Put an end to sloppy copy: part 1 – Me, myself and I

Bad grammar isn’t good enough.

There are plenty of super duper copywriters out there who have a great grip on grammar and can produce sparkling and creative copy that is communicated correctly. That’s what you pay us for. So why is so much online and print material poorly written, with basic grammar ignored, misunderstood or overlooked?

Whether you choose to write your own words or you hire freelance copywriters to work the magic for you, there’s no excuse for sloppy copy. Without beating around the bush: it’s bad for business.

On a mission to rid the web of grammatical hiccups, slip-ups and boo-boos, I’ll be writing an ongoing series of practical blog posts that tackle basic grammar rules, everyone can handle. Here goes:

Part 1: Me, myself and I

Me and I are two of the most commonly misused pronouns. On the whole, ‘I’ tends to be wildly overused, whilst there’s a generally lack of love for ‘ME’. Poor me 🙁

I blame school. Grammar drills which focus on ME or I have a tendency to stamp out incorrect use of ME, but fail to highlight the contexts where the use of ME is correct. Remember writing out sentences like these when you were at school:

  • My friend and me played in the park = My friend and I played in the park
  • Tom and me went for a walk = Tom and I went for a walk

As a result, many of us grew up thinking that, in formal language, ME should be substituted for I in most cases. But in fact, I should only be used when you are the speaking about yourself as the main subject of the sentence.

Confused? Let’s get practical. Take a look at these sentences:

The easiest way to check if you’re using the correct pronoun is the remove the other person in the sentence:

  • My friend and ME played in the park would become ME played in the park
  • Tom and ME went for a walk would become ME went for a walk

It should be fairly obvious that the use of ME is wrong in both sentences. I is the correct pronoun to use.

Let’s try another one

  • My boyfriend Tom and ME like eating sushi

Get rid of Tom, and we’re left with: ME like eating sushi

Sounds silly, doesn’t it. Correct it to ‘I like eating sushi’ and we’re good. (And with Tom out of the equation, there’s more sushi for me, I, me. Pass the wasabi.

So when does ME come in?

A few more examples should clear this up. Let’s use the same technique of removing the other person:

  • The giant doughnut exploded, covering Tom and I from head to toe in jam

Sounds ok, doesn’t it. But what happens if we rid of Tom:

  • The giant doughnut exploded, covering I from head to toe in jam

Sounds stupid, and rather pompous. So ME is the better fit:

  • The giant doughnut exploded, covering ME from head to toe in jam.

Got time for a few more?

  • The present was from Tom and I = The present was from I 🙁 Use ME
  • To be perfectly honest, I don’t know what to do. Whilst Tom and I would love to come to your poetry reading, we had both planned to wash our hair that evening. = I would love to come to your poetry reading 🙂
  • It seemed to Tom and ME that there was little point in trying to cross the river to escape the blood thirsty monsters, as the man-eating giraffes on the other side would get us anyway. = It seemed to ME 🙂

I hope that helps. Continuing the mission to stamp out sloppy copy, look out for my next blog on ‘OR or NOR.’

lucy@lucygrewcock.comLooking for a freelance copywriter with  a great grip on grammar to write for you, or edit your existing copy? Just drop me a line

What do copywriters do?

In a nutshell, a copywriter writes words that inform people, sell stuff and promote  things.

Yuk! Copywriters are ugly.

Let’s start by breaking the word in two: COPY WRITER

Most English speaking individuals over the age of five should be able to get their head around the second word, but it’s the first one that tends to throw us into a spin.

COPY simply refers to words or text to be published, whether they’re to appear in a travel magazine, on the back of a cereal packet, in an estate agent’s brochure, on a garden centre’s website, in a sales email or in umpteen other places.

Copywriters are the folk who craft these words.

“Oh I see, I thought a copywriter dealt with legal stuff.”

Ah. You’re thinking of copyRight. But I’ll forgive you, they sound very similar. And you’re correct, copyRight involves legal protection – not something I can claim to know much about.

Not all copyWriters work with the same type of materials or companies. And whilst one copywriter may be an expert at creating scintillating sales straplines, another might have a gift for writing travel guides.

Let’s take a peek at the different types of work a copywriter might carry out:

Web copywriters
Today, the bulk of many copywriters work comes from the high demand for online content. Whether it’s crafting unique copy for the launch of a new website, appraising and updating existing material, putting a UX hat on and writing micro-copy, or writing product descriptions, blogs and auto-respond messages, there’s a massive range of web work out there. And yes, before you get pernickety, any of the below types of writing are likely to fit into this box too.

Sales and marketing copywriters
Pretty much every copywriter deals with this type of work to some extent, even if only to market their own business. For some compywriters, sales copywriting is the sole focus of their work. Marketing materials can include (deep breath): company brochures, flyers, business cards, product literature, circulars, packaging, sales letters, marketing emails, letters of introduction, trade show materials and more.

Advertising copywriters
One of the best paid types of copywriting, advertising copywriters tend to work within a creative department of artists and advertising specialists. They create specific advertising campaigns, which may span several types of media. Work typically involves writing cacthphrases and slogans, radio jungles, and scripts for TV ads.

PR copywriters
Another field in which many copywriters spend much of their time is Public Relations. Anything a business sends or markets directly to the public could fall into this category. For most PR copywriters this means writing press releases, advertorials, product updates, newsletters, press kits and feature articles which promote the work of the company they represent.

Technical copywriting
Copywriters with a background in science, engineering and computer programming lend themselves well to technical copywriting. They’re often tasked with translating complicated technical jargon into plain English, making it accessible to the general public. They might create software reports, write instruction manuals, prepare training materials, put together user-friendly data sheets… the list goes on.

Ghost copywriters
Not as spooky as it sounds, the secretive world of ghost copywriting could involve writing in any of the above genres but, acting as ‘the ghost’, the writer’s name won’t appear on the finished copy and the work won’t be attributed to them. The biggest demand for ghost copywriters tends to be in book writing, blog writing and speech writing. Big name celebrities, politicians and CEOs who either lack the time or skill to write their own copy are some of the most exciting and high paying clients a ghost writer works with.

And there are stacks of other types of copywriters too. Let’s see, who haven’t we covered? There’s speech copywriting, editing copywriters (or copy-editors for want of a better phrase), grant copywriters, broadcast copywriters… I could go on.

lucy@lucygrewcock.comIf you’re looking for a Brighton based copywriter or need someone to write for you remotely, just get in touch. I deal with most of the above types of copywriting,  and if you’re looking for a writer with a very particular set of skills, I’ll help find the right writer for you.

How to be a brilliant blog writer

Ready. Set. Blog.

 

Not so fast! Before you start typing, ask yourself a couple of questions:

  • What do I want to communicate?
  • Who do I want to communicate to?

Each blog you write should have a purpose, whether it’s to demonstrate your expertise, reinforce your brand identity or to simply engage with your customers on a level they understand.

Use posts to reach distinct readers by targeting different groups of customers, other industry experts, or perhaps attract attention from potential investors. Whoever you decide to appeal to, make sure that what you write appeals to your chosen market.

Top tips for brilliant blog writing

 

It’s your blog, which means you have a free reign on what to say and how to say it. But there are a few basic guidelines that all good blog writers stick to, and can make the difference between creating a page that get read, remembered and ranked, and one that gets scorned, slated and sneered at.

  • Write for humans first: When you’re tapping away at your keyboard, pouring words into your computer, it can be easy to forget that someone just like you could be sitting down with a cup of tea and reading your work a few hours later. How do you think it would come across? Is it easy to read? Is the content interesting enough to hold someone’s attention? Would you read your own blog post? If you can bear it, the best test is to ask a colleague or friend to read it first.
  • Don’t stuff with keywords: There was a time when poorly written posts, stuffed with keywords was a strategy used regularly by sites with no shame to optimise their webpages. But search engines got wise to this and, nowadays, a page crammed with unnatural and excessive use of keywords does your web-cred no good at all and can actually damage your page ranking. What’s more, your readers will suss you out may choose not to read your posts in the future. Read Google’s advice on keyword stuffing  to find out more.
  • Write for search engines second: Get step 1 right and a search engine recognises your efforts in writing for real people. Manage to weave some relevant and valuable keywords into the natural flow of the copy, and you’re on to a winner.
  • Don’t stand for sloppy copy: There’s no excuse for lazy blog writing. Take the time to double check your grammar, run a spell check and make certain that your work is error-free. A poorly written blog post can do more damage than good, so if you’re not feeling confident, seek the help of a professional blog writer to either create your blog posts for you or proofread and edit your work.
  • Create appealing and easy to skim-read pages: Online readers are lazy. When faced with a wall of words we get filled with fear and, unless you can persuade us that your work is worth the effort, we’re likely to click the cross. Help your readers out by breaking up your article into manageable chunks, using clear headings and bullet points, and including images or videos that add appeal to your post.
  • Make it easy for visitors to share your posts: Increase the chances of getting your work seen by including links to social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Aside from getting your name out there based on valuable reader recommendations, search engines recognise ‘sharing’ as a sign of quality, and you’ll see your page ranking soar as a result.

Related posts
Fall back in love with your blog

lucy@lucygrewcock.comNeed a professional  blog writer? Contact Lucy for a quote and free sample.

Fall back in love with your blog

Blogging. Who needs it now we’ve got Twitter?

 

Writing a blog takes up your time or, if you’re paying a freelance copywriter to blog for you, your money. And what’s the point of your blog anyway? Does anyone even read it?

Why bother with blogs?

Almost every company has a blog, but ask why a business needs one, and you’re likely to be met with blank faces. This can be demoralising, whether you’re writing the blog yourself, or forking out for a blog copywriter to write posts for you.

The good news? Blog writing is valuable and does benefit your site, so long as you post high quality content that adds credibility and visibility to your business.

Here’s why:

 

  • Give your brand personality. Friendly, honest blog writing puts a human face behind the sales blurb on your website and shows your customers and potential clients that you and your company are ready and willing to communicate with the real world. This personality should reinforce or refresh your existing brand identity and communicate your company ethos to new clients.
  • Position you as an expert in the marketplace. Insightful and informative blog writing shows the world that you know your stuff. Write intelligent yet accessible posts that demonstrate your specialist understanding and services to communicate your expertise.
  • Improve your online visibility. The main reason most businesses blog is to attract new customers and drive sales, but how does this work exactly? In short: every time you post a relevant blog, Google indexes that page and you increase the likelihood of a potential client finding your site through an online search. Optimise your post with keywords and links, and the potential for new leads increases. Once you have in excess of 300 quality pages indexed on your blog, you’re likely to see an significant increase in the number of visitors to your site.
  • Showcase your talent and promote your work. Perhaps you’re a garden designer who wants to show-off your latest creation, a soil analyst who wants to document your work and attract funding, a musician with new material, or even a blog writer who wants to prove you can write.
  • Stay up to date with the latest innovations. Prove that you’ve got your finger on the pulse and satisfy your customers that you’re a dynamic and forward thinking company by blogging about recent breakthroughs, pioneering ideas and new technology in your industry.
  • Give clients a reason to revisit your site: You may not change or update your website for several years, so once a client has finished working with you or using your site, they’re not being encouraged to return. Promise and deliver regular and informative blog posts, and they’ll be more tempted to come back and see what you’re up to.
  • Blog to build trust: The web is a big place, littered with dodgy companies, redundant sites and potential hackers. Use a blog to prove that you’re one of the good guys and show that you’re an active site with satisfied customers. Even better, if visitors see that your blog has a decent following and that others are sharing and linking to your posts, your trustworthiness can rocket.

lucy@lucygrewcock.comNeed a professional  blog writer? Contact me for a quote and free sample.

Meta descriptions that make people click

What is a meta description?

You search for something online and are met with a results page of potential websites that meet your search criteria. Under each webpage title is a one or two line description that gives you a snippet of information about the site: this is the meta description.

Meta descriptions are the two lines of copy beneath the website name.
Meta descriptions: lines of copy beneath the website name.

How important are meta descriptions?

A meta description has the power to make someone to click through to your website or, at worst, deter them from visiting. Essentially, it’s an advert that tells a potential client how relevant and useful your business might be to them.

Although meta descriptions have a limited impact on search engine rankings, they are essential in driving business to your site: why put the effort into SEO if your weak meta description means a client skips straight past your site on a results page?

How do I write a meta description?

Hiring a professional copywriter or SEO specialist to craft your meta descriptions isn’t essential. By following some basic rules, meta description writing can be a relatively quick and straightforward task:

Relevant keywords: A good meta description should aim to match your potential clients’ search criteria; you may also have noticed that keywords which match the search criteria are usually set in bold on a results page.

Let’s assume your website is optimised to meet the search criteria ‘Travel Copywriter Brighton’. A client types these keywords into a search engine and receives a results page with your website link at the top. If your meta description reads: ‘London based Copywriter specialising in Education’, they are unlikely to click through, and your SEO efforts have been wasted.

Instead, the description: ‘Brighton based Copywriter, specialising in travel’ would satisfy the client that your website matches what they were looking for, encouraging them to click through.

Compelling copy that leads with benefits: A meta description is a sales tool that represents your business and encourages people to visit your site, so highlighting your USPs and key benefits should take priority. Once you’ve done these, consider how to make the description more appealing so that it stands out amongst the other 20 or so other websites on the page.

Stick to the point: Clear communication should be your main objective. Don’t faff around with beautiful prose if it means your core messages are undermined.

Optimum length: Meta descriptions which finish mid-sentence are less appealing than complete phrases. Similarly, four or five word descriptions may not say enough about your services. Aim for 150 to 160 characters and if you must exceed this, make sure the most important information goes first.

Be unique: Each page on your blog or website is unique; the meta description for each should reflect this. Every time you write descriptions for a new page, consider which particular keywords are most relevant.

Keep it simple: Avoid using quote marks and other non-alpha/numeric characters in your description. Google doesn’t like these and may cut off your description because of them. If quote marks are essential, opt for single over double.

Consider contacts: If you offer local services, it’s not a bad idea to show your contact details in a meta description. If a client is looking to call or email, they may do so directly from the search page, without clicking through to your site.

lucy@lucygrewcock.comLooking for a Brighton based copywriter? Contact lucy@lucygrewcock.com