Tag Archives: charity copywriting

The Gloucestershire Copywriter’s shelfie …

The selfie is dead – long live the shelfie!

According to a recent piece in The Guardian, selfies may have been the thing in 2013, but pictures of bookshelves are now much more interesting. Others are already on the shelfie bandwagon (or should that be bookshelf?) started by Instagram, including Radio 2’s Simon Mayo and the New York Public Library.

copywriting shelfie

The Gloucestershire Copywriter’s shelfie

As part of my continuous professional development, I read a lot around copywriting, web and SEO copywriting, PR writing, technical communication, branding and other topics relevant to my craft.

So here’s part of this Cheltenham copywriter’s reference library – my reference shelfie. It’s the perfect complement to over 30 years’ practical, real-world experience in sales, marketing, technical writing, PR, and of course in-house and freelance copywriting.

Now, please tell me about the most useful writing books on your reference shelf.

Al Hidden is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.

Disappearing files (or why Word users should understand FAT32 and NTFS)

I use Microsoft Word. You probably use Word. And we both know it can be a pain. As a busy Cheltenham-based copywriter, I recently had a weird experience with disappearing MS Word 2003 files (I have no idea whether the same thing can happen with later versions). In fact, it was more than weird, it was frustrating as anything and it coat me quite a few hours before I (fingers crossed) got to the bottom of it. What was even more frustrating was that online forums, though alluding to the symptoms, didn’t give me a fast answer. Eventually, my own trial and error and a forum post that I hadn’t picked up on before, gave me the answer. I’ve put things right now and all seems to be well with Word.

So just in case you run into any of these symptoms or weird error messages, here’s what happened. It all started with the appearance of worrying error messages (including those listed below) when I was working on a suite of SEO category pages for a client. All was going swimmingly until MS Word suddenly closed – taking my website copywriting with it. Worse of all, in Windows Explorer, the files had changed to 1 kb files. When opened, these contained a few lines of gibberish. Nothing more.

Error messages sent to torment a Cheltenham copywriter

 

 

 

Ominous error messages

Here are extracts from some of the MS Word error messages I encountered:

‘Word cannot complete the save due to a file permission error…’

‘There is an unrecoverable disk error on file… the disk you are working on has a media problem that prevents Word from saving it…’

‘Word failed reading from the file (…). Please restore the network connection or replace the floppy disk and retry.’

‘Word has lost data due to a bad network connection or missing floppy. Documents relying on this data are going to be saved and then closed.’

‘Word experienced an error trying to open the file. Try these suggestions. Check the file permissions for the document or drive. Make sure there is sufficient free memory and disk space. Open the file with the Text Recovery converter.’

‘Do you want to retry the save.’

‘Word has insufficient memory. Do you want to save “…” as Rescued document…’

Not what a busy copywriter wants to see

None of these is what a busy copywriter (or any other MS Word user) wants to see – especially when they accompany the complete loss of the document and your last couple of hours’ work. And just for the record, there was plenty of free space on the disks, I wasn’t using a floppy disk, and the hard drives had all been tested and were in good condition.

As Toyah Willcox once sang, it was a mystery.

More hair tearing and brow furrowing followed, along with re-installation of MS Word, virus and malware checking with every application on my system and half-a-dozen online scanners too. And all the time, it was one of the busiest periods of the year so far… The last thing I needed was lost content, lost documents and lost time. Worst of all, when I sought fresh perspectives, the ominous spectre of a complete Windows re-install kept coming up.

Out of desperation  I started working with Apache Open Office and that pretty much solved the problem – except that I couldn’t use the MS Word spelling, grammar and readability checks or run PerfectIT. So it wasn’t ideal and certainly wasn’t a sustainable long-term fix.

FAT32 formatting and Truecrypt virtual volumes

The clue to the eventual solution came from the references to disks and media. Then IT expert Tim Isles mentioned the problems that FAT32 formatting on removable disks can cause.  And that got me thinking, because the problems always seemed to occur when I was working off virtual disks created using TrueCrypt volumes.

A quick check of the formats revealed that I’d created the volumes using FAT32 instead of NTFS. And then I found an obscure reference to this online. In one forum, symptoms akin to those I’d seen had been reported to anti-virus company F-Secure. And they had mentioned the problems with FAT32 formatting. That was when I created new volumes in TrueCrypt, made sure they were formatted to NTFS and started using Word 2003 again. And everything has been working fine for several weeks.

Result!

By the way, an interesting coda to the story came when I worked on a MS Word 2003 file that was on a removable SD card. Exactly the same symptoms occurred and of course, when I checked the SD card I found that it was formatted as FAT32.

If you’re baffled by similar symptoms and error messages, this could be the answer you’re looking for. If it is, I’m pleased to have helped.

 

is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.

This Cheltenham copywriter won’t bend the facts

I enjoyed last week’s Top Gear special about the cars featured in 50 years of James Bond films. As well as reminding me that none of us get any younger, it took me back to the 1960s, Ian Fleming’s novels and being given one of the original Corgi James Bond Aston Martin DB5s. If I recall correctly, I even had a crack at writing my own Bond-inspired spy stories…

If there was ever a master storyteller it was Fleming. He was a stickler for his facts too – a rule that Top Gear’s writers occasionally seem to bend. I’m sure that the old Fleet Street adage, don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story, often apply to Messrs Clarkson, May and Hammond. It certainly seemed to be the case during the show when, prompted by Scaramanga’s getaway in The Man with the Golden Gun, Hammond got onto the subject of flying cars. In particular the ill-fated AVE-Mizar Ford Pinto-based aircraft from the early 1970s.

al hidden copywriter sketch of ave-mizar flying car

While describing how the car was considered for the film, the Hamster couldn’t resist graphically describing how the car separated from its wings and plunged earthwards. It may have made a dramatic story, but it isn’t the truth. If you’ve seen the official accident report (NTSB Identification: LAX74FUQ18), you’ll know that what really happened was a wing-strut failure before the complete car-aircraft combo crashed in flames.

But I digress… As I watched the programme, I started thinking that my objective, as a Cheltenham copywriter, is to maintain factual integrity while telling an authentic brand or product story.

I could be writing SEO copy or a case study that uses a customer’s story to convincingly sell your product. It really doesn’t matter. Either way, the secret lies in an engaging benefit-led tale. With good source material and skilled writing, little more is needed; it’s really not necessary to bend the facts for dramatic effect.

So, on that note, you won’t find exaggeration, fact-bending or economy with the truth when I write for you and your organisation. You’ll just get a great story about your product, company or brand.

And by the way, in case you’re wondering, I’m not the Stig.

is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.

Business computing pre-Microsoft: the Hidden connection

I learned to drive in an unmissable Texas Yellow Volkswagen Variant back in the 1970s. I remember that car because (as well as being a surprisingly fast-for-the-time fuel-injected 1600) my dad bought it new in 1971 when he co-wrote a book on business computing with his former colleague Edward Lowe.

Recently, in a rare (there’s lots to keep us copywriters in Gloucestershire busy) idle moment, I did an Amazon search for the book. I was delighted to find copies of Computer Control in Process Industries on the Internet bookseller that I use to increase my writing knowledge, as well as an entry in Google Books. Copies in the UK and North America started at £0.01. I bought one for my technology-mad nephew in Germany – a nice reminder of what his late grandfather once wrote.

Computer Control in Process Industries

I’m sure I got some of my interest in writing from Dad. As a university lecturer and researcher, he was always penning something – whether it was lectures for his students, this book, or information about the wave-power energy research he did later in the 1970s. It must have rubbed off and helped to shape the interests and skills that subsequently led me into my copywriting career. It’s a shame, however, that Dad died before I set up my own freelance copywriting business. I hope he’d have been proud of what I’ve achieved since 2006.

My search for his book prompted me to take a look through my own copy. Even a quick scan of the index highlights the hugely changed world that we occupy. It’s a world where IT and the Internet determine large chunks of my work. It struck me as interesting that Dad was already writing about business computing when ARPANET, the prototype for the Internet, was just a year or so old. And as for Messrs Gates, Joy, Jobs and other shapers of the online world we now live and work in? There isn’t a mention of them, or their subsequent companies in the book. Hardly surprising, given that a teenage Bill Gates was still burning the midnight oil and developing his coding skills at CCC while dad and his co-writer penned their book at the end of the 1960s.

The computing environments described in Computer Control in Process Industries have changed beyond recognition since 1971. What’s more, the chapter titled ‘The Future’ only hints at the massive changes that have taken place over the following four decades.  What struck me most of all was how, thanks to technology that’s evolved since that yellow VW turned up on our drive, I can now locate copies of Dad’s work around the world. And thanks to Google Books, parts at least of the book’s contents should be online for ever.

Oh yes. It’s interesting when you go back and explore the roots of your career as a Gloucestershire copywriter.

is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.

Pro bono charity copywriting in Shetland

I was up in Shetland recently, enjoying a week of great weather, delicious food and good company with family. As one of the busy copywriters in Gloucestershire, I really needed a break. Mrs H and I have visited Shetland before, and it’s always been a rewarding experience. This time was no exception – in more ways than one.

Trondra, Shetland

Another pro bono copywriting client

As well as getting roped in to do a guest blog entry for a local organic lamb and beef farm at Uradale, above Scalloway, I also added another animal welfare charity to my select portfolio of pro bono copywriting causes.

 

Gloucestershire copywriter and otters crossing sign in Shetland

I like to help worthwhile causes

As I’ve said before, one of the founding principles of my freelance copywriter business was to use my skills to help worthwhile causes. Sometimes, this means pro bono work; for others, it means a discounted copywriting rate. And of course, I’ve got to relate to the cause. Otherwise, it’s impossible to write with passion and conviction. Since 2007, I’ve written regularly for the North Devon Animal Ambulance (NDAA). I’ve learned that behind most animal welfare stories there’s a human benefit too. I like that.

Seal pup at Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary, Shetland

Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary, Shetland

While up in Shetland, a chance meeting with Jan Bevington, founder of the Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary, led to me offering my copywriting services for newsletter, website and brochure writing. Her response was positive, so I’m looking forward to promoting Hillswick’s otter and seal rescue work over the months ahead.

You can read more here…

is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.