When should you outsource your copy?

Posted by on Sep 28, 2016 in Blog, Featured, Portfolio | 0 comments

I follow a number of copywriters and one of them is well-known American copywriter Bob Bly (www.bly.com). I certainly enjoyed Bob’s last piece on “Should you write your own copy?” Bob explains that business owners and marketing managers who fit three criteria often produce copy which is better and more successful than professional copywriters. You are an excellent copywriter. You enjoy writing copy. You have the time to write copy. The reason being is that since they know the product and market well, they have an edge on the professional writer. Half the battle in copywriting is actually knowing the customer and the product. However, unless you meet the following three conditions, Bob Bly says you are better off hiring an agency or a freelancer. So if you are an excellent copywriter, enjoy writing copy and have the time to write copy – do it yourself instead of outsourcing your copywriting. That is, according to Bob Bly. I would like to add another condition which negatively rocks the foundation of the other three mentioned. When working for companies and their publications, I sometimes come across a kind of company blindness which gets in the way of a company’s communications with its (potential) customers. Thinking “outside the box” can be essential in communicating your company’s message effectively to your audience. * Read Bob Bly’s article on Should you write your own copy?   Photo of  Lediberg notebook “I love 2...

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Discover the right keyword phrases: think like a reporter!

Posted by on Nov 19, 2013 in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

Do you have an awkward feeling that your website’s keyword phrases¹ could be better? Can your target audience easily find your website? Looking for some handy tips? Well, I am certainly game for any new SEO (Search Engine Optimization) copyediting or writing² suggestions. In creating the right keyword phrases, SEO consultant Jill Whalen’s advice is to think like a reporter. In her handbook “The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines” she advises SEO copyeditors to ask the questions reporters do (who? what? where?). Why? Because the answers to these questions are often the keyword phrases you are looking for. Reporter’s cap In other words, if you ask these questions, you will most likely come up with your keyword phrases. For example, when writing for an Italian adventure travel website specializing in bike and walking tours, you can ask yourself the following question: “What kind of travel?” and the keyword phrase answer could be: Italian adventure travel. And when you ask yourself the question “What kind of vacations?,” the keyword phrases probably at the tip of your tongue are : bike tours and walking tours. By being more specific about the product or service you are selling, you optimize your text. So instead of using generic words such as product or service, Whalen’s advice is to use your keyword phrases instead. Regarding the website mentioned above, Whalen suggests substituting our service with the keyword phrase our adventure travel tours. So instead of being too general, be descriptive. Journalists fit the description Journalists are said to be particularly suitable when it comes to writing for the web. Whalen certainly illustrates one of the reasons why. We ask ourselves these questions everyday. ¹ “A ‘keyword phrase’ is a two-word or longer phrase that prospects type into a search query box, such as ‘Florida travel’ or ‘heavy equipment dealers.’ The word ‘keyword’ refers to a single word search term (like ‘Florida’ or ‘equipment’).” ² “Search engine optimization (SEO) writing: Search engine optimization writing is specialized copywriting that entails weaving keywords and keyphrases into marketing or informational copy. The purpose of search engine optimization copywriting is to gain prime positioning for the desired keyphrases, as well as increase page conversion rates.” Both definitions are by SEO copywriter Heather Lloyd-Martin, author of “Successful Search Engine Copywriting.”  Copyright photo: Svilen Milev,...

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Protected: Santa Claus and Sinterklaas

Posted by on Nov 19, 2013 in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

The other day I came across one of my direct mail letters about Santa Claus and Sinterklaas which I wrote a couple of years ago. Did you realize that Santa Claus is actually a morphed version of Sinterklaas?  Since the story is a fascinating one, I thought I would share it with you.Or so the story goes. Dutch settlers brought the Sinterklaas tradition to New York (US) in the 17th century. Dutch families got together every year to celebrate the anniversary of Saint Nicolas. And they spread the word. In the 19th century “Sinterklaas” or “St. A Claus” started to look more like the current Santa Claus with a white beard and a red outfit. Artists and poets embellished upon this enchanting figure. He became a happy, plump dwarf with reindeer instead of a white horse. At the end of the 1800s Santa Claus evolved into the Saint Nick we all know. It is strange to see one week a good-hearted man full of cheer at a Dutch shopping mall and the next week another one in a different outfit, when many years ago they were actually one and the same. Enjoy the holidays. Whether you celebrate Sinterklaas, Santa Claus or Father Christmas, they are all great traditions which bring us good tidings and lots of cheer.   Copyright photo: Barry Meyer,...

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Provocative punctuation marks

Posted by on Nov 19, 2013 in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

It might not have grabbed your attention, but apostrophe abuse has been in the news lately. After the results of an apostrophe survey were made public, blogs on the topic of the apostrophe surfaced once again. According to the survey carried out by IT firm SpinVox, nearly half of the 2000 UK adults tested were unable to use the apostrophe correctly. Apostrophe makes headlines Just consult a couple of English language style guides and you will see that this punctuation mark is one which causes native speakers a lot of trouble. On BBC’s Newsnight, the possibility of actually ditching the apostrophe was even discussed. Should you be toying with the idea of getting rid of the apostrophe, The Guardian’s Style Guide suggests that you take a look at the phrases below before making up your mind. my sister’s friend’s investments my sisters’ friends’ investments my sisters’ friend’s investments my sister’s friends’ investments If you look closely, you will see that each phrase has a different meaning. So one reason to keep the apostrophe is simply to avoid confusion. Although these examples are crystal clear, the rules regarding possessives continue to be disputed. Is it Stephens’s story or Stephens’ story? Semicolon sparks emotion across the other side of the ocean Hardly a runner-up, the semicolon is the other punctuation mark which continues to make headlines. Although The New York Times praised a New York City Transit public service writer for using a semicolon on a public service paperboard sign, the semicolon tends to receive negative attention. One of the most well-known examples is a court’s decision to reject a conservative group’s challenge to a statue regarding gay marriage due to the insertion of a semicolon. “A conservative group had asked the court to order the city to ‘cease and desist issuing marriage licenses to and/or solemnising marriages of same-sex couples; to show cause before the court.’ As the San Francisco Superior Court Judge James Warren explained, the word ‘or’ should have been used instead of the semicolon. ‘I am not trying to be petty here,’ he told reporters, ‘but it is a big deal… That semicolon is a big deal.’” Americans in general dislike the semicolon and avoid using it. As applied linguist Ann Keating in the article “Pause Celebre” (Financial Times) explains, “Americans see the semicolon as punctuation’s axis of evil.” Although I do not have any strong feelings about the semicolon, I often avoid using the semicolon just by rewriting copy. My New Year’s resolution, however, is to use use this punctuation mark more often! *A client of Stars & Tulips inspired me to write this web column *Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /...

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Fundraising and sea turtle drama

Posted by on Sep 2, 2013 in Blog, Featured, Portfolio | 0 comments

Leading US copywriter Richard Armstrong’s Sea Turtle Rescue Fund letter is one of my favorite fundraising direct-mail letters. It’s a compelling and convincing story about the plight of Florida sea turtles which unfolds on four pages. The technique used is one you don’t often see in direct-mail copywriting: drama. Armstrong describes it as a “little soap opera playing out right before your very eyes.” Read this letter (www.sofii.org/node/591) and you’ll want to donate to this fund. Written a couple of decades ago, this direct-mail letter could be mailed today and still work. It’s a classic without a shelf life. Not only would it still work, institutions involved in fundraising and grappling with the economic crisis, should consider using this approach in supporting their causes. Social media is all about connecting and conversing with people. What better way to reach and convince donators than by telling them an engaging story. Create a ”little soap opera” for your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn fans, and see what happens. By: Lesley J. Langelaar-Thomas Your English language copywriter in the Netherlands P.S. Read Richard Armstrong’s ”My First 40 Years in Junk Mail”: www.freesamplebook.com. Copyright photo, Rob...

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