How to Write a Blog Post that Gets Read

As I was thinking about this post, I remembered the professor who used a “shuffle the cards” exercise in his writing class. We were all so focused on giving good, clear instructions for shuffling cards, that we forgot the obvious step number one: “Start by obtaining a deck of cards.”

Sjuffle Cards to find the right topicSo, the obvious step number one in writing a blog post that gets read is, “Do you want to blog?” There are many good ways to pass along your information. Everything from phone calls, to text messages, to emails, and beyond.

If you have decided you want to write a blog, why?

There are different kinds of blogs. There are different ways to write a blog post, and different reasons for posting your content. You may want to express your feelings about a certain issue or happening. You may have a subject, or some ideas that you just need to share. Or, you may be supporting your organization or your business. Your blog site may be a personal one, or a business one. Next come the toughest questions:

What do you want each post on your blog site to achieve? What do you want your blog site overall to do for you? Are these goals consistent with each other?

With this in mind, what reading audience are you writing your posts for? Who will be interested in what you’re writing about? Are you speaking your language or theirs – both visually, and in words? Are the readers you’ve identified consistent with your reasons for blogging, and with what you want to achieve with your posts? Do they have the resources to do what you want them to do? How will you obtain, create, and maintain a good, appropriate mailing list?

When your medium (the blog posts); the type of content you want to write about, and the type of blog site you want to create; your reasons for writing it; the reader; the tone – the personal nature or the business nature of your blog site; and your expectations for the results you will get from each post, and from the blog site overall can be expected to work together, you’re ready to write.

At this point, with your strategy settled,

1. Figure out what you want to write about with this post. To give you clarity and focus, a good place to start is by giving the post a rough title that says what you are posting about. Later on, you can rewrite that rough title into a headline for your post.

2. When you write your introductory paragraph(s), appeal to the interests of your readers. Let them know what this post is about. Suggest how it will solve a problem they may be having.

3. Organize and write your content for easy reading. The longer the post, the more important this becomes. Consider using sections, lists, and visual clues such as drawings, charts, and photos; type sizes and weights; perhaps videos, and colors to help your reader follow your conversation.

4. Make it pretty. If it looks professional you gain credibility. Consistency in appearance helps your readers to recognize your company and your brand at first glance, reinforcing your other consistent activities.

5. Give the post a final once-over. Revise your working title into an accurate, clear, appealing “grabber” to bring your readers in. Check for awkward spots, typos and inaccuracies. Now you’re ready to go!

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Timing and Frequency for Blog Posts

What is the right blog frequency?Many organizations, from very small businesses to large corporations, use blogging  to stay in touch with their clients and prospects, and to maintain a web presence. Many use their posts to sell products and services.

How important is the timing and frequency of these posts, what should the timing and frequency be, and does it really matter? As my business partner used to say, “Timing is everything in this life!” Was he right?

Fortunately for all of us who want to provide something of value to our old (and new!) friends and clients, there is considerable research ongoing, and a great deal of results sharing online. And the recommendations are in a constant state of change.

Joe Pulizzi offered some practical advice back in 2011 that still makes sense today. When he asked his research group, “How many blog posts make the correct frequency for corporate bloggers?” He received answers varying from twice a month to once a week to at least once per month.

Considering each of these answers correct for the time, he summarized by saying that as long as your blog post serves two goals: (1) providing interesting and compelling information to your readers; and (2) serving your objective for your blog; do a post, and post it. Frequency, he added, depends on these two criteria, plus consistency. Consistency, he emphasized, is the key. Once you have decided on your frequency, whether it’s five times a day, once a week, or twice a month, stick with it.

Kevan Lee in a May 28, 2014 post, suggests that based on Track Maven research covering 4600 blogs and 1.2 million blog posts, blog posts get more shares on Saturday and Sunday than any other day of the week.

Additional Track Maven results suggest that, “the late-night infomercial effect might come into play… Essentially when there’s less competition, the more your post stands out….”

On the other hand, many professional bloggers advise that the best time to publish your blog post is when your reader is most likely to be reading. If this is on the job, a workday could be more appropriate.

You will most likely experiment a bit to figure out the frequency, and the schedule that works best for you and for your readers, based on your goals, and what your readers want. There does, however, seem to be consensus on three important things:

  1. Publish a new blog post at least once a week
  2. Publish on the same day of the week consistently
  3. Place your focus on creating the best content you can

Blogger Christina Walker recommends, “…Publishing at least one new blog post a week is optimal because it helps maintain good relationships with customers, attract natural search traffic, and avoid burnout from writing too often.” Three very practical reasons indeed.

“Once you discover the best times to blog, being consistent with your publishing schedule also increases SEO value and encourages readers to come back regularly for more,” Walker added.

An article from Marketing Savant offers three important questions to ask yourself when planning your publishing schedule:

  1. Can you keep this schedule consistently?
  2. Can you always publish high-quality content at this rate?
  3. Will you have enough content for this schedule?

Adjust the frequency of your publishing schedule so that you can answer “yes” to each of these questions. “It’s okay to tone down or ramp up your blogging frequency as your goals, resources, and audience desire change over time,” the article points out.

One final piece of excellent practical advice: “… Before you finalize how often to blog, consider ways to avoid burn-out…blogging less often, using guest posts, assigning blogging responsibilities to a team…and anything else you can think of.”

What are the best times to blog for business? Jason Keith noted that the most popular weekday time appears to be 9 AM to 10 AM, with Tuesdays and Wednesdays the most popular weekdays.

Dan Zarrella, a social media scientist at HubSpot, found the best time to blog for page views is Monday between 8 and 11 AM, and the best time to blog for increased engagement is Saturday between 8 and 11 AM.

His recommendations?

“Keep in mind that the best time to blog varies by your audience. If they are mostly business people, blogging on Saturday probably won’t work very well. If they are mostly located in a certain time zone, schedule your posts to publish in their mornings, not yours.”

Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations, executive coaching, consulting, and writing services. To discuss how we can help, call Gail at 503/292-9681, Toll-free at 888-634-4875 or email gail@gailtycer.com

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Hello 2014 – Fare Well, 2013!

Over last weekend, I’ll bet many of you, like me, were busy packing away ornaments, deciding which candles can be used again, and trying to find a youth organization to give our retired trees to for recycling. Or at least, again, like me – thinking about it!

And now it’s serious back-to-work time. Time to try something new. I’m not quite ready for 2014 yet – what happened to 2010, anyway? So, with a final salute, let’s wrap up 2013 with the Best of the Blog – a short collection of my top nineteen posts of that year, as judged by the number of “likes” each garnered. An “e-book” for want of a better name, and the first e-book I’ve ever done.

I’d like to give this compilation to you as a thought-starter. A new way of thinking about your writing. Or maybe as a way to address a New Year’s resolution to strengthen your on-the-job writing, making it faster, easier, and more effective. Totally free. Please email me (gail@gailtycer.com), and I’ll send you the free link.

We’ll talk about:

1. If You’ve Ever Said, “I Wasn’t Good at English in School…” Read This!

2. How to Say It When You Can’t Think of What to Say

3. Shorter, Fewer Emails

4. Strategic Email

5. Meeting Minutes

6. Writing a Successful Instruction

7. Writing a Powerful Presentation – Getting Started

8. Writing a Powerful Presentation – Finishing Strong

9. How to Write a Business Thank You Note

10. Nine Places to Find Ideas for Your Blog Post

11. “Spin”

12. Hide, Hedge, Mask, and Cloud?

13. How to Offend, Anger, or Frustrate Without Realizing It

14. How Many Common Writing Errors Do You Make?

15. Stronger, More Powerful Sentences

16. What Was That Again?

17. Words That Create Mix-Ups

18. Words, Words, Words…

19. Fatigue-Reducing, Confidence-Building Phrases

We’ll also include a few of our weekly Quick Tips, answering some of those pesky grammar questions.

So here’s to 2013, wrapped up with a bow – and on to a great new year: 2014. Let me know how I can help you to achieve your business writing goals this year. I’m totally committed to helping you write less, say more – and get results in 2014.

If you like what you’re reading, we invite you to subscribe to our blog.

Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations, executive coaching, consulting, and writing services. To discuss how we can help, call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email gail@gailtycer.com

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A Heartfelt Thank You, and More About Email

May you have a truly joyful holiday season! Thank you so much for being a loyal reader of this weekly blog. Your emails and comments mean a great deal.

Now let me share a couple of emails on last week’s postHappyHoliday240:

“That first tip is such a good idea. I got one message from someone I doubt would have sent it if she had taken the time to think it over before sending – and perhaps would have modified the tone. It changed my opinion of her permanently….I think prompt replies are a must, too. Your ideas certainly make for a more civil society.”

Thank you, Carla. Not only is a “civil society” a more pleasant environment to live in, but in the business situation, leads to greater productivity!

“I enjoyed your latest post. I learned Tip #1 the hard way when I inadvertently sent something out prematurely. It wasn’t a disaster, but it conditioned me to the possibility, so any sensitive e-missive gets addressed after it’s finished.”

“I have another email tip….use structure to make your emails easy to absorb….My rule is  ‘aim for one screen’s worth, but spread it out so people can see the whole, note the pieces, and get to your point quickly.’”

Thank you, Harry. I like to say that writing is a visual art. How it looks on the screen (or on paper) can determine how – or if – your reader will “get it,” remember it, and act on it.

Here’s another email tip for today:

There are four types of email: (1) The original email; (2) the reply; (3) the cover letter for an attachment; and (4) the attachment. Each is handled slightly differently.

(1)   In the original email, aim for one paragraph, not more than five lines. This should work for at least half of your emails, if you tell your reader who-what-when-where-how.

(2)   Many times, the reply, like the original you are replying to, can be answered in one paragraph, five lines or less. In no case should either the original, or the reply, be longer than a screen to a screen-and-a-half. If your reply needs to be longer than that, make it an attachment with a cover letter.

(3)   The cover letter will be short. Most of the time it will be that one paragraph, not more than five lines, telling the reader why you are sending the attachment, and what he or she is to do with, or about it, and when.

(4)   The attachment should be concise – that is, as short as you can make it, while still giving all the information needed. It can be printed out for the reader to read more easily. Printing it out reduces the potential irritation caused to the eye, as well as to your message, when there is too much to read comfortably online.

See you next week!

If you like what you’re reading, please subscribe to our blog.

We’ll be happy to bring a Gail Tycer workshop to your organization. To discuss a workshop for your people at your location or ours, or a shorter presentation for an upcoming meeting, call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email gail@gailtycer.com

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The Write Gift – Beyond Price, Yet It Costs Nothing

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This week, I’m feeling that old holiday nostalgia, and would like to digress, and talk a bit about some of the best gifts I’ve ever received. They would not be for everyone, but it may be they’ll spark some ideas for you, and perhaps some wonderful memories for someone special to you.

As a young lieutenant’s family, we lived by the motto, “If the Air Force had wanted you to have children, they’d have issued them to you!” So, if we bought new school coats, or shoes, or sweaters in the fall, we really had a struggle to get them paid for by Christmas.

Enter The Poem!

We wrote poems describing each of the “early Christmas gifts” the children had already received. Much to our astonishment, they loved the poems, and the small gifts and stocking surprises they got on Christmas Day. Of course, that was then, and this is now. Then, most of their friends and classmates were in much the same situation. So it all worked out then.

Now they get regular presents, but the poem tradition remains a high point of our gift giving, closely followed by the stocking free-for-all!

I look at my office wall. There hang three treasures: Grandma’s Garden, a beautiful poem describing Sarah’s thoughts while weeding, planting, and just “being”; Tony’s short descriptive essay starting with a small seed and its nurture, and ending with an emerald green bowl of Garlic Butter Broccoli on the dinner table; and Marilyn’s cherished Picasso-style ink rendering of watering the garden, bringing it all to vibrant life. Treasures indeed.

And then there is Madison’s work. As a third grader, she was assigned to interview a neighbor, and then write his or her biography. I was the fortunate neighbor to be interviewed. Madison received an excellent grade for her fine work, and I received a dear gift in the form of an illustrated biography she had hand written and illustrated for me.

The spoken word can be powerful. Texting is clearly useful, and generally gets a quick response. And we all enjoy Pinterest and YouTube.

But the written word is just as powerful, more durable, and infinitely more memorable.

To receive your Business Writing Trends automatically every week, please subscribe to our blog, or to our newsletter.

We’ll be happy to bring a Gail Tycer workshop to your organization. To discuss a workshop for your people at your location or ours, or a shorter presentation for an upcoming meeting, give us a call at 503/292-9681, or email us at gail@gailtycer.com

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Get Local With Your SEO

This week’s blog entry is provided by guest blogger Alan Taylor, owner of Alpine Technical Group

There are many, many ways to make sure your website is visible and attractive to Google – meaning that when Google takes a look at your website, it sees information that is relevant and useful to potential visitors to your site. From keywords to citations, meta tags to site indexes, there’s enough to keep a person pretty busy. Even more so, there are tools and features outside of your website that can have a big impact on its visibility. One of those features that is especially important for local and regional businesses is Google Places.

When you perform a search in Google, say “Wallpaper near Walla Walla, Washington,” you get the search results shown below. The Google Places listings in this image are the ones denoted by the teardrop-shaped pointers.

wallpaperSearch

By ensuring your Google Places listing is accurate, you too can be a red point on the map and a listing at the top of the search results (of course not for “wallpaper” but for your own business and location). The process in short:

  • Go to the Google Places page. Either search for “Google Places” or use the URL here: http://www.google.com/business/placesforbusiness/.
  • Sign into Google (or create a new account).
  • Find your business (usually by providing a telephone number).
  • Claim your business and provide information about your business (hours, specials, etc.)
  • Verify your business listing via telephone or postcard.

This process is usually fairly straightforward. If you are one location in a large business office or have an auto answer with a phone tree for your main phone number, your only choice for verification is to have a letter/postcard sent to your mailing address. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. If you haven’t received a card in 10 days you can go back into Google Places and request another card. Eventually one will get to you and you can verify your listing.

Also important is to edit your Google Places listing on a regular basis – once every other month or so. Add more information, list a current special or similar. This gives Google new information on your business and helps keep you at the top of the heap.

Our guest blogger, Alan Taylor of Alpine Technical Group, has been providing web presence and marketing consulting for longer than he cares to admit. He loves his job, enjoys his clients and happily keeps abreast of the ever-changing world of web marketing.

Subscribe to our blog – and we’ll see you next week!

To receive your Business Writing Trends automatically every week, please subscribe to our blog, or to our newsletter.

We’ll be happy to come to your organization. To discuss a workshop for your people at your location or ours, or a shorter presentation for an upcoming meeting, email us at gail@gailtycer.com or give us a call at 503/292-9681. 

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Nine Places to Find Ideas for Your Blog Post

O.K. So you’re convinced. You’ve got to have a blog site, and post to it frequently. The internet is full of articles telling you how important this is to build trust; to establish yourself as an authority in your field; to improve your “findability” with the search engines; to attract the “right fit” for potential clients, customers, and employees; to increase traffic to your website; and to stay top of mind with your clients, customers, and prospects.

Now the next question – whether you are new to blogging, or a veteran – becomes “What do I write about?”TalkBubbleBlog

Here are nine places you can find things to write about:

  1. Build on your own experience. Think of the things you wish someone had told you, or that you had figured out sooner. How did this information solve a problem for you? What problem could it solve, and how, for your reader?
  2. Reflect on conversations with clients, customers, and employees. What is the feedback you’re hearing? Is there a new trend here? What are they interested in? What are the problems they need to solve? How can you help?
  3. Stay current with general circulation media – newspapers, magazines, TV, radio. The internet. Many thought-starters in each, every day, whether on the actual event itself, your reaction to how it was presented, your own unique view of the piece, or just something totally different that you thought about while reading, listening or watching. How could it relate to your field of expertise? Note: If you are commenting on someone else’s post, cite it, and provide a link.
  4. Include trade publications on your personal reading list. Enjoy a broader perspective by expanding your own knowledge base, and sharing it with your readers. Credit the publications you refer to in your post.
  5.  Observe. Without judging. Every business or social meeting, office interaction, or shopping trip gives you an opportunity to identify the natural consequences of specific actions. Everywhere you go, something is happening. What? And why? And why does this matter to your reader? What do you expect your reader to do with this information?
  6. Read books. Use your mortar and bricks library. Become acquainted with the reference librarians, and all the services your library provides. Everything you read, listen to, or watch will bring you ideas – from the new business book everyone is talking about, to a possibly unknown text you’re reading on a favorite topic. What’s your “take” on the best-seller? What did you think about – very possibly unrelated – when reading that unknown text that provides a jumping-off point for your blog post?
  7. Write about what concerns people. Friends, clients, neighbors, grocery checkers. What do they talk about? What concerns them?
  8. Interview an authority. While your authority may be a celebrity, or someone whose name is a household word, or someone with an unusual job or hobby, fabulous posts are very often written by providing insights from people who do everyday things.
  9. Update an old post. If you wrote something in the past that would do well with an update, perhaps this is the time.

To receive your Business Writing Tip of the Week automatically every week, please subscribe to our newsletter. We appreciate your recommending a Gail Tycer business writing workshop for your workplace, or a shorter presentation for an upcoming professional meeting. Thank you.

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Proofreading Quick Check

It seems like most of us are in a constant rush: the perfect environment for email errors that seem so determined to happen. Errors that make meaning unclear, and – worst case – result in time-consuming additional explanation, and “fixing.”

What’s needed is a fast mental checklist of some of the unexpected, but potentially lethal things you can look for quickly before hitting the send button.LoupeProofreading200

  1. Of course you will start with the built-in spell- and grammar- checkers, being aware of their shortcomings: words correctly spelled, but in the wrong place, e.g., “at” for “an,” “to, too, two” (which one do you need?); words that don’t mean what you think they mean; the “passive” incorrectly questioned, and so on. The old eyeball still needs to look the piece over.
  2. Then you will check for absolute word clarity. Did the word(s) you used say what you mean? Many words sound very similar, but have quite different meanings. Two prime examples: formally vs. formerly (which would you use if you meant “used to be”?); and expedient vs. expedite (which would you use to mean “to speed,” or “to hurry”?)
  3. Now look at comprehension. Is there a chance your information could be misunderstood? Are you saying what you mean? If you offer a “new member program” is the program new, or is the member new? A “new-member program” (with the hyphen) would clearly be for new members only. A “new members-only program” would make it clear that the new program is only for members, but the members could be either new or existing. The “new member program” could be interpreted either way, and could lead to some time-consuming emails and conversations to clarify what you meant.
  4. One final checkpoint that is too often overlooked: Take a hard look at words like he, she, it, they, we. Is it clear just who you mean by “he”? Or what is “it”? Arguably, this is right up near the top of the list of the most common sources of confusion, and can lead to rumors, office problems, and a lot of misunderstanding – all of which takes time to fix!

To receive your Business Writing Tip of the Week automatically every week, please subscribe to our newsletter. We appreciate your recommending a Gail Tycer business writing workshop for your workplace, or a shorter presentation for an upcoming professional meeting. Thank you.

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Can You Get the Word Out?

On the job, or for one of the professional, civic, or social organizations we support, many, if not all of us will probably be asked at some point to “help get the word out” about a variety of things, ranging from a promotion or a new hire to an event at work, or not.WomanReadingNewspaper200

These simple announcements should be easy to write, almost formulaic, and they must be interesting enough to your chosen audience that he or she will read it. And, best case, pass the information along to others who will likewise be interested.

How do you do it?

1. To begin with, decide who you are trying to reach with your information, and how best to get this information to them. What do they read? Listen to? Watch? What meetings do they attend? Where do they hang out? In short, where are you most likely to find them?

These days, email and social media are good bets, along with the traditional media: newspaper, including the neighborhood or local papers; radio; and television. Again, depending on who you are trying to reach, professional publications, alumni magazines, and their respective websites could also work for you, as could presentations to a variety of organizations, or just plain “word of mouth,” inspired by personal phone calls or emails or…

2. Now that you know who you primarily want to get the word out to, and how you will reach them, you’ll need to find out the ground rules for each medium you plan to use. For example, most newspapers will have a business column, as well as a  “calendar of events” where you will (respectively) send your announcements. These columns will also have deadlines for submission of your material. Also check professional publications and alumni magazines for their deadlines.

While it is highly unlikely that radio or television will use this type of story, some may have programs that will, so check into this as well.

 

With email you’ll want to determine how many times you will send an email on this subject, how often, and to whom. Then schedule your emails. Various social media outlets will have their own traditions.

3. Decide what information you want to include for each of the media you plan to use. While the easiest thing is to use the same “press release” for everyone, the format may be different depending on where the information is being sent. The information you include, however, will be the same.

For an announcement of a promotion or a new hire, you will want to include in the first paragraph who the person is (this may include a brief, powerful description if available, such as “Pulitzer prize winner, Dr. Joe Jones…” or a former position held, if appropriate); what happened (hired, promoted, or…); when; the name of the company or organization and location; and usually who is making the announcement.

Most likely, this will be the only information used, and it may be re-written.

The second paragraph will detail the individual’s new, or continuing responsibilities, and his or her qualifications for them, which may include previous positions, education, special training or certification, etc.

The third paragraph, in the standard “press release” format, will probably be a brief, standard description of the company or organization. This is also unlikely to be used, but may be helpful.

Of course, you may always hope that something in your information might lead to a more substantial story, but don’t hold your breath. Also, there is a possibility that, for whatever reason, the information may not be used at all, through no fault of your own.

For an event, you will obviously want to include the standard information: what the event is; where it will be held (including the address if not someplace familiar to readers) and when; the purpose; who is invited; and the appropriate details – how to purchase tickets, how to gain access to the venue, and so on.

Now, find your “grabber.” The first thing you say in the first paragraph. For an event, ask yourself, “What is most important – to the reader – about this event? Start there.

To receive your Business Writing Tip of the Week automatically every week, please subscribe to our newsletter. We appreciate your recommending a Gail Tycer business writing workshop for your workplace, or a shorter presentation for an upcoming professional meeting. Thank you.

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Readers Want to “Like” You Online!

People may be a whole lot nicer than given credit for, according to a new study published on the Journal of Science website last week. Study findings could well have significant implications for communication – especially traditional marketing communication – in the long run.

To reach their conclusions, researchers examined how thousands of people reading online comments reacted and responded, perhaps providing new ideas on how marketers can present their products or services positively today.

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Here’s what researchers found:

If a post, perhaps on a site like Facebook, garners a “like,” more people are likely to “like” it also, “even if the reporting and writing are not all that great,” researchers said, adding that a positive comment “can set off a bandwagon of approval.”

Apparently the same is not true in reverse – in fact, rather than inspiring readers to dislike an article or post, an “unfair negative reaction” will quickly rally readers to counteract the negative view with positive ones. See? A lot of nice people out there!

Additionally, researcher Sinan Aral, professor of information technology and marketing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found that “Hype can work, and feed on itself as well.”

Calling the study “provocative,” Matthew Jackson, professor of economics at Stanford noted that it raised many questions to be answered. Jackson was not involved in the research.

Conducted over a five-month period with an unnamed website to provide objectivity, users submitted links to news articles. Readers then scored and/or commented on the articles, and commented on other readers’ comments to provide the raw data. Researchers applied mathematical formulae to compile their findings.

Among the most interesting findings were that site users were initially twice as likely to comment on the article favorably. And when the researchers posted a fake positive score, the first person reading the comment was 32 percent more likely to give the article an “up vote, ” with no change in the likelihood of subsequent negative votes. Over the course of the study, those comments with the artificial “up vote” garnered scores 25% higher than those of the control group.

“…a significant change,” Aral noted, “…very small signals of social influence snowballed into  behaviors….”

To receive your Business Writing Tip of the Week automatically every week, please subscribe to our newsletter. We appreciate your recommending a Gail Tycer business writing workshop for your workplace, or a shorter presentation for an upcoming professional meeting. Thank you.

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