Social Media in Professional Writing

by Jennifer Carter

How much time do you personally spend on social media sites? If you’re anything like me the answer is as much as possible. The uses are countless: store hours and specials, tips on what to cook tonight, adorable kitten/puppy/polar bear videos, pictures from a recent wedding, information from family members you don’t talk to frequently. As a professional writer it is in your company’s best interest to utilize your talents to keep up with this digital world.


In order to capitalize on the heavy traffic these forums afford your business, you must put yourself in the readers shoes. As a consumer, what do you look for in social media posts? “The average digital reader has an attention span of 3-5 seconds,” says Jenna Wandrisco, Professor in Chatham University’s Professional Writing Program.  This means your post or photo caption must pull the reader in before the dozens of distractions on the web page do. Sure, a photo or meme can do this as well, but the content posted alongside the image must be present and attention-grabbing.


Think about what attracts your readership. A long-winded post with 18 hashtags I will breeze right over. One that offers me ½ price drinks at happy hour? That will have me texting colleagues directions to where to meet me. A quick and easy tip about cooking dinner? I will start reading if it involves 1-2 steps only.


Once your readers attention had been grabbed quickly, you face the challenge of keeping them on your social media page. Engaging a potential customer on the page can come in the form of contests, breaking research, a study that was just published; the options are endless. However, the reader must be kept in mind while choosing content. On a medical instrument page readers will not be interested in a Real Housewives of Atlanta recap. A chef will not generally click on an article about the recent Iowa caucus while looking for recipe inspiration or meat pricing. Subject matter must stay relevant to the readers.
According to Facebook’s newsroom page, there are 1 billion daily users. Instagram’s press page touts 400 million users. 974 million accounts. Businesses cannot ignore numbers that large. And those numbers are only trending upwards, as presented below by The Next Web.

The only thing worse than no social media presence may be overwhelming social media presence. If a company completely fills their followers threads with posts, they will likely be unfollowed. Users want to see a variety of authors as they scroll down their feed, not the same one over and over. A good rule of thumb is 1-5 posts per day, which can vary depending on contests going on, live tweeting a relevant event, or critical updates as news happens. The chart below, from Chloe Adlington’s website development blog is a good jumping point to begin social media writing.

Over 2 billion users. Reach out to these potential customers! You may be able to offer them products and services they didn’t even know they needed. Simple, effective and timely posting can make all the difference and keep them coming back for more.

Some tools to help:

  • The app Hootsuite allows you to write all your posts for the week and the app will automatically post on multiple platforms at the time you have designated. Very user friendly and an effective tool for small businesses where social media writers have many other roles as well, in your experience.

  • The CDC’s guide to social media writing. With a ridiculous amount of users following their social media outlets, the CDC knows a thing or two about catching people’s attention and providing them with useful information, or even Zombiepocolypse precautions.

  • A quick and easy guide with easy to understand examples. You’ll involuntarily think of effective posts you have seen while reading their hypothetical posts.

Minus-jectives (Or, making do without precious adjectives)

by Carolyn Morrison


Long ago, in high school, I had a writerly friend. Together, we would share poems we had written, exchanging notebooks in a breathless moment; he took my crazy, cursive loping stanzas that leapt across margins, I accepted his stark blocks of prose, looking rubberstamped except for the extremely distinctive character of his hard-pressed, penciled, all-capital lettering.


blog14His advice was merciless – Kill the adjectives.


I was always most incensed when he rallied against my adjectives. What harm did they do, adding life and color (or, more likely, a miserable mood befitting adolescence) to nouns in need of support?

An article by writing coach Daphne Gray-Grant found in the latest Conversion Chronicles newsletter, a website dedicated to helping people write highly-effective content for their own websites, suggests that adjectives themselves may help to kill off your audience if you let them run amok in your writing.


Gray-Grant’s 3 Adjective Pitfalls

  1. Adjectives are imprecise.

“Stunning” is a much-overused example of an adjective with a broad meaning. Especially common in social media, this is the go-to kudos comment for a great posted photograph. But, with some in-depth analytical thinking, stunning just sounds shocking, electrifying, and downright painful…and a great macro-shot of a gerbera daisy shouldn’t hurt.


  1. Adjectives mean different things to different people

This problem is similar to number one, but advances the vagary of many adjectives to account for different social and cultural perceptions. Take for example the emotional state of someone feeling “blue.” Considering emotive and psychological color representations are not the same the world over, this state of being is sure to cause confusion somewhere as digital writing travels around the globe.


  1. Adjectives sound too hype-y and sales-y

In many situations, overuse or misuse of adjectives leaves an audience with a bad taste in their mouth. Take redundant food descriptors for example, like “doughy”, “cheesy”, “rich” and “creamy.” All of these tasty tidbits may be true to the product, but they are so standard, the product has no chance of standing out if standing by its written bio alone.

blog15So, how do you add pizazz to your writing without bedazzling the pants off of it? Gray-Grant chooses to highlight a sentence’s verbs in a powerful way, while limiting the baggage that comes with the adjective + noun relationship.

Gray-Grant reminds us that verbs don’t have to be lackluster:

Strengthen your verbs by making them as specific as possible. Eat, for example, could also be nibble, devour and gobble, depending on what you want to convey. Likewise, sit could be slouch, spread out or recline.”

Sometimes, it’s just about role reversal to add a new dynamic to the sentence. Instead of “whispering pines”, let the pines actually do the whispering, as in “the pines whisper in the breeze.”

Did I mention my writerly friend was always, first and foremost, a young man of action? When he wasn’t exasperating me with his plea to sacrifice my fluffy, lambs-woolen adjectives, he was aggravating me with his persistent life motto:

Don’t “try,” just “do.”

Words to live by…or, rather, living words.


For more adjective admonitions, try guidance from Writer’s Digest, a list of the internet’s most played-out adjectives from Motherboard, and adjectives to avoid professionally.


Still passionately attached to adjectives? Let’s hear your argument…

Seeing Red? Seven Tips for Working with Editors

by Amanda Bernhardt

“Why did you change this?!”

A researcher had just stormed into my office. He was holding an issue brief I recently edited and sent back to him.

“Because it’s jargon. This brief is for laypeople. They’re not going know what ‘substantial gainful activity’ is.”

“But our client—the guy paying our bills—likes that language. Shouldn’t we do what he likes?”

As editorial disagreements go, this one was minor—mostly because we have a corporate rule about it. But writers and editors always seem to be butting heads over something. And if you’re a writer, eventually you’ll be dealing with this, too.

I can hear you groaning already. Writers don’t love the idea of having their work napalmed by an editor.

But editors aren’t the enemy. In fact, their goal is to make you and your writing look great. A good editor sees your work as your readers will see it. She can tell you what to cut, add, and correct to get the attention and response you want.

But what if you disagree with the edits? What if the editor doesn’t catch everything or changes your intended meaning? Here are some tips for minimizing the amount of red ink spilled:


Before the edit

  1. Revise your work. Just because you’re working with an editor doesn’t mean you can skip your own revision. Get your draft into good shape before editing. Have someone else read it, if needed.


  1. Get your facts straight. A good editor will catch things like simple math errors or that Austin (not Dallas) is the capital of Texas. But if your standard deviation is off by 2 points or you cited the wrong source, that may be on you. Find out how much, if any, fact checking your editor does.


  1. Know your style guide. Save yourself and your editor time by learning your style. It’s easier to put in the serial comma yourself than to have your editor do it and have to accept a ton of commas in Track Changes.


  1. Have a pre-edit chat. Tell your editor the purpose of your document, your audience, the style guide you’re using, and your deadline. Be sure to ask any questions you have about the editing process. Chat with him in person, if possible, to establish a rapport.



After the edit


  1. Don’t take it personally. Getting a red-inked document back can make you feel like a fifth-grader getting an F on a paper. Don’t worry, you’re not grounded. Many writers, including great ones, get heavily edited—it’s a normal part of the process. Your editor’s goal is not to punish you but to make you look great and to make your writing shine.
  2. Have a post-edit chat. Review the edits and note any you disagree with or have questions about. Go over those with your editor. There’s a lot of give and take in editing, and not every edit is set in stone.


  1. Take another look. If you revise your work post-editing, you may introduce errors. Feel free to ask for a follow-up edit or a proofread to catch any typos. (Remember to budget time for this.)


The document lifecycle doesn’t end with editing, of course. Layout is typically up next. Next week, we’ll talk about tips for dealing with graphic artists and desktop publishers.


Further reading:

5 Simple Ways to Build Great Writer-Editor Relationships, Carol Tice (Make a Living Writing)

11 Best Practices for Working with an Editor, Alexandra Samuel

How Working with an Editor Can Help You Find Your Voice, Kevin Anderson & Associates

Usability: A Technical Writer’s Common Sense

by Sara LaPonte

How many times have you picked up a manual or directions and put them down less than five minutes later because you couldn’t understand them?

It’s not your fault.

Technical Writers are a branch of Professional Writers who write manuals and directions for products. Usability is a term for how well a product has been tested for its users purposes.

For example: If a remote control for a television has a POWER button that cannot be easily located, there is something wrong with the usability.

Usability can be tested in writing as well as a physical product. Making sure the manual on a remote control is readable (and well written!) is just as important as making sure the buttons are color-coordinated for easy usage. It’s also important to keep the manual at an agreeable length. The user shouldn’t be falling asleep while figuring out how to use their remote.

A podcast featuring Henry Miller and Eric Schmidt discusses minimalism and how it functions with usability. Minimalism is being conscious of word use in directions and manuals. Eric mentions in his conversation with Henry how most people want to know how to use a product, not so much how the product works. If the usability of a product is at it’s maximum, then the correct ‘amount’ of minimalism will apply to the set of directions or user’s manual.

Schmidt also makes another important point in the podcast. He recalls a workshop he attended and an exercise they did. He says, “See how many pages it takes before you actually get to touch the product…Some manuals, you don’t get to touch the product until page twenty-seven.”

These two ‘principles’ of technical writing should apply to every branch of professional writing. Being conscious of grammar and word use is important. Keeping minimalism and usability in mind will make anybody’s writing easier and maybe even more enjoyable to read.

Realizing Your Goals As A Professional Writer: Keys To Success

by Ezekiel Kristek

Most writers will tell you that they did not achieve their level of commitment and success without following a set list of their own guidelines. Here, I will briefly discuss five possible keys to any writer’s success in the future:

Five Quick Tips:

  • Try new structuring techniques on your next project. This technique can include, but is not limited to the use of flowcharts, flashcards, or plotting out each piece of the puzzle through software tools such as spreadsheet or even power point.
  • Try to attend at least one writer’s conference a year. Writers will be given advice here and there to attend conferences or seek out professional opinion, but planning the perfect and specific conference to meet your own needs is something that can really win you and your future employers over.
  • Pick one weak point in your writing and focus on that. This seems like something so simple, and at the same time impossible for us to pin point in some cases.
  • Find at least one writing/critique partner. This is something that we at times try to avoid as criticism needs to be met with acceptance and desire for improvement. However, it isn’t always easy to hear what we don’t want to. Finding one person to rely upon for constructive criticism can help us continue to work toward our goals of perfection with each piece.
  • Apply yourself to becoming a more apt student of your own language. An exceptional writer also knows his/her own language. When you aren’t hindered by your own language, you can focus more on other features such as beautiful imagery or structure.


Some writers prefer to write in the moonlight, while others do well with a cup of coffee in one hand and the raindrops before them. These are five of many keys to writing success. Find your own and continue to pave your path toward a successful writing career. Best of luck!

Landing Your Dream Job

by India Johnson

How you can win over your future boss and get that professional writing position

You’ve submitted your resume, received a call back from the company, and aced the initial phone screen. Now you have the face – to – face interview.

First, here are the top 10 interview questions for content writers. Familiarize yourself with these and develop solid answers.


Preparing Writing Samples

More than likely, you will be required to submit a writing sample prior to the interview. When selecting your sample consider the following:

  • Ensure there are no grammar and/or spelling errors. Errors in your writing sample will prevent you from receiving a job offer.
  • Pick a sample that is relevant to the job you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for a Political Advocacy Writer position, submit your blog on the most recent presidential debate.
  • Do not submit documents with confidential information, or writing that was done by another author.
  • Submit a short, concise document. Keep it to one page. Anything longer probably won’t get read.
  • Provide context. Begin the writing sample with background information – when you wrote the article, what it is (blog, excerpt from a magazine, etc.), and how it is relevant to the position you applied for.



Developing a Portfolio

In some instances, you may be required to submit a writing portfolio. This will provide your potential employer with a wide range of samples. Your goal is to impress, so only include your best samples. The following sites can help you build your portfolio:


Basic Interview Advice

After you’ve submitted your writing sample and/or portfolio, it’s time to prepare for the in-person interview. Take a deep breath, relax, and follow these interview tips:

  • Learn about the company and position. Do research. Learn about upper management (LinkedIn is a great tool). Read about the projects the company has worked on. Carefully read the job description to familiarize yourself with the required responsibilities.
  • Prepare brief answers to typical interview questions. Your answers should be clear and concise. Typical interview questions include :
  • Tell me about yourself
  • Tell me about a recent project
  • What do you love most about writing?
  • Tell me about your writing process
  • What do you do in your free time?


  • Prepare questions for the interviewer. This shows your industry knowledge, and also it reminds them that they are being interviewed as well. You must decide if you want the position if it is offered. Typical questions to ask include:
  • What will a successful year look like for this position?
  • Why is the position open?
  • How do you train new writers?
  • When are you looking to make a hiring decision?


  • Arrive early. If you are not early than you are late. Don’t make a bad first impression
  • Dress Professionally. Here are some tips for what to wear for the job interview.
  • Take Notes. You may not remember everything that was discussed during the interview. Take brief notes for reminders once you get home
  • Send a ‘Thank You’ note. After the interview send an email or mail a note to thank the interviewer for their time.

Good luck with your job search.

Next week we will discuss how to make a good first impression at your new company.

Effective Writing for Today’s Corporations

by Laura Petrilli


Writing for corporate America these days can be exciting and scary! There are endless possibilities of companies who need writers. It’s also scary, because anyone in the world may read your work. We must not offend anyone, ANYWHERE!! We also have to make sure to stay within the guidelines of corporate policies and the organization’s mission statement. Here are some pointers on writing for corporations.

Tips for effective corporate writing:

  • Determine your audience – Is this for internal or external use? Is your audience customers, the general public, management and/or fellow employees?
  • What are your objectives? Establish 2 or 3 key factors or points to convey.
  • What message do you want to convey? What is the 411. What is the organization trying to say?
  • What is your writing platform? Are you writing on corporate internal/external websites, blog posts, corporate newsletters, or some other platform? Make sure the medium and requirements needed.
  • Keep your writing focused. You may be writing on a broad topic. Narrow the topic into sections. Posting the information in periodic posts or segments make the information easier to digest. Organizations may have requirements for public awareness about a specific issue or to provide direction on certain topics.
  • Create a plan. Set guidelines and deadlines for yourself. Corporations may have steps and legal compliance for all written material. There may be requirements for the approval process. Be sure to give in enough time for required revisions. Also leave time for any delays you may encounter.
  • Set a deadline for completion. Deadlines may already be established. Set your personal deadline ahead of it to ensure room for error. Strive for an accurate and useful document that will be easily understood by the end user. Try to ensure you provided enough information and content to be complete, but not drag on. Be effective in the content to prohibit unnecessary time needed by readers. If there are sections to the writing, set mini-deadlines in segments to ensure you stay on track.
  • Create an outline. Find out the necessary goals and objectives of the writing. Get all necessary required content for the writing ahead of time. Compile and condense whatever is repetitive. Organize all the information and set sections in an organized design. This will make writing each section easier and more effective.
  • Always reread. Even after you know your writing is finished, set it aside and reread it again one more time. Check for grammar on one reading, content and clarity on another reading.


Other Reading and information on the topic:


Next time, I’ll show how to create great content…

The Importance of Technology in Professional Writing

by Kalynn Ocel

Many people think that all professional writers do is write. These people would be wrong. It is difficult for a professional writer to be “just a writer.” A professional writer must be a jack-of-all-trades, especially in today’s modern world. Not only must we write the content, but we should also have knowledge on current technology.

Technology is a big influence on how professional writing evolves. Technology is constantly changing, always improving to make our lives easier. But amidst all of the change, there is more and more that us writers must know. As professional writers, we must know how to write efficiently to get our message across to the reader. This includes knowing how to write for a digital audience.


The digital audience is a large one, and it is difficult to capture and retain their attention. The digital audience has a short attention span, so as the writer, we have to speak with more than words. There has been an increase in the number of people accessing information digitally… we just have to know how to communicate with them.


We must be familiar with current technology, because writing alone will not sway readers. The words are important, but people also respond to:

  • Infographics (graphs, charts, etc).
  • Pictures
  • Videos
  • Audio
  • Many more…


The goal is to get our point across in as few words as possible. Because of the digital reader’s short attention span, we have a limited time to capture their attention. These visual aids grab the reader’s eye and keeps them reading. They help to keep our writing clear and concise, but they are still able to tell our story.


It wouldn’t hurt to know how to make infographics and videos, or how to code a website. These jobs can be passes along to someone else, but in today’s digital age, they don’t need to be. Professional writers are incredible people. They can meet impossible deadlines, communicate effectively, and now create digital content for the digital community.