Do You Consider Yourself A Writer?

I come across many people who tell me they don’t know how to write. I point out to many of them that they got through school, some of them through college, and I know they had to do a lot of writing then because I had to do a lot of writing. Many people don’t see that as the same thing; oh really?

Writing
Creative Commons License Pedro Ribeiro Simões
via Compfight

In school, you had to write to get grades good enough to pass. In business, you have to write well enough to try to get more customers. It may not be a blog post. It might be a short ad or a long ad. It might be a radio commercial. It might even be a flyer that you put on the wall of your own establishment. Everyone knows how to write something, and had to write something in the past; it’s inevitable.

What’s happened is that not everyone knows how to write well. Not as many people seem to pay attention to either spelling or grammar. I see errors of omission on a consistent basis and it’s shocking. If this was someone writing a letter to their friend, then there’s no problem. But is this the type of thing you want your customers to see? I think not.

There are basically two things that can be done to help correct writing issues. One is to hire someone else to do your writing for you. The other is to pay more attention to what’s being written.

For instance, with today’s computers and programs, almost everyone gets notified when a word has been misspelled by some kind of squiggly line. All one has to do is right-click on the word and see what choices are being given for correction.

When it comes to grammar, Microsoft Word has a couple of settings to help check for grammar, but the recommendations sometimes seem a bit stiff. Instead, what I find useful here and there is to read what I’ve written out loud; your ears will almost always hear something that doesn’t sound right.

I know I said 2 things but I’m going to add a third thing; giving more unexpected value! 🙂

The third thing is knowing what you’re writing about. For instance, there are tons of “make money blogging” blogs online but few of them actually make much money. To me, those people have no idea what they’re talking about. If they only talked about what they’ve tried and what didn’t work, like I did when I did my 6-part series some years ago about all the affiliate programs I was on, I’d give them more credence.

If you know your topic and can write about it, then you’re probably going to be pretty good, grammar and spelling notwithstanding. If you know how to tell a story you’ll be fabulous.

Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of time to get things right. Everyone doesn’t have to write like a pro; all anyone really asks for is that you write to be understood. If you’re in business, you have to remember that your words represent your competence in someone else’s eyes. If not, then do your best and your readers will feel it.
 

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Is Grammar Powerful Enough To Ruin Your Blog Rankings?

I can’t believe how many blog posts I’ve read in the last week on reasons that many of us bloggers, and a heck of a lot of websites, lost ranking over the last month due to Google’s Penguin update, and then the Panda 3.5 update as well. Most people didn’t know there were two updates; well, there were, and they were within days of each other.


I’m sure this guy’s
suffering greatly

There’s one thing that’s come up time and time again, and I feel that someone has to actually write about it to dispel it as a reason, so it might as well be me. That one thing is that grammar can be used as a reason why many people took a hit.

Come on folks, really? Actually, let’s break this down because when most people are thinking “grammar”, they’re not really thinking grammar at all. Per my Webster’s New World College Dictionary, grammar means:

that part of the study of language which deals with the forms and structure of words, with their customary arrangement in phrases and sentences

Is that what most of you using the word have been thinking? Nope. You’ve been thinking about misspellings, capitalization, and typos for the most part. That’s a part of grammar but it’s not grammar. But we’ll let that one go for now.

Grammar is terrible these days. Forget that people can’t figure out which “your” or “their” they should be using. There are phrases like “these ones”, which grates my nerves, and things like “I <3 you", which I just learned what it means (yeah, I'm slow sometimes) that people use, to the point that some kids actually write these things in papers in school, and teachers are allowing it; I'm shocked! Okay, no I'm not, but I am greatly disappointed. Still, let's be reasonable here. If Google was going to penalize people for grammar, just whose grammar would they be penalizing people with? Folks in the south use a different grammar than folks up north, and I'm betting out west people say some things differently than we do. What about people in other countries that know English as a second language? Wouldn't an overwhelming majority of their sites be penalized drastically? Let's go back to misspellings, capitalization, and typos. There's so much of all of these, even on prominent news sites like CNN and MSNBC, definitely on my local newspaper, that one would expect these site would take a much bigger hit than those of us writing our little personal blogs because it's much more pervasive there, yet they're not suffering at all. Does this mean one shouldn't try to work on those things so they minimize errors? Absolutely not. Does it mean that one's traffic might not drop if there's so many errors people can't understand the content? Nope; it most certainly will drop. But it's not because of any updates by Google, or any other search engine. So allay your fears; you will not be tested any time soon on your grammar, spelling, or anything else. That is, unless you're still in school, in which case study! 🙂  

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Mitch Mitchell

Book Writing Series Part Five – Editing

Now you’ve written your book, or you’re almost done with it; congratulations! At this point, you’ve finished the second hardest part of your overall project, and you’ve done something that the overwhelming number of people in the world have never done. That warrants kudos on its own; but you’re not even close to being done.

The next step is the editing step, and it’s the hardest step of the entire process. It’s the hardest process because if you’re going to do it right, it’s going to take longer to edit your book than it took you to write it. First, you have to confront your own demons while editing it. This is when the gut check takes place, where your confidence is tested, because now you’re revisiting your own words, and some of them are going to look and sound alien to you. If you make it through the first edit, you’re going to be fine. But the first edit is crucial.

I know, you’re saying “first edit”? Yes, I’m saying first edit, because when you edit your book, you’re going to have to go through it more than once. I’m going to describe what I went through, so you can see what I’m talking about. I’m going to tell you my story; sound a little familiar?

After I wrote my book, Embrace The Lead, I knew I had to go through the entire thing again. Luckily, I had written it in Word, which checks your spelling as you go along, so I knew that all the regular words were going to be spelled properly. However, I had also used voice recognition software, so I knew there were going to be some alien-looking phrases that were going to stand out. And I knew one more thing; I was going to rewrite as I went along. Everyone rewrites, unless they can hammer something out in one piece and feel fairly comfortable with it. When it comes to something large, though, you’re probably going to rewrite something; it’s perfectly normal.

The first edit was painstakingly long. I’m a speed reader, so I had to change my own mode of reading and actually study my own text. I have to say that I did a pretty good job with the first edit. Word is a great program to use because it allows you to make some mass changes whenever you need to. For instance, there were many instances in the book when I used my wife’s first name by mistake. So, I was able to mass change the entire book from her name to “my wife” with one keystroke; that was great. I also noticed a consistent typo, where my fingers just wouldn’t let me spell this one word correctly, and I was able to make that change all at once.

The first edit of my book took me 5 days. I didn’t end up rewriting all that much, but I did end up adding more to many areas, trying to explain myself better. Still, after the first edit of my book, I felt fairly comfortable with it; but I knew I wasn’t done.

The next edit is something that couldn’t have been done in the past, but in 2002 it was something available to me, and it’s probably available now. I had downloaded a program where I could paste blocks of text into it and it would read them to me. As odd as this sounds, I felt it was important to hear what the book sounded like if it was being read aloud. This didn’t take as long as one might think, but I’m glad I did it because there were some parts where even I got confused, and I was able to fix those areas so that it would read smoother. I belong to a writer’s group that meets once a month, and whenever it’s my turn to present something, I always ask someone else to read it aloud so I can hear if it’s flowing properly. It’s also a rush to hear someone else reading your material, even if it is just a program on your computer.


Two Steps To Writing

Another thing Word can do for you, which became my third edit, is check your grammar. Although Word and I don’t always agree, I decided to change the settings and let it highlight what I’d written, just to make sure there were no major faux pas. It highlighted many areas, which I expected, but it also found some things that I decided to change, so I didn’t mind doing it.

The final part for me was asking some of my friends, those who I knew would read it and look for something critical, to read it for me and point out things they didn’t understand. I specifically told them I didn’t want them to critique the content, only the grammar, and whether they understood what I was saying or not. Debate can be for another time; what I needed was a critical eye only.

I have found that point to be one of the most important things I’ve ever had to do whenever I’ve asked someone for a critique. You have to tell people what you want from them. If you ask someone to read something and tell you what they think, you never know where they’re going to go, and you lose any value you might have been able to get out of it.

When I wrote my first business newsletter, I sent it to about 20 people and asked them what they thought. I didn’t get a single person who gave me anything that I could use. Instead, they wanted to talk about writing style, the layout, the word justification, the concepts I was talking about in the first article, and some just said “nice job”. That wasn’t helpful at all, but it taught me a valuable lesson; it’s one you should learn also.

Of course, at some point you’re going to want some people to actually read it and give you an honest appraisal, something you hope will come out sounding like a testimonial if they actually liked it, but not during the editing process. If you need to, tell the people you’ve asked to edit to write any other comments down and save them for when you’re ready for publication.

As I indicated, the editing process is where you grow up, where your book has its opportunity to mature, and where you’ll find out what you’re made of. If you’re actually lucky enough to get either an agent or a publisher to accept your book, they’re going to pick it apart even further, and you may not like it. But at that point, it means they’re serious about your book, and that may or may not be a good thing. I wouldn’t know, as you’ll learn in the next part of this series when I talk about trying to get published. See you next time.