Category Archives: Writing Tips

For Better Writing, Get Rid of “That”

Lucy-gives-writing-adviceOne of the easiest ways to tell if you are working with a beginner-level copywriter is to count how many times they use the word “that.”

Many years ago, when I was cutting my teeth as a business writer, I made the same mistake. Then my editor told me to go back over my copy and edit out every time I used the word “that”. He said it would make my copy stronger, and you know, he was right. Although the use of “that” might be grammatically correct, it is unnecessary and overused.

Now, there are times when you need to use the word “that,” but most times it is superfluous to the copy. Effective copy needs to be brief and clear. If you are using the word “that,” you are using too many words in your sentence. How can you cut back the sentence to make a more powerful and interesting statement?

Can you see the difference in this example?

  • Original:  Margot said that she was going to take dancing lessons so that she would someday become a great ballerina.
  • Better said:  Margot planned to take dancing lessons, hoping to someday become a great ballerina.

If it is a person, use “who.”

When writing about a person, use the word “who” instead of “that,” as in this example:

  • Original:  The man that held the door was wearing a green uniform.
  • Better said:  The man who held the door wore a green uniform.

Hire an Expert Business Copywriter

When you’re considering hiring a copywriter, ask for writing samples, and note how many times you see the word “that.” If it is used more than a few times, you’ll know you’re working with a beginner, and may not get the best bang for your buck. It’s a quick way to tell.

When you need powerful, effective business writing, hire an expert. Contact All the Buzz.

 

Want More Sales? Writing in Active Voice Gets Others Excited

eliminate-passive-voice-in-writingEven as a professional writer, I have to review everything I write to make sure I am writing in “active voice.” I review for it in my professional writing as well as my everyday correspondences via email or letters, and believe it or not, I usually find at least one place where I can make my writing stronger.

What is Active Voice?

When using active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action expressed in the verb: The girl brushed the dog. An example of this same sentence in passive voice would be: The dog was brushed by the girl. One tip for identifying a passive sentence is to look for the word “by.”

Why is Active Voice Important?

Active voice sentences are preferable in writing because Continue reading →

We Made a “Top 10” List!

top-10-graphicOne of the companies for which All the Buzz writes blog posts is listed as one of the “Top 10” blogs in their industry. We’re excited by the listing and the client is thrilled. Not only does their listing (holding its own against the big national companies) give credibility to their company, it elevates them in both online searches and credibility in the eyes of their customers. In addition, the client, 123JUNK, has seen a significant rise in their web traffic with regular blog posting.

The industry itself isn’t glamorous, it’s junk removal. But is an essential service that everyone needs. Here is how the listing is noted:

Top 10 Junk Removal Blogs On The Web Today

123 Junk Blog – 123 Junk was started by a college graduate who is noted by the Washington Business Journal as turning “junk heaps into gold mines.” Their blog is very business-centric and has some great posts that focus on building the customer-business relationship.

Not bad for a regional company that just opened their second location!

If you’d like to see your online traffic increase, Continue reading →

Everyone Can Write. Why Should I Hire You to Do It?

computer-typingI was at a business networking meeting today where the topic of discussion was: “What are the misperceptions about your business?”

As a writer, the most common one I hear us: “Everyone can write. Why should I hire you to do it?”

Yes, everyone CAN write. But my question back is: “Can they write well?” When you are a business owner the words you use to create your brand and attract customers can make or break you.

You have only seconds to capture someone’s attention, Continue reading →

Improve Your English: Comprise vs. Compose

comprise-vs-composeOver and over again you hear people mixing up the two words Comprise and Compose. They may sound similar, but have entirely different meanings, and are commonly confused for each other, most often with the word comprised being used where the word composed is correct.

Let’s start with the meaning of each word:

  • Comprise: Consist of
  • Compose: To make up or form by combining things, parts or elements

To do a quick check as to which word would be appropriate in your sentence, Continue reading →

Miss-Fortune for This Restaurant

missed-fortuneSometimes even the smallest amount of writing can have a big impact on your business. Take this fortune for example. I brought home several fortune cookies from a restaurant not too long ago, and just recently opened the cookie to enjoy it. Inside I found this fortune that’s shown in the picture.

At first, I thought “Wow!  A free dessert!”  Didn’t you? Then I realized what a big mistake this restaurant made.

Do you know what their colossal mistake is?

The answer: I have no idea which restaurant this fortune is from! There is no branding of the restaurant name, no website address, and no way of ever knowing who is trying to earn my repeat business.

In addition, I have not eaten at any DC restaurants. I picked up this fortune cookie somewhere in Virginia, so the copy should read “…any of our DC area restaurants….”

This is not the first time I’ve noticed this type of basic error. Unfortunately, I have seen it in flyers delivered to my house, in newspaper and magazine ads, and in online advertising.

The moral of this story is that even the smallest items need to not only provide a tempting offer, they need to brand your company. Otherwise all your effort is a big waste of money.

Professional copywriters, like myself, are savvy to the impact small messages can have, and can help you create the perfect message. Contact All the Buzz before you encounter miss-fortune too.

Does Your Marketing Copy Tell Your Story?

what's-your-storyAre you using plain, nondescriptive words on your website and marketing materials? Words that everyone else is using? If so, you might be falling into the copy dead zone.

I learned a technique as a magazine writer. As an exercise, we wrote a sentence or paragraph using ordinary words, as in this example:

  • John went to the store to buy bananas.

Then we had to replace the ordinary words and phrases with more descriptive ones, as in this example:

  • John lumbered into the small neighborhood grocery on his quest for the most perfectly ripe bananas to please his perfectionist mother.

The first sentence merely says what he does, the second sentence tells a whole story.

By simply expanding your vocabulary you can wake up your copy, make it inviting and exciting, and attract customers. After all, we don’t buy the product itself, we actually buy if for what it does for us or how it makes us feel.

Does Your Copy Just Say What You Do, or Does it Tell a Story?

How can you use an expanded vocabulary to better describe your business in a way that tells your story? Continue reading →

Is TV Teaching Us Bad Grammar?

farther-vs-further-imageAs a professional writer, I’m being driven nuts by the poor grammar used in the commercials I’m forced to see throughout the day. I also cringe at the lack of knowledge of the English language used by some of the major network broadcasters. I just want to write to them and say “No!”

Here are a couple of infractions I’ve noticed lately:

Farther vs. Further

The common rule, according to Dictionary.com, is that farther is used when discussing distances, while further is used for a figurative Continue reading →

Should You Write in Full Sentences or Fragments?

Do you get this

Do you get this “fragment” prompt?

When I run my work through Spell Check, I’m often stopped by the phrase “Fragment (consider revising.)” Does this happen to you?

While Spell Check helps me find spelling and spacing errors, it doesn’t really know about conversational writing style. Writing for blogs, the web, or social media is different than writing novels or papers. You MUST use sentence fragments.

Yes, use fragments

People don’t speak in full, formal sentences. They speak in fragments. And the point of engaging an audience is to stimulate a “conversation.” I’m sure you’ve heard people say, Continue reading →

What Does a Modern Web Writer Look Like?

My inbox today contained a great infographic titled The Perfect Anatomy of a Modern Web Writer.  It explains what we, as web writers, need in our arsenal as professional writers, as well as demonstrates what to look for when hiring a web writer. So I thought I’d share it.

The Perfect Anatomy of a Modern Web Writer

  1. image-of-modern-web-writer-infographicOutstanding Copywriting Ability.  Copywriting begins with knowing your customer’s hope and fears, her principles and problems…and then figuring out how to help her achieve her goals and ease her pains.
  2. Storytelling Skills.  Storytelling creates a narrative that spellbinds people. There’s no debate: the best web writers are also the best storytellers.

Continue reading →