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What Dr. Suess Can Teach You about Communicating with Customers

by Ashley Smith, Scribe Contributor

Today marks Theodore Seuss Geisel’s 108th birthday. Dr. Suess, as he is more commonly known, was one of the most prolific communicators of the twentieth century. While he was most famous for his children’s books, he was also a political cartoonist and a successful illustrator for advertising campaigns.

One of the main reasons Dr. Suess’s children’s books are so famed is because of their inherent moral lessons. Although he claimed it was never his intention to incorporate a moral when he began writing the tales, he did believe you could find a lesson in any story.

Below are a few famous quotes by Dr. Seuss from which I’ve garnered some “lessons” to help you along your journey to becoming an expert business communicator.

Eliminate Wordy Phrases and Modifiers

Writing Concisely (Part 4)

by Ashley Smith

Just as almost everyone is guilty of the occasional redundancy, so too are most people guilty of using wordy phrases and modifiers in their communication. These extra words are often overlooked in colloquial speech; however, they should be avoided as much as possible in writing.

A wordy phrase is any clause or part of a sentence that can be reduced to a shorter clause or to one word (see one set of examples here: 30 Wordy Phrases Beginning with “In”). A modifier is a word or phrase that describes another and can often be deleted without affecting the sentence meaning, such as very, extremely, early, etc. Eliminating wordy phrases and modifiers will keep your business correspondence clear, concise, and professional.

Take a look at these wordy sentences and their revisions below:

Avoid Redundancies in Your Business Writing

Writing Concisely (Part 3)

by Ashley Smith

How many times have you heard or seen an advertisement saying, “And as an added bonus you’ll receive . . .”?

Notice anything strange about this phrase? Aren’t bonuses already an addition to something? Using the word “added” with “bonus” creates a redundancy. Part 3 of our Writing Concisely series addresses how to cut redundancies from your writing to create clarity and conciseness.

Most of us don’t notice redundancies when they’re spoken (which is often and by almost everyone, regardless of profession or level of education). We are also accustomed to seeing them in ads, where they are used to emphasize a point. But one place you should not ignore redundancies is in your (non-ad) business writing.

Clear and succinct business writing makes its point without having to emphasize it. Redundancies clutter your content, adding to your word count unnecessarily and stealing more of your readers’ time.

Here are some of the most common redundancies you should avoid:

Fewer Nouns and a Lot More Action

Writing Concisely (Part 2)

by Ashley Smith & Lori Baxter

In Part 1 of our Writing Concisely series, we talked about the importance of concise writing and how you can show consideration for your reader’s time and ease by cutting your word count. Parts 2-4 will highlight specific ways to make your business writing more concise.

One tip that can be of assistance in keeping  your business writing more concise is to avoid the frequency by which nouns and passive verb tenses are used.

Not only is the above sentence confusing, it ignores the very tip it’s giving. Let’s try again, cutting our word count from 28 to 12:

Keep your business writing concise by limiting nouns and passive verb tenses.

What’s wrong with nouns?

The point is not to avoid all nouns; after all, nouns are an essential building block of writing. However, many of the nouns we use in our business writing are adapted from a verb. The verb version usually requires fewer words and is more engaging than its noun equivalent, but many business writers still choose the wordier noun version, making their writing less interesting and harder to read.

Super Bowl-Worthy Advertising on a Small Business Budget

by Ashley Smith, Scribe Contributor

Each year companies spend millions of dollars to advertise during the Super Bowl because they know that the captivated audience of millions will most likely not mute the commercials. I’m sure even diehard football fans will admit—if only to themselves—that when it comes to Super Bowl Sunday, they’re eager not only to watch the game but the commercials, too. In fact, even those who are not so football crazy are often willing to suffer through the game just to enjoy the commercials.

This is great for well-established companies that have such large sums of money to spend for 30 seconds of advertising, but what about smaller businesses? How can small business owners get their message out without spending a fortune?

Is Your Website Like “Groundhog Day”?

Keeping Web Content Up to Date

by Ashley Smith, Scribe Contributor

Every February 2, many North Americans gather together to celebrate the emergence of a groundhog from its burrow. The hope is that the groundhog will not see its shadow and therefore winter will not perpetuate for another six weeks. Over the years the term “Groundhog Day” has come to express a situation in which events occur repeatedly for a period of time (such as a long winter).

Many websites are stuck in a long winter. Have you ever revisited a site after many months and noticed that nothing has changed? It still has the same products, same services, same testimonials, same articles, etc. Or even worse, the content is out-of-date? Can the same be said of your website?

If you haven’t kept your company’s website up to date, I’m sure you can think of a thousand excuses why: lack of time, lack of money, lack of know-how, whoops I forgot, etc. But what if I were to tell you why it’s vital and how you can do it without spending a lot of time or breaking the bank? Keep reading if you’d like to know.

Stop Bad Writing Habits in 2012

by Ashley Smith, Scribe Contributor

The English language is prone to idiosyncrasies in spelling and grammar, so it is no surprise that people make mistakes when writing.  For example, have you ever found yourself confusing “you’re” with “your”? It’s okay to say yes. Everyone makes mistakes such as these, even professional writers.

Before we get into why we easily confuse certain words and how to stop perpetuating this habit, take a look at some of the most commonly confused words. Are you guilty of misusing any of these?

  • you’re/your
  • they’re/their/there
  • it’s/its
  • then/than
  • to/too

Most of us don’t make these errors because we are ignorant of the rules or lack the intuitive ability to use the correct word. (However, if you don’t know the correct use for any of the words above, please consult your dictionary or some of our Facebook and Twitter tips from last week). More often the culprit is carelessness or hastiness.  Between our busy lives and the myriad forms of written communication we use today—emails, blogs, tweets, etc.—it’s easy to overlook mistakes.

However, if you want people to recognize you as a professional and take your ideas seriously, it is important to stop perpetuating these bad writing habits.

Below are some tips to help you avoid making mistakes.

  • Read what you’ve written before clicking Print, Send, Share, Post, Tweet, or whatever other method you have of publishing communications.
  • Go an extra step and read what you’ve written out loud. This increases your chances of finding errors.
  • Use grammar checkers. You can download grammar checker software online. Also, word processing programs such as WordPad and Microsoft Word will automatically check for correct grammar. Make sure this option is turned on.
  • If possible, take a break after you’ve finished writing and come back to it later. You’re more likely to see a mistake that you hadn’t seen before once some time has passed.
  • When it’s an important message, have someone else read your writing. A professional proofreader or editor is trained to check for mistakes and will guarantee your correspondence is clear, succinct, and error free.

In short, give your writing just a little more time and attention. Carelessness is not the message you want to send with your business communication.

What tips can you share with other business writers for avoiding writing and grammatical mistakes?


Writing Concisely (Part 1)

by Ashley Smith, Scribe Contributor

The subject matter that shall be discussed in this article is about the importance of writing in a manner that allows you to make known all of the items you wish to express in only a few words.

Have I lost you yet? For those of you still scratching your heads over what that sentence means, here is a clear translation: This article discusses the importance of concise writing.

The Rules of Spring

It’s the second day of spring and we were happy to see the sun come out in Seattle! (So happy that I took off a little early and went to Pike Place Market.)

It’s a fitting time to remember the rules of capitalization for the seasons. Winter, spring, summer, and fall/autumn are all lowercased except when used to denote an issue of a publication (e.g., the Spring 2011 issue of a company newsletter or other publication).

Other exceptions would be when the word begins a sentence (such as “Winter” in the previous sentence) or is part of the title of a work (The Torrents of Spring by Ernest Hemingway).

Lowercase rules also apply for spring equinox and winter solstice.

Hope you are all enjoying the longer days and glimpses of sunshine after a long, cold winter. Happy spring!

Making Your Vision Transferable

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and if you sit down with someone who is a visionary and ask them what they do, that’s probably how many words you’ll get. Entrepreneurs and other visionaries are nothing else if not passionate, and given a listening ear, they can go into elaborate detail about the new frontiers and new worlds they envision.

But if you are communicating your organization’s vision using a thousand or more words, only the most patient will stay along for the ride. Simplifying your message and making it transferable is the key to your success.

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