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Category Archives: Writing
Q. Will you teach me how to write better?
A. Sure! Here’s how to write better, in six simple steps:
- Write regularly in a journal or blog to practice articulating your thoughts and ideas.
- Write like you speak, using a conversational tone. Stuck? Record and transcribe your message, which will give you an editable first draft.
- Determine your goal. What do you want to tell readers and why? What do you want them to think, feel, know or do after reading what you wrote? Put your answers to these questions in order and you have your writing outline.
- Write a beginning, middle and an end, following my Hook, Line and Sinker method. To do this, simply pique readers’ interest at the beginning of your copy, tell them the features and benefits of your solution in the middle, and include a call to action at the end. Stuck? Finish this sentence and you have your opening: “I’m writing to tell you that ______.” (Just be sure to delete the “I’m writing to tell you that” part.)
- Edit. Shorten and simplify what you wrote, keeping in mind that, when it comes to copy, less is more.
- Proofread. Run your spelling and grammar checks. Then proofread what you wrote on paper to ensure it makes sense. Have others proofread your writing as well. Your copy should be error free. Read The Elements of Style (4th Edition) to brush up on your grammar skills, or have an editor proofread your writing for you.
For more copywriting inspiration, check out:
- “A Short Guide to Writing Good Copy,” by Kelton Reid, Director of Marketing for Copyblogger Media’s StudioPress division. In his article, he quotes Albert Einstein, who said: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” So true.
- “How to Write Copy” by Copywriter Damon Verial. It’s clear when reading this free, nine-part series that Damon has studied, learned from, and applied copywriting best practices from the masters — making him a copywriting master, too.
- Peruse writings from those I’ve listed in “A List of Copywriting Masters to Learn From.”
Melanie Lundheim of Good Copy Fast has more than 30,000 hours of business-writing experience. Her clear, concise style helps increase the chances that what she writes gets read.
Here’s a memorable quote from the 1994 hit movie, Forrest Gump:
My momma always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’
Freelance writing is like a box of chocolates, too.
Weekly, clients call me with new and interesting assignments. All require me to conduct research and learn, regularly, about intriguing topics, audiences, and forms of written communication.
For example, I might write web copy about salt and a speech about SEO one week, followed by a semiconductor script or microneedles case study the next.
In celebration of Valentine’s Day in the month that marks my 15th year as a freelance writer, I just wanna say, “I love to write!” In fact, I love all forms of internal, external and online communication. What occupation do you love and why? Share below!
Last night I attended a screening of the 2012 British Arrows Awards at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minn. During the screening, I got to see dozens of bronze, silver and gold award-winning ads.
Some ads made me laugh out loud. Some made me cry. All inspired me to push myself creatively.
Among my favorite ads last night were those that took me by surprise. In the spirit of the season, here’s one of them. Click and enjoy the 2012 British Arrows Awards “Best Commercial of the Year: — The Long Wait.
Good Copy Fast Founder Melanie Lundheim is a freelance business writer based in Minnetonka, Minnesota.
An enewsletter I look forward to receiving is Steve Slaunwhite’s Marketing Memo. In today’s edition, “Facts are not enough,” he discussed a strategy he uses to engage readers. Here’s how it works:
- Beyond sharing just the facts, strive to tell stores.
- Aim to turn on the movie projector in audience members’ minds.
- In the process, people can see what you’re telling them, making your messages more meaningful and memorable.
A talented writer, Steve’s story cemented in my mind a method I plan to apply today. Have you used or come across this storytelling technique before? If so, share a link to your favorite example in the comments section below.
Professional journalists and business communicators in the United States commonly write in Associated Press (AP) style. AP style recommends abbreviating most states in text. Because of this, the most used page in my AP Stylebook is the one with the AP style state abbreviations listed. Here they are, for your reference.
Note: AP Style state abbreviations differ from their corresponding United States Postal Service abbreviations, provided in parentheses.
- Ala. (AL) — for Alabama
- Alaska (AK) – this state is not abbreviated in text
- Ariz. (AZ) — for Arizona
- Ark. (AR) — for Arkansas
- Calif. (CA) — for California
- Colo. (CO) — for Colorado
- Conn. (CT) — for Connecticut
- Del. (DE) — for Delaware
- Fla. (FL) — for Florida
- Ga. (GA) — for Georgia
- Hawaii (HI) – this state is not abbreviated in text
- Idaho (ID) – this state is not abbreviated in text
- Ill. (IL) — for Illinois
- Ind. (IN) — for Indiana
- Iowa (IA) – this state is not abbreviated in text
- Kan. (KS) — for Kansas
- Ky. (KY) — for Kentucky
- La. (LA) — for Louisiana
- Maine (ME) – this state is not abbreviated in text
- Md. (MD) — for Maryland
- Mass. (MA) — for Massachusetts
- Mich (MI) — for Michigan
- Minn. (MN) — for Minnesota
- Miss. (MS) — for Mississippi
- Mo. (MO) — for Missouri
- Mont. (MT) — for Montana
- Neb. (NE) — for Nebraska
- Nev. (NV) — for Nevada
- N.H. (NH) — for New Hampshire
- N.J. (NJ) — for New Jersey
- N.M. (NM) — for New Mexico
- N.Y. (NY) — for New York
- N.C. (NC) — for North Carolina
- N.D. (ND) — for North Dakota
- Ohio (OH) – this state is not abbreviated in text
- Okla. (OK) — for Oklahoma
- Ore. (OR) — for Oregon
- Pa. (PA) — for Pennsylvania
- R.I. (RI) — for Rhode Island
- S.C. (SC) — for South Carolina
- S.D. (SD) — for South Dakota
- Tenn. (TN) — for Tennessee
- Texas (TX) – this state is not abbreviated in text
- Utah (UT) – this state is not abbreviated in text
- Vt. (VT) — for Vermont
- Va. (VA) — for Virginia
- Wash. (WA) — for Washington
- W. Va. (WV) — for West Virginia
- Wis. (WI) — for Wisconsin
- Wyo. (WY) — for Wyoming
- Also: District of Columbia (DC)
Here’s an example of how to abbreviate a state in a sentence using AP style:
In Minneapolis, Minn., the weather today is sunny and warm.
“Think positive” and “Be positive” are common maxims. To carry them out, try to omit such as words as “don’t,” “can’t,” “not,” “won’t,” and “no” from the sentences you think, speak and write. For example:
- Instead of: “We’re not getting along.”
- Choose: “We need to find ways to get along better.”
- Instead of: “I won’t be ready for another hour.”
- Choose: “I’ll be ready in an hour.”
You’ll find that it’s a lot easier to think and be positive when you use positive language. What did you notice after attempting this exercise today? Share at the Good Copy Fast Facebook page.
They say “content is King” in the World Wide Web. Yet, if you give away your content online, how can you succeed? Here are two rules of thumb, relayed to me by my writing and Internet marketing mentor, Bob Bly:
“Your free content tells your readers what to do. Your paid content tells them how to do it.” – Internet marketing consultant Wendy-Leigh Montes de Oca
“You can also tell people how to solve a minor problem when you’re selling the solution to a bigger problem.” – Internet marketing guru Terry Dean
So set some of your best content free online. In the process, you’ll demonstrate your thought leadership, add value to your clients, and start to see your website traffic and sales soar.
Today the University of Minnesota Department of Writing Studies hosted an event: ”What can I do with a Certificate or Master of Science degree in Scientific and Technical Communication?”
The guest speakers included a technical writer, an IT professional, a recruiter of technical professionals, and me, Melanie Lundheim, corporate freelance writer that specializes in communicating about technical subject matter in lay terms.
Graduates and undergraduates interested in technical communications were in attendance, where they learned about what hiring managers look for in candidates, what should be in their writing portfolios, and the outlook for technical communicators.
We’ve all heard about the benefits of conversational writing. In marketing communications, just remember to use your audience’s tone, rather than your own. Here’s how:
- Observe how your audience speaks
- How does their style differ from yours?
- Make your message resonate with, rather than intimidate, your audience
In general, easier-to-grasp communications are more effective. So think
“use,” instead of “utilize,” or “get,” instead of “obtain.”
What’s unique about your audience’s conversational style? Share at
the Good Copy Fast Facebook page.