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Articles, news, and communication tips.

An Autocorrect Win

The jury may still be out on whether or not autocorrect on a smartphone is actually helpful, but here is one autocorrect application I think we can definitely put in the “Win” column.

Syntellia, a startup company founded by entrepreneur Kostas Eleftheriou and his business partner Ioannis Verdelis, set out to build a better predictive-typing app for the iPhone. This article from Fast Company highlights their accomplishment:

The result is Fleksy, an iPhone app that uses artificial intelligence to figure out what your fat fingers tried to spell on that tiny touch-screen keyboard. And when Verdelis says “type without looking,” he really means it: Fleksy’s first version is specifically for the blind.

Those of us who are not vision-impaired should be wary of relying too much on autocorrect when sending messages via smartphone. Most of us have probably seen some of the outrageously funny—or maybe just outrageous—examples of autocorrect gone bad, which are in such plentitude there is now a whole website devoted to them. Though it was designed to prevent errors, autocorrect can also create embarrassing mistakes.

But for those in greater need of the technology, Flesky is an autocorrect win.

How Technical Writing Can Benefit Your Business

If you are a small business owner and sell a product requiring a user manual, you probably recognize the value of good technical writing. You know that if your customers don’t understand how to use your product, they aren’t likely to buy from you again in the future. A good product or user manual can also reduce the time you spend responding to customer queries.

Perhaps your business doesn’t have a need for product manuals or user guides. Even if that’s the case, you may still want to develop proper documentation of your company’s internal processes and procedures. Providing well-written operations manuals or employee guides can help improve efficiency and minimize errors and downtime.

Technical Writing Tips

While it’s one thing to understand the importance of good technical writing, it’s another to actually know how to do it. What are the elements of good technical writing? What information does a user manual need to have to guarantee a customer will know how to use your product properly? How should an operations or employee manual be organized? And how do you best relay complex technical information in everyday language?

When to Break Your English Teacher’s Rules

by Hannah Comerford, Scribe Contributor

Today is National Teacher Day, a day to celebrate our teachers and their hard work. What our teachers taught us in English class is now a part of our subconscious, and we use the rules we learned in our everyday lives. Whether you liked diagramming sentences or hated spelling bees, your early lessons laid a foundation for your business writing.

However, as we grew older, the rules started to change. “I before E, except after C” added the stipulation, “or when sounded as A, as in neighbor and weigh.” Before long we realized that this didn’t even cover everything, and we simply gave up on the mnemonic altogether (at least I did!). Perhaps you’ve noticed this shift with other elementary school grammar rules: they’re often broken in the adult professional world. Why is this?

10 Word Slipups to Avoid

by Ashley Smith, Scribe Contributor

“How often misused words generate misleading thoughts.”   – Herbert Spencer, English philosopher (1820-1903)

As much as I’d like to think I have a way with words, I admit to the occasional slipup. Just the other day I sent an email to someone asking if I could “site” something she had said, rather than “cite” it. It wasn’t until after I’d sent the email that I recognized my error.

Sometimes our writing mistakes are things we would catch with closer review. Other times, we may not know or remember the correct usage or spelling. Add to this the fact that so much of what we read on the Internet is not formally edited, and we are also in danger of perpetuating the mistakes made by others.

Thankfully, my communication with this person was not business related. Had it been, my credibility likely would have been damaged. Although it is sometimes acceptable to intentionally misuse a word for the sake of great copy, careless mistakes or errors of ignorance can, as Herbert Spencer put it, “generate misleading thoughts.” Or worse yet, they can cost you a client.

Below are ten examples of commonly misused words. Are you guilty of misusing any of them?

Using Social Media to Grow Your Business

Imagine having a potential customer base of millions without having to spend a dime to market your company. Sound too good to be true? That’s what using social media as a marketing tool can do for you.

According to eMarketer, by 2013 164.2 million Americans—or 67% of the nation’s Internet users—will use social networks.  So, if you have not yet joined the ranks of companies that use social media as a way to promote their businesses, you might want to reconsider.

However, before you rush off to create a Twitter account, you’ll want to educate yourself on the basics of social media marketing.

Make Your Own Luck with Good Business Communication

Nearly $1.5 billion was spent on lottery tickets for a recent $640 million Mega Millions prize. Maybe you took part in the frenzy, buying tickets on the chance that luck would find you.

In truth, if you invest in lottery tickets, your chances of getting lucky are lower than your chances of being hit by lightning. However, if you invest in your business, you can create your own luck. Rather than spending money to let fate take control, invest in intelligent strategies that ensure success.

Should Your Small Business Marketing Have a Sense of Humor?

 

Let’s face it, humor makes a lasting impression. That’s why so many big companies use it in their advertising. Unfortunately, most small businesses avoid incorporating funny copy in their marketing.

Why? Perhaps some small business owners believe that to gain customer awareness and trust they must first be taken seriously. They could also be afraid of getting it wrong and offending potential customers. Or maybe because they’re wearing so many hats, like Dave from the Staples commercials, they just don’t have time to be funny.

Can you relate? If so, relax, let your hair down, and get creative! Adding a smile and a wink to your copy can increase your conversion rate and humanize your company.

A good way to start is to consider the type of humor you want to use. It should suit the product or service you offer and the type of customer you’re targeting.

Below are some types of humor that are widely used in advertising along with hypothetical examples.

How to Appeal to Both Sides of Your Customer’s Brain

by Ashley Smith, Scribe Contributor

Happy Vernal Equinox, otherwise known as the first day of spring!

Throughout the year, day and night compete for time. Day dominates in the summer, night in the winter. However, twice a year during the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, day and night call a truce: for twenty-four hours they allow each other to reign for roughly the same length of time.

Similarly, our brains have two sides that sometimes seem to compete for dominance. The right hemisphere is the creative or fantasy-based side.  It presents possibilities and interprets aesthetics and feelings. The left hemisphere is the logical or reality-based side. It forms strategies and interprets facts and details.

But whether you consider yourself a predominantly left-brained or right-brained thinker, when it comes to analyzing the value and desire of a product or service, chances are you engage both sides of the brain almost equally.

Which Words Kill Your Productivity?

Here’s an interesting article from Inc.com about how the use of words ending in -ing can harm your productivity. The authors mistakenly call these words gerunds, when in fact they’re talking about the present participle, but their point is still valid. (A gerund refers to the usage of a verb as a noun.)

Here’s a snippet, written specifically to entrepreneurs, but applicable to most of us:

The path to ruin for many entrepreneurs comes from a lack of accountability. It’s easy as an entrepreneur to get caught up in what you’re doing—as opposed to what you’ve accomplished and what you plan to do next.

Read the whole article here.

If you’re reporting to a client, colleague, or supervisor, make sure you let them know what has been accomplished and what is planned next, instead of just reporting on current activities.

If you’re an entrepreneur whose only “report” may be the one to yourself—planning your day and examining what you’ve accomplished already—check your to-do list for too many present participles. Because sometimes the most important communication is the kind you have with yourself.

 

Enjoy More Daylight: How to Streamline Your Email Communications

by Ashley Smith, Scribe Contributor

On Sunday, we sprang into spring by setting our clocks ahead one hour. This first day or two of Daylight Saving Time can bring mixed emotions—distress for having lost an hour of sleep, yet also excitement for having gained an extra hour of daylight (which for those of us living in the Pacific Northwest is a much-anticipated event).

I don’t know about you, but when springtime rolls around, I’d rather not squander the extra daylight sitting in front of a computer, writing and checking email. And let’s face it, between the personal and business email we send and receive every day, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. So what can you do to keep your email burden light?

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