Monday, July 23, 2007

Phrases and words that fill me with dread: Part 1 in an occasional series

"Nu jazz"

It just sounds punchable, doesn't it?

Buy blank postcards and paint a picture with words

I've been silent for a long time. I just haven't felt in the right place to post for ages, but here's a wonderfully simple but effective piece of advice from one of my favourite blogs, Polon Copywriting, talking about Dylan Thomas' way with words.

"His language is beautifully poetic. But he made it that way by working hard at it, revising some of his poems as much as 500 times. Even on holiday he took the chance to be creative with words. You can do the same. In fact, the times when you don’t need to be concise, or use your writing to persuade people to buy something, are a great opportunity to have fun with words. Try buying blank postcards when you go on holiday. On the side that usually has a photo, paint a picture with words instead."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Eye for Image launches blog

Over the past couple of years I've established a genuine (I hope!) and very useful friendship with Aaron Bateman who works at Eye for Image, a copywriting agency in Copenhagen. The guys and girls there, led by Aaron, have now launched a blog for that extra bit of freedom in putting forward opinion and general pontification on all things EFI related - social media, language, Denmark, and much more.

Aaron's blog, Something Rotten (linked on the right as well), is also a much-visited site of mine and his photos are definitely making me want to visit Copenhagen for real instead of simply sitting in
Kastrup Airport transfer lounges waiting for a flight back to Finland. Check out the EFI blog and Something Rotten; there's much worse things you could do with a spare few minutes.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Downtime: how do you deal with it?

I'm rubbish at not being busy; it's been a quiet period for work from all my customers. Things are picking up now, but the last few months have tested my patience as well as my confidence. The trick is in keeping things ticking over in these lulls.

What do I do? I read. I scan blogs for tips. I look back over previous work to learn how to tweak it better next time for the same client. I read books to keep my eye in; getting back into reading properly has done my confidence the world of good. As a freelance writer I get struck by 'the fear' sometimes - can you still churn it out for other people on demand?

Thing is, all it takes is one or two bits of work that just flow out, as happened with a newsletter I did for a client last week, and bang, back comes the buzz and the confidence.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Grammar paranoia

I suffer from it all the time. "Oh God, I don't know ALL these rules. Here we go, I'd better do another Google on 'compare to versus compare with', or on my favourite 'which vs. that' agghhhh.
Polishing people's work brings with it an unspoken commitment that you can spell, you know what subject-verb agreement is, but without these books I'd be doing a lot more googling:

1) The Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors - indispensable guide to all things. What's the proper abbreviation for Euro? When does good quality have a hyphen? Spam or spam?

2) The Penguin Guide to Punctuation - gapping commas, semicolons, question marks; it's all there, but what I really like about this book is that it's readable and has plenty of practical examples.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Scary brand loyalty

Reading Communication Overtones this morning, specifically Kami' s post on the three steps for corporations looking at getting started in social media, she points to Southwest Airlines' blog, Nuts About Southwest, as an example of a successful corporate blog. Interesting blog, but what really scared me was the level of 'brand commitment with which some of the customers were posting.

One fellow replies to a post about Southwest's policy of 'larger' passengers having to book 2 seats by saying "

Was a blog post really needed to point this out? It’s been enough bad PR for Southwest already, why call attention to it on a blog full of Southwest junkies where 95% could recite the entire Contract of Carriage word-for-word from memory anyways?

I know I can."

It's the holy grail; Southwest can sell that guy ANYTHING. Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking him, but I can't see myself idly sitting on the bus reciting the terms and conditions of my ISP service provision agreement, even if they did sort out my line upgrade in less than 12 hours...

Monday, February 26, 2007

Create, fiddle, create, fiddle

That's how work has been over the past few months and I have no complaints. A good balance of creating original copy for some major ad campaigns on-line and fiddling with other people's copy. Some online, short and sharp copy for technical products, where 'speed' and brevity are important, was very enjoyable to write. Fiddling with it after customer comments was just as enjoyable.

Blogging is not a new idea. It's nice to read stories about blogs/websites working as they should,
like Mike Reed's site, helping writers secure work with new customers. Blogs have helped me get work and have been used as references when putting in for work with new clients. Long may it continue...

Friday, January 26, 2007


Everyone has those sites and tools they just can't live without. Head buried in other things leaves me with this rather uninspiring but, hopefully, useful post. My top 5 essential tools, sites I visit at least once a day (or once an hour in some cases).

  • Cambridge Dictionaries - the cornerstone of daily work for me
  • Webcredible - these guys really know their stuff: accessibility, usability, writing for the web...
  • Excess Voice - Nick Usborne's blog; a man who knows about putting one word in front of another
  • Contentious - Amy Gahran, Communications guru
  • - Legal issues and advice on technology law. Good podcast every week and a good set of resources on the ins and outs of Privacy, Data Protection , Disability Discrimination....and much more

Monday, January 15, 2007

Google: a great 'context dictionary'

I often use Google as a dictionary, not so much in the strictest sense of the word, but you look up a word in the dictionary and, fine, you get the official line. If I want to know how and where a phrase or word is used in context, Google, or indeed any search engine I guess, is great for doing this.

It especially helps me if I'm working on technical documents and I'm reading something saying 'did they REALLY mean to say that/what the hell does that mean/is that really a word...' etc.

I just find that article from 'paint manufacturer machine mixer monthly' journal and away I go.