Tips on using apostrophes

Catastrophie – apostrophe tips

The apostrophe is one of the most clever devices to signal meaning in the written English language. Yet for many it is seen as too complex to learn or, at worst, completely unnecessary. To that extent some local authorities banned the use of apostrophes on road signs, and caused something of an uproar from grammarians.

So, why are apostrophes seen as so difficult? Here’s a quick fire guide to getting them right.

Possession is 9/10s of the law

This is also true when it comes to apostrophes. When it comes to defining possession – that is, when an object belongs to a subject – most of the time there’s an apostrophe involved.

So we may have something like this:

The cat’s paws.

The paws belong to the cat – so we need an apostrophe.

When there is more than one cat, then we have this:

The cats’ paws.

The paws belong to the cats.

The most common mistake is confusing a plural with possession. If the cats are chasing birds… and take a pause… we do not need an apostrophe. It’s a simple plural. So…

The cats pause.

There are several other examples of simple plurals when apostrophes are not required. The common ones:

1970s.  So… funk music started to become popular in the 1970s. It can help to spell out the word and see why it doesn’t need an apostrophe: seventies. If something happened in a specific year, then we may need an apostrophe. For example:

1976’s seminal disco funk classic Good Times was released. (So Good Times belongs to 1976).

Similarly if you learn your ABCs or enjoy BBQs, you do not need apostrophes.

The 1/10th that can be a bit confusing is the use of its.

If you have the cat’s paws, you have its paws. No apostrophe, even though it feels like we need one.

We’d only see an apostrophe in its when we contract ‘it is’ – so we may see:

It’s Paul’s cat. (It is Paul’s cat).

Other common contractions can include he’s and she’s; he is or she is.

So, remember our cat if you want to use apostrophes correctly – and avoid a grammar catastrophe.

Dot, dot, dot, dash, dash, dash, dot, dot, dot

SOS punctuation errors

Microsoft Word is the copywriter’s new best friend, automatically detecting your spelling, grammar and punctuation errors and correcting you where necessary – but what if we can’t always rely on Word to do the right thing? You can’t send out an SOS, so let’s see if we can help.

State-of-the-art technology

Word is fantastic at automatically detecting errors, but when it comes to dashes, dots and hyphens, it’s not so high-tech. Word will happily let you get away with using the wrong punctuation at the wrong time, and unless you’re keeping a careful eye out for it, you might find yourself using one, where you should be using the other.

Back to basics

When it comes to dashes and hyphens, you firstly need to make sure you understand the difference between them.

If you break up a sentence, then it’s a dash: –

If you break up a word, then it’s a hyphen: –

Secondly you need to find them on your keyboard. You can get a hyphen by just using the hyphen key, and to get a dash its alt-hyphen.

It’s quite simple, really, but an easy error to make if you are typing in a rush or not proofreading your work.

Then there are the dots.

Dotty for dots

When we are quoting, or want a sentence to trail off, we often use an ellipsis: …

However, Word has a fun little gimmick that will let you put in as many dots after a sentence as you like. This is despite the fact that typically an ellipsis consists only of three dots

Although we wouldn’t say it’s as much as a crime as the dash/hyphen ruling, it can look pretty peculiar when your ellipsis has more than three dots….

Make sure you pay attention to what you type, and maybe double check what Word decides to put in for you, otherwise you may find yourself in a sticky situation with your punctuation.

4 types of call to action and when to use them

Call-to-action sticky note

Many people think that a ‘call to action’ at the end of a piece of copy is the invitation to buy. In fact, clever marketers and copywriters lead potential customers through a 4 step sales cycle with 4 separate types of call to action. Knowing which type of call to action to use and when to employ it is crucial to optimising the number of leads and conversions you generate. Here’s the Copywriter UK guide to the different types of call-to-action and leading your prospects through a compelling sales cycle.

Copywriting a call to action

Call to action #1 – Involve your customers

This is something that the social media revolution has made mandatory. Customers no longer just want to be sold to. They expect to feel involved and to be given information and advice for free that’s of real value to them. On the plus side, getting customers involved gives you the chance to let them find out all about your brand. It can build brand loyalty and make them ambassadors for you the way that nothing else can. That’s why this level of call to action to action is much more valuable than it first appears.

There are plenty of places on your website where it’s not appropriate to ask your customer to buy e.g. on FAQ pages, or on your landing page. Use these to build a familiarity with your brand by inviting them to read more about what you offer, or giving them advice via your blog. Ask them to tweet about competitions or their favourite products. Ask for their feedback. It’s all involvement and helps them to build a relationship with you which gets them returning to your site.

Call to action #2 – Get their email address

This is one of your most important ways of generating leads so you definitely should be asking for email addresses wherever you can. But you’ll need to give something in exchange. Try offering a free sample or download. Or perhaps a white paper with more detail on the subject of your blog. Once you have an email address, it’s simple to send a request for a sign up, or a really special offer related to the freebie which you think will interest your prospect.

Call to action #3 – Get them to sign up

Getting a prospect to sign up to a newsletter is a great way to ensure further involvement in your brand, and to entice them to buy. If you’ve been employing a full 4 tiered sales cycle, they’ll already be more disposed to buy simply because they’ve shown incremental interest in what you offer. Regular e-shots keep them updated on your offers, especially if you provide click through to specific web pages, and remind them of your brand.

Call-to-action #4 – Get them to buy

Now, and only now do you get to the point of asking for a sale. By this time your prospect is considerably softened up to your offer, and may already be talking about your brand online. Of course a call to purchase can always be used alone, but embedding it as part of a sales cycle considerably increases its power to influence.

When to use each type of call to action

It’s best not to confuse a prospect with lots of different calls-to-action on a single page. That may sound like ‘choice’ but actually it’s more likely to lead to no action at all. Design a journey with your highest priority call to action at each point and stick to it. Decide what you want each web page, print brochure or e-shot to lead to. Visits to your showroom? Enquiries? Sign ups? Sales? Make sure you’ve targeted your audience correctly and orientate your copy to one of these things, constructing a call-to-action to suit.

Tips for creating calls-to-action that work

Try to make your calls to action as specific as possible and load them with keywords. So if your free report has 200 pages, say so. Or skip that and go straight to the benefit e.g. ‘click here to reach your target weight in 3 weeks’. Make buttons large and easy to see with contrasting colours, and place them in the right-hand corner above the fold (in the ‘first screen’). Shallow navigation and a simple pathway will mean your prospect is more likely to complete your desired action.

Leading a prospect through the sales cycle on your website can be a complicated task. If you need help give Copywriter UK a call today. We’ll be happy to help.

When translation goes wrong, it really goes wrong

translation screen

Here at Copywriter UK we’ve handled lots of international copywriting projects, so we understand just how important it is for businesses to invest in good translation – especially if you want to avoid telling overseas customers to bite the wax tadpole.

A meaningful element of speech within your ear. Translation has a price that is expensive to you.

Terrible headline, isn’t it? But that’s how a bad translator may have rewritten the original headline below:

A word in your ear. Translation can cost you dear.

The translation has lost the original’s colloquial, friendly touch. It’s lost its rhyme. It’s positive instead of being a potential. It’s not great English and doesn’t read well. Yet it’s pretty close to the original, isn’t it?

Translations are a great opportunity

Talking to people in their language can open up new markets for you. It can make a huge difference to people’s perceptions of your business to talk to someone in their tongue. Over 50% of the top 10 million websites are in English, 5.6% Japanese, 5.5% German, 4.1% French and 2% Chinese. This shows that language versions of sites have less competition on the Internet, and indicates that non-English speaking people have a limited resource of information in their own language. That’s an opportunity for businesses.

But with an opportunity, there can be a downside to some types of translation. A translation can be:

  • Naive: using language that’s too basic for the subject matter. This is very relevant if you operate in a specific marketplace where technical terms are an issue.
  • Wrong: using incorrect grammar, spelling and comprehension. This will either make your business sound sloppy and illiterate, or potentially could confuse customers about your services.
  • Off brief: your money spent on snappy headlines and compelling mission statements could be wasted on a poor translation that doesn’t consider the marketing aspects of what you’re trying to say.

The problem is, if you’re not a linguist yourself, you may not know how poor your translation has been. That could mean losing business rather than gaining it.

When translation goes bad

Even the biggest brands have suffered at the hands of translation. For example, in China Coca-Cola was translated as “bite the wax tadpole” or “female horse stuffed with wax” depending on the dialect. They eventually found the right Chinese characters that are phonetically close to the brand – “ko-kou-ko-le” – which means ‘happiness in the mouth”. Meanwhile, the Chinese KFC slogan “finger licking good” came out as “eat your fingers off”.

In Taiwan, the Pepsi slogan “Come alive with the Pepsi Generation” came out as “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from dead”. A Brazilian translation of Pinto, a Ford car, was slang for “tiny male genitals”. And in Italy a campaign for Schweppes Tonic Water translated the name into Schweppes Toilet Water.

Ensure copywriters tackle your translations – not just translators

It’s vital that, when you’ve spent money with your copywriting agency or advertising agency creating strong messages, that they’re translated by linguistic copywriters.

For example, suppose you were Nike and wish to translate the phrase ‘Just do it’ into French. There are numerous ways of saying it – many of which will be impactless literal translations. Even with a basic knowledge of French you could probably make a suggestion yourself. However, a good French copywriter will be able to suggest translations that have the impact and meaning of the original. Be warned. Seize the opportunity, but don’t ‘take hold forcibly of a favourable occasion’.

 

If you are overseas and in need of a UK copywriter, give the team a call and we will happily discuss your copywriting needs.

Subject lines that get your mail opened

Copywriter UK - e-shots

Copywriting email communications

 

In these times of spam filters, and spam filled in-boxes, e-shot subject lines have a thankless task. Prospects are simply too used to being sold to for something that looks as though it came straight from the classifieds to work. So what will? Here at Copywriter UK, we have pulled together a guide to crafting the perfect e-shot subject line.

 

Decide what you want your e-shot to do

E-shots are better for soft selling. They’re a great way to soften up your customer, build brand loyalty or as part of a long selling cycle. But for all that to work, you have to make sure that they get opened and read. The trouble is, if you get it wrong once, subsequent e-shots will get automatically deleted by the recipient. That’s why it’s best to know which types of subject lines get your e-shot opened and which don’t.

 

Divide up your mailing list

It’s fine to send details of promotions to those who’ve signed up for them. If you have a list of customers who want to hear about your latest deal then a “This summer’s unbeatable prices!” subject line isn’t going to put them off. But if they’ve simply signed up for a newsletter it will. Also, it isn’t a good idea to send details of inappropriate products to specific sections of your target audience. For example, sending deals on baby clothes to pensioners. Here, as always, the time-honoured copywriter advice applies − know who you’re writing to and angle your subject line towards them, even if it means carefully sectioning up your mailing list into focused groups. This is much easier if you’ve already correctly set your customer expectations up properly during the sign-up process. In fact setting customer expectations is key if you want to craft effective e-shot subject lines, because then you know what that particular customer wants from you.

 

The surprising truth about what your e-shot subject line should contain…

… Simply describe what’s in the email. The most effective e-shot subject lines are those that describe exactly what’s included in the email. That’s because email recipients find the ‘hard sell’ particularly invasive and will delete such emails immediately, unless it’s what they’ve requested. Keep your e-shot subject line short, factual and accurate. If you’ve used a good sign-up process you’ll be sending to an interested party so you don’t have to over-egg the pudding.

 

Utilise the power of e-shots

 

What if you’re aiming for something more creative?

That said, your e-shot subject line doesn’t have to be boring. Here are some tips and formulas you can use to increase its appeal:

 

  • Keep it 22-45 characters short including spaces – this is the amount of text most programs will display.
  • Start e-shot subject lines with active verbs.
  • Try to ‘tell’ rather than ‘sell’ – a prospect is far more likely to open a mail that offers information they feel they need.
  • Ask a question – that contains a real benefit or solution.
  • Offer a ‘how to’.
  • Offer a cryptic clue to your subject with an ellipsis to get your customer to want to find out more.
  • Tell them about a real and impending deadline to urge them to act.

 

Writing e-shots is probably the hardest type of direct marketing copy to get right. If you’re struggling, why not let Copywriter UK do it for you? Call us to discuss your marketing needs today on 0845 2606 255.