This Four-Letter Word Will Help You Tell Better Stories

four-letter word

This is a G-rated post, I promise.

We’ll get to the word in a minute—first, let’s talk about why you desperately need it.

If you’re in the business of writing, you need stories to tell. Whether you write feature articles, customer case studies or even executive bios, you need a story to keep readers engaged.

For writers, that’s common sense. For anyone who’s ever read anything, you know it’s true.

But stories aren’t always easy to find, even for professionals who are trained to find them. I’ve been writing feature articles for more than 10 years, and I’ve conducted hundreds of interviews. Some are easy—these people are comfortable talking your ear off. I don’t have to hunt for the story. They just tell me. Others, well, other people just don’t know how to tell their most interesting stories easily.

So what does that mean for the writer?

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How Spectacular Blog Posts are Born

birth of a business blog post
The birth of any great blog post is a messy business.

For professional bloggers, writing is a labor of love. For business owners, however, it can be a painful, intimidating process that’s just not worth the effort.

The conception of great ideas to share with your blog audience is usually pretty easy and fun. The delivery of clear, concise writing, though, that’s a different story.

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4 Business Blogging Tips from Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo blogging tips
We celebrate Cinco de Mayo with gusto down here in San Antonio, Texas.

If you’re not familiar with the background of Cinco de Mayo, here’s a quick history lesson.

In 1862 at the Battle of Puebla, the Mexican army was outnumbered two-to-one by invading French troops. But that day – May 5 – the smaller Mexican army defeated the French and sent them packing back across the Atlantic.

Today, May 5 commemorates that important victory and honors the country’s heritage and pride.

Though the win at the Battle of Puebla wasn’t the end of Mexico’s fight against the French, it was a milestone in that direction. That victory bolstered Mexican confidence in the conflict. It encouraged and motivated the troops.

What does all that have to do with business blogging? Let me explain.

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The MLK Guide to an Effective Call to Action

Martin Luther King Jr.

When Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of his dreams for America in one of the most influential speeches in all of history, he knew how to incite action from his listeners.

Not only was the content of his speech provocative, his delivery could have moved mountains.

King challenged tens of thousands of civil rights supporters in Washington that day to move toward change and never give up. King so moved Americans of all races that they accepted the challenge back in 1963 and continue to do so today.

Delivering this speech, King used classic call to action techniques to inspire and motivate. By analyzing King’s speech, business copywriters can discover an effective approach to motivate even the most resistant readers.

As we celebrate his birthday, let’s take a look at what made his speech so inspirational.

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7 Resolutions to Revitalize Your Business Writing for 2014

January 2014

Love ’em or hate ’em, New Year’s resolutions tempt you every year.

You may make them (and break them) faithfully every year, or you might be someone who gave up resolutions long ago.

Do as you please with your personal resolutions to meditate (who has the time?), to work out more often (who has the energy?) or to eat less chocolate (who has the willpower?). But don’t overlook business resolutions, and certainly don’t break them come Jan. 2.

Before heading back to the office after the holidays, take inventory of your business writing. Changes in the past year mean your website and marketing materials need an update. So resolve right now to take stock of what’s working well and what needs a face-lift.

Let’s take a look at a few areas you should reevaluate.

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How to Write an ‘About’ Page for Your Website

personality

Your website might be missing a very important page.

If you don’t have an About Us page, you haven’t introduced yourself to your website visitors.

They’re looking for you, and you’re nowhere to be found.

Your site has no personality. But you can fix that.

No matter whether you overlooked it or just didn’t know how to write it, if you don’t have an About page, you need one. Let’s learn how to write it.

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Why Business Copywriting Requires a Copywriter

Business copywriter needed

“Almost everybody in the advertising business will tell you that there are more efficient ways to influence the consumer than writing copy.

But here’s something else that almost everybody agrees on: It has gotten harder and harder to build brand, move merchandise, convey a message, leave a lasting impression.”

– Michael Wolff, award-winning writer and contributor to Vanity Fair

Though it seems to state the obvious, the assertion that copywriting requires a copywriter is not a widely believed principle.

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Are You Forgetting Your Audience in Your Marketing Communications?

confused by jargonI worked with a client recently whose business targets a few different audiences. For example, he collaborates with similar businesses, but he also works with clients directly. I was editing some copy he’d written to appeal to that second group. What I found, though, were words targeted at the first group.

My client is an insider, so he didn’t think twice about using the industry lingo. What he meant was clear to him, and it would have made perfect sense to his collaborators. But the marketing piece wasn’t meant for that audience, and they wouldn’t be the ones reading it.

It’s tempting to use the lingo because so much meaning can be wrapped up in one word. That one word can save a lot of space and shorten your copy. But it also can shorten the attention span of readers who don’t get it. They’ll tune out and move on – to someone who understands them.

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Eliminate Buzzwords to Clarify Your Message

JUST SAY NO
I was working with a client recently on some of his marketing copy. The piece was already written; I was providing an editorial eye and suggestions for improvement.

The piece sounded good, but one problem popped up several times throughout the copy, a problem that I’ve encountered frequently when editing pre-written copy.

Buzzwords.

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Friday Fun: The Worst Cover Letter Ever Written

Very wrong
DISCLAIMER: What I am about to present to you will be unpleasant. Side effects may include migraine, shortness of breath, and suicidal thoughts… if you’re an editor, that is. Continue at your own risk.

What you are about to read is an actual cover letter submitted for a full-time job – a job in the company’s communications department. It’s not just bad; it could be mistaken for spam if it hadn’t arrived with a completed application and a résumé. Check it out:

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