GrammarPhile Blog

How to Make B2B Writing More Compelling Part 4

Posted by Sara Richmond   Apr 20, 2023 10:30:00 AM

Focus on the Benefits of the Benefits

 Nine-and-a-half years ago, I made a batch of crêpes. More accurately, I attempted to make a batch of crêpes (don’t you just love that little caret symbol — circumflex accent — above the “e”? I know I don’t need to use it, but I’m writing this on a morose Monday and wanted the encouragement).

Crêpes are delicate things. You can’t slap them in the pan like bacon. They mustn’t be jostled. The pan must have a precise coating of butter or oil, so they don’t stick or become greasy, thin pancakes. They require gentle folding and lifting onto a plate. Frankly, I recommend you only speak in murmurs while you’re eating crêpes and apologize to them beforehand for the offense of being chewed.

I am the human opposite of a crêpe — a graceless, dirt-covered stampede on a white carpet — so you understand the peril of this story from the start. I was also eight months pregnant with my second child. My days consisted of throwing up, not sleeping, more throwing up, feeling tired, attempting to care for a household and another child, and struggling to stand in the shower. Each torturous day melted into the next. I felt like a gelatinous lump of uselessness.

So I decided to make crêpes. It was, in a word, disastrous. I improperly oiled the pan. I set the heat too high. I turned the crêpe too quickly. Three sorry attempts in, I lost it. I scraped the disgusting flop of a fake-pancake out of the pan and threw it on the kitchen floor, then burst into tears.

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Topics: business writing, B2B Writing

How to Make B2B Writing More Compelling Part 3

Posted by Sara Richmond   Apr 6, 2023 10:00:00 AM

Be Unprofessional

There was a time when women couldn’t show their ankles in public. When people used the term “limbs” instead of “legs” for propriety’s sake. When men had to grow their beards out to cover their manly thighs (limbs, my apologies), lest the ladies lost their cool.

I made the last one up, but the point stands. We’ve left those and many other goofy social mores behind. Most people would say we’re the better for it. But we’ve replaced them with silly ones of today — including in B2B writing.

This is the era of blandness. Of same-old, same-old. Of robotic voices and stilted, highfalutin language.

Why Professionalism Has Ruined B2B Writing

Why does this abnormally bad norm persist? Because we’re consumed with the desire to sound “professional.” We equate “professional” with a limited slice of language. We believe the foremost way to establish ourselves as experts, as believable, as the “real deal,” is to write like a lawyer with an alphabet behind her name.

In the middle of this desperation to be taken seriously, we lose sight of the bondage our “professionalism” creates. It is the epitome of playing it safe: no personality, no memorable, distinguishable voice, and no relatability.

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How to Make B2B Writing More Compelling Part 2

Posted by Sara Richmond   Mar 23, 2023 10:00:00 AM

Drop the Jargon

B2B writing is famous for its obsession with the “right” words. Industry speak. Impressive-sounding sentences or taglines like “Quantum. Game-changing. Advantages.” Phrases like “…at the intersection of…” (lawyers seem to be in love with that last one).

Unfortunately, the “right” words — the ones that appeal to everybody on the inside, those that are “on brand,” and get stuffed into every crevice of B2B content — are overused buzz words we all love to hate. Jargon.

Jargony B2B messaging is like green Jell-O: The mere sight of it scares off most of the audience. For those desperate few with strong stomachs, they’re left squinting through a quivering haze of words. The message may come in a fancy Bundt shape, but it gets left on the dinner table along with the fruitcake (the food embodiment of cold outreach emails).

If this blog post went through the standard B2B content process, there’d be 12 rounds of edits between 29 stakeholders, converging on the inclusion of the words “innovative” and “state of the art” and a desire to be “punchy” without the risk of sounding interesting. Every bit of personality, every reach toward humanity, every smidge of humor and relatability would be replaced by sentences like,

“Our innovative, cutting-edge technology enables you to leverage your assets for maximized synergy and groundbreaking process elasticity.”

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Topics: jargon, using jargon

How to Make B2B Writing More Compelling Part 1

Posted by Sara Richmond   Mar 9, 2023 10:30:00 AM

 

Show, Don’t Tell

I could tell you that spell check is a lousy editor because of its significant limitations. Maybe you’d believe me. Maybe you’d ignore me because that first sentence was boring. Maybe you’d roll your eyes and say, “Lady, you write for a proofreading company; of course you want to rag on spell check.”

The better thing for me to do is to tell you a teeny tiny story.

One of our most seasoned proofreaders, a woman we’ll call Lisa (because her name is Lisa), was reviewing a document last week. We always run spell check first (it’s sort of like throwing down the gauntlet and then beating the heck out of our inferior opponent). Spell check flagged “prepregnancy” and suggested a helpful alternative. “Consider: ‘prepreg Nancy’.”

First, I’ve laughed heartily over this no less than twelve times. Every time I read it, I start up again. When Lisa told me, I resisted the impulse to roll around on the floor like a horse and neigh-laugh. Second, are you kidding me? A human proofreader could be working on two hours of sleep and the maximum dose of Benadryl and do better than that.

And now that I’ve tickled your funny bone (aka your humerus), I’ll get to the real point, which I’ve also just illustrated.

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Topics: writing guidelines, b2b writing help

How to Get the Most Out of Professional Proofreading

Posted by Sara Richmond   Feb 23, 2023 10:30:00 AM

Yes, you could proofread your own work. But you know that’s as risky as making a Muppet (specifically, Beaker) foreman of a logging camp. It could work out. But it’s far more likely to result in a meme-worthy disaster or another Muppet movie. Neither the world nor you needs more suffering.

If you understand the value of proofreading, then the next steps are finding a good proofreader and maximizing the benefits of professional proofreading. The latter is a little like getting the last bit of shampoo out of the bottle; not everybody does it, but the value adds up over time.

For the sake of clarity: The bottle is the document, not the proofreader. Please don’t squeeze or attempt to squeeze proofreaders. We will squeal, angrily.

That said, here are five ways to get the most of professional proofreading:

1. Find a good proofreader. This sounds basic enough to be offensive, but it can be a daunting task. For everyone who hasn’t huffed and puffed and skipped to number two, we’ve listed six things to look for. This is not an exhaustive list, but you can be sure that professional proofreaders will share the following core characteristics:

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Topics: professional proofreading

You’re a Better Writer Than You Think

Posted by Sara Richmond   Feb 9, 2023 10:00:00 AM

Why “I’m Not a Writer” Probably Isn’t True

“I’m not a writer.” If I had a dollar for every time someone said this to me, I could buy three or four deluxe burritos.

Sure, some people have a knack for writing. Other people write like a screeching violin, from whom we want to hide all the pens, pencils, and paper. But there are many more people who occupy a solid middle ground. They’re also using “I can’t write” as something of a shield.

Why People Say “I Can’t Write”

The people who are saying “I can’t write” often mean other things that are harder to admit:

  • If they set the bar low, there’s less of a chance you’ll criticize their writing. Writing is a little like prancing around naked on a stage while the audience grades you, so I understand this strategy.
  • Their “inability” to write well is posed as a permanent state; there’s no changing it. So there’s no need to try to overcome it. Problem solved and buried.
  • They actually don’t believe they can’t write worth a darn. Writing intimidates and overwhelms the heck out of them. They’d like it if you’d change the subject. (I do, just not in this blog post.)
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Topics: writing tips, writing, creative writing

Which vs. That: The Rules

Posted by Sara Richmond   Jan 19, 2023 10:00:00 AM

“Which” and “that” are sneaky little fellows. They’re both used to refer to places, things, and animals, but they’re not interchangeable. In fact, most people use them incorrectly without even realizing it.

That is a big bummer, which I now intend to remedy.

This three-minute grammar lesson will solve the puzzle of “which” versus “that” for good.

When to Use That

“That” is used to introduce (or begin) essential clauses.

After reading that sentence, you’re probably sad, because “essential clauses” sounds like something to do with Christmas presents, but you’re pretty sure it doesn’t since this is a grammar blog. So you’re stuck even deeper in the mud of ignorance. Without presents.

In that case, let me pull you out and give you the gift of knowledge.

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Topics: this versus that

6 Common Punctuation Mistakes That Drive Us Crazy

Posted by Sara Richmond   Jan 5, 2023 8:00:00 AM

Everyone everywhere is talking about goals and expectations for the new year. We’re all being bombarded online with inspirational fluff and hustle culture exhortations and lists of predictions for every industry and every aspect of life.

Well, we like to stand out. Not just for the quality of our proofreading and copyediting work, but for our unique approach to a new year. Today, instead of being fueled by resolutions with a half-life of 17 seconds or lofty aspirations for the perfect physique, how about being driven by rage? Good old-fashioned disgust centered around punctuation mistakes that make you want to throw a baby tantrum and toss dirty dishes out the kitchen window. We’ll go first.

In no particular order, here are six common punctuation mistakes that drive us crazy:

1. The “You don’t need an apostrophe, for the love!” apostrophe, also known as the grocer’s apostrophe, also known as the “Am I using a plural word? Then I’ll slap an apostrophe on to cover all my bases” apostrophe. For example:

-Avocado’s on sale! Buy two for the price of a little less than two.
-His coin’s are jingling like tiny flat bells.
-The Smythe’s live here.
-I know so many teachers’ who are sad winter break is over.

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Topics: punctuation, apostrophes

Why We’re Largely Ignoring AI-Generated Writing

Posted by Sara Richmond   Dec 22, 2022 10:15:00 AM

 

If you haven’t heard the news that AI is positioned to kick all human writers to the curb after scoffing at their turtle-like slowness, then you may be living under a rock (and for that, we salute you).

Every Tom, Mick, and Sherry is writing an opinion piece, post, or pop song about the recently released ChatGPT, a chatbot with the tagline “Optimizing Language Models for Dialogue.” It claims to be able to “answer follow-up questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests.”

It’s certainly not the first AI-writing generator, and it won’t be the last. So what’s different? Why the hoopla and apocalyptic predictions?

In a sentence: Because compared to many of its predecessors and peers, ChatGPT produces intelligible, lightning-fast writing, even based on loose prompts. Poor human writing (the kind content mills produce) doesn’t stand a chance.

That’s exactly why we’re not concerned about AI-writing or writers’ jobs (or ours). We deal in quality—the intuitive, agile, creative kind that machines will never be able to fully emulate.

When it comes down to it, we can’t even agree with the delivery promise of AI-writing: quick, adaptable, readable writing. It’s like giving a candle as a housewarming gift to an intimate old friend. It checks the box, but there’s no rapport, no true depth, and no personalization. (This analogy doesn’t even tackle the moral ambiguity of how AI-generated copy sources material without accreditation.)

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Topics: artificial intelligence, AI

5 Reasons Grammar Is Important

Posted by Sara Richmond   Dec 8, 2022 10:29:00 AM

If you search for “why is grammar important,” Google returns 854,000,000 results.

In other words, people aren’t convinced grammar matters. Sometimes that’s because grammar was taught to them in a tedious, soul-sucking way (endless sentence diagrams, anyone?). Sometimes they feel overwhelmed by all the “rules,” so they give up. Sometimes they just don’t see the point. Does good grammar really matter?

We think so. We’ve been grammar experts for more than 20 years, and our team’s collective experience totals in the hundreds of years. But we’ll try to lay aside our huge bias and give you a fair analysis.

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Topics: grammar

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