Monthly Archives: March 2016

Tips on How to Write an Autobiography

w31. Write for the Best Reasons

Understand the reason you want to write an autobiography. It may be to give as a gift to your family, to preserve your own legacy, or to understand your life and share the experiences that shaped you with a wider readership.

2. Read other Autobiographies

Read autobiographies written by people who can tell a good story. Ask your local library and friends for suggestions. One of the best people to ask is your local bookseller. When you read these books look at how the story is structured and if the narrative holds your interest make notes on how the author does this.

3. Who is your Audience?

If you are writing an autobiography, you should know your intended readership before you start. Who will read your story? Perhaps your family and friends or you may be hoping for publication and that your story will go viral across social media. This will require a more professional approach so edit the manuscript carefully or employ a professional editor for both structural and line edits.

4. Write an Outline and a Timeline

You might want to start at your birth and continue in linear fashion or you might prefer to skim over your early years and start at some important event in your life. You may want to focus on some particular skill you have such as writing, acting, or singing and this becomes the theme of your autobiography. You may want to include your family background and culture. An outline is the best way to discover how you want to write your story. A timeline is necessary as your memory of the dates of important events in your life may be unreliable and family and friends can inadvertently give you misinformation about dates if you interview them. This includes dates for births, deaths and marriages which should be checked carefully against any original documents available to you.

5. What to Include

Pull out all those old photos, or print the ones you may need from your computer. Emails or letters you have saved may be helpful too. Your diaries, journals, awards, favourite books and any movies you have enjoyed can be helpful. Everybody has stories to share so interview older family members and ask their permission to include these stories in your autobiography. If you don’t know where family photos were taken they may be able to tell you. It is amazing how viewing a photograph will bring back memories that lead to other stories. Make sure to document each photograph with the date it was taken, who took the photo and the subject, and where it was taken.

The Importance of Good Grammar in Business Communications

w2“Your grammar is a reflection of your image. Good or bad, you have made an impression. And like all impressions, you are in total control.” Jeffrey Gitomer (American author & business trainer)

Regardless of the type of business you own, it is likely that you still rely a great deal on the written word to put your message across. In this media driven age, written business communications can take many shapes and forms; from the humble memo, letter or fax to a tender, proposal, application or report; not forgetting emails, websites, blogging and other social media communications. Your company’s written documents may include marketing materials, responses to customer enquiries, reports to clients and other stakeholders. The list is endless..

There are many reasons why you should make sure that your company’s written material is grammatically correct; that spelling mistakes are eliminated and that the correct punctuation is used. Some of these include the following:

1. First impressions matter: You want to make sure you come across as the business professional you are. You want to give your readers a good first impression. Not only do you want to get their attention, but you also want to earn their respect. Good spelling, correct grammar and the appropriate use of punctuation will give them more confidence in the person (or the company) communicating with them.

2. Good reputation: Similarly, clients and suppliers are more likely to trust a company that communicates clearly and correctly. The use of proper grammar will help maintain your business’ credibility and reputation as a professional, trustworthy enterprise that views all of its interactions with its customers and traders as equally important.

3. Avoid miscommunication and misunderstanding: Incorrect spelling or a lack of punctuation may create confusion. Your audience may be left guessing what you are trying to say. Spelling errors and grammatical mistakes may also change the meaning of your message, which might result in misinformation. Some readers may get back to you to clarify, others might not; which, in the case of new prospects / customers, is something you want to avoid. You do not want poor grammar to cost you business opportunities.

4. Make your communications more effective: It is likely that you do not want to distract your readers from the message you are trying to convey by giving them grammar and spelling mistakes to take note of. Also, such errors make your writing harder to read. You wouldn’t want to create any distraction in your audience’s mind, particularly if you are trying to get them to take some form of action – such as following a hyperlink on your website or signing up for a service.

5. Reduce the risk of costly lawsuits: In this day and age where most businesses operate on a global basis with teams of people scattered across every corner of the planet, written communications – particularly emails and other instant messaging applications – have become an essential part of their operations. Grammatically incorrect documents may convey misinformation, misguiding the reader into taking the wrong action or their reaction to it. This, in turn, may leave your business open to costly legal action, on the basis that the information provided was false or misleading in some way – maybe simply because of some typographical errors or other mistakes in the final communication.

6. Keep your business’ competitive edge. Fact: Bad grammar affects business. Full stop. Research has shown that many customers would hesitate in making a purchase from a website that has obvious grammar and spelling errors. Competition is tough; you only have a short time to impress a potential new customer (particularly online). You do not want to present your products or services in an unfavourable light or make your readers lose interest with poor grammar. Instead, you want to gain and maintain your readers’ trust and attention at all times. The ability to communicate clearly and effectively is likely to give your company a definite advantage over less articulate rivals.

7. Increase productivity: Many businesses rely on written guidelines (for instance, memos or emails) among team members. Correct spelling and grammar will help your employees understand your instructions better, thus avoiding any confusion or misunderstanding about what is expected of them. The result will be less time wasted trying to work out poorly worded instructions and more time spent doing the job. This may also help to maintain harmonious working relationships between colleagues, as a result of better and clearer communication.

The importance of good grammar in business communications is definitely something that all companies should keep in mind, regardless of their size or the industry they operate in. The first and most basic check should be the use of your computer, tablet or smart phone spellchecking facility; however, you should not rely only on spellcheckers to catch mistakes, as they will not pick up the wrong word being used (eg, ‘there’ instead of ‘their’).

Proofreading your document is essential; either do it yourself or better still, ask a colleague to help – it is always a good idea to have a fresh pair of eyes to look at what you have written. The best way to proofread a document still is the old fashioned pen and ruler over a printed copy; other ways include reading it backwards or reading it aloud.

Taking a break and revisiting your work after you’ve finished writing may also improve your ability to spot mistakes. This also gives you a chance to improve on it, correcting wording and punctuation as you go along. This is particularly important for emails, where you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.

Equally so, it makes sense that employees who are in charge of business communications are proficient in their job. They should be provided with the right training and support; in addition, there are a number of websites which offer tips on business writing and which can be referred to.

Finally, you may wish to use the services of a copywriter or a consultant to write, check and proofread your written material (for example, if you are writing for a new website or a marketing brochure).

Writer's Block Ain't Real

w1Many writers, bless their souls, are tormented by the proverbial evil ‘writer’s block’ while others just laugh at the entire though of the concept. As a prolific online article writer I am in the latter category and think the idea of ‘writer’s block’ is just an excuse for the laziest writers amongst us. Maybe you are a writer and have your own thoughts on this, but since I’ve written more books and articles than you will in your life time, maybe you should read this article. Let’s talk.

Dr. Gary Goodman suggested to me that; “clearly writer’s block is not your problem! I say this because of your comments but also because you are so prolific,” still he does have his own thoughts on this, and yes, he too is a prolific writer with many books and articles to his credit, quite good in fact. He has 2 important thoughts on all this:

(1) Like clinical depression, there are sufferers and there are those that cannot believe sufferers can’t just snap out of it or read some Dale Carnegie and be instantly cured.

(2) Possibly, if you are writing for acceptance, praise, fame, inclusion, and I would say money, you may be more likely to experience writer’s block. Your writing becomes contingent on positive reinforcement. As with any habit, if the behavior isn’t positively reinforced, it is extinguished. When positive outcomes occur, you continue to write. This would suggest that those that write for the writing, itself, for intrinsic reasons, experience fewer if any blockages.”

Interestingly enough, there is actually some clinical psychology research on this topic and I can confirm this, as I have read research papers on this reality, so both of his points are good points indeed, and I guess my viewpoints come from my own experiences.

As an athlete, I see correlations to performance and excuses. In fact, I don’t see a lot of difference between writing, and athletics. You practice and you compete, if you make excuses you cannot win, and I believe losing sucks, but we need the losers otherwise there is nothing to gauge our successes by. So, I am happy for all those who claim writer’s block or have low-self-esteem, because they make us other writers look good, but I wonder sometimes why they allow themselves such self-defeatism. Maybe those who believe they can’t or have writer’s block should find a new profession – I’d rather compete against better writers because that will make me better.

Those who are really good at excuses and writer’s block can always work in Manufacturing – the Excuse Factory! Please consider all this and think on it.

How To Craft a Headline That Customers Can't Resist

The secret to writing great headlines is to make your target audience care about what you have to say. That’s it, pretty much. Whether your message is something they agree with or not, your headline must grab your targeted customer’s attention, pique their curiosity, and transform their attitude from indifference to incredulous in just a few seconds. After all, a few seconds is all it takes for a reader to decide whether a headline interests them or not. That’s why your headline must be so good and so powerful that your customer just can’t resist reading more.

Headlines like the ones below address certain audiences and offer solutions to specific concerns. See if you can spot what each of these headlines has in common.

Stop Tossing and Turning and Finally Get A Good Night’s Sleep With The Best Pillow On The Market

Convert Browsing Customers Into Buying Customers With This One Little Tip

10 Smart Ways To Eliminate Food Waste And Increase Your Restaurant’s Bottom Line

Six Ways To Increase Employee Production

With Over A Billion Websites Competing For Traffic, There’s Only One Way To Drive Customers To Your Site

Did you notice the similarities in the headlines even though they pertained to different subjects? The traits all of these have in common is the ability to pique curiosity, lend a bit of disbelief to the claim and offer a ray of hope that by reading the article, one might indeed be able to solve their present problem with the solution that is offered.

Avoid headlines that are tricky, confusing or incomplete. Trendy headlines that come off as an inside joke usually fall flat. Steer away from clever headlines that require reading your entire piece to be understood. People use headlines as a guide to tell them whether the copy is something they will be interested in. With all the competing messages online and offline, you want your message to stand out from the crowd. It is vital to create an irresistible headline that will entice your targeted audience to stop and read more.

Be prepared to write at least 30 different headlines before choosing the winner. This may sound like an over abundance of writing, but it’s the secret many professionals who write great copy use when crafting a headline that customers can’t resist. You might be surprised at how much your headline changes as you write and rewrite those titles. But don’t throw away the non-winners, those words could be perfect for a different project.