Write As You Speak – your readers will love you for it

Why plain English and your own tone of voice are better than long words and jargon.

In this article you will learn about the copywriting formula WAYS which stands for write as you speak.

Do you find the prospect of writing your own copy scary? Do you still have nightmares about that prim and proper English teacher who was only too happy to scribble across your homework in red ink?

Forget about them!

If you’re one of those business owners who thinks that your English language skills are not good enough to write content and blogs for your business, I have good news for you:

You don’t have to swallow a thesaurus to write good copy.

Think about your reasons for writing in the first place.

You probably want to sell, yes. But more importantly, you want to communicate your business message clearly to your target audience.

Before anyone is going to buy from you, you need to gain their trust and your content strategy (relax, I just mean your blog) goes a long way in helping your achieve that.

Clear, concise copy in plain English is more likely to resonate with your audience (any audience) than stiff, formal  language stuffed full of pretentious words.

And the easiest way to achieve this is to use a copywriting technique called WAYS:

Write
As
You
Speak

So what do I mean by Write As You Speak?

When writing, imagine you are having a conversation with your reader.

Think of it as talking to them, rather than writing for them.

If you suffer from writer’s block, you can record your message and then you can translate it to truly write as you speak (and you edit out the ‘umms’ and ‘ahs’ if you speak like I do!)

Here are some further tips to help you achieve this less formal style of writing:

  • Don’t use long words and jargon that nobody understands.
  • Write in short, simple sentences.
  • Keep paragraphs short  – lots of white space is visually appealing to readers.
  • Don’t be afraid to start sentences with “And” and “But” (Shakespeare did it, and so can you).
  • Describe your product or service in a factual, honest manner. Explain to the reader what it is and how it will benefit them.
  • Don’t tell the reader your offer is “fantastic” or “amazing” –  if it is, they can tell you when  they come to review it.
  • Use simple punctuation and break up your copy with bullet-points.
  • Keep in mind the saying “Humour doesn’t translate”. Tread carefully with the funny talk and consider your audience.
  • There’s a train of thought that it’s good to be controversial – it’s a quick way to attract attention. It’s your call, but personally I think life’s too short for trolls and hassle. There are better ways to get attention than being deliberately provocative.

Finally, remember the importance of focussing on the reader – don’t constantly talk about yourself (trust me, I know how difficult this is).

Think about your reader’s problems and needs, and what you can do to help.

Some examples:

Instead of: “With 10 years experience, I can write content and copy to a high standard.”
Try:  “Boost your site with engaging copy, optimised to increase your chances of being found on search engines”

Instead of: “I pride myself on taking amazing photographs.”
Try: “Breathtaking imagery to bring your site to life.”  

A good rule of thumb is one “I” for every three “yous” but don’t take this too literally! Just make sure the focus is on the reader and/or their business.

You are there to provide value to them, not tell them how great you are (hopefully they will do this for you soon enough).

Feel free to give feedback and add further suggestions.

Happy writing.

Alison

Enjoy this post? Feel free to share on social media and anyone you know who would find it helpful.

About me: I’m a Freelance Copywriter based in Milton Keynes. If you’re struggling to find the time, or inclination, to write engaging blog posts for your website, I’d love to help. 

There’s a simple form on my contacts page or you can call me on 07809 599055 (if it goes to voicemail leave a message and I’ll get back asap).

 

 

 

 

Six simple tips for starting your small biz blog

If you have a new business website, or you’re in the process of building one, you’ve probably already heard that it’s a good idea to add regular blog posts.

But what if you’ve never written a blog before, have no idea where to start or can’t think what to write about?

Don’t worry! I’ve put together six actionable tips that will help you to get started today.

It’s not a short read, so grab a coffee (or something stronger), get reading and start planning.

blog post image unsplash.jpg

Image credit: Unsplash

  1. Figure out who you’re writing for (and why) 

Blogging isn’t just useful for attracting new clients. It’s also a great way to establish relationships with people in the same industry as you.

The first thing to remember is that you’re always writing for the reader, not yourself. But think carefully about who the reader is for each blog post. And always keep in mind why you do what you do. 

If you’re writing for new clients, accept that they’re unlikely to buy your product or service the first time they read your blog.

Selling isn’t your main goal here. Writing your blog is more about building trust and demonstrating your ability to do what you do.

At this stage the reader may not be ready, or have the funds, to buy from you. So your blog posts will need to be valuable or entertaining enough for them to come back and visit again.

And it does work. I have a long wish list of products and services I want for my business. I know exactly who I want to buy them from too. And it’s all down to content I’ve consumed online (blogs, social media posts, podcasts) over a longish period of time.

As well as writing for clients, consider writing for other professionals in your industry. Yes, that does mean writing for your competitors! But try not to think of it that way.

Think colleagues, future collaborators, new best friends and the prospect of writing for them will become much more appealing!

These are the people who are likely to share your content on social media, help you out in return and tip you off about new opportunities and referrals.

2. Work out what you’re going to write about and when 

blog post writer unsplash.jpg

Image credit: Unsplash 

Blogging is part of a bigger picture – your content strategy. Whoah! Buzzword alert! Content strategy sounds scary, right?

But let’s break it down and really you’re just talking about what you’re going to write, how you’re going to share it (social media, email, community groups etc) and when. 

Get a plan in place and you can tie your blog posts in with campaigns and offers, seasonal highlights of the year, key dates across the year (for example, if you’re a dentist you could plan a blog post for National Smile Week or if you’re a vet, National Smooch Your Pooch day. You get the gist.) 

And finally, you can use your plan to hold yourself accountable. 

Finding the time to write blog posts is hard, especially when you have hundreds of other jobs to do that seem more relevant to your day to day business. But a plan can help keep you on track. That’s the idea anyway. I’m working on it too. Ahem.

3. Write *helpful* headlines

I’m not a huge fan of clickbait headlines that don’t deliver on their promise or deliberately stir the pot.

My take on it is this: Do you want customers or trolls? Collaborators or attention?  If it’s trolls and attention, or you just want to go viral, I’m not the right person to advise you! Life’s too short for drama.

If you want to attract positive connections and paying clients, then being helpful is the way to go. Write headlines that are valuable, inspiring and entertaining (and deliver what you promise in the blog post, even if there’s a twist).

There’s nothing wrong with being funny. As long as you actually are. Which is tricky, as humour doesn’t always translate. So again, it’s all about knowing your audience really well.

And don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to write ultra clever, witty/sarky headlines.

Sometimes it’s better to write a headline that, as Ronseal famously put it,  “does exactly what it says on the tin”. You’re not trying to win a creative writing award. You just want to attract good, solid, contacts and customers.  

The secret is in the value of the post. If you’ve helped, inspired or entertained the reader in some way, they’re more likely to remember you and come back to read more. 

3. Include eye-catching images

blog post six tips camera unsplash.jpg

Image credit: Unsplash

As a copywriter, I guess I should tell you it’s all about the words and only the words. But I’m a sucker for a great picture. (As an ‘autism parent’ I also know the value and power of visual communication.

So I think it’s fair to say that words and images go hand-in-hand. 

Nobody likes to read long, uninterrupted blocks of text. Alongside short paragraphs and eye-pleasing white space, images help to break up text and can be used to showcase products and illustrate points.

If you have a creative business with beautiful products or designs, then it makes sense to use your own photography as it provides an extra opportunity to show off your work.

Whether you take the pictures yourself or use a professional photographer will depend on your budget and skills.

If your budget dictates DIY photography, you can get pretty good effects with iphone cameras. And bloggers cameras (such as the Olympus Pen) can capture stunning results without breaking the bank. 

If you’re a service based business, you might want to consider using stock images. You can pay for these from sites such as Fotolia and Shutterstock or sites such as Pixabay and Unsplash offer them for free.

Word of caution – always check the accreditation/licensing rules for pictures. Never steal someone else’s photography and don’t just nab an image you like from Google.

Oh and one final word on stock images. Please, I beg you, don’t use the ‘random businessman in suit, phone in hand, gazing through conference room blinds’ image. So impersonal. If you’re going to publish people pictures use people in the business, not some random (sorry conference room guy). 

GOOGLE SEARCH PIXABAY IMAGE

Image credit: Pixabay

4. Write SEO friendly copy but don’t forget it’s for humans 

SEO. Heard of it? It stands for Search Engine Optimisation. And it can mess with your head if you let it.

If you haven’t heard of SEO, you’ve almost certainly wondered how you can get your site on the first page of Google.

There’s no easy answer to this.  There really isn’t. I’m constantly learning about SEO (I’ve taken advantage of free training with Hubspot and Yoast – check them out) but I’m the first to admit I’m not an expert. Is anyone? 

But I can tell you that adding a blog to your website will help. Especially if you add content on a regular basis and share it across social media.

Think about what people are likely to search for on Google (for example, clients that contact me via my website tell me they searched for Freelance Copywriter Milton Keynes).

If you write your blog posts around your key service or product offerings, you can include keywords (and similar words) in the title, headings, subheadings and main body of your blog content.

Try to do this naturally though. Don’t add keywords in the for the sake of it as it will interrupt the flow of the text, irritate the reader and won’t do you any favours with Google.

There are tools that you can use for writing SEO-friendly copy. For example, I have the Yoast SEO plugin for my WordPress site (I’ve also completed their free training SEO for Beginners).

Such tools are useful, but I always keep your eye on the flow of the writing. I think we can get so hung up on writing for search engines that we can ruin the quality of writing if not careful. It’s a fine balance between the two. SEO is important but always keep the reader top of mind.

5. Add credibility by using quotes and stats 

55% of marketers say blog content creation is their top inbound marketing priority. (HubSpot, 2018) (Source: https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics)

Use quotes and stats from experts and industry leaders. It shows that you do your research and you’re engaged with what’s going on in your field. 

Don’t try to pass off quotes and stats as your own. Make sure it’s really clear that it’s a quote or a stat or you’ll make yourself look silly.

Use speech marks, a different font and name the source to make the quote stand out as I have with the Hubspot stat above. 

6. Remember to include a clear call to action 

So you’ve spent all that time writing and perfecting your blog post and now you’re ready to share it across social media. 

But wait. Where’s your call to action?

Writing blog posts isn’t easy – you’ve probably put your heart and soul into writing your blog post. So don’t miss the opportunity to forge a longer lasting connection with the reader by providing a clear call to action. 

This could be a number of things:

  • A contact form to subscribe to your email list (if you have one)
  • A discount code for an event or promotion 
  • Contact details to make an appointment for a free consultation with you
  • A link to another blog post or page on your website (which is also good for SEO)
  • Or even just a simple statement with a contact number or email address for further questions/enquiries (as I’ve done below) 

Just make sure it’s crystal clear what you want them to do and how to do it. 

So there’s six tips to get you started. What’s stopping you?! 

Until next time. 

Alison R Bowyer
Freelance Copywriter

I hope you’ve found this blog useful. I’m always happy to hear constructive feedback so do get in touch. Emai: alison@mkwordstudio.co.uk

Your or you’re

Do you struggle to work out the difference between you and you’re?

Are you secretly worried that you’re using the wrong version and people are laughing at you?

Relax. Life’s too short to worry about grammar rules.

Here’s a simple explanation to get you up-to-speed and an easy-peasy method to work out whether you’re using the right version in your writing.

 

Do you struggle with the use of your and you’re?

Lots of people do. I even spotted the wrong version being used in a blog about writing good quality content! So, for those of you who are unsure:

You’re is just a shorter way of saying you are. For example:

You’re always so helpful.

You’re a great friend.

You’re going to frighten away potential clients if you don’t proofread.

Overkill on the last example!

Your is about possession. You may be thinking: What the hell does that mean? I hate explanations like that too, it’s like being back in English class. And some grammar rules are there to be broken (I’m doing that right now)

So instead of boring you with a long-winded explanation that you’ll probably forget, I’m going to show you some examples instead.

Your green top matches your eyes.

It’s your turn next.

Isn’t about time you did your tax return?

If you’re struggling to remember which one to use, just read the sentence back to yourself and use the words you are instead of your.

It will be pretty obvious whether that works or not

For example:

Your you are green top matches your eyes.

It’s your you are turn next.

See what I mean? When you say you are, it’s obvious that it doesn’t work in the context of these sentences. So the right word to use is your. It’s an easier way to work out which word to use.

It’s always important to proofread your work. A spell-checker won’t necessarily pick up mistakes like these, as they’re not spelt incorrectly. So it’s worth taking your time to thoroughly check what you’ve written. Ask a friend or colleague to help out (or hire a proofreader).

The beauty of writing for the web is that you can always go back and correct mistakes.

There’s a big difference between a sloppy piece of work that’s littered with mistakes and a carefully crafted article where a small typo has slipped through, so don’t beat yourself up if this happens.

But do change it quickly before anyone else notices!

Alison

 

Enjoy this post? Feel free to share on social media. 🙂

About me: I’m a Freelance Copywriter based in Milton Keynes. If you’re struggling to find the time, or inclination, to write engaging blog posts for your website, I’d love to help. 

There’s a simple form on my contacts page or you can call me on 07809 599055 (if it goes to voicemail leave a message and I’ll get back asap).

 

 

 

 

Stationery or stationary?

Bite-size writing tips for small business: Stationery or stationary?

Who doesn’t find this one confusing? I’m always seeing it misspelt and I totally sympathise. It’s a tricky one.

First of all, to clarify the meanings:

Stationery = writing materials (such as paper, pens etc)

Stationary = fixed in one place (for example, a stationary car)

But how can we remember which is which?

I learnt a simple trick a long time ago and it’s never left me.

Here it is:

envelope.png
Stationery. Think ‘e’ for envelope!

The only difference between stationery and stationary is one vowel. But how do you remember which one to use?  Easy! Remember ‘e’ for ‘envelope’, so stationery (with an e) is the right version for writing/office materials.

Simple! I hope this helps.

Until next time.

Alison

Alison is a Freelance Copywriter in Milton Keynes offering a range of services for small and large organisations in MK and across the UK.  For further information visit www.mkwordstudio.co.uk

Writing website content? Tips for start-ups and small biz owners.

start-up-2017

By: Alison R Bowyer     Freelance Copywriter     alison@mkwordstudio.co.uk

Bite-size writing tips for small business owners: how to write content for your start-up website

So you’ve had a great idea and you’ve decided to take the plunge and become self-employed. 

One of your first priorities is to work out how best to market your business. Maybe you’re already networking like mad, dabbling with social media and eagerly awaiting your new business cards to arrive in the post. Exciting times ahead.

And now you’ve got your head round that website builder and you’re having loads of fun designing a cool website to promote your service. Everyone needs a website, right?

It’s easy at this stage to get carried away with the look and design of your website. But don’t underestimate the power of words.

When a reader visits your site, there’s a very small window of opportunity to grab their attention and keep them interested.

Design is important, but ultimately it’s the words that have the power to engage your reader and persuade them to choose you over your competitors.

Your Home page will need to grab attention and compel your reader to keep reading. The About page is an opportunity to tell the reader more about you and your business, while your Services page should go into more detail about what you offer and crucially, the benefits of your service to your reader.

It’s important that your writing is accurate and grammatically correct. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that it needs to read like an essay for A Level English. Grammar rules can be broken to create more of an impact (such as starting a sentence with ‘And’).

It’s okay to inject your own personality into your writing and write as you would speak to your clients. Whether you’re writing B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer), it shouldn’t really matter.

The point is you’re writing for your fellow human beings, so write in a clear, concise style that’s easy to read and understand.

It might help you to thing about it as talking rather than writing. Think about the words and language you use in everyday conversation and go with that.

There’s no need to pull out the Thesaurus and find a posher word for the one you want to use (notice I said ‘use’ not ‘utilise’).  Use everyday language that the reader can relate to.

Show a clear call to action on every page, so your reader knows exactly how to contact you. Make it easy for them!

get-found
Show the world you’re a professional at what you do.

I’m no expert on design and my own website and blog are deliberately simple in design, so that the focus is on my words.

But here are a few basic tips (for more advanced advice, look out for blogs by website designers):

  • Black print on white background is easier for most people to read.
  • If you have a background image, make sure the writing isn’t obscured by it (one of my clients had their contact number in dark blue text on a lighter blue background, but it was almost impossible to read).
  • Break your copy up into short paragraphs. Too much block text is off-putting to some readers.
  • Check links work properly and that your website is easy to navigate. Again, if it’s a DIY website, ask a friend or family member to check it and give feedback.
  • Images can support your writing and make the page more attractive to the reader, but make sure they work well with the words. And if you don’t do your own photography, be careful of copyright (don’t steal images from other websites or Google).I use Pixabay, which is an excellent resource for restriction free images. There’s no charge either, though there is an option to make a donation via Paypal.

Be original. It’s okay to get ideas from other websites, but don’t pinch the content. Think about what you want to say and put it in your own words. If it’s an old idea, try to approach it from a different angle.

Finally: proofread, proofread, proofread. There’s evidence to suggest that errors on your website can lose you business. So take the time to read it carefully. If you know someone who spots spelling errors a mile away, ask them to read it for you. A second pair of eyes is invaluable; it’s always easier to spot other people’s mistakes.

Taking the time to write clear, persuasive content for your web pages will give your site the best chance of turning readers into customers. And once your site’s gone live, remember to keep adding fresh content to build your following and get found on search engines.

This is your opportunity to show the world that you’re a professional at what you do. Grab it!

Until next time.

Alison

Alison is a Freelance Copywriter in Milton Keynes specialising in web content and blogging for business. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yours sincerely or Yours faithfully?

Bite-size writing tips: How to sign-off letters and emails

This was drummed into me about a hundred years’ ago and I’ve never forgotten it, but I know it causes lots of people angst when writing letters.

So here’s the general rule of thumb

Dear Sir/Madam = Yours faithfully

Dear Sally/Mr Smith = Yours sincerely

There is some debate around signing off Yours faithfully if it’s the first time you have written to a person (even if you have named them). I think you can’t go far wrong if you stick to the above rule though, as people who are sticklers for this type of thing will probably favour the traditional approach.

Of course, the digital age has put a new spin on this as so much communication is conducted by email, and even this seems outdated with the rise of other social media channels.

Email seems to be a halfway house between traditional letter writing and instant social media communication. It’s not as formal as a letter, but it is an important business communication tool. And because its been around for a relatively short time, we haven’t inherited formal rules about how to sign-off an email.

This puts us in something of a dilemma.Yours faithfully and Yours sincerely look out of place (and in my experience are often used in SPAM emails). Some people like to be more creative, or mysterious and include inspirational quotes or memes as part of their sign-off.

I like to stick with something polite and to the point. Best regards is polite and respectful without being too formal. Kind regards and best wishes are equally inoffensive, though the latter might be over familiar, so tread carefully.

Assuming you want the recipient to get in touch, the most important thing is your call to action which includes your name, contact details and position.

So a straightforward sign-off will lead nicely into this vital information and not draw attention away from it.

Until next time.

Alison

Alison is a Freelance Copywriter in Milton Keynes offering a range of services for small and large organisations in MK and across the UK.  For further information visit www.mkwordstudio.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

There, they’re and their…

Bite-size writing tips for small business: There, they’re and their…

Why does the English Language have to be so complicated?

There, they’re and their seem to be 3 words that confuse the hell out of most people. Are you one of them?

There’s no shame in not knowing which one to use. A great way to get up-to-speed is to simply read more. When you read, your mind absorbs good writing like a sponge. And eventually, you will know which one to use because it ‘looks right’.

To help you out, I’m going to give you some straight examples of how to use them correctly. And if you get stuck next time you’re writing your blog or other business communications, you can refer back to this page.

They’re (they are)

They’re going to the shops.

They’re never going to get home on time.

They’re in way too deep.

Their

Their car is parked on the driveway.

Their cousin is coming to stay for the holidays.

That’s their problem, not mine.

There 

My car keys are over there.

What time shall I be there?

There isn’t time now.

There is a new Indian restaurant in time.

You’re right there.

Is there any chance you can help me with this?

These are just a handful of examples, but I think you’ll find them useful if you’re in doubt. It’s always worth taking a few moments to proofread (or ask a friend or colleague to help you) to weed out any obvious errors. So your written words reflect the level of professionalism you want to project to your audience.

Until next time.

Alison

Alison is a Freelance Copywriter in Milton Keynes offering a range of services for small and large organisations in MK and across the UK.  For further information visit www.mkwordstudio.co.uk