As a small business owner, you already know you should be creating great content on a regular basis. If you’ve been reading the Innovate! Business Marketing (formerly Wild Women for Business) blogs, you also know that creating quality content is the single greatest driver of traffic to your website.
What worries you the most? If you don’t love to write, or don’t do it really well, where do you start? How can you be sure you are using the best words to convey your ideas, using them correctly and avoiding the horror of malapropisms? Using a Dictionary and a Thesaurus can help.
Barbara Kingsolver keeps a Thesaurus nearby while she writes. Her adoration of the intricacies of the English language, with its ethereal nuances, is legendary. When asked why she uses a Thesaurus, she answered ‘……I love the heft of this white book, its treasury of associations, for even though no two words in our language have precisely the same meaning, a good thesaurus can lead you down the trail to exactly the one you need’.
When I read this quote, I got up and danced around my living room, confirming to my husband that I am, indeed, a bit crazy. It was thrilling to learn that one of my favorite authors has a reverence for the very same book that sits in a place of honor on my own desk, dog-eared and worn. The next line I read, ‘Ours is a beautiful, rich language with words for every possible concept and shade of meaning’ nearly made me swoon.
I get it. You likely aren’t nearly as infatuated with the English language as am I. If you plan to write for your business, however, you need to develop at least a healthy respect and working knowledge of our language. Writers actually use a dictionary and thesaurus.
Shane Ketterman, whose writing can be found on Copyblogger, has talked about the use of the dictionary and thesaurus as critical tools for bloggers. He says, ‘As writers and bloggers, we are well aware of the power of words — but often, the perfect word eludes us. Enter those old standbys: the dictionary and thesaurus.’ His recommendation for expanding your vocabulary and finding the elusive ‘perfect word’ is an app for your mobile device https://itunes.apple.com/app/advanced-english-dictionary/id291070079?mt=8
After you write your blog according to the rules we’ve covered in ‘discover the joys of blogging in 7 easy steps’, read through it again. Do you have any questions about the definition of a word? Look it up. Are there words that simply don’t convey the message you want? Become friends with a Thesaurus. The perfect word is out there.
- Synonyms are similar, not exact. Just because it is in the Thesaurus doesn’t mean it is precisely the word you need. Take the word agile. Synonyms for this word include frisky, energetic, clever, brisk, prompt and nimble. If you are describing your athletic dog, nimble might be a much better word than prompt.
- Don’t use ‘bigger’ words just to sound smart. Often, a simple word is a much better fit, and changing it merely to impress the reader will make you look arrogant and pretentious.
- If you’re not certain about the meaning, look it up. Your reader may well know the meaning, and if used incorrectly, you will undermine your authority.
- Be true to your voice. Your blogs shouldn’t sound as if they were written by an English professor. They should sound like you, only you at your very best.
The poetic Southern author Pat Conroy (The Prince of Tides, The Great Santini, The Water is Wide) writes about our language: ‘I have always taken a child’s joy in the painterly loveliness of the English language. As a writer, I try to make that language pitch and roll, soar above the Eastern Flyway, reverse its field at will, howl and reel in the darkness, bellow when frightened, and pray when it approaches the eminence or divinity of nature itself.’
I couldn’t agree more. Just be sure your audience doesn’t ‘howl and reel’ at the effort it takes to read your work. The extra time you spend to ensure your work accurately reflects your expertise will be worth the effort.