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How to Write Content That Actually Generates Leads

How to Write Content That Actually Generates Leads

It’s tough to be a businessperson in the digital age. While you might think that the Internet makes it a breeze to find loyal customers, the ease of communication between business and potential customer has made competition with other businesses tougher than ever.

Online lead generation is akin to fishing in the midst of thousands of other people hoping to catch the same fish as you are. To be effective, you must not only use the best bait, but you must also have the best tackle to reel in the catch.

In marketing terms, it’s  important to develop content for your website that draws people in and converts them into customers.

This, of course, is much easier said than done.

We developed this resource to give you some simple tips to instantly improve your site’s search engine optimization (SEO) and conversions.

Since many start-ups and small businesses are new to the wonderful world of SEO, here is a brief introduction to the term. For more veteran content creators, feel free to skip down to the tips list below.

SEO refers to increasing your website’s visibility in search engine results (primarily Google) and thereby increasing traffic and (hopefully) sales.

Optimizing your website can get quite nuanced, but much of it has to do with useful and clear web copy and the appropriate use of headings and tags, which allow search engines to index the site more easily.

SEO (bait) and conversion rate (tackle) exist in unison. Content on your site should draw traffic to your site, but it should also motivate visitors to action.

The following are the top five must-haves for web content that converts:

1. High-Quality Content

When asked whether writing matters in blog posts, author and digital marketing expert Guy Kawasaki replied, “This is like asking if the quality of food in a restaurant matters. Writing is the primary determinant of the success of the post. Everything else—timing, graphics, frequency—is secondary.”

High quality doesn’t just mean that your posts are grammatically correct and free of spelling errors. A good blog post will be grammatically correct, but it will first and foremost be of use to your audience.

The Internet is already so full of content that if you are posting for the sake of posting, you are just adding to the noise. Listen to your audience and learn what they want to read about.

In addition to great writing, don’t forget to include great-quality graphics that supplement the main points of your post. This is especially important to get viewers of your post to click the preview on social media or the front page of your website.

2. Keywords

High-quality content will help you move up in the ranking of Google’s search results because the most valuable currency in SEO is trust.

However, great content, while necessary, won’t get you very far in terms of driving traffic to your site. To make your content visible in searches, you need to understand the importance of keywords.

Google’s Keyword Planner (available for free online once you create a Google AdWords account) is a great tool to help you understand what words and phrases your clients are searching for and incorporate those terms into your content.

3. Post Length

Another very important factor in SEO is the length of your posts, titles, and meta descriptions.

A good rule of thumb is that title tags should be 55 characters or less, while meta descriptions should be 155 characters or less.

The length of a blog post itself is a bit more variable, as optimal post length has long been debated by content marketers and SEOs. Keep in mind that the length of a blog post is really more about usefulness and trust than actual word count, and longer posts tend to have more detailed and reliable information.

However, as Ann Handley, author of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide for Creating Ridiculously Good Content, explains, “Ideally, you want to worry less about blog post length and more about being useful to your audience. If you can be useful in 300 words, go for it!”

4. Design

Generate Leads

While many web content how-to articles focus on writing (which makes sense), they often overlook the very important aspect of visual appeal.

You’ve done all this work to bring visitors to your site by producing trustworthy writing that contains well-researched keywords and is of optimal length, but you still aren’t meeting your lead generation goals.

The problem might be your website’s design. Our first impressions of websites are often subconscious, but there is no doubt that design and aesthetics play a major role in gaining a visitor’s trust.

Evan Bailyn, author of SEO Made Easy, puts it this way: “Websites are like commercial buildings: If you walk into one and feel surrounded by symmetry, calm, and beauty, you feel comfortable transacting with the business.”

5. Call to Action

This is perhaps one of the most important, and often forgotten, aspects of content writing. You are writing a post not only to provide your audience with useful information but also to educate them about your organization, product, or service.

The majority of business owners started their company because they believe their product can make a difference in the lives of others, whether by saving time, providing entertainment, or solving a common problem. Don’t forget that many of the people who clicked the link to your site could benefit from the products or services your company provides.

Within each blog post, and on each page of your website, make sure to reserve a specific section where you can place a button, link, or clear direction for the customer to follow to learn more about your company or to make a purchase. With blog posts, this typically occurs at the very end. Be sure that, wherever you place the call to action, it is related to the content of the page it is on.

By approaching SEO from the perspective of generating leads and customers—not just increasing traffic—you’ll be even more effective at harnessing the power of your website and blog, resulting in a measurable impact on your bottom line.

Image sources: Markus Spiske/Stocksnap.io, Jay Mantri/Stocksnap.io

How to Write a Blog

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Free Ebook Giveaway: Learn How to Write a Resume

How to Write a Resume

How to Write a Resume Ebook

Note: This giveaway has now ended. Be sure to check back to our blog regularly for more great discounts and giveaways. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter to keep up with news and articles. Thank you!

To quote the wise and wonderful Oprah Winfrey, “You get a free ebook! You get a free ebook! Everybody gets a free ebook!”

Okay, maybe she said “car” instead of “ebook,” but nevertheless, we are channeling her generous spirit and giving away something of our own: knowledge.

Written by the experts here at Inklyo, How to Write a Resume: The Complete Guide to Modern Resume Writing is an ebook that contains all the resume-writing knowledge you will ever need to stand out in a competitive job market. It teaches you how to craft a beautiful resume that appeals to a wide range of employers and showcases your unique skills and abilities. A great resume is the first step in starting your dream career, and this book provides both advice and resume samples to suit any job.

We are even one-upping Oprah, because this offer is available for two days, instead of one. We’re giving the ebook away on March 1 and 2, so download yours as soon as possible!

To take advantage of this amazing offer, subscribe to our email list by filling out the form below, and we will send you your free ebook. How to Write a Resume: The Complete Guide to Modern Resume Writing is a resource that we are proud to share. Let us know how it works for you on Facebook and Twitter, or leave a review on Amazon!

Note: This giveaway has now ended. Be sure to check back to our blog regularly for more great discounts and giveaways. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter to keep up with news and articles. Thank you!

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Where Do Canadians Study? [Infographic]

Where Do Canadians Study?

September is quickly approaching, and that means students around the world are preparing to go back to school. But where, exactly, are they going? This infographic explains where undergraduate and graduate students attend university in Canada and how many adventure-seekers travel abroad to receive their education.

Are you attending college or university this fall? How to Write an Essay, an online course by Inklyo, will help you prepare for another year of learning.

Where Do Canadians Study?

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How to Get a Scholarship Using Facebook

How to Get a Scholarship

Scholarship Aid College Education Loan Money ConceptYou’ve been accepted to university. You’ve already envisioned the posters you’ll hang up in your dorm room; your iPod is stocked with a mix of Dave Matthews Band and EDM tunes; you’ve cleaned Costco out of its entire supply of Red Bull and ramen noodles—and then the tuition bill comes. Cue the flood of questions about how to get a scholarship.

Your guidance counselor hands you a stack of scholarship application forms, and you groan. With so many people applying for the same treasure troves of shining financial aid, what chance do you have?

What can you do to give your application that extra advantage, so you can breeze into university with enough change in your pocket to order your first 3 a.m. pad thai?

The answer is right in front of you. In fact, you’ve been clicking over to it while reading this very article (for shame!). You’ve got carpal tunnel from frantically “liking” your friends’ posts left and right. Oh yes, you’ve got it. The answer is Facebook.

The truth is that scholarship reviewers are now going beyond applications and transcripts to determine who is best suited for financial assistance. Facebook is an easy and effective way to get an inside view of the applicant’s public image and whether he or she displays the values and qualities desired by a particular fund or institution.

Think of it as your first interview; your Facebook profile is your chance to show your reviewer a bit about who you are as a person, what you’re passionate about, and how well you fit what the reviewer is looking for. Follow these three steps to transform your Facebook account into a scholarship magnet.

Step 1: Purge.

We’ve all heard the cautionary tales—restaurant servers being fired for posting pictures of customers and commenting profanely on their rude behavior; teachers being dismissed for photos (even private ones!) that depict them drinking; a nun was even kicked out of a convent for spending too much time on Facebook! As a general rule, inappropriate material, such as party photos, insensitive comments, offensive language, and even just a generally negative attitude, won’t look good to a potential scholarship evaluation team.

Don’t forget that, even if your recent posts and photos are the picture of wholesomeness, viewers can access your shared content from years ago with just one click.

The solution? Delete. You may look incredible in that keg-stand photo (doubtful), and that rant about your teacher may have some of the cleverest wording ever known to the literary world, but get rid of them. They’re not worth missing out on that scholarship.

What might seem harmless could also taint someone’s idea of you:

  • Applying to a liberal organization but your favorite book is The Fountainhead? Something doesn’t quite add up.
  • Trying for a prestigious scholarship but all your “liked” movies are of the Jackass variety? You’ll need more luck than Johnny Knoxville did when he faced that charging bull while blindfolded.

In all your posts, strive to present a consistent, positive, and professional public image, and you can’t go wrong!

Step 2: Streamline.

Research what personal qualities and experiences are asked for in this scholarship. Use Facebook’s extra features to your advantage: “like” relevant pages or even books and movies that show up in the left bar.

Are you applying for a scholarship from a particular institution or organization? Find their Facebook page and “like” it.

Upload photos or other proof of your activities that reflect the kind of extracurriculars or skills that the scholarship looks for.

Step 3: Engage in positive activity.

Now that you’ve removed all negative content and have updated your page to reflect the kind of person that scholarship committees are seeking, it’s time to establish a positive online presence. Your reviewers will want to see that you’re active in your community and have a continued presence in your fields of interest. Regularly post positive content that lets your personality sparkle.

This is your chance to make yourself memorable, so use it!

Rather than trying to hide your Facebook account (like these students who adopted names like Samwise Gams, FunkMaster Floikes, and Lizzie McGuire on their social media accounts), let it work for you. It might just be what your scholarship application needs to stand out from the stack.

The final thing you must be aware of when using Facebook to help you get a scholarship is the quality of your posts. If grammar and spelling are not your forte, it might not be a bad idea to have a friend or a proofreading company look over your social media posts before you send them. This will give reviewers extra assurance that you care about details and how you are perceived.

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Tips for Managing Your Life as a Freelance Proofreader

Tips for Managing Your Life as a Freelance Proofreader

Think freelance proofreading is for you? Here’s what you need to know!

Tips for Managing Your Life as a Freelance ProofreaderYou have chosen a career as a freelance proofreader and have entered the realm of the self-employed. Congratulations! Being your own boss and working by yourself is exciting and liberating; there are no bosses and no office politics. However, the reality is that there is no boss, no one to hold you accountable, and no one to manage the particulars an employer typically handles. It’s all up to you.

Staying on task with your proofreading jobs when you’re self-employed can be challenging. As a freelance proofreader, you must develop good work habits and choose to work efficiently and effectively. You must work regular hours, meet all deadlines, stay up to date with your financials, and keep organized client files.

Let’s take a look at these, perhaps new, responsibilities and see how best to cope with them.

Managing your time

The challenge most freelance proofreaders often find the most daunting is time management, which needs to be taken seriously if you are to be successful and productive. You must manage yourself and your energy so you can accomplish your tasks and maintain a balance between your work and personal time.

Sometimes the hardest part about being self-employed is simply getting things done. Working as a freelance proofreader can be fun, profitable, and easy if you consider the following tips:

  • Get down to basics: follow a schedule; make a to-do list; set priorities; use a stop watch to allocate a certain amount of time per task; and use little pockets of time wisely.
  • Take care of one thing you dread each morning. Do it first and get it out of the way, otherwise it will distract you for the rest of the day.
  • Whether you are a night-owl or an early-bird freelance proofreader, take advantage of your own peak hours, however non-traditional they may be, to complete your tasks.
  • Take a break for five minutes (or 24 hours) to avoid burnout and bad habits. Do something to alter your business routine: go shopping, have lunch with a friend, take a drive to the lake, or go for a run. Incorporating a little R & R into your schedule rescues you from the monotony of your work and boosts your creativity. You will return to your work refreshed and full of new ideas.
  • Mistakes will happen. Don’t obsess over them. Apologize to your client, take responsibility for what happened, and then rectify the problem. The sooner you fix it, the sooner you can move on.
  • Brush up on your skills so that you are working as efficiently as possible. There are online forums to talk to other freelance proofreaders, or you can enroll in an online proofreading course to be sure your skills are up to snuff. Learning a few tricks and making sure  you are proofreading to the best of your abilities will save you time and hassle in the long run.
  • Eliminate the distractions of e-mail and social media for a few hours each day. Your productivity will increase, and you will work efficiently through your to-do list.
  • Keep an accurate account of the actual time you spend working on each project using a stopwatch and a spreadsheet. Include a short summary of the work accomplished. This will help you estimate the time you might need for similar freelance proofreading work in the future, and it is useful when determining your rates.
  • Several online tools, such as Google Calendar and myMemorizer, can help freelance proofreaders avoid distractions, and others, such as Manic Time, can help you get a basic handle on time management.

As a freelance proofreader, staying focused requires mindfulness, which is essential to your success. The best parts of self-employment are also the things that can lead to stress and failure. Be aware of what you are doing each day, be honest about what you can do better, and forgive yourself when you make mistakes or aren’t as productive as you hoped.

Financial concerns

As a freelance proofreader, you must take care of your own benefits, such as health care, handle estate and retirement planning, and pay any applicable taxes. Self-employed individuals often deal with financial issues that are more complex than those of salaried employees. Legal and accounting considerations are also important, and it is imperative that you keep accurate and detailed financial records of your business. If these responsibilities prove to be overwhelming, it might be wise to enlist the advice and support of professionals.

Taxes

One of the nicer aspects of regular full-time employment is that your employer is required to withhold money from your paycheck and send it to the government to cover your taxes. As a freelance proofreader, however, that responsibility will fall on you. There’s no doubt that paying taxes can be daunting for the self-employed. You might need to consult an accountant or tax advisor if you have special concerns.

As a freelance proofreader, you should set aside a portion of your revenue from which to pay your taxes. The amount will depend on the amount of money you bring in, plus the deductions and tax credits you’re allowed to claim to offset your tax bill. This varies widely from case to case; there’s no standard guideline that fits the entire spectrum of home-based businesses.

If you’re self-employed, it’s a good idea to establish a bank account from which you pay taxes on all your income. That way, when taxes are due, you are prepared to pay them. A good way to handle your taxes is to pay them quarterly. This might seem cumbersome, but it is actually a safer practice than trying to pay just once a year because it forces you to keep money in reserve and be accountable at regular intervals.

Some final thoughts

There is a definite allure to being a freelance proofreader. After all, who wouldn’t want to be their own boss, work when they want to from almost anywhere, and have complete control over their income potential? However, remember that when you are self-employed, everything is your responsibility. Armed with knowledge and foresight, we are sure you will successfully navigate the jungle of red tape and enjoy your career as a freelance proofreader!

Image source: patpitchaya/Shutterstock.com

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SEO Basics for the Online Business DIYer

SEO Basics for the Online Business DIYerFive minutes of exposure to any form of today’s media—TV, magazines, the blitzkrieg of emails from trendy companies you don’t remember giving your email address to—will tell you that we’re living in the Do-It-Yourself era. Grow a vegetable garden on your windowsill! Get that kitchen you always dreamed of! Cook Thai cuisine at home! The ever-growing lineup of home renovation shows and YouTube videos on How to Trick People into Thinking You’re Good Looking are now being joined by another category of DIYers: the online entrepreneurs. Where we used to see ads for designer business cards, now it’s all about website design (GoDaddy.com, WhoIs.com, and Wix.com, to name a few). More and more self-starters are taking their businesses online without the help of web designers. So how do you know if you’re doing it right?

Successfully marketing your business online is more than simply having a pretty website (though we certainly appreciate the pretty ones too). The DIY website operator needs one very important tool in his or her skills toolbox: search engine optimization (SEO). Without it, your site will be about as visible as a sandwich board on the side of a dirt road in back-country New Mexico.

So what is SEO, anyway?

SEO is what makes your website show up in Internet searches; knowing some SEO basics can mean the difference between being on page 1 or page 237 of Google search results. You want to make sure your website will be found easily by potential customers.

Can I really do SEO on my own?

Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes! Okay, so maybe you don’t need to be as dramatic as a Jane Austen heroine, but celebration is definitely in order. SEO doesn’t require coding or even knowledge of HTML; it’s about word choice and placement. What’s that? Could it really be that simple? The following SEO tips for beginners should get you started.

1. Use your words

Choose your keywords carefully (these being the words potential visitors are likely to enter into a search engine), and direct their placement even more so. Your primary keyword should be in the page’s URL, your content’s title, the page description, and ideally in the first 50 words of your body text. Keywords should appear throughout your content but not so often as to make the writing feel clumsy or spammy.

2. Tag, you’re it!

Don’t neglect your alt tags and image tags! With every image and link on your page, you have an opportunity to pump up your keyword usage. These tags (the text that appears when you hover your mouse over an image or link) should always be filled in with a concise label or description that contains your primary keyword.

3. A picture is worth a thousand clicks

A trick to jumping ahead in search engine rankings is to use different forms of media. Not only will eye-catching images and interesting videos appeal to visitors to your website, but they’ll also show up in image or video searches and even in regular web results. As Google displays the most relevant videos and images at the top of its results pages, you can sneak into visibility ahead of even the best-optimized text-only websites.

4. Content is king, but you don’t have to be a prince from Bel Air to be fresh!

We can’t stress enough the importance of fresh, relevant content. Visitors to your website won’t stick around (or come back) if what they find was last updated in 2002. That being said, constantly posting updates just for the sake of updating while falling behind on real need or quality won’t help you. Be mindful of what you’re saying when you post. Are you addressing the current needs and inquiries of your customers? Are you staying up to date and on top of trends? Determine a reasonable strategy, whether it means daily social media posts, posting blogs or articles two to three times a week, or seasonal promotions.

5. Feel the need—the need for speed!

Feel the need--the need for speed.Nobody likes a sluggish website. When the next option is only a click away, the chances of a potential customer actually waiting for a stalling website to load are slim to none. Cut down on bandwidth-hogging applications like Flash or JavaScript, and compress your files and images. Page speed is factored into search engine rankings.

6. Stay mobile

The popular build-a-site websites we mentioned earlier each come with arsenals of free templates for the not-so-technically-inclined. Make sure to choose one that is also designed to suit mobile devices. Not only are visitors unlikely to stay on your page if it isn’t readable on their phones and tablets, but Google is now factoring mobile optimization into its ranking system.

7. ‘Cause it’s all about those links, ’bout those links, no bouncing!

Basic but beautiful is the concept of linking back to your own website. Every time you post new content, include a link back to your site, be it to your homepage, landing page, or archive. If you’re using social media to market your business (and you really should be), include links to your website in your posts. Finally, establish relationships with relevant websites so that you can provide links to each other’s sites. Each link means more potential traffic and a greater chance of appearing in search engine results; just make sure that links to your site are appearing on legitimate, relevant pages.

How do I know if it’s working?

What is success if you can’t see it? Take a moment now to sign up for Google Analytics. This comprehensive system of tools lets you track who your customers are, what it is they need, what they’re looking at on your website, and how they’re reacting to it. You can also monitor what paths bring visitors to your website and from what kinds of devices so that you can continue tweaking your site to further drive traffic and conversions. From there, the power is all yours!

Image sources: Leeroy/Stocksnap.io, hingoba/Pixabay.com

 

Inklyo's free ebook, 17 SEO Myths You Should Stop Believing.

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Editing in British English

Editing in British English

A guide to the differences between American and British English

Editing in British EnglishEnglish can be a strange and confusing language. Its spelling and grammar rules aren’t always intuitive, and the fact that there are different varieties of English—British, American, Canadian, and Australian—makes things that much more perplexing . . . or so it seems. Today, we’re going to be looking at the main differences between the two most common varieties of English—British and American—and what to watch out for when editing in British English. Although the two aren’t that different, their variations in grammar—including spelling, usage, and punctuation—are still quite significant.

By comparing British English to American English, this article will list the most common things to watch out for when editing in British English. We will cover the topic of British English grammar as a whole, including spelling, usage, and punctuation, as well as the differences between American and British English. By the time you’re done reading this article, you’ll know exactly what to pay special attention to when editing in British English. Chocks away!

British English

British English is the variety of English spoken and written throughout the United Kingdom. Although British English has regional varieties, we’re going to keep it simple here by taking a broad approach and examining the main features of British spelling, grammar, vocabulary, usage, and punctuation. Learning these basics will provide you with a great knowledge base that you’ll find especially helpful when writing or editing in British English.

Let’s start with the main differences between American and British English, which include spelling, usage, and punctuation.

1. Spelling

The spelling of English words has not always been standardized. With the publication of influential dictionaries in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, spelling standards became increasingly common, although with differences between countries. These variances occurred for cultural, political, and linguistic reasons, and over the years, the differences have become more cemented (though never completely so).

The primary differences are between British and American spellings. American spelling conventions changed early on, and the variances have persisted throughout the years. Countries in the British Commonwealth (and Ireland) tend to follow British usage, although there are still some minor variations (Australian spellings, for instance, sometimes diverge from the British forms). The one major exception is Canada. Canadian English is more of a hybrid and follows typical British usage in many ways, while adopting certain common practices from its neighbor to the south.

Here are some of the main spelling differences between American and British English:

  • Words that end in –our in British English tend to end in –or in American English, but only when the –our ending is not stressed, such as in flav-our.
  • When the –our ending is stressed, however, the –our spelling is retained in American English, such as in vel-our.
  • Words ending in –erior are spelled this way everywhere, regardless of location.
    • superior
    • exterior
    • interior
    • inferior
  • Many words in British English end in –er, especially Germanic and Romance words. However, certain words with French, Latin, and Greek origins end in –re in British English. These –re endings are often not used in American English (e.g., theatre in British English is spelled theater in American English). Here are some other examples of -re endings in British English:
    • centre
    • metre
    • fibre
    • sabre
  • Many English words derived from Greek words end in –ize or –ise. The ending choice varies between, and often within, countries. Great Britain uses both –ize and –ise, although the –ise ending is more common.
  • For such Greek-derived words, the British usage is inconsistent. The –ise is more common, but the Oxford University Press and the Oxford English Dictionary, for example, use the –ize. The Cambridge University Press, on the other hand, adopts the –ise ending, and this is what is typically used in the British mass media for words such as criticise or organise.
  • Some words ending in –ize/-ise are not derived from Greek, and their endings are thus not interchangeable in British English. Examples include:
    • size
    • prize
    • seize
  • The use of the –yze or the –yse ending varies between countries. The –yse ending is used in British English, while the –yze ending is used in both American and Canadian English for words such as analyze.
  • Some words can end in either –ogue or –og, although the –ogue ending tends to dominate in all countries. Examples:
    • pedagogue
    • monologue
    • synagogue
  • In British English (and that of most Commonwealth countries), some words use either the ae or the oe combination, while in American and Canadian English, these are almost always reduced to a simple e. However, there are certain exceptions. The word fetus, based on etymology, should always be spelled fetus, but Britons often adopt the oe spelling, and the word becomes foetus. Academic journals everywhere tend to prefer the etymologically correct spelling, fetus.
  • A few words always (or usually) retain the ae or oe construction, even in American English:
    • phoenix
    • subpoena
    • toe
  • Latin –ae plural endings are not changed in any variety of English, as with the following:
    • larvae
    • formulae
    • antennae

Spelling Differences: Double Consonants in British English

How to Edit in British EnglishWhen adding a suffix that begins with a vowel, the final consonant is often doubled. This helps avoid confusion. For example, if you have tap and do not double the consonant p when adding the suffix –ed, you will end up with taped, which is the past tense of the verb tape. Doubling the consonant creates the word tapped instead.

Generally, this only occurs when the word ends with a single consonant following a single vowel and when the final syllable is stressed. However, in British English, a final –l is often doubled to –ll, even when the ending is unstressed. In American English, only one –l is used. Canadian English follows British usage here, typically using the –ll.

This doubling in British English is generally true for any such words ending in –ed, –ing, –er, –est, and -or, for example:

  • counsellor
  • counselling
  • counselled

However, for words ending with –ise/-ize, –ism, –ist, and –ish, the final –l is generally not doubled, as with the following:

  • novelist
  • sensualist
  • normalise

In words with other endings, such as –ous, –ee, and –age, the usage varies, with some doubled (marvellous) and others not (scandalous). Jewellery has –ll in British English but is spelled jewelry in American English.

Single –l endings are used if there is a double vowel.

  • foal (oa) becomes foaling
  • fool (oo) becomes fooling
  • pool (oo) becomes pooling

Single –l endings are used if there is a consonant preceding the final consonant.

  • bowl (w before the l) becomes bowling
  • whirl (r before the l) becomes whirling

Overall

The biggest differences between American English and British English are words with the following combinations: –our versus –or, –re versus –er, –ize versus –ise, –yze versus –yse, –ogue versus –og, and words with ae in American English that are spelled with oe in the British equivalent. If you’re interested in learning more about the differences between American and British English, Diffen.com is a great resource.

2. Usage

Usage refers to language etiquette and how words are commonly used (written and spoken). It also refers to using the right word in the right context. In terms of British versus American English, usage is where you’ll see the most obvious distinctions. Different words may be used for different reasons: convention, simplicity, socio-cultural reasons, and even aesthetics. There are too many examples to include here, but check out EnglishClub.com for a very thorough list.

Word usage differences between British English and American English.3. Punctuation

Differences between American English and British English are probably the most noticeable in spoken language, but along with spelling and usage, there are also slight differences when it comes to British punctuation. The most important British punctuation rules to remember are:

  • The serial comma is not used. Example: I bought flowers, a vase and a card.
  • Single quotation marks (instead of double quotation marks) are used for initial quotations. For quotations within initial quotations, double quotation marks are used.
  • Punctuation (commas, periods) goes outside the quotation marks.
  • When writing titles such as “Dr.” or “Mr.,” the periods are omitted (“Dr” or “Mr”).
  • When writing times, British English uses a period between the hours and minutes (e.g., 4.30 p.m.), whereas American English uses a colon (e.g., 4:30 p.m.).

How can these rules help me with editing in British English?

Now that you’ve learned about the differences between British and American spelling, grammar, punctuation, and usage, it should be easier for you to spot these discrepancies and write or edit in British English. It’s really just a matter of keeping certain rules in mind. If you’re unsure about a certain rule or how to use a specific word, there are countless resources available online, including Inklyo’s GrammarCamp, EditingCamp, and ProofreadingCamp online courses. Of course, you can also always refer back to this article as a quick resource!

Cheerio!

Image source: coombesy/Pixabay.com, Unsplash/Pixabay.com

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The Ultimate Cover Letter Checklist: What to Include in a Cover Letter

The Ultimate Cover Letter Checklist

The Ultimate Cover Letter ChecklistPeanut butter and jelly. Milk and cookies. Resumes and cover letters. Some things are just better together.

Now, it may not be delicious or sweet—or even very good to eat—but a cover letter is still one very important half of a perfect pair—at least when it comes to applying for jobs. A cover letter is a short, one-page letter that you send along with your resume when applying for a job. It allows you to showcase your skills, interest, and intent, and it is used to expand upon the information in your resume, particularly as it relates to your work experience. Crafting the perfect cover letter is extremely important because it gives you the opportunity to explain, in detail, how and why you are the perfect fit for a particular position. It also gives you a chance to show your personality and demonstrate to the employer why the company would benefit from hiring you.

The Cover Letter Checklist: What to Include

The same full contact information as your resume. Include your name, mailing address, phone number, and email address and a link to your LinkedIn profile or, if you have one, your personal website.

A consistent look. Make sure that your resume and cover letter match in style and presentation.

Paragraph sections. Include a salutation, opening (one paragraph), main body (one to two paragraphs), and closing (one paragraph).

  • Salutation: This is your greeting (such as Dear Ms. Meya Fransson). Try to get an exact name instead of using To Whom It May Concern.
  • Opening: Briefly introduce yourself. State the position you are applying for and why you are a great fit. Demonstrate to the reader your strengths in a few powerful lines.
  • Main body: Get to the nitty-gritty about how and why you are best for the job. Look at the qualifications, experience, and skills outlined in the job description and show the reader how you match these. Explain some of your greatest past accomplishments. Focus on the company’s requirements and what it needs; try to do so without the use of “I” statements. When writing this section, always keep the following question in the back of your mind: Why should we hire you?
  • Closing: This should be a quick summary of what you talked about in the body to reiterate what you bring to the table. Thank the employer and suggest a meeting. Sign off in a polite and professional manner.

The right amount of white space—not too much or too little.

A length of about half a page (one full page including your contact information and that of the recipient).

No spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors.

Personalization. The letter must include a salutation and be addressed to the right person.

Your key skills as they relate to the position being applied to, written in the same way that they are written in the job posting to increase your chances of making it through the applicant tracking system (ATS).

The reasons why you would be best for the position. Include knowledge, skills, and experience as they relate to the job posting.

  • NOTE: Each and every cover letter you write must be tailored to a specific job and employer. You cannot reuse a cover letter or work from a template, simply changing words here and there. The more customized your letter is, the greater your chances will be of making it through the system, getting your letter read by the hiring manager, and getting an interview.

What to Omit and Avoid

Avoid clichés, such as the following:

  • “To Whom It May Concern”
  • “My name is . . .”
  • “I am writing to express my interest in . . .”
  • “I’m probably not the best candidate, but . . .””I am applying for the role of [title] at [Company] . . .”

Never reuse a cover letter. Start fresh each and every time. It’s okay to use a guideline, but never use the same cover letter twice.

Don’t be vague. Be specific, especially in outlining your skills as they relate to the position.

Don’t repeat your resume. Instead, discuss your work history and emphasize any major accomplishments that relate to the position you’re applying for. Expand on certain aspects in detail to tell a story about your accomplishments, but don’t tell the reader what he or she already knows.

Design Elements

Be consistent. Make sure that your resume and cover letter match in style and presentation.

Keep it short. One page, at most (about 250–350 words). The hiring manager will admire your ability to be concise.

Keep it succinct. Try to use short sentences instead of long ones, and try to keep each paragraph to five lines or fewer.

Use numbers and metrics. These really make your accomplishments stand out and help draw the reader’s eye.

Use boldface if you want to emphasize something, instead of underlining or italics.

Avoid graphics, pictures, images, tables, etc.

Use a common document type. Unless the employer asks for a specific format, prepare your cover letter as a Word document (.doc or .docx). Word documents, as opposed to PDFs or other file types, are the most common and are therefore the easiest to be emailed/attached, opened, and read.

Format appropriately. Use a standard business letter format, listing your name and address, the date, and the recipient’s name and address first, followed by the salutation and substance of the letter. The main body of your letter will vary from industry to industry, but a rough outline looks like this:

  • Opening
    • State the position you are applying for, including any job posting numbers.
    • This is where you hook the reader in.
  • Main body
    • This should be one or two paragraphs in length.
    • How do you fit in? What do you bring to the table? How do your skills match those required for the position?
  • Closing
    • Thank the reader.
    • Show enthusiasm for the position.
    • Restate the best way(s) to contact you (phone, email).
    • Ask for an interview.

Include white space (or negative space). This refers to margins (the areas between the main content and the edges of the page), gutters (the vertical space between columns), and the spaces between lines of type and graphics or figures. Having a balance between white space and content will keep your cover letter from looking cluttered.

Use an appropriate font style, size, and color. Use a font that is easy to read and that doesn’t distract from your message. Fonts such as Arial, Calibri, Verdana, Times New Roman, Georgia, Lucida, Tahoma, or Trebuchet were designed for the web and are commonly accepted. The font size should be between 10 and 12 point, and the color should be consistent throughout (black).

Use one-inch margins all the way around your cover letter. This will ensure that no information gets cut off if a paper copy is printed.

Spelling, Grammar, and Punctuation

Attention to detail. Spelling and grammar are important indicators of a candidate’s attention to detail; they highlight defects instead of spotlighting qualities. It is nearly impossible to recover from spelling errors in your cover letter.

Action words. Use words that convey action, such as advised, examined, oversaw, prepared, resolved, and compiled.

Consistency. Be consistent with your punctuation throughout. This includes using only single or double quotation marks, using the serial comma consistently, and using only straight or curly quotes.

Acronyms. Always make sure to spell out any acronyms in full upon their first use, followed by the acronym in parentheses.

Editing. Make sure to take the time to thoroughly edit and proofread your cover letter. Even the smallest spelling mistake can have a disastrous effect, so pay extra attention when reading through this document. You may even want to use a professional editing service such as Scribendi.com to have an extra set of professional, discerning eyes catch any errors you may have missed. A hiring manager who sees mistakes in your cover letter won’t take you seriously and will think you are lazy, which also makes it more likely your application will be rejected.

Punctuation. Make sure to use punctuation marks properly. Know the difference between a hyphen (-), an en dash (–), and an em (—) dash; when and how to use a semicolon (;); how to use a comma properly (,); and that a period (.) goes at the end of each complete sentence.

Capitalization. Capitalize words correctly. Do capitalize names; proper nouns; names of cities, states/provinces, and countries; languages; company names; brand names; and months. Do not capitalize job titles (unless they come before a name); college/university majors; important-sounding career words that aren’t proper nouns; seasons; or directions.

Style. Be formal in your letter, but don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through. Be true to yourself in your language and tone.

Bonus Tips for an Awesome Cover Letter

Get to know the company’s culture (read its website; look at its LinkedIn page) so you can write like one of the team members and show that you’d be a perfect fit.

Regardless of whether you’re fresh out of university or 10 years into the workforce, try to focus on your work experience, not your education.

Be a storyteller. If possible, tell a story. Explain how you came to learn about this company; what brought you here? Try to connect in a way that makes you stand out from the rest.

Show your future employer that: a) you’re going to excel in the position; b) you’re friendly and likable, and you get along well with others; and c) you’re going to be a great fit.

Write like a real person—don’t be robotic and overly formal, but also don’t be super excited and so over the top that you seem disingenuous.

Read over the company’s website and try to write in its “voice.”

Show interest and enthusiasm about what you have to offer and what the company can offer you.

Stay positive and focus on your strengths; don’t apologize for not having the right experience or exact educational background.

Use an active voice instead of a passive voice.

Be yourself, not fake or too formal. You want to appear sincere, approachable, and real, so make this come through in your writing.

Infographic

If you’re looking for a quick reference to use when writing your cover letter, the following infographic provides a point-form version of this article. Go over this checklist before sending a cover letter out to a potential employer.

Ultimate Cover Letter Checklist Infographic

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Conclusion

So there you have it: the ultimate cover letter checklist. Remember, the cover letter is like peanut butter to jelly or cookies to milk—you can’t just submit one without the other when applying for a job. And, as you can see, the cover letter is a necessary (even mandatory) part of the job application process. Your resume isn’t enough, and most employers require that you submit a cover letter along with your resume to expand on your skills and to show how you’d be a perfect fit for the position. Taking into consideration things to include, things to avoid or omit, design elements, and spelling, grammar, and punctuation, you should be well on your way to crafting your best cover letter yet. But before you hit “Send,” make sure the cover letter is clean and error-free by having it edited by the professionals at Scribendi.com. You’re just a click away from landing that dream job!

How to Write a Cover Letter

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33 Great Online Resources for ESL Speakers

33 Great Online Resources for ESL SpeakersAs an English as a second language (ESL) speaker, it can be overwhelming to search for online resources to help you with your grammar and English usage. The Internet is great because it provides a wealth of information, but this information is often hard to navigate. How do you know which online resources for ESL speakers will best suit your English learning needs? GrammarCamp is here to help!

Our grammar experts have compiled a list of the best tools to help those learning to speak English. To help pinpoint specific needs, we’ve broken it up into five sections: Grammar and English Usage; Spelling and Punctuation; Vocabulary and Writing; and Speaking and Listening. To help assess what you’ve learned, we’ve also included the sections Quizzes and Worksheets, Lesson Plans, and YouTube Channels.

We hope these online resources for ESL speakers will help you become confident in your English usage and that you will continue to consult them whenever you need to brush up on your skills or improve your knowledge.

Grammar and English Usage

1. Daves ESL Cafe: Dave Sperling is an ESL teacher. His comprehensive website provides lessons on grammar, idioms, pronunciation, and much more for ESL/EFL students and teachers.

2. ESL Partyland: The mission of ESL Partyland, according to the website, is threefold: “provide students with the content and tools necessary to learn online; provide teachers with class materials; and allow for students and teachers to easily communicate together.”

3. Scribendi.com: Scribendi.com is one of the world’s oldest and most trusted online editing and proofreading companies. Its primary goal is to provide clients with fast, reliable, and affordable revision services. The service is especially popular among students and ESL speakers, as it can help them overcome any language barriers that may be hindering them from communicating their ideas clearly.

4. Breaking News English: On Breaking News English, you can read current news stories at varying levels of difficulty. The following resources are also available, according to the website: “seven levels of free lessons, from elementary to advanced, with printable activities and handouts; lessons based on current news stories with 30+ online quizzes for each lesson; and listening files in British and North American English that can be downloaded in mp3 format or subscribed to via a podcast.”

5. ESL-Lounge: ESL-Lounge offers hundreds of exercises focused on parts of speech and vocabulary classified by difficulty, including ESL lesson plans and materials, books, talking points, pronunciation, and terminology.

6. GrammarCamp: GrammarCamp was developed by the award-winning editing experts at Scribendi.com. This online course allows you to learn English grammar at your own pace and become a better writer. With comprehensive lessons and quizzes, this course has helped people around the world improve both their written and spoken English.

7. Activities for ESL Students: Grammar and vocabulary quizzes at multiple levels of difficulty are available from Activities for ESL Students. The website also offers bilingual quizzes in dozens of languages.

8. 5-Minute English: 5-Minute English provides short and easy exercises for ESL speakers, including lessons on grammar, reading, vocabulary, listening, pronunciation, slang, and idioms. It also provides answers to students’ questions about confusing features of English.

Spelling and Pronunciation

9. TalkEnglish: English is currently the most commonly used language in worldwide business. TalkEnglish’s Business English lessons help people with office jobs communicate in such an environment. According to the website, “Each lesson contains multiple sentences that you can click on to learn how to say that sentence. You should be able to easily find what you need by the different subcategories. Repeat after the audio files and you will improve your business English.”

10. Antimoon: Antimoon’s website explains that it “provides advice and inspiration to people who are serious about improving their English. The Antimoon Method is a set of principles and techniques for learning English effectively. If you want to learn English well, you cannot rely on English classes; you have to take control of your learning. Antimoon will show you how to do it in a fun and effective way.”

11. English Zone: English Zone provides a variety of information for ESL speakers, including grammar, reading, verbs, pronunciation, idioms, spelling, writing, and conversation.

12. Learn That Word: Learn That Word “creates every session just for you. Nothing is out-of-the-box! Advance on your word journey in fast, easy steps. Focus on learning what’s important to you; we’ll manage your progress behind the scenes. LearnThatWord is a complete solution. We’re your virtual mom, catering to your every need and helping you be the best you can be.”

13. BBC Learning English: Since 1943, BBC Learning English has been involved in teaching English around the world. It is a branch of the BBC World Service, and it offers free learning materials to learners worldwide. According to the website, BBC Learning English “deliver [their] materials as full-length courses, but each component of the course is stand-alone and can be studied on its own. This means the learner can choose the best way to study for them: by following a full course or by following the individual materials most appropriate to them.”

Speaking and Listening

Speaking and listening resources.14. Using English: According to the website, UsingEnglish.com is “a general English language site specializing in ESL, with a wide range of resources for learners and teachers of English. The site uses different varieties of English, and there are contributors from the United States, Canada, Pakistan, and non-native speakers, but much of the site uses British English.”

15. TEFL Tunes: The TEFL Tunes website uses the principle that language can be learned through music. Website visitors can select the level of difficulty, the song’s theme, the skill they want to learn, and even the artist they want to learn from. Subscriptions to the website are £10 for an individual or £36 for a school. However, there is also a selection of free song lessons available.

Vocabulary and Writing

16. Answers.coms Idiom Dictionary: Learning idioms can be one of the biggest challenges when studying English. To help you keep them straight, The Dictionary of Idioms “contains idiomatic words and phrases, slang terms, figures of speech, common proverbs, and metaphors, each clearly defined and illustrated with at least one sample sentence or quotation.”

17. The Ultimate Vocabulary Resource Guide: Looking for even more great online tools for improving your vocabulary? This guide, compiled by the writers at SuperSummary, includes links to vocabulary tools, resources for educators and parents, vocabulary test preparation tips, and more.

18. Cram: Cram offers “a wide selection of flashcards for you to study, memorize, test yourself on, and more. Flashcards are effective because they are founded on the principles of rote and memorization. You can use its web-based flashcard maker to create your own set. Once you create your online flashcards, you will be able to study, export, or even share it with your fellow classmates. You can collaborate perfectly with anyone, anytime.”

Spelling resources.19. ESL Lab: Finding the time to keep your language skills fresh can be difficult. ESL Lab’s vocabulary lists will teach you how to use vocabulary in everyday situations. According to the website, “Each of the pages on this website is designed to build communication skills and includes a listening and discussion activity. As you learn the vocabulary, try to use it in other situations.”

20. About.com English Vocabulary: About.com English Vocabulary offers resources for learners of English who are at a more advanced level, including articles, quizzes, and worksheets.

21. Vocabulary.co.il: This is a “fun educational website dedicated to helping you build reading, phonics, or English language skills. It offers free online word games, which are specifically designed to build vocabulary skills and to motivate people to learn through fun practice in spelling, phonics, and vocabulary.”

22. Pizzaz: For learning to write fiction and poetry in English, Pizzaz offers some simple creative writing activities. It also offers printable resources both for learning and teaching English writing.

Quizzes and Worksheets

23. Self-Study Quizzes for ESL Students: One of the main benefits of Self-Study Quizzes for ESL Students is that none of the quizzes require JavaScript, Java, or Flash; they are all HTML only and should, therefore, be accessible on any computer with Internet access.

24. English Club: English Club’s vocabulary quizzes offers a compilation of over 1,000 activities for ESL students pertaining to grammar, vocabulary, idioms, and more.

25. ESL Resource Center: The ESL Resource Center was created for ESL teachers and provides plenty of worksheets, tips, and lessons on grammar, spelling, reading and writing, pronunciation, vocabulary and idioms, and listening.

26. ESL HQ: ESL HQ offers free ESL flashcards, worksheets, games, activities, lesson plans, advice from teachers, job listings, and more.

Lesson Plans

27. The Internet TESL Journal – The Internet TESL Journal offers a large collection of lesson plans, articles, research papers, handouts, and teaching ideas categorized according to the skill they aim to teach.

28. Waygook.org – Waygook.org is a forum providing message boards about language and teaching. In addition to conversations between users, message boards contain lesson plans, PowerPoints, and other resources that are helpful to ESL speakers.

YouTube Channels

YouTube resources.29. VOA Learning English: VOA Learning English allows viewers to see captioned news reports in American English at a speed that is 33% slower than normal.

30. Listen and Read Along: Listen and Read Along offers Reading Movies (Rovies) that encourage reading and attempt to make it an enjoyable experience for those learning the language.

31. TOEFL TV: According to the channel’s description, TOEFL TV is “a place to learn, share, and grow. TOEFL TV has tips from real teachers and real students to help improve your English skills. You can hear what leading colleges and universities think about the value of students who can communicate well in English in an academic setting.”

32. OMGmeiyu’s Channel: OMGmeiyu’s YouTube channel is an excellent resource for native Chinese speakers learning English and seeking to learn American English slang.

33. English with Jennifer: Run by an experienced ESL teacher, English with Jennifer “will introduce new content to some and serve as a review for others.” Both students and teachers can also leave comments and questions that Jennifer will address.

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