Do you Want Your Work Skipped Over or Read?

Would you rather eat dirt or a sandwich?

This post concerns the marketing world, the field I spend the most time in. If you’re looking for a path or are just curious, then come on with me and learn about “readability”, something useful for mostly web material. Novelists, poets and academic writers might scoff at it.

What is Readability?

It is how easily the message of your text is understood. Things like long words and long sentences can deter the average Internet user. This is not because the average user is incapable of understanding your brilliance. It just jogs their brains a bit. Anything that slows down reading also tests patience.

If someone is snuggled up with a cup of tea ready to delve into a story, they want to savor the artistry of writing. If someone is navigating web pages, they want a quick dump of information. And that’s just the way we are.

seedy_bird

How Simple?

If your article/blog post can be easily read by a 7th or 8th grader, you have good readability. The Flesch Reading Ease Test measures several factors to determine this. Generally the more you can chop up a sentence, a paragraph or phrase, the better your score.

The Price of Ignoring It

Does Google look for readability when selecting search results? How big a factor is it? We just don’t know. Google likes to be mysterious. It is unrivaled, though many hardcore technology geeks use other search engines along with their Linux setup. And their Tor browsers. (We love you).

What to Choose

I am not a stickler on readability for this blog. For one, it’s actually about writing, and most people reading it are at least college-aged. This post in particular measures on an 8th grade level. My main concern is paragraphs. No one likes a text block.

Writing for other websites is a different story. Web writers need to dice up their material before submitting. Add subheadings. Throw out the passive voice. Stir in a few connector words. Make sure you don’t sprinkle in too much of the keyword. Viola, an omelette. Um, article.

Test your readability: 1

If you want to learn more: 2

Neat Little Online Writing Tools

There are all kinds of online tools designed to help you write at your expert disposal. Here are three of ones that I personally recommend. (Note: author gets no revenue from this 🙂 )

Calmly Writer Online

With this, you can eliminate a few steps of opening a Word document or going to your email to open Google Docs. It’s a completely blank webpage where you can type away if something suddenly enters your mind. A small lotus icon fades in and out when you mouse over. Click it and there will be options to download, add a picture and do a grammar check. It even readily displays your word count. It has a link to a typewriter sound extension, but it appears to be glitchy and does not work on some computers.

calmlywriter.com

(It is very easy to get sucked into the Chrome Web Store, but there are plenty of fun things to explore that, who knows, may turn out to be handy. And if you’re dying to make your theme feature colorful hummingbirds, you have come to the right place.)

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TitleCap

This tool does the rule research for you. Select from three different options and then type your title in the bar, and it will fix the capitalization for you. Click on the text below to be re-briefed on the capitalization rules.

This is actually a webpage I use almost daily. I hope everyone is as thrilled with this as I have been!

titlecapitalization.com

WordPress

Aside from featuring your creative, personal blog, WordPress just happens to be a shared favorite writing site among writers and employers alike because of its friendly layout and ease of use. Of course, the paid features are amazing, but consider all of your unpaid options as well. WordPress actually does a lot in the way of SEO for the novice user.

Many people are not familiar with this, but the main reason I advocate it is because you can use it as a free portfolio site.

Type “/wp-admin” after your blog’s URL to arrive at your dashboard. Go to settings > writing, and then check the enable box for “portfolio projects”. Have fun!

If you would like added instruction: https://en.support.wordpress.com/portfolios/

“It was a Dark and Stormy Night…” Part II

Part I for those who missed it

Maybe you have decided that if people just want cheap thrills in their reading, you are going to cater to that. The following points are something you should consider before stringing cliches like beads to create a new story.

It Has Probably Been Done Before

You won’t be the first person to create a thrilling murder mystery, a forbidden romance, commentary on a political situation or a summary of interesting content. For every thrilling idea that occurs to you, there are probably thousands of books and articles already using it.

However, readers seem to greatly enjoy reading several books or articles with the same plots of premises. I know I do. I can read a hundred articles online about certain types of birds because I have owned them as pets. But I’m not going to read the same set of facts over and over. I like it when writers bring in their individual stories to help explain points or add a dash of humor.

Don’t underestimate how a focus on details can make a reader want to be carried along through what is essentially the same hill he’s gone over many times before only with different scenery.

Look at the News

There is a reason why journalistic writing is plain; the pure, newsworthy plot moves everything along and keeps readers engrossed. Despite this, most journalists are still taught to avoid cliches, because people also appreciate a touch of creativity. If a piece with an exciting plot that has the added benefit of being real avoids cliches, that should tell you something.

You Can’t Go Too Crazy

In the pursuit of creating something no one has ever seen, you may get very wild with your story. There are two major points to recognize before trying this.  This mainly applies to fictional works.

Readers Will Lose Interest in a Totally Wild Idea

In a world where anything can happen at any moment, people are not as invested in wondering about what happens next. Additionally, people want to relate to what they read to immerse themselves. That’s why fantasy is a difficult genre for a lot of people to be successful with. If you write a story where a talking eagle rides on the backs of dolphins searching for a sacred pine cone disco ball floating out in sea, you better be one hell of a writer.

eagle

It’s Probably One of the Same Recycled Ideas Anyway

Chances are, no matter how wild your plot gets, you can put it in one of many boxes filled with others of its kind. That eagle story is just a jazzed up version of a classic adventure story in pursuit of an artifact.

These points are why writing skill matters!

The Bane of Website Writing

Everyone can write online, but not everyone can write it well. Some employers seem to be completely blind to glaring errors on their website. More likely than not, they did it themselves, hired someone for “experience and portfolio expansion” (slave labor), or hired someone for very cheap (slave labor with benefits). Due to their small company or greed, they have terrible writing that they are blind to. But customers and clients have a very fine-tuned detector for sloppy content.

Goose

Abundant errors that slip past your spell checker are one big factor make work look cheap. I have a few tricks that I use to help me edit my own work. But first, take a look at this passage which passes the red squiggle test:

“welcome to  nicks web site !  if you are looking fer clothe, shoos,, purse or moor, you have com too the the rite place!  are prices are low er then any other distributor on line!  we Cary all the Big Brands AS Well As lots s off smaller ones.”

Copy and paste that onto a WordPress editor and see that it passes. That’s why you don’t want to rely too heavily on your spell check tool. Below are my suggestions for supplementing your spell check.

Ctrl + F

Pressing these two buttons together brings up a search bar at the top right area of your screen. Type something into the bar and it will search the entire document for it. I like to search for two spaces in a row. This is handy because you should only be using one space during typing, including after punctuation. Additionally, it can be really hard to spot extra spaces with just your eyes. After you identify the offenders, you can go back and take one space away.

Don’t Guess on Capitalization

If you don’t know which words to capitalize, Google the phrase or rules. If there is any doubt in your mind, there’s a chance you are wrong, and your content will look odd to people who know better. You can eliminate this possibility with one of the greatest gifts of technology, given us by Alan Emtage–the search engine. This goes for spellings as well, but capitalization abuse is rampant.

Read Aloud

This rule is old but gold. Reading aloud causes you to go slower and pay more attention to the text. This especially helps with accidental repetition of small words like “the”.

Apply these tips to your latest document and see how it works. If you’re not already doing the third tip for your work, I’m shaking my head. Don’t underestimate its efficacy!

Speaking of Craigslist

In my previous post, I mentioned the services of an aspiring editor and how there were good indications that they were…lackluster. There are many more ads requesting and offering writing or editing for a bizarre range of purposes. In fact, you can find anything in the magical world of Craigslist. I went from location to location on the website and found some peculiar posts.

Create Dialogue Based on a Beloved ’89 Movie

This North Carolinian individual would like someone to write to him over email or some form of instant messaging as various characters from Honey I Shrunk the Kids. Yep. He jokes that the ideal candidate should hopefully like Cheerios. Also, if you are interested, you have to take a normal-sized role. This is because the point of this project is so that he can explore the world as a tiny person.

Insult People and Get Business

I live in the southern suburbs, where people act pleasant toward strangers and cursing in a job ad is a great way to never see a paycheck. It’s bizarre to even consider otherwise. That’s why the  New York Craigslist pages are so amusing to me.

Do you want to have a fu***** resume written? Well stop being an idiot and pay me to help you, or it’s going to keep looking like sh**.

Educated & Qualified

The trend I noticed in writing ads in California was that many of the people providing writing services are actually qualified. Their ads were well-written with no typos, no misspellings, and no punctuational or grammatical errors. In fact, I spotted multiple advertisers claiming to have Ph.D.s. However, the high cost of living showed in their rates.

dont-even-know

Academic Dishonesty

The Michigan pages seem to have quite a bit more of this than anything else. I wonder why that is. The ads are so specific, too. Having trouble with media studies? Literature papers? College admission paper?  Math problems? Law assignments with in-text citations? (This is real, actually).

Craigslist is such an entertaining place. Missed connections is a favorite light reading of mine. One time I “found my true love” there and responded to his brilliantly humorous ad about rollerskating through the mall. That was such a great piece of literature I with I could share now if it weren’t for the implementation of an expiration date for posts.

The Underpaid Deeds on Upwork

Upwork is the name of a website dedicated to matching freelance workers of all kinds to employers, and vice versa. It was created from a merger of the sites oDesk and Elance. It has a reputation as a site that is now very hard to get established on as a freelancer. Sure, you could easily pick up a few gigs as someone new to the site…if you would like to get paid under minimum wage. Nonetheless, many freelancers find genuine career success there, and it does have a lot of good stuff. Services offered vary from website design to accounting to article writing. I present to you some of the greatest gigs I have spotted, just today!

Convert One PDF to Word

I am not sure what to say about this. Is there something more difficult about this that I am missing? It’s not a very good way to spend your workday. After you spend an hour messaging back and forth, after the guy makes sure that you can indeed do something that he could type into a Google search bar, after the Skype interview that he insists upon, you will get rewarded with five whole bucks.

Write a Little Book

The average amount of words on page in a 12 Times New Roman font is about 500 words. It’s safe to say that it takes about 30 minutes to do with not much research for the seasoned writer. So if you wanted to type this guy’s ebook of 30 pages, it might take you 15 hours to complete (at minimum here). Write this book that you will undoubtedly not profit anymore on for a whopping total of $100 or between $6-7 an hour. Oh, and the best part is that he’s not looking for beginner writers. Amazing! I think I would rather run a cash register.

Translate an Uncommon Language

When you are searching for someone to translate a language that around half a percent of people in the entire world speak (mostly located in an area of dire poverty), be sure to stress how little you are going to pay that person. Go ahead, add an unpaid test project. Oh wait, you did.

chickadee

Explore for yourself. Don’t be angry; see the humor!

The Union of Code and Web Writing

Writers, do you know what CSS stands for? Crunchy Salmon Skittles? Crisp Sweet Sandwich? Clueless Silly Seagull?

seagull

It stands for Cascading Style Sheets, and I predict you will be hearing and reading a lot more about this little coding treat if you do Internet writing. Its sisters are JavaScript and HTML, and all three are used to create physically attractive webpages. I thought we were moving toward a future where increasingly, you did not have to have specialized computer knowledge to operate a computer.

I guess we’re going backwards now!

Are you feeling slightly uncomfortable? There are definitely things to consider before you enroll in a computer science course for your next writing gig.

First off, it is doubtful writers will get paid significantly more for learning to code. Software engineers get paid bigger salaries compared to us storytellers, and I’m sure you know that. However, it takes a mere two or three weeks to learn CSS, HTML and JavaScript. It’s actually not too intensive.

Another concern its that coding is nothing like writing. Desiring a writer with coding skills sounds like wanting a writer with dental skills; it seems like an odd connection. (I actually came across a job ad today that wanted the ideal candidate to have both professional marketing and dental experience.) If you really think about it though, it doesn’t matter that the two fields are different. Aren’t you good at many other things besides writing? (I bet you really are.)

I say take advantage of online resources and spruce up your writing abilities a little if you haven’t already.