Make your creative self shine with helpful tidbits from the Wordsmithie Toolbox! Our pro tips give you ideas on how to be a stronger writer or editor, sharpen your content strategy skills, or get things done with topics like better brainstorming or working from home.
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Provide different levels of reading.
Show information on both a macro and micro level: zoom in for details; pull back to see trends. Offer something for both the casual and the comprehensive viewer.
Show the correct narrative.
Choose the right type of chart. Are you showing a comparison? Use a bar chart or a line chart. A relationship? A scatter chart or a bubble chart. A distribution? Use a line or column histogram. A composition? Use a donut chart—which is easier to read than a pie chart—or, a stacked area chart.
Maintain visual honesty.
Hard-earned credibility can be lost over a whiff of deception. Avoid obvious visual cheats like distorted numerical scales or misleading keys.
With design, you get what you pay for.
Good design is good business. If you think that good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.
Limit the text on infographics.
One mistake I often see in infographics is adding too much text, so experiment with ways to visualize the data. e.g. using iconography, charts, or even huge numbers or letters.
Ask the right questions.
Concluding interviews with these two questions can elicit GREAT quotes for your case study:
- If you could give advice to others facing your challenges, what would it be?
- Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Use more keywords, less jargon.
Build trust and improve rankings with search engines by researching keywords that help folks find your content. Tools like Google Trends, AnswerThePublic, and Soovle are a great place to start!
Jargon-filled or sales copy doesn’t pass the smell test with search engine algorithms and can hurt your rankings.
Set your sights on search!
Craft subject lines that steer clear of spam filters.
When writing email subject lines, avoid words in all-caps, click-bait hyperbole, exclamation points, and salesy language. Otherwise, your messages could land in spam folder jail.
Save the Spam for your holiday casserole!
Go short, go strong.
If your white paper runs more than 20 pages when it’s been laid out, consider breaking it into a multi-part series. This will make your content more digestible and also drive engagement over time as you build anticipation for upcoming installments.
Shorter is better in the long-run!
Go ahead. Break the rules to find your voice.
Poor grammar is off-putting and sloppy. But when finding your voice, it’s okay to break some grammar rules. Like starting a sentence with “and” or “but.” Or using sentence fragments and ending a sentence with a preposition.
Keep your voice personal, conversational, and relatable. Learn more.
Take one last look.
Always give a final once-over before you pass your masterpiece on to your client. Tiny errors have a way of sneaking in as your work goes through editing. Things like misnumbered subsections or capitalization mistakes may crop up, and extra spaces have a way of appearing when you accept your editor’s suggested changes.
Look back to look forward!
Thanks for your contribution, K.J. Have a Toolbox Tip of your own? Submit your idea here, and we may just put your name up in lights!
Pro tips to keep your social conversations buzzing:
- Be better, not louder, Be friendly and conversational
- Write like you talk (but make sure your spelling and grammar are correct)
- Ask questions to spark conversation
- Promote collaboration — recognize people and respond directly
- Humor works wonders!
Deliver value at every turn!
Marcia, Marsha, Marscha!
There’s nothing more embarrassing than misspelling the name of your client’s company or CEO, or anyone who’s referenced in your piece. A quick Google search will confirm if that actor is a Keira or a Kyra, if that company’s name is all lowercase, or exactly what that person’s title is.
Details can make or break you!
How’s your copy lookin’?
Guide your readers with visual cues like statistics, callouts, pull quotes, infographics, pithy section headers, and bulleted lists. Your content should be easily summarized by your readers with a quick 10- to 15-second scan.
Give your content room to breathe!
Third time’s a charm!
It’s unlikely you’ll catch all errors on the first pass. Read through first for fluency and flow (excessive alliteration? Too wordy? “Pet” words repeated too often?). Then read again, aloud, looking at each word individually to check for typos, missing/doubled words, punctuation, and spacing. Finally, give the piece a once over to make sure the format is consistent (Is one header in italics and another bold? Do some subsections have numbers and others letters? Is the spacing between sections the same?) Having one focus for each pass helps you catch those easy-to-miss errors.
Thanks for your contribution, Eve C. Have a Toolbox Tip of your own? Submit your idea here, and we may just put your name up in lights!
Pro tips for writing (or tweeting) intentionally.
– Be better, not louder
– Be friendly and conversational — write like you talk, but make sure it’s spelled correctly and grammatically well-written
– Ask questions to spark conversation
– Recognize people and respond directly
– Humor works wonders!
– Promote collaboration
– Deliver value at every turn
Maintain a common DNA for messaging
Ensure all associated campaign assets and media (emails, landing pages, social media, etc.) share a common DNA for messaging to maintain consistency and increase audience awareness and retention.
Keep pages evergreen
For evergreen (long-lasting) landing pages, avoid time-based references (“this winter,” “in 2016,” etc.).
Stay in the right tense
The tenses are chronological as the story unfolds.
Start in the past tense and then move into the present tense to discuss the current efforts or future plans. Stay somewhat consistent about the story flow; it may be OK to mix and match the tenses a little. But the reality is that about 2/3 will be written in past tense because the story is about something that’s already happened.
Stick to the point.
Say what you need to in the most concise and clear manner possible. It can be tempting to elaborate on complex ideas, but keep in mind that less is more. According to copywritertoday.com, readers spend an average of 37 seconds on an article. Most audiences — especially those using social media platforms — want information that grabs their attention and is served in small bites.
Write less to get readers to read more.
Keep copy blocks/bullets short to give the eye white space to rest (if people see a long block of text on a site, they may not bother to read it).
Thanks for your contribution, Alex K. Have a Toolbox Tip of your own? Submit your idea here, and we may just put your name up in lights!
Write for a global audience.
Some things translate well and some just don’t. If you’re planning on localizing your content, you’ll want to avoid using jargon, metaphors, and cultural references, and you’ll want to use gerunds sparingly.
Thanks for your contribution, J.S. Have a Toolbox Tip of your own? Submit your idea here, and we may just put your name up in lights!
Flaky internet connection?
Even though it’s nice to see everyone’s shining faces, if you have limited bandwidth or gremlins have taken over your internet connection, disable video when joining a Zoom or Google Hangouts meeting. It should help keep your meeting afloat.
Sometimes it’s better to be heard than seen!
If you’re in a Zoom or Hangout (or even an old-fashioned conference call) with a lot of people, mute yourself when you’re not speaking to save bandwidth plus help reduce background noise and cross-talk. Just don’t forget to unmute when you have something to say!
Move that body!
When working from home, it’s easy to become a desk potato. Stand up, stretch, or take a quick lap around your home in between meetings. Go out for fresh air if you can. Not only is it good for your circulation, it’s a great way to clear your headspace, too.
Disable video for online meetings to prevent system crashes.
If you have limited bandwidth or flaky internet, disable video when joining a Zoom or Google Hangouts meeting.
Test phone and internet connections before interview time.
With so many people working from home now, teleconferencing services are feeling the strain. Whatever platform you’re using, try to log in at least 5 mins. before your virtual meeting guests arrive, and make sure everything is working. Offer your cell phone number or other way to contact you in the meeting invite, in case something goes awry.
Thanks for your contribution, Alex. Have a Toolbox Tip of your own? Submit your idea here, and we may just put your name up in lights!
Build a global team.
Building a remote team means that you can gather the best talent from not only around the corner, but also around the world. By having people in different time zones, you can also help ensure that people are online 24 hours a day to service clients in different time zones.
Create a schedule – but be flexible with it.
Be inclusive when it comes to developing, modifying, and following a schedule, especially if you have a family.
Do you need shorter work sessions and longer breaks than if you were working from an office? A few minutes between calls to stretch your legs and check the mail? Make working from home as structured as possible while acknowledging that home is not the office, and you’ll likely have to change the way you work to feel productive and set boundaries between your home as a workspace and a place to live.
Get crafty during your brainstorm.
Instead of using words, have your team draw or shape their ideas out of art supplies, toys (Play-Doh® is a good one), or found objects—then snap photos to capture the moment.
Keep those creative juices flowing!
Re-run your best content.
Reposting content like blog posts, infographics, and videos is a great way to give an energy boost to your content marketing strategy. And even better, it takes almost no production time.
Play it again, Sam!
Break the ice.
Help everyone in a brainstorming session find their voice by starting with an icebreaker, like “Tell us something about you that might surprise people.” Warm up the room and forge quick bonds as you create a safe, welcoming environment.
Make it a group effort!
Use the “Pass it On” technique.
To help shy brainstorm contributors feel more comfortable and also limit over-sharers from commandeering time and attention, give everyone 30 seconds to write an idea on a sheet of paper. Pass the idea to the next person, who adds to it. Keep the idea sheet going around the room until everyone has added their thoughts.
And if you have helpful nuggets of your own you’d like to share with the world, send them here. If we use your tip we’ll be sure to give you the credit you deserve.