Tag Archives: writing

The Naughty Word of Blogging

Censored Stamp

Why Blog?

Let’s be honest, if we’re writing for a business blog instead of a personal one, don’t we have a business purpose? And isn’t that purpose somehow related to profit?

There, I said it. The dirty word of blogging: Profit, profit, profit.

Do otherwise sane and rational businesspeople invest in something that doesn’t in some way advance their business purpose? No, not successful ones anyway, and trying to hide it behind words like community and sharing and giving back doesn’t ring true.

I’m not saying that your blog should become a pushy sales letter filled with Buy Now! and Click Here! buttons because that wouldn’t be you. But, it’s not going to hurt to admit that you are a professional with products and services that you sell to provide a reasonable living for yourself and your family. Your readers can’t buy what they don’t know is for sale.

Don’t worry about people who would begrudge you an honest living and a reasonable profit, they aren’t who you want to reach anyway. Now, if your readers don’t want or need your products, you have an audience problem that could use some attention.

So go ahead and talk dirty – your blog and your business will benefit. Let me know how it’s working – I’d love to hear from you.

Business purpose alert: I’m available now for edits, content management and site consulting that maximizes your profits and moves your business forward. Click Here! to send me a note.

Image: Creative Commons


Three Steps to Faster Better Blog Posts

astronomical clock face

So, you started a blog. At first, it was kind of fun and new and exciting, but now the reality has set in – “How in the world am I going to find the time?” Well, science hasn’t yet been able to alter the flow of time, but here are some tips you can use to write your posts faster – and make them better too.

Always with the Ideas

Keep an idea file so you don’t spend time agonizing over a topic. Ideas will come to you at the strangest times so be ready for them. Write them down to keep them from evaporating into the ether. I know from sad experience that you won’t remember even the best ideas that come to you while driving or brushing your teeth. The only thing you’ll hold on to is the frustration of not quite being able to recall the idea that you know is fantastic.

Carry a small notepad and pencil with you, jot those brilliant thoughts down and put them in a folder. My idea folder is a box with a motley assortment of notepaper, clippings from magazines and newspapers and napkins and scratch paper with virtually illegible scrawl on them. It works for me.

If you spend a lot of time at your computer (who doesn’t anymore?) or find inspiration online, keep an idea file there as well. Make it simple so you won’t have to fumble around for it to jot notes and copy links. Mine is a notepad file on my desktop with an unsorted jumble of links, article ideas and possible titles.

Lay it Out

It’s OK to take the quick way out when you format your post. Take a look around popular and widely read blogs and you’ll see that the list post is a favorite now. It’s also the fastest to organize and write.

Start by setting down your key points and adding a paragraph or two of explanation for each. Three is an appealing minimum number that offers compelling information but doesn’t seem too long for the reader to tackle. More than ten defeats your purpose of writing faster but can be useful for longer posts. Here’s a great example with 50 items.

There are others, but here are some ways to begin your post:

  • Pose a Question
  • Use a Quotation
  • Offer a review

Write Already!

Get your idea clear in your mind and start writing. Write as fast as you can. Don’t worry about how it sounds or reads or if it’s too long or stupid – you’ll fix it later. Once your words are on the page, let it rest a while.

Now, shape it into a proper post. Click here for the post checklist with tips on doing that.

Blogging isn’t rocket science – or even science fair science – so don’t give up. How’s the writing going for you? Let me know what’s working and what’s not – I’d love to hear from you.

If you need help, let me know – I’m available now for edits and content management that bend the space-time continuum so you don’t have to.

Image: Creative Commons

We’re All Talking Zombies and Don’t Know It

Zombie Attack Warning

Earlier this week, I interviewed an expert for a magazine article. As I transcribed my notes, I was struck by how incoherent we are when we talk. My expert, a smart, college educated teacher, would begin to answer a question then take one or more tangents before coming back to the main thought.

The interview landscape was littered with fillers (like, actually, just, well, etc.) and incomplete sentences. In her defense, my contribution to the verbal thicket was only marginally smaller because I was supposed to be listening instead of rambling around with her.

I edited this junk out of the finished transcript and it won’t appear in the published quotes. The writers of all those articles you read in magazines and newspapers do this regularly so their sources sound like credible experts – you can thank us later for that.

Why do we shamble like zombies when speaking? How in heavens name do we understand one another? Because we get the gist of what someone has said and believe they have said it clearly and coherently.

But, when you’re writing, you don’t have the luxury of this extension of understanding. Readers won’t hack through the verbiage –they’ll give up. So, write like a sharper, clearer version of yourself.

Today’s Clarity Tip:

State your point in the shortest sentences possible. Stay away from compound sentences and avoid parenthetical asides. If you have more than three commas in a sentence, it’s too long. Break it up into individual thoughts.

How’s the writing going for you? Let me know what’s working and what’s not – I’d love to hear from you.

If you need help, let me know – I’m available now for edits and content management that wards off zombies.

Image: Creative Commons

Don’t Blog Just to Hear Yourself Talk

Boring Meeting Drones On

Have you been trapped in one of those meetings where someone just goes on and on and ON until you think your head will snap off your neck from fighting sleep? Long and dense blog posts are the written version but readers have the option of leaving the meeting. How do you keep them from bolting?

You write for your audience. For example, my goal is to help professionals communicate effectively. Since this post is about writing, I could say this:

  • Identify information readers will need and make that information easily accessible and understandable. User-centered documents must be usable, so consider how the document will be used rather than just how it will be read.

Boring! Did your head start to hurt?

Or this:

  • Write what your clients want to read and give them useful information.

It’s the same thing in short easy to read words.

If you write for professionals, dive right in to the technical subjects and go heavy on the arcane details. This audience looks for a thorough treatment of the subject and will assess your authority based on the content.

But, if you want to reach clients, keep it light and short. You can explain in more detail when they ask. As the expert, your job is to translate the technical information for your clients.

Neither is wrong but each speaks to a different audience. So, who do you write for and how’s that working? Leave a comment or send a note and share your thoughts.

Image: Creative Commons

Are Accountants Really Dull?

Big Yawn

Based on my extremely unscientific and statistically invalid search of accounting blogs this morning, I say yes – absolutely!

Not one of the blogs I found was interesting or readable – my requirements to avoid boredom. Of course, I have the attention span of a dragonfly, but so do most blog readers.

I talked about focus earlier but laser like dullness doesn’t keep readers either. So, here are two more things to keep in mind when blogging.

Be Interesting

Mostly I found dry and technical entries on stuff that only matters to accountants. There were entries on S-corporations vs. LLCs, proposed regulations on preparers, payroll taxes and other technical minutiae. I actually understand this and it’s still excruciatingly boring.

Be Readable

After the parched topics, the prose itself was a hurdle too high for most writers. I claimed that accountants can’t write and this sloppy research seems to bear that out. The extreme length of posts coupled with the lack of any apparent internal organization is an insurmountable barrier for most readers. I gave up and got coffee.

So, have you read, or written, a good blog lately? Please, let me know, I need something to read.

Image: Creative Commons

Business Blogs – 1 Mighty Thing

It seems like we’re all blogging now – personal blogs, creativity blogs, business blogs and even blogging blogs. So, if you have, or are considering starting, your own professional services blog, you’ll want to stand out in the sea of words. Here’s the one powerful idea you must know.

Focus, Focus, Focus

Decide on your blog focus and stay with it. Write narrowly about your professional area of expertise to attract readers looking for that information and establish your credibility. Stay focused on that one theme – don’t stray into current events or marginal topics.

Ask yourself why you’re blogging. Do you want to improve client communication and service, to position yourself as an expert in your field or perhaps to establish your reputation in your profession independent of a specific company? Have a clear and measurable goal in mind every time you post.

Know who you’re talking to. Write every post as if you’re talking to your ideal reader. Picture them in your mind and even choose a name. Know that person well and write exactly what they want in the way they want.

Maintaining this kind of focus is hard, especially after the first few posts. Write it down, post a sticky on your monitor, but stay focused.

Are you blogging? Why or why not and how’s it working for you? Leave a comment and let me know.


Three Tips to Improve Your Writing

How to avoid the top three crimes against words committed by accounting firms in their written communications:

Don’t use jargon. Most of your clients don’t know that a SIMPLE IRA stands for Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees Individual Retirement Account. They think it just means it’s easy! Don’t make your clients feel stupid by using terms they don’t understand and are embarrassed to ask. Always explain. Better yet, just write in simpler terms.

Don’t use stilted formal language with lots of words. There’s no rule that the more words you use the smarter you look. It just makes you look pompous. Write in a style closer to your speaking voice and see how much easier it is to read.

Proof read and spell check your work. I admit to this being a hot point for me. Typographical errors and misspellings are bad. Even if you’ve used big words so that you sound educated, typographical errors and misspelling the word opportunites makes you look careless. How do clients feel about someone who’s careless with words? Could they be equally careless with the facts and figures?  That’s not a thought you want your clients to entertain.

Now, if anyone has spotted a typo, please call it to my attention. First one gets bragging rights!