Content writing tips

Formatting Tips To Make Your Writing Easy To Read On The Web

0

Writing is not only an art; it also needs a little planning, intelligence and knowledge. If your writing is not read, there is no point in making the effort. Therefore, it is essential to follow certain guidelines that will ensure that your writing actually gets read on the web. It’s needless to say that the content has to be good and must be of interest to your readers. Here are some rules that you can follow to make your writing readable:

Use the right font and size

Choose a font style that’s easy-to-read. Use tried and tested Arial, Verdana, and Tahoma family fonts on the web. MS Word point size 12 to 14 for titles, 10 to 11 for sub-headlines and 8 to 10 for paragraphs are generally accepted.

Use sub-headings and short paragraphs

To keep the attention of each reader going, you can divide your writing into sections that clearly show what each part is about. Breaking down your articles into smaller segments makes the content easier to remember and understand. When formatting you writing, ensure that a single line break appears between each paragraph.

Use numbered and bulleted lists

When you are writing instructions that should to be done in a sequence, use numbers instead of bullets. The same applies when you want to refer to specific items by number. If you feel numbers aren’t really necessary, then use bullets. Bullet points are used often because they are visually appealing and make it easier to quickly read and understand the information.

Use illustrations to elaborate important points and processes

If you feel that some processes can be described in the form of a flowchart, then make one. They are easy to make in MS Office applications. You can quickly convert your numbered lists or bullets into a flowchart. Often complicated numbers can be represented in a better way through pie diagrams, tables, or graphs.

Use bold, italics or underline to show importance

When you want to exaggerate certain words from the rest of the text, you can use bold to emphasize them. If you need to accentuate a word in a boldface text, use bold italics. You must have convincing reasons for using bold-italics and underline. Avoid using all of them together.

Use indentation for depicting levels

There are two main types of first-line indent: normal and hanging. A normal indent indents the first line, which is of one centimeter. The hanging indent indents the rest of the text while leaving the first line in place with a hanging indent of one centimeter. Hanging indents are mainly used to align additional paragraph lines with the first line’s tabbed indent. Numbered and bulleted lists are examples when hanging indents are typically applied. You may indent entire paragraphs to show different levels and to highlight excerpts.

How To Craft Compelling Headlines?

0

It’s a crowded marketplace out there and you’ve got to shout to be heard. The reader is being barraged with messages from myriad different sources every waking moment of his day, all vying for his attention in an attempt to influence his decision to invest in a given product or service. You’ve got to articulate yourself and be heard above the din.

A good, well thought-out headline helps you do just that. As you’ll already know, the primary function of a headline is to ‘hook’ the reader in to see what’s on offer and the ways in which he’d benefit were he to consider the proposition.

Writing compelling headlines is a craft that one hones and perfects with long years of practice. In fact, advertising agencies and newspapers have specialists dedicated to writing attention-grabbing headlines for news stories and ad campaigns.

Now, all of us cannot aspire to be professional headline writers, but at least we can try. Here, then, are a few tips that you could try the next time you’re racking your brains to come up with a headline with some punch.

What’s in it for me?

One of the ground rules of effective headline-writing is to quickly lead the reader into the body copy, the heart of your message. To do this, you need address a need and state the potential benefit(s) right at start.

Make the right connections


A headline, to serve its purpose, must connect with the reader. The operative word is ‘connect’. You need to connect at two levels – one, spell out the need clearly. And two, connect that need to benefits or gains if he were to take you up on your offer. In other words, your headline and the script of your message should be in sync.

Be truthful and realistic

Do not make exaggerated claims. The reader is quick to smell tall claims and will dismiss your offer upfront. And with that, you’ll have lost out on all the virtues of your product that you’d extolled further into the copy. If you must make a claim, sound credible.

Appeal to the reader’s sentiments

At the risk of repetition, an effective headline entices the reader to delve into your ad copy. Try captions that arouse the reader’s curiosity, intrigue, inspire and excite him to read through on the offer.

Another tack that you might take is humour but don’t try to be wacky – the reader might not appreciate your wit and bother with reading your offer.

Create a sense of immediacy

A good headline must, among other things, motivate the reader to act. Write in the active voice and use action verbs.

Exercise restraint

Sure, you’re smart and have a way with words, but resist the urge to be excessively ‘punny’ or witty. You might just come across as showing off and trying to prove to the world how clever you are. Also, avoid clichés that are over worn and tiring.

Trim the flab

Attention spans are short and retention even shorter. Keep your headlines tight and crisp. Drop prepositions (is, are) and articles (a, an, the). Ideally, your headlines should not exceed 8 to 10 words at most. Cut down on unnecessary verbiage.

Headlines don’t have to be complete sentences with a full stop (period) at the end, though you may use the question mark if the headline is a query. And yes, ALL CAPS is a no-no. Use upper case at start and for proper nouns with the rest of the words in lower case.

When all else fails, improvise

Well, you can’t be original and inventive all the time. There’re times when you’re really hard-pressed to come up with a captivating headline and the inspiration is just not forthcoming. To overcome such situations, it’s a good idea to build a repository of sorts and keep a stock of captions and titles that have held your attention. Dip into this collection and pick up one that has got the right ring to it and rephrase with specific words that connect with the proposition on offer.

In the end, there’s no sure-fire way or a proven ‘bag of tricks’ to write killer headlines. You need to experiment, intuit and emote in varying degrees, try out combinations, mix and match, and keep your fingers crossed for the desired results!

business_english_usage_errors

Common English Usage Errors in Business Content Writing

0

What will you do, if you find yourself sitting in a toilet in Japan with the following warning in front of you?

“When you sit on the seat the cold water automatically flow. Wait for the ‘off’ lamp to wash. When you get on the seat ‘standby’ lamp starts flashing. If you press button upon seating you may have cold water spray.”

Panic for sure!

Amazing how some of us do not pay even minuscule attention to what we write, and leave it on the intelligence of the reader to make sense out of it. No matter how refined in other respects the person may be, if he uses words wrongly and expresses himself in language not in accordance with the proper construction he has to take a back seat, while some one with much less ability gets the opportunity to come to the front because he can clothe his ideas in ready words and talk effectively.

In order to speak and write any language correctly, it is important that the fundamental principles of the grammar be mastered, for no matter how much we may read of the best authors, no matter how much we may associate with and imitate the best speakers, if we do not know the underlying principles of the correct formation of sentences, we will be to a great extent like the parrot, that simply repeats what it hears without understanding the import of what is said.

It is important that we write in a way that creates a favorable impression of our company. This means writing in a friendly tone and avoiding impersonal, bureaucratic language that might alienate the readers.

The problem with most of us is that we are not open to criticism. Do not resent it but rather invite it and look upon those as friends who point out your defects in order to remedy them.

As a content writer I spend days correcting all the commonest of errors. Through this article I wish to list the major English usage errors committed by us. I hope that the readers will try to keep these in mind and try not to commit them in their day-to-day communication activities.

Company name usage

The company name should always be quoted in full on any external literature. It should not be abbreviated. While quoting names of other firms, be careful about the name usage. Always use it when you refer to a company and not they.

For example: XYZ is among the fastest growing IT companies in the world. It offers its services …

Shortened words

Thanks to SMS, chat, and e-mail; language has got corrupted. Of course, programmers are used to writing in short forms. Some of the common short forms are: thru, condn, mgmt, ref, lib among others. Please write the full words instead of such short forms in all official communication.

Use the word ‘very’ sparingly. If you write about a very fast printer, what do you mean by the word ‘very?’ It shows lack of accuracy. Instead, be specific and say — this printer prints 30 pages in a minute! What is fast in India may be considered slow in Japan. While writing customer benefits in your case studies give actual numbers, for e.g., client’s cost was reduced by 70% through our solution.

Repetition of words

Repetition of the same word in one sentence or adjacent sentence irritates the reader. Example: file the file in the file folder.

Use of ampersand (&)

We should not indiscriminately use “&” for “and”. Avoid use of ampersands unless they are part of a name (e.g., AT&T) or accepted abbreviations (R&D). Do not provide white space between the letters.

Use of bold

Bold text is like shouting. You do this only when it is absolutely essential. Do not needlessly emphasize words by making them bold, try to italicize them instead. There are legitimate stylistic uses for bold. Use bold correctly.

Use of Title Case

Do not go on capitalizing all the technical terms; use title case only for proper nouns such as-names of products, technical processes, abbreviations, etc. Do not capitalize common nouns even if they seem very important to you.

Punctuation

We all have our own style of punctuation but the general rule is to use just enough for clarity. The most straightforward approach is to read a sentence aloud to yourself and add punctuation to explain the pauses you would make if you were speaking. Some rules are:

- Use commas and periods inside quotations.
- Use commas to separate elements in a series, and to separate ideas or clauses.
- Use correct punctuation in abbreviations; e.g., for example i.e., that is etc., et cetera
- Do not use multiple punctuation marks, for example: !!! … ???, etc.

Punctuation of lists and tables

When you have a bulleted or numbered list, the grammar is a little different. If there are short phrases, a period would not be required. The worst mistake is when you make up a list with seven items – three with periods and four without periods. If you have long sentences in your list in which you have used other punctuation marks too, then it is advisable to put a period at the end of each sentence.

Hyphen and dash usage

Remember a hyphen is used to connect two words (web-enabled) while a dash is used to separate two words (Linda Simpson – the president’s most trusted economic advisor – will resign her office during today’s press conference.)

Confusion between its and it’s

It’s a well-known fact that this error is common. Its (the error’s) origin is due to the fact that people think that this possessive needs an apostrophe, whereas, it does not require one. So remember: “it’s” stands for “it is”, and “its” stands for possession.

Use of apostrophe

Do not leave out the apostrophe (‘). It becomes extremely difficult for readers to comprehend the writer’s meaning. Use of apostrophe in ours, yours, and theirs is wrong. There is no need to put an apostrophe while writing the plural form of an abbreviation or a year, for e.g., COOs, IITs, 1990s. Use apostrophe only when it denotes possession, for e.g., the CEO’s office or the CEOs’ offices. Use apostrophes in the following situations:

- Indicate a possessive in a singular noun The boy’s hat.
- But when the possessor is plural, then the apostrophe follows the ‘s’ The companies’ CEOs
- Indicate omission of figure or words The summer of ’69 We can’t go to B’lore

Numbers

- Spell out single numbers in full, from one to nine; use figures for 10 upwards.
- Always use figures with commas and decimal points. (Format: Use 1,000 separators – x,xxx,xxx.xx). It is preferable to use M or K for millions or thousands instead of many zeroes. Spell out large numbers if necessary; e.g., one million instead of 1,000,000. Try to use either all numerals or all spelled numbers for a list of numbers.
- Spell out ordinal numbers: first, second, third. Do not add ly to them. For example, firstly, secondly, etc.
- Spell out and hyphenate common fractions; e.g., three-fourth share.

Dates

- Write dates with the number only and not with ‘th’ ‘nd’ or ‘rd’; e.g., February 28 rather than February 28th.
- Use MM-DD-YYYY format wherever you need to document a full date – May 8, 2003.
- Use month and year for documents that change frequently; e.g., collateral material – May 2003.

Articles

The use of articles “a”, “an”, and “the” was taught to everybody in school! However, very few people pay attention to it. Use of “an” is not all that simple because the sound of the vowel comes into play. Should you say “a Unix machine” or “an Unix machine?” Should you say “a unique idea” or “an unique idea?” A unique idea would be to write about a Unix machine!

Avoid complex and unusual words

There is absolutely no need to use words of “learned length and thundering sound.” Short, simple words are understood by all and remove doubts. If you have to use a technical term that your reader may not understand, explain it briefly in non-technical language.

Abbreviations and acronyms

Do not abbreviate company names, unless they are well known and used regularly. The first time you write an abbreviation or an acronym, you should always write the name in full with the abbreviation or acronym in parentheses afterwards. After that, you can abbreviate it. This includes abbreviations that may be very familiar to you, but not necessarily to your readers; e.g., enterprise application integration (EAI); straight through processing (STP), and technical application request (TAR).

Use active voice

Most verbs can be used in the active or the passive. By using active verbs, you will keep the word order simple and avoid using extra words. Try to use verbs in place of nouns. Many nouns are formed from verbs, such as completion and provision. Using the verb is often more direct than using the noun. Cut out nouns where a single verb will do.

Do not switch tenses very often

I have often come across content in which every third sentence has a different tense. If you start writing a document in past tense, then stick to it. It creates confusion if tenses are not followed correctly.

Proofread for accuracy

After you finish writing the first draft, let the article rest for some time. Print a hard copy and go over it with a fine toothcomb for simple errors such as the ones listed above.

Go to Top