Author Archive

Word Count: A Balancing Act

Posted by on Oct 10 2011 | Content Writing

Word limits. Those gears that are meant to check/accelerate the write-o-meter while writing copies. When writing content with decided word counts, it is the job of a professional writer to ensure that he/she covers all the content that is supposed to be covered, with adherence to stipulated limits. Most content writers face the problems of word counts on two basic scenarios.

Firstly, the writer experiences a problem when the assigned project calls for a word count that is significantly more than the information provided. The second situation arises when the word count is too limited to provide all the necessary details in detail. The relative question of the nuisance-value of the two situations varies from writer to writer.

However, here are some tips to beat the blight of word counts by practicing some simple strategies in order to ensure that you don’t end up tearing strands of hair in frustration:

Manage, and more!: It is vital to create a rough draft of your copy, chalking out all the points that you wish to explain. Planning and organising have a huge role to play in your ropewalk with word limits. Make notes of all the essential material to be written, related content for relevance and stressing your point and creative garnishing to enhance interest.

Get Into Character: I don’t know many writers who use this method but whenever I’m presented with an assignment, I always make it a point to ask who the target audience is. Then, I try to put myself in their shoes and ask myself, “What do I want to hear?” (Yes, content writing does tend to play the flute to audiences. Blame it on the client, I say!) This gives me a good idea of what is necessary to be prioritized. Speaking of…

Prioritize: Content writing calls for certain de facto protocol measures. As it is more or less a varied field of topics you’re dealing with, there isn’t really any rule of thumb to follow. Let’s say, for example, that you are dealing with a company profile, which has to be written in 500 words but has important information covering a good 4000 words or so. What you should do is to use that trusty notepad of yours to write brief notes on what is absolutely essential to be included, subjects that can be dealt with in a line or two or integrated with related topics and stuff that can be done without. While creating sub-sections for summarised content copies, ensure that the topics are a wee bit generic, so as to add more material under one sub-head.

Embrace the Internet Like a First-Born!: This is crucial when there’s a word count of, say 1500 words, with provided information stretching to about 300 words. Look up the web and read material that is related to your subject. Imbibe certain phrases, terms and studies to stuff up your copy.

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Curtain Call: From The Desk Of A Departing Writer

Posted by on Oct 07 2011 | Content Writing, From the Writer's Desk

I have always liked to think of myself as just the writer, having abhorred attaching any prefix to it. I had no real convictions when I got a call from a friend to accompany him to an interview from a content writing company. Having just exhausted my quota of books to read and entertainment options to pursue, I agreed to tag along, just for kicks as the phrase goes. An undemanding test and relatively more strenuous interview later, I was picked (My enterprising friend wasn’t, hasn’t kept in touch for some reason).

As I started getting acquainted with the day-to-day workings of a content writer, I realized that merely a shapeless excuse for a cauldron holding a few pails of garbled writing skill does not a bucket of content writing make. There are scores of good writers out there. Not all of them master the reins to their own unbridled imagination and a choice few are able to appreciate and implement the tempering of creativity with compliance. Content writing is not a field where you can rut around like a bull in stud by delivering copies that are selectively pleasing only to your eyes; you must instead be the trusty steed, serving the purpose of your client and your audience. I won’t be presumptuous enough to claim that I came to terms with the notion of ‘audience first, self later’ without guidance. There were many stumbles, many a vehement nays of refusal to edit my content and better align with client requirements. As becoming an unruly horse, my boss and senior colleagues had to play the role of a horse-whisperer, advising, cajoling and berating me into a professional writer. Thankfully, I can say that I have wised up.

I also realized that clients are more or less open to suggestions and that a content writer who takes the initiative to think of the project as his/her own will reflexively come up with better, more thought-evoking content. Passion is the operative word here. And contrary to popular opinion, creativity does not burn out even if one’s engaged in writing 23 articles around the same keyword as some writers are wont to deplore. In the artsy milieus of writing, a flame of passion will persist through storms of writer’s blocks and showers of monotony, provided you use the right match.

Coming back to the present reminiscences of the past, my more-than-just-a-stint as a content writer has matured me in many ways. An ability to evaluate client requirements, looking at the bigger picture, a sense of accountability and a revitalized zeal for writing have gradually been unearthed, like muscles making themselves known after a gruelling run.

As the departure date looms unnervingly closer, I can remember flashes of events that occurred these past few months, and the consequent nuggets of wisdom that have mercifully been ingrained. Few people can experience turmoil and exhilaration at the same time, I experienced a palpable mix of both, throughout. Most people complain of being stuck in a single, monotonous job for what feels like a lifetime; I was one of those lucky scamps who got vistas into the mind of a businessman one day, a builder the other, a cola maker the third day and a traveller the next.

There’s much more to say, many experiences more to recount, with evocative half-smiles at times, but there’s a word count to consider and my parting act will be to stick to it. Adieu folks!

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A Day In The Life Of A Content Writer

Posted by on Oct 01 2011 | Content Writing

Prologue

As I go about my day-to-day business, I am increasingly countered by inquisitive questions from oblivious acquaintances on the job description of a content writer. Having come to realize that most of our elders and some of our peers are by-and-large unaware of the daily workings of a content writer, I take upon myself the onus of explaining what a content writer does throughout the day. Readers with other, more conventional professions will agree that the routine doesn’t differ by much of a stretch. Here goes…

9:00 am

Wake up. Curse loudly looking at the time. Realizing that present situation calls for premature squeezing of creative juices, invent a unique explanation to mollify superiors on late-coming while keeping track of yesterday’s excuse.

9:45 am

Reach office. Hastily log yourself in and open email account to confront client’s ironic messages on whether or not the demanded content will be delivered in the better part of the century. Procrastinate in opening the ‘Tasks for the Day’ email your boss has sent, thinking the morning is still too cheery to dampen your spirits yet.

10:00 am

Finally muster the courage to open the dreaded mail. Immediately start wailing loudly about stone loads and slave labour to anyone who would care to listen. Sympathetic content writers shouldering similar burdens immediately join the crescendo.

11:00 am

Well on your way towards writing the 4th article on the same keyword, trying to imbibe yet another angle to the ‘chimney sweeping services’ you have been appraising. Phase is abundantly complemented with exchange of sorrowful looks with other computer-glued condemned and munching crisps and cola in the hope that self-metabolism would somehow convert them into much-needed creativity.

1:00 pm

Break arrives. Tear open tiffin boxes with a hyena’s raucousness and like warrior-poets, squeeze as much joy and enjoyment as possible out of the precious 45 minute period. Gossiping and squabbling about sitcoms and shopping follows. Male content writers leave vicinity in disgust, opting for seedy office corners where they immediately engage in manlier pursuits of gossiping and squabbling about weapons and video games.

1:45 pm

Back to bedlam. Upon realizing that most foreign clients, whose day starts with shooting uncomfortable questions to content providers, have finally put away the night cap, get typing with a vengeance.

3:00 pm

Get a gruff ‘good’ of appreciation from boss or client after a particularly well-written blog. Spend the next 10 minutes basking in the compliment, reading and re-reading mail/chat. Realize what a great boss/client you’re blessed with. Immediately reverse notion after terse reminder to stop dilly-dallying and get back to work.

5:00 pm

Finished with most of the write-ups. Get angry mail from client demanding reiterations on long-forgotten copies. Give stuttering apologies while inwardly fantasizing about baboons feasting on said client’s innards.

5:10 pm

Get to work on reiterations, muttering sullen undertones about imbeciles and creativity-convenience gaps. Keep glimpsing at watch with increasing agitation, eagerly awaiting the stroke of the leaving hour.

5:30 pm

Put finishing touches to copies, pat yourself on back for finishing work ahead of schedule. Sit back, lavishly scratch privates and look forward to a good hour of surfing comic blogs and viral videos.

5:45 pm

Too conspicuous in display of idleness. Boss’s inner sensei weeds out possible non-performing member of herd, singles you out and fires another task, ominously titled ‘Urgent’. Curse self. Curse boss. Curse neighbour’s dog for no particular reason.

5:50 – 6:30 pm

Like a dying soldier limping towards mother country, laboriously finish with required content. Attach and mail to boss/client. Meanwhile, keep playing a mental loop of Mel Gibson’s freedom speech from Braveheart. Maintain stoic composure as you tell superior you’re done for the day. Bid sadistic farewells to less fortunate colleagues. Suppress a giggle on the way out.

Epilogue

The aforementioned emotions and attitudes mostly remain static, only changing in varying degrees of intensity. What changes is the subjective content that is put on the plate of a content writer. One could be concocting travel articles on Monday, rewriting infrastructure-oriented articles on Tuesday, dishing out news articles the third day and finishing the week with editing (while cursing responsible writers). And while the material may not exactly be food for thought every time, it does make for some healthy variety, which is one of the key elements of this job.

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Houston, We Have A Word Problem!

Posted by on Sep 22 2011 | Content Writing, Copywriting

Recently, in the middle of seeking reference material, I came across quite a punctilious-looking company profile for some construction company. The keywords were well-laid out, the content was systematically proportioned and the writer had done a fine job of tying baubles and ribbons to the text in the form of bullets, charts and the usual pretty suspects. But in the midst of skimming through the article, I noticed that the word ‘site’ had been tragically replaced by ‘cite’. This meant that every time the writer meant to point out an area, the reader would be keeping a weary eye out for an official declaration or two!

Looking back, I’ve noticed that word confusions (or tripped terms, if you please) are commonplace and, unlike grammar mistakes or sentence mis-formulations, we don’t even have Messrs. Word to mark them green or red, because, technically, they’re good to go. Either as a result of a garbled lexicon or, alternately, an eye untrained in matters of concerted après perusal of the copy, word confusions end up disfiguring the implication of the sentence. Sometimes this ends up as a subject of harmless hilarity. Otherwise, the endgame involves the brow-beaten writer at the receiving end of an oiled whiplash that is the boss’s verbal lambast. Mostly, it passes away, peaceably unnoticed.

Here are some word jumbles that I’ve come across in recent times:

Reign/Rein

A very common pothole, which still manages to trap its victims with alacrity. Reign means a period of royal rule whereas rein merely corresponds to a horse’s strap. I once read an article (on a reputed history website to make matters worse) where the ‘rein’ of Richard, the Lionhearted was described as bloody and violent. Either it was a case of word confusion or, to give the benefit of doubt, Sir Richard probably needed a change of steed.

Allude/Elude

Another very common mistake, which can have alarming consequences, given the right (or should I say wrong?) sentence. Allude is defined as a call to attention and elude means to escape from danger. So, either Johnny was ‘alluding to‘ Professor Rory, or he hadn’t done his homework and needed to hightail it, on the double.

Aisle/Isle

The spelling difference is much more noticeable in this one, but the pronunciation is exactly the same, which means that there’s still a high probability of the word ending up on your ‘never-to-repeat-again’ list. Aisle is the passage between rows, usually of a church, a plane or a theatre. Isle is an island. So, a ringing choir of ‘Here Comes The Bride’ might not be required if one is traipsing up the ‘isle’.

Stationary/Stationery

Yes, people do tend to goof up on this one as well. There was a well-known blogger’s gaffe when he embarrassingly referred to Jupiter’s orbit as ‘stationery’. Inevitably, a torrent of comments followed, mostly to the tune of, “Ooh, it better watch out for them sharpened pencils along the way.” Just for the record, stationary means unchanging or fixed, whereas stationery is a writer’s friend and a fifth grader’s worst nemesis.

So that’s that and if you’ve been paying attention, you would have already noticed the word confusions that have (deliberately) been placed. First person to spot both gets the special bumper prize of an inflated ego.

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Work hard – Not only on the content but on aesthetics as well

Posted by on Sep 09 2011 | Web development

You have spent months slogging to create apt content for your website, then you spent weeks making sure it was search engine friendly, and not to forget the heaps of money you spent for SEO specialists and content writers. The day of the launch, you feel you have everything in place. Your website is up and running but the number of visitors is still not rising. When a visitor comes to your website for the first time, he also takes in the visual appearance of your website apart from the content. Chances are the content you are providing, is available at ten different websites also. So the only way you can stand out is to make your website pleasing to the eye, so that the visitor returns to your website again instead of hunting for something new.

Developing an aesthetically pleasing website is not that difficult really. When you create a website, emphasize on the design aspects as well. A report by the Stanford University talks about the importance of aesthetics in designing websites. They conducted a study to reveal that nearly half of all visitors (on a website) assess the website’s credibility on the basis of its overall visual design which includes layout, typography, font size and color schemes.

Think of a person, who has to spend hours on the internet, going through hundreds of websites in a day, and when he comes across a website that has a dark background and equally gloomy font color, he has every right to curse the website developer.

When you are designing a website, analyze how the color and the feel can relate to what your content talks about. You can use colors and contrast that induce emotion, which please the reader’s eyes and make him want to come back again and again.

Too much of anything is bad – this applies for web designing as well. Just because you like a certain image, you shouldn’t end up using it on every page possible. The mantra should be to create a balance between form and function. Scan the page of your website like a new visitor would, and ask yourself – does it look attractive enough to bookmark?

Research the different kinds of users that would come to your website, though it is impossible to amaze every user, make sure your website offers variety as well as excitement for readers. Place your content with enough breathing room for different sections. Never ever clutter a page and remember that websites are an artistic implementation of your business, you would want it to look nice after all.

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Battling the Blocks

Posted by on Sep 06 2011 | Content Writing, Web Content Writing

It’s late in the evening, you’re inside your content writing office, sitting on your content writing chair and screwing your eyes in concentration at your content writing computer. As a polite reminder, your boss IMs you that the client needs his articles ASAP (translated to ‘now, if not sooner’). You look around wildly, seeking some much-needed inspiration in vain; your mind seems to be running weary circles while your eyes gaze glassily at the screen. Yes, you’ve hit the dreaded writer’s block.

Professional writing demands consistency. As a writer, your job is to regularly churn out content that is similar in terms of tone, style, quality and quantity. “Be like the tortoise, not the hare,” as some stern seniors would exhort the rookie writer. But that’s something easier said than done. At some point, the creative nectar dries up, the Eureka moments you provided your readers are dead as a dodo, and you seem to be using repetitive phrases, words and even article structures.

However, there are some tips to follow so as to salvage something out of your mind-numbing writer’s block. This is no cure-all prescription, but might come in handy during those blank ‘stare-at-the-ceiling’ moments that all writers are wont to suffer at times:

· Scribbling is something that might have earned you a slap on the wrist with a wooden scale during your rug rat days, but as a writer, it is all but encouraged. Whenever a creative thought or an innovatively carved sentence enters your mind, scribble it down and save it for later. These can prove to be your saviours during writer’s drab.

· Infuse variety in your content selection. Even an exotic travel destination like Hawaii can become a mind-sore if you write copies on it every day. Switch to that pending work for Stocks and Investments; trust me, the change will be so refreshing that you will automatically deliver a good copy.

· Use the 3-Source rule. While writing a copy, always have at least three different sources that envisage the subject from distinct angles. This gives a better picture and allows for more detail, not to mention convenience for you.

· Finally, leave that stuffy cubicle for a while! Get out of the office for a few minutes, talk to a friend, have some tea (that sharpener of a writer’s mind!), get some fresh air. It helps, especially for us erstwhile creative folks!

Good content and creative juices do not stick to a timetable; they could happen during a bathroom break or stubbornly abstain despite tedious hours of brainstorming sessions. So, don’t take any chances, chalk up your own Plan B for the next time you plunge down the writer’s block-hole!

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Travel Writing: To Be There When You’re Not…

Posted by on Aug 20 2011 | Content Writing, Copywriting

Regular documentary-watching of art maestros does not an art lover make, bike magazine subscriptions do not make a Valentino Rossi out of you and watching viral videos of the Wine Inspector will certainly not sculpt you into a wine connoisseur. An age-old maxim is apt here: ‘You need to be there to experience it.’ Many would argue that this adage may be implied just about everywhere. After all, where’s the fun in writing about the Sistine Chapel when you’re sitting morosely in a country far, far away? (Big fan of Star Wars here)

Turns out that most people do it all the same. If a consumer believes that every travel writer actually visits the place he/she’s writing about, well, just keep reading. It’s a sad truth that some, or even most of the writers who are weaving magical scenarios about Casa Exotica or Honolulu are probably sitting in a basement somewhere in India, asking their mummies for more sandwiches while they construct a sun-soaked beach scene with pina coladas and samba dances.

The point is, travel writing is all about using one’s imagination. In the field of content writing, not everyone can afford to visit Amsterdam if presented with an assignment on cannabis and coffeeshops. The next best thing? Imagine it, concoct a setting, add sub-plots, infuse a dash of humour and a few random and untoward incidents and voila! You have successfully managed to draw eyeballs to the captivating appeal of a location which you haven’t even sampled for yourself, real time!

Misleading? I think not. Fripperies aside, travel writers always ensure that hard, bare facts are never trifled with. So, the next time you decide to stay at a hotel in Dijon, France, you might not get the salacious candle-lit dinner with a sultry temptress that was so tantalisingly intertwined in that hotel article you read, but the hotel will still be pretty much there, will all that was promised in the article. Arranging for the gymnastics is up to you, really.

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Google Plus SMO Set To Run Roughshod Over FB

Posted by on Aug 19 2011 | Content Writing, Copywriting, Search Engine Optimization, SEO, SEO Copywriting, Technical Writing

The stage is set. The weapons have been polished and the shields are clanging with anticipation. Social networking el supremo Facebook faces off against search engine colossal Google’s throwback, Google Plus. At first glance, it looks like a regular David vs Goliath. 500 million users against a measly 20 million. But the numbers only tell you so much. Delving deeper, one can see many reasons why Google Plus has more than a few aces in the hole.

The biggest advantage that Google Plus has over Facebook is that it has the direct backing of the big daddy of all the search engines, Google. A classic case of SEO meets SMO, if there ever was one. It has been all but openly announced that Google will be heavily leaning on rewarding Google Plus users with higher rankings on its search engine page. And sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can’t do much more than shaking their fists in frustration. That is, unless they (the latter two) don’t end up as dinner for Google’s massive buying spree.

Another reason why Google Plus has become a force to be reckoned with is the revolutionary social media tools it offers to its users. The ‘+1’ button has already trumped Facebook’s likes, the privacy features offered by Plus are aeons ahead of anything Facebook has to offer, and the Circles are being widely acknowledged as the ‘Holy $#!*’ idea of the decade. 10 million users within the first few weeks will nod happily along to that.

Talking White Hat SMO, Google Plus has taken pains to ensure that its users get all the brownie points to promote their websites, provided it’s legit. Website integration with APIs, +1 Button Syndication and a whole new level of networking gives Google Plus ample leverage when it comes to SEO building. Also, Google’s announcement that its +1 button carries a heavy impact over a site’s SEO rankings carries a veiled threat: If SMO for Google Plus is not on your site’s daily calendar, expect a cold shoulder from Google’s crawlies.

Bottom line is, as someone who is actively engaged in SEO and SMO to bump up site rankings, you simply cannot afford to overlook Google Plus anymore. Case closed.

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BLOG WRITING (ARTICLE)

Posted by on Jul 11 2011 | Content Writing

Blog writing started as a platform for self expression. People used it to pen their thoughts and opinions, but it has evolved itself by becoming a means to market and promote products and services for business organizations. It is one of the most recent additions of the online content marketing tools. In this century, internet has become one the topmost powerful tools to reach out to the masses anywhere in the world. People use it to promote their business and provide facts to the information-hungry internet goers.

Blogs as a source only work if they are constantly updated with relevant content that the readers will be interested in reading. Blogs are visited by readers to know information about the most recent developments in the products and services range. There are basically two kinds of blogs which includes personal blogs and corporate blogs. Companies who offer blogs on the website generally hire a professional blog writer, who can write content creatively. In the absence of content on the blog, the reader will be bored and the blog will lose all its appeal.

If properly maintained, a blog can become a great source for the company to generate awareness and interest. It can also assist the company in branding and advertising its new and old products and services.

There are various benefits that a company can reap with the help of blogging. It helps the company promote its brand name and increase website traffic to a great extent. As we blog, the company interacts with its customers and gathers their feedback. This serves as great medium for the company to reach out to its customers.  It works in favour of the company as it can now improve and at the same time understand customer expectations.

Blogging sites also help the company through regular feedback on their products and others in the market through their customers. If the company wishes to conduct an online market survey, a blog will help the company here as well. Blogs cannot just be written by professional blog writers but also people in the organisation which improves the communication inside the company.

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Technical communication and its use in the present scenario

Posted by on Jul 01 2011 | Content Writing

Technical communication as a concept can trace its origins back to 1950’s when a surge was seen in the areas of science and technology.  At this time, a proper communication was required by the electronics, manufacturing, military and aerospace industries that wanted technology-based documentation for its audience. Since then, the field of technical writing has gained widespread popularity and is now considered to be the perfect tool for companies to make their consumers understand the technology.

Simply put, technical writers are the people who make jargon and difficult language of the technological devices, easy to understand. They transform it into simplistic language that even a layman is able to understand, as, at the end of the day the consumers who use the products are unaware of the terminology. The field is gaining a lot of importance because the pace at which new technologies are developed is enormous. Every hour a new development happens in the technology industry which makes it important for the companies to create effective communication with the consumers. Technical writers frame the use of the product in such a way that a common man is able to use and understand the advantages of the product. The importance of a technical writer is fast growing in India and requires individuals with a high level of analytical skills and a good grasp over the language.

A technical writer is involved in preparing instruction and installation guides, online help files, project reports, brochures for products manuals and graphical presentations. Various industries like consumer products, IT, medicine, engineering, military, aeronautics etc require the services of a technical writer to prepare manuals and how-to-use guides with the launch of every product. It is important for businesses to acquire a business model that is customer-centric. The more effective a technical communication is, the more are the chances of success.

The face of every software company is its technical write-ups and user manuals which build its association with the public.

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