Editing: Like Baking a Cake

Writing without editing is like mixing cake batter but not baking it. You might have all the right ingredients but you don’t have a finished product.

The goal of all your writing is not to fill a page with words, but rather, to communicate effectively with your audience. By giving you their time and attention, your audience should be at least a step closer to reaching the objective you have in mind, whether that be making a purchase, attending an event, or valuing your thought leadership.

The Cake Batter

The process of writing involves gathering thoughts together, and perhaps mixing in data, quotes, metaphors, and some descriptions of one kind or another. Words become sentences, the sentences become paragraphs, and the paragraphs become sections. Within this amalgamation of words and paragraphs are the kernels of the the finished product, but chances are there are loose ends, jagged edges, and inconsistencies of one kind or another. Possibly even some misspelled words that slipped through the spell-checker because they are real words but used in the wrong grammatical context (e.g. there, their, they’re). It is common to see inconsistencies in time (e.g. past participle, perfect participle, present), inconsistencies in writer’s perspective, and so on. Left as-is, you will have some disappointed readers. Your chance to communicate will be wasted.

The Baking

Once you have your “batter” ready, you then must bake it. Careful editing is the process that bakes the cake so it is delicious to look at and taste. The editing process is one that rearranges thoughts to make them more coherent. Editing looks at organization and reorganizes where necessary. Editing trims out excess words and jargon, eliminates duplicate statements and extraneous paragraphs, creates better focus, and facilitates flow.

The Tasting

You may have heard the old adage “The proof of the pudding is in the eating”. The same goes for our cake.

After completing the editing process, the content is now ready for your audience to spend time on. It’s presented in a way that is interesting and informative. The content is well organized and flows easily. It’s easy to understand and hopefully memorable as well. Your readers will appreciate the extra effort, and will hold your communications in higher esteem than they might have otherwise. The objectives you had in mind at the beginning of this process should be met or at least in closer reach.

Give it a try and see how you like it. Chances are, you will want to keep on baking!

Editing Services

Contact Think of Whiting for professional editing services.

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Writing about Business Services

Writing about Services – The Challenges

Writing about services often has challenges not faced when writing about products. Services don’t have “features”. Services aren’t “photogenic”. They are intangible, and because of that they can be harder to describe. Add the complex nature of some services, and you have a real challenge to communicate effectively.

Services are the sole source of revenue for many companies. Product-oriented companies are expanding into services because the revenue streams can be more consistent; products tend to be driven more by business cycles whereas services are less cyclic. For all of these companies, there’s a need to have service offerings communicated effectively to potential customers.

Writing about Technical Services

Technical services can be hardest of all to describe. There is jargon and there are acronyms. Technical services can be complex. People may or may not have heard of these technical services before, and even if they have, they may not have a clear idea of what the technical services are, how they may be of value to them, and if it’s even possible to integrate these new services with pre-existing services.

Create Content that Serves Reader Types

Like teaching to a group of students who are at different levels of proficiency, writing about a technical service should cover a range of proficiency levels from basic to advanced. Technical service subjects should be written about in a way that unwinds complexity. It’s important to keep in mind that many different non-technical people may be looking at the information, from customer executives, to interns, to the people who may be using the service someday. If a newcomer is reading, that reader should be able to learn about the subject step-by-step, and not be turned off by jargon. For those more proficient in the subject, navigating past more basic descriptions and should be made easy to do.

Something else to watch out for: technical subjects can make for dry reading. Lists of service areas have their place, but to engage the readers at various levels, some other writing strategy is needed.

Storytelling Case Studies

A “storytelling” style can be a very effective way to awaken the imagination of the reader. People naturally relate to stories, especially when the person in the story faces similar challenges to the reader. Stories can pick and choose details to emphasize. A good story will show how the company’s service offering found and implemented a solution to a customer need. Showing the problem-solving ability of the service company can give the reader some confidence that issues he or she faces can be dealt with effectively in a similar fashion.

Remember, the reader might be looking at the story from one of several perspectives. She might be a prospective customer. She may a current customer who could benefit from the new service. The reader may even be a salesperson who needs to be familiar with his own company’s solutions.

Story Structure

The story should be a true one, based on a real customer experience. The story might start with a typical customer need, perhaps expressed in the “voice” of a customer. Describe the need. Describe why the service company was well-suited to address the need. Describe the approach taken to solve the customer issue, and how the customer benefited. Once again, in the voice of the customer.

Summary – Consider reader proficiency, and a story-telling approach

To summarize, writing about services, especially technical services, should invite readers of different levels of proficiency to read and learn. A good approach is to include customer stories which can awaken the imagination of the reader.

Think of Whiting Can Help

Think of Whiting can provide the writing services you need to communicate your service offerings to your various audiences, both internally (within your company), and externally, to your business partners, investors, and clients.

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Writing for Websites

Making Good First Impressions

Popular wisdom has long maintained that first impressions are very important. For many if not most corporations, that first impression to the outside world is made by its website. As a website’s primary impression-producing assets are its content and its organization, it’s fair to say that the content and organization of the website are very important for creating a good first impression with viewers. A good first impression along with good organization and writing makes viewer engagement with the website much more likely.

Communicating with Words

Think about the objectives you have for your website. If your website is intended to promote your business, you should break it up into discrete pages that might be attractive to different groups of visitors. Some visitors are first-timers. They might want to know about the history of the business, the owners, and the people who they might be in contact with if they call. Most visitors also want to hear about your products and/or services, so one or more pages devoted to that would be appropriate. Other visitors are looking for resources, contact information, reasons to buy from you.

All the information you post to your website should be well organized and should flow easily from one sentence to the next. Think about the website from the perspective of the typical visitors you expect. Certainly people want to read about your products and services. They may also want to know why you do what you do, and how you do it. Think about how you might work these important aspects of your business into your website.

You may find that you don’t have the time to do great writing from the get-go. If that’s the case, try to at least get the structure right from the beginning. Then, over time, go back and improve the content bit by bit until it is an accurate reflection of who you are. If you take pride in your business, that pride should show through in your website, through its content.

Website Images

Many websites today contain a lot of images. Often, those same websites are light on content. The problem with image-heavy websites is that images do not engage the viewer. They might make a nice impression, but they don’t hold the viewer and draw them in. If a website is overly dependent on images, there is less reason for a first-time visitor to explore, or even return for more information, tips, announcements, engagement with a blog, etc.

While we’re on the topic of images, there are some which should be avoided under any circumstance. A good example is images that are automatically changing in front of the viewers eyes. If you’ve seen those websites, you’ve probably noticed that the movement of the images is very distracting. It’s the same on sites that load up with advertisements. Other bad images would be employee pictures that look like mug shots, or those that are blurry, poorly cropped, too small or too large. A good approach is to look at what others have done… see what you like, and use those to guide your choice of images.

If your objective is to get the site viewer to buy something, learn about something, or inquire about something, then make sure your site’s organization, writing, and images support that objective.

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Writing to Optimize Search Engines (SEO)

If your web site content is well written and well organized, your web site’s visitors will not only have a good first impression, they will also spend more time on your site.  The more time viewers spend on a web site, the better that site will perform in search engine rankings.  This is an observation made from experience, and from consideration of what search engine optimization (or SEO) software values in its guidance.

How search engines rank web sites is not completely clear because the search engines don’t publish their methods. Clues can be found in looking at what SEO software providers prioritize.  One of the top recommendations in SEO software is for publishing a minimum of 300 words per page.  Although this number may actually be somewhat arbitrary, someone reading 300+ words is bound to be spending more time on that web page than on a page with fewer words.

Of course, if the writing is uninteresting or poorly organized, the page viewer won’t spend much time on the page, and thus the page ranking will probably not improve.

A web site may also benefit in its SEO from repeat visitors.  Encouraging repeat visits is not something that SEO software can help with, but it does seem to have some effect with SEO rankings.  Whether or not having repeat visitors plays an important role in SEO, it is clearly beneficial to have people re-engaging with your content.

A good way to encourage repeat visits is to keep creating and posting new and worthwhile content so people will have more reason to come back.  Also an email newsletter with links to the web site provides the prompting when new content is added. If people click through to the site, the fresh content will hopefully hold their interest.  Of course, to do this it helps to have people sign up for the newsletter when they visit, and to give them good reasons why they should sign up.

Perhaps your web site could use some attention to its content, to help with SEO and to better engage your site visitors. If you could use some help with the writing and organization of your web site, please call or email.

By the way, this blog posting has 388 words in it.  I hope you’ve enjoyed every word of it!

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