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Let Me Spell it Out for You

Want to hire me as an SEO expert to make your business show up high on SERPs?

Say what?

I’m asking if you want to use my Search Engine Optimization skills to get your web site to display at the top of the list of Google’s Search Engine Result Pages.


I write and edit a lot of copy for clients, and about half of them send me material that starts off reading like a cryptographer’s training manual.

My church seems particularly addicted to using arcane acronyms when publicizing its events.  Invitations are written like: “Come to UUSF’s SCW luncheon in the MLK with PCD delegates.” Sounds like something you want to do, right?

The addiction to alphabet soup acronyms  and jargon isn’t always accidental.  When I have replaced “UU’s welcome you…” with “Unitarian Universalists welcome you…” I have gotten told off by some of the original authors.  “‘Unitarian Universalist’ is too wordy,” I have been instructed.

Yes, “Unitarian Universalist” is indeed a mouthful. If the organization’s name is too long, then perhaps a catchier name should be adopted. But, announcement writers shouldn’t adopt in-group shorthand in their work. Non-Unitarian Universalists may not have a clue what a “UU” is. Once readers have been introduced to the full term, the abbreviation can be specified and used later on.  “Unitarian Universalists (UUs) welcome you to the UU picnic.”  Or, something more exciting, but along the same lines.

Similarly, when I rewrite messages about services from professionals like lawyers and accountants, I am questioned if my straight-forward, non-jargon language sounds educated enough.  It’s like a potential client won’t hire the firm if the attorney’s web site uses English sentences instead of Latin-infused contract terminology.

Here’s the truth: visitors will click away from your web site if you speak to them in code.  Unless you are the National Aeronautic and Space Administration, NASA-like acronyms make you sound cultish and not open to newcomers.  And, using industry jargon — whether it is educated jargon or just simple convenient jargon — puts distance between you and your potential client.

Remember who you are writing for and leave both abbreviations and in-terms out of your writing.

By |2010-08-28T15:35:36-07:00August 28th, 2010|Blogging, Marketing, Web Design|0 Comments

Write Like Walt Disney

I am not a prude.  I am not a prude.  I am not a prude.  But, …

Language standards today allow for four-letter swear words on news reports, and Congressional hearings feature six-letter scatological adjectives. But, …

If you’re writing a newsletter, web site, or blog with the intention of attracting clients, you still have to keep the language g-rated Disney clean.

I’ve struggled with my Puritanism as I’ve read blogs that have used street language for a service whose main clients are street-wise people.  Doesn’t the author’s word choice show that the blogger is in touch with the client’s culture? Isn’t he legitimately reflecting the scenes he’s writing about?

I’ve struggled with my Puritanism as I’ve giggled over parody song lyrics that dive to the raunchy side.  Aren’t the f-bombs part of the shock value of the humor?

The simple answer is, no.  In marketing and sales, there no upside to alienating a single person with your language.

When you are trying to capture new business or to reach a new audience, the best words to use are those which are not going to be off-putting to any potential client. Moreover, you want to write using language that isn’t going to get your message blocked by any corporate word filter program (and, there are programs out there that are fussier than any old-fashioned schoolmarm!)

Think like the Wall Street Journal.  Last week they reported:

… that Timberwolf was one s— deal,” Thomas Montag, who helped run Goldman’s securities business, wrote in a June 2007 email that was repeatedly referred to at the hearing.

See the full article, including information on language filters.

The message of corporate callousness was communicated. Unambiguously. Without the WSJ itself sounding like a low-life cad.

In the WSJ example, the writers were confronting a situation where the original information they were reporting on itself contained vulgar language.  A Federal appeals court has said that a ban on fleeting instances of expletives by the FCC is unconstitutional, so the paper could have certainly argued that it needed to print the full six-letter adjective.

But, the Journal choose to communicate without offending.  There was no external Post Office standards they were worried, about.  Nonetheless, they chose to print the quotation without printing quite every character. The Jounal‘s decision was a wise decision, I think.  No public library is going to cancel its subscription because of indecent content. No old fogy is going to stop his subscription, either.

On the other hand, too often gratuitous swearing simply cuts down on the reach of the message.  One group’s whose singing talent and political humor I like is The Kinsey Sicks.  They do a very fun and very raunchy adult cabaret show. Some of their songs are irredeemably obscene because of the sexual nature of the topic. But, none of their songs I heard at their  show can be played on AM radio. In the middle of every political or social commentary, one of the crew for yuks shouts out a George Carlin no-no word. Sigh.  The Kinsey Sicks will always have a limited audience.

No, I am not a prude. In fact, I doubt that I could be on live radio or TV very long before my speech patterns of an ex-police dispatcher betray me.  I don’t judge people negatively because they use, ugh…., colorful language.

But, some people will think you’re uncouth if you use swear words.  Some people will wonder about your business judgment if you use that kind of language in public.

And, you want both ex-police dispatchers and current schoolmarms to read your marketing material and to become your client.

By |2010-08-12T05:59:54-07:00August 12th, 2010|Blogging|0 Comments

Biting the Blog Bullet

Almost a year ago I suggested that people spare themselves the expense of buying new web hosting if they were thinking of starting a blog.  (See “So You Think You Need a Business Blog”).

I wrote then, and still believe, that you should not spend money when you start blogging.  You first should see if  you’re serious about writing regularly.

Once you’ve determined that you are a blogger, then you can get fancy and start spending time and money on the blog infrastructure.

This weekend I decided that my blogging schedule was serious enough to consider my effort serious.  I decided to invest in a hosted blog.


Blue Host web hosting services

This Blogs Lives at Blue Host

  • I want more flexibility in choosing blog themes.
  • I want a larger choice of add-ins.
  • I want to explore more customizations.
  • I want to have hands-on experience to help clients.

I took WordPress’ hosting recommendation for Blue Host, and signed up for an account there.  I exported the posts from my free blog, and moved them over to the new site (this one,

I have learned about WordPress plug-is, selected a few, and have started down the path of more customization and more control.

Now, I will just have to remind myself to keep focused on the content.  Spending endless hours tweaking internal settings my be techy-geeky fun.  But, it’s not blogging.

By |2010-05-25T14:40:30-07:00May 25th, 2010|Blogging|0 Comments

They're Just Not That Into You

Are you an accountant, lawyer, doctor, or other professional who is starting a blog?

My highest educated professional clients are the hardest to get set up successfully with a blog.


Probably because they know how to write proper English sentences and paragraphs.  Their high school English teacher’s admonitions never leave their consciousness, and every sentence has to be a perfectly-crafted, grammatically correct masterpiece.  They’re great traditional writers!

The result of their Herculean labor generally is a block of gray-looking text which no self-respecting Internet surfer is going to read.  The written insights may be both brilliant and helpful, but the pearls of wisdom just aren’t going to be read.  The author hasn’t caught on to the unwritten rules of blogging.

Here’s what I tell my clients to do:

  • Approach blogging like you were writing a magazine ad not like you were writing an essay.
  • Go for short, visually easy to absorb bits of information.
  • Limit your post to <400 words or so.
    Shorter is okay.  Longer is a waste of your time, because Internet visitors have no attention span. Your 2000-word blog post that reveals the cure for cancer starting at word 650 is not going to earn you the Nobel Prize.  No one will have read that far.
  • Use bullets.
  • Use graphics.
  • Use white space.

The blogosphere is an electronic elevator you get into and have to convince your fellow passengers to hire you in the time it takes for you to reach the ground floor. Your posts need to be pithy, catchy elevator speeches. If you have long and intricate how-to instructions, link to them from your blog so the folks really interested can get the details while the average surface-surfing blog reader will remain impressed with how intelligent and witty you sound.

It’s okay to think of your Internet readers as selfish beautiful people at a cocktail party.  They’ll talk with you as long as you’re helping them and being quick about it.  Even if you have a fantastic story.

By |2010-03-05T17:03:24-08:00March 5th, 2010|Blogging|1 Comment
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