Spelling bee

Spelling success

The Girl Who Spelled Freedom was a 1980s Disney Movie that I’d love to see again. It was about a Cambodian refugee girl who became excellent at spelling English words and got into a spelling bee final in the US, only four years after she started learning English.

Word intrigue

I’d love to see it to see how I, as an adult, would be at spelling the words she was able to spell in the competition. I’m good at spelling. Regularly I get asked to spell words for friends, family, associates. Occasionally I get a spelling wrong. It’s not just a mistype, but the spell check on Microsoft Word informs me that yet again I have spelled intriuge wrong. It should be intrigue.

Did you mean?

In my line of work I see misspelled words everywhere. I understand that people who are not as good at spelling just don’t see the mistakes. But in this day and age we have the opportunity to turn on the spell check or type a word into a search engine to check the correct spelling. Google, for example will ask “Did you mean:” if it thinks you meant to type in a different word or phrase.

misspelled

Get it right

So why not try and improve your spelling and improve your communications? If learning by rote is not for you and you’re past the spelling bee sell by date, why not rely on other means to make sure words are spelled correctly? Why not make up a list of the words you misspell most and have them to hand when writing that important pitch or email to a potential client.

Overwriting and knowing when to stop

A few tips on making your content more shareable

Just look at the headline above. It’s neither here nor there. The word shareable is all on its own on the second “deck” of the H1 headline.

Now take out today’s paper or any newspaper and you’ll see that in all likelihood that there are no lone words on second or third decks of headlines. They tend to be filled out across one or a few decks and tightly written to fill the space (with a little help from layout programmes such as InDesign or Quark to increase or decrease the space between letters/words very subtly).

If you’re putting any sort of a heading, sub-heading etc on your website, blog or email newsletter, think about how it many characters as opposed to words will fit across either one or two lines before writing. It’ll look tidier. *

Fitting concise messages into Twitter

A handy way of practicing writing within a confined amount of characters is by using Twitter. 140 characters. Wow, that’s short you may think, if you’re not a regular Twitter user. But if your message is something other people might like to share by retweeting (RT) it, you may need to consider writing a 100 to 120 character tweet.

This morning I saw a tweet from a Bus Eireann twitter account which I thought would be worthwhile retweeting for another account I manage @housemates. I prefer manual retweeting, where you can edit the tweet or add a comment after it. So, in Hootsuite, the Twitter programme I use a lot of the time, I hit Re-Tweet and I saw the message was 156 characters long – 16 too many - because it included “RT: @buseireanndeals: ” Including spaces, that’s 22 extra characters to RT something from @buseireanndeals manually. I didn’t RT it. I didn’t want to go to the bother of editing it. Other days I may have, not today. At least not yet.

If you want your tweets to be more shareable and retweetable then you have to take into account the number of characters in your usernname and the space taken up by the other stuff. The other stuff, to save you counting, comes to 7 characters. If I am tweeting from @elainelarkin I know that anything I think could be retweeted should come to 140 characters minus 7 characters (the other stuff) minus 12 characters (username) = 121 characters. Make it short enough and you make it shareable.

*Disclaimer: Sometimes we’re in a rush too and to prove we’re human and not robot, there have been occasions where we’ve left one word hanging on its own on the second deck of headline in previous blog posts.

What areas of business can you write about?

In my line of work I come across all sorts of businesses and organisations. Large, small, long established, start-ups, all with one thing in common. They do not have the in-house skills or expertise or time to put together website content and digital and traditional marketing communications.

Something else they have in common, is the question: what areas of business can you write about? This question at first puzzled me, in my career as a journalist I have turned my hand to writing about all sorts of industries, organisations and business areas. I can write content for any type of business. How, you may ask?

It’s quite straightforward – my personal professional experience is as a journalist whereby articles are written through research, the helping hand of PR companies, and through the knowledge shared by interviewees. At Elaine Larkin Media, we take a similar approach to writing your website content or e-mail newsletters.

We research the business area and industry and get the key information from the company and suitable personnel. We distil this information and order it in such a way that it will be of interest to readers. That’s just part of our formula.

Our team of writers all have experience as journalists and editors, so you’re guaranteed a high level of service if you ask us to write your website content.

So back to the question in hand. We don’t have encylopaedic knowledge of every single business area, but we know how to source the information through research and thorough interviews. Keep that in mind, and get in touch if you think your website content is looking a bit tired or you need to engage a professional to source and write interesting news items for your website or e-mail newsletter.

Developing a habit – blogging regularly

Blogging is something that many people have a mental block about actually doing.

Still, they invest heavily in the concept. They invest time in talking and blogging about starting one; they are kept awake into the wee hours thinking about topics they could write about, if only they had the time; and they spend valuable man hours tweeting on Twitter about how they’ve been too busy to sit down a get one done. They’ve great ideas, they claim, or no ideas, or no way with words; they’ve great excuses.

Plenty of us are guilty of that. But what can we actually do about transforming inaction to action? How do can you go about writing a regular blog that develops a following, helps people find your website, and gets people talking about, if not buying your product or service?

If you want to start blogging, do your market research. Sure, find out who your audience is and who your competitors are, but what’s most important is that you find out what a blog actually is.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Online know-it-all Wikipedia explains that “Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries.”
  • Blogger.com describes blogging as a “way to share your thoughts — about current events, what’s going on in your life, or anything else you’d care to discuss”.
  • The benefit of a blog to a reader, in the words of Blog.com is to “observe the world, from the smallest details to life-changing events”.
  • WordPress.com takes the assumption that most of its users are familiar with blogging and give no explanation as to what blogging is, apart from the very succinct message: “Express yourself. Start a blog.”

I think that’s enough. If you’re still not sure, think about what Posterous, one of the newest blog kids on the block says to do: “post everything“.

Inseperable: excellent design and excellent content

Reading is something I do a lot. At times, I just scan over the content of a broadsheet, a magazine, an e-mail newsletter or an online news website. Other times, I read every word in detail. Or, words jump out at me. I love seeing how different words can be used in different situations, or more interestingly what substitute words are not used. It’s all about reading between the lines.

One word that jumped out at me lately was the word ‘inseperable’. It was in an obituary and the relationship between the lady who had died (may she rest in peace) and her husband. They were described as ‘inseperable’ and nobody could recall seeing one without the other in decades. I thought that was sweet, to me it said something about a certain type of relationship from a certain era.

It made me think about relationships nowadays and how eyebrows are as equally raised if a couple are seen together the whole time or if they never seem to be in each others’ company.

Anyway, that was just a musing and I couldn’t really figure out whether inseperable is good or bad in human relationships. (I think it’s bad if say one half of the couple is more dependent on the other and doesn’t mix with anybody other than their inseperable half. But I think being inseperable while alose retaining strong friendships and relationships with others is a sign of soulmates or two halves becoming one. But less of that).

So anyway, my mind brought me off on an Alain Botton-esque tangent into the philosophy of love and relationships, but ultimately brought me back to the role the word inseperable has to play in my business. I’m in the business of words, writing online copy for businesses websites, ensuring that the content naturally contains those all-important keywords so that it’s found easily. But I also concentrate on good writing, making sure the content is interesting and readable, written in such a way that the reader wants to read it.

But, I’m a strong believer in good design and this is where the word inseperable comes into play. Why have a beautifully designed website if it’s just pretty to look but nothing else (unless maybe you’re just a visual artist and communicate in pictures and not words). The whole point of the exercise (in most business cases anyway) is that the website is informative or it makes people want to hire you or buy your product.

If your content is just slapped together by four or five people in the office, not edited for consistency, has no style about it, is way too long, or not informing enough, is filled with misspellings etc, it’s just not going to wow either existing clients or potential customers or investors. Good design and good content are inseperable. It’s a bit like being all dressed up and nowhere to go. You can separate the two, but really, honestly, in the age that content is king, you really shouldn’t.