HOW TO WRITE BETTER BY BEING PUNNY

 

People enjoy humour, it’s part of the human psyche. The desire to laugh and be happy are shown to improve productivity, success and lifespan. Also it is widely agreed that laughing is part of human bonding. With this information in mind wouldn’t it make sense to employ humour in your content to improve it and gain appeal, creating a bond with your audience.

 

The simplest way to do this is through puns. One of the best wordsmiths in the world so far, William Shakespeare, was incredible at this.  Many people are capitalizing on this – I mean we all do don’t we? People consume humorous content all the time – this can be seen through the popularity of Buzzfeed and The Onion.

 

My personal favourite punny content is a webshow called ‘Whine About It’: a show in which Matt, the host, gets drunk drinking wine at his desk and whines about things. It’s a perfect mix for me – humour and complaining. Upwards and onwards, here are five steps for you to include satire, hilarity and cleverness in your writing to engage your readers and consumers.

 

  1. Be Clever

Consider your choice of words carefully and think about how they sound and how they play together. For example, at The Copy Collective we are always trying to make our social media more engaging. “A gift from a grateful client, heads up Dominique greatly enjoys grapes of the red variety, Maureen’s muse is more of the Moët kind” was a post we put up recently with an image of wine from a client. Something as simple as alliteration can take an ordinary sentence and make it magical.

 

  1. Be Comparative

When talking about a story or explaining something, compare it to something that’s completely different i.e., an oxymoron. To quote Oscar Wilde, “I can resist everything but temptation” or Andy Warhol, “I am a deeply superficial person”. The simplicity of an oxymoron can really boost any content in both how clever it is and its humour.

 

  1. Be Silly

In my experience some of the best jokes are my worst jokes, although my friends may not agree with this, obviously they’re wrong. Making people groan is just as satisfying as making people giggle. For example, every opportunity I have to say, “Hi hungry, I’m Rachel” I will. It’s just like with media; there’s no such thing as bad press, all press is good. The same goes for puns.

 

  1. Be cautious

It’s all well and good to throw in an odd joke here and there but you will upset readers when every single thing they read is a joke. They’ll stop taking you seriously and the comedy will lose its value. Be strategic, hit them when they don’t know it’s coming and make it good.

 

  1. Have Fun

Isn’t that the point of comedy, to have fun, enjoy yourself, and make people laugh? So be funny in your writing, be clever and most of all be creative.

 

I’ll leave you with this:  A person walks into a bookstore, “Where’s the self-help section?” they ask the clerk. The clerk shrugs and replies, “If I tell you, won’t that defeat the purpose?” – Anonymous

 

Other blogs of hers can be found here and here.

1. Teamwork

No team understands teamwork better than the All Blacks. They know success isn’t about personal glory – rather, it depends on people pulling together with the bigger picture in mind.

But, isn’t content writing a solitary craft? Well, it can be. However, whether you like it or not, as a content writer, you are still part of a team. At The Copy Collective, for example, writers work in partnership with account managers, proofreaders and graphic designers. The goal is to deliver high-quality work for clients, not satisfy our own ‘creative’ urges. So, resisting edits and suggestions for improvement is counterproductive — good content writers keep their egos firmly tethered.

2. Being organised

Focusing on what matters is something the All Blacks do very well. That’s because they are organised.

As a content writer, it’s easy to veer off-track — particularly when home-based. So, it’s important to keep a schedule of work to be done with your deadlines. Though far from high-tech, I use a colour-coded Excel spreadsheet.

Content writers are not athletes (well, maybe at the weekends). However, we must still manage our energy levels. In my case, I find my brain functions better in the morning until early afternoon, so that’s when I write. Other tasks, like following-up customers and preparing quotations, I leave till later. Oh, and though coffee provides a great kick-start to the day, after two or three cups, it does more harm than good. Water is far better.

3. Ongoing learning

If the All Blacks stuck to the  ‘tried and true’ that delivered their first World Cup, I’m pretty sure that today their trophy cabinet would look rather sad. Thankfully (for us Kiwis) they understood that what worked in 1987 could only be effective for so long. The world changes. So, they continually keep up-to-date with new tactics and training regimens to maintain their winning edge.

The writing profession has changed dramatically over the years. And much of what content writers do now, like writing blogs and e-books, was unheard of not so long ago. What does the future hold? Who knows? So, like the All Blacks, we must keep learning.

To be a successful freelance writer, discipline is required. Lots of it. You must steer clear of everyday distractions and work as efficiently as possible. Thankfully, there are ‘squillions’ of apps available for freelancers. I highlight five of the best of them in this post.

1. Toggl

‘Time is money,’ as they say. So, manage it wisely. Toggl makes time management easy and it is suitable for most devices. Just type the name of your task into the ‘What are you working on’ box and press ‘Go’ to start timing. Once you’ve finished, you can assign it to a project. For time tracking only, Toggl is free. However, for more advanced features, like setting your hourly rate and creating reports, prices range from US$9 to US$49 per month.

2. Evernote

Evernote enables you to download files, take photos and record audio. It is cloud-based, so you can collaborate with colleagues from anywhere you like. For example, if inspiration strikes while you’re travelling on the bus, use your smartphone to write notes. Then, at the office, use your laptop to continue what you started. Evernote is free.

3. MP3 Skype Recorder

Thanks to apps like Skype, you can meet clients without actually meeting them. It is ideal for interviews and because you can see a person’s body language, better than a phone. I used to record interviews on my smartphone. However, MP3 Skype Recorder enables you to interview and record all on the same device.  It is free to use but only suitable for Windows operating systems.

4. Dropbox

Dropbox is perfect for collaboration. At The Copy Collective, we use it to share files between freelancers all over the world. Dropbox is cloud-based and will sync to all your devices, which means you can access files anywhere, anytime. And if your laptop is stolen or breaks down, you won’t lose important information — it’s all up in the cloud. The basic version of Dropbox provides 2 GB of space and is free. You can get more space and features by paying up to US$15 per month.

5. Hootsuite

For many, myself included, social media is useful for self-marketing. However, if you’re not careful, it can gobble up time like there’s no tomorrow. Hootsuite enables you to manage social media activity more efficiently. It offers a multitude of functions, however the number available depends on whether you are using a free or paid version. These include posting across several social media sites simultaneously, scheduling posts, creating reports and tracking topics of interest.

Work smart

Freelancing is ideal if you can’t or don’t want to work standard hours or like variety in your work. The trade-off is you have only yourself to rely on. You must work smarter, not harder. Thankfully, the apps featured in this post and many others, will help you do just that.

 

 

A look inside life as a ‘Work from Home Mum’

Stay-at-home-working-mum (SAHWM), surely it’s some kind of bad joke, an oxymoron, even? If you have kids, you’ll know what I mean. You might think; how does work fit into the chaos of raising children?

Kids are messy, unpredictable and prone to getting sick, clingy or demanding – right when work is due. No-one is crazy enough to mix babies, toddlers and business are they? It’s too difficult; it can’t be done.

As a full-time Mum and part-time copywriter, I know it is possible but it takes a bit of juggling, an elastic concept of time and a willingness to let go of fixed plans. (As I write this my toddler is busy “entertaining” herself under my desk, which involves systematically emptying my pens on the floor, pulling paper out of the waste paper basket and chewing on a permanent marker pen she’s found down the back of the couch.) Here is a snapshot of my typical “workday”:

12am

A quick check of my emails before heading to bed. Oh great! A job has come in from The Copy Collective. Looks interesting and not due till next week, should be doable.

I’ll set my alarm early and make a start before Miss One wakes up.

4.45am

Gah! Crying, is it morning already? No, it’s definitely night. I pad over to the nursery and comfort my toddler who’s clearly suffering from a bad dose of a mum-must-fix-it-now mystery illness.

6am

The alarm goes off. I will myself out of bed with a strong cup of coffee.

6.30am

Begin reading the brief, halfway through when interrupted by crying. Miss One is really awake this time, so our day begins.

It looks like work will have to wait.

8.15am

Miss One is happily fed and settled in front of Peppa Pig. Great that should give me 20 minutes to finish reading the brief before heading to playgroup (the beloved pig with the posh accent deserves a medal for her services to sleep-deprived mums!).

8.25am

There’s a knock on the door. A plumber has arrived to install new vanity in our bathroom (hmmm forgot he was coming today!). Next, 20 minutes spent clearing toys, rubber ducks and random detritus from the bathroom floor so the poor man can do his job.

9am

Arrive at playgroup thinking about work, plumbers, deadlines and duckies but soon find myself immersed in a serious conversation with pre-schoolers about the wing span of dragons.

Blissfully ignore all thoughts of work while I get on with some serious child’s play (hey, there are upsides to this SAHWM thing, I didn’t say it was all bad!)

12.30pm

Miss One is down for her afternoon nap. Great – that should give me an hour or so to finally finish reading the brief and perhaps make a start on a draft.

12.45pm

The plumber is having his lunch and interrupts my train of thought to talk about the weather. Argh! Does this man not realise this is my one precious hour of child-free time all day?

1.15pm

Big bang from the bathroom AAAND toddler wakes up. There goes that window of opportunity!

3pm

Deposit Miss One at grandparents. Head home to work, get a little distracted on the way with errands and grocery shopping but manage a couple of hours uninterrupted writing. Huzzah!

8.30pm

Dinner is done and Miss One is in bed. Time for more work so I sit down and start making some notes but feel a bit sleepy.

I think I’ll just print my notes and resume work again tomorrow. Hey, it’s the weekend, I should have loads of time to myself, right?

Today is Mother’s Day. If you know any busy Mums juggling work, life and kids, forget chocolates, flowers, and scented candles. Offer to fold a load of washing, watch the kids for an hour or leave a meal in her fridge. Let her escape to a cafe to read her emails or a book in peace; she’ll thank you for it I promise!

See also: Tips from a Freelance Parent

I responded to a Code Yellow folder emergency this morning.
As any parent of a NSW Year 11 student knows, exams start next week. This is the first time Year 11 results will appear on the HSC record, so stress levels are high in households of Almost-Year-12ers all over the state.
By texting she had a “code yellow folder emergency”, my teen girl took me from “you’ve got to be kidding” to “on way” and “mission complete” inside of 15 minutes.
By using language that draws on shared knowledge and experiences, by leveraging shared understanding, my daughter demonstrated that she
• knew her audience
• used language to which her audience would respond, and
• provided an opportunity for shared amusement for we two, plus the staff in the Student Services Office at her college.
A code yellow folder emergency evoked the image in my mind of months of missed parties, of late nights and anguished mornings, which could have all been wasted if those hard-won revision notes had been disordered or, worse, lost all together.
By using language that evoked pictures in my mind, my daughter changed my resistance to compliance. She changed my attitude from “Really? You expect me to drop everything and drive to school, again, to deliver a ring binder?” to amused cooperation.
When communicating with your audience, what language do you use? On what shared knowledge do you build? Do you provide any opportunity for moments of fun or is it all serious stuff?

Maureen Shelley continues with Part 3 of “10 Simple Steps to becoming a successful published author” series, on crafting a cover as good as your content.

Although we say “don’t judge a book by its cover” everyone does. That makes the selection of the design for the cover of your book the most important decision you will make – apart from choosing the title.

Front cover design

Graphic Designer: You should definitely budget for a graphic artist to specifically design the cover for your book. Although it will cost you between $250 and $500 it will be the best single investment you make in the creation of your work. Your designer should be able to offer you three choices of design. You will need to tell them what the book is about, who is the audience and what target market you are seeking. Your designer will know what are the current and upcoming trends in book design (yes, book covers have fads and fashions) and the colours that will appeal to your market segment.

Marketplace designs: If you really can’t afford a graphic designer, then consider running a competition on www.99designs.com.au and set a budget for what you can afford. Please don’t be too mean and please provide a reasonable budget for the competition. After all, if you are joining the creative community you need to respect your fellow creatives and provide fair compensation for their efforts.

Do-It-Yourself (DIY): If you really, really can’t afford a designer then you could publish your book through a self-publishing website that offers standard book templates for your cover. This is the least desirable option but still at least gives your book a professional look. Try www.lulu.com or www.blurb.com.au for examples of book packages that can deliver a good quality result and a range of publishing options.

Back cover elements

Testimonials or endorsements: Once you’ve got the front cover design sorted, the back cover is the next important project. It is important to have organised your endorsements from people who have read your manuscript.

The blurb: You also need a good blurb of about 150 words that really encapsulates your book and its aim. Take time and care when writing this and ask someone else to read it for you before submitting it to your designer.

ISBN and barcode: If you are going to print your book, you will need an ISBN and a barcode. In Australia, the site to go to is Thorpe and Bowker at www.thorpe.com.au and they can supply both ISBNs and bar codes. However, if you use a site like Lulu or Blurb your package may include a barcode and ISBN.

The spine

Some people will first see your book as the spine on a bookshelf, so it has to work for you too. Before commissioning your design, study the shelves of your local bookshop and library. See what appeals to you. Look at other books in the same genre as yours – what elements do they include? You will most likely only have room for the title, your name and your publishing imprint logo.
This is where the title of your book has to do the most work, so ensure that your title sums up your book or is engaging or intriguing or all three. The width of your spine will depend on how many pages are in the book. If yours is light on, consider asking your typesetter to increase the spacing or the type size or the margins. A book that might be 60 pages of A4 text can turn to 300 pages in a Trade B paperback if the correct font, spacing and margins are used.
The wider the spine, the brighter the cover colours, the greater the contrast of type to cover, the more eye-catching your book’s spine will be.
June is Author’s Month to celebrate the launch of Red Raven Books. Red Raven Books is the publishing and imprint arm of The Copy Collective. Find out how we can help you today.

Maureen Shelley continues with Part 2 of “10 Simple Steps to becoming a successful published author” series, putting the spotlight on masterful editing.

An editor will proof read and undertake more substantive edits to a work. Proof reading involves checking for semantics, typographical errors and grammar.

In searching for grammatical errors, an editor will consider a range of issues; and here are just some.

  1. Has the writer made the correct use of definitive articles?
  2. Has the writer avoided confusing modifiers?
  3. Are the subject and verb in agreement, in grammatical terms?
  4. Has the writer used appropriate punctuation within sentences?
  5. Does the sentence structure follow established principles? If not, is it appropriate for the work?
  6. Are there any spelling errors?
  7. What is the style for capitalisation and is it used consistently?
  8. Are thepro-noun (s) /noun (s) in agreement?
  9. Has the writer split their infinitives?
  10. Are there squinting or limiting modifiers used?
  11. Are there incomplete comparisons in the work?
  12. Has the writer solved the great gerund mystery?
  13. Are there redundant pairs?
  14. Has the writermisused or confused ‘like’ and ‘as’?
  15. Has the writer taken the long way round to say something? That is, are there circumlocutions?
  16. Has the correct punctuation been used, particularly in regard to question marks?
  17. Has the writer confused self and personal pronoun use?
  18. Is there pronoun and antecedent agreement?
  19. Has the writer used double negatives?
  20. Has the writer begun or ended sentences with a conjunctive?
  21. Is therecomparison of absolute adjectives?
  22. Has the writer used unbalanced quantifiers or dangling modifiers?
  23. In regard to semicolons; are they used correctly?
  24. Is the verb form use appropriate?
  25. Has the writer used prepositions at the beginning or end of sentences? If so, is that appropriate for the text?
  26. Has the writer indulged in noun strings?
  27. Do the verb tenses agree?
  28. Has there beenmisuse of subordinate or subjunctive clauses?
  29. Is there incorrect pronoun case agreement?

Apart from resolving these issues, an editor will also (if paid and directed to do so) check facts, gain permissions where appropriate, insert appropriate references (biblical, geographical and literary are just a few), index, mark citations, insert footnotes and endnotes and create a glossary.
In addition to all of this, a good editor will ensure that a work is readable and makes sense. That it has a consistent structure and sensible flow or a cohesive narrative.
A good editor is worth their weight in gold. (And they will check for clichés too!) Oh, and they will eliminate exclamation marks or ‘screamers’ as they are known. 

 June is Author’s Month to celebrate the launch of Red Raven Books. Red Raven Books is the publishing and imprint arm of The Copy Collective. Find out how we can help you today.

The Copy Collective’s resident wordsmith Maureen Shelley begins her new blog series: “10 Simple Steps to becoming a successful published author.

Today she unpacks the curious concept of proof reading.

What is proof reading anyway?
Proof reading is when a manuscript or other written work is submitted for checking of semantics, grammar and typographical errors.

This can be done by a proofreader or editor or, if you can’t afford a human, you can use online programs such as Grammarly. We use Grammarly to check for originality to ensure that work submitted for proofing or editing by us isn’t plagiarised by the writer.

So what are you trying to say? 
What programs such as Grammarly can’t do for you is actually understand what you are trying to say when your subject and object aren’t clear and then to suggest appropriate edits.

If as a writer you can’t even afford Grammarly, then you should at least use the spell checker in your word processing program.

Tips for top-class grammar when using Word:

  • Set the language to your choice first – Australian English, UK English or US English – they will all give slightly different suggestions for spelling of words. Then do a “select all (Control A in Word on a PC) and then F7 for a spell check. Do this repeatedly – you will be amazed at how many errors you find.
  • Turn on recommendations for grammar as well as spelling. It will come up with a few suggestions that you will need to ignore but should find most glaring errors.

June is Author’s Month to celebrate the launch of Red Raven Books. Red Raven Books is the publishing and imprint arm of The Copy Collective. Find out how we can help you today.

Guest Blogger Graeme Innes gives a bird’s eye view from yesterday’s book launch of “Hope in 60 Seconds”, Red Raven Book’s first title in print.

Crows Nest is a great place from which to launch a new bird.  So Northside Community Church in Crows Nest, NSW provided an excellent launch-pad for Pastor Graham Agnew’s first book, Hope In 60 Seconds.
photo-21 photo-5 photo-3
It was fitting that the driving force behind the launch, boosting the book into the stratosphere of sales, was new publishing house Red Raven Books, the imprint arm of The Copy Collective.

When I endorsed Graham Agnew’s (or GA to his friends) book I said:“A super-charged buzz is on every page of Graham Agnew’s Hope is 60 Seconds. The messages throughout this book will renew your hope. I’ve been riveted by his sermons, loved his radio messages, and his book will make a permanent appearance in my daily reading.”

In launching the book, world-renowned author and speaker Michael McQueencommented the book contains 100 stories each with that vital ingredient of hope. He smilingly encouraged those at the launch to buy and read the book, as one of the stories could be about them.

I met a man walking away from the launch with five copies of the book in his hands.  In response to my question about his bulk purchase, he said “I’ve bought five of these books to give to five kids.  If one kid reads one story in the book, and it changes their life, it will be $100 well spent.”

Hope in 60 Seconds can be obtained in print through Graham Agnew’s website: grahamagnew.com. It will also be available as an E-book in July 2014.

June is authors month at The Copy Collective. We will profile new titles published by Red Raven Books; the publishing and imprint arm of The Copy Collective.

 

The Copy Collective’s Mr Romance, Jim Butcher, delves into the world of dodgy briefs and hands out some helpful suggestions for navigating your way through.

There’s nothing worse than those cold sweats from fretting over a brief to which you just can’t respond. You’ve spent way too long pondering the job but you still can’t get into the swing of it. Behind the brief
This could be because the brief is inadequate. It happens frequently; so don’t be too surprised. And there are many reasons for it:

  • Perhaps there was more than one person working on the brief. Too many cooks spoiling the broth and all that.
  • For some, creating a watertight brief isn’t important and they just want it off their desks, so what you’ve received could just be a bit of a palm-off.
  • This might be the person’s first brief, you never know.

Whatever the reason, don’t worry. As long as you’ve caught this early enough, there are things you can do. 

Asking the right questions
As you read through your brief, which you should do thoroughly as soon as you can, make sure the following questions are answered. If they’re not, then ask the client:

  • Audience – Whom are you writing for?
  • Tone – does this need a conversational tone? Is it a report or an emotive piece?
  • Purpose – is this going to be a letter asking for donations? A blog post? A promotion or sales pitch?
  • Additional material – is there reference material that hasn’t been provided that may support the information that is attached? Make sure you ask for all relevant material.

If there is a lot of background information, it’s OK to ask for direction on to the specific focus of the piece. Sometimes a client will just give you everything, which is great. But trawling through a 900-page document for a 300-word piece isn’t going to work for you or the client. 

Getting the job done
Ask your questions and plan to ask as many as you need to at once. By planning, you will save your client time on separate phone calls or emails. And if you’re still not clear, ask again.
Your client won’t mind fielding your questions. Deep down, most people know when they’ve written a brief that may be missing the mark. 

Tell us your tricks
So; what do you do if the brief you’ve received isn’t up to scratch? Comment away…

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