Posted on

The Ultimate Blogger Guide

Blogger Guide

A desk with writing instruments.

Do you want to become a blogger? Blogging presents a unique opportunity to build a network for your existing customers while also acquiring new business. A blog is the ideal platform on which to showcase your expertise in the industry.

This list of resources is designed to walk you through the blogging process and answer any questions you might have along the way.

Why Start a Blog?

What Is Content Marketing?

How to Create a Content Strategy

How to Write Content

Image source: Alejandro Escamilla/Unsplash.com

Posted on

The Small Business Guide: Tips and Tools for Building Your Business

A small business owner.

A small business owner.

This small business guide is the perfect reference for small business owners who must navigate marketing, accounting, sales, and customer service.

Don’t waste time toggling between tabs when everything you need to know is in one convenient location!

Business Writing Resources

Tools by Department

Efficiency Tips and Tricks

Resume Resources

Image source: Unsplash.com/Pexels.com
Effective Business Communication
Posted on

Becoming an Editor or Proofreader: A Comprehensive Guide

Becoming an Editor

Becoming an Editor or Proofreader

As long as there are people writing, there will be a need for editors and proofreaders. However, becoming an editor or proofreader requires patience, skill, and a thorough understanding of what these professions involve.

The following list of resources is designed to answer all your questions about training to become an editor or proofreader and to outline what you can expect as you embark upon an editing or proofreading career. Need more convincing? Check out some of our resources and see what we’re talking about!

Training to Become an Editor or Proofreader

Careers in Editing

Tips and Tricks

EditingCamp

Careers in Proofreading

FAQ

Image source: Lisa Davies/Stocksnap.io
Posted on

Why Libraries Will Never Go the Way of Blockbuster

The Future of Libraries

The Future of Libraries

A few quick questions before we start:

  • Do you read the newspaper in print or online?
  • Do you watch reruns of your favorite movies and shows on DVD, or do you opt for Netflix instead?
  • Do you refuse to abandon print books, or do you adore the convenience of your e-reader?

As a consumer in the digital age, you have access to a greater volume of information in more formats than ever before. And regardless of how you answered these questions, the manner in which you access information and media has likely changed drastically. For example, online streaming of films and television shows has virtually eliminated video rental services (R.I.P., Blockbuster!).

Another question: Do you use your local public or academic library? If so, how often?

Many of us do not have the time to browse the stacks for hours on end, much as we might like to. What does this mean for the future of libraries?

Are libraries and the services they provide obsolete?

Though they have long been deemed the unfortunate victims of the digital age, here are a few reasons why libraries will not go the way of Blockbuster any time soon.

Quality versus Quantity

“Without libraries, what do we have? We have no past and no future.”

 – Ray Bradbury

A simple Google search will yield millions of hits in a fraction of a second. This means that we can find information on any topic imaginable almost instantaneously.

If this is so, why use library resources? Visiting a library in person or using a library website to access resources might seem like more of a hassle than anything else.

I’m sure you’re aware, though, that the information you find on the Internet is unpredictable in terms of quality (to put it nicely). Immediate answers to your questions are not necessarily the best answers. And depending on your purpose and the type of information for which you are searching, getting the wrong information could be problematic.

For example, using information from an anonymous online blog to write your paper on the history of the printing press could lead to a true research disaster. (No, the printing press was not invented by a wheat-loving baker named Glutenberg in an attempt to spread pro-gluten propaganda.)

Librarians can help you sift through the content you are bombarded with daily and filter out the misinformation.

Workspace-in-Library Librarians pride themselves on providing users with high-quality, trusted information. For example, as an alternative to resources like Wikipedia (which is fine for some preliminary research but should be used very cautiously as a final resource), libraries subscribe to electronic reference materials like dictionaries and encyclopedias. These sources provide information on an immense variety of subjects, with entries that are often written and signed by experts.

Information Access for All

“I go into my library and all history unrolls before me.”

 – Alexander Smith

As a true library advocate, this point is one of my favorites.

In my view, the principle on which libraries operate is truly democratic. Those who have access to meaningful information can make well-informed decisions in all areas of their lives.

Libraries help remove barriers to information access by providing all users with free information in a variety of formats on virtually any topic. Library policies ensure that all library resources are routinely evaluated to eliminate any potential barriers that could inhibit users as they access information (e.g., paywalls for journal articles or hard-to-reach shelves).

Historically, librarians have championed users’ right to information on all topics and have even fought against authorities that have attempted to bar users from accessing this information.

For example, the Windsor Public Library in Ontario posted an article discussing some of the glorious banned books being read by staff, just in time for the American Library Association’s banned book week.

Libraries also help support literacy and learning for people from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Sometimes referred to as the people’s university, libraries tackle the growing cost of education by providing free educational resources for everyone. These resources can provide academic support to students of all ages and aid those who wish to brush up on a topic or learn something new.

In addition, libraries can help users find a copy of virtually anything that exists bibliographically through interlibrary loans. This service allows users to obtain a copy of an item that is not held at their local library. Need an online article or a specific book? Before making an online purchase or running to the bookstore, try an interlibrary loan.

Though many of us are fortunate enough to have an Internet connection at home, some are unable (or unwilling) to subscribe to an Internet provider. Thankfully, libraries bridge the gap to digital information by offering free Wi-Fi so that users can surf the web and avoid paying a monthly Internet bill.

Always Adapting

“My lifelong love affair with books and reading continues unaffected by automation, computers, and all other forms of the twentieth-century gadgetry.”

Books in My Life, Robert Downs

Though the way that libraries offer their services has changed, the fundamental standards on which their services are based remain the same. Understanding user needs and emerging trends in information access are the guiding principles on which library services are based.

Libraries have demonstrated an incredible ability to adapt their services to shifting user needs. In an effort to reach more users and accommodate various preferences, library materials are offered in both traditional print and digital format.

Library SeminarIn fact, many libraries (public and academic alike) have increased their focus on developing their electronic collections and digital resources. For example, Hoopla, a database available through the Chatham–Kent and Windsor Public Library systems, lets users borrow free digital music, movies, and audiobooks, all of which can be downloaded to a computer or phone for offline access. Most libraries subscribe to expensive databases and electronic resources so that patrons are able to use them for free.

Beyond Internet resources and other media, many practical opportunities are made available through libraries that teach the public everyday skills, such as how to do CPR, how to do basic yoga, and how to properly use laboratory measuring equipment. These events not only impart knowledge but also connect people and encourage community involvement.

Conclusion

Libraries are no longer simply repositories for print books waiting to be checked out; they are spaces in which collaborative learning and engagement take place. Library programming and events are incredibly diverse and target all segments of the population, and the resources libraries provide benefit all members of the public.

Although it may be impossible to predict the future of libraries, these institutions have proven to be innovative and relevant. Libraries will continue to cater to the needs of the public, even as those needs change.

Image source: Daniella Winkler/Unsplash.com, jarmoluk/Pixabay.com, thrumprchgo/Pixabay.com

Posted on

20 English Idioms with Surprising Origins

English Idioms

Raining Cats and Dogs: English Idioms with Surprising Origins

Idioms are figures of speech that become fixed in a language. Usually, an idiom is figurative in modern contexts but once had a literal meaning. These literal meanings, or idiom origins, can help a learner of English to understand where a phrase originated.

Ever wondered what it means to “turn a blind eye” or “pull out all the stops”? Wonder no more!

Because the English language is full of idioms, we wanted to compile a list of English idioms and their origins to help make better sense of how these idioms work in modern contexts.

Ready? Let’s go!

1. Straight from the horse’s mouth

Meaning: getting information directly from the most reliable source

Origin: This one is said to come from the 1900s, when buyers could determine a horse’s age by examining its teeth. It’s also why you shouldn’t “look a gift horse in the mouth,” as inspecting a gift is considered bad etiquette.

2. Let the cat out of the bag

Meaning: to mistakenly reveal a secret

Origin: Up to and including in the 1700s, a common street fraud included replacing valuable pigs with less valuable cats and selling them in bags. When a cat was let out of a bag, the jig was up.

3. Butter someone up

Meaning: to praise or flatter someone, usually to gain a favor

Origin: A customary religious act in ancient India included throwing butter balls at the statues of gods to seek good fortune and their favor.

4. Pulling someone’s leg

Meaning: teasing someone, usually by lying in a joking manner

Origin: Although pulling someone’s leg is all in good fun nowadays, it originally described the way in which thieves tripped their victims to rob them.

5. Wolf in sheep’s clothing

Meaning: someone who is pretending to be something they are not, usually to the detriment of others

Origin: This one’s attributed to the Bible (Matthew 7:15). The Bible also gave us “rise and shine” (Isaiah 60:1), “seeing eye to eye” (Isaiah 62:8), and a “broken heart” (Psalm 69:20).

6. Hands downHands Down

Meaning: without a lot of effort; by far

Origin: Winning “hands down” once referred to 19th-century horseracing, when a jockey could remove his hands from the reins and still win the race because he was so far ahead.

7. Riding shotgun

Meaning: riding in the front seat of a vehicle next to the driver

Origin: In the Wild West, the person who sat next to the driver was often equipped with a shotgun to kill any robbers that might happen upon the coach.

8. Barking up the wrong tree

Meaning: pursuing a misguided course of action

Origin: Likely referring to hunting, this saying explains when a dog would literally bark at the bottom of the wrong tree after the prey in question moved to the next branch.

9. Flying off the handleFlying Off the Handle

Meaning: suddenly becoming enraged

Origin: This one is said to come from poorly made axes of the 1800s that would literally detach from the handle. Yikes!

10. Cost an arm and a leg

Meaning: extremely expensive

Origin: The story goes that this phrase originated from 18th-century paintings, as famous people like George Washington would have their portraits done without certain limbs showing. Having limbs showing is said to have cost more.

11. Sleep tight

Meaning: used to tell someone to sleep well

Origin: One possible origin of this phrase dates back to when mattresses were supported by ropes; sleeping tight meant sleeping with the ropes pulled tight, which would provide a well-sprung bed.

12. Bite the bullet

Meaning: to perform a painful task or endure an unpleasant situation

Origin: In the 1800s, patients would literally bite on a bullet to cope with the pain of having surgery before anesthesia was common.

13. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water

Meaning: look for avoidable errors so you don’t remove something good with the bad

Origin: This idiom allegedly comes from a time when the household bathed in the same water; first, the lord would bathe, then the men, the lady, the women, the children, and the babies last. The bath water is said to have been so dirty that there was a risk of throwing the baby out with the water once everyone was done bathing!

14. Jump the sharkJump the Shark

Meaning: the moment when a form of entertainment reaches a decline in quality by including gimmicks to maintain interest.

Origin: In the show Happy Days, the character Fonzie literally jumps over a shark while water skiing; afterward, radio personality Jon Hein popularized the phrase “jump the shark” to describe the decline of the show.

15. Minding your Ps and Qs

Meaning: being on your best behavior

Origin: There are many origin stories for this one, but perhaps the one that is most fun is that bartenders would keep track of the pints and quarts consumed by their patrons with the letters “P” and “Q.”

16. Turn a blind eye

Meaning: to consciously ignore unwanted information

Origin: The phrase “to turn a blind eye” is said to originate with Admiral Horatio Nelson, who allegedly looked through his telescope using his blind eye to avoid signals from his superior telling him to withdraw from battle.

17. Armed to the teeth

Meaning: to be extremely well equipped

Origin: The idea behind being “armed to the teeth” is that the weapon wielder would carry the maximum number of weapons, so many that he or she would be forced to carry some between his or her teeth.

18. Get one’s goatGet One's Goat

Meaning: to irritate or annoy someone

Origin: This one also comes from horseracing. Jockeys placed goats in the stables with their horses as this was said to relax the horses. However, competitors would remove the goats of their rivals to spook their competitors’ horses, hoping they would consequently lose the race.

19. Pull out all the stops

Meaning: to do everything you can to make something successful

Origin: Alluding to the piano-like instrument the organ, this phrase refers to when the stops are pulled out to turn on all the sounds in an organ, allowing the organ to play all the sounds at once and, therefore, be as loud as possible.

20. Dish fit for the gods

Meaning: a very scrumptious or delectable meal

Origin: We can thank Shakespeare for this expression (found in Julius Caesar), but we can also thank him for “foaming at the mouth” (Julius Caesar), “hot blooded” (The Merry Wives of Windsor), “in stitches” (Twelfth Night), “green-eyed monster” (Othello), “wearing your heart on your sleeve” (Othello), and “one fell swoop” (Macbeth).

Conclusion

Did any of these idiom origins surprise you? Do you know of any other English idioms with surprising origin stories? Alternatively, do you know of any other idioms in other languages that you think are interesting or funny? Share them with us on Facebook or Twitter!

Posted on

The Best Software for Collaborative Writing

Collaborative Writing Software

Collaborative Writing SoftwareWorking on a team is necessary for success in virtually any professional scenario. You might be a business professional collaborating on a project with your colleagues. Or perhaps you’re an academic writer who is working on an article with your peers, hoping to submit it to a field-specific journal. In these scenarios, you need the ability to communicate effectively with your team to ensure the project goals are met on time.

Easier said than done, right? A team’s ability to accommodate conflicting schedules and differing perspectives is an art form, a tenuous balancing act.

To further complicate things, members of the team might be working from separate locations, whether that means different cities or different continents. This certainly complicates what can be an already convoluted process. It is difficult enough to ensure that group members communicate effectively. But when the members of the team are working from remote locations, it is even more crucial to implement systems and methods to improve the lines of communication and optimize interaction within the group.

Many professionals and academics work remotely on collaborative writing projects. Here’s the thing: there is nothing more confusing than sending out multiple versions of a document via email with revisions from each team member. Keeping track of a document’s version history is bound to hit a snag with this editing/revision process.

Collaborative writing software to the rescue! Software for collaborative writing allows multiple individuals to engage in the virtual, real-time writing and editing of a document. Many types of collaborative writing software are out there, each providing unique features, pricing options, layouts, and degrees of complexity. Of course, the ideal collaborative writing software depends on the specific project, as well as the price and complexity required by the user.

Collaborative Writing Software: The Best of the Best

1) Google Docs

When you hear “software for collaborative writing,” does Google Docs come to mind first? If so, it’s easy to see why. Google Docs is the prevailing software solution for this task. Multiple collaborators can simultaneously compose and edit a document. The keyword here is simultaneously: those who have access to a document on Google Docs are able to work at the same time and view the changes that other collaborators are making. What’s more, Google Docs is free to use, and any changes made to a document are saved automatically.

Prior to opening a file on Google Docs, users can either select a blank document or use one of several templates (essay, letter, lesson plan, report, etc.). Contributors can provide comments that are linked to specific portions of the text, and other collaborators may respond to the issues/concerns raised in these comments. Google Docs also sends emails to contributors when a file is shared with them. In addition, files can be exported in .pdf, .doc/.docx, or .odt format.

While Google Docs is one of the major contenders among collaborative writing software, it is not open source. Furthermore, the ability to track a document’s version history is limited, and documents tend to lag and become less responsive when many individuals are writing/editing at once.

2) Etherpad

In contrast to Google Docs, Etherpad is an open-source software for collaborative writing that allows multiple users to compose and edit documents. Etherpad is available for Windows and Mac/Linux systems, and it is ideal for recording collaborative minutes or brainstorming with colleagues. Etherpad color-codes the contributions made by different authors, and the changes that have been made to a document over time can be recorded and played back for review. Therefore, the ability to track versions of a document is more robust in Etherpad than in Google Docs.

Once the document is complete, the color-coded changes are integrated into the text to produce a more appealing, professional format. Etherpad is ideal for those who do not want to dish out an outrageous monthly payment. This resource is free, though donations are encouraged. The main downside to Etherpad is that users may be limited in their ability to include footnotes, figures, or images with their text.

3) Draft

Draft is a type of collaborative writing software that enables several collaborators to work with and edit a single document. The changes are not immediately integrated into the text, however. Instead, a new version of the document is produced every time a contributor’s changes are accepted.

While this feature permits users to easily keep track of the project’s version history, some may view this as a downside, as only the original author of the document can accept or reject other contributors’ changes.

While this feature permits users to easily keep track of the project’s version history, some may view this as a downside: only the original author of the document can accept or reject these changes. The original document is updated only when these changes are accepted.

Users must create an online account prior to using this software. Draft is unique in that it prepares analytics of an individual’s writing habits, such as the number of words produced by a writer per week. And, as with Etherpad, Draft is free.

4) Quip

Quip is a writing software suite that encourages teams to collaborate more efficiently. Members of a project team can work collaboratively on documents, spreadsheets, and checklists.

Quip Logo New

Quip provides a comment thread to facilitate interactions between collaborators as they work on a file. Users receive notifications of any changes that other collaborators have made to the document. What’s notable about Quip are the multiple platforms on which the software is supported (Mac, Windows, Android, iPhones, iPads, or online). Quip is also designed to be ideal for a mobile environment. While the business version of Quip requires regular payments (a free trial of Quip Business is available), a free version also exists.

5) Dropbox Paper

Though Dropbox has always been a great tool for sharing Word documents and file folders with multiple users, it has recently improved its capabilities for collaborative writing by introducing Dropbox Paper, a cloud-based software for editing.

This application can only be accessed online through a Dropbox account. In order to access Dropbox Paper (which is still in beta), users must first join a waitlist to receive an invitation to use the application. Project members can work together on a single document, with contributions from different users marked by colored cursors. Yet Dropbox Paper offers only three fonts and basic formatting options (underline, bold, strikethrough, and italics), which certainly limits your editing capabilities.

Dropbox Paper is ideal for managing a project because users can create to-do lists and notify team members of a task that requires completion.

Conclusion

Well, there you have it—the best software for collaborative writing. For those in academic or professional environments, working with group members from different locations is a reality. And though virtual group interactions can be complicated, these tools will help you avoid the cumbersome, hopelessly frustrating, sending-edits-via-email form of collaboration once and for all!

Image source: DesignCue/Stocksnap.io

Effective Business Communication

Posted on

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

Share this Image On Your Site

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

Image source: Startup Stock Photos/Stocksnap.io

Posted on

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.

Image sources: Ryan McGuire/Stocksnap.io, Sonja Langford/Stocksnap.io, Glen Noble/Stocksnap.io, geralt/Pixabay.com

Posted on

Top 5 Human Resource Tools

Top 5 Human Resource Tools

HR tools can reduce your hiring and staff management costs

Top 5 Human Resource ToolsFew small businesses can afford the overhead of a dedicated HR department. Although the absence of this admin function from the office is a cost saver, it does mean that small businesses often fail to plan their HR requirements properly and can create ill will among staff through the haphazard treatment of HR functions such as pay and sick leave. Incompetent HR management can lead to production limits and uncooperative staff. Fortunately, there are a number of online HR tools that can help the busy business manager cope with the demands of HR needs. Here are five of the best HR tools currently available.

1) The Resumator

The Resumator automates the hiring process. It integrates with your email system, enables you to post job vacancies on a list of well-known employment websites, and then reads through and parses arriving resumes sent in PDF or Word formats. You can also post jobs on social media platforms through this HR tool or have your own jobs webpages, which The Resumator will host for you. The system also sets up workflows, which give you a schedule by which to complete the necessary steps the hiring process requires. However, you would need to have a fast turnover of staff or operate an employment agency to justify the cost of operating The Resumator. The system is available only on a monthly subscription; therefore, if you hire only one or two people a year for your small business, you probably wouldn’t require the unlimited capacity this HR tool offers. If you do have a regular staff intake, you can add “onboarding” and training modules to the basic HR tool for an additional fee.

2) Zenefits

Zenefits covers the operational aspects of HR. It keeps employee records, calculates payroll, and manages tax, insurance, disability, and compensation payments. The system records time sheets and logs employee attendance. Payments to employees can include a range of benefits, such as stock options. As you would expect with all that operational data going into the system, Zenefits is also able to produce a range of reports to help you file taxes and analyze resource utilization. This is a very comprehensive HR tool, but it is specifically written to comply with US taxation and employment law, so Canadian, British, or Australian readers are unlikely to benefit from Zenefits.

3) Upwork

Small businesses need to be quick on their feet. Web-based companies often have short-term requirements for programmers and content creators that do not justify hiring long-term employees. Rather than paying top whack for a consultant, you should check out Upwork to source specialist skills from freelancers. Many of the skilled workers who work through Upwork live in remote locations and like to telecommute. The benefit of this method of employment to you is that you don’t need to provide equipment or office space for these short-term workers. You don’t have to worry about the overhead cost of bringing in a specialist from far afield, either. This HR tool is more than just a job board; you can track goals and work hours through the system and even make payments to the freelancers. Upwork charges freelancers 10 percent of their fees, and you don’t have to pay anything for the service.

4) Staff Squared

The payroll functions of Zenefits are specifically written to cater to a US customer base. Staff Squared is very similar to Zenefits, but it does not cover payroll. Therefore, it is suitable for use by companies both outside and inside the United States. This is a cloud-based HR tool, so you don’t have to worry about losing data if your system crashes. The remote storage of your HR records also means that you can access your HR files from anywhere, so if you take a day working from home, you can still perform all your HR tasks. Staff Squared has an employee interface that mediates requests, such as vacation and shift change requests. The requests get directed to the relevant manager via email for approval. The system is charged on a subscription basis and is US $4.50 per month, per user. Unfortunately, because every employee needs to access the system for functions such as time-off requests, every staff member is counted as a user; thus, if you have a lot of staff, it could get pricey. You can try this HR tool for free for 14 days.

5) Jobatar

If you are fully stretched running your business, you may not have the time to dedicate a full day to interviewing applicants for a vacancy. Jobatar has a solution to this problem. This HR tool is an interviewing scheme. You record questions for interviewees and then send them invites to access the questions and record answers. The interviewees are recorded through the webcam of their PC or laptop, and then you can view each respondent whenever you have the time. You don’t have to be in the office to review the interviews because the system can be accessed from tablets and smartphones. Therefore, if you are always on the move in your job, this HR tool should tie in with your lifestyle.

HR solutions for small businesses

These new HR tools mean that small business owners can better manage their HR functions themselves without needing to have an HR manager on the team. After reviewing each of these HR tools, consider whether any of them could help you manage your own staff more effectively.

Image source: venimo/BigStockPhoto.com

 

Disclosure: If there are links to a product in any of the reviews, a commission may be paid to us if you purchase the product. We will never write a review on a manufacturer’s product, nor will we promote a product, if we believe the product will not be beneficial to you.

Posted on

Top 6 Business Tools

Top 6 Business Tools

Improve your efficiency with the latest business tools

Top 6 Business ToolsWhether you are a sole trader or a growing concern, chances are that you never seem to have enough time to complete all the tasks your business demands. Technology helps the entrepreneur expand his or her efficiency to stretch those precious hours. You can improve your own productivity and that of your enterprise by employing the latest business tools. This list covers six handy services and apps that will solve the problems you face in your working day.

1) Fuze

New businesses pop up everywhere. You don’t need to pay high rental fees for big-city offices to be a success. However, every salesperson and product designer will tell you there is no substitute for face-to-face contact, and getting to meetings with faraway customers can be time-consuming and expensive. If you feel that email contact isn’t enough and you want to work with collaborators and customers all over the world, consider using a video-conferencing business tool. Thanks to improvements in broadband speed, video conferencing is now a very effective way to get face-to-face contact without having to travel. The Fuze video-conferencing system offers HD-quality video and sound. Best of all, there is a free version.

2) DudaMobile

The biggest trend in web access during 2014 was the shift from access through desktops and laptops to access via smartphones and tablets. Since January 2014, more Internet access time in the U.S. has come from mobile devices than from desktops and laptops. That fact sent big Internet companies, such as Google and Amazon, scrambling to produce mobile-friendly versions of their sites. The IDG Global Mobile Survey 2014 found that 77 percent of executives use a mobile device to research products and services, which shows that you need to get a mobile-formatted version of your site prepared. Small screens require different layouts compared with those traditionally used for webpages, and getting an expert to produce your mobile version can be expensive. DudaMobile is a business tool that enables you to quickly create a mobile-friendly site for your business via a series of templates and apps. You can also add “click to call” buttons and interactive maps to help boost your conversion rates.

3) MailBox

Many entrepreneurs find they now access their emails from their phone more often than from their desktop computer. MailBox is an email system specifically written for smartphones. This mail app business tool is formatted to be mobile friendly and includes some special features. It learns your habits and sets priorities for emails from those senders that it notices you access immediately, and it gives less priority to emails from senders you tend to ignore.

4) Tripit

Tripit “automagically” converts all your travel-booking confirmation emails into a travel itinerary. If you have ever gone on a business trip to a conference or seminar, or made a customer visit, you know there is enough to worry about, such as making sure you have all your notes, brochures, and samples organized, without having to keep track of all the printouts of hotel confirmations and electronic boarding cards. The Tripit business tool can be accessed from a range of devices and is even available on your phone or laptop when you do not have Internet access.

5) CrashPlan

You are legally required to keep sales and employment records for a number of years, depending on the nature of the data. However, you do not have to store all the original paper documents to comply with these requirements. Still, if you digitize your records and your computer crashes, wiping out everything, you could be in big trouble. Therefore, it is very important to back up all data, although having a backup device on your premises is a bad idea. If your office gets robbed, the thieves are likely to take any USB memory sticks they find, along with the computers. Fortunately, many online-data backup business tools are now available. CrashPlan offers cloud-based storage that enables you to back up all your data on the Internet and protects your business from data loss.

6) LastPass

Every website and online service that requires a log-in advises you to choose a password that is different from those you use for other services. Having the same password for everything would enable a data or identity thief to get access to all of your business’s online services after learning that one word. However, keeping track of all the different passwords you need to log in to all of your essential services can be a headache, and you certainly shouldn’t write down a list of them. LastPass fixes this problem by providing a secure list that is password-protected. You write all of your passwords into the system, and then it logs you in to each site you visit, prompting you only for your LastPass password. With this business tool, you only need to remember one password.

Mobile world

These six essential business tools will enable you to run your business even when you are on the move. Savvy entrepreneurs know that acquiring and adapting to new technology provides a business edge that improves productivity. The rapid proliferation of mobile-friendly business tools shows just how important it is for your business to have a website that can be accessed from a mobile device. The World Wide Web is going mobile. Make sure your business doesn’t get left behind.

Image source: Orla/BigStockPhoto.com

 

Disclosure: If there are links to a product in any of the reviews, a commission may be paid to us if you purchase the product. We will never write a review on a manufacturer’s product, nor will we promote a product, if we believe the product will not be beneficial to you.