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Archive for June, 2012

Use widows and orphans to tighten copy

 :: Posted by Ambre on 06-29-2012

A widow is when a heading shows up at the bottom of a column or page and the copy that goes along with it begins the next column or page. In text-heavy materials, the simplest fix is to page break or force it to the top of the next column, but often you leave a hole. That’s where you have to get creative with design. If you have a great design team, then your job is easy. “Hey designer dude, I don’t like this. Fix it.” And voila! It’s fixed.

But what if you’re going it alone? Here’s where sidebars, pull quotes and even graphics, if you have any, come in handy. In Microsoft Word, you can move text boxes around by dragging and dropping. Or you can “nudge” them by holding the control key with one hand and directing them with the arrow keys with the other. Use text boxes strategically to help break up wordy documents and to highlight important points. And remember that, even the slightest movement can shuffle whole columns. Play with them a bit. You want them on the right page, but they can help you move copy.

An orphan is the last word of a paragraph that doesn’t fit on the previous line, and therefore, stands alone as the last line. Learn to have an eye for orphans. If you’re trying to squeeze a letter onto a single page, or you’re four-page brochure is becoming five pages, curing the orphans can do the trick.

I notice in the corporate world that designers will find ways to squeeze those orphans into the line above it by playing with the margins, the leading, moving callout boxes or graphics as with widows — by any number of visual fixes. But I like to take a different approach.

I use orphans as a way to tighten my writing. If one word doesn’t fit, then I revise the sentence to pull it up. It isn’t hard to find an extraneous word, or replace two words with a single, more powerful word. This is an opportunity to clean up your writing and a great exercise for all writers. But tell the designer to show them to you before they mess with the margins. Your readers will thank you for the tighter writing.

Caution: When you’re working in a manuscript that will be moved to another format or typeset into brochure, worry about the widows and orphans after the move.

Author: Jeanette Juryea

Writing the fine print

 :: Posted by Jeanette on 06-28-2012

Fine print is everywhere and in every form. We tend to ignore it and yet, it’s some of the most important content in the document. Unfortunately, it’s usually lawyers who write it. And when a lawyer hands over the copy, most writers take it and run, believing it to be completely and totally untouchable.

 

That’s not true. Lawyers are not taught to think about the reader. They are only taught how to protect the company. They tend to write in passive voice, use your own company name in the third person and add so many extra words and redundancies just to drive the point home in a court of law. Of course, the reader then needs to hire his own lawyer to make sense of it. How fair is that?

 

So here’s my two cents on writing (or editing) fine print.

 

There are two sources of fine print:

The government makes companies disclose certain things to protect the consumer.

Other fine print is the stuff the company’s lawyer makes you add to prevent lawsuits.

 

Examples:

  • The true identity of the company – We are the same company that was in that big class action lawsuit last year; we just renamed the company to fool you.
  • The contents of the package – This product contains poison.
  • Information to prevent confusion – This dental discount program is not an insurance product.
  • Warnings to prevent harm – The use of this product may cause your immediate death.
  • Warranties or responsibility for defects – If your kid drop kicks this computer and bounces it around the yard like a basketball, don’t come crying to us.

 

Your industry may require certain disclosures and disclaimers. And you’ll find that they add up. I’ve seen beautiful brochures that do a fine job of selling a product, only to have the reader do a complete 180 when he sees the mess of fine print on the back. It’s scary and it negates all the work done by the clever marketing writer.

 

3 TIPS FOR WRITING FINE PRINT

Insert in body copy where appropriate

If it’s not too long, try massaging the kernel of the disclaimer right into the body copy. It will show your reader you’re being honest right up front, and you won’t have all that fine print on the back cover.

 

Make it easy to understand

Write fine print using the same voice and tone that you used to write the body copy. If the body copy is at a seventh-grade reading level, your fine print should be too. Why should one be easy to understand and the other impossible? Fine print is meant to protect consumers, not endanger them. If the buyer can’t understand the warning, then what’s the point? If YOU don’t understand the message, ask a lawyer for help, translate it in your own mind and rewrite it so YOU can understand it. Always remember to have your lawyer approve the final version.

[Did you notice how I put a disclaimer in body copy just now? I can't be responsible for you making changes without getting your lawyer to approve!]

 

Push back!

Don’t ever feel you have to plug-n-play copy just because a lawyer handed it to you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “I can’t change it. It’s legally required.”  No, it’s not. If you can’t understand it, then rewrite it. And, of course, have your lawyer approve your change. You might get a few more edits back, but this usually works. DO NOT ask a lawyer to rewrite it. You’ll never get it back on time. You rewrite and ask the lawyer to approve.

If it’s a regulatory disclosure, lawyers tend to hand over the language exactly as it reads in the regulation. They may even say, “This is regulatory. Don’t change it.”  Here again, NOT TRUE (usually). Most regulations allow for wordsmithing as long as the meaning is “of similar import.” Challenge the lawyer to show you the actual legislative text that says “use these exact words.” (And do make him show it to you so you can see for yourself!) Lawyers understand the concept of evidence, so this usually does the trick for me. I win the argument almost every time.

 

JJ

Use Trademarks and Brand Names as Adjectives

 :: Posted by Ambre on 06-27-2012

Here are a few guidelines for mentioning brand names:

Always use trademarked names as adjectives – not nouns. Sure, the goal of a brand name is to become so recognizable that people mistake it for a generic noun. But the catch-22 is — if that happens, you could lose your trademark.  Here are a few examples:

Incorrect:

This jello is jiggly.

Put a bandaid on that cut.

Use a kleenex instead of your sleeve.

Correct:

This Jell-O® gelatin is jiggly.

Put a Band-Aid® bandage on that cut.

Use a Kleenex® tissue instead of your sleeve.

Add the appropriate general noun after the brand name to make it an adjective. Remember, adjectives describe the noun.  What kind of bandage? A Band-Aid® bandage as opposed to a Rite Aid® Bandage.

It doesn’t always have to be the same term. You could say “my 3-year-old’s Jell-O® wall paint” or “genuine Kleenex® wrapping paper”.

Once is enough

You don’t have to add the symbol each and every time you say the brand name.  You can repeat the symbol periodically in longer documents, but for a standard flyer or brochure, one symbol at first reference is enough.

Represent other company brands accurately

It’s important to put the public on notice of your own company’s trademarks, but, you may not be obligated to display the mark for someone else’s brand names. Check with your legal advisor if you have questions about whether or not to add the symbol. However, even if you don’t use the symbol, you do need to spell it accurately.  Don’t write “jello”. It’s “Jell-O”.  If I’m mentioning another company’s brand, I will check their website to make sure I’m spelling accurately — and to see which symbol they use (SM, TM or ®.)

A logo is not a trade name

Don’t confuse a logo with a trade name.  Just because you might see Kleenex® on the tissue box with a symbol doesn’t mean it’s incorrect.  If the logo is registered, it will carry the symbol.  You still have to use it as an adjective in the sentence.

Company names cannot be trademarked

Never apply a trademark symbol to a corporate name. It’s okay in a shortened trade name version of the corporate name, but if “Inc.”, “Corporation” or “Company” is present, then leave the symbol off.

Remember, I’m an editor, not a lawyer.  If you’re not sure how or if something should be represented, ask your legal advisor.

Author: Jeanette Juryea

FAQ about writing FAQs

 :: Posted by Jeanette on 06-26-2012

Personally, I see FAQs as the sign of a lazy writer. Here’s why.

General questions about FAQs

Q. What is an FAQ?

A. Lately, it seems most FAQs have become a dumping ground for random information, forced into a set of questions and answers because the writer lacked the creativity to put the content into a more useful format — like a flyer or article (or in some cases, a glossary). The result is a list of questions that have never been asked even once, let alone frequently.

Q. Where did FAQs come from?

A. Once upon a time, companies got smart about handling repeated questions. It started with phone calls. Companies needed a way to handle 80% of the work with 20% of the effort. Thus, telephone operator sorting systems were created. Instead of callers reaching an operator, who screened the questions and connected callers to the appropriate business department, callers would instead get: Press 1 for this department, Press 2 for that department, and so on. Only “all other calls” were sent to the operator for sorting. This is still a common FAQ practice today.

Once websites became widespread, FAQs were a similar response to common questions — handling 80% of the questions with 20% of the effort.  As a standard, websites included FAQ pages to help site visitors find their answers.  Eventually, websites evolved with better navigation. But, by that time, it was too late. FAQs had become a habit.

My opinion of FAQs

Q. What is your opinion of FAQs?

A. My opinion? I’m glad you asked (so frequently). I believe FAQs are highly over-rated and sorely abused. They are a weak format for providing useful (and often not-so-useful) information to an assumed audience. Show me an FAQ and I’ll show you a lazy writer (except this one, which was done facetiously).

Q. Why are FAQs the sign of a lazy writer?

A. As a corporate editor, I have seen hundreds, if not thousands, of FAQs. Almost every time, I am able to take the random topics and organize a more informative — and better organized — flyer out of the content. It only takes a little bit more effort to construct a flyer instead of an FAQ. I think anyone who deliberately writes an FAQ isn’t aiming high enough for quality or craftsmanship.

Besides, questions make poor headers. Engage your readers by stating simplified answers in your headlines, instead of asking the questions.

Public demand for FAQs

Q. What if my client demands an FAQ?

A. This has happened to me, too, so I do understand. As a writer, we can’t always be short-order cooks. Sometimes we need to be nutritionists. Show your client a better way. Effective organization and good use of headers and subheads in a flyer or brochure will take care of it. In many cases, the brochures and flyers are already done. Just show your client that all the same information is on the flyer so you don’t need the FAQ. If it’s not already in a flyer or brochure, then show them how it can be.

If your client still insists on an FAQ, and you really don’t want to refuse the job, then make it a useful FAQ. Do this by grouping similar topics and creating some kind of flow to the piece.

Q. Why do website templates have FAQ pages built right into them?

A. I suspect Web developers merely think FAQs are important because no one has told them otherwise. They are responding to old habits. Yes, it’s possible they are also responding to the number of hits that FAQ pages get, but hits to a page do not tell you WHY a site visitor went there. And that reason could merely be habit. Perhaps they couldn’t find what they wanted in a more obvious place. Just because a developer built an FAQ page in a website doesn’t make it useful or correct. Think about all the correctly spelled words Microsoft underlines with a red squiggle (cowriter, for one). That doesn’t mean it’s spelled wrong. It just means no one has informed the technical geeks at Microsoft that the word should not need a hyphen.

If you have a well-organized website, you shouldn’t need an FAQ page. The same is true with flyers and brochures. If you DO need an FAQ, what does that tell you? It tells me your readers didn’t understand your primary communication. I’d fix that first before creating a list of questions and answers.

Useful FAQs vs. Poor FAQs

Q. What is a useful FAQ?

A. You are reading an example of how to structure a useful FAQ.

  • A useful FAQ is one that contains ONLY five to eight questions.
  • A useful FAQ groups the questions into categories and separates them with a subhead so readers can scan and easily find the information they need.
  • A useful FAQ limits the question to a single line and puts the keyword of the question near the beginning so the reader can decipher the topic quickly.

Q. What is a poor FAQ

  • A poor FAQ has long-winded questions, no organization, no grouping and includes too many questions.
  • A poor FAQ includes questions that no one ever asked — statements that were forced into questions because you couldn’t think of a more clever way of getting the information out there
  • A poor FAQ may even include questions that actually have been asked — frequently. If customers really do have so many questions about a particular topic, wouldn’t it be better to fix the problem that’s causing the questions rather than to simply post the answer in a list of other questions? In this case, it might not be the writer who’s lazy. It could be the product engineer or program designer. FAQs may be an alert that the product is confusing. Consider the kernel of the question and think what you can change to prompt fewer questions.

Author: Jeanette Juryea

Use active voice in your writing

 :: Posted by Ambre on 06-14-2012

Passive vs. Active Writing

I see quite a bit of passive writing in my editorial life and I will change it to active voice every time. Even though passive writing may be grammatically correct, it can create more questions than it answers and comes across as unprofessional.

Passive writing is:

Wishy-Washy

You are being sent this letter to advise you that your account has been suspended due to funds being overdrawn. Once a deposit is made, and a positive balance restored, the suspension will be lifted and the account will be active.

This sounds like the writer is afraid to admit that he’s the one who took the action or that he’s avoiding conflict with the recipient of the news.  It does not sound authoritative.

Vague

A claim occurs whenever a preauthorization as required by the plan, a referral from a participating provider as required by the plan or a request for payment for services or treatment is received.  Claim forms are generally not required.  However, if a bill is generated for covered benefits, the bill must be forwarded promptly.  The Member identification number must be clearly marked.

Can you tell who is the audience in this passage?  Is the reader an insurance underwriter? A patient? The doctor?

Confusing

The Stop button must be pushed before the box can be placed on the conveyor belt. The override key should be utilized if the box weighs more than twenty-five pounds.

Passive instructions leave all parties wondering whose job it is to do what – especially in procedures that involve more than one person.

Although not the only method, you can usually spot a passive sentence simply by the presence of a form of “be” (be, being, been.)  Generally, if an inanimate object is doing the action, then it’s a passive sentence:

  • Account has been suspended
  • Funds have been overdrawn
  • Claim forms are not required
  • Bill can be sent
  • Button must be pushed.

On the other hand, if you specify who performs each action, your sentences become active:

  • We have suspended you account
  • You have overdrawn your funds
  • We do not require claim forms
  • You can send the bill
  • The machinist must push the button.

Look over your own writing to see how you’re doing.  If you find passive sentences, try rewriting them to see how much clearer you can make the message.

Author: Jeanette Juryea

Plain language: The government is on board. Are you?

 :: Posted by Ambre on 06-12-2012

Ever try to read a government-issued form or letter and wonder how they expect anyone to understand what it says? Government communications are some of the most important documents the average person may receive. Not understanding the documents could bring dire consequences depending on the nature of the communication.

The Plain Language Action and Information Network (PLAIN) is a group of federal employees who support the use of plain language when writing for the government. It’s not a new thing, however. PLAIN has been around since 1994. Despite how long the network has been in existence, PLAIN continues to fight the good fight and make government communications easier to stomach.

These government employees are volunteers who are passionate about bringing plain language to the masses. They have designed an easy-to-use website that teaches writers to use clear language in all communications. The website offers tips, guidelines and even before- and after-examples of government publications.

Here’s an example from the website*:

Before

Investigators at the contractor will review the facts in your case and decide the most appropriate course of action. The first step taken with most Medicare health care providers is to reeducate them about Medicare regulations and policies. If the practice continues, the contractor may conduct special audits of the providers’ medical records. Often, the contractor recovers overpayments to health care providers this way. If there is sufficient evidence to show that the provider is consistently violating Medicare policies, the contractor will document the violations and ask the Office of the Inspector General to prosecute the case. This can lead to expulsion from the Medicare program, civil monetary penalties, and imprisonment.

After

We will take two steps to look at this matter: We will find out if it was an error or fraud.

We will let you know the result.

*PLAIN, www.plainlanguage.gov/examples/before_after/medicarefraudltr.cfm, accessed June 12, 2012.

 

Using plain language is a no-brainer!

Even the most educated person needs to give his or her brain a break once in a while. Too often, however, it is the under-educated who have to decode the meaning of many government communications. The folks involved with PLAIN see this, and they continue to push for legislation that requires clarity in government-issued communications.

In 2010, President Obama signed the Plain Writing Act of 2010. The law requires federal agencies to use plain language in all communications. In 2011, President Obama signed an Executive Order that further elaborated on the federal government’s use of plain language.

With legislation like this, the government is setting a standard for other businesses to follow suit. After all, if your audience — your customers — don’t understand your message, they won’t follow through.

We applaud you PLAIN. Keep up the good work!

By: Ambre Amole


No Virginia, they’re not dummying down the English language.

 :: Posted by Jeanette on 06-11-2012

I had a — shall we say — lively conversation last week with a friend who disagrees with writing business communications on a middle-school reading level. “They’re dummying down the English language!” he protested. In the end we agreed to disagree. But here’s my take on the subject.

All throughout history, parents have complained about today’s youth (in whatever terms “today” meant to them.) From Romans to Renaissance to Right Wing Republicans, the younger generation and its wild ways always scares the older generation. Yet, throughout history, generation after generation, youth grew up to have the same complaint about the next generation.

My point is that the beat goes on. It’s the same with the way we talk and write. Every generation introduces new words and phrases and simpler sentence structures. And I’ll bet every generation thought the previous was dummying down their language.

Consider these passages from writers over time. Notice the evolution of terms as well as sentence structure.

William Shakespeare (1606, MacBeth)

(Grade level 11.9 after updating the spelling)

For brave Macbeth—well he deserves that name—
Disdaining fortune, with his brandish’d steel,
Which smoked with bloody execution,
Like valour’s minion carved out his passage
Till he faced the slave;
Which ne’er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him,
Till he unseam’d him from the nave to the chaps,
And fix’d his head upon our battlements.

Shakespeare

 

 

 

 

 

 

Benjamin Franklin (1733, Poor Richard)

(Grade level 8 after updating the spelling – Notice this is 3 sentences!)

I might in this place attempt to gain thy Favour, by declaring that I write Almanacks with no other View than that of the publick Good; but in this I should not be sincere; and Men are now a-days too wise to be deceiv’d by Pretences how specious soever. The plain Truth of the Matter is, I am excessive poor, and my Wife, good Woman, is, I tell her, excessive proud; she cannot bear, she says, to sit spinning in her Shift of Tow, while I do nothing but gaze at the Stars; and has threatned more than once to burn all my Books and Rattling-Traps (as she calls my Instruments) if I do not make some profitable Use of them for the good of my Family. The Printer has offer’d me some considerable share of the Profits, and I have thus begun to comply with my Dame’s desire.

Nathaniel Hawthorne: (1850, The Scarlet Letter)

(Grade level 12 after updating the spelling)

The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue and happiness they might originally project, have invariably recognized it among their earliest practical necessities to allot a portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery, and another portion as the site of a prison. In accordance with this rule it may safely be assumed that the forefathers of Boston had built the first prison-house somewhere in the Vicinity of Cornhill, almost as seasonably as they marked out the first burial-ground, on Isaac Johnson’s lot, and round about his grave, which subsequently became the nucleus of all the congregated sepulchers in the old churchyard of King’s Chapel. Certain it is that, some fifteen or twenty years after the settlement of the town, the wooden jail was already marked with weather-stains and other indications of age, which gave a yet darker aspect to its beetle-browed and gloomy front. The rust on the ponderous iron-work of its oaken door looked more antique than anything else in the New World.

Ernest Hemingway: (1952, The Old Man and the Sea)

(Grade level 10.2 with no changes.)

He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. In the first forty days a boy had been with him. But after forty days without a fish the boy’s parents had told him that the old man was now definitely and finally salao, which is the worst form of unlucky, and the boy had gone at their orders in another boat which caught three good fish the first week. It made the boy sad to see the old man come in each day with his skiff empty and he always went down to help him carry either the coiled lines or the gaff and harpoon and the sail that was furled around the mast. The sail was patched with flour sacks and, furled, it looked like the flag of permanent defeat.

Stephen King: (1996 The Green Mile)

(Grade level 9)

I presided over seventy-eight executions during my time at Cold Mountain (that’s one figure I’ve never been confused about; I’ll remember it on my deathbed), and I think that, for most of those men, the truth of what was happening to them finally hit all the way home when their ankles were being damped to the stout oak of “Old Sparky’s” legs. The realization came then (you would see it rising in their eyes, a kind of cold dismay) that their own legs had finished their careers. The blood still ran in them, the muscles were still strong, but they were finished, all the same; they were never going to walk another country mile or dance with a girl at a barn-raising. Old Sparky’s clients came to a knowledge of their deaths from the ankles up. There was a black silk bag that went over their heads after they had finished their rambling and mostly disjointed last remarks. It was supposed to be for them, but I always thought it was really for us, to keep us from seeing the awful tide of dismay in their eyes as they realized they were going to die with their knees bent.

If the spoken language evolves, so must the written language.

As you can see above, creative prose keeps up with spoken language. Business writing should too.  Why write a business letter that your audience needs to decipher? They wouldn’t. They’d be more likely to drop it in the circular file than read it. How would they know what to do? What would you gain from that?

You can be formal without using stilted (and acrchaic) words like “utilize,” “via” or “in accordance with.” Just say what you mean, and you’ll get the result you want. Even doctors, lawyers and rocket scientists need an easy beach read now and then. Simple gets results.

 Here’s a sentence that I actually edited in a letter recently (Grade level 12):

A member shall be entitled to the medically necessary covered benefits as specified in accordance with the terms and conditions of the Certificate of Coverage, which you will receive after enrollment in the plan.

I changed it to this (Grade level 6.7):

After you enroll, we will mail to you the details of your covered benefits.

I know I removed the point about medical necessity. But this is a letter – not a contract. And I knew that point was already made in the “details” to come. There was no reason saying it in a simple welcome letter. I retained the bottom line, which is “you’ll get the specifics of your covered benefits after you enroll.”

After all my changes to this particular letter, I was able to reduce a two-page stilted and confusing letter to a single, easy-to-understand page, which saved some serious bucks at the printer and post office. That’s not dummying down anything. That’s just smart business!

To hyphen or not to hyphen

 :: Posted by Ambre on 06-07-2012

Yes! My evil plot to confuse my clients is working. Sometimes I hyphenate words like toll-free, mail-order and tax-free. And sometimes I don’t. Am I crazy? Did I skip my coffee this morning? Did I get up on the wrong side of the bed? No. I think not.

As if grammar isn’t tough enough, the fact is sometimes it’s appropriate to hyphenate such words and sometimes it isn’t. But, this one’s not as hard as you think. Here’s the rule: (Are you ready for this?)

When used as an adjective, you hyphenate. When you don’t use it as an adjective, don’t hyphenate it. For example, if you say “Call us toll free at the number below,” you don’t hyphenate because “toll free” is not used as an adjective. But, if you say, “Call us at the toll-free number below,” you hyphenate because you’ve used it as an adjective to modify the noun “number.” Get it?

Here are some general hyphenation rules to remember:

Do hyphen:

  • Compound words

Examples: self-impose; able-bodied; African-American

  • Word modifiers when used before the noun (adjective form)

Examples: mail-order service; tax-free dollars; 30-day period; toll-free number; up-to-date immunizations

  • When prefix ends with same letter that suffix begins

Examples: pre-enrollment; anti-inflammatory; post-traumatic; non-negotiated

  • When suffix is a proper noun

Examples: pre-Columbian; anti-American

Note: In headlines and titles, capitalize the word after a hyphen. For example, A Guide to Choosing Long-Term Convalescence.

Do NOT hyphen:

  • Word modifiers when used after the noun or similar phrases when not used as an adjective

Examples: (Compare with word modifiers’ bullet above) delivered by mail order; dollars are tax free; period of 30 days; call us toll free; immunizations are up to date

  • Do not use hyphens with two- or three-word modifiers when the first word of the modifier ends in –ly. For example, wholly owned subsidiary.
  • When prefix ends with a different letter than suffix begins

Examples: pretax; coauthor; nonparticipating; postpartum

Now go forth and hyphenate! (Or don’t.)

Written by Jeanette Juryea

Enough about you! What about me?

 :: Posted by Ambre on 06-06-2012

Hi. I’m writing today about our super-cool new product that our researchers spent years investigating and we spent a bazillion bucks developing so we can have it available in our wonderful stores in time for us to save the world. That’s right — every time you buy one, we’ll donate mucho bucks to our favorite charity. Plus — our product, which comes in 37 flavors, is environmentally friendly and made with energy-saving methods. We feel this is the best product on the market today. We’re sending this money-saving coupon to try our product and the enclosed survey so you can tell us how much you love our product!

Had enough? Does this make you want to buy — or vomit? Does this writer need a time out? Unless you’re writing a press release or annual report, your readers don’t give a hoot about your company, your employees or your development efforts — and they’d care a lot more about saving the world if they felt involved.

Before you make this mistake, ask yourself “What’s in it for the reader?” Make it about them — not you. This works with any business communication (letters, ads, brochures, e-mails, etc.) where you expect the reader to act (buy, call, reply, recommend, etc.)

Let’s say your company is launching a new drill that really does promise to save the world, and the purpose of your communication is to get your reader to buy one.

Now think about your customer. What’s in it for him? Did your customer wake up this morning and say, “I don’t have a drill. I think I’ll go buy one”? Doubtful. He’s probably working on a project that requires a hole — or a bunch of screws to be screwed in, and a drill sure would make it a lot easier. He opens the paper and sees “blah, blah, blah” about your company and your development efforts and your altruism. But that’s not going to help him make a hole. He never even notices your 20% off coupon.

Then he turns the page and sees your competitor’s ad saying Precision Drills Finish your project in half the time.  “Hmmm, I can get the job done right and still have time to watch the game tonight. Great!” And he rushes off to buy your competitor’s drill at full cost — and the world population ceases to exist because your environmentally safe product didn’t get noticed. [Minor dramatic exaggeration.]

Okay, so what could you have done differently? Maybe you really had a good point about saving the world. Just make it about the reader. Don’t say “we,” “us,” “our.”  Say “you” or “your.”

Build a cabinet — Save a life. For less! That’s right — your project just may save lives when you use the new Enviro-Drill. You won’t be emitting invisible drill gasses into the atmosphere any more. Plus, when you buy an Enviro-Drill, four dollars of your money goes to fight other poisonous emissions in the world. So go ahead, buy several. Get one for your wife and each of your friends. The more you buy, the more lives you save! Here’s a 20% off coupon to get you started.

(Sign me up! I want one of these.)

Written by Jeanette Juryea

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