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Here’s a story one of my favourite clients wrote about me recently. Kath is an award-winning business journalist who has turned her hand to content marketing. Enjoy!

The hidden hand behind my writing

By Kath Walters

Behind everything I write is a hidden hand – that of my editor, Jaclyn McRae. Everything I write, I send to Jac before I unleash it on the world. Why? Because distributing content with mistakes – even small ones – damages my brand.

The editor (also called subeditor or copyeditor) is every content marketer’s friend. She will proofread your content for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, question any words or phrases that don’t make sense, and even check the basic facts.

As my first reader, it’s her job to challenge me if I am not making sense.

Jac loves editing. Early on, as a journalist on a country paper, she and her fellow journos edited each other’s work. While worksmithing is fun for her, Jac feels a special thrill when editing.

“I love reading,” she says. “I especially love the idea of reading for a job, and I like being able to help out in a story. The best editing is when a writer doesn’t even know the editor has been involved. It might be filling in a gap in the story, rearranging the order of things to achieve a better flow, fixing the spelling of a person’s name or adding a relevant link to a statistic or piece of research.”

If you haven’t got an editor working with you on blogging and content marketing, you are putting your brand at risk. You are also missing out on reaching your full potential as a writer.

I asked Jac to reveal some of the principles that guide her day-to-day work. Here’s the inside story:

Switch

Make your writing as punchy as possible by switching to active voice. Passive voice is usually characterised by ‘ing’ words: “Savvy business owners ought to be asking themselves the question..”  For shorter, sharper sentences, switch to “Savvy business owners must ask …”

Capture

Quickly capture people’s attention with a great heading and opening. Not sure how to start? Imagine you’re gossiping with friends. How would you quickly explain the topic to get their attention?

Detangle

Readers’ eyes glaze over when they see jargon. Use plain English and don’t get tangled up in mundane details. If a quote is boring, paraphrase it (accurately!)

Catch

It’s hard to proofread our own work – even as a subeditor or long-time writer – because our eyes tend to see what we intended to write, rather than what we did write. Before publishing a blog post or LinkedIn article, get someone to read it first. A fresh set of eyes will catch mistakes before a wider audience sees it.

Delete

Here’s a list of words you can usually delete – they rarely add anything to a story:

·      a number of (instead, say how many)

·      both

·      very (taking it out won’t change the meaning of your sentence)

·      actually

·      currently

·      in my opinion (it’s an opinion piece!)

Thanks, Jac!

See more of Kath’s work on her website, which is packed with excellent tips and practical advice. 

By Jacquelyn Smith

We’re all guilty of using the occasional buzzword or cliché at work. But it turns out that abusing these words and phrases can seriously hurt your credibility.

They’re annoying and confusing — and often meaningless — and when you’re communicating with busy people in the business world, they don’t have the time to decipher your message.

Read more at Business Insider.

By Jaclyn McRae

What do Woolworths, NAB, Heinz, CrownBet and Sanitarium have in common?

Aside from making truckloads of cash, they’re among a swag of companies spending money on advertising let down by basic grammatical errors.

The mistakes I’ve noticed in recent TV commercials tend to fall into two categories.

–        Using ‘people that’ instead of ‘people who’

–        Substituting ‘less than’ for ‘fewer than’.

Both errors are becoming increasingly popular as rushed and imperfect social-media-speak dampens our appetite for perfect prose.

‘Less than’ versus ‘fewer than’ regularly stumps people (and corporations’ marketing departments, apparently), as these examples show. Many people are surprised to learn the two aren’t interchangeable. (See below to learn the difference.)

Here are a few slip-ups I’ve noticed in recent TV commercials:

Woolworths (promoting Coca-Cola Life)

“So when we heard Coca-Cola Life wanted to surprise those Aussies that are up as early as we are…”

NAB

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 5.38.48 pm

“We lend more to Australian business than any other bank, because our lending commitment is all about more ‘yes’ and less missed opportunities.”

(*Disclaimer: This is an extension of NAB’s long-running More this/Less that campaign. It works fine in the case of More ATMS/Less queuing at the bank, but it doesn’t carry over well in this case.)

Heinz 

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 1.50.04 pm

“For kids that are full of beans.”

CrownBet

“If your team loses by 18 points or less, you’ll receive a matched bonus bet up to $50.”

Progressive Online

http://www.progressiveonline.com.au/car-insurance-melbourne.aspx

“In a nutshell, less overheads for us equals more savings for you.”

So Good almond milk (Sanitarium)

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 3.28.45 pm

“30% less calories than lite milk.”

So, is it less than or fewer than?

 

Fewer than refers to numbers (something you can count – generally individual items)

I worked for fewer hours than Matt.

Less than refers to quantity

I worked for less time than Matt.

Fairfax’s style guide provides a good example: “It is fewer than 80 children, fewer than 100 protesters, less than 100 litres of petrol, more than 10 kilograms of butter.”

The English language is one of the most complex in existence. With more words than any other language in the world, it is no wonder even native speakers don’t get it quite right all the time.

Here’s a quick rundown of editor Laura Blackhurst’s top ten most misused words.  Numbers seven and eight are my personal bugbears!

Read more at A Writer’s Path.