Category Archives: Writing Resources

20 Questions to Ask Yourself about Copy before Starting a Project

As a business owner preparing for a project on your website can be a long process that is difficult to organize. Even as a writer it is easy to be overwhelmed at the beginning of a new project. To help overcome any potential problems it is very important to solidify the details of the project before the writing can start. Having these twenty questions clearly answered can make writing projects much easier for all involved.

Courtesy of Flickr.com user Milos Milosevic

Courtesy of Flickr.com user Milos Milosevic

What is the Project?

Is the project a small update to reflect a new season, is it starting a new blog to appeal to a new audience, or is it a full site upgrade? Without this information clearly stated it is impossible to accurately plan the rest of the project.

Why Create Content?

Once you decide what the project is it is important to know the reason for starting that project. Are there some pages that are outdated, poorly written, not SEO optimized, or is it something else? Knowing why a new project is being started makes sure that all the appropriate changes are made to what doesn’t work and what is working is left alone.

Is the Content Going to be Reused?

Is the content going to only be used once or will it be used again and again? Content that is intended to be reused will use evergreen phrases that will maintain their meaning for years to come.

Who is the Target Audience?

Your writers will need to know this information before they can start writing quality content for your project. Content that is written without a clear audience sounds too general and won’t give you any lasting connection with your audience.

What Need Does the Content Address?

Once you identify who the content is trying to reach you can increase your connection with them by finding a specific need or two that your company can fulfil. Knowing the needs that are being addressed means that writers can craft their content around that need.

Will There Be Any Other Requirements Beyond Writing?

A large project will have many requirements beyond writing, such as new graphic designs and videos. Having these other requirements outlined early on will eliminate a lot of last minute confusion when attempting to bring all the separate pieces together into one cohesive whole.

How Many Hours Will the Project Take?

As a project progresses the answer to this question will change but knowing this information will help to determine approximate times and dates for when the content will be ready for customers to see.

What is the Budget?

This is important to discuss especially if external writers are going to be used.

What is the Tone or Style of the Piece?

Is your company an authority who is providing information to your readers? Or are you trying to start a conversation with your customers by asking them questions throughout your content.

Does the Content Need to be SEO Optimized?

Any content that is intended to attract the attention of search engines needs to be SEO optimized. More questions will come up when deciding what keywords to use and how to provide quality content that both meets the clients’ needs as well attracting search engine algorithms.

Word Count?

Do you need short descriptions to improve SEO rankings? Or do you need longer form blog posts intended to impart information to your readers? Good word count estimates will make sure that you won’t have content that won’t be used.

What are the Guidelines the Writer Should Follow?

Are there unique services that only your company provides? Are there words or phrases that should be avoided? Understanding what should be emphasized and what should be played down can only help your writers provide you with better content.

How Many People Will be Involved? Who of Those People Have Final Approval?

Even the most collaborative projects have one individual who can give the final approval. Knowing who this person is early in the project will prevent any confusion about who has the final say on the content.

Who Comes Up with the Topics?

Do the writers have the freedom to decide what topic to write about, or will topics be provided to them? Even if you decide on a combination of the two sides a writer will be happy to know exactly what is expected of them.

Do Any Drafts Have to be Seen?

Is content expected to be seen in a rough form as well as in a finished form? Rough drafts can help ensure that all the content has the same tone but it also can increase the amount of time a project takes to finish.

What is the Rewrite Process?

No matter if drafts are expected there are always revisions to be done. The rewrite process can become confusing if it isn’t clearly outlined beforehand.

What is the Timeline? And what happens if the deadline isn’t met?

While the final deadline may be decided earlier there are many smaller deadlines that need to be met in order to meet the final deadline. Deciding the consequences of any missed deadline allows everyone to know when work is due and what will happen if it is late.

Can earlier content be reused?

When content is simply being updated, keeping the older content is useful to show what topics should be discussed on that page. Poorly written content can become a good example of what not to write.

Any Specific Sources to Cite? If Interviews are Involved, Who Finds the Subjects to Interview?

Does your company have a close relationship with another company that should be reflected in the content? Letting writers know which sources to cite before work begins makes the writing process much easier because the writers will only use approved sources.

How will Success be Measured?

Once a project is finished what determines if the project was successful or not? Success can be measured by an increase in the number of visits to or an improvement in search engine rankings. By determining how to measure the success of the project you can decide which analytic tools to use to track the success.

 

These 20 questions will help you overcome many of the common problems that come up in every copywriting project.

~Megan

 

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Filed under Content, Project Management, Proposals, Time Management, Writing Resources

How to Apply for Media Entry at Conferences and Events

Writers, did you know that you can scoop great industry stories at conferences just by asking conference coordinators for media passes?photo (20)

Visit Your Favorite Conference for the Price of a Story

In most cases, you’ll need to be a staff writer, videographer, or photographer for a credible news organization, blog, or online journal.  Even freelance writers selling stories to publications, magazines, or newspapers can qualify.

About IRCE Media Badges

Maura Bruton, Internet Retailer Press Assistant, says that you need to be a writer

“for a publication, as far as whether that’s a blog or whatever, we are looking for people who are coming to cover the show or the exhibitors.  Sometimes people are looking for a press badge in more of a sales capacity and those people do not get press badges.”

IRCE is a great show to cover topics in e-commerce, selling b-to-b, or technology. Bruton adds,

“There are a lot of stories here.  There are a lot of spokespeople, whether for companies, keynotes, speakers, or presenters.”

If the journalist asks for assistance, IRCE will provide images and arrange interviews with speakers.  Quite often speakers and companies hunt down the press at the show for free coverage.

photo (19)Credit, of course, must be given to the show and speakers for images, videos, and quotes.  IRCE offers a full-service press room during the show, coordination with speakers prior to the show, press releases, and a complimentary conference badge. The press can take pictures and videos, if speakers approve, but press tags must accompany cameras.  Online credit should be linked back to the IRCE website.

To apply for a press badge for an IRCE event, go to IRCE.com and contact the press coordinators.  They’ll review your application and get in contact with you. Bruton suggests looking at IR Events Group to find shows that fit your upcoming conference calendar.

The Perks of Writing

Even if technology isn’t your beat, many other conferences and events provide free entry to members of the press in exchange for your content creation and distribution.

Hey, you could even go to Disney World for two days on a Hopper Pass if you can prove that you write for a travel blog or are affiliated with an established news organization.  Live in New York?  Start planning your Macy’s Day parade coverage by applying for a New York press pass.

If you write for a living (or just for the fun of it), go find budding stories in your interest areas by attending conferences and special events.

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Filed under Audience, Conferences, Editors, Marketing, Reviews, Writing Careers, Writing Resources

Advanced LinkedIn Tips for Writer Research

By My Web Writers

LinkedIn is often thought of as purely a job networking site, but today’s LinkedIn can be a writer’s secret researching friend, too. We’ve dug into the LinkedIn site and found some advanced ways that it can help writers research people, articles, and stories:

Use it to Network

This is perhaps the most obvious way to use LinkedIn for research.  The network is filled with professionals and experts in every field imaginable. The key is not being afraid to ask about what you’re researching. Many writers are surprised to find that the experts are more than happy to offer material or guidance on where to find information on their area of expertise. They will probably have plenty of ideas that you never even thought of! Personally message an expert and see if they can help you out.

Join a LinkedIn Group

There are LinkedIn groups on just about every subject possible. Consider joining a group or even just taking a look at what others have been sharing. LinkedIn will suggest some groups you may like, you can join a group already established, or you can create your own group. Using Groups on LinkedIn is a great way to research. You’ll have an entire network of people ready to answer your questions or at least give you advice on where to find the best information.

Create a Poll

On your LinkedIn homepage, click on “More” and then “Polls.” Type in what you’re researching to see if anyone has already posted a poll about your topic. If they haven’t, create your own poll and see what types of responses you get. Not only can people participate in your poll, but they can comment on it as well. This is a great way to do research and your poll is open to all of LinkedIn, getting a wide range of responses for your research.

Use your Posting ModuleLinkedIn Research

If you have question you want to post to your network on LinkedIn, consider posting it in your “Posting Module” on your homepage. This is almost like a “status update” or a “Tweet.” You can decide if only people in your network can respond, or if it is open to anyone. You might be surprised at the number of responses you get to the question in your Posting Module.

Current Events

LinkedIn Today holds the latest news on the topics you’re researching. Most of this information is coming directly from the experts, not from the general news media. Use LinkedIn Today to research what the professionals are saying about your topic. You’ll find some articles and information that you might not find anywhere else.

LinkedIn might not have the actual information you are looking for when it comes to research, but it can definitely point you in the right direction if you know how to use it. Don’t be afraid to ask the experts for help, and take some time to do some digging in Groups and LinkedIn today.  ~Natalie

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Filed under Pinterest, Research Tips, Writing Resources

What is Markdown and How Do Writers Use It?

By My Web Writers

HyperText Markup Language (HTML) has long been the official way to write content for the web. The pros use it to format text in ways that the average writer will never understand unless they take the time to learn it.

But there’s a tool some writers use and many more should be using when it comes to writing for the web. It’s called Markdown, and while it’s been around for some time now, many people still don’t understand how useful it can be.

Markdown, according to its creator John Gruber, is a “text-to-HTML conversion tool for web writers. Markdown allows you to write using an easy-to-read, easy-to-write plain text format, then convert it to structurally valid XHTML (or HTML).”

For web writers, XHTML/HTML can look like a complete mess and is difficult to read. Not only that, but it can be confusing with so many codes to remember and sprinkled about your writing. Writers might worry more about the HTML formatting than about the actual content.

Markdown is especially useful for web writers because it’s fast to type. There’s no highlighting, no dragging your mouse here and there, you simply use Markdown as you’re typing. It’s also easy to read. There aren’t tags and code in the way of what you’re writing.

Give it a shot using the online Dingus.  Here is an example of something written in Markdown, using the very helpful “Syntax Cheatsheet” on the right-hand side of the screen on the online Dingus:

markdown

Then, click on “Convert” and you are shown the HTML Source, which is covered in code and other sometimes confusing markings:

HTML

And the final preview:

Final

Markdown is especially great for web writers who don’t know HTML and even more useful for web writers who have no desire to learn HTML. Writing in HTML can be a huge, intimidating beast for new web writers, while Markdown is a kinder, easier way to write web content.

One of the reasons so many web writers love Markdown is that it uses plain text files. You can write it in any app or program you like and still be sure the formatting will stay the same if you switch to another program. It’s also easily compatible with a range of applications on your desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.  Search Google Play, the iTunes Store and online for a list of apps.

Using Markdown allows web writers to focus more on their content rather than the syntax of HTML. After all, it’s really all about the content, right? Using Markdown gives web writers the opportunity to type quickly while still formatting text.  There’s no more switching from writing-mode to HTML coding-mode.

Besides being easier to write and easier to read, it’s also available free (as shown above), which is difficult to find these days. There are some more extensive versions of Markdown out there, which do cost a minimal amount, but for the average user, you can find it online for free.  ~Natalie

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Filed under Apps & Tools, Blog Writing Tips, Content, Mobile, Web Writing Tools, Writing Resources

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

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

How to Better Analyze Data and Draw Logical Conclusions

By My Web Writers

Each time you receive analytics data it is loaded with useful information. But unless you know how to interpret that information, it’s virtually worthless. Once you learn how to read and understand analytics data, it can help drive your content marketing. Whether you do the writing yourself, or you rely on the help of a copy writing service, it is imperative that you understand your analytics data.

Set Aside Time to Analyze

If you plan on flipping through an analytics report and getting anything of substance from it, you won’t learn very much. Analyzing takes time. Set aside a certain amount of time each week to really dive into your results. Analytics data does nothing for you or your business if you don’t study it and understand it.

Check for Keywords

What are the keywords that are driving people to your site? It may surprise you to find what words are and aren’t working. Experiment with keywords each week or month to see which ones are the most useful for your business. Once you know what they are, you can use them more and drive even more traffic to your website.

Take Note of the Bounce Rate

The bounce rate is a percentage of readers who visit your site on a specific page and leave without clicking to other parts of the site. This can be a huge statistic for you when trying to figure out what content is working for you and what isn’t. If you have an unusually high bounce rate for a specific page, figure out why. Was it low in key words? Did it lack good content? Check the pages with low bounce rates. What was it that kept people on your site?

However, don’t necessarily assume there must be a problem with your website or your content. There’s always the chance that the issue is with the referral traffic – what types of people are being sent to your site and why. See where those visitors who “bounce” have come from. It may give you some answers.

Email Marketing

There are very valuable statistics that come in from email marketing. Email marketing analytics can tell you how many people opened the email, how many visited your website from the email, and even which links in the email they clicked on. Over time you can analyze what your email readership found most interesting and clicked on. That way in the future, you know what will entice them.

Stay Updated

The way analytics are presented is constantly changing. Stay informed on how the information is presented and what it means for your website and what you should do with your content. Check out the video below for the latest way to read and interpret a Google Analytics report.

~Natalie

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Filed under Analytics, Research Tips, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Technical Writing, Writing Resources