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  • The power of sensory language in business writing

    The power of sensory language in business writing

    by sharon lapkin

    Is there really a place for sensory language in business writing? The answer is a super-spicy, king-size yes and here are seven reasons you should be using it. 

    1.

    Sensory language provides vivid detailed imagery.

    2.

    Research shows that the brain processes sensory language faster.

    3.

    Readers can touch, feel, taste, hear and smell your words.

    4.

    It injects personality and animation into your writing.

    5.

    Your writing is stronger and more powerful.

    6.

    Sensory language helps you captivate your audience.

    7.

    It taps into readers’ emotions and engages them on multiple levels.

    What is sensory language?

    Sensory language uses the five senses – touch, sight, sound, smell and taste – to describe objects and experiences. The information collected by your five senses helps your nervous system interpret what’s happening around you.

    Sensory words are usually descriptive (adjectives) and they’re related to emotions and feelings. 

    When you read sensory words, you feel as if you’re in the scenario being described by the writer. Walking through fresh green grass, for example, might evoke feelings of positivity and emotions such as joy and happiness. Whereas, sitting alone in an empty railway station evokes feelings of negativity and emotions like sadness.

    On the other hand, when you read about ‘walking through the grass’ or ‘sitting in a railway station,’ the bland language doesn’t evoke any feelings or emotions. It’s lifeless.

    Why does fresh language engage you more? How come you feel as if you’ve been transported into the photo on the right when you read about walking through fresh green grass? Let me explain.

    Walking through soft green grass is an example of sensory language

    What your brain does when you read sensory language

    When you read sensory words and phrases your brain processes them differently to non-sensory words. Your nervous system sends messages to your brain, which creates mental images that engage you on multiple emotional levels.

    Let’s say you read a book that’s so engaging you can’t put it down, or a magazine article that makes you angry. Chances are these stories are sprinkled with sensory language that’s making you respond emotionally.

    What we know for sure is that instead of processing the text for meaning, readers actually experience sensory language on one or more emotional levels.

    Infographic - 4 ways to improve your sensory writing

    How to use sensory language in business writing

    Including sensory language in business writing is a skill that comes with practice. Usually, it’s a combination of conversational or semiformal writing plus sensory writing that engages your readers.

    For example, on a web page where you’re writing about a new process, you might begin the discussion with a semiformal tone, then employ sensory language to describe a specific action. Perhaps you’ll even add in a sensory metaphor for variety and detail. Finally, when you summarise the topic you switch back to a semiformal business tone. Ultimately, you end up with a captivated audience because you brought the writing to life for your readers, instead of just ‘telling’ them about it.

    Narration, which uses commentary to convey a story or a concept, can be enriched by sensory language.

    You can transform a case study, a sequence of events, a descriptive narrative, as well as copywriting. Persuasive and informational writing are also more powerful when sensory words are included in the writing.

    Man up ladder writing sensory language on noticeboard

    Following is a brief list of sensory words to use in your business writing. For a more extensive list check out my Complete guide to conversational writing or click on the button below the list here for a complete PDF copy.

    Examples of sensory words

    Sight

    Bright

    Dazzling

    Blushing

    Bright

    Crinkled

    Freckled

    Sprinkled

    Glistening

    Touch

    Abrasive

    Bumpy

    Slippery

    Prickly

    Silky

    Smooth

    Tight

    Warm

    Hearing

    Bang

    Crackling

    Echoing

    Rumble

    Rustle

    Splash

    Thud

    Whisper

    Smell

    Aromic

    Bitter

    Citrus

    Earthy

    Fresh

    Mellow

    Musty

    Spicy

    Taste

    Bitter

    Bland

    Cool

    Peppery

    Sugary

    Tangy

    Tasteless

    Creamy

    Get your complete list of sensory words here

    Start schmoozing with your clients today.

    The golden rule: show not tell

    ‘Show not tell,’ is a rule in fiction writing that new authors often struggle with. When you ‘tell’ your readers what’s happening, it doesn’t engage them. But when you ‘show’ them, the story comes to life.

    Anton Chekhov was inadvertently describing the show not tell rule when he wrote ‘Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.’

    But let’s be realistic. While you can’t use the show not tell technique all the time in business writing, it’s great for adding depth and flair. And even better if you can achieve a sassy balance between showing and telling.

    To sum up, sensory language is an essential component of ‘showing’ and it makes your writing realistic, immediate and engaging. But you’ll still need to do some ‘telling’ to communicate key messages, instructional copy and more formal types of business writing.

    EXAMPLES OF SHOW NOT TELL

    Tell: Sally was afraid to apply for the role when she saw the queue of applicants.

    Show: Sally trembled and put her job application back in her sachet when she saw the long queue of well-dressed people.

    Tell: With our new online platform, you can go straight to the page and type your comment.

    Show: We’ve created a bright and colourful online platform and we’d love to see you log in and leave a comment about our updated system.

    Watch this video to learn more about the show not tell technique

    Diane Callahan – Quotidian Writer (2020). How to show, not tell: The complete writing guide.

    Use strong verbs

    Are you wondering what a strong verb is? It’s when we use a stronger, more powerful, version of a basic verb. So instead of writing ‘run’, you’d write charge, race, dash or hurtle.

    Instead of ‘write’ you would record, jot, note, scrawl or take notes. And you’d write scrutinise, examine, peruse or scan instead of ‘read’.

    Once you get into the habit of using strong verbs, it’s easy – or, should I say, straightforward and breezy.

    Use a synonym finder to find powerful replacements for basic verbs. My favourite is WordHippo. It never fails to present me with interesting alternatives.

    EXAMPLES OF STRONG VERBS

    Basic: He ran towards the door.

    Strong: He dashed towards the door.

    Basic: I’d wanted to visit the building since I read about it in a magazine.

    Strong: I’d longed to visit the building since I read about it in a magazine.

    Squash those adverbs

    Not all adverbs need to be squashed – only the pesky ones ending in ‘ly’. Okay, that’s most of them. The truth is adverbs such as beautifully, lightly, wearily and firmly weaken your writing.

    For example, look at the sentence ‘He lightly wiped his desk.’ Take the adverb out and your sentence is stronger and clearer.

    Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway, detested adverbs. In fact, he used only 80 ly words per 10,000 words in his novels. Look at the masterful sentences below from The Old Man and the Sea.

    ‘Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.’

    EXAMPLES: ADVERBS for the scrapheap

    The CEO angrily described the problem.

    I’m certainly going to get one of those.

    The applicant was waiting anxiously by the door.

    Use metaphors to create vivid images

    Sensory language is perfect for writing metaphors and you may not notice how often you already do it.

    Hands typing on a laptop

    Having a heated debate and the sweet smell of success are both sensory metaphors. 

    Avoid metaphors that are so overused they’ve turned into cliches. The words were music to his ears, is a good example of a copypasta keyword. Instead, put your brain to work and create original metaphors. Your readers will thank you.

    EXAMPLES OF METAPHORS

    She worked until every sentence felt like silk.

    Let’s write fresh tight copy that’s effortless to read.

    Talk about a super-spicy, sassy blog post!

    Like what you see?

    Let's talk about your content needs

    When not to use sensory language in your writing

    Be careful where you write sensory language in serious, formal content. In these contexts, it can come across as out of tune and inappropriate. 

    Also make sure you use realistic sensory language. Using descriptive phrases that depict aliens or ancient history are probably a bad idea. Keep it familiar and inside your readers’ comfort zones, and analyse their likely reactions to what you’re writing, not your own feelings.

    Use sensory language in business writing when you want your readers to imagine a scene, description, image or action. It’s a sure way to captivate them. Take care to use positive words when you want to create a bright, happy scenario. You might be surprised by the negative emotions triggered by hurried words. 

    For example, nervous can also mean excited. Break can mean both unexpected good luck and taking a rest. Clean, light and clear are ambiguous words that can undo good writing.

    The takeaway? Keep an eye on the words you use and the emotional reactions they can generate.

    What the research says about sensory writing

    In 2019, Leonie Rocek wrote her thesis around the question: Are customers  influenced by sensory descriptions on food menus in restaurants?

    It turned out that customers are influenced in a positive way by sensory descriptions of the food on offer. But it doesn’t stop there. Emotions also play a significant role.

    Man in cafe reading sensory language in menu

    Customers enjoyed the whole restaurant experience more, and they expressed a desire to return in the future. In addition, they perceived the food to be more valuable and of a higher quality.

    What we can garner from this research is that readers trust information more when it engages their senses.

    the brain lights up when processing sensory words

    In another study, researchers found that sensory words are processed faster than non-sensory words. And a year later, more research published in the Brain and Language journal suggested that ‘conceptual processing is grounded in sensory systems.’ That a specific part of the brain lights up when processing sentences that include sensory metaphors.

    *A metaphor likens one thing to another, and describes it in a way that isn’t literally true. For example, ‘drowning in a sea of grief,’ and Shakespeare’s ‘All the world’s a stage, and men and women merely players.’ We discuss the power of metaphors  in sensory writing earlier in this post.

    The takeaway

    I hope you’ll include sensory language in your business writing. When it appears on the page at the right moment, it can impact your readers and clients in powerful ways.

    The most important takeaway here is to publish original and authentic writing. Nobody wants to read fluffernutter sentences they’ve read a zillion times before. But they do want to grab a coffee, snuggle up and read inspiring original content. And you’ve got that. Right?

     Publish exceptional content and it will win you new readers and clients all day long.

    One more thing ...

    Did you know that 2.5x more people use search engines than any other platform? 

     Unlike social media, your website is real estate you own. So if you’re ranking high enough in Google, you have tremendous opportunities to get in front of masses of people. 

    I built the Textshop brand with high-ranking blog posts, and you can do it too.

    Gold stars in a pattern

    Take this blog post, for example: Does my business need a blog? It’s ranking #6 – so not quite #1, but way up there on page one for the keyword I used. 

    How to write a smashing blog post is ranking #1. That’s right, the top of Google!

    I even had a featured snippet on this post for several months (prime Google real estate).

    Now for a blog post I loved writing: How to make your writing more powerful. It’s ranking #4 on Google – so I might update this post to give it a better chance of reaching #1. (Yes, you can update blog posts and not be penalised.)

    Clearly, you don’t need to be a big company to rank highly in Google.

    If I could get Textshop there, you can get your brand up there too!

    Your business is important

    Let's find the right words for your brand.
    textshop

    About Sharon Lapkin

    Sharon is a content writer and award-winning editor. After acquiring two masters degrees (one in education and one in editing and comms) she worked in the publishing industry for more than 12 years. A number of major publishing accomplishments came her way, including the eighth edition of Cookery the Australian Way (more than a million copies sold across its eight editions), before she moved into corporate publishing.

    Sharon worked in senior roles in medical colleges and educational organisations until 2017. Then she left her role as editorial services manager for the corporate arm of a university and founded Textshop Content – a content writing and copyediting agency that provides services to Australia’s leading universities and companies.

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  • A complete guide to conversational writing

    Girl using laptop to do conversational writing.

    A complete guide to conversational writing

    How many times have you opened a marketing email or started to read a blog post and glazed over?

    Dense, over-complicated writing is a turn-off. And when you have to wade through it for work, what do you do? Yawn? Run? Put it aside for later?

    Dreary, tepid content that reads like it was written by a robot will damage the longevity of your brand. 

    On the other hand, you could deliver bright, warm, on-brand content that makes your readers want to hang around and schmooze.

    Let me show you how!

    What is conversational writing style?

    Conversational writing is a unique style of writing that breaks those grammar rules you learnt at high school. Sentences might commence with ‘And’ or ‘But’ and you’ll collide midway through a paragraph with ‘ouch’ or ‘drat’.

    It’s fun and friendly. It’s also powerful. You can use conversational writing to connect with people on a deeply personal level. 

    Dry or overly complicated content is a one-way ticket to be scrolled past and forgotten forever. But smooth effortless-to-read writing will keep your readers reading.

    Conversational writing is the way of the future for marketing materials such as email, newsletters, websites and blogs. This is the type of content businesses are using to generate leads and create loyal customers.

    Row of people standing with arms in the air

    The point is to make every single person feel like you’re giving them special attention so they keep coming back. You want your readers to feel like you know them – and, if you’ve researched your niche brand, you do know them. 

    Plus, if you’re generating well-researched, informative content, they’re likely to share it with others.

    One of the best parts of conversational writing is that once you get the hang of it, it can be a really easy style to generate original content every time. It is, however, difficult to master at first. You’ve got to shake the thought of your high school teachers drilling into you that you need to write like the next great novelist.

    What isn't conversational writing

    It can be easy to presume a conversational writing style would be as easy as typing how you’d text your friends.

    That is NOT what we’re going for. Developing a conversational tone in your writing means creating simple, easy-to-understand content.

    Couple on laptop and mobile phone doing conversational writing

    If you were to write the way you speak, though, it could be confusing for readers who don’t know you.

    The idea is to create a style of writing that makes the reader feel like you’re addressing them directly. Think of it as getting a virtual cup of coffee with them, not addressing a crowd at a sold-out concert.

    Another thing to note is that a conversational writing style is not a one-size-fits-all.

    There’s a time and a place.

    For example, you wouldn’t put liver puns in an article about fatty liver disease. But you would put puns in a newsletter about cat sweaters. This is why conversational writing is such a valuable skill to have.

    Tips for conversational writing

    If you’re ready to develop your own conversational writing style, follow these tips and experiment and practise until you feel ready to share your work. 

    Infographic on tips for conversational writing

    Use simple words

    Conversational writing should be simple. There’s no need to whip out your thesaurus and find unique words for your content. It’s not that you’re ‘dumbing down’ the writing – you’re making it palatable for every reader.

    If you’re writing about a complex topic, such as software, think about the readers. They are likely not going to be experts on the subject, which is why they’ve come to you for answers.

    Using data to back up your facts is important, but simplify the wording for everyone to be able to understand. Adding graphs, tables and illustrations to support your writing on more complex concepts is always a good idea.

    Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re writing about microgreens and you find this definition:

    Microgreens are vegetable greens harvested just after the cotyledon leaves have developed.

     You could rewrite this conversationally as:

    Microgreens are the young seedlings of vegetables and herbs.

     It may not look like much of a difference, but the reader will likely not know what a cotyledon is. You may go on to explain it later, but this is a good place to start to simplify the wording.

    Sunshine fresh

    Smooth, warm conversational writing

    Keep it concise

    Employ user-friendly words and keep sentences and paragraphs short. Nobody hopped online to read lengthy paragraphs to get to the bottom of why their left foot is itchy. Here are two rules to keep in mind:

    1. Sentences should be a maximum of 28 words long.

    2. Paragraphs should be a maximum of 90 words.

    When you look at the numbers, 51% of low-scoring texts have paragraphs that are way too long. The second that readers see a solid block of text, they’ve likely decided to move on. While you’re writing, you can check your word counts to make sure you’re staying in your lane. If you’re having trouble being too wordy, practise writing sentences and removing unnecessary words. This paragraph is about 75 words long; getting bored yet? They should be shorter.

    As for sentences, chop ‘em up! Forget what you learned about proper sentence structure in high school. Keep. It. Simple!

    Use contractions and interjections

    Another great way to work on your conversational writing style is to use contractions. So write isn’t instead of ‘is not’ and didn’t instead of ‘did not’.

    This makes writing sound more casual as if you’re talking directly to your readers.

    When you start using contractions in your writing, you’ll see how it it relaxes the conversational  tone.

    Man pointing to emphasise doing conversational writing correctly

     Interjections are part of natural speech (oops, yikes, bravo) and they’re used to convey emotion and breathe a sense of humanness into writing. Used well they can elevate writing and add interest, but take care to use them sparingly to avoid overkill.

    Ask your readers questions

    One of the best ways to engage your reader is to ask them questions.

    When you’re reading something and the writer asks you a question, it makes you think doesn’t it?

    A question is a great way to get your readers to engage and remember the information from your content.

    It’s also an excellent way to get engagement on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

    Use the right conversational tone

    When creating a conversational writing style, you should develop your own conversational tone. That’s part of the fun! It’s also going to make your content memorable and stand out among competitors. It will, of course, depend on your circumstances, but being able to add in tidbits about your personal experience can create a lively connection with your audience.

    If your business needs to appeal to more than one type of client, you may need to wear multiple hats when it comes to tone. But persevere because working out the conversational tone that a particular group of clients is most comfortable with is a must-do task.

    While creating your personality in conversational writing, don’t be afraid to add in some pizazz. You can throw in interjections like yay! or ouch! to make your content come alive. Feel free to also get WILD and start sentences with those conjunctions and and but that we discussed earlier. You won’t get an F on your English paper for that here.

    Sprinkle sensory language

    Sensory language uses words related to our five senses to add emotion to writing. While sensory words may not sound like a good fit for business writing, the payoffs can be huge.

    Decades ago, American Nobel Laureate Scientist Herbet Simon observed that “In order to have anything like a complete theory of rationality, we have to understand what role emotion plays in it.” The role of emotion in business decision-making remains a much-discussed topic today.

    The Harvard Business Review, for example, has been publishing articles on emotional intelligence for years. And while there’s no formula yet that determines how human decision-making happens, we can garner enough from the science to know that sensory language will influence the way people feel about your products or services.

    Now that we’ve got the science out of the way, let’s look at the categories of sensory language we can use to influence customers and generate leads.

    We can use visual, tactile and auditory words, as well as words that describe taste and smell. We can also put words that depict motion to good use. Sensory words shouldn’t be over-sprinkled, however. Use them strategically for the greatest impact.

     

    * Click on the categories below to see examples of sensory words.

    Dazzling, shiny, bright, sparkly, sparkling, tight, gloomy, grin-worthy, glint, glimmer, glow, shine, glossy, vibrant, glitter, knotty, murky, polished, wildly, animated, bulky, delicate, frail, wrinkled, grassy, gloomy, feeble, beefy, crinkled

    Razor-sharp, tight, smouldering, faded,  hollow, knife-like, watery, tangle, briny, damp, oily, squelch, slimy, fluffy, rough, smooth, hairy, sticky, chilled, gritty, velvety, soft, creamy, rounded, lukewarm, spiky, boiling, tender, sizzling, tepid

    Thundering, softly, gently, thumping, crashing, tingling, squeaky, piercing, whoosh, squeal, clump, boom, sploosh, crunchy, ear-splitting, roaring, faint, muted, buzz, whine, unspoken, tinkle, deafening, gurgle, squawk, hum, crackle

    Salty, sweet, bitter, sour, spicy, super-spicy, juicy, cucumber cool, crisp, stinky, bite-sized, piece of cake, garden fresh, freshly baked, overpowering, biting, tangy, lemony, minty, sharp, zesty, gooey, deliciously, wildly, intense, fruity, pungent

    Pungent, bitter, perfumed, scented, aroma, aromatic, sniff, odour, billowy, biting, faint, wispy, rich, misty, fishy, lemony, tangy, tart, citrusy, earthy, smoky, pine, flowery, lilac, mouldy, musty, rancid, stagnant, stench, gaseous, sharp, briny

    Stirring, dart, progress, flow, rapid, gradual, steady, slowly, gradual, slight, sudden, stubbornly, vibrating, mind-boggling, bumpy, stamp out, twirl, swirl, whirl, wriggle, soaring, paralysed, eye-popping, motionless, fleeting, zipping

    Sensory words are power words! 

    They engage your reader on deep levels and create a strong emotional connection. Take this example from chocolate maker Green & Black. Sensory words such as crunchy and soft don’t refer to taste, but to touch and sound. Now that’s powerful!

    A creative way to include sensory language in your writing is to insert them into metaphors. They can be evocative and moving, but must be used sparingly to have real impact.

    Metaphors compare two things that are different to suggest an image, likeness or analogy between them. 

    Simple examples of business metaphors are:

    Taking it to a new level and Growing a business.

    Literary metaphors can have an emotional impact on readers, such as:

    ‘My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.’ – John Green, Fault in our Stars.

    ‘Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.’ – Pablo Picasso

    If you’re interested in using metaphors in your conversational writing, be original and quirky. They have much greater impact when they haven’t been read before.

    Use active voice

    Try to use active voice in conversational writing whenever you can. So, instead of writing ‘The house was sold by the real estate agent,’ write ‘The real estate agent sold the house.’

    In passive voice, the subject of the action (the house) is the object of the sentence. The passive voice is usually clunky and indirect. Avoid using passive constructions and enliven your sentences with active voice. It’s bright, lively and more direct.

    Active voice also enlightens your conversational tone.

     Google prefers active voice and, if you’re looking to rank, and it’s more aligned with the way people speak. If you’re new at writing in an active voice, just practise until it feels natural.

    Use informal SEO keywords

    When researching keywords to optimise content for search engines, we analyse ‘reader intent’. So we put ourselves into readers’ shoes and try to predict what they’re going to type into the search engine. 

    This is great news for conversational writers because the best ranking keywords are often informal, casual and even slang. People favour a conversational tone when they type queries into Google.

    As I write this (and remember SEO is constantly evolving) 900 people each month are typing the longtail keyword ‘How to do SEO,’into Google. But only 10 of them are typing in ‘How to understand SEO.’ It tells us everything, doesn’t it? Conversational language is how readers actually think, themselves.

    Check: Are you telling a good story?

    We use stories to understand and find meaning throughout our lives. If the story isn’t complete, we often ponder the ending in our heads.

    There are tremendous benefits in having a story to tell in business writing. Prospective clients are known to make decisions based on the emotional impact they’re experiencing while listening to, or reading, a story. 

    Cassie Gillette, writing for Semrush’s 2022 Global Report, predicts that storytelling in content marketing will be key in 2022–23. ‘If you’re going to work on one skill this year,’ she wrote, ‘work on being a better storyteller’.

    You can use a storytelling structure for any type of business writing, providing the format works with the three components that make a good story – characters, conflict and resolution.

    Hubspot discusses how to elevate your brand and connect with your audience through storytelling in this free download.

    Dazzling conversational copy

    Finely crafted and delivered to your inbox

    Read it out loud

    Wondering if your writing actually sounds conversational, or  if you’ve got the conversational tone right? 

    Have an open mic for yourself and read it out loud! 

    Try reading your content aloud and recording it. Listen to see if it has a conversational flow to it, and if you enjoy hearing it. Another tip for reading out loud is to see where you pause to take a breath.

    A good rule of thumb is that if there is a pause, you should break it into two sentences. This is going to do wonders if you struggle with being super-wordy when you write.

    Watch this video from Kaleigh Moore on how to write conversationally.

    The bottom line

    To sum up, conversational writing is a necessary skill if you want to break through the tsunami of mediocre content on the internet.

    It’s a powerful tool in marketing that will help you stand out among competitors.

    People want personality to shine through when they’re reading content online. They appreciate shiny original text that hasn’t been seen a zillion times before. Sensory language will also add pizzazz, but don’t overdo it.

    Warm, human words they trust because you know them already, as well as what they’re looking for. Be a creative conversational writer, an original thinker with a warm-hearted tone and aim to both educate and entertain your audience.

    Before you leave

    Want to put some punch in your writing? Check out How to make your writing stronger.

    Looking to improve your content marketing writing? You’ll enjoy How to be a good content writer.

    For tips on writing awesome blog posts, see How to write a smashing blog post.

    Your business is important

    Let's find the right words for your brand.
    textshop

    About Sharon Lapkin

    Sharon is a content writer and award-winning editor. After acquiring two masters degrees (one in education and one in editing and comms) she worked in the publishing industry for more than 12 years. A number of major publishing accomplishments came her way, including the eighth edition of Cookery the Australian Way (more than a million copies sold across its eight editions), before she moved into corporate publishing.

    Sharon worked in senior roles in medical colleges and educational organisations until 2017. Then she left her role as editorial services manager for the corporate arm of a university and founded Textshop Content – a content writing and copyediting agency that provides services to Australia’s leading universities and companies.

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  • Is content marketing worth it?

    Woman's profile with IT tools depicting question is content marketing worth it.

    Is content marketing worth it?

    When it comes to marketing strategies, gone are the days of paying top dollar for a sponsored ad package. Businesses are moving their focus to content marketing strategies instead. But is content marketing worth it?

    Content marketing is not new by any means, but it’s been gaining popularity as businesses move to online-only models. This type of marketing strategy is going to include blogs, videos and podcasts.

    Outbound marketing strategies, such as sponsored ads, aren’t working as well anymore. Consumers have caught on to these marketing strategies, which tend to be disruptive and annoying. If a customer is bothered by your ad when they’re doing a search, it’s not going to turn into a lead. To acquire customers, you need to build trust and a connection.

    This is the reason content marketing is on the upswing. Businesses are learning that organic traffic is the best way to bring in new leads and get conversions. In fact, 70% of all businesses use content marketing.

    Currently, the content marketing industry is valued at $400 billion and is predicted to continue growing. So, let’s look at content marketing and why it’s worth it for your business.

    What is content marketing?

    Before asking yourself if content marketing is worth it, it’s important to understand what it is exactly.

    You may have some ideas about it that may be true, but content marketing is a complex idea.

    Content marketing is a form of inbound marketing that involves developing and distributing content, usually on the internet.

    Woman pointing finger asking is content marketing worth it.

    The content should be relevant to your audience and be directly related to your product. Blogs, videos and podcasts are some of the most powerful forms of content marketing that businesses use.

    While the concept of content marketing seems to be new, it isn’t. In fact, 92% of marketers and businesses view content as a valuable business tool.

    Typically, the goal of content marketing is to increase your brand awareness, engagement and loyalty. You not only want to reach your audience, but you also want to build a connection.

    There’s a huge difference between pumping out generic content every hour and creating well-researched, quality content that will generate more business.

    Think about this when you scroll through social media. Do you stop and read the sponsored ads? Probably not. Nobody does. We’ve learned that ads are bad, and we don’t want anything to do with them.

    That’s where content marketing comes in. Instead of seeing an ad that’s interrupting their search, turn your content into the result of the search.

    There are several methods of content marketing that work well. One of the best forms of content marketing is blog writing because it’s versatile and you can write a blog about pretty much anything.

    Watch the history of content marketing.

    Content Marketing Institute (2015). The story of content: rise of the new marketing.

    Types of content marketing

    So, now that we know a little about what content marketing is, let’s talk about the different types.

    It can be any type of content that you’re putting on your website and social media platforms. Keep in mind that throwing content onto your site just to have it there does not constitute a content marketing strategy.

    Content marketing is going to take some thought and a lot of work to produce results, but it’s going to be worth it.

    Blog writing

    A content marketing strategy worth having is going to include blog writing. No, we’re not talking about an online diary of your thoughts and feelings. Blog writing is a powerful tool that is the go-to for improving search engine optimisation (SEO.)

    Writing blog content that pertains to your product with well-researched and engaging content will draw in customers organically.

    Think about all of the times you’ve typed a question into a search engine and clicked on the first relevant blog. That could be you!

    The best part of blog writing is that it can be tailored to essentially any topic. If you have a way with words, you can write them yourself. But keep in mind that 90.63% of blog posts get zero or no traffic from Google.

    So, unless you’re a good writer with SEO knowledge, you might want to outsource your blog posts. Think about hiring an SEO wordsmith who can help you increase the organic traffic to your website.

    For example, if you’re selling microgreens, you could create a blog post with a longtail niche keyword that will be in searches regarding the topic. The blog post should be well-researched, with content-engaging content that will actually draw the reader in and get them clicking around your website. That way, those searching for information on microgreens will see your blog posts in the search, click on one, and end up on your page. This is likely to generate interest in your product that can turn into a lead or sale.

    The average blog is around 1100 words, but you can create shorter or longer blogs and see what works best for you. Along with blog writing, you can utilise other content marketing tools to enhance the user experience.

    Video content

    Another great tool to make content marketing worth it is creating videos. Video is a powerful and popular marketing device.

    Currently, 48% of customers rely on videos when searching for a product.

    Another great tool that makes content marketing worth it is creating videos. Video is a powerful and popular marketing device.

    Woman making video and asking is content marketing worth it.

    It’s easy to understand why people rely on videos when searching for a product. Not everyone wants to read a 2,000 word blog post on juicing celery, so a video that contains a how-to, or other content related to the blog, can help increase your engagement.

    Infographics

    An infographic is exactly what it sounds like. It’s an informational graphic that can be used to explain complex ideas. They’re a great addition to a blog post to help explain key points and will create engagement from the folks who don’t feel like reading the entire post. 

    When you’re deciding whether content marketing is worth it, it’s important to remember that everyone is different. While one person may want to read a long-form blog, others will benefit from being able to look at an infographic. The infographic below is a good visual summary of the different points we’re discussing in this blog post.

    Infographic-Is content marketing worth it?

    Podcasts

    According to a study in the US, 49% of 12 to 32-year-olds listen to a podcast at least once a month. Podcasts may not be the first thing you think of with content marketing, but they are a great tool. If you’re unfamiliar, a podcast is an audio recording that consists of spoken words and information surrounding a specific topic.

    One way to utilise podcasts is to create blog content summarising a podcast, or elaborating on a specific point. You can also turn it around, and create a podcast revolving around the blog post. This again will give your audience the option to choose how they are absorbing your content and engaging with it.

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    Other types of content marketing

    A how-to is a practical guide or step-by-step instructions on how to do something or achieve an objective.

    A meme is a photo, illustration or/and text that’s usually humorous and spreads rapidly online, often through social media channels.

    A case is an in-depth study of a person, group, community or event. It serves to demonstrate a complex issue or to analyse it from a particular perspective.

    A checklist is a list of all the things you need to do. It’s a good way to organise and manage tasks, and to ensure things are not overlooked or forgotten.

    User-generated content is created by people rather than brands. It can include text, videos, podcasts, photographs, illustrations and reviews.

    Newsletters are used by businesses and organisations to share new information and news through their online mailing list.

    The mailing list is composed of customers and people who have signed up to receive this correspondence via email.

    Why do you need content marketing?

    Now, the big question is whether content marking is worth it or not. The short answer is yes, it is! We’ll explain why.

    You'll earn their trust

    Once deemed credible on subjects pertaining to your product, you’ll gain the trust of your customers. Trust is one of the biggest things you want to get from your customers. It creates loyalty, and they’ll be more likely to recommend your business to a friend or family member if they trust you.

    Today, it’s all about custom content. Creating a narrative around your brand and giving your customers a story and behind-the-scenes access makes them feel special. Providing credible and trustworthy blogs will keep them coming back for more information too.

    It's affordable

    Creating a content marketing strategy that’s worth it is 62% cheaper than other types of advertising campaigns. So, instead of paying for ad packages on social media platforms, you can create content in-house or hire freelancers.

    Most social media platforms are free to sign up for, and if you have a powerful content marketing strategy you may not find it necessary to pay for sponsored ads.

    Content marketing increases organise website traffic

    Those with successful content marketing strategies typically see 7.8 times higher growth in website traffic. Optimising blogs correctly using SEO will increase your rankings in searches for keywords related to your business.

    You'll maximise your views

    Using content marketing will increase your website views. If you have an extensive range of blog posts, users can spend plenty of time clicking through your content once they’ve found one post they like. You can create backlinks to keep them browsing, which will improve your views and traffic stats.

    Having SEO content on your platforms will help search engines pick up and show your pages. If you have video content attached to your blog, even better. Someone may read the blog, then spend time watching the video, as well. Google also tends to favour blog content that has videos and images.

    The bottom line: Is content marketing worth it?

    The bottom line is that yes, content marketing is worth it. If you’re wondering why you need content marketing, it’s simple.

    Consumers aren’t going to be swayed by a coupon or a paid ad these days, you need to give them something more.

    Creating engaging blog posts is a great way to start using content marketing in your business strategy. Try it out today!

    Like what you see?

    Let's talk about your content needs

    Before you go

    To learn more about content marketing check out How to be a good content writer.

    If you’re keen to improve your blog posts see How to write a smashing blog post.

    Want to learn how to correctly optimise your content? Read Is SEO really needed.

    And if you think your business is fine without a blog, take a look at Does my business need a blog.

    Your business is important

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    About Sharon Lapkin

    Sharon is a content writer and award-winning editor. After acquiring two masters degrees (one in education and one in editing and comms) she worked in the publishing industry for more than 12 years. A number of major publishing accomplishments came her way, including the eighth edition of Cookery the Australian Way (more than a million copies sold across its eight editions), before she moved into corporate publishing.

    Sharon worked in senior roles in medical colleges and educational organisations until 2017. Then she left her role as editorial services manager for the corporate arm of a university and founded Textshop Content – a content writing and copyediting agency that provides services to Australia’s leading universities and companies.

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  • Slow travel writing tips and examples

    A couple walking on the beach in the Bahamas in their swimsuits for the blog post travel writing tips from a professional editor.

    Slow travel writing tips and examples

    Slow travel focuses on making genuine connections. On first-hand interactions with local people and learning about their traditions and culture.

    It’s about taking a back seat, finding offbeat treasures and listening to local stories.

    Travel readers love storytellers who reveal their sense of humanity and who aren’t afraid to express their feelings. 

    Readers want deep-dive knowledge about the places they’re visiting. 

    They want a writer who can evaluate the environment and provide authentic advice about questions they haven’t considered yet.

    New York Times contributor and seasoned travel writer Tim Neville explained quality travel writing like this:

    Man with suitcase and laptop walking towards transport.

    ‘You need facts, and lots of really captivating ones, but the best travel writing also includes some subtle statement about who we are as humans, and how to make the most of the precious time we have on this great big earth.’

    The following slow travel writing tips and examples will help you identify your readers’ needs and deliver the information and inspiration they’re looking for.

    Before you write a word ask yourself

    Why is this place worth visiting?

    What happens when you do visit?

    Is something at stake?

    Can I see conflict?

    Is there dialogue with locals I can incorporate?

    Girl writing slow travel writing tips and examples

    Leave a subtle nod to something bigger than travel

    The story doesn’t need to revolve around an earth-shattering event.

    It could be a simple adventure, such as finding a historic library among the cobblestone laneways of Rome. A perfect opportunity to take your readers on a journey.

    As Neville reminds us, ‘By the end, I want to be left with a subtle nod to something bigger than just travel.’

    Slow travel writing should also reflect changes occurring in the travel industry – both from the perspective of the destination and that of the traveller.

    If you haven’t chatted to the locals, there’s little point attempting to write authoritatively about a travel destination.

    And even less point if you haven’t researched the demographic you’re writing for, or identified your niche readership.

    Infographic about slow travel writing tips.

    The following slow travel writing tips and examples should help you write authentic, compelling stories about the places you visit.

    Dig a little deeper

    Mont Saint-Michel, in France, is visited by more than 2.5 million tourists annually. 

    How do you explore this magnificent place without being trampled by other tourists?

    Can you find more meaningful experiences to share in print?

    Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France. A perfect place for slow travel writing.
    Stay overnight at the spectacular Mont Saint-Michel.

    The answer is an overnight stay. Book early and you can reserve a room in one of the small hotels or B&Bs. This will give you time to explore the landscape and talk to locals. It’s an unforgettable experience and only a handful of other visitors will be joining you.

    Look to locals for the real stories

    The authorities in Venice have recently started charging day visitors a new tax that’s aimed at reducing the number of day travellers descending on the fragile city.

    But look closer and you’ll find a local group, Venezia Autentica, that’s coaxing tourists away from the crowded piazzas. Instead, they’re offering tours and experiences with local guides and artisans.

    The group offers tourists authentic cultural experiences that support the local community and ‘positively impact the city’.

    Of my slow travel writing tips, this is the most important. Peel away the tourism industry veneer and look for meaningful experiences and hidden treasures to write about.

    Many travellers are yearning for authentic travel experiences, and a lot of locals in tourist destinations want visitors to have genuine interactions with the local community.

    Search for gems in the back streets

    Pont Chiodo is the only bridge left in Venice without a parapet (handrail).

    Once upon a time none of Venice’s bridges had parapets. This little treasure is all that’s left.

    There is one other bridge without a parapet on the island of Torcello in the Venetian Lagoon.

    Pont Chiodo is the only bridge left in Venice without a parapet (handrails).
    The only bridge left in Venice without a parapet is Pont Chiodo, which is privately owned.

    It’s known as Devil’s Bridge or Pont del Diavolo.

    It has a tragic folktale attached to it, which you can check out via the link.

    Don’t overlook these gems in the backstreets and focus on local stories and history in your research and writing.

    Explore local myths and stories

    Another example of locals taking action against mass tourism is in the Cinque Terre. There you’ll find a UNESCO-sponsored youth program that’s helping to restore the decaying terraces and stonewalls. For centuries, these walls supported the vertical farming of lemons, apples and vineyards along the rugged coastline.

    View of Manarola from the sea
    Manarola is part of the fragile Cinque Terre, where tourism has been restricted.

    If you research the Cinque Terre online, you’ll find multiple references to the desperate measures being considered to restrict tourism – again because of overcrowding.

    So what do you do as a slow travel writer? It’s easy. You consider the jewels strewn among the backstreets.

    You search for local stories and for travel experiences that will involve your readers in the culture and history of the place.

    Consider writing about the Jewish Ghetto in Carneggrio in Venice (the first ghetto in Europe), instead of more famous and overcrowded places of interest such as the Rialto Bridge and Doge’s Palace. 

    Find one of Florence's best-kept secrets

    In Florence, write about the Laurentian Library, which was designed by Michelangelo, instead of marvelling at David in the Accademia Gallery after long hours in the queue outside.

    The Architectural Digest describes Michelangelo’s Laurentian Library in Florence as ‘a revolutionary and rarely crowded masterpiece’.

    Designed by Michelangelo and constructed in the 1500s, it houses the most important collection of antique books and manuscripts in Italy.

    From the freestanding grey stone staircase to the pew-like rows of reading benches, it’s an astounding achievement.

    The Laurentian Library is less than a kilometre from Michelangelo’s David and yet it’s relatively unknown to tourists.

    The little-known jewels are there to be found

    The word ‘ghetto’ is derived from the Jewish Ghetto in Venice, which was instituted in 1516. Known as ‘Campo del Ghetto’ it has an ancient and difficult history marked by tragedy and persecution.

    While the ghetto is of tremendous historical significance, along with its five synagogues and world-class museum, tourists are often completely unaware of the existence of this important place.

    In Milan, instead of sending readers to get trampled in the crowd at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, send them to Bosco Verticale. There they’ll find high-rise residential buildings almost completely covered in trees and plants.

    Or, rather than encouraging readers to join the queue at the Milan Cathedral, inspire them to pop around the corner and climb the 250 steps up the staircase to its roof. It’s almost half the price of the elevator and twice the fun.

    Walking on the cathedral rooftop with more than 3,400 marble spires, statues and gargoyles will blow their socks off.

    Slow travel writing is about honouring the place you’re visiting and writing about it with respect and anthenticity.

    Find a secret garden in central Milan

    Go on a treasure hunt and find the Botanical Garden of Brera hidden away in the centre of Milan. You’ll find it through a small gate at the end of an unassuming street.

    There often isn’t a tourist in sight and you may find yourself walking around with a few friendly locals.

    Botanical Garden of Brera in Milan- an example of slow travel writing tips
    Believed to be one of Mozart's favourite place to walk, the Botanical Garden of Brera is one of Milan's secrets.

    Created by Maria Theresa of Austria in 1774, the garden contains two gingko biloba trees that were planted in 1786. (Ginkos are the world’s oldest living trees dating back 250 million years.)

    The garden was also used by apothecaries and doctors to study botany and, according to legend, Mozart once walked around this secret little garden. Perhaps he was composing the Magic Flute as he walked among the hydrangea.

    Are you enjoying these slow travel writing tips and examples? Keep reading for more tips at the end.

    Like what you see?

    Let's talk about your content needs

    Think and walk outside the square

    Think laterally and dig deeper to avoid the overcrowded main attractions.

    Instead of waiting in line for hours to see the interior of the Milan Cathedral send your readers off on an adventure.

    Show them how to climb the staircase up to the roof. It took 600 years to build the magnificent Duomo di Milano and the workmanship on the roof is worth the climb.

    In an interview with the BBC, the inimitable Paul Theroux spoke about the importance of travelling and writing, and he summed it up with this quintessential quote:

    ‘Travel in an uncertain world … has never seemed to me more essential, of greater importance or more enlightening.’

    The art of slow travel and how to make a living from it

    Backpacker Steve (2017). The art of slow travel – Gareth Leonard (A life of travel, Ep3).

    13 slow travel writing tips to help you shine the light

    1.

    Write in first person and past tense.

    2.

    Identify your reading audience and pitch specifically to them. When you’ve defined your niche stay with it.

    3.

    Plot out your travel story, and have a clear narrative that links the beginning to the end. It should never read like an itinerary, or a series of unconnected facts or thoughts.

    4.

    Don’t tarry about getting to where you are in the world and where your story is set. Your reader will want to know if your story is relevant to them before investing too much time reading.

    5.

    Avoid travel clichés. Be imaginative and make up your own quirky turns of phrase. Also be open to travel writing tips from other writers.

    6.

    Use emotion. How did the trip affect you or change your worldview?

    7.

    Detail is crucial. Remember what you leave out is as important as what you include.

    8.

    Don’t use words like ‘superb’, ‘stunning’, beautiful’ or ‘breathtaking’. Use a synonym finder and find interesting more imaginative substitutes.

    9.

    Show, don’t tell. This rule applies to any type of writing, but more so in travel writing. Don’t tell your readers what to think. A good idea is to imagine you’re describing things to a person living with blindness.

    10.

    Practise using all your senses when you’re taking notes at your travel destination – smell, taste, sound, touch and sight. This will help you describe things better in your writing.

    11.

    Include meaningful quotes and anecdotes from locals. This will add colour and context to your story. Take care to quote exactly and spell names accurately. Don’t run off without jotting down their contact details.

    12.

    Always check your facts. This is very important. Verify things people tell you and follow up your own observations. Only use reputable websites for research and double check on a second reputable site.

    13.

    Invest in a good camera and learn some basic photography skills. It’s much easier to pitch a travel story when you have good-quality images to go with it. Remember, if you photograph people ask them to sign model releases; otherwise, the photo won’t be accepted for publication. You can find sample model releases here.

    Slow travel writing tips are my job

    When I write blog posts, I’m grateful for my years of experience as an editor and writer.

    Working in a publishing house taught me how to massage content to fit on a page. 

    Writing and editing to an exact word count is a skill that isn’t easily learnt either. I picked that up as a newspaper subeditor.

    When you’ve worked with words every day for more than 13, 14, 15 years (I’ve lost count), writing is second nature. Creating the perfect blog post is a challenge I love.

    Before you go

    If you’re after ways to improve your blog writing check out How to write a smashing blog post.

    Stop right here if you want to know how to Have a slow travel experience.

    And if you love ancient libraries you might like to read Searching for Rome’s oldest public library and The library Michelangelo designed in Florence.

     

    Your business is important

    Let's find the right words for your brand.
    textshop

    About Sharon Lapkin

    Sharon is a content writer and award-winning editor. After acquiring two masters degrees (one in education and one in editing and comms) she worked in the publishing industry for more than 12 years. A number of major publishing accomplishments came her way, including the eighth edition of Cookery the Australian Way (more than a million copies sold across its eight editions), before she moved into corporate publishing.

    Sharon worked in senior roles in medical colleges and educational organisations until 2017. Then she left her role as editorial services manager for the corporate arm of a university and founded Textshop Content – a content writing and copyediting agency that provides services to Australia’s leading universities and companies.

    You might also like

  • Does my business need a blog?

    Smiling man with laptop asking 'Does my business need a blog?'

    Does my business need a blog?

    It’s almost impossible to run a business in 2022 without an online presence of some kind. Currently, there are about 12–24 million ecommerce sites around the world.

    With those numbers, businesses can expect a hefty amount of competition no matter their market. So, what’s a business owner got to do to stick out? One way to stand out is to start a blog.

    If you’re asking yourself, ‘Does my business need a blog?’ the answer is almost always yes.

    No, we’re not talking about a website resembling the online journal you kept as a teenager. Those days of blogging are long gone, and a blog now is defined as a regularly updated web page that fulfils personal or business needs.

    Blogging is one of the most powerful tools a business owner today can utilise to generate organic website traffic, which you can turn into sales.

    Still on the fence? Let’s look at some of the top benefits of a blog and continue to answer that question: Does my business need a blog? 

    You'll stand out among your competitors

    To start, you’ve probably researched your competition already.

    No matter your line of business, there are at least a few other websites selling a similar product.

    Companies that have a blog will get 55% more visitors to their page than a business without one. It should be a no-brainer that this type of traffic can ultimately lead to more sales.

    Customers searching online are more likely to choose a brand with more information on their website, than one with only a simple product description.

    A blog will also keep them reading and on your page for a longer amount of time.

    Blogging connects you to your customers

    The term ‘customer experience’ has replaced ‘customer service’ in the world of online business.

    If you’re unfamiliar with it, the term customer experience is all-encompassing of every single step in the process of a sale.

    It starts the second they find your website in a search engine and carries on until well after they have the product. Blogging is an essential part of the customer experience, and we’ll tell you why.

    If you answered the question ‘Does my business need a blog’ with a yes, then you’re opening a dialogue with customers. Including a comment section at the bottom allows people to engage with your post and you can directly reply to them.

    Pairing this tactic with other forms of social media creates a personal connection that is likely to create a loyal customer base.

    Does your blog post have all the right ingredients?

    That's where we can help
    Textshop

    Blogs improve SEO rankings

    Search engine optimisation, or SEO, is crucial for online marketing.

    SEO is the practice of optimising your website pages to make them rank in high positions in search results.

    Businesses do this in a blog by incorporating high-ranking keywords. Search engines pick up on the keywords of an optimised blog and will show them in results.

    For example, if your website is selling probiotic drinks, you may want to have blogs that have keywords such as ‘best probiotic drinks’ throughout the content so Google picks it up.

    Think about any time you’ve searched for something online. You most likely typed in a high-ranking keyword without even realising it!

    Another way to rank higher in searches is inbound links. Inbound links are links on other blogs and websites that bring traffic to your page.

    Laptop and magnifying glass reflecting the question: Does my business need a blog?

    Companies that blog will have around 97% more inbound links. That link right there is an inbound link to another website. You’re welcome!

    When your blog shows up as a resource link on another web page, it shows credibility. Search engines will pick up on that and know your website has what it takes to be shown in search results.

    Having a blog is a great way to increase your credibility with informative, well-researched content for others to use.

    Not only will this be useful for SEO, but it also shows your customer base that you’ve taken the time to research relevant content for your product.

    Knowing they can visit your website for related information will keep them coming back.

    Having a blog contributes to the longevity of your brand

    A blog is a valuable marketing tool, especially if you combine it with a content marketing strategy.

    To create a long-life business blog with its own community of readers, you need to do the following:

    Image of gold dot used for a bullet list

    Develop a content marketing strategy and make sure you use it.

    Image of gold dot used for a bullet list

    Always optimise each blog post for Google. Without SEO, Google will assign your post to the backwaters and only the very determined will find it.

    Image of gold dot used for a bullet list

    Remember this. Your blog posts need more than text. Think bullet lists, tables, videos, infographics and photos.

    Image of gold dot used for a bullet list

    Update your blog posts every so often. Add updated statistics, images and links. When you’re done, submit the blog post for indexing through your Google Search Console.

    How I updated my blog post and ranked #1 in a week

    Let me share something with you.

    My blog post ‘How to write an awesome blog post’ wasn’t ranking on Google.

    I’d put a lot of work into this post and knew it was good. So how could I get more people to read it? How could I get it to rank more highly in the search engine pages?

    It’s never a good idea to change the title of a blog post when you update it because it will cause broken links wherever it’s been posted. But this post wasn’t an oldie, and I was confident I could update the title in the places I’d posted it.

    I did a new keyword research for a niche longtail keyword. I wanted a keyword with a density under 40. Above 40 is notoriously difficult to rank for. I needed a narrowly focused longtail keyword that I could work with.

    I found the keyword I was looking for and this is what I did next:

    1.

    Changed the blog post title to How to write a smashing blog post, to include my longtail keyword.

    2.

    Update the numbered list of headings that runs throughout blog post. Why? Because Google has a preference for bullet lists when selecting featured snippets.

    3.

    Worked through the blog inserting my new keyword into paragraphs, headings and alt text on my images. 

    4.

    Proofread the blog post and submitted it to Google Search Console for indexing.

    Guess what happened next? My blog post shot straight into Google’s stratosphere! 

    Within one week, my updated blog post was ranking #1 on Google for my new keyword, AND  it was the new featured snippet!

    And here it is! How to write a smashing blog post on prime Google real estate.

    You can’t buy this authoritative space at the top of page one. All paid advertising and top ranked articles are pushed down the page.

    Example featured snippet for 'Does my business need a blog?'

    Blogs create content for other social media platforms

    When you have a new blog, what better place to promote it than your social media accounts?

    If you’ve hired a social media manager, they can create content around the blog post to encourage viewers to read it.

    Other content, such as videos to accompany the blog, can be created including interviews, instructional videos or whatever will relate to your blog content.

    The blog itself is something your followers can share on their own social media platforms, which will increase your visibility organically.

    Blogging will generate new leads

    How many times have you been searching for something, ended up on an informative blog that resulted in you signing up for their email list or free trial?

    If you liked the free trial, you most likely went back and purchased the product, right? This strategy totally works, and it’s referred to as lead generation.

    Lead generation is the process of generating consumer interest for a product or service with the goal of turning that interest into a sale.

    That free trial will most likely turn into a permanent subscription if enough interest was gained from your blog, just like that free trial you bought months ago.

    Once your blog is gaining a substantial amount of traffic, it’s a powerful marketing tool.

    Your posts should consistently have a call to action, which will generate all of those precious leads.

    The call to action should, of course, be related to your products and get them to sign up for a trial, or other freebies to get email addresses and other contact information.

    Like what you see?

    Let's talk about your content needs

    Yes, yes, your business needs a blog

    To sum up our question: Does my business need a blog? Yes, yes it does.

    The benefits of generating SEO blog content are endless. Even if your website isn’t flooded with traffic overnight, consistently producing high-ranking blog content is never going to hurt your business.

    You don’t have to be Shakespeare to write a compelling blog. Well-researched information in simple language will work.

    You might also like

    Your business is important

    Let's find the right words for your brand.
    textshop

    About Sharon Lapkin

    Sharon is a content writer and award-winning editor. After acquiring two masters degrees (one in education and one in editing and comms) she worked in the publishing industry for more than 12 years. A number of major publishing accomplishments came her way, including the eighth edition of Cookery the Australian Way (more than a million copies sold across its eight editions), before she moved into corporate publishing.

    Sharon worked in senior roles in medical colleges and educational organisations until 2017. Then she left her role as editorial services manager for the corporate arm of a university and founded Textshop Content – a content writing and copyediting agency that provides services to Australia’s leading universities and companies.

  • Which is that pronoun

    Overhead view of two cute kittens looking up at camera.

    Which is that pronoun

    By Sharon Lapkin

    Do you worry about using which and that incorrectly? Have you asked yourself: Which is that pronoun?

    Perhaps you’ve thrown your arms up in the air and decided to use both which and that interchangeably?

    Don’t worry, there are likely a lot of people who have done that. 

    Let’s look at it here with examples.

    Which and that can both function as relative pronouns (please don’t lose interest because I used a grammatical term).

    Stay with me and I’ll show you the difference between these two words.

    But first, let’s break it down and look at what a clause is and what a sentence is.

    There are four types of clauses – but there are two things they all have in common.

    They all contain a subject and a verb.

    A subject is the person, or thing, being described or doing the action.

    The  verb is a ‘doing word’ that expresses the physical action, a state of being or a mental action.

    A sentence is a group of words that has a complete meaning within itself.

    It typically contains a subject and a predicate and it conveys a statement,

    command, exclamation or exclamation.

    The sentence contains a main clause and one or more subordinate clauses.

    *A predicate is the part of the sentence that contains the verb saying something about the subject.

    Watch this explanation about when to use which and that

    Socratica (2015). English grammar basics: That vs. which.

    Two scenarios to consider

    When you have to ask: ‘Which is that pronoun?’ there are two scenarios to consider.

    You need to work out whether the relative pronoun – which or that – is introducing a non-essential relative clause or an essential clause.

    1. What makes it essential (that)?

    An essential relative clause is one that is essential to the meaning of the sentence.

    If we take the essential relative clause out the sentence it will be affected.

    In fact, the sentence won’t make sense or be complete without it.

    For example – The passenger boarded the bus that was filled with tourists and suitcases.

    In the sentence above ‘that’ is introducing the essential relative clause.

    It contains essential information about the noun that precedes it.

    So if we remove ‘that was filled with tourists and suitcases’,  the sentence won’t be complete or make sense.

    This is how we know to use ‘that’ and not ‘which’ – the information after ‘that’ is essential to the meaning of the sentence.

    ‘That’ is an important indicator of an essential clause because it introduces important details to the sentence.

    The computer that Jack left at the sports shop turned up at his house today.

    What makes it non-essential (which)?

    Let’s ask again: Which is that pronoun?

    We can answer this by looking at non-essential relative clauses and the role of ‘which’.

    Non-essential relative clauses contain added information that can be left out without affecting the meaning of the sentence because it’s considered decorative and non-defining.

    For example – I noticed the garden was full of pastel-coloured roses, which were perfumed and lovely.

    If we leave out ‘which were perfumed and lovely’, the sentence still makes sense. It might not contain as much information, but it still functions as a sentence. 

    Sometimes the non-essential clause is in the middle of a sentence, and not the end of it.

    For example – I went to see A Star is Born, which starred Lady Gaga, and I thought it was great.

    In this sentence ‘which starred Lady Gaga’ is the non-essential relative clause.

    It can easily be left out of the sentence without affecting the completeness or the meaning.

    Sure it leaves out some interesting information – but it still functions as a sentence.

    This is how we know it is a non-essential relative clause and we should use ‘which’ not ‘that’.

    Bad grammar? Don't risk it!

    Take your writing to the next level

    The all-important comma

    There is one vital detail that we should consider when using ‘which’ for non-essential clauses in sentences.

    A comma always precedes ‘which’ unless it is preceded by a preposition (in, to, on, after, for, with, under etc). 

    For example – The church, which was being rebuilt, was not open for visitors.

    Note: it is also okay to use spaced en dashes instead of commas.

    For example – The church – which was being rebuilt – was not open for visitors.

     A sentence with a non-essential clause will have either two commas framing it or one comma and a full stop.

    Today I walked to the market, which was five blocks from my apartment.

    Today I walked to the market, which was five blocks from my apartment, to buy some mangos.

    Which is that pronoun? Some tips to help you decide

    If you’re trying to work out whether to use which or that, try inserting a comma before ‘which’, and if it doesn’t make sense you know to use ‘that’ instead.

    The Prime Minister was in a meeting, which required the attendance of the Minister for Health. (Incorrect)

    Or try this – The Prime Minister was in a meeting that required the attendance of the Minister for Health. (Correct)

    Inserting a comma before ‘which’ shows us that we’re using the wrong word, but if you substitute which for that the sentence doesn’t require the comma and is more meaningful.

    Illustration of man and woman asking 'Which is that pronoun?'

    Remember, if you insert a comma before ‘which’  does the sentence still make sense?

    If it doesn’t, it means you should replace ‘which’ with ‘that’.

    For example – The shop that sells fresh flowers is always preferable to one which sells chocolates. (Incorrect)

    Or this version – The shop that sells fresh flowers is always preferable to one that sells chocolates. (Correct)

    Using which or that incorrectly can change the meaning of a sentence

    The Australian Government Style Manual provides the following examples to demonstrate how using which or that incorrectly can change the intended meaning of a sentence.

    The research findings that were likely to cause embarrassment were never circulated.

    This sentence makes it clear that the research findings not circulated were the ones likely to cause embarrassment.

    The research findings which were likely to cause embarrassment were never circulated.

    This sentence is ambiguous – were all the findings withheld or just the embarrassing ones?

    The research findings, which were likely to cause embarrassment, were never circulated.

    It’s obvious that none of the recommendations were circulated.

    In the first example, the use of ‘that’ makes it a defining or essential relative clause – so it provides defining, essential information that defines the subject.

    But the second example is ambiguous and you shouldn’t write sentences like this.

    The third example, with the pair of commas framing the clause, is a non-essential relative clause.

    Note the information inside the commas is decorative and not essential to the main point.

    I hope you no longer need to ask: Which is that pronoun?

    Think of it like the two cups of coffee in this photo. 

    They appear to be the same, but there are subtle differences that could get you into trouble.

    Overhead shot of two cups of coffee used as a model for the grammar question 'Which is that pronoun?'

    If you drink your coffee out of the cup on the right, you might be bargaining for more than you can manage.

    Which is that pronoun?

    Relative pronouns were a bugbear of mine when I was studying to be an editor. It can be one of those language conundrums that are difficult to grasp.

    But once you’ve got it, you never forget it.

    Before you leave

    If you’re interested in good grammar, you might also enjoy reading Why you should never hyphenate adverbs ending in ly.

    What to pack a punch with your writing? Check out How to make your writing more powerful.

    And find out what errors to avoid in 9 common errors every writers should know about.

    Your business is important

    Let's find the right words for your brand.
    textshop

    About Sharon Lapkin

    Sharon is a content writer and award-winning editor. After acquiring two masters degrees (one in education and one in editing and comms) she worked in the publishing industry for more than 12 years. A number of major publishing accomplishments came her way, including the eighth edition of Cookery the Australian Way (more than a million copies sold across its eight editions), before she moved into corporate publishing.

    Sharon worked in senior roles in medical colleges and educational organisations until 2017. Then she left her role as editorial services manager for the corporate arm of a university and founded Textshop Content – a content writing and copyediting agency that provides services to Australia’s leading universities and companies.

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  • How to become a copyeditor

    A stack of books with a cup of tea on top to demonstrate the topic: how to become a copyeditor.

    How to become a copyeditor

    By Sharon Lapkin

    If you’re wondering about how to become a copyeditor, there are a few important things to know. You need a razor sharp eye and an ability to focus on consistency from the beginning to end of a document or manuscript.

    It’s an exciting career if you love writing (especially other people’s writing).

    You need to love it so much that you’re happy to spend your days correcting grammar, syntax and structure. Even if that means you sometimes have to justify those corrections to the writer.

    There are many different types of editors, but there are common characteristics shared by all of them. Or, we might start off as one type of editor and end up another.

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    Copyeditors have a comprehensive knowledge and  understanding of the following editorial skills:

    Good grammar and punctuation

    Tone and voice

    Copyright

    Author–editor relationships

    Legal and ethical issues

    Word styles, track changes, formatting

    Grammar rules

    Good sentence and paragraph structure

    Fact-checking skills

    Editorial mark-up

    Cultural sensitivity

    Discriminatory language

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    In my editorial career, I worked as a subeditor, copyeditor, senior editor, coordinating editor, project editor, developmental editor, supervising editor and managing editor.

    This provided me with a broad base of knowledge and experience across all aspects of the editorial process. 

    What does an copyeditor do?

    Let’s focus on how to become a copywriter, which is the most popular type of editor.

    Copyeditors edit a page line by line for sense, formatting, grammar and punctuation.

    They also align the text on the page with the agreed editorial style. This is generally the house style or, if there isn’t a house style, they might rely on the Australian Government Style Manual or the Chicago Manual of Style.

    When a document requires more than a line-by-line edit, we call this a structural edit.

    Then the copyeditor digs deeper and edits for meaning, flow and sense. They may go back to the client and suggest that particular sentences or paragraphs be moved or rewritten, or they may have questions about the tone or accuracy of the text. 

    Copyeditors review and correct content in all types of projects. You can find them working on projects such as newspaper and book articles, annual reports, white papers, website content and book manuscripts.

    Do you still want to learn how to become  a copywriter? Great! Let’s keep going.

    Looking for an experienced copyeditor?

    Award-winning

    The home of professional editors

    Most professional editors in Australia belong to the Institute of Professional Editors (IPEd).

    Logo for Institute of Professional Editors, an organisation that knows how to become a copyeditor.

    Editors in other countries have their own organisations, and these are important because they oversee and maintain editorial standards.

    Editors must satisfy formal entry requirements and work as a professional editor to qualify for IPEd membership.

    When hiring a copyeditor, make sure they’re a professional member of this industry organisation.

    Good copyeditors develop close working relationships with their authors and clients. They consult with them about any intended changes beyond grammar and punctuation.

    If they don’t have direct access to the writer, then they’ll be working from an editorial brief.

    What does a copyeditor do about legal and ethical issues? The Australian Standards for Editing Practice defines the core standards that professional editors should meet.

    These standards set out the knowledge and skills for good editorial practice, including legal and ethical obligations, as well as substance and structural tasks.

    What does a proofreader do?

    If you want to know how to become a copyeditor then, by default, you’ll learn how to be a proofreader.

    Proofreading is the final task in the editorial process. 

    The proofreader should be the last person to make changes to the content. 

    Their role is to check the text for typos, grammatical errors, punctuation, page numbers and editorial style. 

    They’ll also check captions, images, headings and the table of content.

    Girl sitting on stool with a laptop researching how to become a copyeditor

    Proofreaders focus on those things that might be overlooked by the writer and copyeditor before them.

    Outside traditional publishing, people often don’t differentiate between copyediting and proofreading. 

    But to a copyeditor and proofreader they’re two distinct processes. This is why it’s important to establish exactly what’s needed before employing a copyeditor.

    Legal and ethical matters

    Copyeditors are trained to recognise content that appears to be written by a person who’s not the writer they’re working with.

    We spot the change of voice in the text. To us, it’s like finding an avocado in a banana smoothie.

    Often people don’t realise they’re plagiarising and, once it’s pointed out, it’s a quick and easy fix.

    We can look into obtaining permission to republish content if it’s intrinsic to the project.

    Or we might summarise or paraphrase text from other sources while always acknowledging the original source.

    Applying for copyright permission is usually a straightforward process. People are often flattered that you want to use their content.

    It’s also good manners to acknowledge content created by somebody else. Think about using a backlink if you can. This helps their SEO as well as yours.

    Permission may not always be needed, but acknowledgement is always required. If you want to use content from another source, check their terms and conditions on their website first. 

    A website’s terms and conditions are generally located at the bottom of their homepage (left). 

    Cultural sensitivity and discriminatory language

    Take care not to convey explicit or implicit judgements about other people’s cultural differences. 

    Context is important when looking at this type of content and common sense is paramount.

    What does a copyeditor do about offensive content? They’ll alert the writer to the problem. If they’ve worked in-house, they’ll generally know a lawyer, or somebody with legal training, who can provide an informed opinion.

    Keep an eye out because discriminatory language or meaning can appear in content unintentionally.

    References to age, gender, ethnicity, sexual preference, accent or disability that are not relevant to the story can be examples of discriminatory language.

    Good copyeditors identify any issues they encounter and suggest alternative text.

    Design and formatting

    Copyeditors who have worked in publishing environments are used to marking up corrections for graphic designers.

    We don’t design pages, but we do look at all the text-based elements on a page and identify any parts of it that aren’t working optimally.

    Copyeditors and designers work together to create high-quality content. They go back and forth marking up the content and taking in the corrections until the page is perfect.

    The relationship between the copyeditor and the designer is essential to the quality of the work.

    How to develop an editorial mindset

    When I was a trainee editor, I’d imagine that a page in a book I was working on was a room in a house. 

    The headings, graphics, images and all the other elements on the page were furniture in the room.

    These elements had to come together in a cohesive, aesthetic way for the page to function.

    Want to know how to become a copyeditor? Here's a list of things you'll see including text, tables, graphics and photos.

    The design had to support the text and not inhibit or misrepresent its meaning.

    Editors call this process ‘page-fitting’, but the house idea worked for me.

    Still want to know how to become a copyditor? Yay! Good to hear it.

    Can you really rely on a spellchecker?

    Spellcheckers regularly get things wrong.

    To start with, you may be checking UK (Australian) English through a US spellchecker.

    So the Australian spelling ‘specialisation’ will be marked up as an error because the spellchecker thinks it should be the US spelling ‘specialization’.

    Spellcheckers check if words are spelled correctly, not whether they’re used correctly.

    So a sentence such as ‘Witch one was rite?’ could be assessed as correct.

    Similarly, homophones are troublesome for spellcheckers. So ‘heir’ and ‘air’ could be substituted and missed. So could ‘bare’ and ‘bear’.

    According to Oxford Dictionaries, a spellchecker might not know the difference between ‘socialite’ and ‘socialist’, or ‘definitely’ and ‘defiantly’. It may also confuse ‘public’ with ‘pubic’. That could be embarrassing!

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    Grammar and punctuation

    When subject matter experts write, they focus on the meaning and structure of the content, not relative pronouns, commas or other constructions.

    It’s difficult to explain complex concepts or review academic research while trying to be word perfect. In these situations, an editor is a writer’s best friend.

    A good writer–editor relationship is invaluable, and copyeditors are trained to use a friendly tone when marking up corrections.

    Have you noticed how best-selling authors often talk about their editors in affectionate terms? That’s because they understand each other and are, pun intended, always on the same page.

    Grammar evolves and editors keep up with changes

    What does a copyeditor do about grammar that’s continually evolving?

    With every new edition of a dictionary words become extinct and new words are invented. These new words, called neologisms, can be challenging to keep up with. Lucky that editors, in general, love words.

    Words start being used as compounds (e.g. well-being) and hyphens are inserted between them. Then compounds lose their hyphens (e.g. wellbeing) and become singular words. An editor keeps track of all these evolutionary changes.

    It’s a big job knowing a dictionary back to front, but an editor will generally know common usage without referring to the dictionary. They probably even have a shortcut on their screen to locate a current usage within a minute.

    An editor will know when to use ‘which’ and ‘that’ and you’ll find this knowledge is the difference between amateur and professional content.

    Some people avoid punctuation because they’d rather have an absence of it than an error. If that’s you, consider this sentence:

    “Let’s eat Evelyn,” versus “Let’s eat, Evelyn.”

    If you want to be clearly understood there’s no way around it. You have to learn punctuation rules or hire an editor.

    You probably thought you couldn't afford a copyeditor

    Take a minute to email me now

    Why you should worry about editorial style

    When you’re learning how to become a copyeditor, always remember that editorial style ensures consistency.

    Suppose a medical college uses upper case ‘C’ in ‘College’ in all instances. That style needs to be consistent throughout the College’s content or its readers may become distracted.

    It’s also about saying the same thing in the same way throughout a document. For example, Jacaranda University shouldn’t be shortened to ‘Jacaranda uni’ in the same piece of content.

    You wouldn’t use ‘and’ and an ampersand ‘&’ in the same document (unless it were in a company name). You’d also punctuate lists in the same way throughout a project.

    Consistency is important because it builds reader confidence and reduces distractions in the text.

    It demonstrates clearly that the content has been created by professionals, which is exactly what you want. Readers will find it difficult to trust content that’s plagued by errors and inconsistencies.

    Even if writers are highly qualified in their field, errors can devalue their authority and make them look less professional.

    A good style guide clearly defines an organisation’s tone and voice. It lets us know the differences between the brand’s usage and common usage.

    The style guide also lists those instances where the organisation might divert from popular usage, such as the upper-case ‘C’ in College.

    Your list of good editorial style guides

    The Australian Government Style Manual was recently updated and is essential for anybody writing or editing Australian Government content.

    The Melbourne University Law Review publishes the Australian Guide to Legal Citation and it’s free to download.

    APA (American Psychological Association) Style is used by many academic and professional organisations. Explore it here.

    The ABC Style Guide is extensive and available to the public.

    For guidance on Indigenous terminology, you might like Textshop’s Guide to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander terminology.

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    Learning how to become a copyeditor is a serious career decision. It involves lifelong learning as editorial standards are always evolving and good writing requires consistency.

    We might be applying house rules and styles to writing, but we’re also working from the perspective of the reader and analysing how they’ll approach and process the text we’re editing.

    The important thing to remember is that any type of editing is a journey. You never know it all – even when you become an expert.

    Your business is important

    Let's find the right words for your brand.
    textshop

    About Sharon Lapkin

    Sharon is a content writer and award-winning editor. After acquiring two masters degrees (one in education and one in editing and comms) she worked in the publishing industry for more than 12 years. A number of major publishing accomplishments came her way, including the eighth edition of Cookery the Australian Way (more than a million copies sold across its eight editions), before she moved into corporate publishing.

    Sharon worked in senior roles in medical colleges and educational organisations until 2017. Then she left her role as editorial services manager for the corporate arm of a university and founded Textshop Content – a content writing and copyediting agency that provides services to Australia’s leading universities and companies.

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  • The difference between paraphrasing and summarising

    Woman holding a laptop with text discussing the difference between paraphrasing and summarising.

    The difference between paraphrasing and summarising

    By Sharon Lapkin

    We’ve all felt it.

    That YES moment when you find the right text to support what you’re trying to say.

    But how can you use another person’s written words while respecting their intellectual property rights?

    What are the rules that govern how to quote, paraphrase or summarise somebody else’s writing?

    To answer these questions, and know the difference between paraphrasing and summarising, we need to look briefly at quoting, copyright and ‘fair use’.

    What does copyright mean?

    Copyright grants legal protection of your work and prohibits other people copying and republishing it as their own.

    It protects the rights of authors, writers, photographers, painters, song writers and others who create intellectual property.

    You don’t need to apply for copyright. It’s automatically granted to you as the creator of literary work (yes, even business writing).

    The copyright symbol © is a good reminder to an audience that what they’re reading is under copyright. However, the symbol is not mandatory. The writing is under copyright even if the © is missing in action.

    It’s important to remember that you can’t copyright ideas, only the way those ideas are expressed.

    Can I copy content under the 'fair dealing' provision?

    In Australia, you can copy up to 10% of publications such as a chapter, an article, a song or a poem.

    In an online publication, you can copy up to 10% of the total word count of an online article, chapter or blog post.

    The Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) also allows the fair use provision for:

    –  research or study

    –  criticism or review

    –  parody and satire, and news reporting

    –  judicial proceedings or professional advice.

    A couple of points to remember:

    Fair use requires author attribution. You must provide author details and a link to the publication.

    If you need to reproduce more than 10%, you must seek permission from the copyright holder (usually the author.)

    Don’t be alarmed about seeking permission. It’s often as easy as writing an email. People are usually grateful that you asked!

    Keep a record of your correspondence with the copyright holder, including when they consented to your use of their content.

    Rule #1: Always accredit the writer

    The most important principle you must observe to protect your professional integrity and avoid legal liability is the rule of attribution.

    A person’s creative work is their intellectual property and you should NEVER use it without attributing them as the rightful owner of that content.

    The last thing you want is to be accused of plagiarism or copyright infringement – although fear is not the reason we respect the work of other writers.

    Keep reading because I’ll explain in this blog post how you can utilise someone else’s text and stay on the right side of the Copyright Act.

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    How to quote correctly

    A quote is a reproduction of a written or oral statement made by others.

    It’s essential that all quotes are exactly the same as the original. That’s right – 100% word-for-word.

    If there’s an error or a typo, leave it and insert [sic] after it, which is Latin for ‘thus’ or ‘so’. 

    The difference between paraphrasing and summarising is worth noting here. You’re more likely to use short or part quotes in paraphrasing than summarising.

    Quotations can be divided into two categories – short quotes and long quotes (also known as block quotes).

    Short quotes

    A short quote consists of fewer than 30 words.

    Short quotes are marked by single or double quotation marks.

    Double quote marks are used for dialogue (people speaking), and single quote marks are used for quoting from secondary sources (such as a newspaper or YouTube). Some writers and editors use single quote marks for emphasis.

    In Australia, full stops, commas, question marks and exclamation marks should be placed within the final quotation if they appear as part of the text.

    Example

    ‘Have you found my book?’ he asked.

    If the punctuation mark is part of the sentence outside the quoted text, it should be placed outside the closing quotation mark.

    Example

    Did your manager instruct you to ‘complete the job’?

    Quotes must always be accompanied by a source citation, also known as a source line.

    If you’re using a quote that’s not the writer’s work, but a quote from another publication, try to find the original work and quote from that publication (the original source). If you can’t find the original source present the quote in a similar way to the following:

    Example

    Joanna Fellows wrote about President Obama’s speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention, when he said ‘Do we participate in the politics of cynicism or do we participate in the politics of hope?’

    Keep these principles in mind as you use short quotes:

    –  The quote is short and is usually integrated within the sentence where it appears.

    –  Check your house style guide for citation policy.

    –  House styles can include citation references in the body of the text while others use EndNote or footnotes.

    – If the content with the quote is being published online, include a link to the original source.

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    Long (or block) quotes

    Longer quotes that include more than 30 words should appear as indented blocks of text without quote marks.

    Depending on house style, the font size of the block quote can be either the same size as the body text in the rest of the article, or one size smaller.

    Note, a long quote doesn’t have quote marks if it’s indented. But, if you’re indenting a quote, ensure you indent it on both sides.

    Keep these principles in mind as you use long quotes:

    Include some text to introduce the block quote in its proper context.

    –  The sentence immediately before the quote can end in a colon, comma or nothing at all.

    –  Indent the block quote on both sides.

    –  Use single spacing in the body of the block quote.

    –  Often the block quote will appear in font that is one size smaller than the body text of your article.

    –  Don’t use quotation marks.

    –  In academic writing, house styles can include citation references in the body of the text while others use end notes or footnotes.

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    How to paraphrase like an expert

    Think of a paraphrase as a translation or restatement of a piece of writing by another writer.

    When paraphrasing, you’re using your own words to convey the original meaning of another writer.

    This restatement is rendered to clarify or explain another writer’s work, to reproduce another writer’s ideas within your own writing, or to avoid copying another writer’s work (plagiarism).

    A synonym finder is an essential tool when paraphrasing. I use Word hippo and highly recommend it.

    By contrast, a summary is a precise compendium of the facts without fluff or fancy talk.

    A paraphrase and a summary will both be shorter than the source text and must credit the original author.

    Following is an excerpt from one of my blog posts. It’s been on page one of Google for the past two years, both as a featured snippet and in #1 position.

    Compare this to the summary (further down) where I use the same blog post to demonstrate the difference between paraphrasing and summarising.

    Original blog excerpt for paraphrasing

    In the early 1600s, when the Bibliotheca Angelica in Rome opened its doors, books were generally kept under lock and key, or in chained libraries – such as the 15th-century Bibliotheca Malatestianain Cesena and the Hereford Cathedral Library in England.

    It took thousands of hours of painstaking work to make a book – copying text by hand, adding decorative elements, illustrations, page numbers and indexes before binding the pages together and adding a cover. 

    This made books expensive and valuable items. Medieval books sometimes had ‘book curses’ placed at the front, warning people that if they stole or defaced the book they would be cursed.

    But, in a revolutionary step, the Angelica opened its door to all people with no class distinctions or government restrictions.

    All they needed to access this remarkable collection of volumes, rare maps and other material was a curious mind, a yearning to read and a thirst for knowledge.

    It was a momentous decision to grant ordinary people access to scholarly knowledge.

    Looking back we can see that Bibliotheca Angelica and other early public libraries, such as the Milan’s Bibliotheca Ambrosiana, helped bring about the democratisation of education when, rather surprisingly, ordinary people were free to embrace the archives of history and knowledge.

    Even for somebody accustomed to Rome’s ancient piazzas and cobblestone alleyways, it’s easy to get lost searching for the Bibliotheca Angelica.

    The library’s humble street presence belies its pre-eminence as Rome’s oldest public library – and one of the first public libraries in the world. 

    The entrance to the library provides no indication of its historical significance or the treasures within it. 

    Like the adjacent Basilica di Sant’Agostino, which is home to works by Caravaggio, Raphael and Sansovino, its riches are cloaked by a plain unassuming exterior.

    Completed paraphrase of blog excerpt

    The democratisation of knowledge in Europe over the 16th and 17th centuries occurred because the advent of printing press technology allowed books to be mass produced for broad public consumption.

    The establishment of public libraries was one manifestation of this process. Writing for her Textshop website, Sharon Lapkin describes the first of those public libraries, Rome’s Biblioteca Angelica, that opened its doors in 1609.

    She extols the ‘remarkable collection of volumes, rare maps and other material’ concealed behind the library’s unassuming façade in a Roman side street.

    For the first time in human history, the average Roman citizen was able to access independent sources of information rather than rely on the oral narratives spoken by others.

    Keep these principles in mind when paraphrasing:

    –  Make sure your rewritten words accurately express the ideas of the content you’re paraphrasing.

    –  While changing the sentence structure and wording, you should include any specific terms that are relevant to the meaning of the segment. For example, ‘consumer prices’ or ‘inflation’ are difficult to replace with similar words.

    –  Always include a source line and/or link so your readers can access the original writer’s work.

    –  If using three words or more in a row from the original work enclose them in quotation marks.

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    How to summarise like an expert

    The simplest way to reference the ideas of other writers is through a summary.

    A summary is a roundup of someone else’s written work. By definition, your summary will be shorter than the original work, although there are no hard-and-fast limits on length.

    Your summary will include the main points of the original work, while discarding its unessential details. 

    While you credit the original author of the work, make sure your summary is written in your own words.

    The difference between paraphrasing and summarising is that the former restates the writer’s ideas using synonyms and flair and the latter extracts the facts from the fluff. 

    Following is a summary of the same blog post excerpt that was used to demonstrate paraphrasing.

    This summary should help you see the difference between paraphrasing and summarising.

    Completed summary of blog excerpt

    In a blog post published on her Textshop website, Sharon Lapkin tells us the story of the Biblioteca Angelica, Europe’s first public library.

    Prior to the early 17th century, the expense of hand-copying and illustrating books made them precious commodities that were kept under lock and key.

    The opening of the Biblioteca Angelica to the public was part of the democratisation of knowledge that emerged during this period of history.

    For the first time, average people could access books that previously were restricted to the select few.

    The unassuming façade of the Biblioteca Angelica conceals a milestone in the evolution of human knowledge and education.

    Keep these principles in mind as you write a summary:

    –  Make sure you include the main point(s) while omitting unnecessary details.

    –  Use your own words while crediting the author of the work you are summarising.

    –  Always include a source line and/or link so your readers can access the original writer’s work.

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    To paraphrase or to summarise?​

    Understanding the difference between paraphrasing and summarising is an essential skill for any writer.

    Always read through the larger piece of writing before deciding whether to summarise or paraphrase.

    Both provide the opportunity to reproduce the ideas, writing and thoughts of experts without the risk of plagiarism.

  • Is SEO really needed?

    Circular sign with SEO written on it introducing blog post 'Is SEO really needed?'

    Is SEO really needed?

    So, you’re asking: Is SEO is really needed for your business?

    It’s a huge YES and here’s why.

    Search engine optimisation (SEO) is essential for the growth of your business and it begins and ends with your website.

    SEO gets you out in front of your customers and clients, and ahead of your competitors.

    If you’re clever about it and optimise your content well, your brand has a good chance of appearing in Google’s top pages when your potential clients search for goods or services.

    As you’ll read below, you can even score prime Google real estate – a featured snippet at the top of page one – if you put in the work. I’ll show you how I did it more than once.

    Large corporations know the answer to the question: Is SEO really needed, and they spend a lot of money manoeuvring their brands into Google’s best real estate.

    But here’s the thing. You don’t need a lot of money or extra staff to get to the top of the search pages.

    Is SEO really needed for your business? Absolutely yes.

    With a clever strategy and staying power you can achieve great results with SEO.

    Do it well and you can drive traffic to your website and grow your brand.

    Has SEO changed in the last couple of years?

    We still need SEO, but the procedures and methods have changed.

    Keywords were once the major component of the SEO story, now they’re just one of the ways we can optimise content.

    Over the years, Google has fine-tuned the tools it uses to evaluate content.

    Today those tools are sophisticated and focused, and Google’s capacity to assess the quality of content is more accurate than ever.

    Good SEO now requires you to focus on reading ease, image alt attributes, inbound and outbound links, text length, voice, sentence length, paragraph length, subheading distribution and more.

    Don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it sounds.

    But remember that the quality and consistency of your content is important if you want to succeed.

    The relationship between clients and keywords

    If you publish good-quality, optimised content, your chances of ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs) increases, and so do the chances you’ll be found by prospective clients or readers.

    The relationship between keywords and clients is intrinsic to your SEO.

    How?

    Well, to generate on-target keywords, you have to work out the words that potential clients are going to type into Google.

    People climbing a ladder to demonstrate the blog post 'Is SEO really needed?'

    These words are the basis for the long-tail keyword you’ll use to optimise your text, images, headings, alt text and meta.

    This is called ‘search intent’, and knowing the words they’ll use to define their needs is essential to SEO success.

    Watch SEO in 5 minutes: What it is and how it works

    Simplilearn (2020). SEO in 5 minutes: What is SEO and how does it work.

    Fully optimise your content

    Ideally, you want to be on page one of the SERPs, but that’s a big ambition right?

    It sure is, but with determination and hard work you can get there. 

    Is SEO really needed? Take a look at these organic search statistics that clearly answer the question.

    Just over half (53%) of website traffic comes from organic research.

    Almost one third of consumers in the US search for local businesses daily.

    Almost 99% of people click on one of the 10 links in the first page of the SERPs.

    Over 25% of people click the first Google search result.

    Now, let’s look at how to optimise your content step by step.

    Old blue tile divider

    Featured snippets and why they're SEO gold

    You’ve probably seen featured snippets in Google when you search for something. They’re at the top of page one, are often large and sometimes colourful.

    Seriously, you can’t buy this type of prime Google real estate.

    Below are two featured snippets from my blog showcased by Google at the very top of page one.

    Next time somebody asks: Is SEO really needed, you know the answer, right.

    Featured snippet to demonstrate 'Is SEO really needed?'

    The blog post used by Google for a featured snippet on Bibliotheca Angelica (left) was ranking at position two on page one for my keyword.

    Two years later, it’s ranking number three!

    The other featured snippet ‘9 common errors every writer should know about’ is drawn from a blog post that was ranking in position one on page one for my longtail keyword.

    Google places featured snippets at the top of page one, so readers can find the information they’re looking for without searching further.

    Featured snippet to demonstrate 'Is SEO really needed?'

    Ranking for a featured snippet is more valuable than ranking for number one.

    It’s a golden opportunity for your blog post to get worldwide attention.

    It actually pushes all the organic results further down the page.

    A featured snippet provides your business with greater visibility and a massive boost to your credibility.

    Often, but not always, you’re occupying Google real estate with world-famous companies and organisations.

    To land a featured snippet you need to focus on question-type search queries that are based on your longtail keyword.

    How to optimise for Google's featured snippets

    Featured snippets are selected by Google to answer searchers’ queries in simple straightforward ways.

    Here are five ways to to create featured snippets that work:

    1

    Aim to provide in-depth meaningful answers.

    2

    Write concisely and clearly. There’s no room for fluff words.

    3

    Research the questions readers have about the topic.

    4

    Provide the best answer – use tools like this great synonym finder to access perfect words.

    5

    Write at least 40 words and no more than 50.

    One long-tail keyword is all you need

    Long-tail keywords are groups of words or a question. They’re more specific than short-tail keywords, which are usually single words.

    Short-tail keywords such as ‘laptop’ have a high search volume; whereas, long-tail keywords such as ’13-inch Apple laptop’ have a lower search volume because they’re more focused.

    Long-tail keywords with less volume have less competition and are easier to rank for. They’re also more likely to convert to sales.

    Think about it. Who’s closer to purchasing a laptop – the person who searched for ‘laptop’ or the one who searched for ’13-inch Apple laptop’?

    Once you’ve researched and selected your long-tail keyword, insert it into the places discussed below.

    Keywords in headings and subheadings

    Include your long-tail keyword in the title of your story or article.

    Don’t place the keyword in every subheading, but ensure it goes into a few of them.

    Take care not to place the keyword where it doesn’t work. Make sure it fits into the text around it.

    SEO is important, but not at the expense of clarity or well-executed grammar. If your optimisation causes errors or clunky writing, then you’ll lose in the long run. 

    How do you rank on Google when 90% of content gets no traffic?

    Textshop

    Use active not passive voice

    Use active voice whenever possible in your writing.

    In a sentence written in active voice, the subject of the sentence is performing the action.

    In passive voice, it’s the other way around. The subject receives the action.

    A good tip is to always place the subject of the sentence as close as possible to the beginning of the sentence.

    Once you get into the habit of writing in active voice, it will be second nature.

    Elderly man in a straw hat on a laptop asking is SEO really needed.

    Example:

    Active – The man smiled as he typed the final lines of his novel.

    Passive: Typing the final lines of his novel put a smile on the man’s face.

    An active voice makes it clear who’s taking the action in a sentence. When the subject comes before the verb,  it places emphasis on the subject. This improves clarity and reduces repetition.

    Compress all your images for Google

    Publishing high-resolution (300 dpi) images on your website will dramatically slow down your page speed.

    If you use low resolution (96 dpi) images, your page speed will be faster, and your readers will stick around.

    To achieve the smallest files possible always compress your images.

    This ensures your page speed is as fast as possible.

    If you use Canva for images, there’s a ‘compress file’ function on the download tab.

    You can also open a free account with Shortpixel to compress your images.

    How to write alt text and your meta description

    Alt text is short for ‘alternative text’ and we write this as an image tag for screen readers.

    Alt text is used by people who are visually impaired. So write a clear description for these readers, but add your keyword so the alt text is optimised for SEO.

    Lastly, consider context when you add your keyword into the alt text. Adding random keywords may cause your site to be seen as spam.

    Focus on simple well-constructed sentences

    Women holding laptop asking is SEO really needed?

    The free Yoast SEO plugin has a good readability check that ensures content is easy to read.

    Yoast uses the Flesch reading ease formula to analyse two characteristics of good writing:

    First, it analyses how the number of words relate to the number of sentences. 

    Second, it analyses how the number of syllables relate to the number of words.

    These checks examine sentence length and word difficulty.

    Ease of reading is also achieved by keeping sentences concise and limiting difficult words. 

    Keeping it simple and easy to read increases the likelihood that readers will understand the content.

    Is SEO really needed?

    To learn more about writing SEO blog posts read How to write a smashing blog post.

    If you’re still wondering whether you should set up a blog for your business take a look at Does my business need a blog?

    And if you want to understand the connection between SEO and content marketing, check out Is content marketing worth it?

    Your business is important

    Let's find the right words for your brand.
    textshop

    About Sharon Lapkin

    Sharon is a content writer and award-winning editor. After acquiring two masters degrees (one in education and one in editing and comms) she worked in the publishing industry for more than 12 years. A number of major publishing accomplishments came her way, including the eighth edition of Cookery the Australian Way (more than a million copies sold across its eight editions), before she moved into corporate publishing.

    Sharon worked in senior roles in medical colleges and educational organisations until 2017. Then she left her role as editorial services manager for the corporate arm of a university and founded Textshop Content – a content writing and copyediting agency that provides services to Australia’s leading universities and companies.

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  • Want to write a great speech?

    Red curtains and microphones waiting for a speech to be delivered

    Want to write a great speech?

    If you want to write a great speech that has a lasting impact on your audience, you’re going to need more than fancy words.

    You’ll need to:

    1.

    Use eye contact, body language, a warm tone of voice and facial expressions.

    2.

    Acknowledge and engage your audience.

    3.

    Add current research, data and even personal observations.

    4.

    Include storytelling and practise it with friends first; people love a good story.

    5.

    Create a change of pace every 10 minutes, so people don’t lose interest.

    6.

    Practise and deliver a great ‘wow’ moment.

    7.

    Start strong and finish on time.

    A speech is not an essay

    It’s not easy to write a great speech if you approach it as if you’re writing an essay.

    Your audience won’t see punctuation marks on a written page. It will be up to you to convey the commas and exclamation marks throughout your delivery. 

     As John Coleman writes ‘when delivering a speech, you are your punctuation’.

    Do your research

    In order to write a great speech, you need to understand your audience’s emotional reactions and physical capabilities. Remember, the speech is for them, not you.

     

     

    Infographic with 4 facts that matter if you want to write a great speech

    What we can learn from the greatest speeches

    One of the greatest speeches ever written was delivered by Winston Churchill in 1940. It was so powerful it changed hearts and minds.

    When Churchill took over the reins of power, things were looking very grim for the cause of human freedom.

    The Germans had just triumphed over the Allies in France and the British army only barely slipped away at Dunkirk, abandoning its heavy weapons and equipment.

    In London, a pro-appeasement faction within the British cabinet was arguing for peace negotiations with Hitler.

    But Churchill rejected this defeatist advice and rose to the dispatch box in the House of Commons where he gave a speech that literally changed the course of history.

    We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds. We shall fight in the fields and in the streets. We shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender.

    Winston Churchill (1940)

    Sir Winston Churchill on how to write a great speech

    One observer described this event in his diary as: ‘a magnificent oration, which obviously moved the House’.

    Another MP wrote that the prime minister’s words were ‘worth 1000 guns and the speeches of 1000 years’.

    By the time Churchill resumed his seat, the entire landscape of British politics had shifted.

    The push for appeasement evaporated and the nation resolved to fight on against Nazi Germany. We know now that this saved Western civilisation.

    While the challenges faced by corporate communications departments may not be so dramatic these days, the need to convey a coherent message in eloquent form remains important.

    When you write a speech, you’re applying a distinct discipline that requires a particular suite of talents and experience.

    Speechwriting requires a different set of skills than those you’d use to write office communications content.

    A great speech should be almost poetic, imbued with a rhythmic quality that enlivens and inspires.

    When it’s done, the audience should be left thinking and talking about what’s been said and the way it was said.

    For those special events, such as a retirement dinner or annual general meeting, truly memorable words can make a big difference.

    Principles of speechwriting

    Let’s look in detail at how to write a great speech.

    Big bang theory

    It’s been said that you have only one opportunity to make a first impression.

    That means only one chance to pique the interest of your audience, and it’s at the beginning.

    Start with a strong ‘hook’ because if you lose your listeners at the beginning, you’ll never get them back.

    Paint with words

    Use colourful, evocative language to generate powerful images that will resonate with your audience.

    A tremendous example of this can be found in one of Barack Obama’s most famous speeches. He used potent imagery to describe the marches from Selma to Montgomery, led by Martin Luther King Jr, in support of voting rights for all African Americans.

    Barack Obama standing with his arms crossed in front of US flag

    The Americans who crossed this bridge, they were not physically imposing. But they gave courage to millions. They held no elected office. But they led a nation. They marched as Americans who had endured hundreds of years of brutal violence, countless daily indignities – but they didn’t seek special treatment, just the equal treatment promised to them almost a century before.

    Barack Obama (2015)

    Junk your jargon

    The 1996 French film Ridicule tells a story about the court of Louis XVI at Versailles, where status was dependent on a witty tongue.

    While a well-directed quip might elevate you in Royal favour, any resort to pun brought social death.

    What’s the difference? It’s originality.

    Always try to be creative in your use of language.

    Overused phrases and clichéd expressions will consign your words to mediocrity.

    Stay on message when you write a speech

    Try to confine your speech to a single major theme.

    Subsidiary themes may be woven into the text, but only if they support and illustrate the primary story you’re trying to tell.

    A scattershot approach to writing a speech will make the end product superficial and that, in turn, will make your words eminently forgettable.

    Pass the tissues

    When you write a speech, conclude with a tug at the heart strings.

    It could be an uplifting invocation of your company’s founding principles.

    Or perhaps a heartfelt appeal on behalf of your favourite charity.

    Woman crying holding tissues up to her nose – how to write a great speech

    Perhaps a further display of your authenticity, where you let down your guard a little and share something personal.

    However you end your speech, remember that ending on an emotive note will make your words resonate with the audience long after your speech is over.

    Technique is everything

    The speechwriter has many rhetorical devices that, when used in the right place and at the right time, make words powerful and memorable.

    Use the acronym TARMAC to remember the list below

    Tricolon is the use of words, phrases, examples, or the beginnings or endings of phrases or sentences in threes – as in ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’ (Abraham Lincoln), or ‘never in the history of human endeavour has so much been owed by so many to so few’ (Winston Churchill).

    Alliteration is the repeated sound of the first or second letter in a series of words, or the repetition of the same letter sounds in stressed syllables of a phrase, as in the line from Coleridge’s ‘Rime of the ancient mariner’ – ‘for the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky.’

    Rhyme is a repetition of similar sounds (or the same sound) in two or more words.

    This is most often in the final syllables of lines in poems and songs.

    Metaphor is a juxtaposition of two distinct things that asserts they are essentially the same; as in the ancient Greek saying ‘fame is but the perfume of heroic deeds’.

    Antithesis is the technique of contrasting two different ideas in the same sentence or two consecutive sentences; as in ‘speech is silver but silence is golden.’

    Chiasmus is a very effective technique where the words in one phrase or clause are reversed in the next; as in ‘just because you’re born in the slum does not mean the slum is born in you.’

    Simile is comparing two things that use the preposition ‘like’ or ‘as’ to highlight their similarities.

    An example is in the words of poet Robert Burns when he wrote: ‘O my Luve’s like a red, red rose that’s newly sprung in June.’

    Two useful tools

    To measure the number of words you speak in a minute or 10, check the Words to Minutes calculator.

    If you’re after an accurate webpage word count, see the Web Page Word Counter.

    Watch Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford Commencement Address

    Motivation Ark (2020). Steve Jobs, One of the greatest speeches ever.

    Remember this:

    When you write a speech it’s more art than science, and it’s an art that requires a particular suite of expertise and experience.

    If you want to write a great speech, take the time to read and watch well-known speeches and analyse those elements that made them unforgettable.

    To read more about writing a speech,  you can go to this page on the Textshop website.

    Also see our blog post on How to make your writing more powerful.

    You can organise a chat with our resident speechwriter by pressing the button below.

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