In Blogging for Business, Grammar is a Big Deal

“You might believe the past tense of the verb lead is lead, but that’s not how things are,” says Marko Ticak in the grammarly blog. (Led is the past tense of lead.) Big deal, you’re thinking… Yes, it is. As a blog content writing trainer, I know the truth of author Joanne Adams’ words: Pay attention to proper spelling and grammar, Adams says, and “people who read your writing will know, without a sliver of doubt, that you are somebody who really knows their $h*t”.

At Say It For You, my favorite recommendation to business owners and the freelance blog content writers they hire to help bring their message to their customers is simply this: Dress your blog in its best. Prevent blog content writing “wardrobe malfunctions” such as grammar errors, run-on sentences, and spelling errors. Perhaps it’s true that most readers won’t notice errors, but business owners or practitioner ought to ask themselves a simple question: “Can I afford to have even one potential customer noticing my lack of care?”

Just to be sure you know your $h*t, Adams offers a list of infinitives and their proper past tense forms (along the lines of “lead/led”):

  • build/built
  • choose/chose
  • lie/lay (another very common mistake)
  • lose/lost
  • spend/spent

Other bothersome twosomes often confused include:

  • advice (the noun – what you give or receive) and advise (the verb)
  • imply (the speaker or writer does this)/ infer (the listener or reader does this)
  • lose (can’t seem to find) and loose (not tight enough)

One expression to erase from your mind and your writing, Adams advises, is “a lot”. It’s OK to use “a lot”, but don’t smoosh the words together.

I’ll admit that, over the years, I’ve been accused of being a “grammar Nazi”, so you can imagine why I identify with the material in Joanne Adams’ book. But, really, all content writers should. Grammar mistakes are very much like the much-publicized TV star wardrobe mishaps – they call attention away from the kind of impression we intend to make on behalf of our businesses or professional practices.

In blogging for business, grammar affects the effect!


Valuable Blog Marketing Lesson in a Solo Cup

target market
You know those red plastic SOLO drinking cups? Maybe you’re heard that the lines wrapped around the outside are actually measuring guides, observes Todd Hunt in his latest Hunt’s Headlines email. The line closest to the bottom measures 1 ounce of liquor, the next one 5 ounces of wine, with the line close to the top measuring 12 ounces of beer. Forget that, says parent company Dart Container Corporation, stating in no uncertain terms that the lines are designed for function only and are not measurements.

“Advertising can….introduce emotions, images, and symbols that stimulate desire, and it can show how a product or brand compares favorably to competitors,” explains.
“Reminder advertising reminds people about the need for a product or service, or the features and benefits it will provide when purchased.”

According to the Cleveland State University Writing Center, “Critical readers seek knowledge; they do not “rewrite” a work to suit their own personalities”. But are blog readers “critical” in that sense? Not likely. Sure, as stresses, “Simply put, your blog’s target audience is the group of readers who your blog can help the most.” And, when you target that very specific audience, you have a better idea about what they need and want.

Still, content writers need to be aware that readers bring their own biases to the page. Without even realizing it, blog visitors are going to be thinking about how they might use those lines on the red plastic cup to measure beer or wine (whether that was our intention or not!). And, we’ve come to realize at Say It For You, that’s OK. Blog posts are not meant to be ads, instead functioning like “advertorials”.

When you first begin blogging, admits, “there is only ‘the middle’, entailing what you do, what you offer, and what problems you solve”. Surrounding this “middle” is your potential audience and what they care about. Identifying your audience is a process that never stops, cautions Queryz founder Sean Si.

As a blog marketer, suggests, you have different ways to differentiate your product from competitors, including:

  • by size
  • by origin
  • by branding or decoration
  • by packaging
  • by adding a feature or ingredient
  • by offering a bonus

One way to engage blog readers is to share the history of your company. (The Solo Cup company, was founded in Chicago during the Great Depression, and is now 84 years old!) “How-we-did-it” stories make for very effective blog content for both business owners and professional practitioners, I’ve learned.

The lesson in the solo cup? To the blog writer, the product or service might represent one thing; to individual readers, it might represent another! It’s all good….


Are Your Blog Questions for Learning or Judging?

Questions open our minds, says executive coach Roz Savage, but we need to go from judging to learning. While old-style leaders ask questions to elicit facts, new-style leaders ask questions “to unlock the intelligence of the team”. In her book Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, Marilee Adams compares judging questions with learning questions. When we leap to judgment, that prevents us from learning very much, she teaches.

At Say it For You, always on the hunt for ways to improve the way we go about business blog content writing, we wondered how questions can be used in blog content itself, in which the “conversation”, at least at the start of the encounter, is one-way! Neil Patel suggests asking questions on social media as a way of learning more about your target audience for the blog. The first and most important question you need to ask, Patel says, is What are my readers worried about? The answers will allow you to provide a better customer experience and blog reader experience.

A question in a blog post title is an invitation to participate in a conversation, Patrick Armitage of BlogMutt suggests in  And, while in a blog post, Armitage says, you’re often providing answers to questions that your potential customer might ask, the very fact that it’s in the form of a question allows readers to feel you’re helping them form them form their own opinions.

Visitors are, without a doubt, judging your website. If it does not appear attractive, easy to navigate, or knowledgeable, you’ve lost your customer, cautions Webociti. Relevant information they should find includes questions and answers, Joe Mediate explains.

As Marilee Adams emphasizes, learner questions lead to discovery and understanding, while judger questions more often lead to blame and frustration. In keeping with that concept, blog content should focus on expansive and productive questions, such as “What’s possible?” “What are my choices?” “What’s useful here?” In the real blog marketing world, I’ve found, the content writers focus on appealing to consumers’ fear. My own thought has always been that, to appeal to a better kind of customer – the one who buys for the right reasons and remains loyal, the content must appeal to readers’ better nature – and to their ability to arrive at intelligent answers to “learning” questions.


Blog Posts Take Prospects Through the BRAN Process

BRAN process for blogs
“The BRAN analysis is a tool that you can use when faced with making a decision,” Dr. Sara Wickham explains in What’s Right For Me?: Making decisions in pregnancy and childbirth.

BRAN consists of four areas:

B = What are the benefits?
R = What are the risks?
A = What are the alternatives?
N = What if I/we do nothing?

“When we seek out content, it’s because we have a problem that needs to be solved or a question that needs to be answered,” sproutsocial reminds us. “Not only should your blog post solve a problem, but do so in a meaningful way,” Brent Barnhart adds.a “Top-tier posts go beyond basic information and dig into specifics.”

Hitting precisely the right “advertorial” (as opposed to advertisement) note is one of the big challenges in blog marketing, I teach in Say It For You blog marketing tutorials. That means finding ways to demonstrate the benefits of your product or service while avoiding any hint of “hard sell”.

In blog content writing, the R (risk) focuses on “the hurt”, meaning the problems readers are trying to solve or the negative effects they’re trying to avoid. Once readers are hooked by your understanding of their hurt, you can offer the “A, meaning the solutions your expertise and experience bring to the table. And, just as newbie suspense novel writers are taught to “put characters that readers care about in jeopardy”, blog readers can be shown how certain things readers care about might be put in jeopardy if they choose inaction as an alternative.

  1. What would it do for you? (the benefits)
  2. Who and what else would be affected (the risks along with the benefits)
  3. What is it costing you NOT to have this? (what if I do nothing?)

Use blog posts to take readers through the BRAN process!


Sticky Words Stay With Blog Readers

We business blog content writers, always on the prowl for novel ways to present information to online readers, often rely on memory hooks; I like to call them “sticky words”. About a year ago in my Say It For You blog, I had talked about weight loss company GOLO’s TV commercial (“GO LOse weight., GO Look great, GO Love life”), and about the financial planner who used catchy names for the spending habits of different age groups of retirees (Go-Go – ages 55-54, Slo-Go – ages 65-74, and No Go – ages 75 and up).

In just the past couple of weeks, I came across other examples of “sticky words, phrases that keep popping back into my mind again and again. Phrases don’t have to be slogan-like, I realized after the surgeon who’d performed surgery on my hip cautioned: “Motion is lotion”. (I think about that one every day, careful not to stay seated at my computer too long.) Then, at a recent networking meeting, the owner of a merchant services company used the phrase “Any pay. Any way. Anywhere”. (I like that one, because it made me curious to learn just what was meant.)

“Use simple and sticky phrases people can use to share your beyond-the horizon vision in their own way,” writes Will Mancini in the book God Dreams. “Like the postman,” Mancini continues, “you and your core team must deliver meaning daily in packages both big and small.”

But what, exactly, makes some phrases more “sticky” and memorable than others? Chip & Dan Heath authored an entire book addressing that question – Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. The Heaths named 6 attributes memorable phrases have:

  • simple
  • unexpected
  • concrete
  • credible
  • emotional
  • story

For me, of course, the phrase “Motion is lotion” directly related to my own story (the recent surgery and my need to get back to normal as quickly as possible). Also important was the power of similar sounds. Alliteration (repetition of consonant sounds) and assonance (repetition of vowel sounds) are both ways to add “stickiness” to a phrase, particularly in a blog post title.

At Say It For You, one of our core teachings is that blog posts are not slogans or ads. While a goal of blog marketing is to help readers think of us and remember us, to borrow a Brylcream phrase, a “little dab’ll do ya”!