Are you a grammar graduate or a language loser? Take my Christmas quiz and find out

Are you a grammar graduate or will Santa be tucking a dictionary in the top of your stocking this year?! Take my Christmas #confusables quiz and find out if you’re a Clever Copy Club convert.

No prize for getting ten out of ten – just the smug sense of satisfaction of knowing you’ve been paying attention to my newsletters each month. And the knowledge that it caused me Actual. Physical. Pain. to type some of these!

(If you need to brush up on your #confusables and you don’t already receive my monthly email tips, you can sign up here.)

To take part, just pick the correct use of the #confusables in the sentences below… I’ll start you with an easy one.

Answers are at the bottom of the screen. No cheating now!

Question 1

a) Santa leaves presence at Christmas for everyone who behaves.

b) Santa leaves presents at Christmas for everyone who behaves.

Question 2

a) Your gift is too generous! I can’t except it!

b) Your gift is too generous! I can’t accept it!

Question 3

a) If I’d known you were coming I would of got the mince pies on!

b) If I’d known you were coming I would have got the mince pies on!

Question 4

a) Who’s coming for Christmas dinner?

b) Whose coming for Christmas dinner?

Question 5

a) A notebook! It’s beautiful. Thank you – I love stationary

b) A notebook! It’s beautiful. Thank you – I love stationery

Question 6

a) I’m not adverse to a glass of champagne, thank you

b) I’m not averse to a glass of champagne, thank you

Question 7

a) Drive carefully – ice has led to the roads being really slippy!

b) Drive carefully – ice has lead to the roads being really slippy!

Question 8

a) I’d love to come over for dinner – are you sure it won’t affect your family time?

b) I’d love to come over for dinner – are you sure it won’t effect your family time?

Question 9

a) I’ve bought the sherry, trifle and mince pie’s

b) I’ve bought the sherry, trifle and mince pies

Question 10

a) Let’s go to Santa’s grotto – the kids can come too

b) Let’s go to Santa’s grotto – the kids can come to

Scroll down for the answers…






Q1) b

Q2) b

Q3) b

Q4) a

Q5) b

Q6) b

Q7) a

Q8) a

Q9) b

Q10) a

How did you do?

8 to 10: A* student – go to the top of the class.

5 to 7: good effort – could do better.

0 to 4: must pay more attention in English lessons.

Copywriting myths debunked: time to stop making excuses!

I have a confession. I’ve been stuck for a while now.

Stuck with a half-formed blog post on why you need a copywriter.

Stuck for a reason why that goddamn post just won’t write itself.

And I’ve got it.

You don’t need convincing. You know it all already.

You know exactly why you need a copywriter.

You know a copywriter can help get your business noticed for all the right reasons.

That they’ll work with you to identify the special essence that’s unique to your company – the things that make you stand out from the crowd.

And they’ll help you articulate the spirit of your business in a way that convinces your target market to choose your business, buy your products, and hire your services.

The reason you haven’t hired a copywriter isn’t because you don’t know you need one.

It’s because you’re stuck, too.

You’re stuck with the sneaky, tricky excuses you churn out to justify why you keep writing your own copy. Those copywriting myths that stop you taking the plunge and choosing a copywriter who can help you get a head start on your marketing.

Here are four of the most common barriers to using a copywriter.

Which do you identify with?

Copywriting myths

Myth 1: It’s only words

“Surely, I can write the copy myself – why do I need a copywriter?”

Whether you consider yourself a reasonably capable writer or you have an English degree, there’s a big difference between everyday writing and writing to sell.

A copywriter will get inside the head of your customers. They’ll help you identify the things that make your business different – special, even – and articulate those things in a clear, concise and compelling way.

However confident you are about writing your own marketing materials, writing for the web is a different skill.

A copywriter knows how to write in a way that speaks to your customers and to Google – and their words help your business get noticed online by your target audience.

Myth 2: It’s all in your head

“No one knows my business as well as I do!”

That’s true. But a good copywriter knows the questions to ask about your products and services, the problems they solve for the people who buy them, and the sort of customers you want to attract.

They’ll talk to you about your marketing goals and the reasons why you’re in business. And they’ll work their magic to transform that information into words that work hard to promote your company.

Myth 3: It’ll cost too much

“I can’t afford a professional copywriter – it’s too expensive!”

Like anything that works, good copywriting doesn’t come cheap. But your time is money – and if you’re spending that time trying to write your own website or brochure when your skills lie elsewhere, you’re not saving money – you’re wasting it.

The most effective marketing is a collaboration between hardworking, clever copy and great-looking, functional design.

Designers just love working on projects that are being professionally written – it makes them look good. So remember: if you blow your marketing budget on graphic or web design and have no money left to spend on copy, you’re missing a trick.

Pay a professional to do a proper job, and focus on the superpowers that make you money. Chances are that’s the reason you went into business, after all.

Important note: any time you’re tempted to cut corners and buy on price alone, remember this mantra: you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

Myth 4: It’ll take too long

“I don’t have time to brief a copywriter – it’ll be quicker to write it myself.”

Earlier this month, I had a meeting with a website designer, who told me that seven of the beautiful websites he’d designed had stalled, simply because the client had decided to write their own copy.

In the time you spend agonising over the best way to promote your business – not to mention the stress and headspace involved in doing it yourself – a professional copywriter could have written your website copy ten times over.

That’s valuable time your shiny new site could be live and doing what a good website should do – getting your brand out there, promoting your business, building trust, and selling your products.

Time that your competitors are out there doing just that… and pinching your customers while they’re at it.

If any of those excuses sound familiar, have a quiet word with yourself and make this the year you leave your copywriting to the professionals.

This post first appeared on LinkedIn


A Trump-free Twitter rant: and how brevity improves writing

Ever since I attended Jonathan Pollinger’s Twitter for beginners workshop, way back in 2012, I’ve had a soft spot for the previously pithy, fabulously witty, micro-blogging platform.

This week, Twitter tumbled from the top of the tree – for me, at least.

Yesterday (8 November 2017) the social network announced that its trial of a 280-character tweet limit – double the previous 140-character count – will be universally expanded.

According to Twitter’s Product Manager, Aliza Rosen, this is why they did it:

The platform’s user numbers had been steadily dropping, and they needed to do something to reignite the love for the network – an edit button, perhaps? – but not that!

Anything but that.

By doubling the character count they’ve removed their greatest USP. Without the limit, they may as well be Facebook.

Size matters

Brevity was the one thing Twitter had that no other social network offered. And it was better for it. You could scroll through your timeline and efficiently extract chunklets* of insight, bite-sized news updates, thought-provoking quotes and interesting soundbites.

There isn’t a writer out there who doesn’t benefit from the discipline of the old-school – I can call it that, right? – Twitter mentality.

Make every word count

When competition for readers’ attention is fierce, tight word counts keep our writing lean.

Get in the habit of cutting the fluff and stuffing from your writing, and your message will benefit.

Lose the jargon and meaningless filler words** and your writing will be punchier, pacier and easier to read.

If there’s one thing we can learn from pre-280 Twitter, it’s that.

*Yes, I made that one up. Deal with it.

**Words such as THAT, JUST, REALLY and VERY rarely add to your writing. Edit fearlessly.

The viral accident: lessons from a Facebook post gone mad

This summer a happy accident led to a post on my Facebook page going viral. I mean crazy popular.

Now the dust has settled, there are lessons to be taken from having a post reach over 275,000 people – and if anyone can benefit from my experience I’m happy to share. I’m nice like that.

Credit where it’s due

Like many of the gems I post on social media, I can’t take credit for finding this one*. People often tag me with mistakes they’ve spotted (“Hey – saw this typo and thought of you!”) It’s not the most romantic of gestures but it means I have a limitless supply of examples of bad spelling and grammar. Awesome.

The most viral a post of mine has ever gone was when the sign opposite was picked up by The Poke on Twitter a couple of years back. That picked me up a good few followers, I can tell you.

When I shared the Waitrose typo, it was met with the Twitter equivalent of tumbleweed – fewer than half a dozen retweets.

Lesson one: just sometimes, Facebook > Twitter.

Undeterred, I decided to share the typo on Facebook as shown above. It took perhaps a day to pick up momentum, then…

Did I just go viral?!

Like a ball bearing careering around a pinball machine, things quickly went a bit mental. In what I can only assume was down to a sweet spot of timing and relevance – I shared the post on what was, for many teachers, the last day of the summer term – it hit a tipping point.

Lesson two: timing is key.

People who saw the post reacted in the same way as my friends and peers when they spot a typo: they tagged teachers they knew (and let’s face it, everyone knows at least one) with a “You have got to see this!” eagerness.

Once I realised what was happening I edited the post, adding “Gold star for you if you tag a teacher who’ll appreciate this post”. It did the trick, and the momentum Just. Kept. Going.

Lesson three: keep an eye on response and tweak your posts if necessary. Add in a relevant way to encourage people to share if you can.

Scanning 600-odd comments, it seems most people were shocked it was Waitrose that made the mistake. Had it been one of the cheaper supermarkets – you know who I’m talking about – would the post have had the same impact? Maybe not.

Lesson four: the more well-respected the business, the higher the expectation that they can spell. Companies who can’t, beware. 

When the post began to gain momentum I was out catching up with my social media friend and colleague, Azaria Timms.

Having chatted to her about the post over a cheeky glass of fizz, I decided to boost it to a targeted audience of teachers. It was the first time I’d promoted a Facebook post, and I’ll be honest, I expected great things – even for a lowly… cough… £6.

As it happened, the boost increased the reach by just 330 people, with one major downside: a guy I don’t know and have never worked with took such offence at my promoted post he decided to leave me a one-star rating for – in his words – spamming him. Ouch.

Lesson five: people still have mixed reactions to advertising.

If you only take one thing from this article, make it this trick: when you click the list of people who’ve commented on a Facebook post, you’re given the option to invite that person to like your page. Inviting everyone who’d commented or shared the post netted me over 150 new followers in a week – compared to a previous weekly high of, err, three. Skills.

The flipside was a stroppy message from one lady who replied, “No thank you, I have no need for your services and no interest in becoming your friend”. Err, okay…

Lesson six: don’t expect everyone to understand the difference between a Facebook page and a Facebook profile. And remember – you can’t please all of the people, all of the time.

As for Waitrose – yes, I tagged them in the post, and no, they didn’t respond. Given the reach of their own posts, I’m putting their lack of comeback down to jealousy of my superior social media skills. (Jokes.)

*Credit for sharing the original post is due to my good friend and reptile guy, Steve Jack. He’s @seashaker on Twitter, in case you’re interested. Expect snakes. And spiders. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Copywriting and marketing support for a professional footwear manufacturer

The client: Toffeln/WearerTech

Established in 1978, Toffeln develops supportive, protective and comfortable footwear for professionals who spend their working lives on their feet, with a core audience of nurses, surgeons, and chefs.

The need

Toffeln had a strong heritage as a British-based family business, plus a solid track record of sales – particularly in the medical and catering industries.

Despite this, brand awareness among their target audience was low, and a clear marketing strategy was needed to grow the business further. What makes their shoes stand out in the professional footwear market is the science, research and customer feedback that go into them – but they were missing an opportunity to shout about it.

There was huge potential to capitalise on the company’s credibility and position within the marketplace, and to build on what they had already achieved – particularly as little had been invested on marketing in recent years.

Big changes were afoot within the company, fundamentally affecting the structure of the business and its sales channels, as well as the way they market their products. This included the introduction of a planned approach to marketing through two key channels – the catering trade, and the medical profession.

Without an in-house team to support him, their new marketing director needed help – and fast.

The solution

I was initially recommended to Toffeln by Mat Jolly, owner of Cheltenham-based design agency, Jolly Good. Things kicked off with a day of naming work, in which we helped to create a new brand name and tagline that summarises the care and technology that goes into Toffeln’s latest range of shoes. They liked one of my suggestions – WearerTech – so much that they decided to use it on the shoes themselves, and to transform WearerTech into an entirely new brand, with a new website and marketing materials.

This work has developed into writing product brochures, sales process and marketing emails, video scripts, website copy, sign-up copy, packaging materials, and documents for both staff and distributors.

I’ve helped the company to establish a clear messaging strategy, and developed an informal, friendly – sometimes slightly irreverent – tone of voice that’s now being used across the board to communicate with their target audience.

Mat and I continue to work closely as part of Toffeln’s extended marketing team (a rebrand means they’re now known as WearerTech) often brainstorming ideas and discussing projects, while regular production meetings with their marketing director keep things running smoothly.

This is a perfect example of how a business with little in-house resource can benefit from using skilled and experienced consultants to support their marketing, instead of expanding their own team.

In the client’s words…

“Sarah is the kind of person that just ‘gets it’.

“She’s incredibly professional, always meeting deadlines and she delivers content that always exceeds expectations.

“The combination of her creativity, flexibility and her ability to put herself in the shoes of both our distributors and direct customers to deliver engaging and effective content, makes her a key part of the team.

“I know there is never a need to worry when Sarah is working on a project.”

Justin Rocyn-Jones, Marketing Director, WearerTech