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Confusing Words

English is ranked as the third highest language used, yet it can be confusing at times even for native English speakers. There are many words that sound alike with different meanings, sound different with similar meanings, and every day words that are plain baffling. We look at a few of the more common confused words and when to use them in the correct content with the help of a few clever tricks.

Me or I

There is a simple way to find the correct pronoun between ‘me’ and ‘I’. When a sentence includes you and another person, leave out the other person and read it aloud. The correct word will sound right.

Example: Becky and (me or I) went to the meeting yesterday.

You would not say, ‘Me went to the meeting yesterday’, so obviously the wrong pronoun has been used. ‘I went to the meeting yesterday’ demonstrates the correct pronoun is ‘I’.

Becky and I went to the meeting yesterday.

Example: Jack drove Becky and (me or I) to the meeting yesterday.

‘Jack drove I to the meeting yesterday’ sounds clumsy and is the wrong pronoun use. ‘Jack drove me to the meeting yesterday’ sounds perfect, because the correct pronoun is being used.

Jack drove Becky and me to the meeting yesterday.

Who or Whom

There is another trick to help sort out when to use who or whom. Try changing ‘who’ to ‘he’ or ‘whom’ to ‘him’ in a sentence to find the correct use.

Example: (Who or whom) ate my sandwich?

‘He ate my sandwich’ sounds right, but you would not say, ‘Him ate my sandwich’.

Who ate my sandwich?

Some sentences are trickier and need to be re-arranged to find the correct word usage.

Example: (Who or Whom) do I need to see?

We would not say, ‘He/him do I need to see’, so we change the position of the pronouns. ‘Do I need to see he,’ definitely does not sound right; however, ‘Do I need to see him,’ does.

Whom do I need to see?

Another trick to identifying the correct use is that ‘Whom’ follows a preposition, such as ‘to’ or ‘for’. So we could have added a preposition to the previous example.

To whom do I need to see?

This helps if the word falls in another part of the sentence instead of starting it.

Example: She is a hard-working person for whom I admire greatly.

Although, this particular sentence would have sounded more natural if it said, ‘She is a hard-working person and I admire her greatly’.

Can or May

There is an easy way to find the correct word between ‘can’ or ‘may’. ‘Can’ is used to indicate that a person is capable of handling something; whereas ‘may’ asks for permission. So simply ask, ‘can I do it’ or ‘do I need to ask permission to do it.’

Example: (Can or may) I borrow your pen?

I have the capability to borrow a pen, but I need to ask permission to borrow it.

May I borrow your pen?

Effect or Affect

When the word is used as a noun, the name of something, then ‘effect’ is used.

Example: The effect of infection was swift.

When the word is used as a verb then we need to consider the intended meaning to find the correct word. The job of ‘effect’, as a verb, is to carry out or bring about something.

Example: He effected changes.

This word could be swapped for ‘brought about’. ‘He brought about changes’, highlights the correct word is effect as a verb.

Example: The manager effected a new process.

This word could be swapped for ‘carried out’. ‘The manager carried out a new process’, shows effect has been used correctly as a verb.

Affect is used as a verb, meaning an action. It can have an influence, to cause harm, to pretend, or to make a difference. Temporarily changing the word may help.

Example of influence: I refuse to let your words affect me. (It could be changed to: I refuse to let our words influence me.)

Example of harm: Your second-hand smoke affects my health. (It could be changed to: Your second-hand smoke harms my health.)

Example of pretend: She affected to be busy. (It could be changed to: She pretended to be busy.)

Example of makes a difference: Exercise affects health and sleep. (It could be changed to: Exercise makes a difference to health and sleep.) 

Hopefully, that will clear up the confusion with these words. We will look at more confusing words and the wonders of the English language in the future.

No part of this may be represented in any medium without written consent from the author. Mary Broadhurst c 2017

General Tips When Writing Documents

There are certain guidelines that should be followed with all your documentation if you want your business and your actions to be trusted and respected.

Facts, facts, facts

Get your facts right. Don’t presume, guess or surmise. A factual article or business document should be conclusive of its information, so check the facts. Ideally, recheck your facts with multiple resources.

Give credit where credit is due

This includes in text citations, references, and quoting other people. Never steal or ‘borrow’ someone else’s phrase without giving them the credit for it. Never disguise someone else’s hard work, idea, or anything else for that matter as your own.

Don’t include everybody

How many times do you hear someone arguing a point and carelessly include that everybody has the same opinion as the person speaking. No one can know what everybody is thinking or know everyone’s individual opinions, so that makes the statement ludicrous. What are the chances of everyone having the same opinion? Even if the majority do share the same thoughts, there will be those who don’t.

Leave personal opinions out

Unless you are an expert in your field, leave out your personal views. Your opinion may be clouded by personal experience, which can sometimes be unique and not shared by others. Stick to the facts and what esteemed professionals have proved rather than your take on a subject.

No part of this may be represented in any medium without written consent from the author. Mary Broadhurst c 2014

How Can a Professional Writer Help My Business?

All businesses struggle with the demand of producing the necessary documentation for customers and in-house needs.

Perhaps you are the proud owner of a micro business. You may be covering all jobs on your own, or you have up to five employees or freelancers assisting you. The demands fall heavy on your shoulders as you compete with the bigger companies.

Perhaps you run a small business and possibly employ up to 15 employees. You may have more people than your micro competitors, but is everything document-based being handled in a timely manner and produced well?

Larger companies may be experiencing their own share of problems with an influx of work, staff away on paid or sick leave, or restructuring has left too much work to be completed by fewer employees.

All businesses face their own set of problems. It could be anything from insufficient amount of staff to people struggling with proper usage of grammar and punctuation. You have a mound of work that customers are demanding and the clock seems to take on an evil pleasure as it ticks away the time.

A professional writer has the training and experience to churn through those massive piles of documents without even breaking into a sweat. Think about all those e-marketing opportunities that your company could be missing out on, all those potential sales opportunities, simply because there isn’t enough skilled employees to produce blogs, website content, and marketing information.

If the writer can also take on the uploading of files and the maintenance associated to social networking and other e-marketing strategies, then a large proportion of necessary tasks are being carried out professionally. This allows you and your employees to concentrate on billable work. Every minute that you are not making money is a minute that is costing money. It actually works out cheaper to hire someone to take on these duties than to pay an employee a wage and all the associated entitlements.

So next time you’re staring at a blank page waiting for inspiration to write your next blog, think about how a writer could handle this task for you and produce a polished document in less time.

No part of this may be represented in any medium without written consent from the author. Mary Broadhurst c 2014

Habits to Avoid for Professionals

It’s important not to allow bad habits that form from speech to drift into professional business writing. Every word on the page will be judged by a potential customer so make sure all business related writing, marketing information, website content, manuals and correspondence are professional. Even in industries where writing doesn’t have to be strictly formal, it still has to be professional. It cannot alienate your intended audience. Before any document is released for public or customer viewing, read the document again placing yourself into the viewpoint of the intended receiver.

There are other important aspects to avoid while presenting a professional image with your writing. We’ll explore a few of them here.

Tautologies

A tautology is saying the same thing twice.

You wouldn’t want to send someone an email with this message:

I’ll join you at 8.30 am in the morning for a briefing before our usual morning meeting with the team.

A better email relaying the same information would be:

I’ll join you at 8.30 am for a briefing before our usual morning meeting with the team.

In this case, the sender is still making an 8.30 am appointment with the receiver without the use of a tautology.

Overdoing it

When someone wants to emphasise a point, it’s possible to get carried away and overdo it, perhaps even appear abusive or uncontrollable. At times, even in business, people can get emotional, but it should be controlled when dealing with colleagues and certainly customers.

There is no point in ranting in an email or letter to someone about a situation that has been overlooked or completely mishandled. Instead, throw your focus into how to fix the problem as quickly and painlessly as possible, and then formulate a plan, so it never happens again.

Clichés

A cliché is a phrase that has been used often and is annoying to hear or read. A person that leans on clichés can earn a reputation of not having any original thoughts. Would you want to deal with someone in business that comes across that way?

In today’s society, there’s a growing trend to create catchy slogans that quickly turn into clichés. That’s fine if it’s done in a positive way where it promotes company awareness or branding. Some catchphrases may become a generic term or name given to a new development or product. But generally speaking, clichés should never reach your professional written work.

No part of this may be represented in any medium without written consent from the author. Mary Broadhurst © 2014

E-Marketing through Social Media Networks

Facebook Marketing

Social media networks, such as Facebook and YouTube, can be used to market businesses. Actually, with over a billion people leaving comments or ‘liking’ daily it makes perfect sense to use this medium to generate more business awareness. It can become your word-of-mouth leads online. Each Facebook ‘friend’ is a potential customer. However, there are rules, as there is with anything, which you have to follow. This is not the environment for the hard sell. This is an opportunity for you to network in relaxed conversations and become part of the community while boosting your online visibility. Here, you can share videos and photos that will promote your products and services.

Be aware of who is following you on Facebook, their characteristics and why they are following you and then cater your marketing to that demographic.

Encourage users to post their photos of them using your services or products.

Roughly half of Facebook users check daily, so make sure you post regularly and you respond to post within 24 hours. When it comes to posting, make sure the content is interesting. You want your audience (otherwise known as your potential customers) looking forward to hearing from you and not looking for the opt out option.

As with all marketing strategies, have a clear goal with what you want to achieve and work towards that goal. Perhaps you might decide to post each morning on a daily special. Coupons are available, so your Facebook people only can receive these specials.

People like to do business with a person, not a faceless business. Facebook, along with other similar avenues, gives your business that human touch, a face and voice that others can relate to and develop a rapport. It takes time so be patient. Business has changed and the ones that adapt to that change have a far better chance of survival than those who snub new technologies and e-marketing.

Did you know that Facebook took third place in the most popular websites visited? Can your business afford not to be on it?

LinkedIn Marketing

Similar to Facebook, but for professionals, is LinkedIn. It has over 225 million members and the number is still rising. Because it’s for business people, it’s important to keep your interaction very professional. There are a number of things that you shouldn’t do on LinkedIn under any circumstance and it’s important to point out a few here.

People may send you endorsements on your skills. You may not know these people or have dealt with them. Do not accept these endorsements if you don’t have those skills. Keep your professional integrity high.

We all have interest and things we love outside of business, but it isn’t appropriate to share these things in a professional setting. So, restrain from posting photos of your much-loved pet unless this has something to do with your business.

It’s easy to fall into informal communication, but don’t rattle on in lingo not suitable for professionals. How can other professionals take you seriously if you act in anyway other than professional?

Don’t provide recommendations or endorse other people if they haven’t earned it. If you recommend freely and without thought, then it will eventually turn people off once they realise your opinion and recommendations mean nothing.

It’s never a good idea in business to be pushy or rude, and that extends to all social media networks as well.

YouTube Marketing

YouTube allows you to promote your services, products and business in a video medium. Use videos to launch a new product, provide instructions and highlight promotions. Remember that people are going to watch these videos only if they are solving a problem, providing information or for entertainment value so market to your audience.

Avoid videos that are too long, because the audience will lose interest. Each video has to contain quality and be watchable, after all this is your business and there is a level of professionalism required. You owe it to your business, your brand, and you. Be proud of your videos.

It’s a good idea to include call-to-action strategies as well. These could be leading your customer to buy your product or service, learn more about your business or products, give you feedback or ask for more information, rate your video, direct them to your website with the allurement of a discount or coupon code, and promote your business through their social media networks.

Promote all your social networks on your website and vice versa.

No part of this may be represented in any medium without written consent from the author. Mary Broadhurst c 2014

E-Marketing

E-marketing is an important step in promoting your business. The Internet is a popular source for people to research and when they are ready to buy, you want them to think of you. Whether you’re skilled with using a computer or not, if you have a business then you need to market that business online or you’re just throwing potential sales away.

One of the best ways to market your business and provide customer service is to offer free information. This way customers will be enticed to visit your website for self-education on a product or service. Then when they are ready to buy they will be more inclined to purchase from someone who has supplied them with the knowledge they needed to make a sound decision. Even if they decide the product or service is not right for them, they may tell their friends, who are in the market for that item. Never lie or embellish, your information must be accurate and not misleading.

There are a number of ways you can reach out to your potential customers besides offering free information on your website. Provide free assistance via email. There are many people who would rather send off an email than pick up the phone. Cater to that demand.

You could write articles known as blogs or reprint articles. Potential customers will search the Internet and read articles to gain more knowledge. If you peak their interest, then they can click on the link from that article and be directed to your website. Offer more information, give them a reason to spend some time in your online store, encourage them to join your mailing list.

If you do have a mailing list then don’t make the mistake of using it strictly as a selling campaign. It’s never wise to inundate people with emails. People have trusted you with their email address, so respect that. Otherwise you will be an annoyance and have potential customers clicking on the link to stop ongoing correspondence. You should always have a link to opt out of future emails.

These types of emails are designed to remind your customers that you are there when they are ready to purchase. Offer more information, suggestions, and tips; better yet – try to get some interaction happening.

No part of this may be represented in any medium without written consent from the author. Mary Broadhurst c 2014