5 Ways to Become a Better Writer

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As a writer, you might sometimes feel like you’re on top of the world—like you’ve just authored something that’s genuinely good, worth being proud of. Most days, you’re probably going to feel a lot less confident, a lot less secure. The writing life exists between those two extremes, and so long as you don’t spend too much time at either end of the spectrum, you’ll likely be alright.

No matter how good you think you are—or how bad—there’s always room for improvement, always an opportunity to get better. Whether you’re working on a full book manuscript or simply some company blog posts, it’s worth taking some time to hone your writing craft, to become more skilled at conveying your point and shaping your words.

And the good news is, you don’t have to enroll in a creative writing course to do so. Here are a few quick exercises that will boost your writing acumen and perhaps even build your confidence:

  1. Read a lot. This is the #1 piece of advice that writing instructors tend to give, and not without reason. The more you read, the more natural and intuitive you’ll become as a writer, and the better able to conjure evocative words and sentences while mastering the mechanics of sentence construction. Read voraciously—books, blogs, magazines, whatever interests you today.
  2. Impose some limitations on yourself. Force yourself to write in certain forms or to adopt certain restrictions. Write a few tweets; practice some 100-word short stories; try your hand at a long-form blog, maybe 1,000 words or so; do something very formal, than tackle the same topic informally.
  3. Write in specifics. Writing about abstract concepts can be a dead end; instead, write about some specific stories or people in your life. Master the art of concrete details.
  4. Write in different settings. If the only way you ever write is sitting in your office at the laptop, don’t be surprised when you find yourself feeling a little stagnant. Avoid this by taking your notepad to the park or to the coffee shop. Write in different environments to stimulate creativity.
  5. Work with an editor. Working with an experienced, professional editor will provide you with a fresh perspective and some specific ways in which you can improve your writing—things you might not think of on your own.

Pursue mastery of your craft each day; you may never reach the point where you have that top-of-the-world feeling every day, but you can rest assured that you will get better over time!

To speak to one of Grammar Chic’s editors, call us at 803-831-7444, or visit www.grammarchic.net.

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Does Your Visual Marketing Reflect Your Brand?

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If you spend much time at all reading articles about content marketing, then you probably know how important visual marketing is. In an increasingly photo-dominated digital landscape, one in which Instagram and Pinterest gain in prestige every day and Facebook and Twitter keep pushing pics to the fore, it’s important that your brand engages users not just with meaningful text, but also with well-chosen imagery.

But what exactly does that mean for your marketing efforts? If you think it means you can just slap together some funny memes or vaguely on-topic infographics—a few cat pictures and movie tie-ins, maybe—think again. It’s not enough to have funny or interesting pictures; the images you use in your content marketing—whether you curate them or create them from scratch—ultimately need to underscore your brand’s identity, its values, its message.

So how can you ensure that your visual marketing remains not just compelling, but on-brand? A few tips from the Grammar Chic team:

  1. Work with a set, limited color palette. Some of our Grammar Chic clients prefer to use only black and white photos. Others work only with a set of two to four colors that tie in with their logo and website colors. You can set the limitations however you want, but do work with a specific visual vocabulary—some basic colors that will be immediately associated with your brand.
  2. Speak to problems and solutions. Your branding should always focus on delivering the solution to your customers’ problems, as determined by your buyer personas. Visual branding is no different. Even when you’re being a little cheeky, humorous, or coy, focus on a value proposition. Our Chic Resumes brand uses a lot of funny graphics, but all of them come back around to this basic point: You need a job, and we can provide you with a resume that boosts your chances of getting it!
  3. Don’t forget hashtags and calls to action. You have to be careful here—Facebook won’t let you use much text on your cover photo, for instance—but when possible, tie the images you use back to your main branding simply by including a website address or a relevant hashtag.

Pictures speak volumes, and as such, you want to make sure they’re saying the right thing—and that what they’re saying is consistent with your overall brand messaging. To learn more, contact the Grammar Chic team today at www.grammarchic.net, or 803-831-7444.

 

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Three Ways to Keep Your Marketing E-mails Short

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Let’s start this one with a hypothetical. Imagine it’s a Tuesday morning, around 11:45. You’re in your office, just preparing to head to the car to go meet a client for lunch. As you walk out the door you flip to your phone to check your e-mail. You have a couple of new messages, and both of them are for e-mail lists you’ve signed up for. We’ll call them the e-mail lists for Company A and Company B.

Company A has sent you an exhaustive missive that details everything about their new line of products—eight products in total, with a full paragraph of information on each one of them. The full e-mail is more than 700 words!

Company B has sent you a quick reminder to call them if you have any needs they can meet. Their e-mail is exactly three sentences long, including a call to action. It totals 35 words.

Our questions for you are two. The first question: How likely are you, really, to read the e-mail from Company A? One glance at that litany of text and you’re probably going to swipe it into your trashcan. It’s not that you’re uninterested per se—but really, who has the time?

Our second question: Don’t you think it’s pretty likely that you will read the e-mail from Company B, at least if the headline is compelling enough for you to open it in the first place? Reading 35 words takes only slightly more time than it does to delete the message; why not give it a cursory scan?

And that’s the point here: E-mail marketing tends to be the most significant and successful form of content marketing, yet it’s the e-mails that are short and sweet that get the best results. And that brings us to the topic du jour: How do you ensure that your marketing e-mails are as brief, as lean, and as focused as possible?

We have three quick tips for you:

  1. Treat your e-mail like a landing page. A landing page is a piece of Web content that’s designed to do one thing and one thing only—to convert customers and get them to take a specific action, whether it’s to sign up for an e-mail list, buy a specific product, or download an e-Book. A landing page is focused on just one topic and getting the reader to take just one action, and as such a landing page is always going to be extremely direct and uncluttered. Use the landing page mentality as a guide for your marketing e-mails.
  2. Let images do the talking. A picture’s worth… well, you know. Images can make great marketing e-mail fodder; a quick piece of graphic text can be more attention-grabbing than a full written paragraph, and using an image forces you to keep things brief.
  3. Here’s an e-mail marketing strategy that tends to work well: Provide the first three or four sentences of a really great new company blog post, as a kind of a teaser, and then redirect readers to the blog itself for more information—“Click here to read the rest.” Not only does this drive traffic to your blog, but it also helps ensure your e-mail message is short and snappy.

E-mail marketing works—especially when it gets to the point. For assistance with any of this, contact the Grammar Chic, Inc. team at your convenience! Call 803-831-7444, or visit www.grammarchic.net.

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Essential Traits for Highly Successful Bloggers

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Business owners, do you ever wonder if you truly have what it takes to develop a successful blog—one that garners traffic and increases conversions for your company website? It’s only natural to wonder and perhaps even to doubt; throughout literary history, great authors have struggled with questions about their own worthiness, and while business blogging is different from writing War and Peace, the same principle applies.

Today, we want to offer some reassurance:

  1. First, know that all businesses are capable of developing effective business blogs; there’s no topic too boring, no industry too bland!
  2. Even if you’re not a trained writer, you still have much insight to offer your customers and clients.
  3. If blogging is something that completely eludes you, or if you don’t have the time you need to invest in really getting it right, there is always ghostblogging and content marketing agencies.

With all that said, it’s worth pausing for a moment to take stock of your own blogging propensities, and to evaluate whether you have the skills and characteristics needed to be great at blogging. If you have all of the traits listed below, then we would encourage you to try business blogging; if not, then we’d recommend either working to develop them, or outsourcing to us!

  • Great bloggers are attentive. They keep tabs on what their readers like and don’t; what they respond to and what they are indifferent toward. Blogging means constantly monitoring your efforts and tweaking as needed.
  • Great bloggers are confident in who they are and what they do; they are able to write authentically and passionately about the benefits they can offer to readers and to customers.
  • Great bloggers can be dramatic, too—they know how to create headlines and titles that immediately attract attention.
  • Great bloggers are organized, and can lay out their points in a way that makes sense and is easy to follow.
  • Great bloggers are tenacious, willing to consistently post new content on a daily or weekly basis.
  • Great bloggers are ultimately service-oriented, and know that what they do needs to provide something truly helpful to readers; mere self-promotion will never do.

How do you stack up? Do you have these critical blogging skills mastered, or is there still room for improvement? We’re happy to help however we can; just contact the Grammar Chic team today to learn more!

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Job Interview Taboo: Words You Should Never Say

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Do you struggle to know what to say during a job interview?

Maybe it would be helpful to take a counter approach: To think about the things you really shouldn’t say during an interview.

There are certain words, phrases, and topics of conversation that immediately convey a negative impression and can derail your interview progress before you really have a chance. Our list is certainly not exhaustive, but perhaps it can help you think more constructively and strategically about how to present yourself in an interview!

One-Word Answers—Especially “No”

First, remember that the point of a job interview is for the interviewer to get to know you and your skillsets better, and for you to make a case for the value you can offer. As such, when you’re asked a yes or no question, providing just a single-word answer is never actually prudent. You don’t want to prattle on or to go off-topic, but you do want to provide an answer that’s a bit fuller and more specific than just yes or no.

You especially don’t want to offer a simple, curt no, which is akin to slamming an open door in the interviewer’s face. “Do you know how to use Google Analytics?” “No—but I am eager to learn!” Always turn your no into something more open, more affirmative.

Resume Clichés

We’ve written before about some of the resume buzzwords that are best omitted from your vocabulary. That includes your interview as well as your resume. When asked to describe yourself or your skills, saying that you’re hard-working or motivated or driven comes across as dreadfully empty and vacuous.

And what would really be bad is if the interviewer asks you what you mean by these awful buzzwords, and you don’t have a ready answer!

Informal Language and Slang

We’d recommend canning any language that might come across as too casual; you don’t ever want to seem like you’re anything less than totally professional and totally committed to making a strong impression. This means that cool and kinda are out, but also slang and Internet jargon.

“We”

Your job interview is an opportunity for you to take credit for your achievements. It’s not really the time to be modest or egalitarian and share the credit with everyone else. If your response to every question involves a “we”—your co-workers or your team—then the interviewer might rightly wonder if you know how to do anything on your own.

The bottom line is that you want to offer answers that are complete yet concise; detailed, on-topic, and, of course, fairly flattering to your own skills and abilities! To learn more, feel free to consult the Grammar Chic, Inc. team. We can be reached at 803-831-7444, or www.grammarchic.net.

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5 Ways to Get New Blog Topics

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Blogger’s block. It’s very real, especially for small business owners who have to think up new things to say about their business or industry every week—or even every day!

No matter how regularly you blog, you’re going to get stuck for ideas from time to time. You know that your blogs need to be engaging and varied; they can’t simply be self-promotional or extoll the virtues of your company, because frankly, nobody wants to read that kind of thing.

Even when you work in an industry that’s vast and encompasses a lot—home improvement or finance or marketing—you will have days when you draw a blank. You will have days when you fumble for a new blog idea but can’t arrive at one.

Here are a few fallbacks for you, when those days come:

  1. Make sure you have some Google News alerts set up for a few industry keywords. When something new or noteworthy happens in your industry, that’s very possibly blog fodder. Maybe you want to comment on a new trend. Maybe you want to rebut a new opinion piece. Keeping in the loop about your industry is always good for those who blog.
  2. Speaking of Google, don’t forget to use it for keyword research. Type a keyword related to your industry into the search bar and see what the Suggested Search terms are; some of them might point you down new avenues for blogging. You can even sign into Google AdWords and use the Keyword Research tools to come up with new topics for blogging.
  3. Go to your blog comments section and your Facebook page. See what other people are saying. Pay attention to the things your readers care about. Not only will this provide you with some content angles, but you know they’re content angles your readers care about!
  4. Head to some of your competitors’ blogs! See what they blog about. Avoid just copying them, though; try to use their ideas to springboard to something new. Take their topics in new angles or come at them from different directions.
  5. Finally, don’t forget to recycle old content! You can find a popular older blog post and repurpose it, perhaps rewriting it as an FAQ or as a list, or writing a “sequel” or follow-up post.

If you’re really stuck, you might want to consider a ghostblogger—and of course, that’s where we come in. To learn more about ghostblogging, don’t hesitate to contact Grammar Chic today at www.grammarchic.net, or 803-831-7444.

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The Jobseeker’s Guide to Good Manners

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Last week at the Grammar Chic blog, we stressed the importance of finesse in the job search process; we warned that there is such a thing as being overly aggressive, and that while assertiveness is important, so are good manners.

Today, we’re going to dive a bit further into the second half of that equation, and note exactly what jobseekers need to remember about proper etiquette.

Remember that first impressions count for quite a bit in the job search—and a simple slip of protocol or breach of etiquette can poison the well and prevent you from wowing a potential employer.

Some specific tips:

  1. Respect people’s time. If you send your resume and get a confirmation of its receipt, then you don’t need to keep e-mailing your resume over and over. Checking in after a few days is one thing, but don’t become a nuisance. Remember that employers and hiring managers have plenty to do besides offer you status reports and sift through your e-mails.
  2. Remember that you’re not in charge of scheduling interviews. Wait for the employer or HR person to set up a time, rather than taking this upon yourself. Like we said in our previous entry, aggression can be off-putting.
  3. In an interview, listen when people speak. Try to avoid having to ask people to repeat themselves, and definitely avoid giving irrelevant or rambling answers to a question.
  4. Leave your phone in the car. You don’t need to be checking e-mail or silencing incoming calls all through an interview. Give the process your full attention. Leave your cell in the glove box.
  5. Send a thank-you note. A bit of gratitude goes a long way. Send a thank-you note on the same day as your interview, if at all possible!
  6. Proofread your resume. Handing someone a resume loaded with typos and grammatical errors is, frankly, a little disrespectful.
  7. Be nice to people. This is as basic as it gets, but it’s also wildly important. Again: You only have one shot at forming a warm and amiable first impression.

For more job search tips, or for resume assistance, don’t hesitate to contact our team today: www.grammarchic.net, or 803-831-7444.

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