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Elaine Swift Logo Putting your ideas into words
   
 

Know what you want to say, but you can't find the right words?

I offer a range of writing services, such as copywriting for websites, direct mail and newsletters as well as rewriting and evaluation. Whatever method of written communication you choose, I can help.

Dear

Welcome to the first issue of
my e-newsletter.

I think I can just about still wish you Happy New Year, so - Happy New Year! I hope 2007 is successful and prosperous for you. I also hope you have some fun too and get to do the things you love.

 

In this issue

So why am I publishing a newsletter?  Well, it’s a good way of showing you what I can do.  It might even make you think about having an e-newsletter of your own. If you don’t already have one that is.

As well as telling you about my services, I want this newsletter to be useful to you.  That’s why you’ll find hints and tips about writing whether it’s business letters, press releases or for your website. If there is anything in particular you’d like me to cover, do drop me an email and let me know. 

I want it to be fun too.  I hate business jargon and I know I’m not alone in that.  So tell me the buzz words and phrases that make you want to tear that flapping flag down from its pole.  There'll be a prize for the most original one.

Give your marketing material a spring clean

The start of a new year is always a good time to have a clear-out and make a fresh start.  That goes for your brochures, leaflets, sales letters, and your website.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of producing the same old thing time after time.  Trouble is if you don’t surprise your audiences once in a while you’ll fade into the background.

Why not start by getting your material looked at by a fresh pair of eyes?
If you think your brochures or website need an update but you’re not sure why or how, I can appraise them for you.

I’ll give everything a thorough going over from top to bottom. You’ll get an honest evaluation of your material and suggestions for where and how you can make improvements.

And just to help make up your mind, here’s a special offer for you.  A website evaluation and report normally costs £250.  If you book one before the end of February, it’s yours for £150.00.

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Hints & tips
When less is more
Fewer and less are constantly used incorrectly.  One of the posher supermarkets used to have the sign ‘five items or less’ over its checkouts.  Someone must have complained (it wasn’t me, honest) because they changed it to the correct ‘five items or fewer’.

So how do you know which is right?  The general rule is: use fewer with plural nouns and less with singular nouns. 

It’s usually less that’s used wrongly.  That’s probably because it immediately sounds wrong when fewer is used incorrectly. For instance not many people would say ‘please put fewer milk in my tea’.  However, it’s quite common to see or hear the mistake the other way around, for example:

‘There are less shoppers in town today’.  It should be ‘there are fewer shoppers in town today’ because shoppers is of course plural.

However (there’s always however!) it would be wrong to say ‘we’ve got fewer than twenty miles to go’.  That’s because twenty miles is a total and is therefore treated as singular rather than twenty individual miles.

The same would be true for a sum of money, for example ‘it cost less than £100’ is correct rather than ‘it cost fewer than £100’.

I read a good tip on avoiding the fewer/less mistake.  Fewer indicates a smaller number.  Less indicates a smaller amount or little.  So next time you want to use less, try using little instead and see if it fits.  If it doesn’t then you should be using fewer. 

For example take the sentence about the shoppers. It’s a common mistake to write ‘there are less shoppers’ instead of fewer.  However, step back and try the sentence with little.  ‘There are little shoppers in town today’ sounds ridiculous… unless of course you’re in Lilliput.

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Proof of the Pudding

Katrin Hermanns Logo

“I would like to say thank you so much for your more than professional help regarding writing the text for my website.

I got so many excellent feedbacks from clients and friends showing me that your contributions on my website were one of my best investments.”
Katrin Hermanns – Personal Stylist

Oni

Being from the Netherlands it seems so easy to read, speak and write the English language. For everyday life I can pretty well manage, but to write text for an English website that is quite something else. Luckily I met Elaine, who took on the job of rewriting my English version of our website. Elaine has not only the skill of sensing the tone of voice we were looking for, but also knows how to write for the web. In other words: I am absolutely really happy and would definitely recommend Elaine to others.
Suzanne van den Ende - ONI

T.K.MAXX
“When I needed to find a copywriter fast to write a number of articles for our staff newsletter, Maxx Faxx, Elaine came highly recommended.

The deadline was looming but Elaine stepped in and quickly delivered what I wanted.  The tone of the newsletter is light-hearted and fun to reflect our brand.   She quickly understood the brief and gave me stories that got the message across in exactly the right language and tone for the audience.”  
Victoria Wright - PR Manager, TK Maxx

(The problem I had with all three of these projects was the resulting addiction.  I now want an image make-over, an ONI, AND I can’t stay out of TK Maxx.)

Recent work

Lost in translation
A couple of years ago a beautiful brochure dropped through our letter box. It was for a very stylish Italian furniture company and the design reflected their image perfectly. It was lovely and glossy, printed on very high quality paper and had gorgeous images on every page. However, the copy let it down badly.  It had been translated from Italian but didn’t read at all well.  In fact it had us rolling around laughing – not the response they wanted I’m sure. They had so obviously lavished budget on the design but had cut corners when it came to the words.

     

ONI
When Suzanne van den Ende wanted to launch her English website for ONI, her gorgeous new product, she didn’t want to fall into the same trap. So she asked me to rewrite the copy that had been translated from Dutch.  She wanted to make sure it read in good English without an accent.

ONI is a clip for attaching your handbag to tables in restaurants and cafes, keeping it safe and clean. And they are stunning. Take a look at them here (and the copy of course!)

  ONI CLip
     

The same principle applies to work that has been originated in English but doesn’t quite read as you want it to. Maybe it’s not quite punchy enough or perhaps the message isn’t as clear as you’d like.  Not everybody is comfortable with writing.  Not everyone enjoys it as much as I do (thank goodness!). That’s where my rewriting service comes in.

     

David Gee of Paper Contracts was concerned his website copy didn’t create the image he wanted and he asked me to take a look.  He wanted copy that made him sound approachable and friendly, but left potential clients with no doubts about his professionalism. 

Take a look at it here. The new site was designed by Bill Hunt who also designed mine.

“I came across Elaine’s website and was so impressed with the crisp, clean style that I knew I really had to get my own website rewritten! It was a pleasure working with Elaine: she picked up the tone and style I was looking for perfectly, and got things done when she said she would. The improvement in the copy on my website is immeasurable: Elaine’s work was great value for money. Five stars!”
David Gee – Paper Contracts

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  Paper Contracts Logo

Busting the Jargon

Are you leveraging a robust solution?
I’m going to poke fun unashamedly at all those who try to sound more important and intelligent by using ridiculous buzz words and phrases. It’s not big. It’s not clever.  It’s just silly. They rear their ugly heads in everything from internal reports and business letters to the direct mail that drops through our letter-boxes.

An article in today’s Telegraph (11/01/07) warns employers, ‘Drop jargon or lose trust’.  John Philpott, chief economist for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), claims that the growing use of management jargon has contributed to the high levels of distrust shown by staff towards their bosses.

He made the claims in his annual review:  “If HR wants to start to make an even bigger impact in 2007, the profession could do no better than to open up internal lines of communication and aim to kill off incomprehensible management-speak so as to get manager and employees talking sensibly together.”

He goes on to say that HR managers haven’t taken a stand on management-speak because many “feel the need to talk this language in order to be seen as important and keep up with senior management.”

An article in the latest issue of a respected HR magazine seems to prove him right on this point. The case study by a ‘Talent Manager’, who shall remain nameless, talks about getting the right people from the start. It begins “Mention induction and onboarding and often the first things that come to mind are the housekeeping…”etc.  Mmm.  Not the first thing that came to my mind when I tripped over the word onboarding.  Obviously thrilled with this awful transformation of adjective into verb, it crops up again a few paragraphs later, ”make sure you onboard the right people.” Recruit is sooooo last year.
 
The Telegraph article also features the top four ‘essential office buzz-words’ compiled from responses to a survey by Office Angels.  Get ready to hear more of these little beauties in 2007:

  • Thought grenade (explosive good ideas)
  • Let’s sunset that (bad ideas that are never mentioned again)
  • Little “r” me (a request for a private answer to an email)
  • Information touchpoint (they used to be called meetings but that’s just plain boring isn’t it?)

If using this kind of language can alienate your staff, just imagine what it could do to potential clients.

Please email me your ‘favourites’. The most original one I get before the next issue will get a copy of Carl Newbrook’s very amusing ‘ducks in a row – An A-Z of Offlish’ and I will publish it in the next issue.

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  Ducks ina row

The last word
This amusing item appeared in January’s Professional Manager magazine under the title A Bold Move.  Apparently, recruitment consultants, Kelly Services, recently sent out a press release titled ‘Apostrophe Catastrophe’. It’s a report about a survey of CVs received by them which found that out of 171 CVs examined, only eight were error free. (Are all the recruitment agencies doing surveys this month or what?)

Unfortunately, several paragraphs in came this shocker:
“A more encouraging 91% correctly managed to pick the correct form of the use of ‘I or ‘me’, but less than half managed to dodge the ‘split infinity trap’.  As Professional Manager puts it, ‘This gives a whole new meaning to that well-known Star Trek split infinitive: “To boldly go”.

It just shows the importance of getting your written stuff proofread by someone not involved in the project or even someone outside of your business.
 
It also makes me very nervous.  I’m well aware how vulnerable I am giving hints and tips to others on grammar and writing, not to mention sending out this newsletter.  And no, I won’t be giving a prize to anyone who spots a howler.

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Next issue:  5 March
To view more of my work please visit www.elaineswift.co.uk


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