Tag Archives: fred zeppelin

A good proofreading podcast could have been even better…

I’ve been listening to the Manager Tools and Career Tools podcasts for a couple of years. They’re an eclectic mixture of  management and career-related topics presented by Michael Auzenne, Mark Horstman and Wendii Lord. If you haven’t listened yet, please do so. The quality of thinking and the professionalism is outstanding.

Six keys to successful proofreading

Every so often, one of their podcasts touches ground close to that of this Cheltenham copywriter’s specialism. A case in point was last week’s podcast on how to proofread. When I saw the topic I was onto it in a flash and on the whole I was impressed by the focus on these six points:

  1. Set Word to help you
  2. Don’t let Word check grammar
  3. Read backwards to proof a document
  4. Choose your time and place carefully
  5. Common writing mistakes to look out for
  6. Have someone help you proofread

A good start, and I realise that you can’t cover everything in a single podcast. But I’d add a few more points to elevate this from being a very good cast to a great one.

Exception dictionaries

There was no mention of setting up and using an exception dictionary (or exclude dictionary) in Word. Sure, they talked about teaching the default Word spell-checker to accept custom terms, but an exception dictionary takes this a stage further by forcing Word to always flag words that you might be using incorrectly. Examples would be ‘bear’ and ‘bare’, or ‘to and ‘too’. Setting up an exceptions dictionary is a bit fiddly, but worth the effort. Once it’s done, it’s easy to update the underlying .txt document. Rather than reinvent the wheel by explaining the ins and outs of doing this, here’s a link to a good reference.

PerfectIT

Another addition to your proofing toolkit should be Intelligent Editing’s PerfectIT. I’ve been using this tool for a couple of years and it’s a superb tool to complement MS Word. There’s a free version, but I’d strongly recommend paying the modest fee for the paid for software. Used in conjunction with the standard MS Word spell-checker, this is a valuable tool for achieving stylistic consistency in a document.

I was also interested to hear the discussion about beginning sentences with conjunctions such as And and But. Although the presenters sort of conceded that you could ‘break the rules of grammar’ to use this, I think they were behind the times on this. Good writing is about communicating clearly and effectively, and often as it is spoken. Good copywriting gets its punch, energy, flow and conversational feel (conversational needn’t be unprofessional) from techniques such as beginning sentences with conjunctions and using sentence fragments.

TextAloud

That’s about it. I’d definitely advocate the use of text-to-speech software to help with proofing (I swear by  TextAloud with one of the many available custom synthesised voices). Try it and you’ll notice the difference between it and the standard Adobe or Microsoft system voices.

A final challenge

Lastly, the Career Tools presenters set an interesting challenge about an occasion when it is acceptable (read: correct) not to have matching quotation marks around speech. That would be when you have two paragraphs of quoted speech. You start the first para with a quote mark, leave it off at the end of the para, begin the second para with another, then end the quote with a closing quote mark.

Career Tools and Manager Tools: they’re two interesting podcasts whether you run a copywriting practice or you’re an owner or manager of an organisation that hires freelance copywriters. And that means pretty much everyone, because any organisation that uses words to communicate can use a skilled, experienced copywriter.

I would say that wouldn’t I!

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

Copywriting, Fred Zeppelin and catching up in Worcester

I was on a copywriter’s night out and it could have been 1969 or the early 1970s again (I’m showing my age).  A small venue in Worcester (the Marrs Bar), a thundering four-piece rock and roll band on stage, and some of the best known rock music of the last 50 years. All that was missing was the smoke haze. And the beer was dearer. But when Fred Zeppelin came on stage you could shut your eyes and imagine it was the real thing.

They were note perfect and their lead singer even looks remarkably like Robert Plant as well as sounding like the man who is arguably the greatest voice in rock. The nice thing was that over the last 20 years the Fredz haven’t set out to do any more than replicate the music of Zeppelin note for note. That their current lead singer looks and behaves remarkably like Plant is a bonus. There were just enough of the trademark gestures and mannerisms  to be authentic – without ever lapsing into an embarrassing parody of Kidderminster’s finest. I’ve seen Plant in concert several times and watched hours of Zeppelin video over the years. This guy was good, as were his stage mates.

It coulda been 1969 again...

It coulda been 1969 again…

They played a ton of our favourites (but not Stairway…): from ‘Rock and Roll’ to ‘Kashmir’, and ‘Whole Lotta Love’ to ‘The Song Remains the Same’. And it was loud, which you’d expect from any half-decent tribute to Led Zeppelin.

We were in Worcester to hook up with one of my longest standing and most loyal clients – Phil from Mosaique in Tewkesbury. As well as discovering the delights of the UK’s leading Zeppelin tribute band, it was a great opportunity for a Cheltenham copywriter to catch up with a Worcester-based agency creative director over a beer or two  and a damn fine pre-gig Balti.

Phil and I go back several years now and can list a long line of creative projects that we’ve collaborated on. We started with newsletters and technical datasheets for Toyota, progressed to security systems for Cooper Security and wrote about flooring for Karndean International – plus a fistful of smaller projects. It’s amazing how much you can write in five years, and the fun you can have writing it. It was good to catch up and swap war stories from the art-direction frontline.

As for Fred Zeppelin, here’s a band that does what it does brilliantly, offers astounding value (£8 a ticket to see ‘Zeppelin’) and knows how to give an appreciative audience what it wants. Come to think about it, that’s rather like what it takes to be a successful copywriter in Gloucestershire

Oh yes, and one other thing. The drive up to Worcester reminded me how close the town is to my Cheltenham office. So if you’re looking for copywriters in Worcester and you appreciate old-fashioned face-to-face service (as Phil and his colleagues at Mosaique do),  please don’t rule out this Cheltenham boy.

Let’s rock ‘n roll with some inspired copywriting. And in the meantime, if you get the opportunity, how about checking out Fred Zeppelin for yourself?

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