Blog writers – do as I say, not as I do.

The confession of a blog writer.

do as i say

 

 

 

 

 

 

Got it?

Anyone who’s had the (dubious?) pleasure of working with me will remember very clearly what I always say about blogs. I say, with such authority, ‘If you’re going to have a blog on your website, you MUST provide new blogs on a regular basis. Nothing looks worse, when you open up someone’s website, than to see a blog which is months or even years old.’

Or centuries.

cusrive_sample

 

 

 

 

 

SO – here we have my website. The date is April 5th, 2017. The two latest blogs are dated February 7th, 2017 (JUST about acceptable) and November 22nd, 2016.

aaaaaaaargh

 

How very embarrassing!

I could spend hours justifying this lapse in my own professional standards, in a ‘the dog ate my homework’ sort of way, but I won’t waste your time or mine. It’s rather the same as doctors not looking after their own health or builders being the last people on earth to finish those DIY projects at home.

In honesty, my blogs are for entertainment and to add fresh copy to my website, with the idea that I get plenty of Google brownie points and am bumped up the rankings. Is this last point true or is it one of those urban myths put about by…whoever? I suppose blog writers like me who want more business! It’s really a hiding to nothing to update simply for the sake of updating. The aim should be to update in a timely manner in a way which gives benefit to your users – more traffic, increased engagement and fresh links…

 

Here are the conclusions to some research I’ve done in relation to blog writing:

  • Initially, a web page can be given a “freshness” score based on its inception date, which decays over time.
  • The amount of change on your web page plays a role – the more you change content, the more likely Google is to notice it, especially if it’s in the body text.
  • The more often you change the content, the better.
  • Think about adding completely new pages rather than just refreshing old ones.
  • Go for as many relevant links as possible, especially from sites that are themselves fresh.

    blog, blog, blog - blogging concept on a napkin with cup of espresso coffee

    Blog, blog, blog…

 

 

 

Why do I blog?

Because I enjoy it. Because I like entertaining people. Because it’s a way of practising my writing skills. Because it’s a way people can see what I do and how I do it. I have been given work on the strength of my blogs – their style and tone is not for everyone but it IS for some people. I don’t blog to sell anything – except perhaps myself. (No double entendre intended!)

Why should YOU blog?

Here’s what the experts say:

1) To drive traffic to your website.

2) To convert that traffic into leads.

3) To help establish authority.

4) To drive long-term results.

 

4389912_orig

 

 

 

 

And if you DON’T like doing it, then you could always ask me.

I LOVE IT!

Yes, do as I say, not as I do…

The rest cure

Do you know what? I didn’t realise the rest cure was an actual thing? I imagined it was just a generic term for enforced taking it easy, which is what’s happened to me since early January, thanks to an operation. I say thanks and I really mean thanks. And no, I haven’t got Munchausen’s Syndrome, “a psychiatric factitious disorder wherein those affected feign disease, illness, or psychological trauma to draw attention, sympathy, or reassurance to themselves.”

(Factitious? A new adjective for Donald Trump? No, too kind.)

Here’s me at the moment:

fw_fainting-victorian-lady1

 

 

 

 

Why the thanks for a (painful) operation? (Is there any other sort?) Because I am completely hopeless about stepping back and saying no to commitments. It’s harder for me, takes more discipline for me, to take a rest cure than it is to carry on. I’m always telling myself I should do it – but never quite seem to manage it.

I spend money on self-help books like:

51tPBJl8RrL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

 

 

 

…which I never quite seem to have the time to read…

 

For years, YEARS, I have been schedule-driven in a crazy way, thinking I must adhere to a timetable in order to get everything done. My alarm is set for the following times: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday: 6.15 am. Friday – 5.15 am. Sunday – the Big Lie In – 7.15 am.

I leap out of bed (or crawl out of bed) and start on a list of tasks too many and too mundane to mention here involving family, dogs, horses, chickens, pigeons and doves, work, domestic duties, networking, writing, university, seminars, activism of various sorts. Just a normal sort of schedule really BUT…

  • I’m tired all the time
  • Joy has gone out of my life
  • Creativity? What creativity?
  • Things I enjoy doing have become a chore
  • I can’t be that pleasant to be around

Here’s something Maya Angelou wrote in Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now:

“Every person needs to take one day away.  A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future.  Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence.  Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.  Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.” 

Here’s something I wrote:

“One day is not enough.”

So – back to the rest cure. It was devised in the late 1800s by Silas Weir Mitchell, an American neurologist, to treat hysteria, neurasthenia and other nervous illnesses. (Yes, I often descend into hysteria.) Since my operation, until recently I’ve been (mostly) confined to bed; I’m not allowed to do anything at all strenuous, like lifting a kettle (ha!) and I’m not allowed to drive. If following Weir Mitchell’s rest cure regime to the letter, I would be fed “a fatty, milk-based diet, force-fed if necessary – effectively reduced to the dependency of an infant.” Thank goodness husband Peter didn’t read that bit! He’s been absolutely tremendous.

I HAVE RESTED. What’s more, my mind has rested, for the first time in forever. It was actually quite scary at first, not being able to do all those distraction activities that kept me from…thinking too much? There was a massive hole where chaotic mind used to live.

the_chaotic_mind___frac_27_by_mdk_fractal

The Chaotic Mind by MDK-Fractal (Deviant Art)

Hello, zen-like calm. Hello creativity. Thank you, operation. Thank you, rest cure.

My final words:

“Stay alert at all times, alert to any opportunity for rest.” (As miaowed by Ulysses Brave in The Wit and Wisdom of Cats and Kittens)

6a00d8341c630a53ef0133f4feaa48970b-600wi

 

 

Tone of voice topicality

“Don’t you speak to me in that tone of voice, young lady!”

Anyone remember that from their childhood? (Well, that’s if you were a young lady ever). Every copywriter has to be pretty damn hot at different tones of voices if they want to be successful, because each job requires something unique.

Tone of voice? But you’re writing, not speaking.  Yes, but writing has just as much in the way of tone of voice as speaking. (Not that I’m talking to myself, you understand. Isn’t that the first sign of madness. Okay, I’m WRITING to myself).

Anyway, there’s what you write (the content) and how you write it (the tone of voice). Tone of voice can kill copy, especially if it’s boring, and kill the message you’re trying to convey and potentially destroy the brand, product or service you’re promoting. No pressure then.

what-tone-of-voice-copywriting1

 

 

 

What tone of voice should you use in your writing? (She’s writing to herself again…)

That’s one of those, ‘How long is a piece of string?’ questions.

The answer? Whichever tone of voice is required. That simple. And that challenging.

This blog is written as me. Yours truly. Caroline Coxon. It’s how my mind works. (Scary, eh?)  It has my personality stamped all over it. Now, what adjectives might you use to describe its tone of voice? Nothing offensive please. Errrm, jokey, random, quirky, flippant, a stream of consciousness (Yes, I know that’s not an adjective) readable, funny, insane…whatever…

That’s fine for me, but would it work for a will-writer, a mortgage adviser, an engineer, a web-designer, someone from a different culture?

PN1_LowRes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I say probably not, I mean, there just might be an insane will-writer out there…BUT, most people would say, for their own copy…

d88bf14ec66f3c740704a7639b999f52

 

 

 

 

 

Here, I think this is where my history of writing screenplays, novels and theatre pieces helps me so much. I am completely used to writing – and thinking and speaking – in character. Characters who may be light years away from my own.

I am not a burly 30-something male engineer.

construction-engineer-720

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not a diminutive financial adviser.

advisor2_business_desk

 

 

 

 

I’m not Scottish.

scotland_2838307b

 

 

 

 

But it’s possible for me to write as though I am, using appropriate vocabulary and the right tone of voice. And all those things I have done. And being an Italian wine importer. A high-end caterer. A techie nerd. A business coach. A garage owner. A hairdresser in Newcastle. A ski expert. A global traveller. And a whole lot more.

Me and my multiple personalities, eh?

c9edcf5a026b2a6707fa42a1817dd972

 

 

 

 

 

 

But it sure helps with tone of voice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palm oil perfidy

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear…

If I thought finding ethical dairy milk substitutes was tricky – well, don’t get me started on dairy-free margarines to replace butter.

Two words. Palm oil.

1_OilpalmplantationGreenPalm

 

 

 

 

 

Palm oil is in EVERYTHING. One of Caroline’s exaggerations, of course, but it IS in a whole lot of things apart from margarines. It’s in cream cheese, biscuits, oven chips, cakes, chocolate – in fact, about half of all packaged products sold in the supermarket. It’s in lipsticks, detergent, soaps, shampoo and let’s not forget biodiesel.

So what?

Here’s an extract from Say No To Palm Oil

LOGO

“The industry is linked to major issues such as deforestation, habitat degradation, climate change, animal cruelty and indigenous rights abuses in the countries where it is produced, as the land and forests must be cleared for the development of the oil palm plantations. According to the World Wildlife Fund, an area the equivalent size of 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared each hour to make way for palm oil production. This large-scale deforestation is pushing many species to extinction, and findings show that if nothing changes, species like the orangutan could become extinct in the wild within the next 5-10 years, and Sumatran tigers less than 3 years.”

So – irresponsible cultivation of palm oil has a detrimental impact on the environment, on wildlife and on indigenous people.

When I began my dairy-free life I started off feeling very virtuous, using a product called Pure.

20160126150041_sunflower-spread

Pure! Brilliant marketing, eh? I was taken in by it, less conscientious about checking content in the early days of upping my ethical game. Strangely enough, if you look at their very fine website, it doesn’t list the ingredients of the products.

It does on the packaging, though, in teensy-weensy writing:

Water, Sunflower Oil (35%), Vegetable Oils (Palm Oil, Linseed Oil), Salt (0.75%), Flavouring, Vitamin E, Vitamin A & D, Colour (Carotenes), Vitamin B12

oh-no

 

I’ve started making my own spread now. Here’s a link to the recipe: Homemade Artisan Vegan Butter by Miyoko Schinner. (I adapt it slightly, definitely NOT using almond milk, but using a mixture of oat milk and single soya cream). It’s delicious – as long as you don’t mind a slightly coconutty taste.

 

And now there’s Flora Freedom, which claims it uses SUSTAINABLE palm oil. Well, good for Unilever for making an effort. I’d love to believe it. On the website they say they are ‘committed to using sustainable palm oil’. Annoying Caroline contacted them and said that ‘being committed to’ is not the same as ‘actually doing something’…

Their reply:

“Our vision is that in 2020, the whole industry will move to 100% sustainable palm oil. Our commitment to sustainable palm oil is not new. In the mid-1990s, we started developing Good Agricultural Practice Guidelines for palm oil.

And in 2004 we, together with WWF, became a founding member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the objective of which is to promote the growth and use of sustainable palm oil through global standards and stakeholder engagement. By the end of 2012 we reached our target of 100% certified sustainable palm oil, three years ahead of schedule.”

download (1)

 

 

 

 

 

The slight doubt in my mind, after all my research, is that the supply chains are so very complex that it’s hard to know if they can be absolutely one hundred percent sure that their palm oil is responsibly sourced.

But…at least they are trying.

And so am I.

 

 

 

“…study English pronunciation…”

“Dearest creature in creation,

study English pronunciation.

I will teach you in my verse,

sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.”

Thanks so much for this to Dr. Gerard Nolst Trenité,  (1870-1946), a Dutch observer of the wonderfully quirky and diverse English language with all its pronunciation anomalies. Well, we like to make things interesting. And impossible to learn. Don’t we?

pronunciation-key-featured

 

 

 

At least I’ve managed to spell pronunciation correctly. (No, it is NOT pronounciation, as I’ve seen too many times to count).

My blog this time was inspired, if that’s the right word, by a childhood recollection. One of those family stories which has endured for decades. It still slightly embarrasses me.  I was ridiculed as a child, in the nicest possible way.

4568062563_83x150

 

 

 

 

Why? …Because I always had my nose stuck in a book. No, I wasn’t ridiculed because of that, but I WAS ridiculed because I then went on to use words in speech which I had no idea at all how to pronounce.

13600363_10153695617675814_1672257586270548224_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are the pronunciation blunders that will live in family history (thanks, sister Jane for reminding me of a few!) and even now cause me to cringe. I was going to say ‘faux pas’ but, as you will see, using French phrases can be fraught with danger.

anxiety-cb

 

 

 

 

 

This is not me expressing my fear at revealing my shameful past, it’s the first example.

Anxiety: pronunciation by Young Caroline – Anx-itty.

In fairness, I did grow up in the 1960s when ITA was in fashion – a phonemic alphabet designed to help young children to take their first steps in reading before transferring to regular letters. Yeah, right.

_1523708_alphabet2_300

 

 

 

Answers on a postcard. (I know what it says…)

Example Number Two:

download

 

 

 

Of course – Grand (not with the French pronunciation) Pricks.

Example Number Three:

I was a great reader of James Bond from a very early age. The female protagonist in Dr. No…

Honeychile Rider: pronunciation by Young Caroline – Honeychilly Rider. Chile like the South American country, you see. There was logic in my mistakes.

Well, most of them…

For the life of me, I’ll never understand why an…

0_61_070731_orangutan

 

 

 

 

 

was pronounced by Young Caroline as an Orange Outing

But it was. And still is, if I let my concentration slip.

I think I’ll learn Georgian or another Caucasian language with what seem to be unpronounceable consonant clusters like like brt’q’eli, mc’vrtneli, or prčkvna.

Pronunciation? Easy peasy.

 

 

 

 

It’s not easy being green -ish

Not, here, referring to my newly-achieved membership of the Green Party, you’ll be relieved to hear – that’s incredibly easy.

No, I’m referring to living a green lifestyle. Not in a Jolly Green Giant sense…or in a Kermit the Frog sense…

e17592bb6ab971c1532b48cc0646bf21

 

 

 

 

download

 

 

 

 

More a dietary sense.

For for several months now, for reasons of conscience, primarily, but also for the sake of my health, I have chosen not to eat any meat or dairy products.

“The average British carnivore eats more than 11,000 animals in their lifetime, each requiring vast amounts of land, fuel and water to reach the plate.”

“On the ethical side, many dairy cows are never allowed to graze outdoors; they are confined to cramped stalls on factory farms. Although a cow can live twenty years, practically all dairy cows are slaughtered before before they turn five, as the milk production of ageing cows can’t match that of younger animals. Modern dairy cows are impregnated each year in order to maximise their milk yields, and their calves are often sold to the veal industry…”

That.

(While I DO realise that there are plenty of cows who live a long and happy life on grass, it’s somehow easier to be an all or nothing sort of gal).

Actually, the not-eating-meat side of being green-ish is easy. People understand it. It’s the dairy-free that causes me the most difficulty.

Three things.

The first to be covered in this blog.

Hoorah. I shall not use animal milk of any sort. I shall instead be very green and use such products as almond milk.

But wait a minute… each almond requires 1.1 gallons of water to produce and most almonds are grown in often drought-ravaged parts of California. Water diverted to almond farms threatens salmon in northern California etc. etc. etc… Damn.

I know. Soya milk. Phew.

aaaaargh

 

 

“Conversion of High Conservation Value Areas and other critical habitats for soybean cultivation is unacceptable as it threatens biodiversity, endangered species and the livelihoods of local people. The expansion of soybean plantations into forests is also contributing to climate change. Deforestation is responsible for about 15% of all the global greenhouse gas emissions caused by people.” (from vegan.com)

I now drink oat milk.  Oatly. (Other brands available but I like the packaging and branding. Go figure).

images (1)

 

 

 

 

Is that okay? I hardly dare investigate.

A good copywriter must be an acrobat

A good copywriter? I suppose copywriters come in many guises. One of these is that they stick to a particular niche in the market and become very knowledgeable about it. Another – and I think this is me – is the copywriter who simply loves words, playing with words and is always curious.

That’s curious like this:

Curious (Pronunciation: /ˈkjʊərɪəs/): Adjective

  1. Eager to know or learn something

Not this:

    2. Strange, unusual

Although probably 2 applies as well  (but that’s no bad thing in my opinion. Who wants ordinary?)

This sort of copywriter is in possession of many minds

©2014-2016 sawarahh

©2014-2016 sawarahh

or is at least able to make one mind perform acrobatics, as we don’t necessarily want to enter into the realm of insanity…

img_2031

 

 

 

So, here are the acrobatics my mind was performing last week, or those acrobatics relating to my job as a copywriter. (Let’s draw a veil over the Creative and Critical Writing Masters).

  • Researching highly technical data about WiFi solutions, cloud systems, BDR and the like – see, I know that BDR means backup disaster recovery now – and turning it into language that, well, people like me can understand. From nerd to, errm, tech dummy?
  • Revising a website for which the intended audience was high-society, aristocracy, royalty. From Joe Public to Upper-Upper Class
  • Creating a poster for a supermarket on the lower end of the retail spectrum for which the guidelines were, frankly, on the high end of the patronising spectrum. While not actually saying ‘use no long words’ they might as well have… From Joe Public to…some marketing department’s perception of a certain shopping demographic. Duh!

Oscar Wilde made me feel less slimy on the last point.

a931bbd4886a7ae7dfd78ec50d05b73b

 

 

 

And so did this…

6d0f5285d79116316edc89cb6cf0b5ed

 

 

 

 

 

 

THAT’S what good copywriters do. Make things easy to understand, entertaining to read, compelling – using the vocabulary, tone and layout which will most appeal to whoever it is they’ve been asked to address.

I find it FUN copywriting though sometimes challenging. I love my job. All those acrobatics keep me mind agile.

Next week?

Keyboard skills for guinea pigs.

7f21129fd3cdf2523a2c2b87a2b44af0

 

 

 

 

 

NOOOOO problem for a polymath copywriter…

 

Writers fish for the right words

“…like fishermen fish for, um, whatever those aquatic creatures with fins and gills are called.”

Those words are from my favourite Jarod Kintz. (Well, he’s the only one I know…)

images

Surely better to use familiar and simple words correctly rather than misuse other more complex words? (There’s an irony for you – misusing words when you’re anxious to appear to be clever. How to make yourself look like a numpty).

I love the way Howard Mittelmark offers a practical solution for us, in How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them–A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide.

“A Test: Do I Know This Word?

Ask yourself: ‘Do I know this word?’
If the answer is no, then you do not know it.”

images (1)

You could always be creative. Jarod Kintz again:

“Who needs a large vocabulary when you can just make up any word at any time? It makes life a whole lot more emeaglibop.”

I can honestly say that my life is particularly emeaglibop at the moment, in no small measure due to hearing some words on the radio, made up to fill gaps in the English dictionary – words created for occasions where no words exist.

For that moment when you’re waiting at the airport baggage reclaim and everybody’s suitcases have appeared except for yours:

BAGONIZING!

1-baggage-carousel

To describe how you feel on those occasions when you’re with your friends and they’re constantly looking down at their mobiles:

PHONELY!

5d2a6dade381c6a40f8e04a809717940

And finally – you’re driving along the motorway and a huge truck pulls out in front of you and takes about half an hour to get past the truck in the next lane:

SLOVERTAKING

100_9913

As a copywriter, I find the right words for my clients’ websites and marketing material.

That’s all.

 

“If you’re a good marketing person…”

“you have to be a little crazy, ” said Jim Metcalf. I can’t pretend to know who Jim Metcalf is. (Sorry, whoever you are).

Neither can I pretend to be a good marketing person. I can, however, vouch for the fact that I’m a little crazy. That’s what this last month has done to me. Sent me a little crazy.  Marketing and craziness – a chicken and egg situation?

download

Hence, no blogs recently. Not enough hours in the day or brain cells in the brain.

I’ve been researching in depth into the work of good marketing gurus. For which read, I Googled ‘good marketing’ which may or may not amount to the same thing.

One of them advocated this for novelists, in answer to the question how should we divide our time once the book is published:

70% for creative writing and 30% for promotion

(He forgot to mention the time needed to earn some money copy writing, unload the dishwasher, go shopping, walk the dogs, cook the dinner, clean out the chickens, exercise the horses, shave under the armpits, use the bathroom, sleep, breathe occasionally…you know, all those necessary little tasks which keep body and soul together).

il_340x270.522619243_o9z4

Image by Anthony Falbo

I am proud of the marketing I’ve achieved. It has been good marketing.

Endless word of mouth…

images (2)

A book-signing event which could lead to other book-signing events and, certainly, Of Night and Light to be stocked by W.H. Smith…

Book-Signing-5-12-14-300x225

Workshops at Bede’s School which will act as pilots for other workshops…

safe_image

Thank you to everyone for the huge amount of support you’ve given me. I’ve been humbled and delighted in equal measure.

And, you know what? I feel as though I’ve been fed through a mangle!

images (3)

Good marketing? Yep.

Time for creative writing? Nope. For NaNoWriMo – 15000 words. A small triumph in the circumstances.

And now…

More good marketing but DEFINITELY some writing, or my brain will explode.

And that could be messy.

Caroline’s complaint-free world

A complaint-free world? Surely that’s not possible?

Tell you what, I’m giving it a good go in mine!

And so, apparently, are another 10, 121, 812 others across the world. (Yeah, we love unverifiable statistics!)

download (8)

With thanks to the lovely Leisa Brown, a Brighton friend, who got me interested in creating a complaint-free existence.

I’ve been watching her progress on Facebook, noticing her posts are quite different, more cheerful, COMPLAINT-FREE! (There used to be a lot of moans about spiders…)

So, the idea, which comes from a motivational speaker chappie called Will Bowen, is to wear a bracelet on one wrist and keep it there until you notice you’re complaining.

images (4)

…Then swap it to the other wrist until your mind is clear again. The target is to have twenty-one complaint-free days. The difficult bit is, that each time you catch yourself complaining, you have to start again with the 21 days… I fear this is going to take me A Very Long Time.

I don’t think legitimate complaints count – for instance, if you receive a meal alive with maggots at a restaurant. It’s possible to complain without whining, I suppose, to be factual and lose the emotional charge.

So – things were going very well for a couple of days until I had a riding lesson on Alfie.

immobile Alfie

Alfie had other ideas. He wouldn’t budge. Or at least, he would budge, but only at the expense of me kicking and slapping and puffing and panting and expending so much effort that by the time he took a few steps forward I was so exhausted I crumpled into a collapsed heap on his neck in desperate need of oxygen.

I caught myself complaining! I swapped my bracelet on to my left wrist.

When I’d recovered my composure, and a right-wristed bracelet, things were going very well UNTIL…today.

images (5)

I was telling some girlfriends about the complaint-free thing. At the end of my lively and cheerful description, I said the immortal words: “The only thing is, I wish the bracelet were a bit smaller because it’s driving me INSANE!”

images (6)

We all started laughing at the same moment.

Hello, twenty-one days!

AGAIN!