Whom Is Dead

sculpture-3055967_1920There are writing rules that we must never break (like using a serial comma), and there are writing rules that are meant to be broken (or dismissed altogether). Part of being a good writer is to know when to break the rules and when to embrace them.

I am a writer in the legal industry, which means that I work with a lot of highly educated, verbose, and technical people. It is my job to take the concepts that these people wish to communicate and shape them into something that an average Joe could understand.

Doing so involves a lot of energy, but after awhile, you get the hang of it. Especially after having spent four years in the trenches and passing your knowledge on to your burgeoning content team.

Recently, one of said team members wrote a blog post about some rather complicated legal process for the general public. Blog posts usually have a lighter tone and style than, say, an article. Aside from social posts, they’re the most casual form of content that we write at my place of employment.

When he sent it to me for review, he had left a comment highlighting the use of “who” in the post, noting that he was aware it should technically be “whom”, but that it threw off the rest of the piece and made it sound pretentious. He said he would change it if I wanted him to.

But he was right, the proper use of “whom’ would have been jarring to the reader, causing them to stagger and interrupting the otherwise smooth flow of the content.

“Leave it out,” I said. “Whom is dead.”

So, he published the post as usual and continued his day as usual. For about five minutes.

A notification.

A comment.

Great.

One of our subscribers had, seemingly, read the post as soon as it appeared in their email inbox, apparently eager to read content that could quite possibly bore a rock to death.

Not only had she read the post, she had left a comment. Regarding—you guessed it—our misuse of “who”. She explained to us (a team of professional writers) that we had made a typo and proceeded to teach us when to use “who” and when to use “whom”. Shame on us.

As you can imagine, we were very thankful (we weren’t).

Though our hearts wanted to reply with a touch of sass, we curbed our desires and explained why we had used “who” instead of “whom”, letting her know that in modern content, especially for online readers, it is often accepted as a style choice as opposed to a hard and fast rule. She didn’t respond.

“Whom” just happens to be another casualty in the transition from print content to digital content; the formal to the informal; the standard practice to the trend. A rule that is becoming something to be broken instead of followed.

May “whom” rest in peace, along with double-spacing after periods and (much to my personal dismay) cursive writing.

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A Semblance of Balance

water-747618_1920When life gives you lemons, what do you do?

While some make lemonade, I neglect my blog. Not that I have been handed lemons so much as 34 bags of groceries that I am supposed to carry to my house in one trip. With four of those bags threatening to spill their contents in the driveway. In -40 degrees Celsius.

What I am trying to say is that I have been busy.

The older that I get, the more responsibilities I seem to have each day.

If I want to decrease my chances of having a heart attack and stay in relatively good physical shape I have to exercise and eat healthy.

If I want to expand my knowledge and understanding of the world and the people within it so that I don’t become an ignorant, crotchety old bat in my later years, I need to keep learning.

If I want to be emotionally happy and whole, I need to nurture the important relationships in my life by being present and available to those around me.

And if I want to continue to hone my professional skills, I need to write, edit, read, and learn as much as I can so that I stay on top of things and avoid looking like a fool.

With all of these things, and the limited time available in a day, I often feel as though I am frantically trying to juggle 4 calling birds, 3 French hens, 2 turtledoves, and a partridge in a pear tree all while sitting atop a unicycle going down the autobahn towards oncoming traffic. At night. In the rain.

The truth is, in order to maintain even a semblance of balance, you sometimes have to choose what to set aside in order to make room for something else. For me, that has been my blog. But now, since some things have quieted down, and because I have sorely missed writing about things that are not related to either publishing or my work, I am going to attempt to find some sort of equilibrium between posting all the time and never posting at all.

That being said, finding that balance may take some concerted effort. We’ll see how it goes. I am notoriously bad at keeping my blogs consistent.

Wish me luck.

 

Blogging: Cold Emails

Blogging: Cold EmailsFirst, I must apologize for my absence. I took some time to myself this summer to do things that were not writing blog posts, and it was absolutely lovely. But let’s jump right in, shall we?

As a senior writer at my place of employment, I frequently receive inquiries from hopeful freelancers asking to write content for the company blog. Some of these want to drop links for companies they work for and others just want to see their work published on a blog that gets around 15k visitors per month. Either type is fine, as long as they meet our requirements.

The emails that I receive usually go something like this:

Hi Brittany. I was just looking over the _______ company blog and think that I could offer some great content for your readers! Let me know if you accept guest posts. Thanks!

Needless to say, emails like that don’t really do a lot for me. Now, since a lot of you are freelancers or at least freelance hopefuls, I want to use this post to 1) show you the right way to contact strangers, and 2) why you shouldn’t feel bad about sending cold emails.

Our basic requirements are as follows:

  • We’ll need to see 2-3 writing samples
  • You may not include affiliate (paid) links
  • The content must be 100% original (barring any direct quotes)
  • You have to suggest a couple of suitable topics
  • You remember that we are not internet or marketing stupid

Let’s break into the reasoning behind each requirement so that you can understand why each one is so important.

Samples help to show how skilled you are when it comes to writing. When selecting a sample to include, try to choose one that has a topic related to the business you are contacting. Always send at least 2, and no more than 5. Make sure that if they were published, the site they are hosted on is reputable, there are no spelling mistakes, and that any and all links work. It’s also best if the post is actually attributed to you and not someone else.

Affiliate links are not “the devil”, but if you’re writing content for a business, it’s underhanded and unprofessional to try to scrape a profit from their readers. Never include an affiliate link in an organic post  unless you have been given permission.

Original content is an absolute must. I don’t want to get dinged for duplicate content, and I also don’t want your recycled information. If you wrote a post for a business and it fell through and never went live, that’s one thing, but if your blog post was published elsewhere you had better think twice before asking me to give it to our readers.

Suitable topics are another must. Spend time reading any content that the business has on their site. Skim some of their blog posts and peruse a few of their articles. When you send your email, include 2 or 3 topic ideas that you really think will work for them. One of the worst things that you can do is to suggest a topic to me that would never fit with what we currently cover.

For example, I was recently contacted by a potential guest blogger who suggested, specifically, maintaining a pool. This was about a week ago and we’re on the verge of snow here in Canada. That topic is not timely, and it is far too specific for me to use since we cover much more general real estate content.

We’re writers and marketers, we know about the internet. We know that you want to get in some good backlinks, we know if you are actually talented when it comes to SEO, and we know when your writing skills are subpar. We aren’t dumb, we know the motivation behind your content is completely selfish, but so is our reason for accepting it—we like free content. So be honest and don’t bother trying to butter anyone up too obviously.

A Good Cold Email

That being said, I will judge you on your initial email, and it greatly affects my reply. If you frequently send out cold emails to businesses or individuals, I would suggest trying something like this:

Hi ________,

I’m a *insert writing profession* and came across your blog through *insert where you found them*. I thought that your post *insert interesting post name related to what you want to write for them* was very *insert an adjective or two of your choice*.

I am writing to ask if you accept guest post, and if so, what your guidelines might be. I have attached some writing samples in order to give you an overview of the topics I have covered in the past and my writing style.

I thought that a post about one of the following topics would be both a fit for your blog and beneficial to your readers:

*insert topic 1
*insert topic 2

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. I look forward to hearing from you.

*insert name (example: Johnny Awesomesauce)

Are Cold Emails Bad?

No. They aren’t bad. Although most businesses will be savvy to the fact that you are only contacting them to either get your name in print or promote a client, we appreciate when you at least make a good effort to be polite, clear, and thorough.

Sometimes you may not get a response at all, other times you may get a short and direct “No.” But once in awhile, you’ll come across someone who wants to give you a shot and who, even if they do say no, will tell you why. I try to be that person as often as I can because as a writer I know that we are expected to accept rejection without an explanation, and it can be very tiring.

So if you’re trying to break into the writing profession by sending out a few cold emails, good on you. Take note of the tips in this post and understand that no matter how good you are, you are going to hear the word “no” often. But sometimes, you’ll get a “yes”, and when you see your post go live to thousands of readers, it’ll all be worth it.

Do you send out cold emails? Do you look for guest posting opportunities often?

I post funny things on Facebook sometimes, so if you like funny things, pay my page a visit. If you do not like funny things, just avoid it.

Promotional Posts

Promotional PostsThere’s nothing wrong with promoting things on blogs. Many authors do blog tours, request reviews, and exchange content. It’s a way to get the word out, and it’s usually free. That’s always a bonus for self-published authors who don’t have a lot of marketing experience, or a budget to put into it. It’s great to be able to help out other authors, but sometimes you run a risk with this type of promotion.

How? Let me enlighten you. Internet users are typically in-tune with what is promotional and what is not. It’s obvious when someone is promoting themselves, or promoting another. This is especially obvious if you are exchanging content. Say one person requests a review, and in return, they write a guest post for you. The chances of you being completely honest are taken down a few notches when you are receiving something in return.

If you hated the book, but are receiving content for your time, are you going to be blatantly honest, or are you going to at least try to give a good review, even if you’ve buttered it up a little? It’s an awkward situation—you can’t really feel good about yourself if you aren’t honest with your readers, but you also don’t want to hurt the author’s feelings. Of course, tact is always necessary, but the truth is worth much more.

If you’re like me, you’ll be stuck between a rock and a hard place, and it’ll hurt to get out of whatever you choose. I’m Canadian, we feel sorry about everything.

One way to navigate this kind of situation is to ensure that you tell your readers if you received something in exchange for your review or post. Transparency will at least give your fans a bit of understanding. A lot of the reviews I see are positive, but unless you only review books that you know you will like, chances are there will be a few that you didn’t like.

The second way is to just say no, in the best way possible. Unless you are going to be honest, saying no is the simplest way to keep your content free of promotion for others, honest, and based on what you want to write about. It’s not a bad thing to promote others, it’s just something that you need to be careful about. You have created a relationship with your readers, and it wouldn’t be sensible to jeopardize that.

The third way is to only agree to do a review after you’ve read the piece. Tell the author upfront, that unless you can give a positive review, you won’t publish it. They’ll likely be thankful for that, as well as understanding. Chances, are they aren’t looking for a bad review anyway.

There are other ways to do this, you just need to pick one that works for your blog and for your readers. If it fits with your content, and it’s something that you’re comfortable with, then go ahead. If it’s not, or you aren’t comfortable with the genre or subject, just say no. Be polite, be considerate, and be honest, but don’t do it just to be a nice person.

What do you do when asked for reviews? Have you ever said no before? Where do you draw the line with promotional posts?