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If you're a copywriter or corporate communicator, you've been trained to not use the same words or phrases repeatedly in your copy. If you did, someone -- your boss or editor -- would strike the offending words as being repetitive, wordy, or even boring. As a writer, you're supposed to use your creativity, knowledge of the language, and intellect to craft beautifully written copy.

Imagine, then, when someone informs you that a new copywriting skill involves using the same words over and over again on a Web page. When you see the offending copy, you cringe. "Ack!" you think. "What hack writer got away with writing that... that... that stuff?" Welcome to the world of search engine optimization copywriting.

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When we talk about writing style, we mean one of two things: a set of rules and conventions regarding words and punctuation (sometimes known as the "house style" of a given publication); or a distinctive, identifiable way of assembling words and punctuation (sometimes known as "tone" or "voice"). The first kind of style is all about standards: it's why newspaper writers spell out all numerals under ten and why New Yorker editors -- alone of all their tribe -- spell vendor as vender. The second kind of style is about deviations from the standard. It's what makes us recognize a passage of prose as indisputably Ernest Hemingway's or Joan Didion's or David Foster Wallace's or Maureen Dowd's.  Continue reading...
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Each week I come across countless examples of marketing and PR writing that are wonderful to read. The grammar is impeccable. The phrases are inventive. The words sing. But does that mean the resultant sales letter, web page, or press release will meet objectives? The answer, of course, is no.  Continue reading...
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Interviews matter. Interviews are the foundation of good reporting. They are the best way of understanding a complicated situation and seeing it from someone else's perspective. A wise, old editor of mine used to say "report it out." She meant "go talk to people, don't rely on your own opinions and judgment." It's a good maxim. One of my rules of thumb is to do one interview for each 250-500 words of final copy. So here are my top tips for a good interview.  Continue reading...
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Blog Excerpts

Writing Memos For Word of Mouth

The Church of the Customer blog, written by marketing gurus Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba, recently ran a post on the power of the company memo: "The lowly memo still has juice. Maybe more so today, thanks to social media. Several recent memos that leaped over their corporate moats illustrate three types of company communications that create waves in the word-of-mouth waters." How? Read the post here.
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When you write full time, it's very easy to fall into bad habits without realizing it's happening. Like the clutter in your house, which eventually becomes "invisible," you don't see the mistakes and glitches in your own copy.

So how do you improve your writing? Here are my five proven methods -- all of which I use regularly.

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One of my readers sent me a thought-provoking email asking "why do good writers (occasionally) produce bad copy?" I thought about it for a while and here are a few suggestions.

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5 6 7 8 9 Displaying 43-49 of 66 Articles