Our Best Words Blog

Hypercorrection is a common phenomenon. It occurs when someone deliberately tries to avoid making an error in the use of language by overcompensating. As a result, that person is making another error in grammar or style.

The classic example of hypercorrection is the use of “you and I” when “you and me” would actually be correct.

The rule, which is drilled into us from early childhood, is never to use the word “me” in the subject of a sentence. A sentence such as: “You and me are friends” is therefore a no-no. Since this rule was so thoroughly hammered into our heads, many of us still feel uncomfortable about using a construction such as “you and me” anywhere in a sentence.

As a result, a proper sentence such as: “The inheritance will be split between you and me” just does not sound good. When someone mistakenly states: “The inheritance will be split between you and I”, he or she is hypercorrecting.

Another well-worn example of hypercorrection is substituting “whom” for “who” in a sentence like “I need to call my wife, who I know is going to be upset.” Since the rules for using “who” and “whom” are rather tricky and unintuitive, most people will opt for the option that sounds most pretentious.

As a general rule of thumb: it is really OK to start a sentence with “but” or “and”.

Furthermore, please feel free to split infinitives. Your English teacher might be upset, but just keep in mind: language is a tool for communication; and not some lofty scientific goal in itself!

When doing business on an international level, as most technical writers do, it is important to study the culture of the audience you are writing for. Not only do different cultures have different ways of doing the same thing, but it is also common for the same thing to mean different things in different cultures – and not always in a good way!

Take Coca-Cola as an example, when moving into the Chinese market, Coca-Cola branded itself with a word which sounded like ‘Coca-Cola’, but translated as ‘bite the wax tadpole’ or ‘female horse stuffed with wax’, depending on the dialect. When this was pointed out to them, they withdrew their thousands of printed signs, and after studying 40,000 Chinese characters, came up with the more positive ‘happiness in the mouth’ – also phonetically similar to ‘Coca-Cola’, but infinitely more appropriate!

While cultural differences are more pronounced when also dealing with language differences, one should still be aware of them when dealing with different dialects of the same language. Imagine the confusion when American negotiators proposed to ‘table’ a motion, meaning to discuss the motion; their British counterparts understood that they wanted to ‘table’ the motion – to dismiss it. While misunderstandings can be cleared up face-to-face, it is not as easy when dealing with printed documents.

So, when writing technical or marketing documentation it is vital to research the culture of the people you’re writing for, and probably a good idea to find someone from that culture to proofread for you.

Coca-Cola photo courtesy of popsop.com,

clip_image002E-mail cold calling still works. If done correctly, it can be a highly effective marketing tool. However, the email must be compelling. Writing such an email is not easy.

Here are some tips on composing a good email:

1. Make each email personal.
Decisions makers want to receive an email that is tailored them. Generic emails with a standard offer are ignored. Explain why you sent the email in the first place (e.g., following an exhibition or a one-on-one meeting) and describe your offer as a one-time great opportunity especially for them. This is even more important when the decision maker is referred to you and you were therefore not in direct contact yet. Make sure to tie in the decision maker’s issues, concerns, problems or challenges.

2. Make it legit.
With the current strict regulations concerning unsolicited emails, any email you send as part of an email campaign must have an opt-out. Explain how you got the email details of the decision maker (e.g., after downloading a white paper, registered to receive your newsletter). Make the opt-out as user-friendly as possible; avoid asking for the reason.

3. Keep it short and to the point.
According to researchers, you have less than 20 seconds to capture the reader’s attention. This means that the first three lines (including the header!) are crucial. Once readers lose interest, they will delete your email – forever. If the email is to the point, chances are higher that there will be a follow-up.

4. Make it non-spam and readable in preview.

Decision makers are busy. They have spam filters to avoid their inbox from clogging up. The subject line of your email must explain in a concise way what the email is about. “Great Offer” and “Free Trial” are terms that immediately alert spam filters. Decision makers also scan their inbox in preview mode. The first paragraph of your email must entice the reader to open the email and read it in full.

5. Talk to your reader.

You want the reader to be in touch with you. This can be asking a question, a request for more information, downloading a white paper, an invitation for webinar or subscribing to your newsletter.

(Image courtesy of paythetroops.org)

clip_image001Ever heard of the Ebbinghaus Effect? Quite likely not. However, Ebbinghaus Curve of Forgetting is an essential tool whenever you are developing integrated marketing strategies or want to create messages with impact.

In order to know how effective your strategy or message will be, you need to understand the implications of the Ebbinghaus Curve of Forgetting.

Hermann Ebbinghaus received his doctor of philosophy degree in Germany in 1873 at the age of 23. While teaching at the University of Berlin, he pioneered research about human memory. In 1885, he published “Ebbinghaus’ Curve of Forgetting” showing that a given piece of learning is forgotten by more than half its audience in one hour. The share of the audience that retains the message is reduced to 33.7 percent after one day, to 27.8 percent after two days, and to 21.1 percent after 31 days.

Percentages apart, this fundamental research is the basis for two concepts that make marketing communications more focused, efficient and effective.

The first concept is reach and frequency.
In order to create awareness of a brand, you need a combination of reach (who is our target audience) and frequency (how often does your target audience need to be exposed to the same message).

But there are two major restraining factors: time and budget.
It takes a few weeks (for a known product) or months (for a new product) to stay on the radar of the target audience. Supporting a strategic mix of media requires a substantial budget with no ironclad guarantee of success.

The second concept is integrated messaging.
If the publications are perceived as different, the memory stores it as new messages of different products or brands each time. As a result, the marketer starts from scratch which each medium.

How can marketers avoid the Ebbinghaus Effect? By implementing an integrated marketing and communications campaign:

1) Define target audience
2) Carefully formulate the message
3) Choose appropriate media communications channel(s)
4) Communicate the message with sufficient frequency
5) Make sure to integrate the look, feel and messaging of all communications
6) Work within time and budget restrains
7) Use strong stimuli to support the recollection of the message
8 ) Check the short and long term recollection of the message

Done successfully, a company or brand can be in its audience’s memory for years, even generations. Levi’s and Coca-Cola are perfect examples.

clip_image002A request for a proposal is a crucial step in the sales cycle. It creates the change to get one step closer to a customer and a new project or deal.

But writing a proposal is not easy. Proposals come in many sizes and shapes, depending on the organization that asks for one. In some cases, it is better to avoid a formal proposal and opt for sending a letter outlining the products and services to be offered.

Seven tips for writing a proposal

  1. Create a powerful, but concise executive summary

In many cases, the customer just wants to see a short overview of deliverables with prices.

  1. Focus on results

Customers are far more interested in the deliverables than in methodologies or processes. Quite bluntly, they just want the job to be done; how it is done is of secondary importance.

  1. Showcase ideas

Customers want to cooperate with a business partner they can trust. To show that you are not only on the same wavelength, but also want to be their partner, share ideas that can help them.

  1. Make sure it has quality

As in many cases, it is the quality, not the quantity that counts. Limit the amount of pages, and make sure the proposal is about the customer. Focus on how you are going to solve the customer’s problems.

  1. Be careful with jargon

Terms such as “best practices”, “outstanding practices”, innovative solutions”, “and out-of-the-box thinking”,”top-notch and best-of-breed” are overused and are considered to be marketing hype. Try to use clear language and simple terms; it will avoid misunderstandings and future complications.

  1. Make sure its accurate

The proposal must be accurate, so make sure to validate and double-check all data before presenting it. Check every small proposal detail and watch for typos and style mistakes.

  1. Delivering your proposal

Make sure that the right people receive the proposal on time. You can submit it by email or hand it over in person. The latter guarantees you a higher change of closing the deal.

(Image courtesy of Geldlening Offerte)

clip_image001One of the best ways to promote a company is with opinion articles. Many magazines (online and hard copy) welcome well-written articles. These articles should not be biased though – nobody wants to read a (blatant) sales pitch. As marketing professions will tell you – educating your target audience/potential customers is an effective marketing strategy.
Before starting to write, identify the target audience. Who are the readers of the magazine you want to send the article to? What are their interests? Do you have a direct connection to the editor, or only via a PR company? Does the magazine allow hyperlinks? Do they also want original illustrations? In short – do your homework!
Many marketing and copywriters ghostwrite – they write the opinion pieces for a company’s CEO, CMO or CTO, and when published, it will be under their name.
Points of attention when writing an opinion piece:

  1. It must be informative. The reader should learn something from reading the article.
  2. It must be interesting. The text should flow and keep the reader interested to go on reading.
  3. It must be based on facts, and not assumptions. References to recent events that were covered in the global media are a good hook, as are reports of leading analysts such as Gartner and Forrester.
  4. It must be neutral. As mentioned before, nobody wants to read a sales pitch. A neutral article covering new or future trends, or “how to…” articles are popular. At the end of the year, articles about predictions for the coming year are in demand.
  5. It should have hyperlinks (if allowed by the newspaper), footnotes and references. It makes the article trustworthy and increases the chance for publication.
  6. Most magazines will ask for illustrations. Try to have original images in high resolution. No matter what industry you are in, the chance that your competitors use the same stock photos is high. Diagrams are always popular in tech pieces, as are product photos. Make sure to send different photos to various magazines – don’t forget, they all want to have original content!
  7. Custom write your story tailored to each magazine. Sending the same article to several tech magazines is professional suicide, especially in today’s viral media.
  8. Make sure to put a short bio with contact details at the bottom of the article.
  9. Follow up. Once you see that your article in published, drop a thank-you note to the magazine (or journalist). Blog and tweet about it, and make sure to include the URL of the publication.

Organizations, SME/SMB, celebrities, individuals – we all need and use social media to drum up clip_image002business, to find work, to fight for a cause, or to be part of a community.

But before starting to use LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, it’s important to formulate a strategy.

Formulate your goal
Why do you want to use social media? What do you want to achieve? Do you want to brand your company or do you want to establish yourself as a brand or as an expert? Or do you want to leverage the power of social media to find a job?

Identify your target audience
Once you know what you want to achieve, you can now define your target audience. Are you looking for work? HR managers and companies use LinkedIn to find new employees or freelancers. If you want to launch or support a cause or start a social campaign, your audience is mainly on Facebook. If you want to build your brand, the general public is your target audience.

Determine your USP
To be successful, you need to analyze both your strengths and your weaknesses. Define your Unique Selling Point (USP) – each one of us has unique assets (e.g., experience, skills, offering a great product/service).

Identify the best social media to succeed
For entertainers such as musicians, YouTube is ideal. Job seekers are advised to use LinkedIn and Xing. For cause marketing, Facebook is the best choice. Twitter is excellent for branding. For market research, all social media are effective to get quick and reliable results.

Formulate your strategy
Using social media means building an online presence. To be successful, a strategy must be formulated that outline how you want to present yourself, build your brand or represent your company. Decide on the content of your message (links, tweets, posting) and the frequency (monthly, weekly, daily, ongoing).

Stay active
Social media are real-time. Users must stay active to get their message across. You need to keep on communicating with your target audience.

Check what works – does your target audience find you? Do you get positive feedback?

Do you need to invest in promotion such as advertisements? Do you need to leverage Word of Mouth (WOM)? Do you need to adjust your strategy?

Want to learn more about social marketing? Sign up for our marketing & MarCom course!

Email: training@ourbestwords.com
Tel. 02-656 3369
Mobile: 054-810 8918, 050-529 0775
Website: www.ourbestwords.com
(Image courtesy of www.hetemeel.com)

Marketing writing is not new. For centuries, economists and the like have published great marketing material.

One of the best examples is Bastiat’s magnificent satire, The Candlemakers’ Petition, in which candle makers petition the French government for protection against competition from the sun.

A PETITION From the Manufacturers of Candles,clip_image001 Tapers, Lanterns, sticks, Street Lamps, Snuffers, and Extinguishers, and from Producers of Tallow, Oil, Resin, Alcohol, and Generally of Everything Connected with Lighting.

To the Honourable Members of the Chamber of Deputies.

Gentlemen:

You are on the right track.
You reject abstract theories and little regard for abundance and low prices.
You concern yourselves mainly with the fate of the producer.
You wish to free him from foreign competition, that is, to reserve the domestic market for domestic industry.
We come to offer you a wonderful opportunity for your — what shall we call it?
Your theory? No, nothing is more deceptive than theory. Your doctrine? Your system? Your principle?
But you dislike doctrines, you have a horror of systems, as for principles, you deny that there are any in political economy; therefore we shall call it your practice — your practice without theory and without principle.
We are suffering from the ruinous competition of a rival who apparently works under conditions so far superior to our own for the production of light that he is flooding the domestic market with it at an incredibly low price; for the moment he appears, our sales cease, all the consumers turn to him, and a branch of French industry whose ramifications are innumerable is all at once reduced to complete stagnation.

This rival, which is none other than the sun, is waging war on us so mercilessly we suspect he is being stirred up against us by perfidious Albion (excellent diplomacy nowadays!), particularly because he has for that haughty island a respect that he does not show for us.

We ask you to be so good as to pass a law requiring the closing of all windows, dormers, skylights, inside and outside shutters, curtains, casements, bull’s-eyes, deadlights, and blinds — in short, all openings, holes, chinks, and fissures through which the light of the sun is wont to enter houses, to the detriment of the fair industries with which, we are proud to say, we have endowed the country, a country that cannot, without betraying ingratitude, abandon us today to so unequal a combat.
Be good enough, honorable deputies, to take our request seriously, and do not reject it without at least hearing the reasons that we have to advance in its support.

First, if you shut off as much as possible all access to natural light, and thereby create a need for artificial light, what industry in France will not ultimately be encouraged?
If France consumes more tallow, there will have to be more cattle and sheep, and, consequently, we shall see an increase in cleared fields, meat, wool, leather, and especially manure, the basis of all agricultural wealth.
If France consumes more oil, we shall see an expansion in the cultivation of the poppy, the olive, and rapeseed. These rich yet soil-exhausting plants will come at just the right time to enable us to put to profitable use the increased fertility that the breeding of cattle will impart to the land.
Our moors will be covered with resinous trees. Numerous swarms of bees will gather from our mountains the perfumed treasures that today waste their fragrance, like the flowers from which they emanate. Thus, there is not one branch of agriculture that would not undergo a great expansion.

The same holds true of shipping. Thousands of vessels will engage in whaling, and in a short time we shall have a fleet capable of upholding the honor of France and of gratifying the patriotic aspirations of the undersigned petitioners, chandlers, etc.
But what shall we say of the specialties of Parisian manufacture?

Henceforth you will behold gilding, bronze, and crystal in candlesticks, in lamps, in chandeliers, in candelabra sparkling in spacious emporia compared with which those of today are but stalls.
There is no needy resin-collector on the heights of his sand dunes, no poor miner in the depths of his black pit, who will not receive higher wages and enjoy increased prosperity.

It needs but a little reflection, gentlemen, to be convinced that there is perhaps not one Frenchman, from the wealthy stockholder of the Anzin Company to the humblest vendor of matches, whose condition would not be improved by the success of our petition.
We anticipate your objections, gentlemen; but there is not a single one of them that you have not picked up from the musty old books of the advocates of free trade. We defy you to utter a word against us that will not instantly rebound against yourselves and the principle behind all your policy.

Will you tell us that, though we may gain by this protection, France will not gain at all, because the consumer will bear the expense?

We have our answer ready:
You no longer have the right to invoke the interests of the consumer.
You have sacrificed him whenever you have found his interests opposed to those of the producer. You have done so in order to encourage industry and to increase employment.
For the same reason you ought to do so this time too.
Indeed, you yourselves have anticipated this objection.

When told that the consumer has a stake in the free entry of iron, coal, sesame, wheat, and textiles, “Yes,” you reply, “but the producer has a stake in their exclusion.”
Very well, surely if consumers have a stake in the admission of natural light, producers have a stake in its interdiction.
But,” you may still say, “the producer and the consumer are one and the same person. If the manufacturer profits by protection, he will make the farmer prosperous. Contrariwise, if agriculture is prosperous, it will open markets for manufactured goods.”

Very well, If you grant us a monopoly over the production of lighting during the day, first of all we shall buy large amounts of tallow, charcoal, oil, resin, wax, alcohol, silver, iron, bronze, and crystal, to supply our industry; and, moreover, we and our numerous suppliers, having become rich, will consume a great deal and spread prosperity into all areas of domestic industry.

Will you say that the light of the sun is a gratuitous gift of Nature, and that to reject such gifts would be to reject wealth itself under the pretext of encouraging the means of acquiring it?

But if you take this position, you strike a mortal blow at your own policy; remember that up to now you have always excluded foreign goods because and in proportion as they approximate gratuitous gifts. You have only half as good a reason for complying with the demands of o
ther monopolists as you have for grantin
g our petition, which is in complete accord with your established policy; and to reject our demands precisely because they are better founded than anyone else’s would be tantamount to accepting the equation: + x + = -; in other words, it would be to heap absurdity upon absurdity.

Labor and Nature collaborate in varying proportions, depending upon the country and the climate, in the production of a commodity.

The part that Nature contributes is always free of charge; it is the part contributed by human labor that constitutes value and is paid for.
If an orange from Lisbon sells for half the price of an orange from Paris, it is because the natural heat of the sun, which is, of course, free of charge, does for the former what the latter owes to artificial heating, which necessarily has to be paid for in the market.

Thus, when an orange reaches us from Portugal, one can say that it is given to us half free of charge, or, in other words, at half price as compared with those from Paris.
Now, it is precisely on the basis of its being semigratuitous (pardon the word) that you maintain it should be barred.

You ask: “How can French labor withstand the competition of foreign labor when the former has to do all the work, whereas the latter has to do only half, the sun taking care of the rest?” But if the fact that a product is half free of charge leads you to exclude it from competition, how can its being totally free of charge induce you to admit it into competition?

Either you are not consistent, or you should, after excluding what is half free of charge as harmful to our domestic industry, exclude what is totally gratuitous with all the more reason and with twice the zeal.

To take another example:
When a product — coal, iron, wheat, or textiles — comes to us from abroad, and when we can acquire it for less labor than if we produced it ourselves, the difference is a gratuitous gift that is conferred up on us.
The size of this gift is proportionate to the extent of this difference. It is a quarter, a half, or three-quarters of the value of the product if the foreigner asks of us only three-quarters, one-half, or one-quarter as high a price.
It is as complete as it can be when the donor, like the sun in providing us with light, asks nothing from us.

The question, and we pose it formally, is whether what you desire for France is the benefit of consumption free of charge or the alleged advantages of onerous production. Make your choice, but be logical; for as long as you ban, as you do, foreign coal, iron, wheat, and textiles, in proportion as their price approaches zero, how inconsistent it would be to admit the light of the sun, whose price is zero all day long!

(Image courtesy of Instituto Ludwig von Mises Brazil)

As we all know that social marketing is the current and future marketing trend. It has several advantages compared to classic marketing:

Higher level of transparency

Customers, prospect, business partners, and employees are googling for information: e.g., legal complications, background, experience, recommendations. Companies therefore need to be transparent in order to build and maintain trust with their suppliers, customers, employees, stakeholders and target audience. Social media such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs are perfect to inform and communicate in real time.

Promotion is far less intrusive

Customers resent aggressive ads that are intrusive and interrupt. Smart companies know the behavior pattern of their target audience and make sure to engage them in a smart way with their brand. Social media provide a great promotion channel, since the target audience has control over how and when to be exposed to brand and product promotion.

Focus on target audience, not the business itself

Good marketing is interactive. Marketing campaigns should be aimed at and interacting with the target audience. Any campaign launched by the company must be built on the target audience, not the business itself.

Integrates online video

Video and mobile marketing are gaining ground. More and more companies are creating their own online video content. Especially testimonials and endorsements are powerful tools. They are easy to create and posting them on YouTube ensures instant and free promotion.

 

It rocks

Social marketing provides a golden marketing opportunity, but it must be done properly. It must therefore have repeatability; a one-time effort is not only a waste of time, but would also build false expectations and could therefore easily backfire. Needless to say, in the online marketing arena, any campaign must be relevant and memorable. The power of any online marketing campaign is its ability to go viral.

Leveraging new concepts
Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and YouTube are here to stay, so leverage them. More and more individuals and companies around the world are adopting them. They provide agile channels to reach potential customers, build brand loyalty, to keep connected with customers, and to find out what competitors are up to.

Cost-effective

The main expense for managing a social media platform is time when done in-house. But it must be correctly – it must remain relevant, consistent and persistent. Many companies therefore prefer to outsource.

Want to learn more about social media? Contact Our Best Words at info@ourbestwords.com

Course participants can now apply for a grant from the Misrad HaKlita

Jerusalem – March 30, 2011 – Our Best Words (OBW), a Jerusalem-based company providing technical writing services and training, announced today that it has received approval from the Ministry of Absorption (Misrad HaKlita). This means that students who want to attend any of OBW’s technical writing, marketing writing, as well as MarCom courses at the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel (AACI www.aaci.org.il) could be eligible for special training grants (“vouchers”) from the Ministry of Absorption.

“Immigrants who have been in Israel for less than 10 years have now the opportunity to attend our courses to enhance their careers,” said Ephraim King, CEO of Our Best Words. “This recognition follows the official approval we already received from Betuach Leumi (The National Insurance Institute – www.btl.gov.il ).”

The Ministry of Absorption provides assistance through grants (“vouchers”) in order to facilitate vocational absorption for new immigrants/returning residents, to expand the range of choices available to eligible candidates for placement in the job market, and to allow them to maximize their skills based on their education, experience and abilities.

(For more information, please visit: http://www.moia.gov.il/Moia_en/Employment/VoucherProject.htm

About Our Best Words
Our Best Words (OBW) specializes in providing quality technical communications to customers worldwide. The Company enjoys close relationships with a broad range of businesses – from startups to Fortune 500 companies. Offerings include corporate technical documentation, localization, technical communication, and technical marketing services worldwide. The Our Best Words team is comprised of experienced and dedicated professionals with years of experience in technical and marketing communications.

For more information or to sign up for a course, please contact:

Our Best Words Main Office: 02-656-3369
US & Canada: 1-786-507-8206
Ephraim King, CEO: 050-529-0775
Tracey Shipley, Marketing Coordinator: 054-810-8918
Email: info@ourbestwords.com
Website: www.ourbestwords.com