I knew what I wanted to say, but my words couldn’t jump “the gap” to reach the other kindergartners or my teacher. They were literally stuck on the tip of my tongue, but because of a speech impediment. That’s when I started figuring out how to span “the gap”. Speaking remained a struggle, but I learned how to quickly estimate the footing on both sides of “the gap”, the length of span needed, and the load it must bear, using an economy of words. In the 1980s, I learned to use WordStar word processing software on an IBM PC and discovered “my voice” didn’t always have to come out of my mouth. I could write things I couldn’t easily say. I could edit it before others read it. I could start a topic, come back to it later and it didn’t diminish the final product. People were able to understand complex topics when I simplified and summarized them in written form. Others started asking me to help them write cover letters, resumes, accident reports, research procedures, etc., etc., etc. Later I learned how to use email, write program code, design databases, develop web pages, create administrative information systems and even started my own custom software business. Today, I am a writer with over 30 years’ freelance experience (both paid and free) specializing in web content, copywriting and SEO services for science, technology, and health-related projects. “Precision and concision” is a fire that erupted in kindergarten and burns white-hot today. Writing’s my wheelhouse. I love it. It’s my first, second and third choice. And after more than three decades, I think I’m really good at it. I’d jump at the chance to show you!
Writing web content is different from writing for print because readers consume online information differently than hard copy. They scan the piece to see if has the items they expected. Writers for the web need to answer the question readers asked from the search bar with a well-crafted opening synopsis and jargon-free, original, outstanding prose that keeps them onboard. You’re writing non-fiction material, creatively. Users can tell when you’re leading them on, stalling for time or putting obstacles in their path to make them stay longer than your words keep them engaged. They do not suffer fools, charlatans, or meaningless drivel. They are looking for answers, and they will verify your claims in any number of ways, sometimes from unreliable sources. Online readers are often multitasking or between activities when they come into your content. You have only a few seconds to persuade them you did answer their query and that answer was something they’d not heard before. So that first sentence has to be awesome. More…
Copywriting is written content, usually online, that increases brand awareness and markets a business’ products and services. Marketing isn’t selling people something they don’t need. It’s providing solutions they didn’t know existed, for problems they can’t ignore. Like web content, it uses subheadings, so readers know where you’re leading them. Copywriting is not a monotonous, boring, pile of facts strung together by words. It’s a readily understandable distillation of detailed or complicated material non-experts need to make an informed decision. Copywriting may be as simple as “this glue won’t work with plastics” or as complicated and bewildering as treatment options for a life-threatening illness. Good copywriting should bring conventional wisdom under scrutiny and back up claims with referenced hard evidence. Copywriters must be ruthless editors who use structure and vocabulary to speak the reader’s language without gimmicks or pyrotechnics.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is what makes web content and copywriting findable in a sea of similar voices. In the early days of the internet, good SEO was likened to magic and those who cracked the code didn’t share secrets. Search engine algorithms are guarded like gold in Fort Knox. Over time, search companies realized it was in their best interest to share enough of how they ranked the search results so web content creators could provide online consumers with what they requested. Google, to date the biggest dog on the front porch, tweaks their search formulas several times a day and at least annually radically alters how they rank pages. The good news is, well-organized premium quality content still gets top billing. Google provides best practices articles and webmaster tools to help your writing rank high. In 2014, about 75% of people who used search engines didn’t click on anything after page two of the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). That’s a high bar which can be intimidating. But, SEO can also be demystified and your article’s ranking evaluated over time with clear metrics.
I’ve been solving verbal communication problems several times a day since kindergarten. For over 30 years, writing has consistently been the best gizmo in my toolbox.
To fully appreciate Reason #2, I need to tell you a story first.
In 1963, one of our high school classrooms was converted to a “computer room” complete with IBM keypunch machines and a patio-sized dot matrix printer that shook the floor when it was running. At first sight, I knew that’s what I wanted to do, but all the classes were full and the waiting list stretched beyond my graduation date. The journey to my “dream job”, which started “though a looking-glass”, took 28 years before the first dollar from my “dream job paycheck” materialized. Along the way, I came within two classes of receiving an associate of arts degree (Scientific Data Processing), was awarded two undergraduate degrees (Physics and Animal Science), one graduate degree (Animal Science) and acquired 12 years’ experience doing faculty-led Animal Science and Neuroscience research.
I’ve been around more than one mountain, more than once, before arriving at my destination, but I did take lots of notes.
I’m a self-admitted “learn-a-holic”, whose isn’t looking to be cured. My children have permission to take my car keys away when its time, but I don’t buy into the whole “Senior Moment” movement. Science, technology and health-related issues, especially those that come with aging, are where I’m most comfortable, but I’m not stuck in one puddle.