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Real people don’t say utilise; useless information delivered in an unnecessarily convoluted way

Posted on: 19 October 2012
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Filed under: Content, Uncategorized

 

I used to write copy for famous travel company and as a new starter had to attend an induction session. Aside from the essentials, like where’s the emergency exit and how long I get for lunch, during the session I was given several surprising pearls of wisdom. It was explained to me, in great detail, how to utilise a plaster, how to utilise a kettle and how to utilise a door.

Aside from the fact that before joining the company I’d managed to execute all of these tasks for myself without too many problems, it was the choice of language that really threw me.  Not use a kettle, utilise a kettle. A much more businesslike and serious form of kettle use. This woman really knows her stuff when it comes to kettles, plasters and doors, I thought. Shortly before utilising the latter and running through it screaming.

As a copywriter you spend most of your energy getting rid of copy; cutting, condensing and clarifying. You look for the simplest way of communicating, quickly. While words like utilise have their place, when you’ve got a perfectly good three-letter alternative why on earth wouldn’t you use it? Unless, that is, you want your brand to appear elitist, overly-technical and a bit up tight.

Take a look at these examples. Admittedly, they have been doctored to help illustrate my point, but the original copy wasn’t a million miles away from what you can see here:

Through a continuous programme of redevelopment, meetings and seminars targeted at looking at ways in which we can ensure improvement year on year, the board has taken steps to make targeted changes that we plan to implement to ensure that we not only support the company in moving forwards, but also that we use our continuous commitment to improvement to continuously improve year on year.

Come again?

After a difficult year, we’ve agreed on a course of action that will help increase sales and ensure improvement.

Got you.

Digital readers are no different to print readers. They want to access information without wading through detail and dense language. So next time you’re asked to write, update or supply copy, take it easy. You can’t say everything that every potential customer could ever want to know. Talk like a person talking to other people, instead of a corporate-borg programmed to impart impenetrable information. The world, and our website, will be a much happier place.

 

 

 

New academic staff profiles are here

Posted on: 11 October 2012
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Filed under: Content, Design, Uncategorized

After months of hard work, and an unexpected redesign project midway through the task, the new staff profiles will be rolled out throughout the website next week.

My last blog post announcing new profiles for 2012 has since been superseded and therefore needs updating.

The redesign project that’s been in process for the last six months has had knock on affects that have benefitted the staff profile project.

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Panda in the wild upsetting the herd

Posted on: 7 October 2011
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Filed under: Business, Content, Google, Music, Search, Web Metrics, Writing for the web

Search engines are a funny thing. They are relied upon by millions of users, yet can upset a marketing campaign or even destroy a business with just the slightest change in code.

The biggest player in this market, and you get no prizes for guessing correctly, is Google. But their recent search algorithm update – codename Panda (no, really) is causing a bit of a stir.

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Getting to grips with grammar

Posted on: 22 July 2011
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Filed under: Communication, Content, Education, Writing for the web

A recent article on the BBC News website suggested poor spelling could result in reducing online sales by half.

A website owner interviewed said: “Sales figures suggest misspellings put off consumers who could have concerns about a website’s credibility”.

He has a good point but we must not forget that it is not just poor spelling that can let us down.

Grammar and awareness of other factors eg brand names, can have an important effect on how users not only view websites but how these views can spread to other, potential, users.

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Writing for the web

Posted on: 13 July 2011
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Filed under: Communication, Content, Writing for the web

Produce web content that’s relevant

Good web content helps satisfy our visitors’ information needs, drives conversion (from visitor to paying customer) and is search engine optimised (SEO) containing keywords and phrases to enable Google et al to include our web pages in relevant SERPs (search engine results).

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The changing face of Blogg(er)ing

Posted on: 8 July 2011
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Filed under: Blogging, Content, Google, Social Media, Tumblr, Twitter, WordPress

So, after 12 years of hard-graft and rapid expansion the blogging site – Blogger, will soon be no-more.

Actually I’m being a bit dramatic as Blogger isn’t going anywhere but it is set to be renamed as part of Google’s recent overhaul of its online products which began with the introduction of Google+ earlier this month.

Why should this matter and what does it mean for the site [co-founded by Evan Williams of Twitter in 1999 and bought by Google in 2003] ranked inside the top ten most visited sites in the world?

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