May 28, 2017

Simple Help for Better Blog Writing


Don't you love it when you find a new tool to make your work easier? One of the benefits of teaching is I also learn from the course participants.

It's Hemingway that has my attention this time (thanks to Jacqueline). I love it's simplicity! Go to hemingwayapp.com and start typing right on the screen. You'll see suggested edits highlighted as you type. Or you can turn off the editor until you're finished writing and do all your editing at the end. Another bonus for bloggers is you can see your stats: reading time, letters, characters, words, sentences and paragraphs.

Start writing your next article using Hemingway and see what you think.

May 23, 2017

Have a Party on Your Website


Imagine you're planning a big party at your place... today. What will you do first: clean and cook, or invite people?

Spending time and money to promote your business online is a bit like sending invitations to a party on your website. You want your place to be ready when the doorbell rings.

Before you make the pretty pictures or the clever articles, make sure to vacuum under the couch. People will judge you.

photo by jackfrench / Flickr

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May 17, 2017

Using "Air Quotes" in Online Communication


When I see double quotes wrapped around a couple of words or a small phrase, I immediately think of Sheldon's air quotes from The Big Bang Theory and the emotion that comes to mind is sarcasm. I absolutely know this is the case for many people - one small impact of popular culture.

Now, if you are a writer and intend sarcasm, leveraging this thinking pattern might be a great way to make your point - as long as all of your readers are familiar with "Sheldon quotes".

On the other hand, if sarcasm is not your intent, using double quotes might completely derail your intended message. Readers can't see if we actually hold up our hands and tweak our fingers, or if we just think it in our heads, or if we didn't mean sarcasm at all.

This is another way text communication can be flat, leading to miscommunication. Yet we don't want to start inserting emojis into our business communication (or at least some of us don't).

Why did we all start using so many quote marks anyway? Online it's not good practice to use underline other than for hyperlinks, so we're left with bold and italic for emphasis... plus symbols, like "double quotes". (They're really awkward, too. On which side of the quote does the period go? You can see what I "think".)

Before you type those double quotes the next time, hesitate and question if you really need them at all. Are you quoting a person speaking, or is it for emphasis?

As a footnote, I'm definitely not suggesting you switch to exclamation points instead!!!

photo by Peter23394 / Flickr

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May 7, 2017

Where to Get a Haircut in a New Town


A small business owner, let's call him Bob, arrives in a small town for a meeting with a potential new client. Before his afternoon meeting, Bob decides he needs a haircut to get all spiffy. The receptionist at his hotel tells him there are only two barbers in town, both with shops along the main drag. It's a sunny warm morning so Bob sets off walking.

When he arrives at the first barbershop, Bob can clearly see through the big front window that the place looks less than pristine - hair on the floor and a general air of disorganization. There's one fellow getting a cut and another waiting. Even the barber himself needs a trim!

Further along Main Street, Bob comes to the second barbershop. The view in the front window looks much better. The floor is swept and gleaming, the barber is busy lining up shampoo bottles on a display shelf and his own hair has a crisp updated cut.

Bob turns around and heads back to the first barbershop to get his cut. Do you know why?

I read some version of this story in a logic puzzles book as a kid and it has stuck with me because it has such a powerful unexpected message. Have you figured it out yet?

The barber at the first shop has a line-up, he's clearly in demand and too busy to keep his shop as tidy as it should be. He's likely in demand because he's the more talented of the two barbers, being the person who cut the second barber's hair.

The next time you're looking for a website developer, or a business coach, or a printing company, or a haircut, look beyond the website or shiny window. Look at the customers to see the results. Really happy customers become fans and they'll be easy to find, even if they're not in line for a haircut.

photo by hfrank71 / Flickr

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May 2, 2017

One Simple Test Will Change the Impact of Your Headlines


You can tell when you read a headline that lets you get to know the writer a little better. It often contains an opinion, or perhaps a turn of phrase that is unique to them.

If your business is all about selling you, it's worth it to take extra care with your headlines and subject lines. Here's the promised simple test:

Read your headline out loud. Does it sound like something you'd say out loud?

Still not sure? Go look yourself in the eye in a mirror and say it out loud. Or add the words, "Hi Mom," to the beginning of your headline.

This test will make you stop and reconsider. Perhaps you won't change a word but the exercise is still valuable.

Don't overspend your time editing the text and not give enough attention to your headline. Your headline is the most important factor in whether anyone even gets to reading your article.

photo by nix|photo / Flickr

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