances pop up, but don’t fall behind!  If you get on track and keep yourself on track, you’ll be more likely to get into the habit of writing daily.  Plus, by getting into a good rhythm early in your writing project, you’ll be able to work a little bit more each day and possibly get ahead, affording yourself time if, say, family comes into town and surprises you with a visit.

Of course, you can always scale your efforts by hiring a blog writer or read  Writers- Organize Yourselves! and   Overcoming Blank Page Anxiety.

~Holly

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