The true tale of Elizabeth Frensington-Smythe

March 23, 2015 at 12:22 pm | Posted in copywriting | 7 Comments
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Lady Elizabeth Frensington-Smythe (of Abbotsford).

I was rewriting a large website for a client with the glorious double-barrelled name (changed for this tale) of Elizabeth Frensington-Smythe.

With big projects, I often begin with small bits and work my way up at increasing speed.

Staff bios (profiles) are a great starting point.

When I got to Elizabeth’s bio, I recalled that she’d introduced herself to me as Liz.

She also signed her emails as Liz, yet her email address was Elizabeth@Frensington-SmytheEnterprises.com.

And so I wrote:

‘Dear Liz,

Are you predominantly Liz, Lizzy, Elizabeth (or some other permutation) to your various audiences?

The name they read should be the one they use.

If we can pick one variation and use it consistently across all communication channels, we’ll strengthen your brand.

If, however, use is situational, we can give this idea a miss.’

Liz replied:

‘My name is Elizabeth Frensington-Smythe.

Business cards, emails etc all use Elizabeth.

99% of people call me Liz.’

So I said:

‘Thank you, Liz.

So, all your business comms are in sync with just 1% of your audience.

As you’re obviously rebranding, can we ditch Elizabeth for Liz in all instances going forward?

Liz is shorter, friendlier and more accessible.

(Three traits that are particularly attractive when one has a double-barrelled surname.)

It’s impossible to misspell Liz.

And you’ll never again have to start a relationship with, ‘Please, call me Liz’.

This may remove small but unsettling uncertainties for some anxious folk.

Make sense?’

Liz said:

‘Liz it is.’

And so started our website optimisation collaboration.

Liz not only ended up with perfect online content.

She also got a sharper, stronger and more consistent personal brand.

I love it when that happens!

🙂

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

Pic by #1 Airsoft Mom.

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.doc vs .docx – Which & why?

March 18, 2015 at 11:40 am | Posted in copywriting | 4 Comments
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Begin with the end in mind.

Begin with the end in mind.

I got a new editing project the other day.

A piece of technical writing destined to pass through many hands.

It’s also intended to form part of a series.

I always start a job by setting ground rules. And given this brief, the need for consistency from the start was paramount.

So the first question I sent to my client was:

‘Hi there!

I want to save everyone a lot of hassle by deciding which Word document format we’re all going to use.

I use Word 97-2003 (.doc) format.

This ensures everyone in the food chain can access and use it, regardless of how old their software is.

However, the document you sent me is in the more modern Word Document (.docx) format.

I want to ‘dumb down’ your files to Word 97-2003 (.doc) format.

Not just for the reason outlined above.

But because if we have two formats flying around, the various filenames won’t always appear together when we look for them in folders.

This could create problems.

My guess is that you have up-to-date software, with a Word template that automatically creates new documents in .docx format.

If so, you should be able to switch this to .doc format.

But before doing so, you may wish to see what format your staff, designer and publisher are using, so everyone is on the same page.

There are pros and cons to .doc and .docx:

You may decide you want the bells and whistles of .docx and that my ultra-conservative .doc approach isn’t for you.

If you and your people really want to use .docx going forward, that’s totally cool.

So long as everyone knows this, has the software to do so, and complies.

This may sound like a tiny and arcane point, but making this simple decision now could avert dramas down the track.

To this end, could you please let me know which way you (and your team!) wish to go?

Kind regards,

P.’

My client’s reply was wonderfully clear and concise.

So much so that I wondered if she needed an editor at all.

She wrote:

‘Yes revert to .doc.’

What a wonderful way to begin!

🙂

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

Pic by rahego.

Library books

March 16, 2015 at 9:01 am | Posted in copywriting | 2 Comments
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Imagine Day. Paul Hassing's book of surreal short stories.

Write once. Use many times.

Having edited a client’s book for much of last year, I was delighted when he sent me a box of ten shiny copies to give to prospects and friends.

By chance, my own book (pictured) had come out just a few days before.

Once I got over the warm fuzzy of seeing my name and website in my client’s acknowledgements, I thought about how to leverage his content.

And so I wrote:

‘Hi there!

Having just had my own book published, I was wondering if you or your publisher has sent copies of your new book to:

It’s not just a legal thing, your title goes onto the databases and becomes globally searchable.

This increases exposure and is very good for your personal brand.

My searches of these databases did not yield anything written by you.

So I wanted to make sure you get onto this if you haven’t already.

Kind regards,

P.’

My client was very grateful.

And, as usual, I got a kick out of offering some free value-add service beyond the project itself.

I can’t wait to see what our respective publications do for us this year.

🙂

PS. Here’s the National Library of Australia entry for my dad’s autobiography. And here he is in the State Library of Victoria.

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

From DL to PDF to online & beyond!

October 1, 2014 at 11:39 am | Posted in copywriting | Leave a comment
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Leverage your content worldwide!

Leverage your content worldwide!

Remember that jolly DL brochure I edited?

It’s not back from the printer yet, but it did throw up a further lesson during the design process.

Never one to stop seeking value, I asked my client:

‘Once this brochure is finalised for printing, do you reckon we’ll also leverage the file into a PDF?

Doing so would let you post it on your website for downloading any time.

You could also email it to any (younger?) prospects who flag a preference for screen browsing over snail mail (especially if you need to get a brochure to them fast).

If you think this URL idea has legs, I can add a few handy hyperlink suggestions (e.g. behind headshot photos and company logos) so online readers can easily explore.

More bang for your buck, and all that.

These URLs would not be visible in or affect the printed brochure (i.e. if you printed the PDF yourself, it’d be identical to the commercially printed brochure).

I’m definitely not suggesting we run two versions of this brochure – merely that we augment the master file to suit two channels.

Please let me know what you reckon.’

My client agreed this was worthwhile.

Thus spurring me to ever greater efforts to give him value for money.

🙂

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

 Pic from Wikipedia.

Notes on DL brochures

September 16, 2014 at 7:33 am | Posted in copywriting | 5 Comments
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An easy way so see DL.

An easy way so see DL.

A client asked me to edit a brochure and suggest a format.

Once I saw what the brochure was for (promoting a course to time-poor execs) I suggested ‘DL’ format.

So what the hell is DL? Swim Communications puts it very well.

In short, DL is a third the size of A4 (the size you stick in your printer).

My client, who had imagined an A4 format, asked why I preferred DL.

So I said:

‘DL is easier and cheaper to post to many prospects.

Also, I feel it looks more businesslike.

If you go flat A4, you’ll either have to post it folded anyway, or add cardboard to stop it getting mangled en route.

But if you hit a non-A4 letterbox, it’ll get mangled anyway.

Not a good look for your brand.

Folded DLs are also easier to hand out at events, display in foyers and carry away.

Finally, the beauty of a DL brochure is that you can add as many panels as you need to cover the content and it still fits in a standard business envelope.’

My client was impressed.

I can’t wait to see what the designer does with our optimised content.

I wrote this post to demonstrate that expert copywriters and editors don’t just focus on words.

They think about your business, your brand, your communication strategy, your audience, your costs, your desired results and how to wring every drop of value from your investment.

And though they may not be design experts, they know from long experience what works and what doesn’t.

So when you send your perfected copy to a designer for finishing, they’ll have the best possible chance of smashing it out of the park.

🙂

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

 Pic by The Internet Printer.

Qui Ckon CEO Ver.

January 6, 2014 at 9:17 am | Posted in copywriting | 8 Comments
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Almost white

Does this look all white to you?

Sorry about that title; only had time for a ‘quick once over’.

All the letters are there: the caps and spacing didn’t confuse, did they?

As a copywriter, I sometimes get quick-once-over requests. I wonder if you do too.

The request has three variations:

1.  Just give it 15 minutes.

Some clients assess my work by what I keep, not discard.

Thus, if I spend an hour rendering two pages of crud into one perfect paragraph, they see 50 words and think Bargain!

If I were a surgeon, they’d say:

Look at that jar: it’s tiny! Why bill me for operating on my whole body when you only took out that little, bitty gallstone?!

2.  Just focus on the howlers.

An intelligent client may spend weeks crafting a pitch for a huge piece of business. She’s happy with her content and only wants me to flag the one or two bad errors I might find.

Though I invariably find dozens of small to medium errors that I know will undermine her brand, pitch (and even viability) she isn’t interested. She knows her writing is good. She gave it to me at the eleventh hour, as an afterthought.

If I were a crèche, she’d say:

We’re entering Emily in a national baby contest in four hours. I’m going home to change. Just keep her alive until I return. Only call if she goes blue or black; don’t worry about the peanut thing. I know my daughter.

3.  There’s only two hours in the budget.

I perfect communications via multiple processes. Spelling, punctuation, tone, cadence, readability and jargon are just the tip.

Numbers, fact accuracy, logical flow, legal compliance, audience suitability and consistency with branding and prior communications form the next level. Then there’s the optional humour, irony, academic and cultural references etc.

This deep thinking takes time.

So, if I get two hours to optimise 6000 not-very-good words, I must cut corners. Yet like a Rubik’s cube, my corners intertwine. Lose one, no cube.

If I were a builder, they’d say:

We need a safe, certified, 25-square home for $50K. Don’t forget the plumbing, wiring, plaster, painting, insulation, termite proofing and hurricane roofing. We’re in Darwin.

Time is money: I need it and I know clients aren’t made of it. I promise perfect communications: too-small budgets make this impossible. Yet I genuinely like my clients and want them to prosper.

I can’t let flawed work leave my desk. So I do three or four hours for the price of two. Just like the fairies.

How about you? Do you mow three hectares for the price of two? Install five workstations for the cost of three? Teach eight people for the fee of five?

If so, what’s your motivation?

  1. Pride.
  2. Love.
  3. Money.
  4. Other (please state _________ ).
  5. All of the above.

Idlo VETOK Now!

🙂

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

Handle with care

September 20, 2013 at 9:37 am | Posted in copywriting | 11 Comments
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A delicate operation.

A delicate operation.

Word up!

When you edit a website to relaunch a high-end muesli range, every word counts.

To this end, a clever client and I recently had an interesting exchange:

She

I bought some yogurt today. They have ‘handcrafted’ as part of their product description.

I currently use ‘hand mixed’ on my website and labels.

Do you think ‘handcrafted’ could be a better word for my range?

What about ‘hand made’?

Me

‘Handcrafted’ used to be a novel take on ‘hand made’, but it isn’t anymore.

Your muesli isn’t furniture.

And you aren’t God.

Therefore, ‘crafted’ is not the word I’d go for.

I think you’re already totes on the money with ‘hand mixed’.

And, for the record, I’d like as few hands as possible in my yogurt!

Morals

So we’re sticking with ‘hand mixed’.

Copywriting is a deeper process than some people think.

That said, if a client has already nailed something, a good copywriter doesn’t try to gild the lily or fix what ain’t broke.

For that is our

craft.

What do you think?

🙂

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

Pic by Jay PH.

Fanatics rule

May 5, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Posted in copywriting, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Special work needs special people.

Every now and then I realise what a fanatic I’ve become.

As with this email to a client today:

Dear Sybil,

With regard to compass directions, very few dictionaries use a space (i.e. north east).

The Oxford (and 12 other dictionaries) use hyphens (i.e. north-east).

24 (mainly US) dictionaries use no space (i.e. northeast).

As the module I’m working on makes significant use of these terms, I wanted to get direction (tee hee) from you.

I’d like to use hyphens.

Would that be OK with you?

Best regards,

P.

Yet proofreading demands fanatical attention to detail.

It’s the only way to get things 100% right.

So I’m happy to be nuts about this stuff.

🙂

Paul Hassing, Founder and Senior Writer, The Feisty Empire.

What is the ‘passive voice’?

April 24, 2010 at 9:57 am | Posted in copywriting | 5 Comments
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If it’s hard to read, they won’t.

Many documents I edit are written in the ‘passive voice’.

The passive voice is very bad news for communications, as it demands a greater number of longer words that are harder to read.

Recently a client asked what the passive voice actually means.

Here’s my light-hearted response:

Dear Fred,

This response has been cast, by me, in the passive voice, for the amusement of you.

Your words that are kind have made me experience a feeling of gratitude.

It is a matter of pleasure to me that the suggestions made by me were found by you to be of some benefit.

Unfortunately, the PDF which was attached by you to your email was not received by me, but hope is held by me that it will be sent by you to me. Eventually.

The final PDF is something that perhaps ought to be beheld by me, if not for the purpose of proofing, then at least for the purpose of placement by me in the archives belonging to the company of which I am Founder.

I am hopeful that this response will be found to be helpful.

By you.

Well, that’s all from me.

Best regards,

P.

Get my drift?

If you don’t, we may need to get passive aggressive!

🙂

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

Making myself redundant

January 17, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Posted in copywriting | 6 Comments
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I feel pride when a client no longer needs me.

As a copywriter, I strive to help my clients:

  1. Build their brand.
  2. Dominate their market.
  3. Make their fortune.

As I go along, I also try to do one more thing: make myself redundant.

I want my clients to grasp the basics of my profession so they become better writers.

By writing better copy, they need me less. They save money and their confidence grows.

This isn’t good for my mortgage, but I do get a warm fuzzy.

When a client I’ve been working with sends me something they’ve written and I can’t significantly improve it, I feel great pride.

This once happened in as little as 18 months.

This client took great care to re-read each of his original documents, next to my optimised versions, to see all the changes I’d made.

If he asked why I’d made a particular change, I happily explained my method in full.

Eventually, he picked up enough basic editing know-how to write good, tight copy every time.

If you’re this way inclined, you can become a better writer and get to the point where you don’t need me.

On the other hand, if you’d rather shoot from the hip and let me groom your words forever, I’d love the ongoing work!

The choice is yours. But I hope this post shows that when I take on a client, I truly care about their prosperity.

Enough to put myself out of a job!

🙂

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

Pic by Olerousing.


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