WriteClub in London

WriteClub, the casual networking meet-up for writers, is visiting London!

We’re continuing our mission of bringing writers together to chat, mingle and inspire each other.

The first WriteClub London meet-up is Tuesday 1 December.

Location: Yorkshire Grey pub, 46 Langham Street, London, W1W 7AX

For more details check WriteClub

Being Funny in Web Copy: A Guide to When and How

Funny Church Signs
Have you ever wondered whether it’s okay (or appropriate) to pepper your web copy with humour? How do you decide when it’s a good time to be funny?

Humour can please your audience, but it can easily offend, confuse and disappoint.

I’ve been writing copy for a few different social networks and they often need something light-hearted. After puzzling over when, where and how to inject humour into the web copy, I decided to write a sort of ‘humour style guide’ that dictates when it’s okay to use humour.

This is my own guide (use it if you like):

Good Funny

It’s good to be funny:

  • When things go wrong
  • When people don’t follow instructions
  • When you’re giving people a longer explanation of a feature (humour helps break up the educational journey)
  • When it’s appropriate (ha! Whatever that means…)

Bad Funny

It’s bad to be funny:

  • All the time (relentless attempts at humour are very tiring)
  • When people just want to get something done
  • When space doesn’t really allow
  • When it obscures meaning
  • When it complicates something that should be simple
  • When it’s forced
  • When it alienates a section of your audience

Note: this was something I mainly cooked up for MyMotor, a social network for people who love cars. And some of it arose from thinking about how to write for ArtBuzz, a micro-blogging site for art lovers.

Commit yourself: make changes and build momentum

Motor Bikes Racing At Snetterton Scanned (16)

I wrote a blog post recently for Freelance Advisor, which was all about motivation, and what I do when fear or inertia slows me down.

One of things I wrote about was the tendency for momentum to build as soon as you take action, how the first push is the hardest, and how life takes over once you put your back into it. I was just browsing through one of my partner’s psychology books (Motivational Interviewing) when I found a quote that resonates with what I wrote:

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness, concerning all acts of initiative and creation. There is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream events issues from the decision.

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

On the radio…

Just a quick post – I was called this morning at 7:45 and asked if I would go on BBC local radio (I think the DJ was Neil Pringle) to talk about Twitter.

Now the interesting thing is that the producer or researcher who called me found me by Googling ‘Brighton Twitter’. One of the results for that search is a blog post I wrote ages ago, ‘Why Twitter? – Method in the Mayhem’. So I’m writing this post mainly to remind my future self of the benefits of blogging.

Back to the radio interview – so within minutes of answering the call, I was on the radio talking about Twitter. The DJ asked me whether he, as a Luddite, should try Twitter. I said something like, “that depends on you. Twitter isn’t for everybody…”

I briefly discussed how Twitter differs from Facebook (it’s much more open – you follow who you want, you don’t just befriend friends or the people you never liked at school) and then the interview was over.

In Praise of Cheap: the Quick n’ Dirty Road to Glory


What follows is a short rumination on a common choice: the choice between what you can afford today and what you can afford tomorrow.

Okay, so I agree that cheap is bad. “Buy it cheap, buy it twice,” we say. Andy Budd wrote an excellent blog post on the merits of buying quality (Why I can’t afford cheap.) which I really like and very much agree with.

The Fast Side of Cheap

But I’ve experienced the other side. I’ve personally felt the benefits of just doing. Cheap might be quick and dirty, but often the alternative is waiting until you can afford something better.

I frequently encounter people who delay significant life changes or big steps forward because they’re waiting for some other criteria to be met… “I can’t do this until I’ve got that,” … “I can’t start my business because I can’t afford Z,” … “I can’t do X because I’m waiting for Y to happen.”

Sure, it makes sense to invest in quality, but sometimes it’s better to just get going.

Quality can wait; life will not.

Jargon – persuading your clients to ditch their special words

Chainsaw Training

I’ve just been wrestling with copy that’s so thickly coated with toxic jargon that I’ve had to wear a haz-chem suit just to get near it.

I’ve been working through it slowly, battering sludgy phrasing into sleek, efficient copy that everyone can understand. And then I happened to Tweet about it.

Clive Andrews asked me how I go about de-jargoning my clients’ copy. After I explained that I just use a mixture of judicious deletions and sensible replacements, Clive asked how I remove jargon without offending my clients. After all, jargon is often industry-specific lingo that helps to exclude outsiders by mystifying simple concepts unite groups by giving them a shared vocabulary, and people get quite attached to their ‘special words’.

Persuading clients to ditch jargon

When I’m trying to encourage clients to accept my pruned and de-jargoned copy, I simply insist that clear copy sells, while jargon confuses. I never suggest that jargon is bad because I don’t like it.

Jargon is bad because it puts a thick blanket of stupid between your words and your reader. Using jargon is like hanging curtains over road signs.

My other trick for getting clients on the anti-jargon bandwagon is to get other people to do the arguing for me. So if I’m working with a few people in an organisation, I’ll suggest that jargon is probably hampering our goals and then ask the group for their thoughts.

This strategy is a gamble, because I’m just hoping that my colleagues will argue against the jargon. Luckily, they usually do.

An earlier blog post about jargon.

Thanks to Clive Andrews for his questions.

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