Why professional writing skills matter

Professional writing skills are the backbone of communication, especially for leaders who want to make an impression.

Some people don’t bother with writing conventions. There are more  essential things to take care of than the soft skills required in communication.

Or maybe they learned professional writing skills but don’t feel like using them. For the sake of  convenience, they type like they talk, thinking, “Well, I’ll just add let me know if you need clarification at the end of the message. If they get it, good. If not, they can ask.”

There’s a time and a place for informal and formal writing. Knowing which style to use is like knowing how to dress for work. Your image is at stake. Effective leaders present an image and communicate well, especially in writing — like emails.

Emails  make an impression  the moment we open them. Even if the reader makes it to the end of the message, further clarification shouldn’t be necessary if you communicated well enough in the first place.

Here are four disrespectful strategies guaranteed to alienate your audience and diminish your communication capacity – and respect — as a business professional. Don’t:

1. Write in all caps.

IT DOESN’T MATTER THAT YOUR NAILS ARE TOO LONG, YOUR CARPAL TUNNEL IS ACTING UP AGAIN, YOUR SHIFT KEY IS STUCK,  or IT’S QUICKER. Writing in all caps is yelling. Always. It’s also lazy, rude, difficult to read, and disrespectful. Buy voice-activated software, get an ergonomic keyboard, trim your nails.

2. Use text language in a professional email.

OMG, plz 4get 2 use txting language n email, LOL.

You are not twelve years old; you are a professional. People will not take your email seriously. They will laugh at it. And then they will delete it. Never put emojis and emoticons in a professional email.

Adults have an average vocabulary of 20,000 words. It’s not too much to insist that you use some of them instead of tiny smileys and frownies. If all else fails when you’re looking for the right word, try the dictionary and thesaurus.

3. Put apostrophes next to every “s” at the end of the word.

Plurals need only an “s;” possessives need the apostrophe before the “s. Unless the rabbits (plural) own something, leave out the apostrophe. Leave it out in 1980s, CDs, DVDs, too.

4. Keep’em confused: mix up homonyms.

Its/it’s, they’re/their/there, hear/here . . . you get the picture. Spellcheck is not your friend when it comes to homonyms. Even when you type the wrong word, spellcheck will give you a pass because it’s spelled correctly. We all learned homonyms in school. We have to get them right at work.

And there you have it.

These are my pet peeves in professional writing. There is a time and place for CAPS as emphasis. It’s fun to play with texting language.  Emoticons are quick. Massage the written word, stretch the rules and see what bounces back to you.

Play in your personal writing, in your own social media, in poetry and fiction writing. Present yourself like a pro when representing your company.

Not sure how to do it ? Turn to the pros who can help you with your professional writing image.

 

Writer’s Block: 7 Ways to Overcome It Now

Writer’s block kills. It’s an idea-killer.

Your most inspirational idea can be so clear that it seems not only real but completely attainable. But the moment you sit in front of your keyboard or pick up your journal, poof!

The idea and all the words you had to describe it are gone.

Your mind is just as empty at the page in front of you. You’re facing writer’s block, the fear of losing all your words.

Why it’s so hard to write

Short of duct-taping yourself in your writer’s chair, it can be hard to sit in front of the computer and put your ideas into language.

You can find plenty of reasonable explanations for that difficulty. Good writing requires both technical know-how and the ability to create nuances using words in infinite combinations. It’s like trying to pick the perfect color; before you know it, you’re knee-deep in analysis paralysis, but you still haven’t committed to anything.

First, writing can be personal. As soon as we drudge up deeply personal matters, the subconscious voice yells, “You can’t say that!” All writers can say it, and great writers will write what they’re thinking. They ignore the voice and continue.

Writing is an uncertain act. Most writers have a general direction in mind when they set off on a page, but they’re also willing to see where their writing takes them. More than one writer has experienced a character that comes alive on the page or an idea that builds its own wings and takes off.

Finally, perfection and writer’s block make for great friends. Most writers who edit and re-edit while writing a first draft  become bogged down. These highly analytical writers check their spelling and grammar as they go. Perseverating on the details too early can prevent writers from capturing their thoughts fluently.

So what’s a would-be writer to do?

7 Strategies that work

Writer’s who want to beat writer’s block develop techniques that immerse them into writing without overanalyzing what they’re doing. The way to overcome writer’s block is to write, so you must engage yourself in the act of writing itself.

Try these strategies to get the ink flowing and the keyboard keys clicking

1.  Make a list.

Identify what you’re working on, the things you need from the grocery, the statements you overheard at the mall, the places you’d like to live. Anything, will do, really. Writing groups of words will spark an idea. When that happens, you’ll already be warmed up and ready to go.

2.  Encourage your stream of consciousness.

Write down everything that comes to your mind. Yes, everything. Tell your inner voice it’s okay; no one but the two of you will see it. Let the words flow like a stream. Don’t worry about spelling or even punctuation. Try writing this way for more extended periods each day. You’ll be surprised at some of the gems you capture.

3. Begin in the middle.

The Greeks called it in media res. They recommended skipping all the boring front matter and explanation in writing. Jump into the action right away, they said. Your reader will figure it out, and your writing will be richer for it.

4. Use the alphabet to your favor.

If you’re still stuck, try the alphabet writing game. It’s like the improv game you’ve seen on old TV shows, but with written sentences. Your first sentence must begin with the letter A, your second sentence with B, and so on. You can flip the order and work backward from Z, too.

5. Write the conclusion first.

Your English teacher was wrong. You don’t have to start at the beginning. If you know what you want to say at the end, write that first. Your conclusion will serve as the beacon for the rest of your writing.

6. Redact (blackout) unnecessary words on a page.

Make a photocopy of one of your pieces of writing, take a black marker, and scratch out the words you don’t need. Use what’s left to write a stellar first sentence or opening line. The process is known as blackout poetry, and it’s an art form.

7. Write a quotation you find meaningful.

Then rewrite it as many times as necessary.  Avoid writing about the quotation itself. Write the words from the excerpt over and over until your mind is ready to string together its own words. As soon as your writing machine is primed, leave the quote behind and let your original words flow.

Beat writer’s block for good

To squash writer’s block once and for all, face your fears head-on. Time management experts advise people to do the hardest tasks first. Everything  else comes easy.

That advice isn’t too different from eating a raw egg (or kissing a frog) first thing in the morning. After that, what’s the worst that can happen to you the rest of the day? Pretty much nothing.

Tackling your writing works the same way. do the heavy lifting first, and everything else comes easy.

Some would-be writers would rather drink the raw eggs or kiss the frog than write. They hire a writer when they want their ideas captured in writing.

Essential Writing Apps for Professional Writers

Who needs writing apps, anyway?

Some people will tell you that writing is a solitary act. Laying out those words one by one on a page can feel isolating. No wonder; you’re pretty much on your own — unless you make use of some of the best writing apps for pros.

Even when you come up with an idea that is a spark of genius, you still have to conduct research and develop an overall structure for your writing. The moment you commit to the writing process, you’ll need an authentic voice and knowledge of basic writing conventions, and it wouldn’t hurt to have a plan for publishing the piece.

It’s too bad that writing is seldom something done in partnership.

Isn’t there a better way to generate ideas, gather all your research, create structure, and polish your writing?

As it turns out, the answer is yes.

Whether you’re writing a quick blog or keyboarding an epic novel, using writing apps can save you considerable time and reduce anxiety. Having access to writing tech tools is like having the writing partner you need.

With the apps available today which will have you writing with the skill of a professional?

Here are the essential writing apps. Which do you keep in your arsenal?

Note making with Evernote

Imagine never having to rummage through a drawer full of note cards and stained napkins again.

What if everything you needed was stored electronically, in a single app?

Professionals in a variety of industries rely on writing apps like Evernote, and writers are no exception. With this app, you’ll have a place to store your research, manage your writing, and collaborate with your editor or your agent – all in one convenient location.

Take control with Self Control

Can’t stay focused?

Videos of kittens in socks can be distracting. So can tweets, emails, and other messages, especially when you’re trying to write.

Self Control helps you stay focused by blocking distractions while you and your muse write together. This writing app blocks all the alerts until you say you’re ready to join the world again. Think of this app as your writing Sergeant of Arms – the one who will keep distraction on the other side of the door.

Ace your grammar game with Grammarly

Even if you’ve always been good at grammar, it doesn’t hurt to have a trusty editor by your side.

Grammarly is that editor. The writing app will review your capitalization, usage, punctuation, and spelling, and then it will make suggestions for improvement. You can either accept or refuse the recommendations. Best of all, Grammarly encourages you to set writing goals, and the app will help you prioritize and work on them.

Grammarly also teaches grammar basics with some entertaining videos, just in case you need a refresher on those dangling modifiers.

Mind submissions with Story Tracker

Can’t remember which stories have been sent to which publishers – or when?

Many publishers despise simultaneous submissions – an error that’s easy to make when you’re trying to keep your stories in circulation. Submitting multiple writing pieces for publication is like trying to keep all your plates spinning at once. You’re trying to juggle submissions while generating new content, and it’s not easy to remember where or when you sent each piece.

Story Tracker keeps track of the plethora of articles and stories you’ve sent. No more guessing, and no more apologizing for simultaneous submissions. You’ll stay on top of your submissions like the pro you are.

Does every writer need a writing app? Maybe not. But utilizing apps can help you be more organized and more efficient, and that can be a real time-saver.

Who doesn’t need more time?

These essential writing apps can save you both time and hassle when it comes to capturing ideas, creating professional writing and content, and keeping track of it..

That doesn’t feel so solitary after all!

A Well-Balanced Curriculum Must Have These 6 Pieces

A well-balanced curriculum begins with the end in mind. Both Fenwick English and Stephen Covey assert that by defining the final goal first, all other pieces fall into place.

Your curriculum must consider the relationship between the curriculum, instruction, and assessment.

Every curriculum needs six well-defined pieces. Each of these leads both the instructor and the student to the end result.

Alignment to standards

The reason for alignment is simple: improved communication and collaboration. Alignment standardizes what is going to be taught as well as how it will be taught. It can also eliminate biases in teaching, which helps the learner master learning objectives.

Scope and sequence

What you can teach depends on how much time you have to do it. Without knowing the scope (how much depth you can go into) and the sequence (what order you’ll teach it in), you’ll run out of time before you run out of teaching ideas. Standardized assessments and other deadlines limit the time you can spend in a course.

Relevant connections

Any well-balanced curriculum must be relevant to the learner. Students need meaningful experiences that help them understand their world and make connections. Students find that when a curriculum has relevance, they are more eager to learn. The content relates to things they need – and want – to know.

Examples

Before any instructor can teach the curriculum, the teacher needs to have a clear and concrete idea of what to teach and how to do it. Lesson plans serve as the examples teachers need to see how it’s done.

Assessment

A well-balanced curriculum takes into consideration the relationship between not only the curriculum and the instruction but especially assessment. Performance on an evaluation determines whether or not the goal has been met.

Assessment can be either informal or formal, conducted throughout the learning process as well as at the end of the instructional period.

Materials needed

Curriculum writers include lists of materials needed for instruction for two reasons: consistency and preparedness.

Instructors who have access to needed materials are more likely to implement the well-balanced curriculum as written.

Writing a well-balanced curriculum can be a daunting task. It tasks both time and knowledge. Hiring a knowledgeable curriculum writer can help you get your course into the hands of your teachers and learners quicker.

Written Content Your Readers Need

Written content is the backbone of your website.

The words you write tell your story, and they serve to create your brand. When you write for the Internet, they do much more. You have to know how to manage them.

The Internet is full of words, 4.48 billion pages of them, or about 110 trillion words. Writing for the Internet is not only an art; it’s also a science.

SEO Optimization Matters

Every word you write has value.

Google Adwords assigns a value to keywords, and so should you. By knowing the value behind the words you write, you can predict how much impact they will have on your readers. That’s especially true for Internet searches.

Even the location and frequency of your words can make a difference to search engines.

And what about grammar?

Poor grammar kills credibility. It can also hurt you in searches. If grammar isn’t your thing, that’s okay. Use a grammar app like Grammarly or get a friend to do your proofreading before publishing.

Easy Reading

Charles Dickens could have never written content for the Internet. His descriptions ramble on for days, and his paragraphs are too long. The idea is to break up the writing so your reader can access your content.

Assume your reader is smart and knows what he’s looking for. Help him scan more easily and find it by creating section breaks with the following:

  • sub-headings
  • bullet points
  • icons
  • pictures

Even though you have savvy readers, keep the writing simple. Write on a 5th or 6th-grade reading level. That means using short paragraphs, short sentences, and short words.

Anything else becomes tiresome. Your reader will go elsewhere to find what she needs.

Be the Expert

Give the kind of advice you would appreciate getting. Google advises sharing well-written content that adds to the current body of knowledge, not regurgitates it. Ask yourself if your content is notable. Is it something you would expect to read in a magazine or book?

If every one of your readers has at least one take-a-way, then your written content has done its job. It has value.

If writing the material for your website or blog seems overwhelming, hire an expert. Professionally written content can give your site the boost it needs.

Words That Inspire Work When You’d Rather Be Doing Something Else

Words that inspire work can get you back in action even when your week isn’t going well, or you don’t feel like doing anything. The right words can inspire us to get started, keep going and try again.

You can get the words that will make a difference, even if you don’t write them yourself. These are some of our favorite quotes:

There’s No Time Like Now

Procrastination prevents  even the best ideas from gaining momentum.

  • “The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” —Amelia Earhart
  • “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” ~ Pablo Picasso
  • “Just do it.” – Nike

Regarding Success

Success is the one thing many want, but not everyone is willing to work for. It’s not success alone that defines us. It’s how we get there.

  • I attribute my success to this: I never gave or took any excuse. –Florence Nightingale
  • “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” —Henry David Thoreau
  • Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value. —Albert Einstein
  • It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” George Eliot

Moving Forward

The saying that doing what you’ve always done will give you the results you’ve always gotten is true. Even when things are going well, you still have to pick up the pace.

  • “If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.” – Mari Andretti
  • “You are always a student, never a master. You have to keep moving forward.” – Conrad Hall
  • “I would rather risk wearing out than rusting out.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Go Confidently with Courage

The words that inspire our work also bolster us with courage.

  • “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” —Stephen Covey
  • “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” —Ayn Rand
  • “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” –Anais Nin

Hire a writer to write your words, and you’ll always have the words that inspire work – your work.

What quotes do you find inspirational?

Brand Storytelling, Tradition to Transformation

Brand storytelling comes from a long tradition of oration.

A few years before everyone had streaming video, poets walked into villages and told their tales in exchange for a meal and a bed. The next day, the poet left with a full belly and a good night’s sleep, and the villagers felt inspired by tales of valor and cunning.

Everyone felt transformed.

We like stories that leave us a little better off than before. The world is full of awful news and depressing drama. Storytelling shows us how to handle negativity, face bad luck, and how to lead better lives in spite of things not always going well. The lessons learned make us better people.

People like to read inspirational stories that show transformation – yours and theirs.

3 Magic Elements All Stories Need

Brand storytelling consists of three things: simplicity, clarity, and emotion. Each part is delicate and must be handled gently, touched little and admired often.

Simplicity

Keep it simple. Make it authentic. Help your readers identify with your brand storytelling.

Limit the story to how you identified a problem, developed a solution and achieved success. Anything else is extra. Save it for NaNoWriMo.

Your clients should be able to summarize your story in a sentence or two.

Clarity

Make your brand storytelling about what you do.

Your story isn’t supposed to be a leitmotif full of cryptic foreshadowing and doppelgangers on a hero’s mission. Instead, make it each part of the narrative clear.

It’s supposed to show what you do, why you do it, and how it helps others.

Emotion

The best brand storytelling creates an emotional connection.

Figurative language and authentic characters can help to foster feelings that drive relationships. Whatever representative figure you chose for your brand storytelling, you’ll need someone your clients can and want to relate to.

The Call to Action

Every marketing story has to have a call to action. With the CTA, the narrative is just another tale to pass the time. Your clients will read and act on whatever final words you leave them with.

Your customers may be in the best position to tell your story. After all, your brand exists to solve their problems.

Customers are the ones who know best what it’s like to interact with you. Use their point of view on what it’s like to work with you. Every perception in another facet on the gem that is your business.

 

Everyone has a story. Getting it written to showcase your brand is why you need a hired writer. Your writer will help you take your brand storytelling from tradition to transformation.

Should You Publish Digitally or in Print?

Writers who plan to market their books themselves have to decide whether to  publish digitally or in print.

So which format is best for publishing your book?

How you publish your book will depend on your goals. Consumer neuroscience reports that digital information gives readers easier access, but print invites longer book engagement.

Your purpose for writing the book should drive how you will publish it.

Digital publishing

The Publishing Association reports that digital books gained enormous popularity until 2016 when sales dropped 17%. At the same time, the demand for printed books grew 8%.

People like the convenience of digital books, easy to carry space-savers that are often less than half the cost of printed books.

Go the digital route when you:

  • Want to retain all creative rights. You get to decide on the cover, format, and more.
  • You have time to explore the options between Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple for your electronic publishing needs.
  • If you plan to publish internationally, add Kobo to your list.
  • Want to create an online presence. Digital books are a perfect choice.
  • Want new readers to take a risk on your writing skills.
  • Are willing to collect and analyze metadata about your book sales. You’ll want to track your performance.
  • Want to sell erotica, paranormal or alternative thrillers. Some readers like to cloak what they’re reading.
  • Have written a novella of 15,000 to 40,000 words. This size is e-reader perfect.

Traditional publishing

Consider going the traditional route for books that are keepers. People love holding real books in their hands.

Print your book traditionally if you:

  • Have a longer book people will want to reread.
  • You have an unusual layout and design in mind that can’t be produced in electronic format.
  • Have written an emotional or sentimental Holding a real book is a tactile experience that enhances empathy.
  • Have a profound message to share. Print creates a better impact.
  • Will be speaking at conferences. Print books are better for signing.
  • Hope traditional publishers will give you a shot. The big houses take print more seriously.

What about BOTH?

Yes, you can have your cake and eat it, too. You can also have your book on your e-reader and on your shelf.

For writers looking to maximize their profit, this may be the direction in which to go. An ebook might not generate substantial profit per individual sale, but it is less costly to publish. Fewer digital books are read to completion than print books, however, so you may also want to have a few physical books for sale and promotion.

Can’t decide? A book writing coach an help you explore whether to publish digitally or in print.

 

Do I Have A Book in Me?

Grand adventures and humble experiences make tremendous stories in the book that is you.

It’s only natural to share your stories with others. Telling our stories is an integral part of humanity. Through storytelling, we learn how to understand.

Author Brian Boyd explains in On the Origins of Stories that the art of storytelling comes from play. By telling our stories, we learn how to think, collaborate with others and advance our creativity. When we take time for storytelling, we become part of an evolutionary chain that improves our understanding of humanity.

We are all storytellers. You tell your stories during the day, with co-workers and clients. You recount the events of your day with family and friends.

It’s only natural to wonder, Do I have a book in me?

The quick answer is YES!

Everyone has a book in them, full of pages waiting to be written. The better question may be, “Who will tell your book?”

Not knowing the answer to this question can prevent your book from ever reaching print. Consider these three ways to take your story from an idea to a book.

Author your own book

You have a story, and you consider yourself a good writer, so of course, you want to write your book.

There’s something insanely enriching about completing a written work. You carve out time to write a little each day, develop characters and encourage them to take immense risks, and you write their actions in the words of your life.

By devoting yourself to book writing, you create the space you need for developing art. You establish your existence and the difference you have made in the lives of others.

Hire a ghostwriter

Ghostwriters are your behind-the-scenes-writers. They take your ideas and bring them alive with words on the page — your ideas written in their voice.

So should you hire a ghostwriter? That depends on your goals, but one of the best reasons for bringing on a hired writer is to get the job done. Your ghostwriter will dedicate the time you might not have and get your book completed. If you find yourself short on time, or writing isn’t your thing, this may be the way to go.

No two ghostwriters are the same. They take on varying levels of commitment to writing your book, according to your needs. Do you want the writer to come up with the ideas and the words? Or do you already have the story and need it written?

Even the best ghostwriters aren’t without their drawbacks. Your pen for hire might not have the voice and tone for which you were hoping. The ghostwriter could be less likely to discourage your ideas. Not all ghostwriters will tell you if your book ideas won’t work.

Collaborate with a co-author

The third option is to co-author a book with a writer.

Two heads are better than one, and with a hired writer, you have someone with whom you can collaborate – as much or as little as you want. By working with a hired writer, you are more likely to discover the book within you and get it published.

Once find the book in you, should you prepare to self-publish or go the traditional route?

We’ll take a look in our next blog.

Creating Professional Development That Works

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re employed in. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to sit through professional development of some sort.

Like most people, you’re hoping it won’t be painful. Like most presentations, it probably will be, unless the presenter keeps these tips in mind.

Length

Less is more.

That’s true whether you’re speaking to a group, preparing handouts or building a slidedeck for your accompanying visual. Audiences today are overwhelmed with an onslaught of information. Knowledge is doubling every 12 months, and the pace is picking up, making knowing everything impossible.

As a presenter, your priority is to give your audience what they need and the resources to explore further on their own. You can’t give your audience everything.

Relevance

What you do share has to be relevant. Your audience wants to know, “How can I use this?”

The best presentations are immediately applicable. Your audience should be able to put into practice at least one take away from the training as soon as they leave the room. If you’ve left them feeling as though they have to look over their notes one more time before implementing a single strategy, the information might not have been as relevant as you hoped.

Engagement

Audiences remember stories. We’re wired to connect with each other through shared experiences, and it’s stories that most people remember.

Active learning techniques like small group discussion, role-playing scenarios and solving puzzles increase the likelihood of finding a presentation relevant and memorable.

Learn how to ace a presentation, and you’ll find yourself becoming an even more valuable and well-respected contributor to the organization.