Client Profile: Envivo Creative

I’m so glad I hired Natalie to write my website copy for me. All I had was a set of (what I thought were) incoherent notes about what I wanted my website to say and she was able to turn them into very readable copy that stayed true to my brand’s voice. It was like magic! She was happy to hear my suggestions and my hesitations and offered great advice when it was needed. I will definitely be hiring Natalie again in the future. She was a pleasure to work with!

— Tara Wilder, Envivo Creative

EnvivoCreative-mediumIn September, I had the great experience of collaborating with Tara Wilder, founder of Envivo Creative. Tara recently decided to leave her position as an online marketer for an information technology company to start a business that offers clients dynamic, results-driven online marketing campaigns. She even has a background in psychology, so she can really get into the head of your target market!

Tara WilderWhen I first spoke to Tara, she was finding it difficult to write the copy for her website. She decided to outsource this task, and I quickly realized that she was hitting writing roadblocks because she was too close to the project. After all, she lived and breathed Envivo Creative day in and day out — creating her business plan, working with a business coach, building her website, and attracting initial clients. As is so often the case, I could create her copy quickly and efficiently because of my distance from the business. I don’t stumble over ideas because I am mulling over the possibilities in my head, which can happen so often to entrepreneurs.

The Process

Tara and I began our collaboration with a 30-minute phone conversation. She discussed her company, and I asked relevant questions. Following our initial talk, I asked her to send me materials about her business as well as other ideas she had related to the copy. She requested writing samples, which I was happy to provide to her (and any other potential client).

For the next three weeks, Tara and I traded emails and ideas. I created a first draft of the copy, which she returned to me with notes and suggestions. We developed a great working relationship that fostered honest and productive feedback. By the end of our project, we felt like close colleagues, despite never meeting in person.

I am so excited to see how Tara’s business unfolds. I know Envivo Creative will help any small business get off the ground or grow with the effective marketing campaigns Tara and her team create. And I can’t wait to work with her and other entrepreneurs in the future. Helping someone develop ideas into coherent prose is one of my true passions.

Client Profile: Emi Kirschner (Via Caitlin Merto Designs)

EK_Logo_RGBOne of the reasons I love publishing is seeing the end product. There is nothing better than watching a project come to fruition. No matter whether it’s a book, journal, newsletter, or website, there are lots of moving parts in anything that ends up “out there” for public consumption. Recently, I got a huge rush after seeing the rebranding of a recent client, Emi Kirschner.

Emi, a food, wellness, and lifestyle coach, recently launched her new website, emikirschner.com. This site features a wealth of information and shares Emi’s talents, knowledge, and unique approach. In the near future, Emi will launch “French Fries to Foodies,” a program designed for parents whose kids tend to be picky eaters. Emi’s down-to-earth style and patience will help any family struggling with incorporating well-balanced meals into the daily routine.

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Emi Kirschner

The fabulous graphic artist Caitlin Merto, of Caitlin Merto Designs, implemented and executed Emi’s new brand. Caitlin and I have been collaborating for some time on various rebranding projects, and it was a pleasure to contribute to this one. Emi and I worked closely together to shape her website’s copy to reflect her target audience as well as her enhanced brand, as identified by Caitlin. Earlier in the summer, Emi and I worked on her “Buttoned-up Bio,” which she can use for her many speaking engagements, workshops, and other endeavors. I hope that the copy on Emi’s website conveys her amazing work and her dedication to living better.

Emi, thanks for letting me contribute to your exciting new brand. (And kudos to Leave It to Me Photography for Emi’s fabulous new photos!)

Six Writing and Editing Resources

In my line of work, we use several resources to guide our decision-making. These are our tools of the trade, helping us keep things consistent and in order. If you are writing or editing any type of content, I recommend you utilize one or more of these resources and keep your own in-house style sheet (I’ll be posting about that soon).

Here are my top resources for writing and editing:

Stylebooks

The_Chicago_Manual_of_Style_16th_edition1. The Chicago Manual of Style

Here’s the style guide I used at my former job at an independent book publisher. The Chicago Manual of Style is very comprehensive (and thick!). I swear, it answers nearly every question that might come up when you are working on a document. I highly recommend this style guide for books.

Why I love Chicago style:

  • Comprehensive
  • Helpful chapter on punctuation
  • Great advice for notes, references, and bibliographies
  • Informative for beginning editors and writers who are learning about the process

Last year I began using the online version of the guide, making my editing work even more transportable. For just $35.00/month you can have access to the book as a searchable resource — making it easier for you to look up a term, question, or style preference.

51Ejt8rMFaL2. The Associated Press Stylebook

I first used The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook when I worked for my college newspaper. I loved this resource for many reasons at the time, mostly because of its cut-and-dried approach to punctuation, terms, and formatting. Now, I have to admit, my love of the serial comma is strong, so exclusively referring to this style can be difficult (sorry to any of you who love the omission of that last comma in a series!). I recommend this style guide for writing intended for the web, newsletters, and magazines.

Why I love AP style:

  • Definitive
  • Easy-to-use
  • Good style for short-form writing

Make sure you start with the most recent edition of this book to avoid making any style decisions based on previous issues. In our constantly changing world, many of the terms and recommendations will change related to the web and other emerging technologies.

apa-style3. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association

Of all the style guides, I find this resource the most helpful and the most frustrating. You may be asked to follow this style book (hereafter called APA style) for higher education courses or for professional writing. Its main focuses are avoiding bias in your writing (important!), formatting academic papers (crucial if that’s what you need to do), and ensuring that your references are consistent and match the manual’s recommendations (I can guarantee you’ll never stop checking for ampersands and appropriate periods). These sections of the book are immensely helpful, though I find it difficult to use when I have higher-level grammar or style questions. Sometimes I will confer with Chicago to confirm those questions.

Why I love APA style:

  • Great for academic writing
  • Helpful tips for bias-free language
  • Straightforward approach to references and citations

If you are using APA style and need more help, be sure to use the Publication Manual’s blog. It will provide you with plenty more information on writing and editing in APA style.

Web Resources

Okay, enough with the stylebooks! Here are some great web references that you can utilize for quick grammar, usage, and style questions.

4. Merriam-WebsterMerriam-Webster_logo.svg

I use merriam-webster.com as my go-to dictionary and thesaurus. It’s wise to have one specific dictionary to source for consistency. I recommend this tried-and-true version, and it’s the favorite of many stylebooks. You’ll be able to confirm spellings and capitalization as well as determine good synonyms when writing punchy copy. It even has a great medical dictionary and fun words of the day.

ud-logo5. Urban Dictionary

Okay, this is a little out of left field, but a lot of my clients use slang and colloquial language when writing blogs, newsletters, and other personal communications. Urban Dictionary is my source for looking up terms not in the Merriam-Webster (think figuring out what YOLO or FOMO means or deciding on a consistent spelling for “biznass” or “hair-did”).

duVKyUtt_400x4006. Grammar Girl

I have a professional crush on Grammar Girl. She’s all-knowing and is great at explaining problematic grammar issues, such as affect vs. effect, split infinitives, and parallel construction. Whenever you have a grammar question, this site can give you helpful information and tips without a whiff of grammar snobbery (a pet peeve of mine!). It’s a great way to answer specific questions or to relearn grammar that you last thought about when writing your final school paper a decade or two ago.

I hope these resources can be helpful to you as you create and edit content. I am always here to help you with any type of writing or editing. Contact me at natalielsilver (at) yahoo (dot) com to discuss your project and needs.

Client Profile: The Law Office of Heather L. Turner, LLC

HeatherTurner_Logo1.inddEarlier this summer I worked with estate attorney Heather L. Turner to create copy for her new website. As the owner of The Law Office of Heather L. Turner, LLC, Heather wanted to create a site that was approachable for individuals and families, no matter their stage of life. Heather offers many services, including an all-in-one package for those looking to create an estate plan, and she wanted copy that conveyed her uncomplicated approach to wills and trusts. Even though she has a beautiful office in Narberth, she’s willing to travel to her clients to ease their burden!

The copy-creating process with Heather was ideal. We collaborated for about a month, beginning with me listening to her presentation at a local MOMS Club meeting. After that we met to discuss her goals for the site and followed up with e-mail exchanges. Heather needed copy for her welcome page, services page, and biography (which is difficult to write yourself, as I blogged about last week). Our working relationship was open and friendly, and I was able to deliver usable copy with just a few rounds of revision. Heather tweaked what I wrote as needed and sent it to her web designer to add to the new site.

Collaborating with Heather was such a rewarding experience. I am a huge advocate for families having estate plans in place, and Heather’s magnetic personality and professional experience make her the perfect person to write and administer wills and trusts. If you are looking for a personable and knowledgable estate planning attorney in Pennsylvania, contact Heather.

And thanks to Heather for such a ringing endorsement:

Natalie listened to what I wanted to portray on my website and helped me say exactly what I wanted. Natalie is easy to work with. She is friendly and professional and treats all clients like they are her biggest.

I can’t begin to express the joy I get from working with talented and smart small business owners. Heather is the perfect example of a go-getter entrepreneur. She understands that hiring people for professional services adds time to her life, giving her more hours to work with her clients. Thanks, Heather, for letting me help you with your informative new site!

5 Tips for Writing a Great Bio

bio

I’ve had the pleasure of helping multiple people write short bios of themselves in the last few months. Most needed them for their website, professional directories, or speaking engagements and reached out because writing their own bio is just so darn difficult! During this wave, I’ve even had to retool my own biography, which took me more time than I expected!

Why is writing a bio so tough? From my experience, here are some reasons it’s frustrating to tackle this all-important written document:

  • It’s hard to pump yourself up to present your accomplishments in a brief space — in third person, no less!
  • It’s difficult to decide which items to include in a bio and which ones to scrap.
  • It’s challenging to find the right tone for your bio. You are looking to convey a certain message, but that can get lost in just wanting to spit out the facts about yourself.

To ease the bio-creation process, I have provided five tips to help you write a great bio:

1. Compile the facts. Write down all that you’ve done. Dash out the obvious details first, like jobs you’ve had and degrees you’ve earned. Include big and small accomplishments. Jot down fun facts and personal tidbits. Finally, circle items that are most important to include in your bio. Star other things on the list that might make your bio more interesting.

2. Know your audience. Who will be reading this bio? Understanding your audience is the key to any writing. Are you a lawyer needing a bio for your firm’s website? Are you a life coach looking to connect to those attending a workshop you offer? Are you using your bio in a directory where someone might be wanting to use your services?

Once you figure out the target audience for your bio, revisit the list you compiled and think about what’s important. If you need guidance, check out bios written by people in your field. Their audiences are similar, so study the language and details they use and model yours in a similar fashion.

3. Consider your message. Your bio serves a purpose. It may need to convey expertise and authority. It may need to show your interpersonal skills. It may need to include details to help you attain future goals.

Think about how you want to establish yourself and write your bio accordingly. Include adjectives that reflect your message. For example, if you are an event planner, make sure to emphasize your organization skills, whether by saying it or showing it. Or, if you work with families, include some details about your own family or experience you’ve had with organizations that support families or children.

4. Be direct. Don’t assume that people know anything about you when reading your bio. Keep it simple and write in easy-to-read language. Now is not the time to share your creative writing skills. Write in lists of three, as this resonates with readers. Avoid too many details. People just want the nuts and bolts of who you are, not an extensive laundry list of your life.

5. Edit and review. Write a few versions of your bio and read them to someone. Take out a red pen and scratch up the draft. It’ll take a bit of time to get the bio right, so don’t be hesitant to go back to the drawing board and write something new. Though the facts about you may not change with each draft, the way you structure your bio can be altered.

Consider writing long and short bios at the same time so you don’t have to go through this process again any time soon. Using a consistent bio will make you appear more professional.

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To close out this post, I thought I’d share with you the most recent iteration of my short bio. I worked to convey my business services, experience, and passion (in that order). I did not think my degrees or other academic experience were necessary in this brief bio, so I didn’t include them. I added a personal detail about myself at the end because I thought it fit well and shared just a bit about my personal life.

Natalie L. Silver is a writer and editor who collaborates with individuals, businesses, and publishers. Her services include copywriting, editing, and proofreading. She founded Silver Scribe Editorial Services in May 2013 after spending almost a decade working as managing editor for an independent book publisher. Natalie’s love of the written word, experience with different stylebooks, and passion for publishing give her the spark to deliver quality services to all of her clients. She lives in the Philadelphia suburbs with her husband and two children.

And, don’t forget, I am here to help you with your bio if going through this process alone is just too daunting. Send me an e-mail and we can begin a conversation!

Client Profile: Small Steps

Small Steps LogoLast month I had the opportunity to work with someone who’s just taken a big, brave leap into pursuing her career dreams (just like I did a few years ago!). Elizabeth Small (hereafter Liz) decided recently that she wanted to focus all of her professional efforts on growing her small business, Small Steps. Her endeavor provides reflections, one-on-one sessions, and workshops to those who are looking to restore or grow their personal faith. She also provides programing for college campuses on spirituality and hooking up. And, the best part of all, she’s honest, funny, and self-deprecating, which gives her regular blog posts a refreshing voice and makes them must-reads.

Liz reached out to me after realizing that creating the copy for her website was too daunting a task to do alone. She had hired other professionals, including a photographer and graphic and web designers, to elevate her site’s look, and she wanted to make sure her copy delivered the Small Steps message as effectively as possible.

HeadshotDuring our collaboration, Liz and I traded many e-mails and files. She contributed the original ideas and writing to the project, and I looked through it with an editorial eye to suggest ways to be more direct and explicit. For Liz’s website, she needed to be clear about her services but also retain her distinct voice. As an editor, I wanted to achieve these objectives while also checking for other grammar, usage, and style issues. In just a few weeks, Liz and I had polished her copy and it was ready for her website’s new launch.

Liz was kind enough to supply a quote I could use for my own marketing efforts as I continue to grow my offerings for individuals and small businesses. Regarding our collaboration, Liz said: “Working with Natalie was such a treat! She’s clearly honed her trade as an editor, and I felt like all of her suggestions helped my message become clearer!”

If you are in need of reconnecting with your personal needs and spiritual life, contact Liz to set up a time to talk. She offers regular programs on self-care, something many of us could use on a regular basis. And if you are looking to refine or create a clear and effective message for your own small business, reach out to me so we can begin a meaningful collaboration.

5 Essential Résumé Writing Tips

Spring is here, and many of us are tackling those spaces in our house collecting dust. Another item to clean up is your résumé. Whether you’re job hunting in the near future or wanting to stay current, spend an hour or two thinking about this all-important personal document.

While I don’t claim to be a résumé-writing expert, I am fortunate to be related to someone who has spent years coaching and guiding job seekers. Thanks Marcia Lyons for these tips! And if you need a final set of eyes on your document, keep me in mind!

resume-tips

A résumé is your most important marketing piece, and it takes a lot of thought. The résumé gets the interview, and sometimes it can still get you the job if it’s good enough — even if your interview wasn’t perfect. Why? Because your résumé stays behind and is what the members of the hiring team will look at again as they narrow the field of candidates. If your résumé successfully reminds them of what you have to offer, you can still come out on top.

Here are five things your résumé must include:

  1. A good-looking format. Use a standard, easy-to-read font. Don’t make the font size too small — readability is more important than cramming the information on a single page. Use white space, shaded boxes, and font emphasis (bold, underline, italic, etc.) to create interest and readability. Keep in mind you may also need a plain text version for some websites.
  2. A job description, including position title and dates worked. Also write accomplishment statements for each job of any duration — what did you do in that position to make a difference? Use quantification in the accomplishment statements (i.e., “improved sales by 15% in first year,” “trained 30 employees in proper use of the new software system,” “coordinated 50 volunteers for the school fundraiser.” Numbers make the statement more meaningful.
  3. Résumé-friendly grammar, usage, and style. Always write in the third person, and start sentences with strong action verbs. First person résumés are awkward and make a poor impression.
  4. A skills summary. Locate it somewhere on the résumé where key words are easy to locate. This skills summary should give the reader a quick snapshot of what you have to offer. These are often at the top of the résumé, immediately following the summary of qualifications, or career summary section.
  5. A top-notch summary. This section may be the only part of your résumé that is read as hiring teams go through a giant pile of résumés. If you don’t include this vital section, your résumé reviewer will just look at your last title and that will be what they remember about you. Quite often, this is not what you want. For example, if your most recent position is as a part-time sales clerk but you have been a marketing manager and vice president for a large company, you want to make sure those significant roles stand out at the top.

There is a lot of advice out there, and don’t be afraid to do your homework as you prepare to update your résumé. If you keep these five ideas in mind, you’ll be on your way to creating a document that does the job.

Five Tips to Improve Your Writing

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I was honored to submit a blog post on the bizzy mamas website last week. The bizzy mamas are a networking group for women who juggle business and family. Many of those in the group own their own businesses, so I wanted to remind them that it is possible to be an effective writer without being too obsessed with nitty-gritty grammar.

If you are not a strong writer, I do recommend hiring an editor for major endeavors, however. For websites, proposals, reports, and marketing materials, it’s worth investing a small sum to make sure your documents are of the highest quality possible.

Read my advice here.

Finding Your Voice

I just returned a single-authored manuscript to a client today after working on it for the last few weeks. While I’m always happy to finish a project, it’s hard to let go of the final product, not just because the dissecting of notes and references gets addictive but because I feel like I get to know an author while reading a book—no matter the content.

In the case of this particular book, the author had mastered his voice, incorporating feeling into an otherwise academic treatise. The author wove in conversational remarks in a heavily researched and referenced book, making it much more enjoyable to read. While he’s had years of practice to refine his voice, there are ways you can develop a voice as an inexperienced or less-seasoned writer.

How do you develop a voice in your writing?

  • Write more. Find an outlet that suits your interests, whether it be a journal, blog, online forum, writing group, or something else. Writing becomes easier with practice. The more you put pen to paper, fingers to keys, the more likely you are to discover how to inject yourself into your work.
  • Read more. If you aren’t reading newspapers, magazines, websites, books, or other written works, make it a priority. Identifying the voices of others will help you find yours. It’s unrealistic to think that your own written works will improve if you aren’t reading enough. Expose yourself to different forms of writing to see how authors’ voices work in various formats and for various purposes.
  • Edit more. Give yourself time to write. Work on a few drafts, even rewriting an entire paper upon completion of the rough draft. Read it aloud to yourself or someone willing to listen. Rather than edit as you go, write a significant amount and then walk away from it for a bit. Come back and reread it, considering whether the work sounds like you. If not, begin to write again.

When you’re ready for a final edit, contact me to help you polish your work. I can help you find your voice as well, so feel free to contact me in the earlier stages of writing so I might be able to provide some tips on your project before you develop writer’s block or write a diatribe.

 

Consistency Rules: An Easy Method to Improve Your Writing

If you don’t consider yourself a grammarian but love to write (or have to for academic or professional reasons), there’s an easy way to make sure your writing looks good. Be consistent.

While it’s important to use proper grammar and punctuation, one of the simplest ways to make sure your work looks polished is to be consistent. An editor fine-tunes her eyes to look for consistency in written works, and it’s important that you either work on this skill or outsource your public writing to someone who can do this for you. While you don’t need to master the Chicago, AP, APA, and MLA styles for documents you plan to publish or submit (unless it’s required), it’s good to identify certain components of your work that should remain consistent.

Here are five things to review in your document to ensure consistency:

  1. Capitalization. Are particular words capitalized the same way throughout the document? Check how you incorporate product names, personal names, professional titles, and organizations.
  2. Spelling. It’s important to spell words the same way throughout a document. While this seems obvious, the English language can be tricky, so double-check your treatment of compound words (did you use a hyphen once, break it into two words another time, and consolidate it in another instance?) For example, in a book I recently edited, the term twenty-something was hyphenated, though I could see someone breaking it into two words (twenty something) or even smashing it together (twentysomething) depending on personal style and the purpose of the document. When in doubt, use the dictionary as a final authority. Also, not to add complications, consider the part of speech of the compound too.
  3. Punctuation. Are you using the serial comma?  Are you using a three-dot ellipsis or three- and four-dot ellipses? When you need to use an apostrophe after a singular word that ends in s are you adding just an apostrophe or an apostrophe and an s (e.g., Henry James’ book or Henry James’s book?) Are you adding two spaces after a period? What about em dashes — are you adding spaces around them? Punctuation can be dubious and, while there are basic rules of American English to follow, you have some choices in punctuation.  Stick with a consistent method in your document.
  4. Formatting. Are you italicizing or bolding specific terms throughout the document? Are paragraphs indented? What about space between paragraphs? Do you capitalize captions or punctuate them as sentences? The document should look good on first glance, and formatting consistently is key to making a good impression.
  5. References. Choose one method for references, such as footnotes, endnotes, or in-text references. Format the references the same way every time. For example, don’t use an author’s full name and the abbreviation for page number (i.e., Mark Twain, p. 123) and then later just use the author’s last name without the page abbreviation (i.e., Twain, 144). Likewise, use the same formatting from endnote to endnote in a given document.

I hope you find this advice useful. I could go into more detail about consistency, but this is supposed to be a tutorial to make you feel more at ease about polishing a document. And always, keep in mind the audience for your work. If you are submitting a paper to a professor, refer to the syllabus for the class’s preferred style. If you are editing a newsletter or a blog, just try to be as consistent as possible. If you are handing over your work to an editor, trust that he keeps a style sheet and refers to the appropriate stylebook.