May 012013


Pull out some fresh verbs

Pull out some fresh verbs

The first meal my husband cooked for me was Dahl Baht Thakari. A Nepalese dish. It was a dish he’d eaten every day for 3 years during his volunteer stint in Nepal.

Every single day.

For most of us eating the same food every day would be awful. So how did he manage to eat it day in, day out? 

The ingredients varied. Sometimes, there’d be cauliflower, other times, cabbage, occasionally meat. Different spices were added. There wasn’t an unlimited variety. Only what was available locally but it was enough to freshen up the meal each time and add that much needed variety.

When it comes to writing, we need to freshen up our repertoire by seeking out fresh verbs to keep our writing lively and interesting.

What are fresh verbs?

Verbs are the “doing” or “action” words in your copy like seeing, walking, running, finding, looking, working out. All these words are general. See what happens when you substitute more specific verbs:

He went up the hill


He struggled up the hill

He strode up the hill

He bounded up the hill

He trudged up the hill

Each alternative gives more detail about how he went up that hill. Our mental image of the the man changes with each fresh verb. You see him bent double as he struggles up the hill, whereas we imagine an upright figure moving purposefully when we read strode. 

Using more specific verbs adds colour and drama to the message. We can all get stuck in a rut with our writing.

Are your verbs a little tired from overuse?

If you write often, chances are you rely on a few favourite verbs. Take a look and you’ll find the same culprits turning up every time.

Nothing necessarily wrong with your well chosen verbs but all of us need a spring clean now and then so we can de-clutter and usher in the new.

Like the seasonal, local vegetables, your new verbs need to be fresh but not too unfamiliar.

More examples

Analyze the pictures these phrases create in your mind.

We brought the sheep off high ground


We herded the sheep off high ground

We steered the sheep off high ground

We hurried the sheep off high ground

We coaxed the sheep off high ground

We led the sheep off high ground

Each change of verb, conjures up a different image of the people doing the sheep moving. When you herd sheep you’re behind them, when you lead sheep you’re ahead of them. 

One way to bring different verbs to mind, is to think of the picture you want to create first. Add in the detail. What’s the temperature? Hot or cold? Think of verbs that indicate those things such as, “puffed and shivered“.”

Does it really make much difference?

Make every word count

Your copy is competing with so much material online, make every word count. Fresh verbs convey so much more than the everyday general action words.

Fresh but not obscure

Be careful you don’t go mad and alienate your reader by choosing words they don’t understand. As the famous copywriter David Ogilvy found, this doesn’t help communication,

“I once used the word ‘obsolete’ in a headline, only to discover that 43% of housewives had no idea what it meant. In another headline I used the word ‘ineffable,’ only to discover that I didn’t know what it meant myself.” – David Ogilvy

Aren’t these verbs a bit dramatic for sales copy?

A bit of drama can liven up sales copy no end. Sales writers often use stories and examples to illustrate points. A few fresh verbs will add colour and ease the reader’s journey to the end of your copy.

Foodwise you can stay seasonal but spice up your cooking with new varieties. It’s the same with verbs. Reach for verbs that add extra juicy detail to your message.


Want to learn more about writing for the web? Join me at my West Wales marketing workshops.

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How drilling down helps you write better content

 Article writing, Marketing, Writing for the web  Comments Off on How drilling down helps you write better content
Mar 272013

My slides from my talk How mining your knowledge helps you write better online content at the WordPress Users Wales, Mostly Women Doing Digital event, March 23rd 2013, Indycube, Swansea.

Click on the web page screenshots for live links to those pages.

Mar 252013

A fabulous day learning about the digital lives and works of some splendid women

I wanted to record my impressions of our fabulous Mostly Women Doing Digital event in Swansea on Saturday.

In response to the theme JUST DO IT, running through the day, I decided to have a play with alternative formats. So I recorded my thoughts on Voice Recorder on my phone while walking the dogs on a blustery Sunday March morning.

Seemed like a good idea at the time!

I apologise now for the huffing and puffing (me and the wind). Jess Hughes did stress the importance of good quality audio during her talk about video. Will DO BETTER next time.

Here’s my windy audio! Please add to my suggestions for improvement: eliminate wind and huffing noise and make it shorter.


Reflections on Mostly Women Doing Digital





Topics were:

  • Kids And Our Digital Future
  • DIY Blog/Site SetUp And Design
  • Blogging Globally
  • Content Writing For Fans
  • Why And How Video Is Vital
  • How The Web Gave Me A Job
  • Public Life, Big Numbers and Social Media

And here’s links to everyone’s digital spaces:

Mar 192013

Huli Who, Lily Lists or Milly Mistake; keep it interesting by mixing up your article formats

All you can eat buffet

All you can eat buffet

Have you ever attacked an ALL YOU CAN EAT BUFFET, got half way through and felt bloated and overfull? Bet you wish you’d gone for small plates instead.

This is what can happen when you begin to write about your experiences, knowledge or skill areas for your article marketing campaigns. You suddenly realise how much you have to say and before you know it you are metaphorically heaping the plate of your reader until they are overloaded with information.

There is another way.

Use pre-defined article formats to avoid bloating, or dumping too much information on your poor unsuspecting subscriber.

3 formats I’m going to talk about in this post are:

1. The Huli Who article format

2. Lily List article format

3. Milly Mistake article format

Let’s take each of those in turn.

1. Huli Who article

Huli tribes people Papua New Guinea

Add impact using the Huli Who article format

The Huli is a tribe that live in the Tari Basin in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, renowned for their head dresses made of human hair and bird of paradise feathers.

They sure make an impact.

This is what you’re aiming for with your article marketing campaigns. IMPACT.

In the Huli Who article, you take a topic and give it the WHAT?, WHO?, WHERE?, HOW? and WHY IT MATTERS treatment.


Let’s take an example:


Title: Why the Huli Who article format gives your article marketing more impact


The Huli Who is an article format that takes a specific topic and applies the WHAT?, WHO? WHERE?, HOW? and WHY IT MATTERS treatment.


It’s particularly useful for writers who need to break down and share expertise across a large subject such as web development or photography.


Pick up a daily newspaper and you’ll find plenty of Huli Who article formats. It’s particularly useful for article marketing campaigns that aim to drive your website up the organic search listings. By choosing a specific topic like ‘article marketing’ you get plenty of opportunities to use relevant search terms.


Break down a subject area down into manageable chunks and use the Huli Who format to keep you from straying off topic.

Why it matters?

This format is popular with editors and readers alike. It helps you the writer get to the heart of the matter quickly and makes it easier for the reader to digest.

The Huli Who article format relies on choosing a very specific topic. If you find it difficult to nail down a specific angle, you’ll love the Lily List format. It’s nice and structured and has a high, built-in, curiosity factor.

2. Lily List article format

You already know lists are popular. Magazines love them and for good reason. Lists are easy to read and digest. You can scan them quickly.

The information is easy to remember and implement. Even better, lists made up of short phrases work well on small screens such smart phones (27% of emails are opened on mobile devices*). You can use the Lily List article format for serious or silly topics in your article marketing campaigns.

Here’s some examples

  • 8 things to teach your child before they’re 12 years old
  • 6 signs you’ve become a GOW, Grumpy Old Woman
  • 10 ways to promote your email list
  • 5 ways to prevent red mite in your chicken house

You can see these headlines pull you in and make you curious to know what’s in the list. They promise new information or pique the reader’s competitive interest. Will they know everything on the list? The key here, once again, is to get really specific with your topic. Which brings us to the final, under-used format.

3. Milly Mistake article format

Often overlooked, showing how “not to do” something is a powerful way to teach. WARNING. Do not criticise your subscribers’ efforts. They won’t thank you for it. Instead choose one of your own mistakes. Tell the story and explain how you learnt from it.

Being prepared to share your mistakes brings you closer to your subscribers.

One of my favourite Milly Mistake stories is from our organic Box Scheme days.

How we created Olympic rabbits

Hungry rabbits can destroy vegetable crops in a matter of minutes. We planted 750 cabbages and the next morning they’d vanished, devoured by rabbits. Urgent action was required. We set to work to fence the field to keep the blighters out. We duly dug a trench around 12 acres (a long and arduous task) and buried chicken wire a foot below ground to stop them burrowing underneath.

It stood 4 feet, 6 inches high. That should do it

To our horror, the rabbits simply leapt over it. So we raised it. Undeterred and in fact relishing the challenge, they jumped higher and cleared it. We kept adding fencing, raising the height, until we finally kept out our Olympic rabbits with a 5 foot, 6 inch high fence.

Moral of the story?

With crop protection, go in belt and braces in the first instance. If they don’t make it over the fence first time, they’ll go and find something else to eat otherwise you’ll be helping create olympic rabbits.

You can see the power of the Milly Mistake article. Stories have been used throughout human history to show and tell. Keep a record through notes, photos, screenshots or copies of old websites, newsletters and other material to make it easy to create Milly Mistake articles.

 Aren’t these article formats a bit formulaic?

Web writers use structured outlines like these to speed up their article writing. It gives you an outline and the reader a manageable “plate of information”. The content will still be uniquely yours.

So avoid serving up an all you can eat buffet in your articles, instead help yourself produce “small plates” by using article formats like Huli Who, Lily Lists or Milly Mistake to keep your articles manageable for your reader.




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15 ideas for fresh new content for your farm enterprise or rural business website

 copywriting, Writing for the web  Comments Off on 15 ideas for fresh new content for your farm enterprise or rural business website
Nov 242011

Capture your audience's attention with fresh contentYou're walking along the fruit and vegetable display in your local store and you notice the salad leaves are turning yellow at the edges, looking a bit tired and the whole selection is rather limited. In fact some of the trays are empty and you realise there's been nothing new or different here for the last few months.

You walk on by……..

Compare that with another display in another store, where vibrant Little Gem lettuce leaves look crunchy and fresh, plump, red tomatoes are still on the vine and every week there is a 'new season' special: Cornish new potatoes, Welsh leeks or Tydeman's Early Worcester apples.

Which one will you go back to, again and again?

Just like a fruit and vegetable display, your website can either offer fresh new content or quietly fade and become stale and dull.

Fresh new website content is good for your visitors and good for search engine rankings

Any good web developer will tell you that fresh new content is loved by search engines which is good for your site rankings. That makes your site more visible.

Okay so new content is good. What can you add?

15 ideas for new content

Content doesn't have to be created by you. Variety is the key. Here's some ideas to get you started.

  1. FAQ or Frequently Asked Questions page.
  2. Client testimonials (add a photo and always attribute comments), sprinkle liberally throughout your site.
  3. Add your Twitter feed to your website (ask your web developer).
  4. Add your Facebook feed to your website (ask your web developer).
  5. Add a news feed to your website, e.g. if you're near a beach it could be the local surf report, if you offer farming support services, get the Farmers' Weekly news feed on your website (ask your web developer).
  6. News commentary – provide a commentary or layman's explanation of industry news e.g. Financial news, environment news or food or farming news.
  7. Articles – create a library of articles for your target audience. This also helps establish your expertise. Topics for articles can often be found in email questions you get from customers or clients e.g. Which fonts work well on posters?, How do you choose a web developer?
  8. Guest articles – ask other business people to contribute 'how to' or 'top tips' articles especially where their services compliment yours e.g. A door drop business and a PR consultant, a leather hand bag maker and wool clothing designer.
  9. Add links to other good content such as blogs, Facebook groups, non-competing websites that will interest your audience.
  10. Reviews – review books, equipment or services that would be helpful to your target market.
  11. Events – add a calendar and show events of interest to your audience e.g. Food festivals, country shows.
  12. Case studies – particularly good for service providers, a case study talks about the experience of an individual client and gives the before and after comparison. Ideal also for e.g. image consultants, hairdressers, business advisers etc. Use plenty of images or even do a photo story for e.g. A wedding cake maker.
  13. Behind the scenes: record what you do e.g. Making cheese, designing leaflets, advising businesses. Do that with words, images, quotes and/or video.
  14. Surveys – everyone loves a poll. Ask your website developer about polls that can be run on your website. Once you have results, write about how you will use that information to maybe develop your products or launch a new range.
  15. Short e-guides to download from your site (add value by helping people make a buying decision e.g. Tourism sites can add 'Dog friendly beaches in Pembrokeshire', garages, 'Top tips for getting more miles from your tank' etc). A quick search online can usually find e-guides already written for you. Contact the author and ask permission to promote the guide e.g. My e-report, The 8 worst website writing mistakes and how to avoid them, is available for web developers, photographers, graphic designers and busines advisers to use as a giveaway.

Remember content is king, but only if it is fresh and new!

What other new content ideas do you use for your farm enterprise or rural business?

© Juliet Fay 2011.

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Workshops and Training
New! for 2012 – Business writing for an interactive audience
Currently I am developing a new course for business owners who want to improve their understanding of business writing techniques and get practical help to make writing easier. The course will combine workshops, home study and online support. I am looking for your input to decide on the focus for this first intensive course.

What are the 3 most things you find most difficult in your business writing?
Please add your thoughts to the blog post on my site.

Why the ‘About Us’ page is a vital tool for risk reduction

 Writing for the web  Comments Off on Why the ‘About Us’ page is a vital tool for risk reduction
Jun 102011

Imagine you walk into a large shed with products laid out neatly on the shelves. There’s no sign on the door, no staff in the shop and no indication at all who owns the shop or what it’s all about. What would your reaction be? Suspicion, unease.

Imagine the same scenario but this time you are on a farm, farm produce is laid out and on the door is a notice asking you to pay for your goods by using the Honesty Box. How do you feel now? Reassured? You know what’s going on. You know who you’re buying from even though they’re not physically present.

Your website is like an unmanned shop. Potential customers need clues to work out what kind of people run the business. Only then, can they decide if the business has what they want.

The ‘About Us’ page is the one that does what it says on the tin. It tells the reader who’s behind this business.

Whenever I come across an unfamiliar business website, I always look for the About Us page. I’m curious. I want to know who they are, where they are. What they’re all about.

I notice the ‘About Us’ page is being demoted on quite a few websites, relegated to a sub page of the Frequently Asked Questions or left out altogether. This is a mistake. Even with a larger company, the story behind a business is always fascinating. In businesses that come from a personal passion or calling, your story is a vital tool in the selling process.

Although social media sites like Twitter allow your customers to see behind the scenes, they serve a different function from the ‘About Us’ page. Just like any other static content on your website, the ‘About Us’ page should be carefully constructed to convey a targeted message.

Establishing trust is an important part of business

People buy from people they like. More than that they buy from people they sense are ‘like’ them. People who share their values, people they trust. For your ‘About Us’ page you need to carefully select the salient points in your story that will resonate with your customers.

For instance, a business providing holiday cottages for families with pre-school children, can use the ‘About Us’ page to make connections with potential guests.

A lovely family who run cottages in North Pembrokeshire have 5 children of their own. Once you know this fact (beautifully demonstrated by the 5 pairs of Crocs), you realise why their site is so perfectly set up for families with pre-school children, Croft Farm & Celtic Cottages.

For business to business services there is still a benefit to explaining the story. Currently there are a number of collaborative ventures involving several different organisations. People like to be reassured, so it is important to explain how the disparate members of a group came together. What is the shared vision? How do they know each other? What is the working arrangement? These are all questions to be answered on the ‘About Us’ page.

There’s another important reason for clearly stating who runs the business. It’s about reducing people’s risk. Reassuring them. Many people are scared of being ripped off, scared of being the fool that was parted from her money. If you don’t tell people who you are, where you’re based and a little about what drives your business, it almost looks as if you have something to hide.

What makes a good ‘About Us’ page?

Choose a good image –  a smiling face is powerfully engaging to the right audience. If you set up the business then put your face on it. If the company is 100 years old, then a picture of the founder is good.
Tell your story – we don’t need a life history but pick out a memorable fact about yourself that is connected to what you do. E.g. a pastry cook might have fallen in love with iced buns at a local tea shop aged 7.
Convey your passion – what gets you out of bed in the morning? What do you love about what you do? Say it on your ‘About Us page’. Take a look at this great example from Melanie McIntosh at Inspire Retail Solutions in British Columbia in Canada and this one from Folly Farm Adventure Park and Zoo in Pembrokeshire Wales, UK.
Keep it personal. Don’t be dull and don’t be shy.

Go now and spend 10 minutes editing your About Us page.

You can get articles like this direct to your inbox by subscribing here.

Workshops, products and other useful stuff:

New! for 2012 – Business writing for an interactive audience
Currently I am developing a new course for business owners who want to improve their understanding of business writing techniques and get practical help to make writing easier. The course will combine workshops, home study and online support. I am looking for your input to decide on the focus for this first intensive course. The 2 areas under consideration are:
Writing for websites
Writing for blogs
If you are interested in this type of course, I would love to get your input at this development stage. Please add your thoughts to the blog post on my site.
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