Frequent flyers

Frequent flyers? Ha! That fooled you. No, I’m not going to write about air-miles, or people who spend a load of time travelling on aeroplanes. I’m going to write about flyers and how to write them. Flyers as in leaflets, not as in things with wings that zoom about in the sky.

Here’s the thing about flyers, admirably summed up by Mitch Hedberg, that famous American comedian I’ve never heard of—or, of whom I’ve never heard, if you’re having a pedantic moment. He says, ‘When someone hands you a flyer, it’s like they’re saying,  “Here you. Throw this away!” (I did correct his punctuation.)As a copywriter of many years’ experience, I know how to create flyers. Yes, I do. Even if my clients don’t always. How often have I been told, ‘Oh, just use the same copy you wrote for the website’? (That was a rhetorical question. But the answer is—a lot.)

Here are some top tips for flyers:

DON’T use too much text

Here’s a flyer I found at random on the internet. It’s from Finland, and no, I didn’t write it. Would I read it, assuming I was fluent in Finnish? No, I don’t think I could be bothered. Too many words. Font too small. Not to mention, unattractive to look at, but that’s not my domain of expertise. By the way, it’s information about courses and events for young photographers, which, to me, isn’t immediately apparent.

Any positives? An interesting image. Text, at least, is divided up into paragraphs.

Here’s another flyer about a photography course:

Less information, for sure, but I would be tempted to read this and find out more. Obvious what it’s about at first glance. Eye-catching. Clear. Good straplines. Not much text.

Interesting fact: it’s harder to write less than it is to write more. It takes longer to distil what you want to say into fewer words. Please note, potential clients.

DON’T use time-limiting phrases

That doesn’t matter on a website, because it can be changed in an instant – but if you’re doing a huge print run, DON’T say things like, ‘I’ve been self-employed for the last 13 years,’ or ‘I’m halfway through a course on augmentative communication,’ – because in a few short months, your leaflet will be past its use-by date.

DO proofread and proofread again and then get a proofreader to proofread

As above, if you have a typo or incorrect information on a website, it’s not really that much of an issue, but on a flyer…it could cost you Big Money if you have to withdraw,or are unable to hand out thousands of copies and have to re-print.

Well, that’s my Public Service Broadcast about flyers.

You’re welcome.

Lost in Translation – Izgubljen v Prevodu

Writing copy using documents and website material in translation for reference? I am, at the moment—and while it’s cause for some amusement, it’s not always the easiest thing in the world.

Lost in Translation

To be noted:

  1. I’m not having to translate from Chinese (it’s an English translation of Slovenian.)
  2. I’m not pretending I can translate accurately (especially not from Slovenian!) or that translation is easy—it’s just that if you represent a company wanting to market something in another country, why not make sure that the words you use actually make sense in their language?

Just to illustrate my lack of linguistic ability, when my dear son, Laurie, was in hospital in Grenoble, after a catastrophic snowboarding accident (broken neck) – I caused some bemusement and amusement to the medical staff there, after the operation to fix his shattered vertebrae, by informing them that Laurie was also suffering from ‘douleur terrible dans sa poignée’… terrible pain in his doorhandle… What I MEANT to say, was ‘douleur terrible dans son poignet’… terrible pain in his wrist. See, lost in translation.

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So – back to Slovenian. Some of the notable phrases used to entice us to buy the product (a sort of resin-based worksurface) were:

“DISGUISE OF MODERNITY!”

wala-eh“Warmly hugging your customers and never letting them indifferent.”

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“Various stains of food and cleaners you can easily wipe.”

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While I can make sense of some of it…errrm, disguise of modernity? DEFINITELY lost in translation.

In other work I’ve encountered, this time English from Italian, apparently one farmhouse had three bedrooms for guests to dispose of. That was comparitively easy to work out. And did you know that, in China, CocaCola in translation came out rather bizarrely as Bite The Wax Tadpole?

It can be appealing, and sometimes, when I’m editing copy, I let quirky syntax and off-beat translations remain, as long as the sense is clear.  It adds character, and makes for interesting reading when copy can sometimes be so very DULL. Not when I write it myself, of course, she adds hastily.

Let me finish with my favourite YouTube clip, to illustrate the point that SOMETIMES it’s important to translate accurately.

(Other language schools are available!)

Now, in my very best Slovenian, let me say, ‘Bodite previdni pri prevodih!’ which I THINK means ‘Be careful with translations!’

But it might not.

As the copywriter is rarely seen by her clients…

…she need not dress respectably, to misquote George Bernard Shaw, on the main reason for adopting writing as a profession.

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Ah, clients. I love my clients. On the end of the phone, by email. The occasional meeting just so I know I still exist…when I do dress fairly respectably.

My clients are THE BEST. That’s to say, I am (almost always) appreciated for my work,  I get paid – yaaay – and I very often garner repeat business. I’ve been working with some of my clients for years. And I do say ‘working with’ not ‘working for’ because that’s how I see it – as a partnership.

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Client : A person who pays a professional person or organisation for services’, says Merriam-Webster (except they used a z in organisation, so, true to my British heritage as a copywriter, I corrected it). The definition of client does not, anywhere that I can see, include expecting far too much, far too quickly,  for far too little recompense, with not even an acknowledgement that the work has been received, let alone the courtesy of a thank you. Just sayin’…

So here are some examples of client demands imposed on copywriters and web designers, some of whom are known to me, others came from that excellent website, Clients From Hell.

As a freelancer, especially at the beginning, it’s extremely hard to turn clients down but…

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Honestly, life’s too short to put up with stuff like this:

If you’re going to charge me 40$ an hour to make my website I would like to install a camera in your office so I’m 100% sure you don’t bill me for hours where you’re not working.

I don’t believe you can have taken 6 hours to do this work.  You have single-handedly wiped out all my profits. In future, when you are working for me, you are to text me every hour and tell me what you have achieved in that time,” from a client who asked, at very short notice and out of office hours, for copywriting to be undertaken which involved extensive research, responding to 58 emails, multiple phone calls and a Skype conference, as well as the writing itself.

Why are you so expensive? Don’t you understand that you are discouraging a new company from growing? I have to meet the other partners – we didn’t plan for this huge expense, ” from a client who was invoiced $300 for a logo and 20-page brand manual.

I prefer the copy the length it was before you edited it. I don’t want to cut a single word,” from a client who had written the first draft of copy for a brochure –  long, rambling, repetitive and ungrammatical – and hired a copywriter to edit it, as advised by his graphic designer.  The graphic designer again told the client his copy was too long. “Never mind, we’ll make the font much smaller so it fits into your design.”

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YES – OF COURSE clients can call the shots about how they represent their company, about the approved copy. It’s absolutely their choice, even if it doesn’t read well, look good or do the job for which it was intended. We can only offer advice.

That’s one thing. It’s entirely another thing to be exploited or treated with disrespect by your clients.

Honour yourself, I say. It’s taken me a very long time to get there, to the point where I’m able to say…

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Thank you, my lovely clients, that it’s such a rare occurrence in my working life. You are STARS.

 

 

With writing – variety is life, uniformity is death.

This variety quote sounds so much better in French, (Doesn’t everything?), as said originally by that famous chappie, Benjamin Constant –  “La variété, c’est la vie, l’uniformité, c’est la mort.” Even if he wasn’t talking about writing.

(Benjamin Constant? Can’t resist finding out who he is  – a Swiss-French political activist and writer on politics and religion.  And how ironic that somebody espousing the value of variety has the name Constant…)

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Uniformity? Well, it looks pretty deathly to me.

This is why I consider myself to be so lucky. The luckiest writer in…my study, if not the universe.

There is variety in my writing life, in abundance.

In the past few weeks, I have been commissioned to write (or edit) pieces about:

  • Gluten-free pasta
  • A new apartment block in Watford
  • Advanced foam technology
  • Holidays in Zanzibar and Kenya
  • Residential building surveys
  • A local volunteer centre
  • Human rights in Pakistan
  • A health food shop for animals
  • Pre-paid cash cards for holiday travel
  • Direct mailing campaigns

I could go on…

Did I know anything about these subjects before I started?

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Nothing,  or not very much. Therein lies the joy for me. I love, simply LOVE, finding out about things. A whole variety of things. Things that seem pretty dull until I’ve started researching into them. Things that ARE inherently dull so it’s a challenge to make them seem interesting, or interesting enough to ensure that other people will be delighted to read about them.

“Variety may be the spice of life, but consistency pays the bills,” said Doug Cooper. Yes, THAT Doug Cooper. The one I haven’t heard of.

Doug Cooper is:

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Except that consistency DOES pay my bills, in the sense of producing consistently good, sparkly copy for my clients, no matter what the subject.

But without the variety…

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The down side of being self-employed?

Is there one? (A down side of being self-employed, I mean.)

Surely, it’s all about…

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Freedom?

“When you’re self-employed, it can sometimes be easy to let yourself get off track. Without a “boss” to answer to, the act of letting your mind wander can often have very few short-term consequences,” suggests Matthew Anderson on his site, theselfemployed.com

Not with a boss like mine, I can tell you.

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See, it’s Bank Holiday Monday and my boss is telling me I have a lot of work to do, so I’d better do some today.

The sun is shining. The birds are tweeting. The little buzzy bees are buzzing. The garden’s lovely. And…

I’m sitting here at my desk writing this, prior to proof-reading a lengthy piece about recruitment for a building company.

I sometimes wish my boss would take some time off, then I’d be able to take some time off myself.

Oh, what fun I’d have!

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THAT’S my problem with being self-employed, you see. It’s not the inability to get started, the lack of motivation, the letting myself get off track.

My problem is the difficulty I have in…

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STOPPING.

Oh, my boss has just said I could leave the proof-reading until later…

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The UP side of being self-employed?

Editing Part 2: The enemy within

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“Some people have a way with words and other people…oh, uh, not have way.”  Thanks once more, Steve Martin, for the quote.

Take the word, WITHIN. Somebody. Please.

Hard-working Caroline (sad Caroline?) yesterday,  editing on a Sunday.  I should adhere to the Nana Mouskouri School of Working

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Anyway – I once wrote a post about a Pet Editing Peeve – using the word utilise instead of use

Perhaps it was something to do with slight Sunday begrudgements, but another of my editing peeves was severely exacerbated yesterday.

Why use the word WITHIN when you mean IN?

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Yes. Within. The enemy of concise writing.

From the Free Dictionary – a definition of WITHIN
prep.

1. In the inner part or parts of; inside: resentment seething within him.
2.

a. Inside the limits or extent of in time or distance: arrived within two days; stayed within earshot; within ten miles of home.
b. Inside the fixed limits of; not beyond: lived within her income.
c. In the scope or sphere of: acted within the law; within the medical profession.
d. Inside a specified amount or degree: The team had pulled to within five points of winning.
NOT…”they practise their cooking skills within the kitchen.”
NOT…”the house she lives within.”
NOT…”he works within the media.”
NOT…”it is not within his best interests.”
NOT…”I drove to work within my car.”
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Oh look! It’s a Jack-Within-A-Box…
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Within a few minutes, I will self-combust.

Organise, don’t agonise

(Nancy Pelosi almost said this, only she spells organise and agonise with a z. Humph – she should call herself Nancy Pelozi.)

Me, yesterday. I didn’t agonise. I did organise.

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Buy from Monty’s Vintage Shop

Not that futile, as it happens.

Allow me to…

teach grandma…

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As someone with at least half a brain, it is a source of wonder to me that I’m constantly surprised:

  • how much more work I can get done when I organise myself
  • how much more enjoyable and stress-free life becomes

I didn’t use any flashy programs or apps. Always a temptation. Always perfect procrastination material, because you can kid yourself you’re actually working. (It’s known as structured procrastination.)

I wrote a list on a whiteboard.

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I started a piece of work. I finished the piece of work. I erased the task from the whiteboard.

I started the next piece of work…

In books I’ve read about learning to organise (Yes, I’ve read those MBS books – Management By Bestseller) …writing a list on a whiteboard may be a target for derision.

Checking things off a To-Do list is rarely meaningful…Aiming to be productive is the wrong way of going about it. If you follow your heart and align yourself with what you hold most dear, productivity becomes irrelevant. You’ll achieve, but you’re not wrapped up in it. Your identity isn’t caught up in whether or not you cross everything off your To-Do list.Your happiness is based on how much you enjoy what you’re doing, rather than completing X number of tasks.” Jonathan Mead, Paid To Exist

BUT IT WORKED FOR ME…

Yesterday.

Copywriting – to hyphen or not to hyphen?

Yesterday, I was proof-reading a piece of work and put in several missing hyphens, (Well, I thought they were missing!) in compound adjectives.

A compound adjective is one adjective that’s made up of two or more words, joined together, I have always asserted, with a hyphen to make it clear that they’re linked.

Like…a short-sighted man.

However, my client came back to me, saying, that in his own copywriting style guide, he’s stated:

“Don’t hyphenate words, e.g. online NOT on-line, and website NOT web-site. On a side note, there is a search engine marketing benefit in not hyphenating words as most people don’t use hyphens within their search terms.”

He went on to say that he had been advised not to use a hyphen anywhere as it’s difficult to be consistent with their usage.

Oh…

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Research required for cutting-edge copywriter/proofreader (Or should that be copy-writer/proof-reader, or indeed, copy writer/proof reader?)

Here is what it says in Grammar Monster:

 In the UK, your readers will expect you to use hyphens in compound adjectives. Americans are more lenient. The US ruling is: Use a hyphen if it eliminates ambiguity or helps your reader, else don’t bother. If you’re unsure, use hyphens. You won’t be marked down for using hyphens.

Ah! Eliminating ambuguity. Note my example above: a short-sighted man. A man who can’t see very well. As opposed to a short sighted man. A man who isn’t very tall and isn’t visually impaired.

Here are some more:

‘Heavy-metal detector’ and ‘Heavy metal detector’

‘I saw a man-eating alligator’ and ‘I saw a man eating alligator.’

Hmmmm.

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From the American Psychological Association style guide:

Also use hyphens for

Compounds in which the base word is

  • capitalized: pro-Freudian
  • a number: post-1970
  • an abbreviation: pre-UCS trial
  • more than one word: non-achievement-oriented students

All “self-” compounds whether they are adjectives or nouns

  • self-report
  • self-esteem
  • the test was self-paced

Exception: self psychology

Words that could be misunderstood

  • re-pair [pair again]
  • re-form [form again]
  • un-ionized

Words in which the prefix ends and the base word begins with the same vowel

  • meta-analysis
  • anti-intellectual
  • co-occur

THANK YOU APA!

I think I have guidelines now. Go further down the American path, using hyphens to avoid ambiguity, with the above exceptions.

As a P.S. In the course of my research, I came across a sight which made me laugh A LOT! I won’t be so mean as to add a link.

Using Hyphen’s

“As we have said, it’s very important to appear intelligent in your writing. Whether you are starting your own business or working for the man, you must be able to communicate in a way that instills confidence and trust.”

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Proofreading and the reign of error

Proofreading – easy-peasy? Maybe, maybe not, but certainly crucial to you as a company, especially when you’re putting something into print.

Website errors can be corrected instantly, but say you’ve paid out hundreds (or thousands?) of pounds for a brochure that’s meant to have a 2-3 year shelf-life? The proofreading has been carried out, lots of times, by lots of different people, but still, you end up with something like this:

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Admittedly, this is from a newspaper – but you see what I mean.

How do you want your company to be viewed and remembered?

With hoots of laughter and a decision not to use your services because your attention to detail is so woeful?

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Printers aren’t proofreaders. They may well say to you that the copy is your responsibility, not theirs. The trouble is that when you’ve written the copy yourself, your brain knows what it wanted to say so will modify errors automatically. It seems that the more times you read something, the less likely you are to spot errors – even blatant ones. And this is not a new phenomenom…

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You can’t rely on spellcheck, either. Here’s an example of a spellchecked sentence – “We are known for are expertise.”

All this goes to show, it can be cost- and time-effective to get someone to do your proofreading for you.

I’m one of the lucky ones. Mistakes jump out and hit me between the eyes. Literally!

Proofreading an average brochure and sending you the amends may take me an hour.  At the moment, my rate for one hour is £30.

What a small price to pay for avoiding being dismissed as a numpty!

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Contact me NOW!

Now, better just check this page for errors, hadn’t I?

Gulp!