5 rules for effective writing

Pick the Brain had a good article awhile ago breaking down George Orwell's 5 rules for effective writing. It's the same today as it was in 1946. Good writing gives you an edge over your competition and helps you communicate with your customers.

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

When a customer hits your website you have about 7 seconds to make your case. What can you do for them?


Unsuck those weasel words

Unsuck-it is an awesome site dedicated to unsucking terrible business jargon and weasel words.

I need to add some of the jargon from my Phrases everyone should stop using post...


Need an SEO expert? You might be better off hiring a copywriter.

For those that don't know, SEO stands for search engine optimization. Search engine optimization means doing things on your website that make it easier for search engines like google, yahoo and bing to find it.

SEO experts charge a ton of money to employ tricks on your site to get it to rank higher in search engines. According to Google a lot of these tricks can potentially damage your site rank.

So what's the best way to ensure your customers find you? Google says:

Site owners often ask us about the best ways to increase the visibility and ranking of their sites in our search results. Our simple answer is, ‘Think like a user, because that’s how we try to think.’

What does this mean in practice? Above all, make sure to give visitors the information they are looking for, as relevance is what will drive traffic to your site and help you retain it.

Many site owners fixate on how well their respective web pages rank. But ranking is determined by over 200 criteria in addition to PageRank. It’s much better to spend your time focusing on the quality of your content and its accessibility than trying to find ways to ‘game’ a search engine’s algorithm.

Bottom line

  • Write clear, concise content using words and phrases that your customers will be familiar with
  • Make sure these keywords are in page titles, navigation, headers, links and in your URLs
  • Make sure your navigation and content are in HTML (not images or rich media like Flash and Silverlight)

If you do it right, it will help search engines and your customers.

Good links


iPad instruction manual reinforces simplicity

Just got my iPad in the mail the other day and I was amused by the "instruction manual." It was just a single card:

iPad manual

Apple does a pretty good job of making their devices simple and approachable. This may also be one of the only instruction manuals that actually gets read.

Take a look at this washing machine I saw at Lowe's:

Complicated washing machine

I'd hate to see its instruction manual.


Promoting your advantages: Fresh and Easy gets it right

Fresh and Easy does an awesome job of selling their advantages over their competitors. They focus on low prices over flashy displays. They buy their products locally which means you get fresher stuff and the money you spend stays in your community. They largely avoid products with artificial flavors and preservatives.

I know these things because they plaster them everywhere. On every endcap, above the aisles, shelves and freezers:

Fresh and Easy advantages

Repetition makes their advantages easy to remember which makes it easy for their customers to spread the word.

Why are you better than your competition?