February 1, 2011
Questions to ask yourself when writing
Stress benefits, not features
Everything you write in business, from sales letters to budget plans, is intended to elicit a response. In sales letters, you want a client to grant you an appointment so that you can demonstrate your latest product. In budget proposals, you want the board of directors to fund a new project for your department.
To be successful in business and in writing, you must persuade. Persuasive writing stresses benefits instead of features. Your reader doesn’t care how many bells and whistles your product has. The reader wants to know what your product is going to do for him.
Consider the perfume industry. Perfumeries do not sell stuff that makes you smell nice (the feature). They sell romance — how he will court her after she sprays it on (the benefit).
Feature: Our widget has three new attachments — a cat feeder, a plant waterer and a thermostat controller.
Benefit: Buy our widget with its three new attachments and, finally, relax on a vacation. Our widget works while you enjoy yourself. There’s no need to worry; our widget will make sure your cat is fed, your plants are watered and the temperature of your home is maintained at a constant, fuel-saving level.
Say what you did
When it comes to writing résumés, choose verbs that mean something. “Assisted,” “worked on” or “contributed to” don’t convey much to a prospective employer. Instead, say what you did: “wrote,” “designed” or “managed.” The more specific, the better.
Source: Harvard Business Review
“Clarity is the most important characteristic of good business writing,” says Mignon Fogarty, creator of the “Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing” podcast. “Often, businesspeople will use big 10 dollar words because they want to sound intelligent. Instead, they end up sounding like they’re trying too hard.”
Ernest Hemingway’s tips for writing well
Really, who better than Ernest Hemingway to emulate? Rather than embracing the flowery prose of the literati, he chose to eschew obfuscation at every turn and write simply and clearly.
The art of the hashtag
All hashtags are not created equal. What does a great hashtag look like? How does it work?
The true masters of the hashtag are the folks at MTV’s corporate sibling, BET — specifically, the team behind the live daily show “106 and Park.” You’ve seen its handiwork, although you probably don’t realize it. “106 and Park” hashtags make it into the global trending topics list all the time, in part because they take on a life of their own and reach out well beyond the show’s audience.
What makes them so good?
Source: Twitter Media
Where to find inspiration for headline ideas
Headlines are bloody important. According to Copyblogger: “On average, eight out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only two out of 10 will read the rest. This is the secret to the power of the headline, and why it so highly determines the effectiveness of the entire piece.”
How about looking for inspiration from online sites, cult classic books and master copywriters who consistently field the best headlines in the business? Nothing gets the creative juices bubbling like seeing great headlines in action.
Here are some places you can go to for headline inspiration:
The elements of clunk
Consider: For our one year anniversary, my girlfriend and myself are going to a Yankees game, with whomever amongst our friends can go. But, the Weather Channel just changed their forecast and the skies are grey, so we might go with the girl that lives next door to see the movie, “Iron Man 2”.
Those two hypothetical sentences contain 11 mistakes. They are as follows:
Source: Chronicle.com – Ben Yagoda
Writing news releases that garner attention
Writing good content for a blog is only half of the equation: Promoting your blog to drive traffic is the other half. Here are a few tips on how to write a news release for maximum media exposure:
“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”
— Thomas Jefferson
10 new entries and recent changes from AP Stylebook Online
Source: AP Stylebook