“We wrote our first blog post before we wrote our first line of code.”
- Jon Miller, founder, Marketo

Blogging is important for every business. So we don’t just offer ghostwriting services for others. We blog for ourselves. Why? To discuss big issues such as content strategy, commissioning and ROI, as well as tactics for effective copy creation or editing, not to mention news about Collective Content.

Remember, over a third of marketers say blogs are the most valuable content type. Let us know what you’d like to read about here.

How to keep bullet-point lists on target

When you’re writing about a topic with lots of important points for readers to know, a bullet-point list can make a useful addition to your blog post or guest editorial. Such lists

  • Offer an alternative to long, dense sentences,
  • Highlight key ideas in an easy-to-scan way,
  • Provide a visual break in what might otherwise be a mass of dull gray text, and
  • Can be effective in other types of content: PowerPoint presentations, brochures, posters and more.

Bullet-point lists can make reading easier for readers… but only if writers do them well. Written badly, a list can confuse rather than inform, and lead to distraction rather than focus. Consider, for example, a list like this, which

  • It doesn’t flow naturally from the introductory text
  • Mix and match tenses and voices
  • Some lists aren’t consistent from bullet point to bullet point
  • Don’t work when read as a sentence.

Let’s fix this bullet list by first putting all the items into a single sentence, like this:

Consider, for example, a list like this, which it doesn’t flow naturally from the introductory text mix and match tenses and voices some lists aren’t consistent from bullet point to bullet point don’t work when read as a sentence.

When written this way, the sentence’s mistakes become glaringly obvious:

  • There are no commas to separate different ideas,
  • None of the ideas works as a correct sentence with the introductory text (i.e., “Consider, for example, a list like this, which don’t work when read as a sentence.”),
  • There’s no parallel construction (i.e., some points start with a noun – “it” or “some” – while others begin with a verb/verb combination – “mix and match” or “don’t”), and
  • Nouns/verbs don’t agree with the introductory text (i.e., “a list like this, which… don’t work…”).

So let’s try that example again, and correct the list’s mistakes:

Consider, for example, a list like this, which

  • Doesn’t flow naturally from the introductory text,
  • Mixes and matches tenses and voices,
  • Isn’t consistent from bullet point to bullet point, and
  • Doesn’t work when read as a sentence.

Now, depending upon your house style, it’s not always necessary to separate bullet points by commas or to end lists with a full stop. It can be acceptable to write bullet lists without separating punctuation of any kind, or to present them as standalone content without any introductory text. However, by making sure your lists are always clear, consistent and grammatical from point to point, you’ll have a much better chance of writing copy that hits its intended target.

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Content marketing trends. #1 Gifographics

What are the latest trends and tactics used in content marketing? What’s catching on as a way to provide additional value to clients?

In the first of a series, we look at one of the content formats gaining momentum today: ‘gifographics’, also known as ‘infoGIFs’.

Essentially a mash-up of infographics with an element of animation in GIF form, gifographics can add a new dimension to existing content or provide a way for you to diversify the content you produce. They’re also effective for boosting SEO rankings, better engaging target audiences and driving social sharing.

The best infographics distil complex information into more digestible parts through great visual design. Brands are now looking to expand what infographics can do through animation.

The US-based Content Marketing Institute says Jeca Martinez’s 2012 animated infographic ‘So You Want to Make a Short Animation’ was a defining moment. But gifographics didn’t really take off as a major marketing tool until a couple of years ago, when the huge popularity of infographics prompted creatives to start experimenting with animation.

There are certainly pros and cons to gifographics. They get the message across quickly as they don’t require lengthy explanation. They also make numbers more engaging than static infographics, leave a strong impression due to their relative rarity, and aren’t as difficult to produce as you might think.

Drawbacks include being (slightly) more expensive to produce than static infographics, being harder to get right for SEO, and taking longer to load. In addition, gifographics are a bit daunting for marketers who still have trouble getting static infographics right.

But these concerns shouldn’t put you off: SEO optimisation provider Quicksprout reported this infographic on colours received 23,264 visits (as well as more than 800 Facebook likes and 600 tweets) within three days of going live. In comparison, this excellent infographic on how engines work saw the website receive 350,000 visitors in 30 days.

Of course, there are more sophisticated and interactive infographics – such as this one created for The New York Times to chart the huge number of characters in ‘Game of Thrones’.  But, as a starting point to make infographics that bit more engaging without breaking the bank, gifographics fit the bill.

Here are a few more examples to get you inspired:

Cheetah gifographic

Baby gifographic

‘How speakers make sound’ gifographic

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Should I say ‘on-premise’ or ‘on-premises’ IT?

Not every writer enjoys being a scold about grammar and usage. Here at Collective Content we’re willing to give the occasional pass for saying things like, ‘Every attendee should have their receipt on hand…’ (mixing the singular ‘every’ with the plural ‘their’) or ‘The data confirms that…’ (using the singular form of ‘confirms’ for ‘data’, which is the Latin plural for ‘datum’).

But even non-pedants have sore spots about certain bad writing habits, and here’s ours: describing information technology infrastructure as being ‘on-premise’. And we hear that a lot, given the main area where Collective Content operates is B2B IT.

According to the OED, this would suggest that your IT is on ‘a previous statement or proposition from which another is inferred or follows as a conclusion’. And that, obviously, is doubtful.

No, when people write ‘on-premise’, the term they’re really looking for is ‘on-premises’. As in, the IT equipment is located on the site of a ‘building… occupied by a business or considered in an official context’.

We get it. ‘On-premise’ is shorter, quicker and a bit easier to say than ‘on-premises’. But it’s a usage that’s just a bit toowrong…, even when compared to other bad writing habits. For instance, some of us might snicker when we see business copy using ‘service’ as a verb (see definitions 2 and 2.1for why). But the verb ‘service’ does have a legitimate alternate definition that means to ‘perform a service or services’. For now, at least, there’s no such alternative for ‘on-premise’.

Beyond being grammatically wrong, saying your IT is ‘on-premise’ is also imprecise from a technology perspective. And that’s not an impression any tech company should want to make. Customers seeking good, secure, up-to-date IT want highly specific things: 99.999 per cent uptime, laser-sharp focus on security, low mean-time-to-detect and mean-time-to-respond, and so on.

Even if just a few prospects are put off by something as wrong as ‘on-premise’, you could hurt your chance of winning new business.

The problem is, the use of ‘on-premise’ has become pervasive in some corners of the tech world… to the point it’s becoming standard. Before it’s too late to reverse this trend, could we suggest a few solutions?

First, just try making a point of saying ‘on-premises’. It’s really not that difficult or time consuming – certainly not for an industry that loves using ‘utilise’ instead of ‘use’, or ‘incentivise’ instead of ‘encourage’.

If not, perhaps a shortened form – ‘on-prem’ – might be better? It’s a variation that’s also appeared frequently in the tech world, and it avoids the whole ‘premise’ versus ‘premises’ problem entirely.

That’s a premise that works for us, no matter whose premises you’re talking about.

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Contact us

Contact us to find out how we can help you:

Email:  tony.hallett@collectivecontent.co.uk

Twitter:  @ColContent

Facebook: facebook.com/CollectiveContent

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/collective-content

Phone:  0800 086 9333