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English Corner: Pity the Misunderstood Apostrophe 30 July 2007

Filed under: Correct English Usage — worddocdooley @ 8:24am

The grammatical cousin of the bored teenager, the apostrophe can often be found hanging out in all the wrong places. Or just being plain useless. Worrying or confusing everything that crosses its path.

Take, for example, the following as a case in point:

“Choose from 1000’s of DVD’s…”

Or:

“Visit Brighton, for refreshing sea view’s…”

Both are not as innocent as they seem on the surface.

Incorrect use of punctuation – and here, we are specifically referring to the humble apostrophe – can weaken your writing and your message, as well as trip up your reader.

So here are some dos and don’t in the world of apostrophes:

• And it’s all right, now…

Ah, yes, the king of confusion – ”it’s” is a contraction of “it is”. However, it’s often presented as “its”. This is bad. And should be avoided. Unless, of course, you mean “its” in the possessive sense of the word. For example:

“It’s about time it showed its true colours.”

Here “it’s” means “it is” and “its” (without the apostrophe) indicates that something belongs to “it”.

• Ps and Qs, Dos and Don’ts…

You do NOT need an apostrophe to pluralise. OK, it’s tempting to slip in a quick apostrophe, but that would be mere folly. Apart from the obvious one – “don’ts” – which is correct in this instance.

There is neither a contraction nor a possessiveness connected with numbers, abbreviations or the “dos” in the world.

So the following are correct:

“There are 100s of them out there.”

“You only ever saw two PCs, but that was in the 1970s.”

“The MPs had 1,000s of complaints.”

So remember, only use an apostrophe for a missing letter or, in every other case apart for “its”, when something ‘owns’ something else. (“It’s amazing to think that the project’s deadline was met.”)

Please send me any ‘grammar gaffes’ via the ‘comments’ section here, and I’ll pop them in a future post on this blog.

Want to use this in your ezine, blog or website? No problem! Just let me know. I’ll send you a short resource box/bio to include at the end of the article.

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Outsourcing is Key to Business Success 26 July 2007

Filed under: Get Clients Now,Small Business — worddocdooley @ 8:42am

A lot of solopreneurs and small businesses-owners make the mistake of doing all their own admin work, as well as other tasks they’ve neither the time nor the skills to carry out productively.

Well, streamlining your business by using outside service providers – such as blog-content writers, proofreaders, book-keepers, marketing mentors and the like – will free up your time and help you stay focused on the work that you can do and actually enjoy.

Mmmm. Seems I have forgotten this very important lesson and slipped back into the “Of course I can do it all myself” mentality for some obscure reason. The good news is that I’m now wide awake to the benefits of outsourcing.

The best way to get started is to take a blank sheet of paper and divide it up into three columns. Now write all the things that you do every week for your business. Include everything, no matter how seemingly insignificant (oh, OK, the coffee-making isn’t something that I’d put on the list, but things like opening the mail, responding to emails, etc, would be). In the next column write down approximately how much time is eaten up by each of these tasks. Now in the next column identify areas that you can outsource – criteria to think about include things like do you enjoy doing this task, are you skilled to do it/is it easy, would it be better to outsource? And so on.

Now do a little research and go find professional service providers that can help ease the load, and boost your business to boot!

Want to use this in your ezine, blog or website? No problem! Just let me know. I’ll send you a short resource box/bio to include at the end of the article.

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Can a Simple Letter Get You F*R*E*E* publicity? 24 July 2007

Yes! And in the lead article in the latest issue of MediaMinister’s Communiqué for Success I reveal one of the cheapest and easiest ways to promote your business.

Also, there is a really fantastic competition (open to all CfS subscribers) to win even greater media coverage and awareness for your business.

Subscribe here.

The full line-up this month:

1. Publisher’s Preamble
2. Branding Pays Off With Search Engine Marketing
3. How Does Your Business Grow?
4. How a Simple Letter Can Land You Free Publicity
5. About the Word Doctor
6. Big Marketing Winners Revealed
7. Client Corner
8. Using Other People’s Work
9. Bag this Essential Guide, Worth £15!
10. Improve Productivity While Cutting Costs
11. F*r*e*e Image-Editing Software
12. Women in Business Seminar
13. Business-building Marketplace

Click on the following link now to find out how you can get immediate access to all of this – and more – at NO COST to you:

http://tinyurl.com/cfs

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The Importance of Good Copy 23 July 2007

QUESTION
CfS reader Marian Dyer wonders how can one “get people to realise the importance of good copy.”

ANSWER
Good question! And one that can get me pulling out my hair out at times! While it’s true that more people are realising the importance of good copy, there are still more who just don’t, well, get it. Much to their peril.

When it comes to websites, advertisements, brochures, sales letters and other forms of communication, copy is irrefutably THE most important ingredient. Do you think you would sell your wares, for instance, if your site was devoid of words, and instead relied on pictures alone to prompt orders? Unlikely.

That is why successful, clean copy is often dubbed ‘salesmanship in print’. That is, it has the ability to provoke the desired response. That can be as simple as persuading website visitors to click the ‘next page’ hyperlink or getting people to phone for a consultation. Good copy can and often does convert readers into buyers.

Nevertheless, to sell effectively or get your readership to respond in some way, copy needs to act as a kind of bullhorn that announces your credibility and capability. So it makes sense to make a good impression with error-free copy.

Sloppy copy fails to pay attention to correct spelling and grammar, as well as solid, clear and concise sentence structure, and informative, reliable facts. In addition to confusing your potential customers, lazy writing also undermines your credibility and professionalism – damaging those all-important first impressions and resulting in a huge loss of potential revenue.

Of course, no matter how precise one strives to be with the written word, no one can be perfect. There will always be the odd typo or spelling error, and the occasional cloudy sentence. That doesn’t mean the author doesn’t care, per se, just that he or she is human.

However, if a website is riddled with errors, then I for one would be inclined to think the author isn’t bothered about coming across as a professional – and I’d hit the ‘back’ button on my browser sooner than you could say ‘sloppy copy’!

If you’re serious about projecting a good image for your business, and in turn boosting revenues, then it really does pay to invest in good, clean copy.

Want to use this in your ezine, blog or website? No problem! Just let me know. I’ll send you a short resource box/bio to include at the end of the article.

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10 E-Commerce Events That Shook the Last 10 Years 20 July 2007

Filed under: News,Online Advertising,Website marketing — worddocdooley @ 10:40am

When I first jumped online, the most intriguing concept at the time was a bulletin board. Nowadays, it seems as if there is a new technology unveiled every week.

ECommerceTimes.com lists the top 10 developments in e-commerce that have created the most waves in the past decade, according to voting by industry experts and policymakers.

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/rsstory/58275.html

Mmmm, I wonder if there is a ‘Web 3.0’ on the horizon.

Meanwhile, what do you see as the biggest explosions in electronic commerce before the end of 2007? I personally think mobile web will be among the biggest trends.

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How Important is a Website? 16 July 2007

QUESTION
“How important is a website? I’ve agonised over it for months and can’t seem to get it together?”
– Ken Helmers

ANSWER
Good question!

Here are some interesting facts…

According to Netcraft, an internet monitoring firm which has been measuring website growth since 1995, in November 2006 there were 101,435,253 websites with domain names and content. This figure is consistently rising – and fast.

So, to answer your question, yes, I think ALL businesses – new and ‘old’, small and big – should have some kind of web presence. Don’t miss out on this growth!

Even though having a website isn’t (yet) a requisite for doing business; it certainly makes sense to have some kind of web presence in order to get or remain competitive in today’s fierce marketplace.

What’s more, marketing experts are predicting that the number of online consumers will grow by about 50% in the near future.

So, I guess the real question is can you afford to be left behind?

Even a simple website or blog presence will do. Just something that allows your potential customers, business partners, investors and employees to find out more about you quickly and easily.

Here are just some of the benefits of having an online presence:

→ You open your doors wide open to an international customer base – tapping into the multi-billion global marketplace makes good business sense.

→ With the use of relevant images, sound and animation combined with magnetic copy your clients get a real interactive feel of doing business with you.

→ Communicating your message through a web presence can be a lot less expensive than traditional media.

→ It offers an easy, convenient way for people to do business with you. The last time I bought tickets over the net (cinema tickets, FWIW), I did so from the comfort of my sofa.

→ You can always keep your product/service information up to date and fresh. If you were to reprint a new offline brochure, the cost could be quite steep. With the web, it’s instant and free to change details.

→ Your information is available to clients and prospective customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

→ You can sell direct and hang up the phone. Well, almost. With the web, you can change a “just looking” mindset into a “I’m buying that!” one through the use of persuasive, engaging words. It’s your salesman in print, really.

→ Your website’s URL can be put on other promotional material so that people always have a way of finding you.

→ You can collect email addresses – and potential new customers – with a website.

→ It shows people you are serious about doing business.

→ A website can take orders for you.

→ It makes for an excellent and efficient marketing support tool.

For me, having a website really comes into its own when I’m on the phone, for example. If a potential client asks whether I have any testimonials I can show them, I can say, “If you’re hooked up to the web, I can show you them right now.” They type in the link and it’s all done and dusted in a few seconds. The first time I tried something like this, I was impressed by the sheer ease and speed.

Getting started on the web needn’t be a daunting task. There are plenty of host providers who will provide ready-to-go web templates. You just fill in the blanks for the text areas, and upload your website. And, hey presto, you’re open for business online. 😉

Want to use this in your ezine, blog or website? No problem! Just let me know. I’ll send you a short resource box/bio to include at the end of the article.

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Just How Credible is Your Offer? 13 July 2007

When people see a steep discount on an item, or a bonus offer or even a mass sale, the inner sceptic comes out to the fore in full swing.

“What’s the catch?” they’re thinking.

And you can’t really blame them. There are so many ‘amazing’ things on the internet these days, with so many gurus claiming to have the most exclusive, best products, that you can be forgiven for being a wee bit jaded by it all, and naturally wary.

The fact is you’re in business to make a profit, and your prospective customers know that.

And while our emotions do play a huge part in our purchase decisions, logic has a sound bite, too.

So be honest with your prospects. Give them a legitimate reason why you’re offering that special deal. (Of course, you don’t want to be too open with them if your product actually stinks!)

You’ll be surprised just how easily their resistance wanes.

Try it and see. And be sure to come back and let me know of any success stories by posting your results in the comments section!

Want to use this in your ezine, blog or website? No problem! Just let me know. I’ll send you a short resource box/bio to include at the end of the article.

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