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Why writing a blog post is (a bit) like writing a sermon

A hand, writing with a fountain penI was reading (yet) another mid-20th-century novel featuring a vicar hard at work over his Sunday sermon (sorry, I haven’t read a book featuring a female vicar, as far as I know. Are there any yet?) and an analogy struck me: writing a blog post is quite a lot like writing a sermon. As both involve constantly seeking fresh ways of looking at things, I thought I’d run with that idea and see where it took me, so here goes…. but please do read the comment at the bottom of the post if you’re at all concerned about this content …

10 reasons why writing a blog post is (a bit) like writing a sermon

If you commit to writing a blog, it’s a good idea to publish at least one post a week. When I was thinking about writing a batch of posts one day, it reminded me of vicars, from Jane Austen onwards, heading to their desk to write their weekly sermon. Here’s why, in particular.

1. You have to produce something new every week. If you said the same thing over and over again, people would soon get bored and drift away.

2. It’s good to base your text on a real-world problem. The best blog posts, in my opinion, are based on something real that’s happened, whether you’ve encountered a tricky problem using Word (that’s how my whole series of Word posts started), are reacting to something in the news or are sharing a story you’ve created.

3. You base your work on truth and you refer to the relevant authorities. A sermon will of course be based around a Bible reference. When I write about a topic, I will often include the real-life experience of others, or links to their work, or screen shots of what’s going on in a program. If I claim to state a fact, I try to provide a reference. If I’m responding to someone else, I include a link.

4. You need to add value and a learning point (or lesson, if we’re being straightforward). It’s all very well to talk about a real-world issue, but you need to draw something from it, a useful lesson, something to make it worthwhile reading the post.

5. You need to leave your audience thinking. They might have enjoyed your latest novel extract, know there’s now a place to get information on comment boxes or have learned more about DIY funerals (as I did myself earlier this week), but if they go away thinking, they’ll remember you next time.

6. You are often talking about things that have been talked about before. There’s not much new in the world, and it’s unlikely that any of us will produce anything totally new, but there are ways to find new ways to talk about things, as I might have done here!

7. You’re trying to help people! You might be entertaining, explaining, sharing a book, giving information on a technical matter, sharing your own experience of something, but I think most successful bloggers are in it to help people as well as pour out their souls or publicise their business.

8. You want people to come back. No one wants to drive readers (or worshippers) away, so you’re intending to encourage them to visit again, by providing well-crafted content that they want or need.

9. You are often trying to inspire people to take action in some way. Whether you’re encouraging people to try a new craft, read a new book or venture into running their own business, or trying to change their mind on a contentious topic, many blog posts aim to inspire.

10. Your best work is probably produced after pondering for a while rather than dashing it off in a blind panic at the last minute (as my old friend Paulette says, “more like a birth than a rupture!”). This is certainly true of many of mine, although the actual writing up may come a little close to the wire sometimes.

Do you agree? Can you add any other analogies? Do vicars have a day of writing sermons to get ahead of themselves? (seriously, I’d love to know!)

Thanks and disclaimer:

I checked this idea with a group of people who are more religious than me / regularly attend worship / are vicars / are related to or married to vicars and other people of the cloth (thank you to all of them, and particularly Paulette Stubbings for a valuable suggestion). They all thought it was a fun  /interesting / good idea. It’s not my intention to offend anyone, and if I do, please let me know, and why, and I’ll take that into consideration. I’m certainly not undermining the work of religious leaders or claiming that bloggers are the new priests or anything silly like that. Edited to add: I also understand that I am not empowered by any higher spirit or authority of any kind when writing, but I do have a serious intent in sharing information and helping people: not all blogs do that, but I’m primarily talking about myself and similar informational bloggers here.

To read more about blogging, visit the resource page

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2014 in Blogging, Writing

 

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How do I display my horizontal scroll bar in Word?

I was innocently using Word one day when I discovered that my horizontal scroll bar had disappeared. This was annoying, because I had a document open at the time at the side of another document, and wanted to navigate around it. Where had my scroll bar gone? This is how I got it back …

How do I display my horizontal scroll bar?

You do this in Word Options.

In Word 2007, click the Home button at the top left, and choose Word Options from the box that opens:

Accessing Word Options Word 2007

In Word 2010 and 2013 click on File at the top left and then Options

Accessing Word Options Word 2010 and 2013

 

Once you are in Word Options, go to Advanced options, then Display:

Word Options - advanced - display

Make sure that you tick Show horizontal scroll bar, and there you are:

horizontal scroll bar is displayed

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use – Word 2007, Word 2010 and Word 2013 all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Word should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!

This is part of my series on how to avoid time-consuming “short cuts” and use Word in the right way to maximise your time and improve the look of your documents. Find all the short cuts here

Related posts on this blog:

How do I display the rulers in Word?

How do I hide the taskbars in Word?

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2014 in proofreading, Short cuts, Word

 

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How do I tell Word not to spell-check certain paragraphs?

This topic came up after someone commented on one of my other Word-related posts: he had a document that included programming code and he wanted to exclude that from the spell check because a) it wasted time and b) when displaying spelling errors, the red wiggly lines distracted him. He had used an easy method to exclude these in Word 2003 (highlight, click spell check, tick “do not check spelling and grammar”) but had got stuck with Word 2010.

This article will tell you …

  • How to exclude text in your document from being spell checked
  • How to only spell check a particular section of your document

How do I tell Spell Check not to check particular paragraphs in Word 2003?

So, in Word 2003, Spell Check is on the toolbar and you can highlight the text you don’t want to check, click spell check and tick “do not check spelling and grammar”. it’s actually very similar in Word 2007, 2010 and 2013 – here’s my hint for the easiest and quickest way to do this.

How do I tell Spell Check not to check particular paragraphs in Word 2007, 2010 and 2013?

First of all, highlight the paragraph (or paragraphs, holding down the control key) that you want to exclude from Spell Check.

Then you have two ways of telling Word not to spell check these sections:

1. The quick way: click on the language at the bottom of your screen:

Select text to exclude from spell check

If the editing language is not showing at the bottom of the screen, left-click on the bottom tool bar and choose to display language. If that doesn’t work, see this post).

2. The official way: on the Review tab, select Language and then Set Proofing Language (note: don’t click on Spelling and Grammar, as that will spell check the highlighted text, exactly opposite to what you want to happen):

Word language setting

Both of these options will display the Language Selection dialogue box:

Language selection dialogue box

Once you have the language choices displaying, tick your language and tick “Do not check grammar and spelling“. That should mark all of the text you highlighted such that the spell checker avoids it. I hope that works for you and takes less than 5 minutes – do let me know!

How do I just spell check one paragraph or section of my document in Word?

Allied to this is the question of how you just check a particular part of your text. Here’s how:

Highlight the text you want to check.

Press the Spell Check button, which you can find in the Review tab:

Spell check one section of a document

Word will spell check only that highlighted paragraph (or word, if you so choose) and will helpfully ask you if you’d like to continue checking everything else:

Continue spell check?

I hope you’ve found these hints helpful! Do share or pop a comment on this post if I’ve helped you learn something new or solved a tricky problem for you, and do explore the rest of my blog if this is your first visit!

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use – Word 2007, Word 2010 and Word 2013 all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Word should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!

This is part of my series on how to avoid time-consuming “short cuts” and use Word in the right way to maximise your time and improve the look of your documents. Find all the short cuts here

Related posts on this blog:

How do I use Spell Check in Word 2007 and 2010?

How do I use Spell Check in Word 2013?

How do I change the editing language of my document?

Why do I need to use Spell Check if my work is being edited?

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2014 in proofreading, Short cuts, Word

 

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New book on networking, social media and social capital

Quick guide to networking, social media and social capitalI’m delighted to be able to announce that my new book, “Quick Guide to Networking, social Media and Social Capital” is out now and available to buy on Amazon and Smashwords as an e-book in all formats (for Kindle, Kobo, as a pdf …). Like my popular “Quick Guide to your Career in Transcription“, this contains the specific information – no filler, where there’s jargon, it’s explained – that you need to venture into networking, whether that’s face to face or through online services such as Twitter and Facebook. It pulls together material I’ve written and thought about on social media etiquette and building social capital … to help others as well as ourselves, and where I go into detail on particular topics, I provide links back to this blog for all of those screen shots and details that regular readers will be used to.

You can visit the book’s web page which lists all of the places you can buy it, and I have shared the first great reviews today, too.

I hope you enjoy reading about my new book and if you find it helpful or think one of your colleagues or friends would benefit from reading it, please let them know by sharing this post or the web page for “Quick Guide to Networking, Social Media and Social Capital“.

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2014 in Business, Ebooks, Social media, Writing

 

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My work is being proofread – why do I need to use Spell Check?

Spell check buttonI recently posted a how-to article about using Spell Check (well, one for Word 2007/2010 and one for Word 2013, actually). Today I want to talk about why you should use Spell Check, even if you’re using an editor or proofreader of the human variety to check your work.

Using Spell Check before you send your work to your editor

So, you’re using an editor to check your work: why on earth should you need to run a spell check first?

I’m not talking about going through your document with a big pile of style guides and dictionaries by your side. I’m talking about taking maybe half an hour to press the spell check button and go through your manuscript removing the obvious errors. You know, the ones where you spell it obvis errrors.

As an editor, it can get a bit frustrating when you’re picking away at typos (form for from, fried for friend) which are composed of ‘real’ words (which obviously a spell checker program won’t notice) and then you find a load of fromms or frends which a spell check would have eliminated. And here’s the thing: we’re human. If we’re concentrating on picking up your incorrect spellings and non-existent words, we’re less likely to be able to concentrate in detail on what we’re supposed to be doing: making your language express your thoughts and meaning as clearly as possible.

Yes, we can run a spell check for you, and if I spot more than the odd error that this would eliminate, I will do that myself. But it’s time-consuming. And that’s another thing: time-consuming. Some editors charge by the time spent, some by the word. I’m a charge-by-the-word woman myself, but if you’re paying for someone’s time, why pay them to do something you can do yourself?

So, there are two points to bear in mind here:

  1. If your work isn’t spell checked, your editor will be concentrating on those issues and less able to go deeper into their work
  2. If you’re paying by the hour, you’ll be paying extra needlessly

I have to add here that it can seem a little impolite, too, to not run a spell check before you send the manuscript in to your editor. A little bit as if you’re the creative person with the big ideas and you’re sending it off to the paid help who will sort out things you’re too important to do. I’m pretty sure that this is NOT the case for the majority of authors, but it’s always best to avoid that impression if at all possible. See the caveats below …

What if I don’t know whether spell check is correct?

That’s fine. We’re the experts, you’re the creative one. If you’re not sure of your spelling and which word is correct, you can always either leave a note in the margin or let us know you ran a spell check but you’re not sure of a few things. In fact, spell check itself isn’t always correct (see below). All I’m saying here is that the fewer avoidable mistakes there are in your manuscript, the better the job that I’m able to do for you.

Times when pre-spell-checking isn’t appropriate

I’m not a monster and I’m not inflexible – nor are the other editors I know. We’re a kind and helpful bunch. If you have issues with your spelling, dyslexia or any other special situations, of course we’re not going to reprimand you over issues in the spelling in your document. Also, if you’re using voice recognition software, I’m not actually sure how the spell-checker works in that situation (if someone who uses such software wants to comment, that will be very so useful and I’ll include your notes in an update).

However, it is important to let your editor know if you have any special issues like these. It will help us to do a better job for you, and perhaps even to explain our choices and changes in a way that’s easiest for you. Also, we can look out for particular artefacts that might arise in your manuscript because of the way in which you’ve written it (voice recognition software is notorious for inserting homophones into the texts it produces). As I said, we’re an understanding and helpful bunch, and we want to help you in the best way possible.

Using Spell Check when you’ve received your work back from your editor

No – I don’t mean right away! Well, if you find a load of legitimate errors  you might want to speak to your editor (although nobody’s perfect and no editor I know can do 100% perfect work: we’re human). But, most of the time, your manuscript is going to come back to you either in Word with Track Changes turned on or in an annotated PDF which you then need to update. In both of those cases, you doing the corrections can allow errors to creep in. It’s nobody’s fault, it’s just what happens.

I learned this the hard way when I received my last manuscript back from my editor. I accepted changed as I went along and did one final Accept all changes once I’d reviewed the document, but some oddities had crept in, especially in the spacing around punctuation. Luckily, I noticed in time, ran a quick spell check and got it all sorted out – but if someone who’s an editor herself can manage to introduce errors when dealing with her editor’s edits (sorry!), I’m going to assume that anyone can manage to do that!

Beware: Spell Check is not always right (gasp!)

There is a caveat here.

Much of English grammar is not totally prescriptive. There are often two ways of going about doing something, especially when you look at hyphenation and capitalisation. This means that when you’re spell-checking after the edit, you should bear in mind the style sheet that your editor’s sent you. If they’ve chosen a particular word form to make things consistent in your manuscript, I’d consider keeping it even if the automated spell check says it’s wrong (in its opinion). Microsoft software appears to use something called the “Microsoft Manual of Style“, but obviously if you’re working to a particular style guide such as Oxford or Chicago Manual of Style, they will over-ride Microsoft if there’s a clash. A classic example of this is “proofreader” – that’s the accepted way of writing the word in most of the major style guides, but Word Spell Check does like to change it to proof-reader. I’d kind of assume your editor knows how to (not) hyphenate that one, but do bear this in mind when you’re doing that final check.

Also, if you’re writing creatively, your editor might have left something in which is correct, but creative, while spell check (even without grammar check) might take issue with it. A classic example I find is spell check trying to change they’re to their, irrespective of the actual correct use of the word. So beware on grammar or word form choice issues like that – you can always check back with your editor or consult a style guide if you’re not sure.

This article has talked about why writers should use spell check even if they have an editor. If you’ve got an opinion on this, or a good reason NOT to use spell check, do please post a comment below! And if you’ve enjoyed this post or found it useful, please do share it using the share buttons!

Related posts on this blog:

Using Spell Check in Word 2007 and 2010

Using Spell Check in Word 2013

 

 
 

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How to avoid two common mistakes when using MailChimp

Mailchimp is a very popular program for sending newsletters – mainly because it’s free to use to send newsletters and other messages to up to 12,000 emails per month to up to 2,000 subscribers. I use it myself, as do the people who write quite a few of the newsletters I subscribe to. If you use MailChimp yourself, this post helps you to avoid two common mistakes that I see occurring very frequently (and if you don’t use it yourself, I bet you see at least one of these in the newsletters you subscribe to – feel free to share this post with their creators!).

What am I talking about?

Well, this is what you might see in your email box when you receive a newsletter:

MailChimp newsletter email with errors

Ignore the “[Test]” – that’s me sending test copies of my newsletter to myself for demonstration purposes. So, with email on preview mode, and then when you open the email:

Full MailChimp email with errors

… what can we see here?

  1. The email subject is simply “Newsletter”. Not that inviting.
  2. This is the biggie – there’s an odd bit of text in the preview that reads “Use this area to offer a short preview of your email’s content.”

How often have you seen the second point and been confused or even tutted slightly to yourself? (Note: as a kind editor, I avoid tutting. But I do smile wryly every time I see it and think, “I really MUST write a blog post about that one”).

How do these MailChimp mistakes come about?

I’m going to assume here that you know how to set up and send a MailChimp newsletter campaign, and just concentrate on eliminating these errors. If you need a step-by-step MailChimp walkthrough, let me know in the comments and I’ll put one together for you if enough people want it.

The boring email title error comes on the Campaign Info page:

MailChimp campaign info pageIf you set up your very first campaign with a title like this, it will carry on sending it like that forever, but this is editable. I’m not going to go into ideas for good subject lines here – first off, MailChimp obviously provides a link to some further information, as you can see from the screenshot, but I’d like to take a moment here to mention my client Nathan Littleton’s book, “Delivered“, which has masses of information on creating a good email marketing campaign, including lots of advice on subject lines (he’s not sponsoring this post: I edited this book and I got loads of ideas from it which I’ve implemented in my own newsletter, to good effect).

So, first things first: change that Email subject field to a good, interesting phrase and I’d like to bet that you’ll stop boring your subscriber list and get more opens.

The second one is the dreaded “Use this area … ” text. How does it get there?

Well, when you get to the Design screen in your campaign creation process, bits of helpful text automatically appear in your template to tell you what to do. And one of the bits of helpful text that always appears is this one, right in the top of the screen, and in ever such a small font so that you’re very likely not to see it:

Sample teaser text in MailChimp

And that’s where that text pulls from that displays in your recipients’ emails.

Whatever the design, it’s always up there. Your eye is of course drawn to the main body of the email – the nice picture, the lovingly crafted text you’re going to place into the template.

What do you need to do here? Simply click on that teaser text, just like you would to edit the main body of the newsletter, and you can enter whatever text you want to.

What should it look like?

Once you’ve given your newsletter a more dynamic subject line and eradicated that bit of pesky sample text, this is what your email recipients will see:

MailChimp errors corrected

I think you’ll agree that you’d be more likely to open that one .. and so will your newsletter recipients!

In this article I’ve shared how to avoid two common MailChimp newsletter errors. Please do use the sharing buttons below to share this with anyone who you think might find it useful – thank you!

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2014 in Business, Errors, Social media

 

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Happy fifth birthday, Libro!

Libro birthday cartoonI started working for myself (very much part time) in August 2009 – so now it’s Libro’s fifth birthday!

What am I doing to celebrate? Well …

I’m having a little party today over on the Libro Facebook page … including a draw to win a free Kiva loan

I’m making some loans to Kiva (see below) and donating one to someone else

I’m celebrating the relaunch of my two main business books, with their new titles and covers …

… And I’m launching my new website devoted entirely to the books I write, where people can find info, links, reviews and news in one place

I hope you’ll join me in celebrating Libro’s birthday by popping over to say hello on the Facebook page or by doing a Kiva loan yourselves.

Happy Birthday to me!

Quick update: the Kiva competition in now CLOSED. Alison Mead won the free loan and was sent a voucher. I started new loans to a man selling spare parts in Benin, a travelling salesman in Paraguay and a food stall in Bolivia. These were all people who friends of mine had already lent to.

Kiva is an organisation that facilitates loans to small businesses around the world, who traditionally find it hard to raise capital. You commit from $25 upwards, and you can choose by gender, country, industry sector and individuals within those areas. They then pay the loan back to you in small increments – you get an update email on repayments once a month and sometimes updates on the individual or group you’ve loaned to, if the organisation handling the loan provides them. Once the money’s paid back, you can reinvest it or withdraw it if you want to. I love helping people to help themselves in this way; it feels like I’m helping to make a difference to another small business somewhere far away from me.

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2014 in Business, Celebration, Ebooks

 

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