Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Did you get any great cards for Valentine’s Day? Did your sweetie pen something personal and touching inside? If you did you were lucky. I have a box, a huge box, of these communications that I saved over my lifetime. It has cards, letters, notes and sometimes just a post-it-note written by a person who is no longer alive. But when I go through these items, it’s not so much the content, what they are saying, but the ability to look at their handwriting and feel that they are once again here with me.

 

Handwriting is personal. No two people have the same script. And so all those penned items contain a little bit of that person, a sort of personal DNA etched in ink. We have become too attached to the ease and speediness of online texting/e-mails, which even though they can linger for an eternity is cyperspace, do not have that personal touch. And you can’t hold them in your hands!

 

Here is what Oprah wrote in her “What I Know for Sure” column last December:

She loves one of a kind stationary sets then goes on to say that she has received letters not only from important people like Barbara Walters and Nelson Mandela but also from her nieces and cousins.  And all these are saved: “All these words live in a treasure box of letters that I cherish.” “…Words matter. And when they’re written and not just spoken, they last forever.”

 

So take some time to pen a personal note to someone you love or who you haven’t seen in a while, or who needs some good news today. You never know, that bit of ink on paper might outlive you!

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If you are a one-person writing crew, it can be a lonely place when it comes time to editing your work. We all know how a single undetected typo can destroy an entire document, set a client or boss into fits of rage, or even have the lawyers banging down your door. So what is ONE person to do?

When it all falls on your shoulders, the first thing you need to do is to put on your editor’s hat before you submit your copy. Here are the top editing tips to help you avoid those pesky mistakes and keep your copy clean:

Take your time. Speed is fine in a marathon, but not with first-rate writing. Settle in, read slowly, once for typos and once again for sense and flow. A slow initial editing helps capture the bulk of your mistakes.

Print is your pal. Onscreen proofing is okay for quick fixes, but if you really want to see the errors in their sharpest resolution, print it out.

Say it out loud. Reading writing aloud will often reveal holes in composition, grammar gone awry or convoluted sentence structure

Don’t be spellbound by the spellchecker. As we all know, software grammar and spellchecker tools are often real dummies, clueless about how humans write, offering corrections where none is needed. And they don’t flag homophones, e.g., “to,” “too” and “two,” nor see a “you” when a “your” is needed. Don’t give them your 100% trust.

Don’t assume anything. When it comes to dates, addresses, telephone numbers and peoples names, verify that you have the correct version, then check out that the version you have in your copy matches.

Stash it away. Now it’s time to give it a rest. If you can, put the document away for 24 hours. That way your “blind” spot, that is the familiarity you have with the text, will go away and a fresh look will have those undetected errors jumping off the page at you!

Let’s wrap up with some cases that will have you laughing or cringing but illustrate just how frustrating it can be to produce “perfect” copy”

Typo Tales & Tactics courtesy of  Marcia Yudkin, weekly email newsletter, The Marketing Minute.  (Subscribe to it, free, now.  Copyright 2004-2015 Marcia Yudkin.  All rights reserved.)

Typos are not just a 21st century plague. In 1631, English royal printers Robert Barker and Martin Lucas reproduced the 783,137 words of the King James Bible with only one typo.  For this achievement, they had their business license yanked and had to pay a fine of £300 (equivalent to about $50,000 today). Why? They printed the seventh commandment as “Thou shalt commit adultery.” Only 11 copies of the so-called Wicked Bible survive today. Most were burned.

“To be or to be.” That’s how one of the most famous sentences in the English language began several years ago in a new edition of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” Six professional proofreaders failed to catch the mistake, which received national publicity and gave the publishing company a red face. (Great example of the “blind spot”:  you’ve seen that phrase so often, the wrongly written one appears to your eyes as you always see it.)

In late March 2008, Arkansas governor Mike Beebe called the state assembly into special session partly to deal with a typo in a 2007 law that had mistakenly allowed girls of any age (even infants) to marry with their parents’ consent. A special session costs taxpayers about $25,000 a day.

Here is a comment Marsha made and I see this on websites from amateur personal ones to corporate big ones:

“Occasionally I encounter marketers who insist spelling or typos don’t matter. ‘No one really cares,’ their argument goes. ‘It humanizes the copy, and besides, everyone knows what we mean.’

Oh, really? A spell-check service whose motto is ‘no more embarrassing errors’ itself uses ‘then’ where ‘than’ is correct. Will potential clients really laugh this off?”

Indeed, it isn’t easy to proofread your own copy. But if you can’t engage a “second pair of eyes” apply these tips to achieve at least 99% accuracy. To err is human so be aware that an error will slip in eventually. Just make sure it isn’t someone’s name, corporation, phone number, or an amount of money!

Business writing normally is not an emotionally charged task for a writer. It’s all about aligning facts and creating a story that generates emotions in the reader with the goal to inform or lead to action. However, we write for many different purposes and sometimes, with non-business writing, you as the writer must deal with an emotionally charged topic. This can be the most difficult writing to undertake. 

Writing about emotionally charged topics has two sides to it. First you have to deal with your emotions in having to write the piece, and second, you must find the proper words and voice to craft the piece.

The types of projects that can be difficult to write range from having to create copy for something you don’t like or is opposite your point of view, contacting companies that you’re not satisfied with their services, recommendations for terminated employees, a blog post to get your point of view across for something you feel passionate about but might offend someone, or crafting a letter to a friend in difficulty. As a poet I also have to craft poems for specific occasions and to express intimate sentiments to individuals. Hardly as easy as writing one about the delights of summer!

Here are 10 tips on how to make the task easier: 

1. Write out what you want the piece to accomplish. This will help you stay on topic and not digress.

2. Know your audience. Is it one person? Then your job is easier. Try to get some information on that person and his/her’s orientation to the subject matter. If not an individual, than think as to who would be your readership, what are their points of view, likes, dislikes.

3. Make a list of “hot” words. Ones that you want to use to trip off emotions and ones you must avoid. 

4. Come from an objective, not a subject point of view. Even if you are writing to a friend, starting from the topic’s “big picture” will help you most.

5. Revise, revise, revise. This is the type of writing that takes many passes and revisions. So start with a “brain dump” before you even consider writing the “draft”.

6. If the going is really difficult, you could be dealing with a blocked emotion. Separately write out what you are feeling, either about the topic or the piece.

7. As you reread a version, ask yourself if this is the emotional tone you want to get across.

8. Read it out loud, than read it to someone else to for feedback. What you think it is saying, when someone else is reading it might pick up an entirely different emotion.

9. All of the above are especially important if this is going to be an e-mail or internet posting. Be doubly sure you have crafted it the best way possible before you hit the send button. Remember, cyberspace is unforgiving! 

10. If you are stuck, talk to someone about it. Or read other similar pieces that you’ve written in the past. I sometimes reread a lot of my old poems to get inspired.

I  have written poems about 9/11 and Ground Zero (view my writings in my World Trade Center Journal and I can tell you they were some of the most difficult pieces to do. Each year I also have to write a poem to read at my town’s 9/11 ceremony. How, after 13 years do you keep that emotionally fresh? And how do you make it specific to the 2001 event and yet not “beat a dead horse”? But my most difficult one was to write about an artist friend of mine who passed away. This poem was to be posted on a gallery’s website AND given to his grieving family. All emotionally heavy duty stuff that you will probably never have to deal with. But the method of attacking the topic, getting through the writing, and producing an excellent piece of writing that’s spot on is still the same. I hope these 10 tips will help you the next time you are faced with this type of writing.

 

Quote of the Week

Posted: June 25, 2014 in Quotes
Tags: , , ,

“Words are a form of action, capable of influencing change.” – Ingrid Bengis

 

Writing a blog isn’t difficult. It’s a conversation between you and your readers. Deceptively simple but making it all the more easy to miss producing posts of substance and quality. Like all writing, there are pitfalls to watch for. Here are 10 tips to help you blog (w)rite.

1. Identify your audience and decide what you’re going to say that will make them want to read what you write. Also take into consideration that there are different types of readers and you need to adjust your writing or you will lose them.

2. Decide on the overall purpose of your blog. The clearer you are about your purpose, the more consistently you will deliver messages that are on target.

3. Keep your posts centered on one or two topics. Don’t try to cover everything in one post.

4. Keep your blog posts short and simple. Write succinctly. Words that don’t relate to your topic or add value should be left out. People reading online are usually “scanners”. So get to the point quickly.

5. Keep it lively, make it snappy and snazzy. Write like you talk, using common expressions from speech. For structure, keep in mind the journalist’s rule of 5 W’s in the first paragraph: who, what, when, where and why. 

6. Use a clear but captivating headline. Capture your reader’s attention by making a bold statement. Make it snazzy and use key words.

7. Proof-read for typos and grammatical errors, especially for the gotchas that your word processor won’t detect (there vs their, its vs it’s). You wouldn’t go out of the house with missing a sock, so why publish your spelling mistakes? It shows respect for your readers that you went that extra mile to polish your writing.

8. Try to avoid marketing-speak or jargon or bragging about how great your business is. Aim for a fresh, unique take on your topic. Provide a viewpoint that is heartfelt, and compelling. That will have the potential to help you subtly market yourself and your business.

9. Blogging is about writing. Remember that blogging is not about making sales. Don’t use your blog as only a self-promotion tool. Your blog should provide information and value to your readers. Use the written word effectively and you will have an effective blog which ultimately will make you be seen as a subject expert and draw business to you.

 10. One more time: Blogging is about writing and having something interesting to write about!

 

Now go and blog (w)rite!

Since Stephen King has a summer TV series hit “Under the Dome”, I thought a quote from him would be appropriate:

“One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones.” – Stephen King

“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” –  E. L. Doctorow