Ten Things I Wish I Knew as a Beginning Writer

I’ve been writing for over 30 years. The writing bug bit me when I was about 10. I was away at summer camp for two weeks and my father, a professional writer, would write to me every day. He’d tell me about the goings-on at home and ask about camp life. At night, before lights out, I’d pick up pen and paper and write back.

In one letter he wrote: “Gee, you write an interesting letter. I read it last night…and liked it very much. You’re going to follow in your father’s footsteps as a writer except you’ll be so much better.”

Years later—after numerous jobs—I am a professional writer, too. What took so long? Mistakes and procrastination. If I could go back in time, there are 10 things I’d tell my 10-year-old self about writing.

  1. Learn the basic mechanics of writing and grammar. Take an online or continuing education writing course and attend webinars or workshops.
  2. Observe. This is the basis of all writing. If you can’t observe the world around you, you can’t write.
  3. Tweak. Tweak. Then tweak some more. There’s nothing worse than finding a typo after you’ve hit “Send.”
  4. Don’t kid yourself. Writing isn’t easy. It requires discipline, hard work, commitment, patience and a sense of humor.
  5. Read voraciously. Reading others’ work expands your vocabulary and makes you a better writer.
  6. Develop your own unique voice and don’t compromise your style. That’s what sets you apart.
  7. Let go of your fear of failure (or success). Don’t think about publishing, royalties, New York Times’ reviews or bestsellers. Just write.
  8. Take your craft seriously. Create a sacred space to write that’s quiet and free from interruptions.
  9. Writing is a form of self-expression. It’s a therapeutic, lifelong journey of self-discovery.
  10. Enjoy what you do. Otherwise it’s an incredible waste of time.

Many barriers can stop you from being a writer. You don’t have the right mindset or good writing habits. Or maybe you need to focus on boosting your creativity.

It took me a long time to think of myself as a writer. Even when I was already a published author, I didn’t consider myself a “real” writer.

Then one day, I found a saying that helped me realize I was already a writer.

“A writer writes.”

Posted in Recent Posts, Uncategorized, Writing Tips | 2 Comments

One or Two Spaces after a Sentence?

The “two space” rule dates back to the days of printers and typesetters when more space was needed to illustrate the difference between the spacing between words (which was smaller) and the spacing between sentences (which was bigger). The average writer didn’t have to think about it.

With the advent of the typewriter, suddenly everyone could create printed texts. At that time, there was only one font and all the letters took up the same amount of space. That meant the skinny “l” and wider “w” occupied the same amount of space. The emspace spacing standard was approximated by the typewriter by using one space after words and two after sentences. Thus the so-called two-space rule was born.

In the mid-20th century, that standard began to change. Improved typesetting technology made it easier to print texts with uniform spacing. When computers came on the scene, word processing programs started offering a plethora of fonts, each of which was programmed to space characters proportionally. In this case, “l” takes roughly one-third of the space that “w” does. In turn, most computer fonts will automatically give you enough room between sentences with one space. According to most stylebooks, such as The Associated Press Stylebook and The Chicago Manual of Style, you always use a single space after a sentence. Also, page designers encourage people to use one space. If your document has two spaces, they have to go in and remove the extra spaces.

Some think the double space looks messy because it leaves holes and “rivers” in blocks of text. Some think the double space makes it easier to process sentence breaks. Others think it’s easier to type one space. While still others think it’s easier to type two spaces because that’s how they learned it.

These days, the two space style is sometimes preferred for pre-publication manuscripts but most work is published with the one space style. If you’re texting on your iPhone you can have it both ways—a quick double space with your thumb will come out as a period with one space after it. That shortcut pairs the traditional typing action with the modern look, reconciling both factions through technology, the very thing that drove the wedge between them in the first place.

Even if you don’t care either way, when you’re typing something, you have to choose between the two.

How many spaces do you use?

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Posted in Recent Posts, The Grammar Guru | 1 Comment

10 Tips to Pack Your Personality into Your Content

Know what the secret is to keeping your readers engaged? You! Infusing your personality into your content goes a long way. Writing content that’s entertaining, however, can be challenging. Here are ten tips to pack your personality into your content.

Tell a good story. People love stories. The fact that we have been telling them since prehistoric man first gathered around the fire proves that. The trick is to come up with one that’s entertaining and has a message.

Appeal to your reader’s emotions. Pack your writing with emotionally charged words. Tell stories that elicit responses and shape the tone of your content to fit those emotions.

Ask rhetorical questions. This gets your readers thinking for themselves. A little goes a long way. Rule of thumb is not to include more than two rhetorical questions per 500 words.

Don’t forget formatting. Making good use of paragraph spacing, bold type, italicized fonts and bulleted or numbered lists make your content more pleasing to the eye.

Expand your vocabulary. Choosing words that go beyond what people hear every day is a great way to inject your personality into your content. Don’t overdo it. Flooding your content with too much high-brow language can backfire and make your reader lose interest.

Be interested in your topic. Have an interest and appreciation for your topic before you begin writing. Your results will speak for themselves.

Read entertaining content. If you’re serious about making your content sing, read magazines, pick up a book and follow blogs. It will make you a better writer.

Include fascinating facts. We read for two reasons: to be entertained and to learn. Research your topic to find fascinating facts and sprinkle them throughout your piece.

Build suspense. This is the holy grail of writing. It’s also one of the most coveted skills a writer can have. Ask yourself what the most interesting part of your piece is and build toward its reveal.

Write like you talk. Write with the same voice and enthusiasm as if you’re telling a story to a friend. Communicate as clearly and personally as you do in everyday life and your personality automatically infuses itself into your writing.

The bottom line is staying true to who you are. Don’t try to adapt someone else’s writing style. Everyone has their own unique voice. Make sure you’re always using yours.

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10 Tips for Mastering Twitter

twitter-1

When it comes to social media, Twitter is a force to be reckoned with. Since it launched in July 2006, nearly 313,000,000 active Twitter users are sending 58 million tweets every day.

With so many active users, adding Twitter to your online marketing arsenal—if you haven’t done so already—is a smart move.

Whether you’re an old pro or just starting out, here are ten tips for mastering Twitter

  1. Don’t just tweet headlines and links. Mix things up with quotes, questions or interesting details. Inject some life into those tweets.

2.  Know how to use the @ symbol. It marks the beginning of a user’s Twitter handle. Use it whenever you want to mention someone and call their attention to your tweet.

3. Understand the hashtag. Using this symbol is a fun and useful way to start and track conversations. Be smart about how you use it. Don’t hashtag just any string of words. Instead, use meaningful hashtags related to the conversation and that people might search for.

4. Quality not quantity. Don’t tweet simply for the sake of tweeting. Filling someone’s feed with low-quality content can cause them to unfollow you.

5. Be patient. Building a sizeable following from scratch takes time. Start retweeting, replying to and favoriting other people’s tweets. Be sure to tweet valuable content.

6. Be engaged. Pay attention to what others are tweeting and who’s retweeting and reply to your tweets. Respond to questions.

7. Avoid the dead zone. You’re tweeting valuable content. You’re engaged and engaging but what if you’re doing it when your followers aren’t on Twitter? The “sweet spot” for tweeting is said to be between 1 and 3 pm.

8. Monitor Twitter’s data. Use it to track who’s talking about your brand, what they’re saying and areas where you can improve.

9. Get creative with photos and video. There’s nothing like pictures and videos to engage your followers. Vine lets you create six-second videos and share them on Twitter.

10. If you can’t beat ‘em, mute ‘em. Sometimes even those you enjoy following can get annoying. Don’t unfollow them. Mute them. You can always un-mute them.

As with any social platform, don’t expect overnight success on Twitter. It takes time to build a following and master the art of tweeting. But your efforts will pay off in the long run in the form of brand enthusiasts and loyal customers.

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Three Ways to Boost Your Social Media Marketing Video

video-marketing-2Show, don’t tell, especially when it comes to social media marketing. Videos stand out, giving potential customers a brief overview of your product or service without overwhelming them with text. In under 30 seconds, they can get the necessary information about your business through a short, visually appealing video.

With busy schedules and long to-do lists, many business owners—myself included—fail to stay on top of their social media marketing strategies. Instead, we keep doing what we’ve always done and getting the same results we always did.

One way to re-energize your social media marketing efforts is to create a short, shareable video. Here are three ways to do that.

  1. Create an engaging video. The best way to convert social media followers into clients is getting them on your mailing list and have them visit your landing page. That is where they’ll find your video highlighting the value your product or service provides. To get the most from your lead generating video:
  • Keep it short (2 minutes or less)
  • Be genuine
  • Get their attention with premium offers
  • Support your pitch
  • Finish with a call to action (CTA)
  1. Coordinate cross-channel social promotion. This requires a planned marketing effort that spans across multiple social media channels, like Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. Keep your tone and message consistent while presenting your video in the best light on each platform. Unite all your social content with the same theme while sharing blog posts and images that tie into your video. This will entice your social media followers to become customers or clients. Make “them an offer they can’t refuse,” like a webinar or a free ebook, that offers solutions to common problems.
  2. Maximize your video’s shareability and drive traffic to your landing page. Here are some easy to implement, platform-specific suggestions.
  • Upload your video to YouTube. Give it a catchy, relevant title, add a URL and an engaging CTA. Get a greater ROI by adding a link to your landing page.
  • Share your video in a status update on Facebook with a clear CTA. Increase traffic with promoted posts and Facebook ads.
  • Tweet your YouTube video link and a link to your landing page.

Video marketing is a great way to make your business stand out. When done correctly, it can help you convert social media followers into clients or customers.

For more information and tips on writing and editing visit www.theysonewriting.com or email info@theysonewriting.com.

Posted in Marketing Your Small Business, Recent Posts, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

10 Tips for Writing a Call-to-Action that Sells

Call-to-actionA call-to-action (or CTA) is just that—a call to take an action. You want to get their attention, encourage an action or make a sale.

The action you want visitors or customers to take could be anything from downloading an ebook to getting a coupon or attending a webinar. You can put it anywhere—on your website, in your ebook or email or at the end of your blog post.

When creating your first CTA, it’s easy to get confused and end up with something people won’t click on.

Here are ten tips for writing a CTA that sells.

  1.  Know your audience. Identify a problem they can relate to and present your product or service as a solution.

2.   Use action verbs and phrases. They compel your visitors to perform a task, which is the point of a CTA.

3.   Be direct. You have to let your visitors know exactly what you do and what you want them to do.

4.   Be different. Figure out what makes your product or service special and incorporate it into your CTA. If you have the best product selection or the most years of experience, then say so.

5.   Be creative. Evoke emotion, whether it be humor, need or desire, and your visitors will more likely become leads.

6.   Be simple. Your CTA will be more effective if your visitors are only asked to complete one task. Asking them to perform multiple tasks can be confusing and cause them to lose interest.

7.   Create a sense of urgency. A time limitation or feeling of importance makes your CTA stronger because it adds a sense of urgency. For example, “Call us today” gives visitors a firm  measurement of time. “Call now” is more urgent and implies that your offer won’t last forever.

8.   Answer visitors’ questions. They want to know what will happen if they follow your CTA and how doing so benefits them.

9.   Make an offer they can’t refuse. A special offer can go a long way toward convincing skeptics to follow your CTA. For example, “Order today and get half-off your shipping costs.”

10.  Be repetitive. Say it in different ways and places. Repeating your CTA makes it more effective.

When it comes to your CTA, practice makes perfect. Your best ideas will likely come once you’re more familiar with the process.

Interested in learning more or hiring a freelance writer? Contact me at info@theysonewriting.net or visit theysonewriting.com/sign-up and schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation.

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How Much Do You Know about Copyright Law?

Copyright Law 1Whether blogging, creating website content or engaging in social media marketing, you have to play by the rules. Technology makes it easy to copy, alter and share information, no matter what form it takes. Understanding the Copyright Law that affects those words, however, can be a bit more complicated.

Here are some Dos and Don’ts that will clarify what you can and cannot do as an online publisher.

DO:

Use material under public domain. It’s free. Works aren’t restricted by copyright and don’t require a license or fee to use.

Quote something interesting. Short quotation scan be used for criticism, commentary or news reporting are “fair use” as long as it includes a small portion of the work.

Use materials not subject to copyright. They include names, familiar symbols, short phrases, titles and slogans. Some may be trademark protected.

Use a company name or logo if you’re talking about it. Trademarks protect a company from someone trying to use its name or logo to deceive customers. If you’re critiquing or evaluating a company, however, you can use its name or logo under a “nominative fair use.”

Use a company name on your domain. This right applies to domain names. You can use a company’s name as long as you aren’t trying to deceive people that you speak on behalf of the company or are related to it in any way.

DON’T:

Assume if you credit the author there’s no copyright infringement. You can only use copyrighted material if you have the author’s permission or make fair use of it.

Copy material because there’s no copyright message. In 1978, Copyright Law abolished the requirement for copyright notice. That meant every published work (paper or digital) automatically gets copyright protection, with or without a notice.

Copy material simply because you’re not making a commercial use. Commercial use per se isn’t a requirement for copyright infringement. Even if you’re not making a commercial use, you’re still infringing the law if you don’t have the author’s permission.

Assume it’s okay if you remove the copyrighted material. Removing copyrighted material doesn’t remove the copyright infringement.

Copy material simply because you can’t find a copyright holder: Just because you can’t identify a copyright holder doesn’t mean the material can be freely copied.

Want to learn more about copyright law? Check out some of these books.

This article wasn’t written by a legal professional and doesn’t intend to constitute legal advice.

Posted in Recent Posts, Writing Tips | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

10 Things I Wish I Knew as a Beginning Writer

Beautiful inspired smiling young woman writing in notepad sitting in the roomI’ve been writing for over 30 years. The writing bug bit me when I was about 10. I was away at summer camp for two weeks and my father, a professional writer, would write to me every day. He’d tell me about the goings-on at home and ask about camp life. At night, before lights out, I’d pick up pen and paper and write back.

In one letter he wrote: “Gee, you write an interesting letter. I read it last night…and liked it very much. You’re going to follow in your father’s footsteps as a writer except you’ll be so much better.”

Years later—after numerous jobs—I am a professional writer, too. What took so long? Mistakes and procrastination. If I could go back in time, there are 10 things I’d tell my 10-year-old self about writing.

  1. Learn the basic mechanics of writing and grammar. Take an online or continuing education writing course and attend webinars or workshops.
  2. Observe. This is the basis of all writing. If you can’t observe the world around you, you can’t write.
  3. Tweak. Tweak. Then tweak some more. There’s nothing worse than finding a typo after you’ve hit “Send.”
  4. Don’t kid yourself. Writing isn’t easy. It requires discipline, hard work, commitment, patience and a sense of humor.
  5. Read voraciously. Reading others’ work expands your vocabulary and makes you a better writer.
  6. Develop your own unique voice and don’t compromise your style. That’s what sets you apart.
  7. Let go of your fear of failure (or success). Don’t think about publishing, royalties, New York Times’ reviews or bestsellers. Just write.
  8. Take your craft seriously. Create a sacred space to write that’s quiet and free from interruptions.
  9. Writing is a form of self-expression. It’s a therapeutic, lifelong journey of self-discovery.
  10. Enjoy what you do. Otherwise it’s an incredible waste of time.

Many barriers can stop you from being a writer. You don’t have the right mindset or good writing habits. Or maybe you need to focus on boosting your creativity.

It took me a long time to think of myself as a writer. Even when I was already a published author, I didn’t consider myself a “real” writer.

Then one day, I found a saying that helped me realize I was already a writer.

“A writer writes.”

Posted in Recent Posts, Uncategorized, Writing Tips | 2 Comments

Top 10 Grammar Myths

GrammarWhen you think about the rules of grammar, don’t be afraid to challenge what appears silly or useless. It probably isn’t really a rule.

Here are 10 grammar myths that prove that point.

1. A run-on sentence is a long sentence.

False. Run-on sentences aren’t long. They’re sentences without punctuation or conjunctions—long or short. “I’m short she is tall” is a run-on.

2. Never begin a sentence with “however.”

Wrong. Contrary to belief, you can start a sentence with “however.” You just need to know when to use a comma. Without a comma, “however” means “in whatever manner” or “to whatever extent.” When followed by a comma, it means “nevertheless.”

3. “Irregardless” isn’t a word.

False. It is but not a proper one. People often use it when they mean “regardless.” Regardless means “regard less” or “without regard.” The prefix “ir” is a negative one so adding it to an already negative word makes it a double-negative.

4. There’s only one way to write the possessive form of a word ending in “s.”

Wrong. It’s a style choice. In the phrase “Arkansas’s capital,” you can put an apostrophe at the end or an apostrophe “s.” Both are acceptable.

5. Passive voice is always wrong.

False. Passive sentences aren’t wrong. They’re just not always the best way to phrase your thoughts. With passive voice, it’s easy to leave out whoever’s responsible for the action.

6. I.e. and e.g. mean the same thing.

Wrong. Both are abbreviations for Latin terms. I.e. means “that is” and e.g. means “for example.”

7. Use “A” before words beginning with consonants and “An” before those starting with vowels.

False. “A” is used before words beginning with consonant sounds and “an” before those beginning with vowel sounds.

8. It’s incorrect to answer “How are you?” with “I’m good.”

Wrong. “Am” is a linking verb and should be modified by adjectives, like “good.” Since “well” also works as an adjective “I’m well” is also acceptable.

9. Don’t split infinitives.

False. Infinitives are a two-word form of a verb (e.g., to tell). In a split infinitive, another word separates the two parts (e.g., to boldly tell).

10. Never end a sentence with a preposition.

Wrong. There are many sentences where the final preposition is part of a phrasal verb or it’s a key point in the sentence.

The lesson here? The sillier grammar rules aren’t rules at all, just misconceptions.

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Use This Simple Checklist Before Publishing Your Blog

Use this checklist Before You Publish Your Next Blog PostBloggers go to great lengths to publish well written content. Regardless of the topic, they do everything in their power to get it just right before hitting “Publish.” Every once in a while, however, something falls through the cracks. It could be something as simple as a misspelled word or you forgot to add your affiliate links. The good news is you can avoid those mistakes by using this simple checklist before publishing your blog posts.

Your Title: Does it catch the reader’s eye? Is it interesting enough to get them to click on it and read your post? Are all the words spelled correctly?

Proofread Your Post: Check for misspelled words. Read it out loud and/or enlist a second set of eyes.

Call-to-Action: Do you have a CTA at the end of your post? You have your reader interested and engaged now it’s time to get them involved. Pose a question and ask them to respond in the comment section, ask them to subscribe to your email list or send them to your website with a link.

Links: If your post has links make sure they’re working and are redirecting to the correct page. If you want your link to open in a new page make sure that’s checked, too.

Affiliate Links: Affiliate marketing is “a marketing practice in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought about by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts.” Is there a product or service in your post you can include an affiliate link with? If there is, be sure to include a disclosure for your link and check that it’s working correctly.

Internal Links: Does your post have a link redirecting your readers to another one of your blog posts? Be sure the earlier post you’re linking to has updated links and no misspelled words.

Images: If you’re using images or photos on your blog be sure they’re clear and easy to pin.

SEO Friendly: Are your title and blog post SEO friendly? Are you using the right keyword or keyword phrase? By using the right keywords, you’ll increase the visibility of your content and drive even more traffic to your website or blog.

Sponsored Post: A sponsored post is when a blogger receives payment to publish an article provided by the sponsor or written by the blogger. If your post is sponsored, be sure to use the appropriate disclosure for your readers. It can’t be hidden. It MUST be before your first outbound sponsored or affiliate link. It’s important to follow all the instructions for the post, such as whether it needs no follow links or specific images.

Permalinks: A permalink is the link to an individual blog post. Be sure yours is short, makes sense and includes your keywords.

What are some things you do before you publish a new blog post?

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