Four signs you’re talking down to customers

One way to demonstrate an understanding of your target customers is to find the right way to communicate with them. One potential misstep is talking down to customers. By communicating in a patronizing or condescending way, you give a sign that you’re out-of-touch with them. They might wind up turning away from the perceived insult.


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Ten Writing Nightmares

This Halloween, take a moment to consider the writing nightmares you’ve had or are afraid of experiencing. The following are ten.


1) Misspelling the name of the person you’re addressing in an email or cover letter.

2) Producing an embarrassing typo for a word like ‘batch,’ ‘feckless,’ or ‘public.’

3) Putting the finishing touches on a ten-page essay, only to re-read the essay question and realize you didn’t answer it.

4) Repeatedly misusing ‘matriculate,’ ‘genuflect,’ ‘obfuscate,’ or any other multi-syllabic word derived from Latin that was supposed to make you sound smart.

5) That brilliant manifesto/sonnet/one-act play you wrote last night? What it looks like the next morning.

6) Laboring on a 2500-word paper due in less than 24 hours and based on volumes of source material you didn’t read.

7) Forgetting to delete something from your first draft, such as a note you leave for yourself (“Need to fudge the data more”).

8) Basing the central argument of your article on a logical fallacy or on your misreading of another person’s work.

9) Running out of ideas.

10) Hitting publish on a blog post before it’s

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John Oliver Tackling Roger Goodell: A Lesson on Vague Language

If you watch the show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (or at least the segments of it posted on YouTube), you might have come across the following clip:

Roger Goodell, the Commissioner of the NFL, gave a press conference on how the NFL will handle domestic abuse incidents among its players.

However, this proved to be a waste of time, as Goodell avoided specifics. He made noble-sounding statements comprised of generalities.

On the one hand, this might have been a beneficial approach for him to take legally, as nothing could be pinned on him later on. However, even when being evasive for legal purposes, there are ways of sounding more substantive and less vague.

Vagueness inspires a number of negative reactions:

  • Contempt
  • Mockery
  • Disappointment
  • Lack of trust

And there’s a lesson here for your own writing. People crave information. If you’re writing or talking in circles, offering nothing they can hang onto, they will be less likely to trust you and your business.

When relevant, offer facts, statistics, or specific examples. Lay out your objectives in clear terms. Use concrete details. Even the kinds of words you choose can affect the perceived vagueness of your language (for example, saying “sort of” or “kind of” weakens the force of your text).

Have a good laugh at John Oliver’s video. But also remember it as a lesson on being less vague in your speech and writing.

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26 reasons you won’t be finishing your to-do list

Finishing your to-do list might not be easy. Here are 26 reasons why:

1) You’re experiencing serious doubts about your abilities and effectiveness.

2) Somewhere, there’s a Law & Order: SVU marathon.

3) You keep adding to the list as the day goes on.

4) There are pins to pin and tweets to tweet.

5) Writing the to-do list has given you enough of a sense of accomplishment.

6) You’ve come down with the flu. Or something flu-ish.

7) There’s a new episode of Orange Is the New Black, Game of Thrones, Top Bitch-Slapping Housewife Chefs of Bravo, etc. or an old episode of Law & Order that you sort of forgot the ending to.

8) Writing the to-do list has exhausted you.

9) You’ve begun to wonder if anything you do matters.

10) You’ve misplaced your to-do list, perhaps intentionally.

11) You didn’t get started on your to-do list until the afternoon, and by that point it already seemed too late in the day to start being productive, so you gave up.

12) Your to-do list was written with the assumption that you don’t need to eat, sleep, or go to the bathroom.

13) You look forward to berating yourself at the end of the day for not living up to your own standards.

14) Nothing on your to-do list is remotely enjoyable.

15) You never delegate to anyone.

16) You can’t bring yourself to say ‘no’ to anyone.

17) Your to-do list was written with the assumption that you’re more intelligent, strong, efficient, and/or persistent than you actually are.

18) It’s important that you commit at least one act of self-sabotage a day.

19) You’re frequently in the grip of a delicious daydream.

20) You often stop to smell the roses, inhale the magnolia blossoms, caress the daffodils, fondle the forsythias…

21) You will fail – you fear it, you know it, you can’t bear to see it happen.

22) Everything you do needs to be perfect, nothing short of perfect.

23) Your cat naps last three or more hours.

24) Your kids, spouse, relatives, romantic partner, not-so-romantic partner, friends, neighbors, pets, teachers, students, employers, colleagues, irate customers suck time out of your day like nobody’s business.

25) You’re on hold with a credit card company or Internet Service Provider.

26) You keep a to-do list but question the need for finishing it. As long as you get to the important stuff, that’s all that matters. And if you don’t get to the important stuff, well, there’s always tomorrow. (You hope.)

Do any of these sound familiar?

– Hila

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Relying on powerful writing to rebuild your business reputation

Has your business recently experienced a setback? Have you lost the trust of your customers? Large companies ranging from Target to JP Morgan have had sensitive data stolen by hackers. Businesses may also suffer a loss of customer trust when an employee behaves in an appalling way or there’s a defect in one of the products.

Powerful writing is essential for improving your reputation and restoring customer confidence. The way you communicate should be clear and honest, setting the right tone and not coming across as vague or insincere.

What are some of the things you’ll need to do after your reputation has taken a hit?

  • Explaining what went wrong and apologizing for it.
  • Describing what you’ve learned.
  • Stating what you’ll do to fix the problem and improve the situation.
  • Providing updates on progress.
  • Sharing positive news about your company (you’ll need some good press).

To rebuild your business reputation, you’ll need to write up:

  • Press releases.
  • Emails.
  • Content for Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.
  • Blog posts.
  • Articles.

Don’t discount the importance of clear, powerful writing when working to rebuild your business reputation. Mistakes in communication will only further the impression that your business is unreliable and not deserving of trust.

– Hila

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Where do you lie with lay and lie?

When Bob Dylan sings “Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed,” his lyrics are ungrammatical. But aside from a handful of people who take perverse joy in pointing these things out, no one cares. After all, he’s Bob Dylan and has artistic license on his side. Also, many people don’t understand the difference between ‘lay’ and ‘lie’ anyway.

What about you? Do you know the difference? Unless you’re a famous singer-songwriter or are writing dialogue (in speech people mix up ‘lay’ and ‘lie’ a lot, so it’s more forgivable), you need to know the difference. Because even though some people won’t notice, to others you’ll look less professional. Getting it right is just one more way of looking like you know what you’re doing, especially when you’re writing for a reputable publication in your field.

I came across a handy chart on this random Tumblr blog that shows the difference between ‘lay’ and ‘lie.’

Lay vs. Lie

Still confused? Lay aside your worries and lie down for a nice, long nap while a professional writer handles these things for you.

– Hila

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Write What You Know?

When you’re advised to “write what you know,” it’s not so much an absolute rule as a word of caution. Whether you’re crafting the copy for an ad or writing a short story, it’s crucial to have self-awareness when using the voice of characters who come from a background quite different than yours.

This funny Onion advice column from a couple of years back highlights the point beautifully: Ask An Elderly Black Woman As Depicted By A Sophomore Creative Writing Major.

Look over what you’ve written. Have others look it over. Does it sound authentic? Or is it, beyond all hope, cringeworthy and fake?

– Hila

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Are you using credible Internet sources in your writing?

Abe Lincoln's advice :)

The Internet contains a wealth of information on virtually every topic. Whether or not that information is accurate is another matter.

You may be searching for different sources to improve the credibility of your business website or strengthen a point you’re making in an article. How can you increase your chances of using credible Internet sources?

The following are some points to consider:


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