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Tips for the Business of Writing

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  • Remember today’s strict privacy laws. Forward client/colleague emails only with permission.
  • If you make a mistake, own up to it, apologize and fix it as best you can. Avoid the blame game – take responsibility for your actions.
  • Keep on good terms with clients so they will recommend you to others.
  • Be patient. People in business are stressed. Taking offense at something someone says is a decision on your part. Sometimes it’s best to bite your tongue. Make the customer think he/she is always right.
  • Avoid putting clients on your I-think-this-is-funny/touching/important or I-want-to-share-this-virus-warning-with-you bulk e-mail list. As an editor, it ticks me off when people assume I want to get these messages. I already get more emails a day than I can handle.
  • Make the most of every opportunity. I have been teaching creative writing for years, during many of which I was editing numerous publications. Only a couple people ever queried me with ideas for the magazines and newspaper sections I edited.
  • Do what you say you’re going to do. This will get you more business than any advertising or social networking.
  • To be fair to others in the publishing chain (editor, layout person, printer, etc.), come in on deadline and within the word count allotted.
  • Make it easy to do business with you. For example, on your invoice, include “Make cheque payable to…” and let clients know ahead of time when you will be away or unavailable for work.
  • Treat layout people well – they make what you write look great. BUT – if you are proofreading, check titles and cutlines carefully; layout artists sometimes key those in and make typos.
  • Charge enough to make a decent amount of money per hour. If a client won’t pay it, assume that person/company is not in your target market and move on.
  • Avoid procrastinating invoicing. It’s a pain for most of us right-brainers, but regular invoicing by freelancers is necessary for cash flow.
  • Be honest in business. If you make a mistake, own up to it, apologize and do what you can to remedy the situation. Then move on.
  • If you’re going to give away writing, offer it to a charitable or non-profit organization rather than a for-profit publication or business.
Filed under Writing Tips
Feb 25, 2020

Editing Tips

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Benefits Of Editing For Efficiency:

  • it is helpful in meeting word number maximums and space requirements
  • it is a critical factor in humor writing
  • it eliminates redundant words and sentences
  • it eliminates unnecessary words
  • the piece reads more fluidly
  • it inspires the writer to be even more creative
  • you learn to become more objective about the work being edited
  • it can make the difference between effective and ineffective ad copywriting
  • you increase your vocabulary by experimenting with different wording
  • it helps a writer to place his/her ego into perspective
  • it tailors a piece to the targeted market or readership

Read the rest of this post

Filed under Writing Tips
Oct 15, 2006

Humour Writing Tips

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Anyone for bungee-shopping?

What’s the plural of “Johnny-on-the-spot”?

I’m amazed at people who buy accordian files; imagine knowing that many people who play the accordian, that you’d need an entire file for them!


Comedy – it’s all around us every day – IF you just look and listen.

As sophisticated as entertainment, education and advertising have become, one basic fact remains true: HUMOR SELLS! In this day of economic stress, political unrest, increasing crime and Kathy Lee and Regis, people NEED and WANT more humor in their lives.

If you are or aspire to become a humor writer, you’re plunging into a world that’s madcap, zany and can actually make you a few bucks.

TIP 1: WRITE DOWN everything you find funny every day. Really. Do it. Get those little pads of colorful self-adhesive notes and keep one with you at all times. Yes, even in the bathroom (bathroom humor is big with kids). Just jot down anything funny that might come to mind in the course of your boring, useless existence; it may come in handy someday when you’re wrestling with a line in a sitcom or trying to come up with a funny premise for a skit. If you think of something when you’re driving, pull over and WRITE IT DOWN – it’s that important.

TIP 2: KEEP A HUMOR FILE. This is so you have somewhere to put those dozens of little pieces of pink and yellow paper. Don’t worry about sorting them out or trying to make sense of them right away. If they make too much sense, they’re not funny. Just keep shoving them in, and when you need inspiration or hit a writing snag, pull out the file and start laughing!

TIP 3: REMEMBER THAT PEOPLE LAUGH WHEN THEY’RE SURPRISED. Whether humor is spoken, written or physically acted out, people laugh when they know they’ve been tricked into thinking one thing will happen, when another does instead. Lead them down the garden path, then open the trap door and let them fall in.

TIP 4: DON’T TRY TOO HARD. When humor in a piece is too contrived or unnatural, it simply isn’t funny.

TIP 5: PLAY WITH WORDS. Ad writers get paid thousands of dollars for coming up with headlines and concepts that are based on unusual or unorthodox uses of everyday words and phrases. This is especially useful when writing humorous titles; for a comedic look at hockey, The buck stops here becomes The puck stops here! Experiment on paper – free associate and have fun with cliches.

TIP 6: EDIT, EDIT, EDIT. Last year, I was discouraged by the number of rejections I’d received for two particularly funny articles I’d written. I tried an experiment; using the editing tips I outline on my editing page, I cut each article’s length in half. I sent them off and sold them both within a few weeks. If something is too long, it isn’t funny; shorter pieces pack more punch. (This rule applies to most writing, not just humor, but it’s particularly critical where comedy is concerned).

TIP 7: IF YOU THINK IT’S FUNNY, CHANCES ARE OTHERS WILL, TOO!
And remember – light yogurt is great – throw in a little chocolate syrup, you’d never know it was calorie-reduced!

Filed under Writing Tips
Oct 15, 2006

Tips for Writing a Website

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People go to websites for CONTENT

  • If they see a glorified ad or brochure, they’ll most likely leave. If you want the visitors to call or show up at your place of business, you have to earn the right by providing information.
  • Internet users want details. They can browse websites in their pajamas in the middle of the night, and linger for hours longer than they would in a store or office. Give them a reason to linger on your website.
  • Deliver content quickly and accurately; otherwise users will leave your site. Fancy graphics that take a long time to download will lose you business.
  • There are two schools of thought on how much content to include on a site. Some people feel they want to limit content so that consumers will have to go into the store or office, because they feel the customers can be sold “up” more effectively in person. Others believe that putting everything, including prices, on a site totally targets purchasers, so that when and if they do come in in person, they are already sold on the product or service, and can still be sold “up.” We believe that putting everything onto a well-kept-up site is much more effective for targeting.
  • Keep your content up to date. There’s nothing more frustrating than going to purchase something and finding out the prices or info on the website is “old.”

Think about how people get to your website

  • They either obtain your web address from an ad or business card, or they find you through Google. To reach people who search on a topic in Google, make sure your site contains all the words you can think of that the person might search on. For example, if you sell writing services, make sure that somewhere in the site the words author, writer, books, etc. are somewhere in the text.
  • Advertising is great for getting attention, but once you get them to your site, give them something – a reason to trust you and come back.

Make it easy to do business with you

  • This cardinal rule of business applies to the Internet. Arrange your content in a logical, easy-to-find manner.
  • Do not bombard users with tremendous amounts of text and graphics on the index page. Provide links instead.
  • On the linked pages, provide substantial content so you don’t have people getting lost in “layers” of information.
  • Remember, Internet text and graphics are governed by Canadian Copyright Law. You do not have permission to use other people’s words, photos or graphics without permission.
  • Place yourself in your clients’ or customers’ shoes. When they click into your site, how might they best like to access information? Cluster your information and links accordingly.

Websites need effective visual AND text

  • In creating web content, make sure the graphics and writing are high quality.
  • If you don’t write well, hire a writer. If you don’t do graphics well, hire a designer. Visuals and graphics go hand in hand. Most people take in information visually more quickly, but if all that’s there are pretty pictures, they’ll be gone in a flash.
  • Use words on your site that appeal to all kinds of learners. Most people respond primarily to visual cues, but much of the population needs auditory or kinesthetic (textural) type words.

Consider including value-added information.

  • A tailor may do well to have a link to a page on how to get stains out of fine items of clothing. A business writer might offer tips on writing an effective memo. A garden centre could provide a seasonal gardening tips page. The website visitor might think that if you can give away that much information, there must be a lot more to gain from actually doing business with you.
  • Consider links to pages with complimentary information. If you sell food items, how about a page of recipes? If you sell writing services, how about a page listing the types of documents that can help market a business (newsletters, brochures, etc.)? If you sell fabric, why not link to pages with how-to information on making seasonal pillows?
  • Consider establishing links (with permission) to complimentary websites and arrange for them to point to your site.
Filed under Writing Tips
Oct 15, 2006