Tag Archives: gloucestershire copywriters

A must-read if you send or receive CVs…

I was given this inspired Christmas gift by Mrs H. Even after a quick flick through Crap CVs by Jenny Crompton (I’m still reading the excellent Speak Human by Eric Karjaluoto), I can see what a gem it is and the hours of amusement it promises to deliver.

 

 

 

 

The dedication ‘ To all the hopelessly unemployed’ says it all: the contents, so lovingly curated by Ms Crompton, range from the brief (‘HERE ARE MY RESUME AND IM NOT SO INTEREST IN YOUR JOB THANKS MO’) to the hilariously verbose.

I’m excited already, not just because I write military to civilian CVs professionally, but because it’s just hilariously funny. I challenge anyone not to laugh (and laugh, and laugh) and learn.

Have you read Crap CVs? What did you think of it? What’s the funniest CV blooper you’ve ever come across?

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

The late Steve Jobs and PC PRO agree with me…

When I were a lad, back in the 1980s, selling building products in South East England, face-to-face interactions were the norm. In fact, with the exception of a bit of phone work to set up appointments and deal with customer enquiries (no LinkedIn or social networking in 1983), face time with customers was the norm. Send out quotes by post (yes, post), then arrange an appointment to discuss a job; meet on site to progress the project; meet over lunch at the Newbury Beefeater; and drop in when passing to maintain profile. It was all about building and nurturing relationships.

Some say you can run a creative project with Skype and email alone

Now I see copywriters in distant parts of the country proclaiming that you don’t need to meet your copywriter to run a writing project. Do it all with Skype and video conferencing and email and IM they say as they try to persuade Gloucestershire businesses that you don’t have to use a local copywriter when you are based in Cheltenham, Stroud, Worcester or Cirencester.

And, if the truth be known, you don’t always need to. But from my freelancing experience since 2006, it sure helps. I’ve worked remotely on occasions and done a damn good job without meeting the client. But it isn’t as easy as people make out and they were uncomplicated jobs. And at the end of the project, despite connecting on LinkedIn and phone chats and email dialogue, and despite a happy client, I often feel the relationship hasn’t developed as well as it could have.

Many of my clients disagree…

I’m not alone in thinking this and many of my clients agree with me. Just as I was told that people buy from people back in the 1980s, so I hear it from my regulars in 2014. Am I a Luddite? Absolutely not. I love technology and I love using it as much as the next copywriter, but have you ever tried to look at, handle and discuss a desk full of hard copy source material over Skype? Exactly. Which is why I was heartened to run into two references from the heartland of tech this week that support my assertion that face-to-face communication is by now means dead.

I was browsing a recent issue of PC PRO

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The first reference was in the July 2014 issue of PC PRO, on page 064 to be exact, in the depths of an RWC feature titled ‘Doing business in a social era‘.  Imagine my delight (and relief) when I read the following and felt the warm surge of validation:

In the 20th century we had face-to-face, supported by letters, then telephone then email. In the 21st century, relationships and friendships are online, which supports face-to-face meetings, often using the mobile phone. People still want to meet face to face, but a lot of the mechanics of getting there is done online. Social technologies just change the dynamics of the way you can work and amplify what you can do face to face

Read more: Doing business in a social era | Enterprise | Features | PC Prohttp://www.pcpro.co.uk/features/389299/doing-business-in-a-social-era#ixzz3G2ZzzQmQ

The last person you’d imagine enthusing about face-to-face meetings

The second reference concerns none other than the late Steve Jobs of Apple – the one and only, the very same Steve Jobs who was wrestling with the disastrous Lisa PC while I was selling concrete and mortar in Berkshire. Goodness knows how it has taken me so long to get to Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson’s excellent and highly-rated 2011 biography of Jobs, but it has, Anyway, there I was immersed in a chapter about the design and construction of a then-new Pixar headquarters building when I came across this:

Despite being a denizen of the digital world, or maybe because he knew too well its isolating potential, Jobs was a strong believer in face-to-face meetings. “There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by email and iChat,” he said. “That’s crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they’re doing, you say ‘Wow,’ and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas.”

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Thank you Steve Jobs

Thank you Mr Jobs, the visionary creator of tools that enable us to communicate so seamlessly anywhere and anytime. How true and how marvellous to read this within 24 hours of spotting the  comment in PC PRO.

Need I say more? I think not. Whether you call it face-to-face contact, face time, a well-run meeting, dropping in for a chat or just running into a client out of hours, the role of face-to-face interaction is most certainly not dead. In my book it’s vital; like so many ‘old school’ values that are quickly dismissed by the demographic cohort known as Millennials or Generation Y .

Something to think about

That’s something to remember next time you look for a specialist supplier in London, up North or down in the depths of Cornwall. On balance, and everything else being equal, having someone just down the road who can call in to take a brief or discuss the project and won’t need to charge an arm and a leg to do so, is rather attractive.

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

New Look blog from the Gloucestershire Copywriter

Slap my hands and send me to the naughty step.

I was listening to a podcast the other day (I think it was an old episode of Boagworld on website copy – and it’s a very good podcast too) and they were talking about usability and the challenge that red links pose to colour-blind site visitors. Uh oh!

Of course, for various reasons, my blog theme has used red links for the last year or so. Well, now I’ve put it right and the theme I’ve chosen works even better with my branding. So that’s a bonus. This, I hope, will be a keeper.

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And if you visited and been frustrated by those red inks…sorry again.

Now it’s back to writing: blog posts for a business development consultancy, SEO copywriting for a specialist coatings business, more SEO copy for an SEO and digital marketing business. And lots more besides.

So much so that I thought I wouldn’t have time to write this week’s blog post. But as ever, something came up.

And I did. And this is it. Without a red link in sight!

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

A Cheltenham copywriter’s appeal for no double spaces at sentence ends

It’s something about people of a certain age – often, but not exclusively, women trained in secretarial skills and PA-ship (or whatever you call skills as a personal assistant). Every office I’ve ever worked in seems to have at least one – sometimes more. They were always adorable, but there was one thing that was guaranteed to cause a serious office domestic. That was  space. Not the kind associated with Apollo or Star Wars or suchlike but simple, white apace.  Or more specifically, two spaces. At the end of paragraphs.

It drove me mad before I became one of the copywriters in Cheltenham. And it still does when someone sends draft copy with double spaces after every full stop.

Them too. The merest mention of not having two spaces at the end of every sentence seems to get them up in arms. ‘It’s good secretarial practice’, they’d cry; ‘It’s what we were taught at secretarial school’; ‘It’s what I’ve always done’.

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But why?

In one respect they were correct. Putting two spaces after every sentence was taught at secretarial schools, it was considered best practice and it is what they have always done. But that was years ago when computers and word-processing weren’t even a twinkle in Bill Gates’s eye. Times change and for decades there’s been no good reason at all for continuing to do so – especially in Microsoft Word, or any other word-processing software. Here’s why.

Let’s think back to why, all those years ago, the practice of double-spacing was introduced. It came about because typewriters (you know, those clattery machines you see in old black and white movies) don’t have proportional spacing. Because of this, you have to enter two spaces at the end of a sentence. If you don’t, your typing doesn’t look right. End of.

But word processors changed all that, so with Microsoft Word, WordPerfect and all the others that have come and gone over the last 30 years the need for manual double spacing has disappeared. You see, word processors include a feature called proportional spacing. The software spaces words and sentences so they look just right on the page. The typist, whoever he or she may be, doesn’t need to worry any more.

But some do and it drives me barmy when I get a page of text packed with double spaces. You can search and replace to get rid of them, or set Word to get rid of them, or use an editing tool such as PerfectIT to clear them away. But I just wish people would stop putting them there in the first place. Like putting a hyphen after a colon (:-) it’s just wrong – and for very good reason.

Aargh! Rant over. That’s better.

Do you still put double spaces after every sentence? Please, please, please tell me why.

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

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.

Why freelance copywriters get employed

Freelancers get employed because they are expert at something. In the case of copywriters, it’s because we’re expert business writers – for website copy, brochure content, case studies, articles or other written communication that must inform and persuade. Because we’re usually available for hire on a flexible basis, there are good business reasons to use our services:

  • You can hire us on a flexible basis.
  • We bring skills that you, or your team, don’t have.
  • We give you writing capacity at times of change.
  • We inject fresh perspective, creativity and energy to your copy.
  • We provide specialist skills to help you through peaks and troughs of workload.

That’s handy. And when it comes to costs, you have plenty of flexibility too:

  • Hire a freelance copywriter according to budget.
  • Avoid the employment cost of a staff writer.
  • Avoid employment risks.
  • There’s no ongoing employment relationship.

As thousands of organisations already know, it all adds up, particularly under the challenging economic conditions prevailing in the UK as this is being written. What’s more, Not only is lots of copywriting capability available from freelancers, but some very talented writers may only be available on a freelance basis.

So what are the characteristics of a good freelance copywriter – in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire or anywhere else for that matter? In addition to being able to write fast and well, to a set tone of voice or style guideline, and to understand customer benefits, many of the key characteristics are those of any good freelancer. Read more here

 

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