Customized content, or writing you can pick and use?

Here is a question that’s been at the back of my mind for sometime. Can content or writing be offered as packaged, templated, or automated in some way, so that customers can pick up the write-up they want and use it right away, with some little tweaks? Ever seen a grocery website that says – we sell processed food, write to sales for more information? We wouldn’t really know what they sell. But we do know, or at least have a vague idea of, what we want. So as customers we want to see the actual product, go over choices, and take our pick. And that’s how it is done. This option is usually not available when we want content done for internal projects and marketing. Writing agencies can only offer ‘writing and editing services’ (like offering processed food), dive into process details, and show samples of work done earlier. After all, every write-up is meant to be fresh and unique. And to...
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A good whitepaper

Whitepapers are hard to write, and even harder to read. But I really got engrossed with this one: WhitePaperNo52-TheEndofHistoryAgain The language is terrific, easy to follow, fun to read, and carries loads of insights, easy encapsulation and structuring. The headlines add their weight as well. Either we should write like this, or not write that whitepaper at all. ...
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Project status, tracking template in Excel for content management

Messy and garbled Excel sheets are a nightmare for content writers and managers. To make project tracking simple, I created this flexible and responsive project tracking template Excel sheet. Content writers and project managers sometimes handle loads of documents. A lengthy and multi-point content review process adds to the complexity of knowing the exact situation of each article or content piece. There are many project templates available on the internet. Some are simply timelines templates. But few come close to tackling the details and complexities that exist on the ground for writers and content creators. The Excel project tracker is divided into three neat areas: Writing, Review and Final Status. This makes it easy to switch and check the status of each stage, and prevents the tracker from getting cluttered. The project status template is meant to be maintained by writers, though reviewers too can add their status updates. The tool uses automatic field update features of Excel to reduce manual entry in multiple columns. So when a writer enters a status...
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Jargon Density Checker: Optimize your language to drive conversions

I know, its a lowly Word macro, but it also comes adorned with your ultra favorite, old styled windows message box. Presenting the Jargon Density Checker macro for Word 2007 and later versions, with all my pride. No one knows how or when it began. I suspect technology had a hand in it. Or may be business owners wanting to say something as well as not say it. After all, everyone had to have a ‘core’ competency. Not less or more. Core, as in core. Jargon isn’t always ‘blue sky thinking’, but it was ‘scaled’ high enough to shake some grounds of sanity when words like ‘predictors of beaconicity’, ‘coterminosity’ and ‘double devolution’ were heard. Your friendly jargon density checker is ‘driven’ by a custom list of 200 words to avoid in formal business and corporate writing. Maybe not avoid, but at least know that you are using terms that can switch off minds as fast as one could possibly do to those designer bulbs of innovation...
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The not-webby website rankings – India industry

Remember the 1990s style websites? Hyperlinking then was the equivalent of today’s social sharing. And proud felt the sites that displayed blue underlined text. 2015 is a far distance from then, and I thought it would be befitting to take a glance at how websites look and feel in the Indian corporate space. (About the Webby, only 344 websites made it to their list this year, out of a total of 926,530,422 sites worldwide. I wonder if they actually had a look at all of them.) So here are my perceptions, taken in a breeze, of some of the websites in India’s manufacturing, capital goods and heavy industry sectors. The companies are from the current list comprising the respective BSE/NSE sector indices. As will be obvious, the review comments are an outcome of very brief, fleeting impressions, as doing a detailed review was beyond scope. The perspective is of a general, educated reader (not the prime target audience of these websites who would...
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Jargon is king, wants to conquer every written territory

Or give them a headache. Or leave a bad taste in the mouth. People who are doing this are not on Facebook or Buzzfeed or writing on fashion and lifestyle blogs. This kind of business speak is the norm in an awful lot of websites of businesses and industries. It’s shorthand and generic. Like ‘key competencies’, ‘enhanced quality’ and ‘optimized solutions’. Sounds sweet? Just two words doing the work of at least ten. After all, they said brevity was the highest mark of craftsmanship in writing, didn’t they? The damage adjectives can do But they also said, ‘kill adjectives’. Key, enhanced, optimized – they pump in a whole lot of air. I collected a lot of such terms, called jargon (in its avoidable version), while recently doing a light review of nearly fifty manufacturing and heavy industry websites. Most of these terms occurred on the About Us pages. The list is given at the end of this article. Complaining against jargon has become old hat, I know....
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THE ABC OF NEWSLETTERS

I recently wrote a post on newsletters that covered some important aspects of newsletters. An HR forum recently had members asking some very basic questions on how to go about publishing a newsletter: What is a newsletter? How is it different from an in-house magazine?How do I name my newsletter?Are e-mailers and newsletters the same? What about e-newsletters?Are there free templates available?How much will it cost? Below I share some ideas based on my own personal experience. What is a newsletter? Simply put, a newsletter is a small publication (print, html, pdf, email) that contains news, updates and relevant information for a select group or audience. So it’s not meant for everyone, and it does not contain lengthy articles, essays, or detailed content. But who puts out a newsletter? The first time I came across one was as a member of a small scholarly association – it was a folded one page print issue delivered in mail, with news and updates from that particular field. This was the...
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4 aspects of editing

Editing is a professional activity and learned through experience. The things that editors check can be lengthy checklist. We can however summarize four major areas to keep in mind while dealing with any piece of content, whether a blog post or technical report. The editing process can span across minor punctuation corrections to large structural improvements. 4 major areas of content editing 1. Spelling, punctuation, grammarThe first thing you must look out for are the basics of formal language. Cleaning this up should make the content clean and trustworthy. 2. Style: consistencyThis does not refer to the style of writing, but consistency in the way we use capitalization, money and units of measure (USD or $, per cent or %), abbreviations, designations, dates, etc. Every publication may have its style guide set. It is a good practice to adhere to one fixed set of rules. Professional editors are also well acquainted with popular style guides such as the Chicago Manual of Style, APA or that...
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OVERCOMING THE NEWSLETTER CHALLENGE

Ms Spitfire is pacing up and down her sea facing office. She wants a company newsletter sent out every week to all employees at NAIL, informing them of the latest activities and wins of various teams. But first, she must figure out some newsletter basics. Ms Spitfire: Dang! What’s a newsletter really for? What brief should I give to my team so that they can get started on this asap, and do not face a mishap down the line? Do you have any damn #@#@! knowledge on this? Well, Ms Spitfire, here are some tidbits related to newsletters of various types and purposes that you may find helpful. At one company, the internal employee newsletter was eagerly awaited and browsed every morning. The sections that garnered most attention – humor, news, puzzles, brain tickling challenges, and trivia. Not quite the old serious stuff you would expect a corporate newsletter to spread to employees. But this is precisely how readership taste defies mission based activities. Your...
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Did Facebook give identity to millions of people?

This is a question I would like to ask all of you. Apart from the networking deluge that social media caused, becoming a virtual internet by itself, did it also along the way serve a useful social purpose? That of putting a face, and giving a palpable identity to millions of people, in all corners of the world, who otherwise would have struggled in their restricted spaces. That it served a latent but all too powerful desire to be known and seen in public. Faces that we would otherwise never have seen. ...
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