Friday, November 24, 2006

Writing On The Web - Part 3

Bytepowered Article Writing Tips
Where to start or First rough draft

Start anywhere--it doesn't matter. Putting words on paper is like planting a seed in your subconscious. Your mind will go to work on it while you're busy doing your daily tasks. No need to consciously dwell on it. When you go back to your writing, suddenly out of nowhere, ideas will come. That's the power of the subconscious, use it to your advantage.

You might try writing with the monitor off or using pen and paper to start. This way you are not inhibited by your error correcting and can get the thoughts down quickly without interruption. Also this frees the mind for roaming creativity. This is a first rough draft so grammar does not matter--just type. Having said that... Always use a text editor to spell check your writing when you are finished. If you would like some inspiration take a look at Article Writing Questions For You, by James Lowe.

Can a newbie, novice or high school dropout be a writer?

Yes! No college English degree needed. It's not always what you know, but whether you can tell others what you know! Everyone has a head full of knowledge about some topic. That doesn't help anyone but yourself if you're unable to relate it to others.

Common Writing Mistakes or Things that make your readers go away

Avoid using 'I' frequently

Forms of 'I' such as 'me' or 'myself', should be used infrequently. Over use will make you appear self-absorbed and self-centered. Readers are not too likely to finish reading this article as it is obviously all about you.

Example: I went to the college of my choice and I made good grades. I then graduated with honors.

Fixed example: Went to the college of my choice and graduated with honors.

Avoid run-on sentences

Run-on sentences are a common error. Take the time to make shorter more understandable sentences. The longer it is the more confusion ensues for the reader. Break it up! In the example below for each comma a period and new sentence should start as well as some conjunctions deleted. As a general rule if it has more than one comma in it, start a new sentence where the second comma is. Can you tell the examples subject below? No, because there are many.

Example: Went on a trip to my sister and brothers house so we could work on my computer and I took the pups with me so they could play with the other critters there.

Fixed example:Went on a trip to my siblings home. Needed my brother to work with me on this computer. Took my pups with me so they could play with their critters.

Delete unnecessary words, phrases and commas!

This is one piece of advice I will always remember because of the startling effect on the readability of my writing. The most common mistake made by new authors are unnecessary words and phrases, the killers of readability. Consider the example sentence below and lets try to make it more readable.

“I have written this article because of a huge and growing interest that there is in MySpace, the sort of explosion of interest that has not been seen for quite some while.”

First - Remove unnecessary words. The reason for your writing should be obvious after reading the first paragraph even if the title does make it clear! This example is not a good way to start an article.

"I have written this article because of the huge and growing interest in MySpace,..."

Next - Consider removing and reordering words to make the sentence more readable.

"...the sort of interest explosion that has not been seen for quite some while."

Finally - the sentence revised: Wouldn't the sentence sound better this way?

"I have written this article because of the huge growing interest in MySpace. This sort of explosion in interest has not been seen for quite some while."

BIG Words

Don't use big complicated or techie words unless necessary. Don't try to use big words to impress your readers. If you are not sure of the exact definition of a word--look it up in a thesaurus for a better word. If you don't fully understand a word there is a good chance your readers won't either.

If you don't understand the rules of punctuation and grammar, get an English book or search the Internet for grammar tips or tutorials. Most importantly, let other people check your writing. Choose people not as knowledgeable in the subject as you to see if it's easily read and understood. The process of allowing other people to check the grammar and readability of your article is used by even the most accomplished writers. It is extremely easy to over look simple grammar or spelling mistakes.

More Bytepowered Article Tips coming soon.

Next: Writing On The Web Part 4

Monday, November 20, 2006

Writing On The Web - Part 2

The Five C's of Quality Writing

By: Scott White

"Good content has five elements: it's clear, concise, compelling, consistent, and correct. Learn how to achieve each of these with your writing."
There are two components of any copy, whether it's an article, a Web site, or a book: content and appearance.

Content means the words that actually appear on the page - your message. It can be serious, humorous, elegant, bold, technical, or conversational in tone. But the message is the words themselves. What you're saying and how you're saying it. Content includes grammar, spelling, jargon, acronyms, and the like.
Appearance relates to the way the words (content) look on the page.

These are things that affect the way the words look on the printed page (or monitor, for Web copy) - all of which goes in to making your copy easy to read.

Are your paragraphs all piled up, one on top of the other, with no graphics, subheadings, or other means of breaking them up? Are they manageable in size and easy to digest? A paragraph is supposed to contain one chunk of related information. Sometimes they can get fairly lengthy and still be in correct literary form . . . but keep your reader in mind. If there's a way to break up one big, gigantic, one-and-a-half-page paragraph, DO IT!

Make your content CLEAR. Avoid the overuse of jargon and acronyms in your copy. Unless you are writing for a specialty Web site where only people intimately familiar with your industry and/or business will visit it, make sure your language is understandable to the broadest possible audience. Get someone objective (i.e., not in your industry) to read it for you. If they don't get it, chances are some of your other readers won't get it either.

Make it CONCISE - even for books and long-copy sales letters. Most people have a tendency to overwrite. Be precise with your language. Avoid run-on sentences. Avoid long, meandering phrases when one or two words will do.

Rule of thumb: Polish your written piece until it gleams. Get it to where you think it's perfect. Then go back and cut it by 25 percent.

"Not possible!" you say.

Oh, but it is. Get rid of phrases like "of the" and all the extra instances of "that". Delete redundancies like "simple, effortless, and easy-to-use." Sometimes more is better. Other times, more is just more - and might actually work against ease of reading and understanding - which means it works against you.

Make your content COMPELLING. Use motivating language. In sales copy, for example, detail your features and benefits. Give people a reason to want to buy from you or use your service. An isolated product list probably is not going to compel anyone all by itself. However, whatever you do, do not ever lie or misrepresent yourself! This will only come back to harm you in the long (or not-so-long) run.

If you claim to have contacts who are producers at Warner Bros., you'd better be sure the person you know at Warner Bros. is not the sister of the assistant to the catering manager. Or if you offer 2-day delivery at no extra charge, you'd better be ready to fulfill that promise, even if you receive 1,000 orders in a day!

Also, tell stories. Don't forget you're the expert. If you're writing a book about job hunting for baby boomers, and you've helped a lot of baby boomers get jobs, use those stories in your writing to illustrate your points. Stories are compelling because they help your readers relate to your material. They can be entertaining, offer lessons, or dramatize particular elements - but use stories in all of your writing to create and maintain interest.

Make sure your content is CONSISTENT. This is another place where you can tell a sloppy writer from one who takes time to double- and triple-check their work before they submit and/or publish it.

There is not necessarily a correct answer to these ones. Simply determine what your personal and/or company standard is, and stick with it. One of the worst offenses of inconsistency appears when there are several different spellings or phone number styles within a single document. Mistakes like these make your work - and by extension, you and your company - appear sloppy.

Is it on line, online, or on-line?

Is your style ABC Deli or A.B.C. Deli?

formatting phone numbers: Do you use 602.253.8463 or 602/253.8463 or (602) 253-8463?

Make your content CORRECT. Proper grammar and spelling are essential!!! There's no way to state this strongly enough, particularly with respect to Web copy. There is so much competition for business on the Web - if you have sloppy copy that is badly spelled and riddled with grammatical mistakes, the next site is just one click away - and you won't get a second chance to bring those lost visitors back.

Although everyone makes a mistake now and again, please do not underestimate the importance of correct grammar. If you don't know whether it's correct or not, ASK someone who knows, LOOK IT UP in a book or online resource, or PAY a professional editor/proofreader.

The most glaring grammatical errors:

Stupid spelling mistakes. Write your copy in Word and SPELLCHECK before you dump it into html (or Publisher, PowerPoint, or whatever other format you might use for delivery).

Missing and incorrectly used apostrophes. Again, there's no excuse for this mistake - and it is one that will set you apart from the others in your industry. Apostrophes are NEVER used to create plurals - but you see this all the time. A ridiculous sign of sloppy writing and a complete lack of editing.

Extreme Example of Common Errors:
In this writers opinion, dumb grammer mistake's cost people more business than they realize.

TIP: If you use ALL CAPS, change your text to lower case or initial caps to run SpellCheck. SpellCheck will not catch errors in text in ALL CAPS unless you set it to do so.

TIP: Use ALL CAPS sparingly. Text written in ALL CAPS is exceptionally difficult to read. The fact is that the shape of a word, as much as its spelling, facilitates quick reading. Words written exclusively in capital letters lose the shape differentiation caused by the ascenders (b, d, f, h, k, l, t) and descenders (g, j, p, q, y). As a result, words written in ALL CAPS take a great deal more effort to read.
(Editor's Note: Using all caps in any document is a very bad idea. I blame American institutions of higher learning for this bad habbit. Times New Roman font in ALL CAPS, is not easier to read!)
Remember, it is virtually impossible to edit your own work. You're too close to the material and have seen it too many times to even notice errors any longer. If you find yourself in a position where you must edit your own writing, take a significant break from it - two hours, at minimum, but two days is suggested. This will allow you to return to your work with "new eyes," able to spot errors you would likely have missed had you not taken the break.

Article Source:

Scott White designed a top SEO Program to Gain More web site Traffic Learn how to rank your website at the top with: SEO DVD, SEO Book, And SEO CDs on SEO Tutorial Program. His company provides awesome Freelance Editing.

Next: Writing On The Web - Part 3, Bytepowered Writing Tips