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The Copy Corner: How to Keep Your Readers Interested

I’m a skimmer. That means if I can’t find the information I need quickly, I won’t be on your page long. Unless you keep me interested. When I’m interested in an article or a book, I will read for hours. I’ll sit there and read a 10-page article on my phone as long as the content piques my interest and keeps it. You want your readers to want to turn that next page. So how do you do it? Make your content unique. Even if your article is similar in content to others, present it in a different way. Make a table or a bullet list or an infographic. Writing about what to do after an accident? Give your readers a step-by-step list of everything they need to do. Need to lay down a lot of statistics? Create a table. Writing about the legal malpractice claims process and need a way to present it in a way that doesn’t involve paragraph after paragraph of text? Make it an infographic! Most of these things take little to no time at all and make your content so much more interesting. Keep your sentences and your paragraphs short. There a few things I’d Read more…

The Truth about Legal Directories

In our recent webinar, Jason Hennesey and I review the top legal directories and show you how to research and negotiate with the directories courting you for your business. Using tools like SEMRUSH we show you how to reverse engineer the value of each page and keyword you are targeting on the directories. Watch the live training video to learn more. Are you using any of the top legal directories? AVVO, Lawyers.com, FindLaw? Would you benefit from a free consultation and audit of your SEO strategy? Register for a free 45 minute SEO audit by clicking here.  

The Copy Corner: Did you know that reading makes you a better writer?

Stephen King once wrote, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” I couldn’t agree with him more. And it’s not just one man’s (and one woman’s) opinion. A study by professors at University of California, Berkeley proves that reading has a favorable effect on cognitive skills and vocabulary. And I have some ideas on how that happens or, at the very least, how it happened for me. Have you ever come across a word in a book and not known what it meant? (Many times.) Did you look it up? (Every time.) Did you then try to use it in conversation or writing? (Definitely, with mixed results.) How else does reading affect your writing? It shows you different writing styles. Reading different types of content, or content from different types of mediums, exposes you to different writing styles. For example, reading Game of Thrones is different than reading an article in The New York Times; reading The American Journal of Medicine is different than reading The Tell-Tale Heart. Even reading different publications across the same medium can expose you to different styles. The New York Times, for Read more…

The Copy Corner: Are you writing for your medium?

Over the years, I’ve written hundreds of papers, articles, columns, and blogs. And one thing I’ve become well aware of is that you need to consider your medium before you begin writing. What’s a medium and why does it matter? A medium is the platform you use to deliver your message, e.g., newspaper, blog, research paper. Some people write just to write and never consider how to format their work to fit the medium. For example, in my 16-17 years of schooling, I wrote dozens of research papers and was taught to write those papers in the five-paragraph, eight-sentences-per-paragraph model. And while that works in some instances, contorting your work to fit this model doesn’t always work. Sometimes you need more paragraphs and sentences, sometimes fewer. This may be true when writing a legal document or an article for a website or newspaper. For example, legal documents often have long sentences or paragraphs because they often contain a lot of very dense information. And those reading these documents often want or need the detailed legal discussion. This isn’t a universal truth, but it’s generally accepted that legal papers may contain longer, more complex sentences and paragraphs. But website content may Read more…

The Copy Corner: How many of these misused and misspelled words and phrases did you know?

One great, but also quite frustrating, part of the English language is how often it changes and adapts. We see this often in what we call mondegreens, eggcorns, and malapropisms. A mondegreen is a misheard phrase or lyric. E.g., “Reverend Blue Jeans” instead of Neil Diamond’s “Forever in Blue Jeans” or “Hold me closer, Tony Danza” instead of “Hold me closer, tiny dancer,” from Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” An eggcorn is a misheard phrase that still maintains its original, intended meaning. E.g., Doggy-dog world instead of dog-eat-dog world. A malapropism is a substitution of a similar sounding word that creates a nonsensical meaning. E.g., “He preceded through the intersection,” instead of proceeded. Here are some other common misheard and misused words and phrases: Hone In This is one that isn’t very well known and chances are you, like me, were using the “incorrect” version all these years. Many people use hone in when they should be using home in. However, hone in isn’t just incorrect; it actually means something totally different. While the definition of home in is to direct your focus toward a target (i.e, a missile homes in on a target), the definition of hone is to sharpen Read more…

The Copy Corner: Writing Resources for All Writers

A lot of writers and editors have a treasure trove of resources they refer to daily. We decided we’d like to share some resources we use and that our friends use. We hope they’ll help you. The Elements of Style The Elements of Style by E.B. White and William Strunk Jr. is arguably the most helpful of all resources. This little wonder can answer pretty much any question you have about usage, grammar, form, and composition. The Book on Writing Paula LaRocque’s The Book on Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well will teach you how to structure sentences and paragraphs to really make your writing flow. On Writing Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft gives writers advice on taking writing and life seriously, interspersed with stories of what inspires King and changed his life. The Little Red Writing Book The Little Red Writing Book by Brandon Royal has tips for writers on the four pillars of writing: structure, style, readability, and grammar. ChompChomp.com ChompChomp.com has tutorials, exercises, courses, tips, and rules on all the grammar rules you can think of. The Purdue Online Writing Lab The Purdue Online Writing Lab has tips for all writing styles Read more…

The Copy Corner: Is a person a who or a that?

This grammar “rule” has a lot of people on the fence. Some people think you should always use who when referring to a person, while others believe using that is just fine. The “rule” is that you use that to refer to an inanimate object, while you use who to refer to a person. I try to use who whenever possible, but sometimes that sounds better, although it is often simply your preference. Consider the following: My brother met the woman that he is going to marry. My brother met the woman whom he is going to marry. In this situation, I think that looks and sounds better, but if you’d rather use who or whom, go for it. Does it matter? It does matter if your field requires you to use a certain form. For example, the American Psychological Association requires the use of who for people (both proper nouns and common nouns) and the use of that for objects and “nonhuman animals.” The doctor who prescribed the medication was liable for malpractice. The rats that ran through the maze received cheese. You can choose whether to use who or that with common nouns, but in almost every case, Read more…

The Copy Corner: How do I know when to use which or that?

Let’s get into some true grammar nerd stuff this week: which vs. that. This can be tricky at first, but it’s not so bad once you get the hang of it. But first, let’s go over restrictive vs. nonrestrictive clauses. You’ll see why a little later. A nonrestrictive clause is a part of the sentence that you can get rid of because it’s not integral to its meaning, whereas you have to keep a restrictive clause because it is integral to the meaning. Restrictive Clause: I lost the ring that my husband gave me. Nonrestrictive Clause: My ring, which my husband gave me, fell off when I went on the roller coaster. The restrictive clause gives you information that you need to make sense of the sentence. Without the restrictive clause, you’d simply be saying, “I lost the ring,” which would make most people wonder, “What ring?” So in this case “that my husband gave me,” provides a key detail. The nonrestrictive clause gives you information that is not essential to the meaning of the sentence, which is why it is separated with commas. Even though the clause “which my husband gave me” adds information, it isn’t essential. The essential Read more…

The Copy Corner: How Many Exclamation Points is Too Many?

We’ve all been there — sitting in front of our computers typing out an email to a boss or professor wondering, “Did I use too many exclamation points? Should I even use an exclamation point here?” A lot comes down to stylistic preference, but I like to ask these questions when deciding whether I should use an exclamation point: What is the context? Is it good news? Am I trying to convey excitement or outrage? Is it necessary to convey the right emotion or tone? Will it be distracting? Punctuation serves an important role in communication, so consider your message and whether it’s worth using an exclamation point. Let’s look at a couple examples using two iconic television characters: Elaine Benes from Seinfeld and Dwight Schrute from The Office. Elaine & Dwight Misuse Exclamation Points In the season 5 episode of Seinfeld, “The Sniffing Accountant,” Elaine is bothered by her boyfriend’s failure to use an exclamation point in a note he jotted down about her friend having a baby. Elaine: Well, I mean if one of your close friends had a baby and I left you a message about it, I would use an exclamation point. Jake: Well, maybe I Read more…

The Copy Corner: What is a Dangling Modifier?

Chances are you’ve heard of a dangling or misplaced modifier, likely during high school English class. But if you’re like a lot of people, you’ve completely forgotten about them. And that’s okay. Here’s a brief overview: Essentially, a dangling modifier is a modifier that has an unclear or missing subject. And a misplaced modifier is one whose subject is unclear because of where the modifier is placed in relation to its intended subject. Now let’s get into the details… What is a modifier? A modifier simply gives the reader more information about its subject. Without a care in the world, John walked down the street. “Without a care in the world,” is describing John’s state of mind. Susan ate a plate of hot spaghetti. “Hot” is describing the temperature of the spaghetti. Problems arise when it is unclear what subject a modifier is modifying. Dangling Modifiers A dangling modifier has no apparent subject to modify. For example: Incorrect: Upon waking at 7 a.m., my head began to hurt. This example can be confusing because it sounds as if my head woke at 7 a.m. You can correct it by changing the sentence to read: Correct: My head began hurting when Read more…