Technology Hates Me

technology

 

I’ve been working with technology since I left school. That’s a LONG time ago.

I can turn my hand to pretty much anything.

Over the years I’ve learnt new computer systems, tested new computer systems and helped design computer systems. All in a very small way, but I still did it.

I taught myself to code (just the basics because the real stuff is still on my to-do list).

I’ve used a couple of pretty complicated fractal systems and a Processing system and learnt the theory behind the practice, just so I knew what was happening when I used my intuition to create art. You can see some of my fractal artwork here.

I can use InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator and love playing with new software.

I can pretty much pick up a piece of software and learn it. It may take a little while, but I can set my hand to most anything.

I’m not so good with the hardware, but software is usually ok.

As long as it isn’t bloody email!

rage, anger, frustration

I do swear that the email gods are out to get me.

Lately dear old AOL (I know, I really should change) has been less than satisfactory. Being blocked by other ISPs is a pain when you don’t even know it’s happening.

I first realised something was amiss when the old Tiscali account I use was not getting through to some people on my theatre group list. Some important emails weren’t getting through – I found out by accident at a committee meeting.

Then the AOL account I use for work was sending emails out into the ether. Luckily they weren’t important ones, but hell … work emails are important. I was receiving, but some sent emails were flying free and not hitting their target. Thank goodness for follow up emails from a different account.

So … yesterday I bit the bullet and decided to buy myself a nice, shiny, professional email account to go with my website.

And it didn’t bloody work. Aaaargh!

alien scream

This time the email gods were laughing at me – I could send emails from the account, but couldn’t receive. It was something to do with the fact that my domain has been bought through one company and linked up with WordPress, and I bought the email through that company rather than good old WordPress, whom I adore. OK, my domain provider had a sale on. I’d had wine. It was an impulse purchase.

On screen everything seemed correct … but it just wasn’t working. And I went to the support site TWO MINUTES after it had shut its live chat help thing (I sent an email instead … from my Tiscali account, dear gods it’s getting worse).

I know I now have it sorted, thanks to help from the lovely George, but hours faffing about with DNS, TMP, SMTP and all that jazz really wasn’t how I intended to spend my evening.

wine

I spent a few hours on Tuesday night changing over emails on accounts that use Tiscali, which included some website accounts I’d totally forgotten used that email address.

It made me realise that we spend our lives tied to stupid bits of software that allow us to talk to people, connect, spend money and do all kinds of online things. We get tied in and it becomes increasingly difficult the longer you stay loyal to one company.

caught, handcuffed, tied in

Why is it so damned difficult to manage our online lives?

I know I figured out my business email, but why are things so user unfriendly in these days of UX (that’s User Experience to you and me). One ‘help’ video was actually just telling you to figure out if it was the webmail or your third party email client that was at fault and redirected you to a useless page after that. It took me twenty minutes just to find the relevant help pages. And when I did get help from the lovely George after contacting support, it took me fifteen minutes on WordPress to find the relevant pages that explained what I needed to do.

happy email people

I’ll eventually migrate my ‘normal’ emails from Tiscali and AOL to … something else. But it may well suck the life out of me. In the meantime,  you can use my swanky new email address (which is also on my contact page) if you need to get in touch with me.

Give me a new piece of software over email any day – it’s so much easier to deal with.

 

Why Words Can Kill Your Business (And What To Do About It)

Words on a cafe wall

 

Your business thrives on words.

Ok, you might think I would say that, being an editor and all, but stop for a minute.

How do you get your message across to your clients and customers?

Fabulous, eye-catching images and words. Lots and lots of words.

Your words define you and your business.

Business words

Your brand identity is defined by the words you choose.

Your company culture is defined by the words you use.

Your customer focus is defined by the words you use too.

 

Words can entice, excite and entertain. Or they can confuse, alienate and drive away business.

confused-2681507_1920

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: bad writing can kill your business.

For example, how are your emails being received?

Email communication

The problem:

You don’t get to the point.

The point gets lost in jargon.

The point gets lost in meaningless drivel.

The emails are so long getting to the point that the reader loses the will to live.

The solution:

Don’t worry about getting straight to the point. Your recipient probably has a million and one things to do other than read your mailing. Lower the chances of them hitting the delete button by telling what you need to tell in a straightforward, professional manner.

Ditch the jargon, unless it’s absolutely necessary. If your recipient is unsure what you mean they’ll delete. Use plain language. No one ever complained about easy to understand emails.

Stop the waffle. Seriously. Just stop it.

Avoid the tl;dr culture. If you have a special offer, let your recipients know sooner rather than later. If you have something to tell them that will benefit them, tell them at the beginning. If your emails are so long they aren’t going to be read, split them up.

contact us emails

Top tip: If you find that your business emails are taking up too much time, they’re being binned before they’re read and are not giving a return on your investment – simplify the process by spending time creating templates that you can reuse. A few hours of template writing will free up your time later on and will make things so much easier for you … just remember not to leave in dummy text!

But it’s the same for all your business writing.

Your website is your virtual shop window. It’s also a way to talk to your customers and make them feel valued. Common business writing mistakes that will lose you customers and cost you money are:

Spelling mistakes

Incorrect information

Broken links and bad navigation on your website

Complicated language, jargon and inconsistencies

Information overload

As well as all the points I noted above.

Brochures, flyers and advertising material, along with your website and business communication, need to be straightforward and to the point, without forgetting that your customer is your main focus.

Here’s how you fix it, and make your business words work for you:

  writing for business

  • Take your time and really read what you’ve written. Seek out spelling mistakes and fix them, and if you’re not good with words, hire someone who is. Spelling mistakes and sloppy writing will lose you business. Seriously.
  • Take time to write your business information. Research, draft, write, read, rewrite, read, rewrite again if you need to. Don’t just write something and stick it out there (unless you’re writing very quick, to the point, blog posts that don’t pretend to be anything else).
  • Focus on your customer, not yourself. Make things as easy as possible for them. Use words they will enjoy reading, and words that are not overly complicated. Using plain English is NOT dumbing down, it’s making your writing as easy as possible, for as many people as possible, to understand.
  • Don’t tell your customers too many things all at once. Let them digest each nugget of information before they move on. And give them the choice to know more – don’t force it down their throats. Use separate pages for each area of your business.

There’s a reason that copywriters and editors exist. You may be a whizz at your business, an engaging entrepreneur with fabulous ideas, or a nuts and bolts trader of essentials, but you may be rubbish at writing. Hey, not everyone is good with words. That’s why we train to be good editors and writers. I’d make a rubbish entrepreneur.

marketing-1320699_1280

While your business thrives on words, try not to make mistakes like these:

The online wine shop I happened upon in my search for a fizzy German wine made from strawberries (a favourite of mine back in the 1990s when Safeway stocked it for £1.99 a bottle!), where well-known varieties of wine were spelt incorrectly. I left without purchasing. I never did find that wine.

The local restaurant who advertised in our post office, on the little TV screen that blinks at you as you’re waiting to send off your parcels, and who couldn’t spell the name of the street they were situated on. Probably wouldn’t affect trade that much, unless someone who wasn’t local was trying to find the establishment, but it’s just sloppy.

The well-known department store that accidentally missed out a digit and sold an expensive necklace for only $47. Huge mistake, which was honoured before anyone twigged what had gone wrong.

The British bank that right now has a glaring typo on their home page. I won’t put up a link as hopefully it will have been rectified by the time this post is made live. Let’s just say there’s a Northern Santa who doesn’t like surprises, but a dictionary should be on his gift list. People, respect your business and we might respect yours.

So, if you want to make the most of your business, keep potential customers engaged and have them return for more here’s what to do:

Seek out, locate and destroy spelling errors.

Keep things simple and avoid jargon unless it’s needed and expected.

Use plain English wherever possible.

Respect your clients by investing in your businesses writing.

Write for your clients, not for yourself.

Take time over your content.

And if you need professional help find a copywriter to write your content, an editor to help you polish your content and a proofreader to give it that final check.

It’s not as expensive as you may think, and good content is key to a successful business.

Contact me if you think I can help your business to thrive.

5 Steps To Effective Communication

coffee, notebook, notepad, writing

Let’s get things straight.

Writing is a form of communication.

Your English may be perfect, but if you can’t communicate well, your audience is going to give up pretty quickly

So here are a few quick tips for effective communication:

1. Know what you want to say and how you want to say it. Before you write anything make sure you’ve made notes. Get everything down in note form and it will focus your mind to the task in hand. This way you won’t miss anything and it will all become clearer to you before you put pen to paper. Clear objectives make for clearer prose.

happy woman

Make it clear, keep them happy

2. Know who your audience is. There’s no point in writing the same thing for a bunch of academics and a load of high school students. Keep the language audience appropriate. If it’s too academic for the reader it will put them off, and you’ll come across as a snob. If it’s too basic, you’ll come across as condescending. Keep your writing at the correct level, and if you don’t know what that is ask around or go look at texts aimed at the same audience.

scared child

don’t make her read your company newsletter

3. Get rid of the jargon. There’s no point in using jargon unless you’re writing for industry professionals, and even then you should try to ditch the jargon. By using jargon you are, right from the beginning, alienating those who aren’t sure what the jargon means.

cross-157492_1280

ditch the jargon

4. Keep things simple. Plain English is brilliant. No one wants to read something that they can’t understand, so get rid of the arsey language and make your writing something that everyone wants to read. If you mean a ‘bin man’, say a bin man and not a household refuse technician. If you mean ‘wages’ say that and not ‘institutional renumeration packages’. It’s easy to keep things simple if you think about what you’re writing.

tightrope man

reading shouldn’t take that much concentration

5. Break it down. If you have a load of stuff to get across your audience, a great way to communicate effectively is to break it down into digestable pieces. There’s no shame in using lists and bullet points. It’s preferable to a whole heap of long paragraphs that become convoluted and lose their way. Break it down for your audience and they’ll thank you for it.

list

make a list

So, there you go. Five steps to great, effective, simple communication.

If you have any of your own, pop them in the comments.

This blog sponsored by ‘We’re getting puppies and I’m too busy to write a big blog post’.

In association with ‘Orignally written on an ipad, which suddenly deleted the post for no good reason’.

corgi pups cartoon