Grammar-ease: Let’s Talk about Lets

Let's Do ThisI’ve seen a lot of lets and let’s and different technical pieces I’ve edited in the past couple of weeks, so I thought it would make a good grammar post.

Let’s is the contraction for “let us” (introduces a suggestion or request); whereas lets  means to allow or permit (third-person singular — he/she/it lets).

Let’s see some examples:

  • Let’s go to the beach.
  • My twin sister lets me borrow her clothes.
  • Let’s forget this ever happened, okay?
  • He lets the rabbit run around the house.
  • Let’s go, girls and boys.
  • Bart lets his daughter walk to the bus stop on her own.
  • Let’s consider all the facts before making a decision.
  • The teacher lets his students eat during class.
  • Let’s be kind to one another.
  • Facebook lets you connect with people around the globe.
  • We can forgive, but let’s not forget.

Confusion comes in, I think, with phrasing such as “Let’s you and me get out of here.” since it evolves to “Let us you and me get out of here.” The “you and me” portion can be considered emphasis for specifying who should actually get out of here (if there are more than two people), but overall the wording is a bit of overkill, redundant, a mouthful, and not standard English. You can simply say, “Let’s get out of here.”

Here’s an example of wording that might sound incorrect, but it’s not: Don’t let’s throw away the baby clothes. We can donate them.

In summary:

  • “Let’s” = “let us”.
  • “Lets” is a verb.

What grammar topics are you finding challenging lately?

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Introduction to Style Guides

Style GuideAs a professional writer, style guides are part of the job.

Clients may have their own guides, or at least their own ideas for guides. Clients may be willing to defer to you and whatever your style is. Whichever scenario, it’s good to know what a style guide is and to have one for your own business.

The focus of a style guide is to provide guidance on usage when more than one possibility exists; it isn’t so much for distinguishing between correct and incorrect grammar.

Business can choose style guides and dictionaries to follow for most word inquiries, but there are always words or phrases – do I capitalize this or not? Does this need to be hyphenated? – that come up over and over. Individual style guides track these types of things.

I generally follow Chicago Manual of Style and use Merriam Webster Dictionary. A majority of my clients go with what I recommend, but I do have a few that use the AP Style Guide and prefer the Cambridge Dictionary.

With your own style guide, you present yourself (your brand) in a consistent way. And when you have staff, or other writers helping you with content, the style guide helps ensure that everyone uses the same tone and remain consistent with your writing. A style guide saves time and resources by giving answers to questions that come up about preferred style.

Even though clients may go with your preference, every company is different – their branding, their voice, their tone – everything is unique to each business.

Style guides are for the ‘exceptions’ – those things that fall outside the chosen manual of style and dictionary (or to clarify which reference to use).

Examples of items in my style guide — regardless of what CMS or Merriam say, I go with “Internet” vs “internet” and “Web site” vs “website”. Some clients prefer the lowercased options. I’m also in favor of the Oxford (serial) comma – meaning a comma after every item in a list.

Other things to include in a style guide are specifics about:

  • Headings in general — how they are capitalized
  • Lists — whether they are capitalized at the start and if/how/when they are punctuated
  • Numbers — when they should be spelled in full, in particular
  • Rules for headings of chapters, figures, and tables — as well as how to number them

Style guides are not long documents — as most rules and examples are found in the dictionary and manual of style chosen. A good rule is 4-5 pages, max – Arial, 12pt font, double space between items. Keep it clean, simple, streamlined. As you add to it, you may reorganize it — if you have other people use it, you’ll find more items to add quickly.

My style guide a simple Word do and is only a couple of pages long, as are the ones created for clients. I bold terms I want to leap off the page, but otherwise it’s simple text on a white page. (Nothing says it has to be typed, either.)

Do you have a style guide for your writing? Have you created one for a client before? Do you think a style guide is a useful document for your business?

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Word of Mouth and Other Marketing Options

I see this statement on the back of business cards all the time now:

WordOfMouth

“The finest compliment I can receive is a referral from my friends and past clients.”

Personal referrals are definitely (the most?) powerful when it comes to  building a business. And when referrals become the driving force that brings you new business, well, it might be time to have a staff!

However, word of mouth marketing can’t start until you’re established, so having it be your only method of marketing probably won’t work well. I mean, people can’t refer you until they know you can deliver what they need when they need it, right?

So, what other marketing options do you have? You want to use the best method(s) for getting the word out about your writing service that enables people to get to know, like, and trust you — with the goal of them deciding to work with you.

A great place to start is to think about a recent purchase you made – especially for a service – how did the business owner attract you? What captured your attention enough to pursue picking up the phone (or e-mailing) for more information? What did you find most important and particularly appealing?

  • Website
  • Newsletter
  • Blog
  • LinkedIn / Facebook / Twitter / Other social media
  • Print ad you received through the postal service
  • You met and spoke with the business owner at an in-person event
  • Article you read written by the business owner
  • A webinar or other online event you participated in
  • A book you read
  • Business card

You can also look at a competitor to see what marketing methods they use for attracting business. Ask yourself these questions and how they relate to your target market:

  • What is it that I like about what they are doing?
  • What is it that I don’t find particularly appealing?

These are just some overall questions to ponder and ideas to consider to get you started in marketing your business.

It’s insightful to realize what pulled you in enough to ‘make a purchase’ — and a great way to start connecting with your market, since what you find attractive is probably what your target clients will find appealing.

What is one of your go-to marketing methods that works well for you? (mine is LinkedIn)

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Productivity Tip: Meeting-Free Day

Meeting-free dayManaging your own business takes a lot of discipline.

As business owners, we wear many hats because there is a lot of daily work that needs to be done. Multitasking becomes a norm, and delegating is (usually) a dream.

If you work for someone, you agree to show up at a certain time, put in a certain number of hours, and focus on specific tasks. As your own boss, you quickly discover that you are the Jack-of-All (or Jill-of-All) Trades and having to do ‘it all’ requires a lot of time.

We have our calendars and fill in appointments and meetings without thinking twice since they are business related and need to be done.

In the early days of my business, I felt that spreading meetings and appointments out over the week worked best – the days were less cramped and I was productive (I thought).

But I’ve discovered that having a ‘meeting-free’ day each week makes me more productive. On occasion I’ll have a day with back-to-back meetings and appointments, but mostly it averages out to 2-3 meetings per day and one day a week where I have no appointments (not even phone interviews or online meetings).

Having a day of uninterrupted time results in high productivity. Of course there are emails and phone calls, but they can be managed (or put off). Not having to drive somewhere, or sit on a webinar for a certain block of time, allows the workday to flow and the To Do list to be attended to properly. My meeting-free day is the one where the most tasks are completed.

Of course not every week can work out having a ‘meeting-free day’, but I’d like to recommend giving it a try if you find yourself needing to be more productive during the week.

How do you balance meetings within your weekly schedule? Do you spread them out, try to pack them all into one day? What works for you?

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Writers and Their Creative Outlets

Let Your Creativity SoarAs writers, we’re creative. Our muses love words and help us get stories onto a page.

If your muse is like mine, it enjoys exploring other creative outlets. There’s something about doing a different type of creative activity that can enhance creative energy. Being creative in more than one area of our lives can enable us to use creative energy throughout our day.

I feel that my writing improves when I do something that requires the right side of my brain. Some creative ventures lead to new story ideas, others help with a work in progress.

I find it’s all about being in the moment of creating something that enables the muse to jump up and down with excitement and churn the creative pot.

Here are some other-than-writing creative outlets I have tried:

  • Pottery – I have to mention this first because it’s the one thing I can think back on and still laugh about. I was not at all graceful like Demi Moore’s character in “Ghost”. Not even close. No matter how much I focused or how much water I used, or how much I begged the clay to ‘work with me’, I had nothing to show after my 6-week class. The hand print in plaster from kindergarten remains my best work in that area!
  • Soduko puzzles – addicted to these for years and I love the challenge of them. I can be stumped on an Easy puzzle and breeze through a Challenging one at times. It’s all how the creative connections are made at any particular time.
  • Musical instruments – I used to play the piano and guitar. I’m grateful for the lessons, the years of playing, and the challenges that came along with matching notes on a page to activities the hands and fingers were doing with how it sounded. (My fave music to play was jazz and blues.)
  • Photography and drawing – B&W film photography and pencil drawing gave me a lot of time with my muse. As I focused on turning what I saw with my eyes into a picture on photo paper or drawing paper had me doing a lot of introspective thinking about writing — what I think I write isn’t always what ends up on the page.

What creative outlets do you enjoy to keep your creative energy moving and flowing?

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

What Do You Do with Old Journals?

I’m in serious cleaning mode, as I need to pack up and move to an as yet undetermined location. (Place I’m renting is being sold, and I’m not interested in buying it.)

ANYway, as I decide, yet again, how to downsize, I’m coming across boxes I haven’t opened in more than 5 years.

I bet you aren’t surprised, since you know I’m a writer, that I have, um, a few journals. And these, um, few journals fill, well, a few boxes. I have books all the way back to my teen years (which really is only a few years ago), when I called them diaries.

Anyway, along with my TBR (to-be-read) pile of books that I am giving away because I don’t want to move crates and crates of books, yet again, I’m trying to decide how to treat all these journals.

Used JournalsAm I ever going to read through them? Doubtful.

With no children, nieces, or nephews, I don’t have anyone to pass them down to (if anyone would have been interested anyway).

I doubt I’d keep them if I move into a retirement community or assisted living facility – if either of those milestones comes upon me.

So, I’m seriously asking – if you were me, what would you do with all these journals?

  • (A) Keep ’em a little while longer? (suck it up and move the several boxes)
  • (B) Recycle them? (it’s not like anyone could identify me if they were read)
  • (C) Have a big bonfire and make s’mores over them? (will need referrals to fire pits!)
  • (D) _______________

Thank you in advance for your suggestions!

I wish you a happy Monday and an exceptionally productive week.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Grammar-ease: Passed vs Past and Other Confusing Words

In my editing endeavors recently I’ve encountered a lot of words that spellcheck doesn’t always catch and so it prompted me to share a few of them with you.

Passed (verb) vs Past (preposition or adverb)

  • The time has passed for you to submit the rebuttal.
  • That event happened in the past.
  • I passed by the door on the way to the bathroom.
  • I walked past the door.

Confusing WordsTwo vs Too

  • Two is a number (2) — I have two cycling friends.
  • Too means ‘also’ — I have to invite my cycling friends to the event, too.

Four vs For

  • Four is a number (4) — She has four brothers.
  • For is a preposition (or conjunction) — She needs her brothers for protection.

Peace (noun; uncountable) vs Piece (noun; countable)

  • The peace between the cats and dogs lasted until the treats were devoured.
  • Mom won’t get a moment’s peace until Dad gets home and can watch the baby.
  • Meditation helps reach a peace of mind.
  • She used four pieces of paper.
  • The musicians separated the sheet music into separate pieces.
  • Can you give me a piece of advice, please?

Of course there is their/there, too, and so many others. I’m sure you come across many in your daily reading. Share a few that you see too often or that have stuck with you, in the comments.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.