Word Constructions newsletter July 2012

 

business writing ideas from Word Constructions      

 

 

welcome to the Word Constructions business ideas newsletter

Hello subscriber! Welcome to the August 2012 edition of business writing ideas from Word Constructions!

London 2012 is obviously in full swing and dominating our news services. Are the Games having any impact on your business? I admit it has been a nice change to work on my laptop in the evenings with the Games in the background - the variety of sports gives a bit of interest while I wait for something to upload instead of just sitting at my desk. Although it has distracted me enough that I've worked later than planned a few nights!

Did you know that about 20% of the population has some kind of disability? I was amazed to find out that about 98% of websites are not fully accessible for the disabled - 98% is a huge proportion. Think about what that means - frustration, limitations and discrimination for the disabled, and  potentially losing 20% of customers for a business. Even if some of that 20% use the internet easily and are not a big part of your target audience, you could increase the reach of your site simply by improving the accessibility of it - imagine broadening your client base with little extra effort!

One very easy change can be made will increase accessibility and also help with SEO and clarity (and reduce hitting spam filters for html emails, too). All you need to do is use informative links throughout your website, blog, emails and the like.

Following on from my last newsletter, I have expanded on the 'be nice online every day' idea in my blog and added a downloadable list of things you can try. I'm sure there are many more things that could be added to my list so let me know your ideas (reply now or comment in the blog).

Until next time, use your words wisely,

Tash                             Tash & Word Constructions on Twitter          Word Constructions on LinkedIn             Tash & Word Constructions on Facebook             Word Constructions eBooks

PS In the spirit of making the internet more accessible, and the upcoming Paralympics, I am offering a review of links on your site and providing useful text alternatives at a discounted price. I'll take 10% off my usual rates (if you book before my September newsletter goes out) and put an additional 5% as a donation to PhysicalDisability Australia.

Recent blog posts you may find useful:

Check your edit notes are gone
Choosing an annual report cover
Make your website more accessible to everyone
Are annual reports just for big business?
Using common ground for communicating
Outsourcing gives control, rather than taking it


May j oy and good fellowship reign, and in this manner, may the Olympic Torch pursue its way through ages, increasing friendly understanding among nations, for the good of a humanity always more enthusiastic, more courageous and more pure.
~ Pierre de Coubertin


business communications article by Tash Hughes

Introduce what you're writing about
By Tash Hughes of Word Constructions

Whether it is a letter/email, a flyer or even a FAQ handout, it really needs an introduction to give it context.

If someone picks up your document without any prior knowledge as a reference they will want to know what it is and why they have it. If you don’t answer that question quickly they will lose interest or remain unsatisfied and frustrated with your communications.

Think about how you respond to a letter or notice – the first thing you look for is the name of who wrote it (if there’s no letterhead, you flick straight to the signature, don’t you? I know I do!) If you can’t tell who it’s from, you probably treat it suspiciously and only skim it for any interest.

That’s what it is like for people if you don’t introduce your materials properly.

While an introduction is often in a covering letter, don’t rely on that – the letter may not be seen first or may get separated from the other document.  Just add a simple introduction – it doesn’t have to be paragraphs long, just a sentence or two is often enough.


 

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don't forget the basics of good writing and communications

Get rid of poor links
By Tash Hughes of Word Constructions

I was looking for some information yesterday and happily following links from one webpage to another when I clicked on a banner (a navigational banner, not an ad) on a site only to see a 404 error page. Going back, I found other pages to look at until I clicked a text link which opened a page with three lines of html instead of a real webpage.

The first mistake frustrated me. Being on the same site, the second mistake annoyed me (aren’t I polite! I wasn’t quite so calm when it happened!) and instantly made me wary of the business behind that site.

Faulty links look unprofessional, decrease trust and give the impression of a website that isn’t maintained or cared for.

So it is worth checking your site periodically to test for errors such as:

How often do you check your site for link errors?




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poor writing examples

Sometimes, the easiest way to learn the correct way to do something is to see it done poorly so in this section of my newsletter, I show you some real-life examples of writing that need a little help. It may just show you how easy it is to make mistakes, too.

Today’s example is from a handout available on a website. The document is aimed at parents in a Q and A format (without an introduction sadly) – I’ve changed identifying words and used a fictional name instead. As a parent, I would not feel reassured by this document…

Example:

Should I meet with Nat before he begins to work with my child?
We would recommend that you ask the school when Nat is scheduled to see your child for the first time so you can meet with him and ask any questions you may have.

How do I contact Nat about working with my child?
Please feel free to contact Nat by asking the school when Nat is scheduled to see your child next and attending the session.

Issues with this example:

They effectively say ‘talk to Nat before he speaks to your child. Contact Nat by turning up at the first session with your child.’

Hmm, I should speak to him first but can only contact him at the session? A bit circular and completely useless really.

Apart from that confusion, there is also a lack of clarity with the ‘talk to the school to talk to Nat’ concept. Surely they could just add a phone number to the document for their office? Or better yet, make it standard practice that Nat calls the parents before the first session – presumably they get parent contact details before talking to a child?

Of course, they could be saying ‘no don’t meet with Nat beforehand, just ask questions at the first session. Nat doesn't commuicate with parents any other way’. In which case, they have totally ignored their own question and answered a different one!

If writing a Q and A format it’s really important to actually answer the given questions. Rewrites and edits can change the answer (or question!) so go back and read them in sequence before you finish, just to be sure the questions and answers work together.

The document is correct. There is nothing wrong with the grammar or sentence construction. But it is dull and appeals to professionals (like themselves) rather than parents who, regardless of their intellect and profession, will have an emotional response to things relating to their children.

A friendlier tone and simpler sentences would be more effective for the audience. Take out the first four words in both answers for simplicity; starting sentences with ‘You can ask the school’ empowers parents and gets to the point.

An improved version would be: (based on my second interpretation of their meaning)

Should I meet with Nat before he begins to work with my child?
No. You are welcome to come to the first session and ask Nat questions though – ask your school for the time.

How do I contact Nat?
The best way to speak to Nat is attend sessions with your child. Simply get session times from your child’s school.


 

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© 2012, Tash Hughes