Punctuation – It’s Not Just for Prudes

They say that Irish patriot Roger Casement was hung on a comma. Who’d have thought that such a tiny mark could cause such controversy? Yet that’s the effect misusing punctuation can potentially have. Certainly, in everyday communication, it can lead to misunderstandings.

Here’s why paying attention to punctuation is a good idea.

  • It removes ambiguity. A stray comma or full stop may cause people to read a different meaning from your content than what you intended.
  • It gives your sentences room to breathe. Because it divides up the text, the text is easier to read and people have a chance to pause and digest your points.
  • It adds a professional sheen to your content. Punctuation in its right place shows that you’re serious about what you do.

Caring about punctuation is not just the preserve of people who keep a copy of Eats, Shoots and Leaves* in their pockets. Good use of punctuation on a business website makes it easier for customers to understand what you’re about and to buy from you. And for writers, it means editors are more likely to take their word seriously. Ultimately, caring about punctuation means money in the bank.

*Eats, Shoots and Leaves, by Lynn Truss, is a book that takes a humorous and enlightening look at how punctuation has changed over the years.

Advertisements

Content Plans – Your Secret Weapon in Selling Your Business

In a case of life imitating art, the owners of baby-gift website Baby Elephant became parents. Keeping their business afloat and in the public eye was no small challenge. Yet they managed to keep growing and marketing the business, even getting an interview slot on The Sunday Business Post. How did they do it? With a content plan.

A content plan is similar to a marketing plan, but it focuses exclusively on how you can sell your business through words. Before you can market your business, you need to define your core message and what makes it different. A content plan helps you to do that.

The ingredients for your content plan include:

  • Angle – the hook that draws people to your business.
  • Goals – what your business hopes to achieve for your customers.
  • Services – define precisely what your services offer, the common thread between them and what they achieve for your customers.
  • Customer benefits – how your business solves their problems, how they will feel after they have bought from you, how it enhances their lives.
  • Tagline – a catchy slogan that captures the essence of your business in one line. Don’t worry if you can’t think of one; some businesses lend themselves more to taglines than others.
  • Types of content – identify the types of content that are most likely to capture your customers. If it’s your website that’s most popular, concentrate your efforts there. Or it may be a brochure or email.
  • Media plan – Identify the publications and programmes that are relevant to your business and that your customers subscribe to.
  • Social media plan – Similar to the media plan, identify the social media platforms where your customers are most present and plan the content that’s likely to engage them.

And most importantly of all:

  • Deadlines. Commit yourself to a plan of action which will help you release your content consistently and regularly to your customers, whether it’s a press release once a month, or a newsletter every Thursday.

There’s no denying that a good content plan takes time. So why should you create one?

  • It actually saves you time. It speeds up the process of creating content, because you already have a basic framework for generating ideas.
  • Because you’ve already gathered your thoughts, it’s easier to produce content even when you’re busy.
  • If you’re asked about your business at a networking event, you’ll be able to do your business justice because you’ll have put thought into what makes it stand out.
  • You are the best person to market your business. And the content plan gives you the power to do that.

Finally.

  • It gives the edge to your business. Not many businesses have tapped into the power of selling themselves through words. Your content plan will help you stand out from the crowd.

 

 

 

 

Therapeutic vs Creative Writing

How many of you poured your hearts out in a teenage diary? Did you feel cleansed afterwards? There’s no doubt that for anyone with a writerly spirit, writing can be a useful form of therapy. It helps us get rid of the toxic waste that pours into our system from so many sources and rebalances our view of ourselves and our world.

What people don’t always realise is that there is a subtle difference between therapeutic and creative writing. Therapeutic writing is writing for release and for comfort. Creative writing is writing to tell stories, to invent characters, to find new ways of explaining universal concepts. In summary, therapeutic writing is for yourself, creative writing is for yourself and for others.

Some people fail to make this distinction and believe that creative writing groups and classes are a good outlet for their therapeutic writing. This puts the other people in the group in the awkward position of having to evaluate writing that is extremely raw. Critiquing it means belittling that person’s experience. Ultimately, it’s not going to be helpful to the person either. They clearly want to reach out, but a counsellor will be in a better position to give them the support they need.

Creative writers draw on their own experiences for their writing as well. The difference is that they use their characters and their words to give shape to that experience and to build a new world. Not only are they cleansing themselves, but they’re taking their life experience and using it to create something beautiful, something that resonates with other people. Think about how powerful that can be.

 

 

Doing Business as a Speccer

I’ve decided to come clean. After two years of running my copywriting service, WriteWords Editorial and delivering creative writing classes, I thought it was about time I shared with you what it is like to do business as a visually impaired person – or speccer as I like to call myself. Most of the time, my sight loss doesn’t impinge on my work. All I need to run my business is a computer with a magnifier, Internet access and change for taxis.

Still, I had an experience this week that I think neatly illustrates both the advantages and the disadvantages of doing business as a speccer. I was invited to speak to a women’s network. I needed to get a taxi to the hotel, as like many of these business meetings, it was held in a place more accessible to cars than pedestrians.

As it was my home town, I knew the taxi driver and knew his car was silver. So when I saw a silver car, I opened the door to find it wasn’t him. When I got to the hotel, the entrance had a glass door. I put my hand out to open it and groped empty air.

The talk itself went well. I always use PowerPoint, even though I can’t read the slides, since I know people like to have something to look at. And because I have to learn off my notes, I look really brainy. Since faces are a blur, I don’t feel subject to the crowd’s laser-beam stare, so that reduces the fear factor considerably.

I talked about public speaking being more feared than spiders or death and my slide had a picture of a spider. Moments later, I heard muffled laughter. And one of the women informed me that a spider was hovering in front of me. It was probably fortunate for the spider that I didn’t see him; he would have met a grisly death.

On the way home, having lurched my way down a landmine step that materialised just outside the entrance of the hotel, the taxi driver apologised for teasing me. Then he did something worse. He said he felt sorry for me.

Since I have x-ray vision in speccer terms, it’s easy for me to forget that my visual impairment does affect me at times. If I did speak up about it, the people I meet would know why I seem to blank them, or can’t immediately lay my hands on where things are. And it would help them see that people with disabilities of all kinds can make a useful contribution to the business environment.

This blog also appears on www.kanchi.org, an organisation which promoted employment opportunities for people with disabilities.