6 writing hacks you need to know

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. ~ Leonardo da Vinci

At Ripcord Communications, we love to simplify your life – and your writing. After all, they do go hand-in-hand.  That’s why we offer tips to not only make you a writing superstar but to attract new clients, and grow your business.

SummerEssentialsToday we will go through some writing hacks that will allow your work to shine – and all in little time. Try these simple tips help dump the fluff for a better flow.  Whatever your writing process is, follow up with these tidbits in the editing process to improve your copy.

(1) Shake It Up, Baby

We writers love juicy words but sometimes can fall too in love with them.  Even experts tend to lean on their favorites.  But for regular readers, it’s important to keep them engaged with new content.  Variety is the spice of life and it follows as such in your writing.  The last thing you want is to induce boredom since attention is so hard to grab in the first place.  You have a captive audience, so shake it up. Short one, two or three-word sentences may be a great tool to emphasize key points. Get it? Got it? Good!

(2) Reduce Redundant Noun Strings

A noun string is the use of too many nouns in a row. They can be difficult to avoid in writing of a technical nature, but it’s important to be aware of them and how they affect the flow of your writing. Separate redundant noun strings, restructure the sentence and always read aloud to see if it actually sounds good to the ear.

According to plainlanguage.gov, “Readability suffers when three words that are ordinarily separate nouns follow in succession. Once you get past three, the string becomes unbearable. Technically, clustering nouns turn all but the last noun into adjectives. However, many users will think they’ve found the noun when they’re still reading adjectives, and will become confused.” [Are you feeling confused?]

(3) To Be or Not To Be

Is your work feeling too wordy or clunky? Do you find yourself beating around the bush to make a point?  Then it may need a bit of a clean-up. Are you using too many “to be” words such as be, am, is, are, was, were, being, and been?  These words tend to clutter your copy because they are attached to secondary verbs. Eliminate them and skip right along to your primary action verb.  Sure your word count may be down a tad, but what we want is quality over quantity. More is less.  Words carry weight, but the less there are, the more weight they will carry.

“It’s not that “to be” verbs are always bad; sometimes writers must use “to be” verbs to communicate exactly what the writer wants to say,” says Mark Pennington of the Pennington Publishing Blog. “In fact, these verb forms can be difficult to replace.”

(4) Preposition Population

Just like reducing “to be” verbs, eliminating prepositions tightens up your copy.  “There are about 150 prepositions in English,” according to englishclub.com. “Yet this is a very small number when you think of the thousands of other words (nouns, verbs etc). Prepositions are important words. We use individual prepositions more frequently than other individual words. In fact, the prepositions of, to and in are among the ten most frequent words in English.”

Limit yourself to one or two prepositional phrases per sentence. Don’t lose the reader with run-on sentences and confuse them.  Be creative and separate ideas. Some prepositions are unavoidable—and you shouldn’t try to eliminate them completely—but use them sparingly.

(5) Simplify to Beautify

Cut it out!  Not only do we want to avoid redundancy, but get rid of unnecessary empty words.  Phrases such as “kind of,” “actually” and “basically,” clutter up your wonderful work and reduce the focus on what’s meaningful.  Don’t distract from your main points and bury the headline.

(6) Does This Make Sense?

When you proofread, consider the material as if you were reading it for the first time. If you can’t separate yourself for a fresh look, then ask for help. It’s hard to read your own work when you’re so intimately involved – so no shame.

“Readers must feel that sentences in a paragraph are not just individually clear, but are unified with each other. Readers should be able to move easily from one sentence to the next, feeling that each sentence “coheres” with the one before and after it,” suggest the folks at Purdue Online Writing Lab.

Wrapping it Up

You already have the basic building blocks to be an awesome writer. Just like any other skill, it takes time and practice to improve the finer points of expressing your thoughts. We hope you found these hacks helpful and would love to hear yours.

It’s Your Turn

If you’d like more ideas on how to make your writing more compelling, grab our FREE guide called, “12 Tools Guide to Strengthen Your Writing.”

 

Strategies to Declutter your Writing – Less is More

Source: Adobe Stock

Source: Adobe Stock

Four Simple but Fab Steps to Streamline Your Writing

We’re not always as organized as we’d like to be in our everyday life. Yeah, there’s that extra pile of laundry in the corner of the room. The stack of bills (paid, hopefully!) that haven’t been filed away. Or the mound of old stuff we don’t use anymore – but not yet willing to part with – sitting in the basement.

Clutter isn’t only a physical nuisance but also an obstacle to effective communication. Many distractions muddle the path of our messages on a daily basis, so we need to wade through all the clutter when it comes to our writing. Your readers will appreciate the effort as we find the most efficient way to cut to the chase.

1. Don’t be redundantly redundant

There’s nothing that irks us more than when a story that can be told in 30 seconds, takes five minutes of our precious lives. A terrible communicator can fill minutes on end with nothing but fluff and rephrasing of an initial point. Yeah, buddy, we got it the first three times. Do your readers a favor and don’t take them down that long and winding path. In your writing, state the points once and then elaborate. No need to rehash. They can go back and re-read any sentences that may not have sunk in. They are bright, so respect the fact that they probably got it the first time around.

2. KISS – Keep it Simple, Stupid

One of the greatest principles in life, for those who tend to get in their own way, is the time treasured KISS acronym. We admit we are guilty of overcomplicating messages ourselves from time to time in both our business and personal lives. Sometimes we need a reminder to re-center and stick to the basics. Don’t get fancy. There’s a reason why meat and potatoes are fulfilling, so follow the plan and check back in with yourself to make sure you aren’t straying. Much like avoiding redundancy, lay things out in a simple fashion.

Depending on the type of writing you are doing, it can be okay to omit tiny details that will distract the reader. Any wandering of the brain away from the core point creates unwelcome noise that results in clutter. Especially if details aren’t significant, simplicity should rule the roost in most cases.

3. It’s Filler Time

Did you ever have a great crab cake? The best ones are those that use more crabmeat and less filler. The crab-to-filler ratio speaks volume in the quality, texture, and taste of the crab cake. This concept can also be applied to de-cluttering our sentences. Less filler equals more substance.

Here are a few tips from thewritelife.com. Instead of “in spite of the fact that,” just say “although.” Instead of “in the vicinity of,” say “near.”

Replace “in the direction of,” with “to” or “toward.” Instead of “came in contact with,” say “met.” Instead of “during the time that,” say “while.” No need to say “located at” – just say “at.”

Phrases like “it was” and “there were” simply get in the way of your story without adding anything useful.

4. Break It Up, Kiddo

It is perpetually perturbing for us to see run-on sentences that drag on forever with multiple points. It’s just not useful and counterproductive for reading and writing, especially in an online format. People tend to scan. They don’t read.

For better or worse, take the chance of pissing off the literary gods and break your writing into quick bites to be easily consumed. It’s okay to use incomplete sentences or short one or two-word answers – as long as they are grammatically correct. We won’t look the other way on that one. You just may find the word police showing up at your door with a summons!

You know what else people like? Lists! If you can break down tips or extra details in this easy to read, scannable format– it’s a win-win.

It’s Your Turn

What are your “go-to” rules of the blogging road? If you’d like more ideas on how to make your writing more compelling, grab our FREE guide called, “12 Tools Guide to Strengthen Your Writing.”

3 Easy Steps to Connect With Your Audience

Source: Adobe Stock

Source: Adobe Stock

You may have already conquered the important question of who your ideal clients are and that’s great. But now you need to ask yourself, what is the best way to connect with them?  So stop, drop and roll – oops, no fires here – we mean, listen, relate and formulate – formulate a good plan, that is.

The best communicators are quite often the best listeners. That is because they are resistant to throw their own opinions into the mix right away. The worst communicators would rather talk over you and interrupt your train of thought, not allowing you to complete a sentence.  And how wrong they usually are when they do so!  I’d rather deal with a soft-spoken saleswoman who takes the time to really know what I want, rather than pitch her script from corporate.  Like any romance, you want to make a meaningful connection, not be hit on like a horny teenager with roaring hormones.

(1) Be Relatable and Interesting

What is it about your favorite communicators that keep you continuing to seek out their insights?  I bet it’s because you can relate to them, share similar insights, or feel that they speak your language. Let’s face it; we love ourselves and it’s okay to be a little self-indulgent in this sense.  It is the greatest love of all, after all.  The reflection of oneself makes our minds more open to a twist on the concepts we already have rattling around in the back of our brain. Guidance coming from a friendly voice may compel us into finally taking action.  Seek the same with your audience.  Where can you find that common ground?

You may like a writer’s sense of humor or the way she conveys a story.  Likely, she has an innate ability to keep your attention – not something easily done in this age of quick clips and 140 character tweets.  Think about her methods and model your own pitch after hers.

If you are speaking from a position of expertise, your audience will be longing for those words of wisdom – so let it be, let it be (thanks, Beatles).  They know you know your shit, but it doesn’t hurt to remind them of why it is you are so damn good at what you do. Humanize and humble yourself so they can feel like they were you struggling with the same issues at some point.

(2) Share a Story of Unique Insights

Who doesn’t love a good story? Especially one that is unique. Facts and figures may fly over our heads at Lightning McQueen speed, but a good story will stick to the bones.  It will also paint a word picture that better explains the concept or how to go about a process.

If you’re like us, you’ll thrust yourself into the role of the central character and look into the mind’s eye as the narrator watching us live out that story.  Although you need to be a good storyteller (ie. communicator), it may take some practice to find the right tone and voice. We find that while you may not remember someone’s name three seconds after hearing it, you will remember her story – if it was a juicy one.

(3) Ask Compelling Questions

The only way to know your customers are to ask the right questions.  And be sure to listen. Don’t assume their answer, but really think about what they are conveying to you.  It may turn out that they give you an awesome idea that you may not have even thought of.

What makes you tick?  See what I did there? Get to know your audience on a personal level, not as a person with a number waiting to be called at the deli counter.

Entrepreneurs like us have strong philosophies and an admirable drive to succeed.  We love insightful questions that reach our soul, and our target audience does too. Get inside their heads.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there! You’ve got the tools to connect with that new romance, er client. Go wine and dine them and then come back to tell us your success story.

If you loved this post, please share it with others!

 

 

6 Basic Tips to Increase your SEO

In a recent post, we shared some “Cliff’s Notes” on what is SEO and why it is so important. (Here’s a link in case you want a quick refresher.)  Let’s focus now on how to incorporate some SEO best practices for your writing. Ready, set, go!

SEOsmKeep in mind that the big search engines’ top concern is the user experience.  In this digital age, not only are you writing for your target audience but also for the internet gods that control what pops up in search engine queries.  An infinite amount of data is culled through every nanosecond of our existence by search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo, online review sites, and social media outlets. These services want to cut through the clutter and give their users the most relevant content.

Before we dive deeper, please remember that awesome content is always king when it comes to great SEO.  All that follows here are ways to raise your SEO game and maximize your visibility.

Keywords

Start with a list of five to ten keywords that are most relevant to your product or service.  Then make sure there is a focus on mentioning them early and often.  Don’t get us wrong, if you squeeze them in and unnecessarily overload it may actually work against you, but be sure they are included in prominent spots.  If you were searching for a business of your type in a blind search, think about what terms you would plug into the search bar, and then go from there.  Like a healthy lifestyle, balance is key.

Titles and Sub-Headers

Juicy titles may look good and point out your charming wit, but they’re not helping your search results if they have to be deciphered. Remember the digital crawlers from Google cannot interpret your sarcasm or wordplay. It’s best to be direct in the title and then give a little pizzazz to a sub-headline for some style.

Lists

Similar to headings, we like this both for readability in addition to SEO and conversion metrics. People mostly don’t read; they scan.  Lists are easy to digest and are quick and to the point.  This may not be ideal for selling complicated ideas but strike a balance between overly wordy and simplicity.  Lists break up the page and stand out from the rest of the text, which means they’ve got a better chance of being read.

SEO Plug-Ins

When you are using WordPress, now the world’s most popular website platform, there are a number of handy plug-ins that can enhance your SEO – and they are free! Two of the prominent leaders are Yoast SEO and All In One SEO Pack. They let you add SEO titles, meta descriptions, and meta keywords to each post and page on your site.

No need to get technical, but here is a description of meta from Yoast. “The meta description is a 160 character snippet, a tag in HTML, that summarizes a page’s content. Search engines show the meta description in search results mostly when the searched for phrase is contained in the description. Optimizing the meta description is a very important aspect of on-page SEO.”

Social Media Links

Blast out that post ‘til you annoy your girlfriends. They know you are looking to grow your business so they’ll be inclined to share – it can only help.  Post on your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts with no shame.  They are hitting you over the head by selling funky leggings or their latest fitness fad, so the least they could do is reciprocate!

Share with Associations & Groups

Keywords are only a small part of Google’s algorithm, which is constantly changing. Trusted links are so important as it gives your site and content instant credibility.  Get your content linked to your local chamber of commerce, networking group or professional association.  Not only will it look good professionally, it will help your searchability. Association sites like this are starving for content and if you’re presenting them a ready-made article that they don’t have to research, both of you are getting a bang for your buck.

Are you ready to become an SEO rock star? Just follow these standard practices and watch your SEO grow. Let us know if you have additional tips that have worked for you.

 

Quick Tips to Be Your Own Editor

editorsmAs an entrepreneur, you don’t often have the luxury of having an editor review your writing. This could lead to costly mistakes, which hurt your image in the eyes of your ideal client.  We word geeks cringe at seeing the wrong tense of a word or a substitution of “their” for “there” in the most inopportune spot.  Language and grammar may be the tipping point in a client’s decision to not hire you as errors scream of carelessness. And if they think you are that careless with your own work, they may wonder if you really trustworthy for their project?

But not to fear, there are some simple ways to catch the most egregious of mistakes with some common sense tips and techniques that won’t cost you a dime – maybe a cup of coffee (or a box of Girl Scout’s Thin Mints) or a special little favor to a loved one!

First things First, Write then Edit

Whoa, Nelly!  Let’s not put the cart before the horse, cowgirl.  Unleash all your creativity onto that page (or screen) and filter through it later.  Don’t stifle your creativity in deference to the grammar police. The best ideas often percolate from a stream of consciousness, so let it ride and worry about the editorial process later.

Go Away – Refresh, Exercise or Do the Deed – Whatever Floats Your Boat

In the words of Chicago, “Everybody needs a little time away.” When you spend a lot of time writing, your brain can just outright hurt, especially when you’ve been pecking at the keyboard for hours on end.  Like a computer with programs running in the background, this will drain your battery.  The best way to refresh is to go do something completely different.  Go food shopping, take a walk in the park, or ask your partner for a little TLC.  You’ll be surprised how cleaning out that haze can do creative wonders.

Perspective is Everything

Cue another Chicago musical interlude, “Look away, baby, look away. Don’t look at me. I don’t want you to see me this way.”  Even the most talented writers can’t see past the words on the page when they are examining their own work.  You read and re-read the same sentence over and over again only to keep missing the same error because your brain somehow sees what it wants. If you can swing it, come back to it in a few days. (At a minimum, a few hours between writing and editing is ideal.) You may have some new ideas to mix in by then.

Read Aloud (In Your Indoor Voice)

Reading out loud may evoke fond memories of Sesame Street and sitting Indian style (is that still politically correct?) in a semi-circle, but read your material aloud to yourself. Hearing your own voice utter the words you’ve written will open up the mind and determine if what you have truly sucks or not.  You may be surprised by how many errors you catch or discover where you’ve missed words or selected the wrong ones altogether.

Fact Check – Alternative Facts

Without getting political, it is important to check those facts, especially the alternative ones.  Double check specifics and use Google as your friend.  Remember that everything on the internet isn’t true – please, contain your shock – but it can help catch a wrong date or numerical figure.

Consistent Wording and Voice

Who are you speaking to and are they addressed accordingly? Are you referring to your peeps as clients or customers? Stick to one for consistency. Are you speaking in the third person about your business?  If so, adhere to that format and don’t bounce around.

Hey Baby, Take a Peek at This

It doesn’t hurt to ask for help.  In fact, it’s preferable. Ask a spouse, partner, or even your kid to take a quick look. They may pick up something that you’ve glanced over countless times.  This also acts as a big confidence booster for them and helps them feel as if they are contributing to your work.  Kill two birds with one stone by building relationships and letting them help you to your next big pay day.

Spell and Grammar Check – Not Necessarily your Best Friend

Just because Word says it’s ok, or that annoying green line isn’t under your sentence, doesn’t mean it’s correct.  Go on and keep hitting that “ignore once”- sure, that will make it all better – not!  Again, read aloud and get some outside help if possible.  You may have a word spelled correctly – on accident – but it wasn’t the word you intended to use at all.

Your Turn

Do you have any tips to share? Please let us know what works for you.  We’re all in this together and want to help each other put our best foot forward. Editing, particularly of your own work, takes practice but is by no means an impossible task. Want some professional help? We thought you’d never ask! Schedule a time to chat about your project!

What the heck is SEO and why should you care?

Source: Adobe Stock

Source: Adobe Stock

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is one of the most popular business “buzzwords” these days as we all turn to our Google search bar to get through our everyday lives. But do you really know what the concept of SEO really means for your business?

An infinite amount of data is culled through every nanosecond of our existence by search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo – not to mention online review sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor and social media outlets Facebook and Twitter. And there sure is a lot of junk out there that these services have to wade through!

Let’s start with the concept of how you can get that search engine to “optimally” find your rock-star business venture in the best manner possible.  Basically, SEO is setting up your business, blog, or event to be crawled for data that will be noticed and ranked high by the search engines and directories. There are a ton of technical aspects to good SEO, but we won’t get into them here. Just remember to focus on content and keywords before worrying about meta tags, hashtags, and skin tags (oops, scrap that last one – wrong column).  Google rewards well-written content, so always prescribe to the principle that content is king, above all else.

The key to good SEO is to create a clean and least cumbersome way to put your best foot forward to have those resources recognize exactly what it is that you do and what you offer.  The goal is to be easily found on these sites is by setting up your digital presence using keywords and consistent information.  Like street signs or billboards do offline, digital presence ensures that customers who search online find their way to your businesses.

If you have old web addresses, have moved locations three times, or changed your phone number, those will need to be cleaned up – and fast. That bad or outdated info doesn’t just go away on its own. Most things on the net live forever – but it can be managed with time and effort. You may ask, “Why is so much information incorrect?” Simple – there’s no permanent record or single source of data online.

A strong digital presence is grounded in a number of basic building blocks starting with a website. Then you have other tools like a strong social media presence, customer reviews, and business directory citations. Most are free, but with the ginormous quantity out there, you might want to hire an expert to manage these for you.

It’s not easy to get that top listing in an online search unless you pay big $$$, but there are steps you can take to rank organically.  Note those green notations for ads you see – those are paid for and keep the Google stock price rising. Although those Google folks may make their money from paid ads – the listings just below are where the organic results populate.  Before you even think about throwing money at online advertising, make sure your digital house is in order and you are maximizing the benefits of organic (nonpaid and “naturally occurring”) search results.

In today’s digital world, all of us are living virtually in the digital space. The evidence needn’t go further than you reading this right now.  If you can’t be found online, chances are you’re not being found at all.

Depending on your type of business (especially service or home-based), not many peeps are seeing your storefront as they drive through Main Street USA. It’s much more likely that they are sitting on their couch looking at funny dog videos and then navigating off to their search bar to look for a product or service they just realized they need by tomorrow.  And guess what, if you aren’t popping up on that first page of results, you could be located around the block and it wouldn’t matter!  The chance for grabbing that client is over and done with.

Now that we understand the basic concept of SEO, we’ll follow up in future posts on some strategies for enhancing your digital presence.

Love to learn more? Schedule a call with us.

Listening to Ed Sheeran can help you attract your ideal clients

Photo credit: Los 40 Columbia

Photo credit: Los 40 Columbia

Successfully nabbing a summertime ticket to an Ed Sheeran concert is like Harry Potter snagging the golden snitch against the Slytherins. Lately, it seems Ed’s everywhere. He’s on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. He has been the musical guest on Saturday Night Live. His latest album “divide” is shattering all kinds of records. [Check out this Forbes article to dive deeper.]

In short, people are going crazy over Ed Sheeran. The question is, “Why?” (Hint: it’s not only his quirky cuteness.)

I believe it’s because his music stirs up deep feelings within his listeners. He paints pictures weaving together well-crafted lyrics and we’re smitten. For example, let’s look at an excerpt from “Supermarket Flowers.”

I fluffed the pillows, made the beds, stacked the chairs up
Folded your nightgowns neatly in case
John says he’d drive then put his hands on my cheek
And wiped a tear from the side of my face

As Sheeran sings these lyrics, pictures of the scene form in our heads. Someone is cleaning up after guests and missing someone who has gone. Does this image pluck at your heartstrings? (Factoid: He wrote this beautiful song about the death of his beloved grandmother. The song wasn’t originally to be included in “divide,” but his grandfather encouraged him to include it on this album.)

Here’s another example, this time using Sheeran’s song, “Photograph” from the album “multiply.”

We keep this love in a photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing
Hearts are never broken
And time’s forever frozen still

Can’t you imagine shifting through your old photographs, coming across the ones of previous lovers? Visualize happy times from days gone by, from before hearts were broken. Do you have a bittersweet smile on your face?

Lyrics from "Dive" by Ed Sheeran.

Lyrics from “Dive” by Ed Sheeran.

So what does this have to do with your business? Quite simply, everything. Your website copy ought to be as compelling as these two song examples, creating images for and drawing out deep feelings from your ideal clients. Web copy should do the heavy lifting for you.

Often times, though, web copy does the exact opposite. It’s written from a place of pushing out information. It’s fact-based, leaving feelings out.

By tapping into your ideal clients’ hearts, you’ll experience ease in attracting them. Your words will pull them to you like a magnet draws a paperclip.

I have a challenge for you: pull up your website. Read the homepage out loud to yourself. Do your words paint scenarios by tapping into your ideal clients’ hearts? If you’ve answered, “no,” you’ve got a great opportunity to hone your message. (Contact us if you’d like to learn more.)

And in the words of Ed Sheeran (“Dive” from “divide”), “Hanging on the words you say/And I’ve been known to give my all.”

 

5 Words to Get Right When Writing

Source: AdobeStock

Source: AdobeStock

At RipCord Communications we’re the first to admit we love a little word play. But does it nauseate you or make you nauseous when someone uses the wrong word to describe their thoughts? Well, most of us are guilty of it from time-to-time, but there are many juicy terms you could use to spice up your writing – just get them right!

With a little help from our friends at dictionary.com, grammarist.com, and merriam-webster.com, we provide the true definitions and examples of often bamboozled words in our yummy language. (BTW – We still keep one of those worn out behemoth dictionaries with the yellowed pages on the RipCord bookshelf for old times sake.)

Elicit vs. Illicit

Let’s begin with two words you can have a lot of fun with, especially in descriptive writing. For example, The business owner was carrying on an illicit affair with his secretary. In this case, illicit is used contrary to accepted sexual morality. On the other hand: However, the misbehavior elicited no outcry from other employees as they feared for their jobs.

Elicit – 1. to draw forth or bring out (something latent or potential); 2.  to call forth or draw out (as information or a response).

Illicit – 1. not legally permitted or authorized; unlicensed; unlawful; 2. disapproved of or not permitted for moral or ethical reasons.

Titillate vs. Titivate

Titillate and titivate are both verbs and can be easily confused. One can excite you while the other will make you smart or spruce. Here are the definitions:

Titillate – 1. to excite or arouse agreeably; 2. to tickle; excite a tingling or itching sensation in, as by touching or stroking lightly.

Titivate – 1. to make smart or spruce; 2. to make oneself smart or spruce.

Again, intriguing words to recall for descriptive embellishment. We’ll keep it innocent here and use titillate in a tamer manner as your mind wanders with wilder examples. She was titillated by the thought of going to her favorite restaurant as she was craving Italian food. Titivate isn’t as common but is a titillating word to impress with. The drab color of her outfit was titivated by some great accessories.

Farther vs. Further

The key difference between these two adverbs, before we delve further into some more, is the use of “farther” for physical distance and “further” for metaphorical or physical distance. If you are a closet sci-fi geek, think of Star Wars taking place in a galaxy far, far away – a physical distance. On the flip side, Luke Skywalker had to stop Darth Vader’s reign of terror before he went any further – as in progression.

Farther – 1. at or to a greater distance or more advanced point; 2. to a greater degree or extent

Further – 1. in addition: moreover; 2. to a greater degree or extent

In many cases, they can be used interchangeably, which adds to the confusion. For example, as in “before we go any further” or “before we go any farther.” (Are you ready for some Tylenol yet?)

Nauseate vs. Nauseous

This particular case is enough to make you sick to your stomach due to the complexity, but the first word, “nauseate,” is a verb, while the second, “nauseous,” is an adjective. To illustrate, we’ll add a few extra examples.

Nauseate – 1. to affect with nausea; sicken; 2. to cause to feel extreme disgust; 3. to become affected with nausea – ex. Her rude behavior towards the staff nauseates me.

Nauseous – 1. affected with nausea; nauseated; to feel nauseous; 2. causing nausea; sickening; nauseating; 3. disgusting; loathsome – ex. A nauseous display of greed.

According to Grammar Girl, “It’s common to hear people say they’re nauseous when their stomach is upset, but language sticklers hold that nauseous means to induce nausea, whereas nauseated means you feel sick. So when you’re describing how sick you feel, you should say you are nauseated; when you’re describing something that makes you sick, you should call it nauseous.” However, most usage guides say the improper use is actually more common than the proper, so it’s enough to make anyone feel nauseated!

Berth vs. Birth

Finally, just in time for March Madness, let’s look at a sports-related term. Did a team earn a berth or birth into the NCAA Basketball Tournament? Let’s first look at the definitions:

Berth – 1. the place where a ship moors; 2. a fixed sleeping place aboard a ship or train; 3. a position in a sporting event or sporting organization. May be used as a noun or a verb.

Birth – 1. the act of bearing the young; 2. the fact of having been born; 3. ancestry; 4. the beginning of something. May be used as a noun, adjective or a verb.

Well, since the team didn’t earn their tourney status in the hospital, we go with berth here. However, if a #16-seed gave birth to an upset victory over the #1, that is a completely different story.

Please note that is one example alums of the higher-ranked team would feel nauseated over. We would assume their feelings would not elicit many tears from those who put big money on an upset; instead, those gamblers were titillated by the outcome.

In conclusion, we welcome you to birth your own titillating examples to titivate your writing. But be forewarned – you may elicit some unkind responses if you correct misuse by friends and family. Just don’t push the envelope further than necessary by correcting a client. That may take you farther from their checkbook.

If you loved this post and want to receive more juicy tidbits: Optin Cat: Missing Form Data. Is it in the trash?

 

How to Un-Suckify Your Bio

Source: AdobeStock

Source: AdobeStock

Have you ever been asked to provide a bio, only to think, “Bio? Why do I need a bio?” You may also be wondering how a bio is different from a résumé or C.V.

A bio is a promotional summary written in essay format highlighting the most important aspects of you and your experience. Bios come in varying lengths from 50 words to 250 words.

A résumé (or C.V.) is a linear, bulleted list of accomplishments and jobs held, typically used when seeking a job.

If you’ve come from the corporate world, it’s likely that your first bio will sound rather stilted and résumé-like (that’s code for uninteresting). Our brains have been conditioned to expect fast-paced moving images, so culturally think about what you are up against.  The eyeballs only latch onto info for more than a few seconds, so attention needs to be snatched right away. With each intriguing thought, the pull to keep reading strengthens.

Source: AdobeStock

Source: AdobeStock

So, how do you cut through the mumbo-jumbo to reveal the real you?  Let’s be honest, reading a bio can be a tough task if it bores you to tears from the get-go.  On the other hand, if you can build on a strong opener, you may be able to grab that short MTV-induced attention span for just a little bit longer. (Unless you’re an egocentric tool who wants to put a reader down for a nice long nap with boring corporate-speak.) Here are a few guidelines to follow to make your bio shine.

The KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid – for those uninitiated) does apply here.  Keep your bio short, sweet, and leaving the reader wanting more.

First off…..Welcome, Stranger!

Invite your readers in with an intriguing question or statement, or even a bit of self-depreciating humor that tickles their curiosity. Why might this reader want to sit down with you and share a drink?  You want to entice the right people to want to work with you and entrust you with their project. Come up with something that has them saying, “Hey, I must work with you.”  Take it back to dating – why is the reader going to continue a conversation with you rather than the schlub down the other end of the bar?

Avoid Corporate-Shill-ery – No One’s Buying It

Be real and share a tidbit of what keeps you going on a daily basis. Try to explain that warm, fuzzy feeling of satisfaction you get when a plan comes together or your client’s eyes light up overseeing the fruits of your labor.

Keep it Conversational

Create a comfort level and entice your reader to learn more. You don’t want to speak above the reader, so bring your bio down-to-earth. If a future client or strategic partner were sitting in your living room drinking tea, what would you say about yourself? Tweaks the tone and hone your message.

Share a Philosophy or Value

People like people who can see the bigger picture. Share a philosophy or value that shows you understand life, why things happen, or what it all means in the long run. What keeps you from running back to a corporate gig? (Free K-Cups in the company break room aside.)

What Makes You Different?

No, we don’t mean the strange sound you make when you get up off the couch or the weird condiment you put on an otherwise traditional food, but rather what qualities do you bring that helps you get the job done more effectively than others in your field?  Is it your ability to get results? Or the way you can relate to and ease a worried client?

Open Up a Bit

Share a one of your quirks or short tale that demonstrates a situation where your direct action resulted in success.  Real people love real world examples of getting the job done in an out-of-the-box manner. They may not remember that name of the award you won, but they’ll hold onto a success story. (Ninja trick: nothing cements a relationship faster than being vulnerable enough to share a story of failure, which was ultimately overcome.)

The Like Factor

People want to work with people they like, plain and simple. Even I want to steer people I care about more work and referrals – and even bring them in on projects of my own.  (You want to create the opposite feeling of working with the cable company, am I right?) So, without sounding like a desperate teenager looking for a prom date, come up with something that portrays your likeability. You know you’re a cool cat, so relay that in a subtle manner.

Break it Down for Your Audience

Grab a big o’can of “Jargon-B-Gone” and use it liberally when writing your bio (or any writing for that matter). People may not know your industry’s jargon. Break it down in real, easy-to-understand simple English. (Ninja trick: how would you explain it to your grandmother?)

Ease the Ego

Instead of a laundry list of your accomplishments, give a broad view of why what you’ve accomplished matters, and don’t appear as if you are all about stroking your ego.  We both know you’re pretty awesome – trust me. Brene Brown has a great mantra by which she lives, “Don’t shrink, don’t puff up, stand in my sacred ground.” How can you share your authenticity without shrinking or puffing up, while honoring yourself and your experience?

Would You Read It?

Finally, re-read what you wrote. Share a draft with two or three trusted readers. How do they respond? They may even give some insight into the way you operate that you may not have even been aware of – then incorporate that.

Here are brief examples of a sucky bio and a riveting one:

Sucky Bio:

Jane Flugel graduated summa cum laude from Florida State University with a degree in psychology. After working in the corporate world for 27 years as a clinical psychologist, Jane launched her own coaching business, HeadShrinkers, which helps middle-aged women tap into their power and take decisive action.

Compelling Bio:

When Jane Flugel rappelled down the side of Mount Rushmore and felt a burst of adrenaline, she knew she could no longer be held captive by “The Man.” Shedding her clinical psychology practice of 27 years, Jane launched HeadShrinkers, a private coaching business which supports middle-aged women transitioning from “meh” to “Shazam!”

How can you “unsuckify” your bio?

Download our FREE “How to Get Noticed” guide, which includes detailed instructions for writing your sparkling bio.Optin Cat: Missing Form Data. Is it in the trash?