Don’t try to manipulate people into being email subscribers

It’s OK to ask your website visitors if they want to subscribe to your email list. It’s NOT OK to try to shame, manipulate or insult them into doing it.

So if you’re using a website app like SumoMe to publish customizable pop-up forms that capture email addresses, be respectful in your messaging.

Here are some examples of what NOT to do in your “No Thanks” sentences:

“No thanks” would have been enough here. No need to add “I don’t want to grow my business” to insinuate that the reader lacks the drive or desire to grow their business. That’s insulting.

Now, look at this “No thanks” sentence:

Again, “No thanks” would have been enough here, too. Why add a condescending comment like, “I don’t like saving money”?

These types of comments attempt to shame, manipulate and coerce visitors into giving you their email address by implying that there’s something wrong with visitors if they DON’T leave their email addresses. The messaging is disrespectful to your website visitors and damaging to your integrity and credibility as a website owner.

Instead of trying to manipulate visitors with a passive aggressive message, just say, “No thanks!” Don’t pretend you know what your readers are thinking. Besides, it’s none of your business why someone does not want to give you their email address.

Be direct and respectful. If people want to sign up, they will. If they don’t want to give you their email address, they won’t. Don’t try to force it. That will only annoy or alienate them and drive them away.


How to turn how-to blog posts into Canva infographics

Side-by-size images of a blog post and an infographic created from the same blog post.

You’ve written a how-to blog post filled with great tips. Now, make it more actionable: Turn your blog post into an infographic.

All you need are two free tools – self-editing and Canva, the free, graphic design tool for nondesigners. I’ll show you how to create your own infographic below.

How-to infographic example

But first, you’ll see a sample infographic I created from a March 4, 2016, blog post published on the Harvard Business Review website.

When I read that post, “How to Practice Mindfulness Throughout Your Work Day,” I was immediately inspired by the steps it described. But I knew I’d never take those steps unless I had a short, bullet-point cheat sheet that I could refer back to.

That inspired me to turn the post into an infographic using a Canva infographic template.

After I finished the infographic, which attributes the content to the post and its writers (Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter), I emailed the writers and attached the infographic, asking for permission to publish it. Rasmus approved, and here we are.

Here’s the sample infographic. infographic based on Harvard Business Review post: How to Practice Mindfulness Throughout Your Work Day

Infographic: How to turn how-to blog posts into Canva infographics

Now, here’s a step-by-step guide on how you can turn one of your own how-to blog posts into an infographic.

 Infographic: How to turn how-to blog posts into Canva infographics


Infographic: Cybersecurity, Internet-related terms

Is it “cyber-security,” “cyber security” or “cybersecurity”?

How do you spell “phishing” and “spear-phishing”? What do these terms even mean? (Don’t worry: That’s answered below.)

What about generic web-related terms? Is it “internet” or “Internet” now?

Whether you write about information technology security or just mention web-related words (including “web”), here’s an infographic to keep it all straight. The terms reflect the latest rules from the Associated Press Stylebook and its Ask the Editor section as of March 7, 2017.

Infographic: Cybersecurity, internet terms (correct spelling, punctuation) via the Associated Press Stylebook


Proofread Everything: Corporate Calendars blog post – Proofread Everything: Holiday Calendars

If your company is planning to give customers calendars this month, beware. Don’t let your print shop print your company calendar until you’ve first proofread every single word and number and cross-checked it against an accurate reference calendar.

Believe it or not, calendars can be riddled with errors, which can not only embarrass your company and jeopardize your brand’s credibility but also waste thousands of dollars.

Here are some Fortune 500 calendar mistakes I’ve caught as a corporate proofreader:

  • Misspelled words.
  • Words with typos.
  • Days of the week that correspond with the wrong dates. 
(like Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2016 instead of Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016.)
  • Holidays that correspond with the wrong dates.
  • Duplicate dates (Dec. 17 printed twice in one month, for example).
  • Missing dates (There’s no Dec. 17, just Dec. 16 and Dec. 18).
  • Dates that are out of order.
  • Days that incorrectly correspond with moon phases (if your calendar includes moon phases).
  • Incorrect copyright dates.

The errors can occur when the print shop that’s hired uses a calendar that already contains typos and misspellings and/or when the print shop uses an outdated calendar, one with last year’s days, dates and holidays.

How to proofread holiday calendars:

  • Ask your corporate proofreader (if you have one), an editor or someone with a hawk eye to fact-check and proofread your company calendar. (Have additional people proofread, if possible.)
  • Proofread all words for correct spelling.
  • Proofread all words for typos.
  • Follow the spelling and punctuation rules from the Associated Press Stylebook when you use:
    • “Christmas” (never “Xmas”).
    • “New Year’s Eve” (not “New Years’ Eve” or “New Years Eve”).
    • “New Year’s Day” (not “New Year’s day”).
    • “Hanukkah.”
    • The phrases “happy holidays,” “merry Christmas” and “season’s greetings” (lowercase) in a sentence:
      • “We wish you a merry Christmas.”
      • “Have a happy New Year.”
  • Have your proofreader find a reliable, up-to-date reference calendar to use while fact-checking and proofreading days, dates and holidays. (Try
  • Use the correct calendar to confirm that:
    • Each month contains the correct number of days. (Example: March has 31 days, not 30. And keep in mind that leap year occurs every four years. The last leap year date was Feb. 29, 2016, so the last day of February in 2017 is Feb. 28.)
    • Every date corresponds with the correct day.
    • The correct dates and correct order of dates appear each month (no missing, out-of-order or duplicate numbers).
    • Holiday and observance dates are accurate.
    • Moon phases (if included) are accurate. (Use as a reference or check your calendar against the Farmer’s Almanac.)
  • Confirm that the copyright date (if included) is correct.

Fact-checking and proofreading your company calendar may sound like a lot of work, but it will save you time and money and protect your brand’s reputation.

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‘People’ are people – so use ‘who’ (unless you’re talking about a group)

"People" are people so use "who" as a pronoun

Most writers know that “who” refers to human beings and “that” refers to things, so it’s correct to say “people who drink lemonade” and not “people that drink lemonade.”

But sometimes writers aren’t sure what pronoun to use when nouns referring to groups of people are used in a sentence.

For example:

Incorrect: “Companies who follow these guidelines provide a great service.”
Correct: “Companies that follow these guidelines provide a great service.”

Because a company is a thing, a business entity, you would use the pronoun “that” – even though the thing (company) is made up of people.

What pronoun do you use when there are two nouns?

Pronouns and the nouns they represent (also known as antecedents) should be in agreement, meaning the correct pronoun represents the correct noun. It’s trickier to determine agreement when there’s more than one noun in a sentence.

Look at this example: “The individual or team with the most points is the one that wins the game.”

The first antecedent is “individual” – a person – so “who” would be the correct pronoun to use. But then there’s “team,” which is a collective noun, or unit, representing individual people. In this case, “team” is a thing, not a human being, so “that” would be used as the pronoun.

So, how do you edit the original sentence correctly if each antecedent needs a different pronoun? The Associated Press Stylebook recommends that it’s best to rewrite the sentence.

Here’s one suggestion:

“The winner of the game is the individual or team with the most points.”

Your goal as a content creator is to make your content grammatically correct and as clear as possible.

You don’t want awkward sentences and grammatical errors stopping your readers in their tracks. So, as you proofread your content, check for pronouns and make sure you’re using the right ones.

[By the way, if you’re interested in learning more ways the word “that” can be used in a sentence, check out this post on the Part of Speech website.]


5 tips for corporate communicators on breaking AP Stylebook rules

My Blog Editor blog post "5 tips for corporate communicators on breaking AP Stylebook rules"
If your company’s editors follow the Associated Press Stylebook when writing and editing content, do they ever break the rules? Is that a good idea? Some say yes – in certain situations.

As a freelance content editor and proofreader for Fortune 500 corporations, I follow AP style and my clients’ company style guides. When I read this PR Daily blog post about breaking writing rules, I could definitely relate since, from time to time, my corporate clients (or their bosses) want to ignore style guidelines. I know other editors can relate to this, too. This inspired me to add my (professional) two cents.

Here are my AP Stylebook rule-breaking opinions:

  1. Never starting a sentence with a conjunction (and, but, nor, for, yet, so). This is not a rule to be broken, according to the AP Stylebook’s online Ask the Editor section:

    Q. Beginning a sentence with a conjunction. Does AP have a rule against beginning a sentence with a conjunction such as “but,” “and,” “however,” or “therefore?” Classic and rigid grammar books state that conjunctions should never start sentences. Many writers, however, have begun to do it regularly. What does AP say about it? from Yakima, Wash. on Jun 09, 2015

    A. There’s no AP Stylebook rule against starting a sentence with a conjunction. And it works well in some instances. But don’t overuse it. Or readers will be annoyed.

  2. (You see what AP did there – combining the answer with an example and making it funny? Oh AP, how you slay me with your clever word play!)

    Occasionally, my clients will start a sentence with a conjunction, and most of the time I don’t delete the conjunctions. The reason: Using a conjunction as a connector (between sentences) is the way people really talk. It’s conversational, and the trend I’m seeing with my corporate communications clients is that they are actively using a more casual tone online to better attract and connect with their audiences.

  3. Using a noun as a verb. I discourage clients from doing this to avoid the birth of new corporate buzzwords (I think we can all agree that there are way too many of those already.).
  4. Using “they” when referring to a singular noun. Yuck. ’Hate this one. Don’t do it. It’s bad grammar, in my opinion. If a writer feels the need to use “they,” the writer can use it in referring to a plural noun. In other words, use “Skilled corporate communicators know they should use a style guide” instead of “A skilled corporate communicator knows they should use a style guide.”
  5. “Stream of consciousness” writing. I’d need a specific example of this to know whether it makes sense and whether it’s something a reader can follow. It sounds fine if the content is clear and if the goal of the content is to show the writer’s voice and personality, but it depends.
  6. Capitalize titles that appear before names but don’t capitalize titles after names. I encourage clients to adhere to this AP style rule, and they generally do so. 

The problem with capitalizing titles after names is that it breaks one of the most basic AP Stylebook rules, which, in turn, makes the company look less professional.

    When I see a title capitalized after a name my opinion is that the writer does not know AP style or is choosing to ignore AP style. To me, capitalizing titles after names is the same thing as “shouting” the title. It’s as if the writer thinks the title is more important than it really is. This makes the company publishing the content look arrogant, in my opinion.

The client is always right

There are plenty of times when a corporate client wants to deviate from the AP Stylebook, and the bottom line is that the client is the boss. The client has the final say. The job of corporate editors (or any other AP style guardians) is to know AP style and company style, educate the client about the rules and, ultimately, honor the client’s wishes.

Whatever the decision, the editors need to make sure deviations from AP style rules are documented (or updated) in the company style guide so that everyone creating content knows and follows the rules. That ensures that all content is consistent and in keeping with the company’s brand.

What AP Stylebook rules do you deviate from and how do you make sure your corporate communicators are consistent in following the revised rules?


AP Stylebook: ‘Halftime’ and other ‘half’ words

Updated on Feb. 5, 2017


In honor of the Super Bowl, here are some tips on using the word “halftime” and other terms that begin with “half.”

And yes, “halftime” is one word – no hyphen, as per the Associated Press Stylebook “half-” entry, which states:

“Follow Webster’s New World College Dictionary. Hyphenate if not listed there. Some frequently used words without a hyphen:

  • halfback
  • halftone
  • halfhearted
  • halftrack

Also: halftime, in keeping with widespread practice in sports copy.

Some frequently used combinations that are two words without a hyphen:

  • half brother
  • half size
  • half dollar

Some frequently used combinations that include a hyphen:

  • half-baked
  • half-life
  • half-blood
  • half-moon
  • half-cocked
  • half-truth
  • half-hour”

As you can see, many of the hyphenated words are not only adjectives but also nouns. So, it’s best to look up any words starting with “half” to confirm which ones are hyphenated and which are not.

If your company follows the AP Stylebook and you don’t already have a subscription to the AP Stylebook online, get one, and you’ll never be in doubt. You can get a stylebook subscription that includes the online dictionary mentioned above ($35/year), and that way if the word you’re looking for in the stylebook isn’t there, you can check for it in the dictionary.

It’s easy to quickly check spelling, grammar and punctuation – to ensure consistency in your content – when you have a two-in-one resource like this open in a browser window as you write or edit copy.


Infographic: Snow Style (Tips for Writing About Snow)

Updated Jan. 4, 2018

Winter Storm Grayson is producing heavy snow, ice, frigid temperatures and strong winds (aka a “bomb cyclone”) today, closing schools and businesses along the Eastern Seaboard. That means even more talk about snow on social media.

If you’re not up on what a bomb cyclone is, here’s a video from the New York Times describing it.

In case you need a primer on snow-related words and terminology, here’s an infographic with some writing style tips from the Associated Press Stylebook.

Infographic of Associated Press Stylebook snow terms


Proofread Everything (Infographic): Corporate Calendars

If your company is giving away a 2016 calendar, heed this warning after your print shop sends you a proof: Thoroughly proofread the calendar for errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar and also fact-check every word and number.

As a corporate proofreader, I have caught numerous calendar mistakes, including incorrect dates that would have made one calendar useless. To avoid errors, keep these tips in mind while proofreading your company’s 2016 calendar.

My Blog Editor Infographic - Tips for proofreading corporate calendars


Holiday gift ideas for writers and editors

Holiday gift ideas from My Blog Editor

If the writers or editors in your life are like me, they appreciate creative inspiration.

For me, that comes from reading a well-written book (by a writer I respect) about the process of writing and editing. I love the reminders, tricks and tips that great writers give. It reignites my passion for writing and the desire to say things more clearly.

I spend my time editing business content these days, which I love (since I’m helping people tell their stories well). And a client recently asked if there was a book I would recommend to help him improve his writing. I gave him a few ideas.

And now, for you, in the spirit of holiday gift giving, I’ll share those suggestions and a few extras below.

(Just so you know, I’m an Amazon affiliate, meaning that if you decide to buy something I’ll get a commission. But don’t worry. It won’t cost you anything.)

Do you have book ideas for writers and editors? What are they?

Happy shopping and happy holidays!