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Oxford Comma Makes the News: Lawsuit Hinges on Comma Usage (Or Lack Thereof)

“For want of a comma, we have this case.” That was the first line of Circuit Judge David J. Barron’s opinion on a case hinging upon the use – or lack thereof – of a comma. That’s right: The Oxford comma is at the center of a $10 million overtime lawsuit in Maine. More specifically, the class action case, O’Connor v. Oakhurst Dairy, involves a class of truck drivers who argue that because of how a state statute is written, they are not among a group of workers exempt from overtime wages. The statute lacks an Oxford comma when listing workers who do not get overtime, leading to the confusion and subsequent lawsuit. For those who don’t know, the Oxford comma (sometimes called the serial comma) is the comma after the second to last item in a list of three or more items. It goes before the “and” or “or” that precedes the final item in the list. For example: I bought milk, bananas, and bread. The comma after “bananas” is the Oxford comma. Here’s how Maine Revised Statutes §664(3) lists workers not entitled to overtime: The overtime provision of this section does not apply to: F. The canning, processing, Read more…

The Copy Corner: How to Give Your Readers What They Want

Giving your readers what they want comes down to asking two simple questions: Did you answer the question or address the topic right away? Did you anticipate follow-up questions? If you can answer “yes” to both questions, you’re well on your way to delivering content that meets your readers’ expectations. Did you answer the question or address the topic right away? Some writers and other content creators ease into the topic with needless banter, tangibly-related facts, or tertiary information rather than simply answering the question or directly addressing the topic. Aim to answer the question within the first 100 words or your readers might leave. If your content is answering a question, I suggest forgoing a lengthy introduction and simply answering the question. For example, imagine your topic is: Can I sue the other driver in a no-fault state? You don’t need to start your content with, “One thousand people are injured in accidents each year…” Instead, you can simply say, “Yes, depending on the circumstances, you can sue the other driver after an accident in a no-fault state.” Answering the question first and putting the most important information at the top of your content is called the inverted pyramid. Read more…

The Copy Corner: How can you keep your writing professional & approachable?

Managing to keep your writing professional while appealing to a large audience is one of the most difficult feats in content writing. Here are a few tips: Consider Your Target Audience Once you determine your target audience, think about casting a wider net. Casting a wider net can allow you to reach an entirely new group of customers. Consider your audience and then any related groups that could benefit from the information you’re sharing. Pro-tip: Consider what words you’d use if you were having a face-to-face conversation with a member of your target audience. Talk in the manner you would in a conversation with one of your audience members. Avoid Slang Nothing will manage to make your writing less professional and less relatable than using slang. You might get lucky and only scare off one group (people who don’t use slang); if you’re unlucky, you’ll scare off both those who don’t use slang and those who do. Slang is ever-changing and chances are it’ll be outdated by the time your content publishes, which can date you and your content.   Pro-tip: Also be sure to avoid industry jargon. While it’s professional, you’ll likely end up alienating anyone who isn’t in Read more…

The Copy Corner: Keep Your Content Concise

There’s nothing worse than spending precious time writing content only to lose readers because you’re long-winded. So don’t let that happen. Keep your content concise and keep your readers coming back for more. How can I keep my content concise? Remove Run-on Sentences A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece about run-on sentences and how to fix them. Just removing those sentences will make your content flow better. Pro-tip: Read your sentences aloud. Are you out of breath by the end? If so, rewrite it. If I find myself pausing too many times for commas or semicolons, I always rewrite my sentences. Eliminate Unnecessary Words Using unnecessary words is a bad habit many of us picked up in high school or college. You need an extra 50 words to meet the word count for your essay so you change to to in order to. Or you say something like, The reason is because… Most people don’t realize it, but, The reason is because is redundant. The reason is and because mean the same thing. In order to is the same thing as to. Eliminating that can make your content more concise too. You might not realize it, but it Read more…

SEO Ranking Factors in 2017

  Are you focusing on the right things to boost your website’s position in the search rankings? Constants like on-page SEO, user experience, and your backlink profile still play big roles. But the introduction of RankBrain, growth of voice search, and the ubiquitousness of mobile search add important elements to an effective SEO strategy. So, what matters this year? Here’s a list of some of the most important SEO ranking factors for 2017: Meta Tags On-Page SEO Keyword Relevance & Intent Mobile Friendliness Backlink Profile Robots Directive, Crawl Efficiency & Search Indexation Site Speed Broken Links Content Efficiency Image Optimization Local Citation and Tagging Language Markup HTTP Status Codes Near Ranking Opportunities       Meta Tags Meta tags refer to code that describe the content on a web page. But you don’t see meta tags on the web page itself. Some of the most important meta tags for SEO are: Title tag: This is the title of your page as far as the search engine is concerned, but it doesn’t appear on the web page itself. It appears at the top of the browser and may appear in the search results as the title of the page. Meta description: Read more…

The Copy Corner: Guide to Using Acronyms

Acronyms make your sentences easier to read and increase the flow of your sentences. After all, who wants to read “the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration” 10 times? Instead, you can simply write “Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)” on first reference and then refer to it as the FMCSA from then on. Here are a few tricks to ensure acronyms are working for your content not against it. Always Write the Full Name First This is important. Even if it’s an acronym that you think everyone knows (e.g., CIA, FBI) write out the name first. And remember to place the acronym in parenthesis after the first reference, e.g., Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Without the acronym in parentheses directly after the word, your readers may know what you’re referring to later. This is especially true when you might be referring to various things. For example, lawyers often discuss the Social Security Administration, Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability, and Social Security Disability Insurance together. Now if I said SSA, you could probably figure out that I meant the Social Security Administration, but what if I said SSD? Am I referring to Social Security Disability or Social Security Disability Insurance? Again, Read more…

The Copy Corner: Identifying Run-on Sentences and How to Fix Them

Much of the time, we write how we speak. Sometimes, that can make your content more accessible. Other times, especially when writing this way leads to run-on sentences, it can interrupt the flow of your content and confuse readers. Run-on sentences can be difficult to identify, but your content depends on it. What is a run-on sentence? You create a run-on sentence when you join two or more independent clauses without proper punctuation. It can occur when a writer misuses punctuation or neglects it entirely. For example: Last night I went to the grocery store I got milk, eggs, bread, and cinnamon. It’s pretty obvious that what I’ve written is two different sentences. But what if the run-on sentence is less obvious? Consider the following: Last night, I went to the grocery store to get milk, eggs, bread, and cinnamon to make French toast Sunday for my friends who are staying over Saturday night. This one isn’t as obvious although you can tell that it goes on for too long. The best way to determine whether your sentence is too long is to read it aloud. If you’re out of breath by the time you’ve finished speaking, your sentence is Read more…

Creating an Information-Rich Website Your Visitors Will Love

We Do Web Content helps clients create a website and search experience that provides users with the information they need and are searching for. Resource websites in particular provide an intense and comprehensive educational experience. Creating resource websites requires a combination of keyword and competitor research, content development, good design, and search engine optimization to accomplish all of this. Two good examples of these websites are Drug411.com and BurnVictimsResource.org, both websites with which We Do Web Content has worked. Drug411.com Drug411.com is a resource for anybody interested in learning about prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and medical devices. It reviews the uses and other important information about some of the most common medications on the market. It also provides information about complications associated with drugs and medical devices, citing reliable academic studies or FDA warnings where appropriate, helping those who experience complications better understand their side effects. The website shares information about legal options for those whose injuries are the result of a defective drug or medical device; such information is vital to those dealing with the medical, emotional, and financial effects of drug-related injuries. BurnVictimsResource.org BurnVictimsResource.org is a resource for burn injury patients and their families. It contains information about Read more…

The Copy Corner: Mind Your Puns and Quips

In the right context, puns may make your content more relatable (we all have that friend who drops bad puns) and attention-grabbing (for better or worse, some puns stick out). However, make sure you aren’t making a pun — intentional or not — that could offend (and lose) readers. What puns could offend readers? It’s just a harmless pun. I didn’t even mean to make it. No one will be offended, right? Think again. Consider the following: No one would give a second thought to reading the phrase “beating charges” on a page about criminal defense. Except you need to consider the context. Saying “beating drug charges” isn’t offensive, but consider when the context is child abuse or spousal violence. Here’s another example: “When a family member is severely injured, surviving family members are often left to pick up the pieces.” Nothing wrong with saying that, right? Well consider if the family member’s injury was an amputation. Always consider how your words go together. Is there anything else I should keep an eye out for? You might also want to consider how you portray certain people (e.g., gender, national origin, etc.). For example, if you write about car accidents and Read more…

The Copy Corner: What are fragments and why are they so bad?

A full sentence consists of both a subject and a verb. It must also convey a complete thought: “I went to the store because we needed milk,” is a full sentence. I is the subject and went is the verb. It also expresses a complete thought. You likely use fragments dozens of times a day. For example, when you send a text or leave a note on the fridge, do you write, “I went to the store,” or do you write, “Went to the store, needed milk”? Unless you’re a stickler for grammar, you probably leave off a subject. And even if you are a stickler for grammar, you still might. I’m a definite stickler for grammar and I use fragments all day in casual conversations, text messages, and when taking notes. Sentences Without Subjects While the notes and texts I send are often fragments because there is no subject, it is possible to write a complete sentence without a visible subject (as long as it has a verb). Consider the shortest sentence in the English language: Go. Even though it’s one word with no visible subject, it’s a full sentence. How can this be? Well, the verb is go Read more…