Not Just an “Oops,” But it’s Gross!

I’ve said it before, check your words and content because you might just find yourself inviting trouble. Maybe even from a state regulatory agency.

Case in point: a supermarket in Michigan which, like most grocers today, has a display of serve-yourself bagels, doughnuts and other pastries.

As consumers, we hope that other shoppers select their baked items using proper protocol. After all, who wants a germy hand touching all the other goodies in the bin? Certainly not me!

I’m not so sure, though, about this particular grocer who appears to encourage not only sharing germs, but a little sampling of the product – as evidenced by the poorly worded sign that states:

Please use tongue or tissue paper when making your selection. Thank u.

Oops. Big difference between tongue and tongs!

My other pet peeve related to the sign: you’re not texting a close friend, you are talking to consumers of your goods. Please take the time and write out the entire word.

Is it Time to Let Go of the Reins and Outsource Some Services?

I have enough attitude at times to think that I can do it all. However, as I grow more “mature,” I realize that not only am I unable to do it all, I really don’t want to. Furthermore, who has the time?

I don’t have the skills or desire to do my own taxes. I don’t want to change the oil in my car, I can’t do my own nails or add highlights to my hair … you get my drift!

My point is that we should know where our strengths and capabilities lie and that if help is needed, we should ask for it. It’s not always easy to delegate and if we don’t have internal support staff to pass tasks on to, then it’s time for the next best thing. That’s when we reach out to an outside consultant or professional who has the knowledge and expertise that we don’t have.

An article, How to Build a Better Business with Outsourcing, posted on entrepreneur.com provides great information for business owners on this very concept. Whether outsourcing IT functions, human resources, bookkeeping, copywriting and other such needs, doing so will help the business function and grow.

Each of us has skills that are unique and marketable. By focusing on what we do best and outsourcing those areas where we are not skilled, we can better see the bigger picture – and help the business thrive financially.

Hang Your Hat on the Right Words!

Do words accurately reflect the hat you may be wearing? If not, then find the words you need.

I bill myself as a “word writer” because to only say I am a writer does a disservice to my skills. It’s not enough to merely write the words – you have to know the right words to use, which I do; thus the word writer distinction.

Case in point: I met with a client this morning who is a national presenter of a wide range of programs to schools, businesses, organizations and more. He is involved in a new endeavor that will reach civic leaders, government officials, first responders and military, educators, business owners, the clergy and others that have a strong impact within a specific community.

In discussing the program that will be offered, he referred to himself as the emcee – which to me implies he is more a Master of Ceremonies, the one making the introductions of others who will speak. However, after reviewing some of his materials, I realized that he is doing a disservice to his skills by using the word emcee when in actuality, he developed the program and in fact is the primary speaker.

It didn’t take long for him to understand that “presenter and facilitator” were more indicative of his true role and adjust thinking – and his words – accordingly.

Just some food for thought.

Need help finding your right words? Contact Kathy to learn more.

How’s Your Style?

It’s disconcerting when I see any form of printed communication with obvious disregard of format and style, and it bugs me even more to see this in business materials. The message could be brilliant and well-crafted, but if the overall presentation of the material is sloppy, that message could be weakened – and opportunity lost.

I am particular about using proper formatting and style for any written form of communication, whether a business plan, award submission, letter, grant application, social media post and so on.  Perhaps I had an advantage because when I was in high school, typing and business classes were required (and yes, I’m dating myself) and this was basic information that we learned.

 Some things to consider about proper style and format of your materials are:

  • What are the margins set at? What is the line spacing and can the reader easily see when a new paragraph or section starts?
  • Is font usage consistent throughout the piece? Is the font style too fussy and hard to read? Is it too large or too small? Use a crisp and clean font, generally 11 or 12 size, for basic correspondence and marketing materials. Bear in mind that when emailing a document, if the recipient doesn’t have the same font, another font will be substituted and that could also affect the layout and appearance – so don’t get fancy!
  • Are your considering your audience? If your materials are geared to older adults, it’s especially important to use a crisp, easy-to-see font. I like Arial and Calibri in an 11 or 12 font size.
  • Is there empty white space that could be used – or similarly, is more white space needed so your content is not all jumbled together?
  • Is it overkill to both bold and underline text? Yes! I can’t think of a professional circumstance when this would be appropriate and yet it does happen.
  • Are you using punctuation properly? Use your spell and grammar check when you are done writing.
  • Do you know that generally numbers one through nine are written out, and that it’s also appropriate to write out numbers that are no more than two words; e.g., twenty-two? However, be consistent. Don’t write thirty-three in one sentence and then 34 in another within the same document.
  • In fact, specific formatting and style is often required of submitted materials, such as an application narrative for graduate school, technical papers, and more – and ignoring style and formatting criteria can lower the overall score of the written piece.

In closing, don’t lose points or potential clients through printed materials that are not well formatted.  If you need another set of eyes to review an important document before it is sent out, use it.

Say What?

There’s a website for everything and since I have blogger’s block today, I decided to go online for some inspiration. I didn’t have to go far. Below is a list of news headlines that are described as “confusing.” You think?

There’s a website for everything and since I have blogger’s block today, I decided to go online for some inspiration. I didn’t have to go too far. Below is a list of news headlines that are described as “confusing.” You think? I would say that ambiguity prevails with these.

I’m not sure if I am more amazed that these headlines were actually published – or that the folks who wrote them are journalistic professionals! Either way, you have to laugh.

  • Include Your Children When Baking Cookies
  • Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers
  • Drunks Get Nine Months in Violin Case
  • Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead
  • Prostitutes Appeal to Pope
  • Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over
  • British Left Waffles on Falkland Islands
  • Clinton Wins Budget; More Lies Ahead
  • Plane Too Close to Ground, Crash Probe Told
  • Miners Refuse to Work After Death
  • Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant
  • Stolen Painting Found by Tree
  • Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half
  • War Dims Hope for Peace
  • If Strike Isn’t Settled Quickly, It May Last a While
  • Couple Slain; Police Suspect Homicide
  • Man Struck by Lightning Faces Battery Charge
  • New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group
  • Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Space
  • Kids Make Nutritious Snacks

Choose Your Words Wisely

Say it right … with the “write” words

Do your written promotional materials reflect the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and WHY of your business message? You may not need a press release or media advisory to tell your story – however, your print or online collateral materials should clearly convey the right message.

Your marketing materials should reflect professionalism and attention to detail. Using slang or trendy words not found in the traditional dictionary can result in a negative perception from others. The same is true for a business letter or an email message. Using an informal tone in a marketing letter can reflect poorly on you and even muddy the message – and using too many words (and pages) can also be a deterrent in both a letter and email message.

A clear, concise message with proper formatting and style will do more to interest the reader – and help improve visibility among your target market.

Need help finding the right words – and using them correctly in your printed and online materials?  Although located in Columbus, Ohio, professional writing and communications services are provided nationally. Contact Kathy to learn more.

Does Your Website Say What You Want it to Say – or Does it Confuse Visitors?

Your website is a strong marketing tool, but if the words used to describe your services are not clear to the average consumer, you may be losing business.

Studies show that the average reading ability of adults in the United States is between 7th and 8th  grade. Similarly, reports indicate that major U.S. newspapers are written to an 8th grade reading level. A business owner should keep this in mind when deciding how – and which – words are used in website content to describe the services that he or she provides.

Using the right words on a website can be even more important for those in health professions. There may be a tendency among highly-educated professionals to describe what they do in terms better understood by their peers, rather than by the clientele and patients they want to reach.

An example of this can be found in the sentence below on the website of one professional:

“Understanding how you came to an impasse or stumbling block in your life and relationships will ensure you have an accurate diagnosis and point you towards some directions to consider.”

This sentence is confusing and may not be clear to someone looking for help. The sentence also seems to put the responsibility of an “accurate diagnosis” on the patient rather than on the professional who is trained to make such a diagnosis.

A simpler, yet still effective, version of the message could be: 

“Let us help you discover what is causing problems in your life and relationships. Together, we can help find new and positive directions for you to implement and follow in your life.”

Whether online or in print, the right words will strengthen your materials and help convey the right message to existing and future customers and clients.

Need help finding the right words for your website pages? Send me a note from the Contact Us page for a free consultation.