Spelling is complicated ... and easier than ever. Spell-check is a great tool, even if it's always correcting me, fixing my mistakes, and schooling me on the proper spelling of this word ... and that one.
But, despite its know-all application, I know it's not perfect.
Do the spell-check double check
Spell-check catches a lot, but a regular check on spell-check is good practice.
Proofread your writing
Your ebooks, essays, and emails could all use a good proofing before being shared.
Give your writing (no matter the format) a good read-through; eyeballs on each and every word.
Read your writing out loud
When you've got your final draft, read your writing out loud. It's one of the best ways to catch awkward phrases and confusing sentences.
This simple infographic was designed to help you visualize three words that spell-check, and your memory bank, might struggle with: their, they're, and there.
The first clue: they all start with the same three letters: t-h-e.
It's a good tip. Especially when you're trying to remember how to spell their. Is it "i" before "e"? Not this time.
Wondering if it's their or they're? Just remember their is possessive. The clue here is the possessive "i" tucked in there, just right of center.
What about they're? Break it apart and look at the two words it represents to get your answer: they're = they are. Is that what you're trying to say? It's a good tip for figuring out if it's its or it's, too. Separate the words and you'll know.
And finally, there. It, too, holds a clue, it's got the word "here" nestled comfortably inside itself. Remember that and you'll know if it's here or there where you want to be.
If you need help with words, let's exchange a few. Maybe I can help.
I write words, edit words, and arrange words, online and on paper. Helping you look like the professional you are.
Call 207-252-9757 today, or write.
p.s. I did the spell-check double check on this email and my fingers are crossed I didn't miss anything. But let me know if I did.
Yesterday started with a classic DIY moment when the vent hose on the back of the dryer disconnected.
Trouble was, I couldn’t get it reconnected and became mired in a string of lefty-loosey, righty-tighty missteps, YouTube videos, and a trip to the hardware store.
Are you handy?
Most of the time I would say I’m relatively handy, though it depends when you ask.
Yesterday when I was in the middle of trying to attach that hose, I would have answered with a resounding, "No, I am not handy." Today, basking in the satisfaction of a job well-done, I’m more likely to say, "Yes."
Replacing a dry vent hose isn’t an impossible task. It requires minimal tools and supplies ... there’s no rewiring of electricity or other elements that would best be left to a professional.
It falls within DIY, but still, I couldn’t do it alone.
After two hours of trial and error, seven YouTube videos, and two trips to two different hardware stores, I found what I needed: a missing part and professional guidance.
Though I won’t be installing dryer vent hoses on a regular basis, it’s a good, and constant, reminder that DIY comes with challenges.
It also reminded me that you may being doing a bit of DIY yourself.
Online platforms make it easier than ever to DIY your website, email campaigns, and graphics.
Doing these things yourself can often save time and cost less. All good.
But like me and the dryer vent, something was missing: I needed some guidance.
Wordpress and Wix, and Squarespace and Weebly make DIY easier than ever, but there’s more to creating an effective website than easy-to-use templates.
I want to help you build the best site possible, so this month I’m trying something new, the content audit special. An inventory of what’s working on your site (whether you did it yourself or someone did it for you), and what's not, with suggestions to improve it.
It can be challenging to see your site the way visitors see it. To make sure it’s functioning as well as it could be. Here's a start:
Improve Your Website
If you’re not sure if your website is the best it can be and wonder what you need to do to fix it, here are five things to consider:
1. A Fresh Approach
If your website is more than a couple of years old, it's time for an update.
2. Is it all about you? It shouldn't be
Do you welcome visitors with an introduction that tells them how you can help them, or is it all about you?
3. Share your expertise
When someone comes to your site, they’re looking for information. Hoping to be inspired. Give them the information they're looking for ... lots of it, and make it interesting.
4. Offer downloads and products
If you have how-to information, a special edition poster, infographics, a report or book, promote it on your website.
5. Offer a way to stay in touch
Is your contact information buried? It shouldn't be. You need to make it easy for people to reach out and connect.
Make sure there's a link to your contact information on every page.
And, consider offering an email sign-up box to capture their information ... so you can stay in touch with them.
These tips are part of a larger article, read more here.
Look like the professional you are with a website that proves it.
Get in touch today and DIY like a pro.
Much of my work revolves around words: arranging words, writing words, and editing words.
Last week I considered the word racism. And then the opposite, respect: to show regard or consideration for.
As I considered the words, I imagined editing them, replacing one with the other. Then illustrating the idea with red line editing; crossing out the unwanted word, writing in the new one.
Spell-check and track changes in word processing documents have replaced red line edits done by hand. A hand-drawn line through a word with a loop at the end indicates the word should be taken out. Removed. The arrow indicates what it should be replaced with.
If only it were that easy to edit and change behavior. To replace racism with respect and acknowledge that Black Lives Matter.
New work brings new perspective
I was struggling with how to write and present an article about maps. But nothing was working.
I was beginning to feel lost and frustrated, so I decided to go in a different direction. To combine my collage work and hand lettering. To present it as an online article in a long scroll.
When I finished, it occurred to me that in these days of the coronavirus we're all navigating new territory.
There's no map to tell us which way is the shortest, best solution to get us from here to there. But maps can still guide us:
Cartography and the days of the coronavirus
Map terminology as it applies to the challenges of staying home:
It's your internal guidance. If you pay attention to how you feel, you'll find your way. Getting tired? Maybe it's time to take a break. Frustrated? Take a left. Or right. Abandon course and do something different.
This is where you map your survival strategy. Maybe it's creating a routine: getting up at a reasonable hour, getting dressed, and saving your comfy clothes for later in the day.
Exercise. Because it helps. But does it fit better in the morning or afternoon?
Work. Begin and end when you normally would, if you can.
Meals. Keep it simple most days. But once in a while, make something different or special. Plan a three-course meal. Or a special dessert.
You've got a lifetime of experience, knowledge, and know-how. Make a list and run through things you've done, things you want to try, and things you miss.
You may not be able to go hiking, but you could plan hikes for the future. Explore documentaries about hiking. Journal or tell stories about the hikes you've completed. What do you remember? Waterfalls, wild animals, blisters ... the heat?
Not a hiker? Replace the word hiker with whatever suits you.
I resisted the urge to try something different. It took three attempts at failed experiments before I convinced myself to go with hand lettering for the illustrated article. It took more effort than I initially wanted to commit to, and I stumbled more than once along the way. But I'm glad I did it.
The project kept me occupied for quite some time and while I was doing it, that's all I thought about. (What a relief.) It's done, I've accomplished something, and that feels good.
I hope you're able to find things that bring a sense of calm and comfort. To stretch yourself when you don't want to. And I hope this helps.
p.s. The map article is part of the April Playbook: This State of Mine posted on my hobby site, Waystation Whistle. It's an experiment. I'm not sure how well it's working, but I figure the only way I'll know is to try.
Take a break ... and be better for it
I've been wondering what I might do to help in these difficult times.
To begin, I want to share an article I wrote about being bored and frustrated and what I did to change the situation.
It was a game changer. You can read the article here.
The article is posted on my new site, Waystation Whistle.
At Waystation Whistle my mission is to help you see the world in a new way. To take a break. To explore hobbies, passions, and pastimes that lift your spirits.
Why this, why now?
We're curious beings. We need challenges and activity.
Binge watching your favorite show is a fun (and often necessary) way to unwind. But being actively engaged in a project that you find interesting brings a different sort of distraction and calm. Especially in difficult times.
These are difficult times.
Taking a break can help you perform better in life and business. I know recipes and baking may not be your thing.
There are other things.
Click on the map below for the April playbook ... and other things.
I know this is a tough time for business, let me know how you're doing.
p.s. I'm also here if you need help with your business. With writing and design, with your website, email marketing, and ebooks. If there's something you need help with, send me an email.
I was in a lather ...
Sometimes it's easier to learn or remember something when there's an example to follow.
We're all watching the news about the spread of the coronavirus, and one piece of advice we're all hearing is, "Wash your hands."
It's good advice, but it got me in a lather. Why? I thought a few prompts might be helpful.
So what's a writer/graphic designer to do?
Make a poster. A public service announcement. This poster reminds us all to wash up ... with some key markers to make it routine throughout the day.
A Free Download!
Click on the poster to download and print the PDF.
Go big with an 11" x 17", or print it on a standard 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper. Post it at home ... in the kitchen and bathroom. And in the office ... on doors, in the stairwell, the elevator, and in the loo.
Share this email with friends and family and soon enough, we'll all be in a lather.
I lost the bid on a job recently. A website redesign. I lost the job because I’m not familiar with the platform the site was built on.
Unfortunately, it didn't work out for either of us.
Not just beause I didn’t get the job, but because the people who did get the job, while familiar with the platform, are not as familiar with best practices for web design or copywriting as they should be.
After looking at the new site, my disappointment at losing the job morphed into disappointment for my would-be client.
The copywriting on the new site is ineffective and the user experience is one of confusion and missed opportunity.
Here are two reminders and one takeaway from the experience.
Remember, it’s not all about you. At least not right away.
When a visitor comes to your website, they want to know if they are in the right place and they want to know if you can help them. As quickly as possible.
They're looking for the solution to a problem. They’re not interested in knowing how long you’ve been in business or how many awards you’ve won. That’s important information, but information you can share later on.
It’s like when you cut your finger. You’ll grab anything to stop the bleeding: a napkin, a paper towel, or a clean hanky if someone hands one to you. Only later will you think about a proper bandage or the best antiseptic cream.
You need to tell visitors how you can help them. And you need to tell them right away.
2) User Experience
Is your site easy to navigate, is it interesting?
When people search for what you offer and find you, tell them what they want to know.
Do you sell products? Services?
Is it easy to figure out what you offer? Is it easy to place an order? To get in touch with you? Want people to join your mailing list? Make sure there's an incentive for them to sign up.
Remember, people have lots of options. Do you have resources on your site that add to the user experience? That make you stand out?
Consider blog posts, articles, and white papers where you can share your expertise and bolster your credibility—without sounding like you're bragging.
Having a site that's easy to navigate and chock-full of helpful information is the best way to convince someone you know what you're doing.
Team up with someone who knows what you don’t.
I was disappointed when I lost the account. Partnering with someone familiar with the preferred platform would have been the thing to do.
Do you need more tips to build a better website? Read this:
Five lessons in project management.
Last Sunday I bundled up and went outside to clear the six inches of snow that fell overnight. Six inches is not a lot of snow, and with a temperature of only 12°F, it was light and fluffy. The problem was, and usually is, the end of the driveway. The snowplow snow.
It’s a messy mix of snow and ice at the end of the driveway after the city plow comes through. It's heavy and chunky and challenging to move.
Because it was only six inches, and it was early (just seven o’clock in the morning), I decided to forgo the snowblower and shovel my way out.
Like most projects, there are things to consider when starting out, and I realized my plan for clearing the snow was really an exercise in project management.
Lesson #1: Assess the situation
Shoveling a path out was the first step. After the porch and stairs were clear, I needed to tackle the driveway surface, remove the snowplow snow from the end of the driveway, and clean off the car.
Lesson #2: Make sure you have the right tools for the job
Snow shovels come in as many varieties and flavors as ice cream. There’s the big scoop and the small scoop. Metal and plastic varieties. And varying weights. Some shovels are light and easy to handle, others are heavy.
After years of testing, my preference is a light-weight, flat scoop.
Why? There’s a lot of lifting involved and I don’t like adding extra weight from the shovel itself. And the bigger the scoop, the more snow it holds, and the harder it is to lift.
Lesson #3: Make a plan
Once the porch and stairs were clear, I decided to use an alternating pattern of removal. Because snowplow snow is so heavy, devised a plan: shovel, brush, dig.
I shoveled 1/3 of the driveway, moved on and brushed off half of the car, then dug a two-foot wide section of the snowplow snow. And switched again. More shoveling, brushing, and digging.
The plan allowed me minimize exertion (recommended), make slow and steady progress, and vary the tasks at hand to avoid frustration.
Lesson #4: Check your progress
When I started, it seemed it would take forever to get through the end of the driveway. But when I stopped to take a breath, I could see I was making progress. My plan was working.
Lesson #5: Find pleasure in the doing
When I stopped to check my progress, I took a deep breath and looked up. I saw that the sky was robin’s egg blue and I noticed the light. The sun was still rising and it put a glow on the horizon, the tree tops ... and the underbelly of a seagull that flew overhead.
It was a beautiful winter day and it felt like the reward for a job well done.
Do you have a project you need help with? Click on the button below and we can talk about how I can help with you writing, editing, design ... and project management.
The winner is .... Cover #1
Most of you thought it best reflected the subject of the book, cursive writing.
Thank you for voting and sharing your thoughts.
I need your help.
I'm in the final stages of designing my book, Cursive Writing Practice by the Letter and I need your help.
There are three cover designs to choose from, and I'd like to know which one you like best.
(voting has ended)
Cursive Writing Practice by the Letter is a workbook. It includes instruction for writing each letter of the alphabet and introduces a more creative, engaging way to practice and improve your writing skill: writing and mailing letters to your friends and family.
Inside there are tips for who to write to and what to write about along with detailed instructions for how to address an envelope ... and where to put the stamp(!).
It also includes writing samples from over 20 people (so students can learn to read, as well as write, cursive), and a selection of writing prompts from the popular "I Write Letters to Say" series.
(voting has ended)
So which cover do you like best?
To make your selection, just click on the cover you like, and it will generate an email that will come directly to me ... just type Cover #1, Cover #2, or Cover # 3 in the subject line and your vote will be counted. You can also add any comments or suggestions.
Next week I'll reveal which cover got the most votes and share more details about how you can order your copy of Cursive Writing Practice by the Letter.
(voting has ended)
Thanks for reading along (and choosing the cover you like), I really appreciate it.
P.S. If you know someone who would enjoy this email, you can forward it to them.
P.P.S. If you're writing a book, get in touch if you need help with developmental editing, design, or project management.
I put it off as long as I could.
It was a side project I was working on and I was having trouble settling on a theme. A theme and an illustration. I'd done a lot of thinking, but had done nothing concrete to move things forward.
So I sat at my desk and started mapping out ideas. A list of words. A list of images. And (no surprise, really), it worked. Ideas started to materialize.
I settled on a theme.
A snowy night. A night when snowbanks shimmer like sparkle snow in a storefront window.
And with a theme, things shifted.
The ideas started to flow.
The snowy night led to the idea of adding animals. But what kind?
Animals that turn white in winter (there are fewer than I expected). The Peary caribou is one and it would be the first of four I would include in the drawing.
Things were finally coming together. I had the shape of the caribou defined and most of the night sky around it was filled in.
But something was wrong.
The nose. With a pointed eraser, I rubbed it out. And something happened. The area I erased looked like the breath of the caribou. I was so surprised at the sight of it. Serendipity had stepped in and transformed the drawing.
The relief I felt was audible. This was going to work.
The drawing came together, I met my deadline, and felt good about what I had created.
And (fingers crossed), I learned something.
Start before you're ready.
Procrastination is hard to eliminate entirely, but sometimes a deep breath, a pencil (and an eraser), and a list will get things going.
On the final panel, I added a line from a cut-up poetry exercise. The original pencil drawing along with the hand lettering was scanned. Color was applied in InDesign.
Click on the drawing to enlarge.
If I can help you move forward with your project, let's do it.
Call 207-252-9757 or email me to get started.
At Composition 1206 we make you look good. Online and in print.
websites • books
I'm writing a book.
Here's the working title:
The Snail Mail Guide to Cursive Writing Practice
I'm fairly sure the title isn't catchy enough, but it tells it like it is. Maybe that's good? I'm working on it.
It's an instruction book for writing in cursive and using letter writing as a way to practice.
But why write a book about two outmoded topics?
I believe they still matter.
My deadline for the first draft is the end of this month.
After that? I've got a few letters to write.
P.S. Are you writing a book? Or thinking about writing a book?
I can help you with organization, structure and flow, copy editing, and design. Call (207) 252-9757 or email me today to talk about your book project.
P.P.S. Need some letter writing ideas or encouragement? Take a peek at my letter writing site: Postmark1206.
* Take Notes by Hand for Better Long-term Comprehension
**Why Don't the Common-Core Standards Include Cursive Writing?
What would it be like if we couldn't vote?
That's what I think about on election day. I think about it because voter turnout can be dismal.
I think about it because there are four amendments to the Constitution related to voting rights. Amendments that give people who were denied the right to vote their voting rights. People like Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
In 1848 Elizabeth Cady Stanton had had enough.
It was unacceptable that as a woman, she was not allowed to vote. For more than 50 years, she fought for the right to cast a ballot. And she died nearly two decades before the 19th Amendment would pass. That's 70 years.
It took far too long.
Today I will vote. I will vote for Elizabeth Cady Stanton and all the women who fought alongside her. And I will vote for those who fought for the 15th Amendment, the 24th Amendment, and the Voting Rights Act.
I will vote because I can.
One person, one vote. It matters, and it counts.
I created this infographic to inspire more people to vote on election day.
If you have information you'd like to share in an infographic, write today to talk about how we can work together.
Flipping the switch was flipping me out. Last week's storm left us without power.
It was Thursday morning and I was up early. Not because the alarm went off. No, it was the rain lashing against the bedroom window that woke me.
Fifteen minutes later the power went out.
It was a blackout: no power, no lights, no heat, no opening the refrigerator, and no computer.
A day and a half later (37 hours, but really, who's counting) we still didn't have power.
But I was still flipping switches.
It wasn't that I was hoping the power was back, it was utterly clear that it wasn't. It was habit. An especially bad habit in light of things. At least a dozen times I flipped a wall switch.
And each time it was the same thing. Nothing.
It was worse than nothing. I was ready to scream. Well, I did scream. It was so frustrating.
Flipping the switch was flipping me out.
So I put my headlamp on.
The headlamp gave me what I needed: a beam of light.
I stopped flipping switches.
The point is to see it fresh.
Sometimes a fresh approach to a nagging problem can help you move forward. If you've been struggling with your marketing, a book, or your website, maybe I can help:
• blog posts
• email marketing
Call 207-252-9757 or write today for a free consultation and a fresh start.
It was the third round of editing on a piece I was writing about the autumn harvest. It was all about kale, collards, squash, and Brussels sprouts. The problem was, I had it all wrong.
Instead of Brussels sprouts, I was writing brussel sprouts. No capital B at the beginning, no s on the end of Brussels.
I'd cooked and eaten lots of Brussels sprouts, but clearly I'd never written about them.
Lesson #1: Proper names have proper spellings.
When a red line appeared below the misspelled "brussel," I was surprised. So I checked the dictionary.
I found the correct spelling: A capital B? A bit more digging revealed the name comes from the city of Brussels, in Belgium.
Unless you're certain about the correct spelling of a product, a city, a town, someone's name, title, or product, look it up.
That was last year. This year, I have another editing tip courtesy of the Brussels sprout.
Last week I was watching a cooking show when the chef introduced a new segment by saying, "Today we're making Brussels sprouts."
Lesson #2: Ask yourself, "Is that what's really going on?"
Of course the chef wouldn't be "making" Brussels sprouts, as in constructing or creating them. He would be cooking them. Or, maybe he'd be roasting them.
In the context of the show, it didn't matter much. It was a live taping and viewers could watch and listen.
But his word choice caught my ear. I've been writing a lot and that means I'm rewriting and editing a lot.
I wanted to edit the script, to rewind the tape and have the chef say, "Today we're roasting Brussels sprouts."
Roasting is a more descriptive word. Making is vague and in this example, inaccurate.
Every word has a purpose.
Lesson #3: Just because you're familiar with something doesn't mean you know all you need to know.
It turns out eating Brussels sprouts didn't make me an expert. From misspellings to context and relevance, it's important to know what you're writing about. Do some research. Dig around. What you find may not only surprise you, it could add a new dimension to your project.
Get Your Cabbage On
Are you a fan? Brussels sprouts with a capital B offer a boost of vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K. And they're good for gut health, too.
The only question is, how will you cook them?
Feeling the heat?
If you don't like to write, are feeling overwhelmed, or just need a fresh set of eyes to read through what you written, let me know. I can help with:
Notes on illustrations:
The title illustration with the Brussels sprouts images was created for this post. The letter is hand-drawn using Ledge, a lettering style I developed for my Riddle Me Mail project. If you're interested, here's a how-to lettering guide for Ledge.
The autumn collage was also created for Riddle Me Mail. You can learn more about my collage process here.
Call 207-252-9757 or write today for a free consultation.
Love It or Hate It
Whether or not you like to write, it seems most of us have to do some sort of writing at some point.
Email is ever-present, websites are all about content, content, content, and blogs can challenge the best of us.
When I'm struggling to begin a new writing project, big or small, I remind myself that getting something down on paper is a good first step. It can be an outline, a summary, or a list. Something, anything to get me started.
When Things Get Fuzzy
After two, three, or four rounds of writing, editing, and rewriting, things can get fuzzy. Overwhelm sets in and I'm burdened by the order of things. I worry about what it is I'm trying say, how much to say, and how to say it.
That's when I revisit one of these books:
• Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott
• Writing Well, William Zinsser
• Words Fail Me, Patricia T. O'Conner
Revisiting them reminds me what it takes to write well.
• In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott, reminds me that I just need to start. Forget about word choice and form. Just write.
• On Writing Well by William Zinsser reminds me that good writing is all about rewriting and clearing the clutter.
• Words Fail Me is funny. Patricia T. O'Conner reminds me that each sentence has a job to do, that clarity is paramount, and it's OK to lighten up a bit.
I've read each one of these books cover to cover, many times. But it's hard to remember it all. When my writing gets the best of me, I grab one, read a chapter or two, take a deep breath, and get back to writing.
Writing Is Hard
If you don't like to write, are feeling overwhelmed, or just need a fresh set of eyes to read through what you've written, I can help:
• content development
If I can help, call 207-252-9757 or write today for a free consultation.
And stay tuned. I've got a new book in the works. Here's a hint: