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Why social media calendars are essential for content experts

As content experts, we all know the struggle of figuring out what and when to post. The perfect moment and the type of content that we shoot out onto the internet can be crucial to a company’s success. With that being said, we need a tool that will help us engage our company’s social media audience and ensure that quality content is being shared.

A calendar, specifically a social media calendar, can be a lifesaver when it comes to making sure our posts really capture our desired audience. A visual calendar as simple as Google Calendar, or even more social-media specific, like SproutSocial, can easily be found online and will get the job done. Once you’ve selected the calendar of your choice, it’s important to organize it in the best way possible.

The whole purpose of having one of these calendars is to prevent wasting time and to be prepared for the next post. When planning exactly which days to post, add some extra information related to your content that might be helpful for your audience. Jot down related hashtags, add links to websites, or maybe even find a holiday that coincides with the content you are posting. For example, a bike rental company might be planning to post about a special discount that they will be providing for customers. The best idea would be to promote this discount during the month of May, which happens to be National Bike Month. Not only are you planning ahead, but you are also directing your post to an audience who will surely react positively to the message being sent.

Now here is an important question. How often should we post? Does every day feel excessive? Is three times a day not enough? Well, the answer to this question completely depends on the company, the type of campaign, the audience, and the type of social media you are using. Maybe you will receive more feedback if you post on Twitter multiple times a day versus posting on Facebook. Or you might have more success posting on Instagram if you post only 2 times a week instead of 3. Either way, the frequency of your posts can depend on a variety of factors. When it comes to making sure your content is well-received, your best bet would be to try different posting schedules on different social media and see which ones have the most success by monitoring the statistics.

Another way to use your social media calendar to its full advantage is by categorizing posts and strategically placing them for the months to come. Think about what types of posts you want to share. Is it re-sharing content, a company event or celebration, a new blog post? Whatever it might be, differentiate one type of post from another and think about its placement. For example, a post about an event hosted by your company might be perfect for a Friday afternoon when people are thinking about their weekend plans. A new blog post can be posted every Wednesday evening because it’ll be more likely that readers are unwinding after a day’s work and have more time to browse through their various forms of social media.

With that being said, it’s pretty clear that organization and some serious planning are definitely needed when it comes to making your content stand out. Social media calendars are perfect for knowing exactly what, when, and how often we want to post. Check out some of the social media calendar tools that can easily be found online and practice your planning skills. But keep in mind that the main purpose of a social media calendar is to plan well-thought-out posts with enough time to discuss and edit within your team. With a social media calendar in your back pocket, you will never have to question when or what you should post ever again.

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Why a minimalist content strategy is the best way forward

Content consumers today are constantly bombarded with information and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to convince them to stop and read an article or blog post.

The key to an effective content strategy lies in your ability to express your message in a clear, concise and accessible format to your reader. Enter the minimalist content strategy.

What is a minimalist content strategy?

At the core of a minimalist content strategy is the base assumption that less is more. If you hope to get your message across to readers, you have to present it in a way they will understand. Create something that goes down easily, using a clear tone, direct vocabulary, and an easy-to-follow format. In other words, your text needs to get to the point without sacrificing the overall quality of the content.

When you present readers with a steady stream of articles packed with big blocks of text that overuse high-minded, academic vocabulary, you are alienating your audience. Readers will quickly lose interest in the article and your intended message.

A minimalist content strategy is more shareable

A minimalist content strategy is more shareable

To create a meaningful experience for the reader, you need content that is not only accessible, but also attractive and eye-catching. Make use of images, videos, and infographics to create something stimulating that readers feel motivated to share on social media.

How to plan your minimalist content strategy

The first step to implementing a minimalist content strategy is defining your core message. Take the time to carefully consider how you wish to present your brand to the reader. This is easier said than done and if ignored, can lead to an overly-ambitious message that’s confusing to your audience. Hiring a content agency is often the best approach to finding your direction and developing the perfect message for your target market.

Your readers want quality, not quantity

Focus on creating content that your readers want to read. No more blocks of keyword-saturated text that focus purely on search engine optimization (SEO) at the expense of the quality of the content. Moving forward with a minimalist content strategy will make you consider what your readers are really after, and what kind of message they will respond to.

Write articles your audience wants to read

Write articles your audience wants to read

By pumping out high-volume, low-quality content, you won’t create the kind of long-lasting readers that care about your brand. Readers want your unique perspective and expertise. Be honest about your vision and show them what you really have to offer.  


Struggling to plan your minimalist content strategy? Get in touch with VeraContent’s marketing team to discuss taking the headache out of your content – in any language.

5 content ideas to boost your blog’s buzz

If there’s one thing the Internet has plenty of, it’s blogs. Want a round-up of current events? Vacation planning tips? The world’s best brownie recipe? There’s a blog for that. In fact, there are probably several.

If you want your blog to stand out, you have to get creative with content ideas. Whether you’re using it to generate interest in your company, to attract new customers and clients, or just to make your voice heard, your posts need to be unique. Otherwise you’ll be buried among the hundreds of other articles out there addressing the same topic.

Here are five content ideas that’ll give your blog the extra boost it needs.

1. Listicles: content you can count on

Self-explanatory, right? These have become so ubiquitous that you might not even be consciously aware of them(in fact, you’re reading a listicle right now). This format has its fair share of haters, with claims that lists are destroying the fabric of society/literature/human existence itself.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but the fact is that lists are hot right now. People like it when you break things into bite-size pieces. They make content approachable, and help keep both the writer and the reader on track.

That being said, this is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s important to choose the right kind of list for your topic. Don’t be fooled into thinking you can just brainstorm a few bullet points and leave it at that. You still need to consider things like SEO strategy and overall structure. Listicles may be easier to read, but that doesn’t mean they’re easier to write.

Checklists, countdowns, or curated collections—find the format that works for you.

2. Quizzes: Tell them something they don’t know

Remember those personality quizzes you used to take in magazines? You would answer some questions, tally up the points for each, and the total would reveal some hidden aspect of your character. The Internet has found a way to capitalize on our innate sense of curiosity (and, let’s be honest, self-involvement) with quizzes that provide much more variety and less mental math.

Creating an online quiz

Are you more a Phoebe or a Chandler? Online quizzes hook us by suggesting we can discover more about ourselves

You’re probably familiar with Buzzfeed, the site that’s churned out loads of viral quizzes concerning Disney princesses and pizza toppings. But quizzes can be far more than fluffy entertainment, and you shouldn’t underestimate their power.

Take, for example, the New York Times dialect quiz that became its most popular story of 2013. Quizzes like this one reveal insights about culture, language, and more—and get readers interested in the topics they cover. Even if the content itself is light and fun, they can draw the attention of customers and create brand recognition. People are more likely to engage with content that’s interactive and personalized, and to share it with others.

Sites like Qzzr provide user-friendly tools to help you get started. If you can concoct a quiz that’s simultaneously entertaining, culturally relevant, and aligned with your blog’s goals, you’re well on your way to success.

3. Polls: Ask and you shall receive

Polls are another surefire way to get people to interact with your content. All you have to do is pose a simple question and watch the results roll in.

Polls invite readers to step up to the mic and share their opinions—without the stage fright.

What’s more, polls kill two birds with one stone. First, they generate content that’s easy to share—both the poll itself and the subsequent results. Second, they can be leveraged to find out more about your target audience. If you’re trying to sell a product, you can gain insight into the preferences or purchasing habits of potential customers. If you’re looking for new clients, you can find out what matters to them and exactly what they want.

Polls have become especially common on Twitter, thanks to its built-in polling feature. But you can also embed them directly into your blog posts with tools like Wedgies.

4. Infographics: They’ll believe it when they see it

Everybody loves a good graphic. Even the most avid readers can appreciate an image that organizes, clarifies, and visualizes information in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Enter infographics. Another clever compound word that sums up a simple strategy: transmitting information in a visual format. Infographics can vary greatly in style, but when done right, they have one thing in common: huge potential for social lift. An interesting and well designed infographic is the kind of thing people love to share.

Example of an infographic

Here’s a simple example of how you can turn any article—even this one—into an infographic.

Always apply your SEO strategy to infographics just like you would any other post. Because they are, by nature, image files, it’s vital to pay attention to alt text. The supplementary text you include, from the title to a short introduction or description, should be optimized to drive traffic to your post.

5. Video: Lights, camera, content!

What do you get when you combine a blog with video? A vlog! (You thought we were done with compound words, didn’t you?) You don’t need professional equipment or editing software to create engaging videos. You’ve probably got all you need right in front of you; a webcam or smartphone camera and built-in editing programs on your computer or YouTube are a perfectly acceptable place to start. You can also use screen capture to create how-to videos.

Start a vlog

You don’t need a camera to start vlogging

Again, SEO is especially important for video blog posts. Make sure your title communicates that the post contains a video, and that you include text with relevant keywords. You need to draw people in, motivate them to press play, and then hold their attention long enough for them to watch the whole thing. If it’s high quality content, they’ll want to like it, share it, and spread it—and that can only mean more exposure for you.

Mix it up

Remember, all of these formats should be used in moderation. Experiment with each one, see what works for you, and adapt these ideas to your blog’s specific goals and style. Consider them as valuable tools in your repertoire, but don’t overdo it—and make sure that you always prioritize the content itself.

Of course, the most important thing is what you have to say… but how you say it matters more than you might think. So break out your design skills, turn on that webcam, and start getting creative with your blog. If you do it right, the benefits will speak for themselves.


VeraContent has a team of dedicated content professionals generating custom content ideas for clients every day. Get in touch to discuss a solution for your website, publication or marketing strategy.

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Too funny for words: How to translate humor in multilingual content

One of the biggest problems facing polyglots and translators is also one of the funniest: understanding and translating humor in multiple languages. It can be an infuriating challenge, but what makes it so difficult?

Punchline problems

Picture this: you’re with a group of friends speaking your second language. You’re following the conversation perfectly well… until someone makes a quip and they all explode with laughter. You’re left stupefied, puzzling over what was just said as you try to determine what they found so funny.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. And it’s not just you, I promise. It’s just that no matter how many irregular verbs you memorize, no textbook will impart you with a bilingual sense of humor.

Humor is one of the hardest things to learn in a second language.

Just smile, laugh, and pretend you got the joke.

When it comes to translation, this issue is magnified. If you’re translating any text that intends to entertain, chances are it includes a joke or two. Magazine articles, advertising copy, literary works… all of these formats use humor in one way or another. In any of them, a bit of clever wordplay or a witty cultural reference can pose a monumental challenge. How do you preserve the same sense of humor with different words, for an audience with a different background?

Here are some of the most common kinds of linguistic humor, and the difficulties they pose.

Wordplay

In this case, the source of the problem is pretty obvious. If a joke is based entirely on the words that compose it, it’s pretty hard to get the same idea across using completely different words. As a translator, your best bet is to think of similar words in the target language that can be combined in an equally clever way.

First of all, determine the strategy the source text is using. Is it alliteration? A pun? Does it take advantage of a word with two different meanings? Once you understand the structure of the joke, you can start formulating a new one in the target language. It’s not easy, but with a little creativity and some linguistic liberty, you can make multilingual miracles happen.

Rhymes

Maybe this is technically a type of wordplay, but it’s tough enough to deserve its own subheading. Rhyming exists in all languages, of course, but by no means are rhyming pairs in one language equivalent to those in another. If you really want to turn in the best possible translation, you’ll have to find your inner poet… and your thesaurus.

The simplest strategy is to think of as many synonyms as possible for the words in question, until you find two that rhyme. Sometimes it’s impossible, but if you can make it work, you’ll (rightly) feel like a genius.

Making readers laugh out loud at multilingual content is quite a challenge.

Making your audience laugh out loud is harder than you might think.

Want a real life example? While translating a magazine article, I came across this title: “Si de resacas se trata, este cóctel ataca.” This is a simple one-liner referring to the well-known concept of “hair of the dog.” Translated (more or less) literally, it says “If you’ve got a hangover, this cocktail will attack it.” But that’s no fun! Where’s the clever catchy rhyme?

Let’s work through this. What’s another way to say “attack,” or to describe the effect of a good cocktail after a rough night? How about “hits the spot”? Okay, so now we need to find a word that rhymes with “spot”… and lucky for us, there’s already one in the original translation: “got.” Switch around the word order, and you’ve found your solution: “If it’s a hangover you’ve got, this cocktail hits the spot.” Maybe not the most grammatically pleasing sentence, but it preserves the original meaning while maintaining the playful humor of the rhyme. Success!

Cultural references

Every translator—and second language speaker—knows that a good part of understanding a language is understanding its cultural context. This is especially obvious when it comes to jokes. If the punchline refers to a local politician, a historical event, or anything that’s only familiar to a certain community, it’ll be lost on outsiders.

A good translator can preserve humor across cultural and linguistic barriers.

When translated well, humor can transcend cultural and linguistic boundaries.

When translating, sometimes you have to make a tough call. Do you leave the reference as is and hope your audience will get it? Do you change it to a different reference in their own culture that communicates a similar idea? Or do you just get rid of it?

If you’re going for the second option, you’ll need to be very familiar with both the original reference and the culture of the target audience. Try to determine the essence of the joke: why is it funny? This is what you need to maintain with the new reference. Even if you’re talking about a totally different person or event, chances are you can preserve the same meaning.

Then again, there’s the possibility that if you change the reference, the text simply won’t make sense. In that case, you might want to interject an explanation. A parenthetical aside with a couple of choice details can work wonders; this way you preserve the full meaning but give the reader some extra help to understand it.

Lost in translation… found in transcreation

As a second language speaker, you know you’ve really made it once you start understanding and making jokes. Likewise, one sure sign of an expert translation is the effective communication of humor. In fact, this involves more than just translation in the classic sense of the word. It can better be described as transcreation, requiring not only basic bilingualism but also linguistic skill, resourcefulness, and cultural adaptation… and, of course, a sharp sense of humor.


VeraContent is a creative translation and transcreation agency that can help your content reach a wider audience—and maybe even get a laugh out of them!

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American vs. British English – How they’re different and why it matters

Today marks 241 years since the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, and the official birth of the United States. For most Americans that means hot dogs, fireworks, and patriotic pride—but it’s also the perfect opportunity to discuss the linguistic legacy of American independence.

It’s no secret that despite all we have in common, there are vast cultural differences between the US and the UK. That divide is also visible in dialectical variation between American and British English: things like spelling, grammar, and other linguistic details. Although these differences may seem insignificant, in the world of translation and content creation, they’re anything but.

Context counts

Writers and translators based solely in the United States or the United Kingdom may never confront the question of dialect. But for those of us who work in international contexts, it’s vital to distinguish between British and American English, and to be highly familiar with both.

For example, if you’re writing advertising copy for a company promoting its products in the UK, they’ll expect you to follow the conventions of British English. A university recruiting international students, on the other hand, might prefer US English as a universally accepted standard. It all depends on the context. Before you start working with any client, it’s vital to establish which style they want.

Learn the lingo

As a translator, I’m used to switching between English and Spanish—but I’ve found that it’s equally important to know how to juggle different dialects within each. The first time I was asked to write something in British English, I was dumbfounded. I had always known it existed, of course, but I’d never been asked to adopt it as my own voice. What exactly were the differences? And how many were there?

When writing in a non-native dialect, mistakes are inevitable. Always edit your work carefully.

Mistakes are inevitable—edit your work!

Quite a few, as it turns out. But nothing you can’t handle, as long as you’re prepared to treat your non-native dialect the same way you’d treat a foreign language. Learn the differences and do your best to embrace them—the more natural they seem to you, the more natural your writing will seem to the reader.

Dialectical details

So what exactly are the differences? Here are just a few of the most important ones to know.

  • -or vs. -our: This is a classic. Even the most unaware reader can distinguish regional style from just one letter. Examples: color (US) vs. colour (UK), favorite vs. favourite, and behavior vs. behaviour.
  • z vs. s: Another single-letter difference. This one has to do with the suffix used to form transitive verbs meaning “to render or make.” Whereas US English uses “-ize,” UK English uses “-ise.” Examples: optimize vs. optimise, utilize vs. utilise. And remember, this applies to any form of those words as well (utilized vs. utilised).
  • Has vs. has got: When it comes to expressing possession, the line is slightly blurred. In both UK and US English, we can say “I have a dog” or “I’ve got a dog.” But despite the fact that both are correct, you’re much more likely to encounter “has got” in British English, and “has” in American English.
  • Vocabulary: This is far too broad to cover in a single bullet point, but it’s vital to be aware of lexical differences. There are tons of words whose meanings vary depending on the dialect, as well as different words that are used to express the same meaning. My personal favorite is the word “pants.” In US English, pants are what we wear to cover our legs, like jeans or slacks. In UK English, pants are what we wear underneath our trousers—the American equivalent of “underwear.”
  • Period placement: There are several small differences in punctuation usage. US English places a period after abbreviations like “Mr.” and “Ms.” whereas British English does not. British English uses a period to express specific times (10.30) where American English would use a semicolon (10:30). And finally, British English places periods outside quotation marks (“Happy Fourth of July”.) while American English places them within (“Happy Fourth of July.”).
In American English, the convention is to spell words like "colorful" with "or."

American spelling…

In British English, the convention is to spell words like "parlour" with "our."

…and British spelling.

So which is correct?

As you’ve probably already guessed, that’s a trick question. If you have friends from across the pond, you’ve most likely had this debate before. Americans abroad are often subject to (usually) good-natured criticism along the lines of “Speak real English!” Likewise, most Brits have probably been told that they “talk funny” or something of the sort. It’s worth pointing out that British speakers are usually more aware of linguistic differences, since they have greater exposure to American culture than vice versa.

Americans and Brits often argue over dialectical differences.

Linguistic debates have been known to get heated.

Of course, the truth is that there is no “right way” in and of itself. The correct way to say something depends on the context, just like every other linguistic variable does. In casual conversation, it doesn’t matter if you say “learned” or “learnt”: people will know what you mean. But when it comes to professional translation and content creation, the differences do matter. Always make sure you know the target style of each assignment. If it’s unclear what the client wants, pick one style and stick to it—consistency is key.

In general, the most important thing is to keep an open mind and be flexible. Translation and content creation are all about adapting your voice to suit the client’s needs and the audience’s context. The best way to optimize (or optimise) your writing is to adapt it to each and every project and situation you encounter. And when it comes to content, patriotism has no place—leave that for the Fourth of July festivities.


VeraContent is a multilingual content agency providing creative translation and copywriting services. We’re experts at adapting our content to suit your style; whether it’s American or British English.

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The psychology behind clickbait: what it is and why we fall for it

“You won’t believe your eyes!”

“Shocking secrets, revealed!”

“…and what happened next is unimaginable!”

Sound familiar?

You might have noticed that eye-catching article titles and questionable news stories—not to mention excessive exclamation points—are taking over your social media feeds. This kind of content, popularly known as “clickbait,” has been stalking internet users more and more in recent years. These seductive headlines lure you into opening an article that contains poor content—which the average person spends under 15 seconds reading.

In other words, companies are feeding off the human need to gain more knowledge in order to build revenue via clicks-per-page. And many of us continue to fall for these headlines on a daily basis—but why? To understand, first we need to define the phenomenon itself.

What is clickbait?

Merriam-Webster Dictionary incorporated the term in 2015, defining clickbait as “something (such as a headline) designed to make readers want to click on a hyperlink, especially when the link leads to content of dubious value or interest.” To put it plainly, it’s a link that sparks curiosity and generates traffic, but ultimately leads to low-quality content.

The origins of clickbait lie in yellow journalism. This journalistic style relies on attention-grabbing headlines designed to increase sales, rather than objective and well-researched facts. It was born in the 1890s, when newspaper magnates Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst were engaged in a furious competition for readership. They began using sensational titles in an attempt to attract readers as quickly as possible.

Another of the fathers of clickbait is journalist Vincent Musetto, who in 1983 covered a story about a bar owner being shot to death after an argument with a customer. Its title, “Headless body in topless bar,” is considered by many to be the first truly audacious headline. These kinds of developments set the tone for today’s digital battle for clicks and views, in a world where content is more abundant and accessible than ever before.

Vincent Musetto's sensational headline is an early example of clickbait's origins in journalism.

The infamous cover story (image courtesy of the New York Post)

Exploiting curiosity and clicks

Clickbait takes advantage of the human need to expand our knowledge, whether it be through funny cat videos, quantum physics, or that poorly-written article blowing up your Facebook feed. This universal human curiosity has been explained by George Loewenstein, an economics and psychology professor at Carnegie Mellon University, in his information gap theory. It states that humans have a constant, unsatisfied need to accumulate knowledge, whether it’s useful or not.

Information gap theory can help explain clickbait’s psychology when it comes to the reader—but on the company’s end, things are much more financially-motivated. Pay-per-click advertising allows companies to earn a fixed amount of money for each click or view an article receives. This creates a high demand for intriguing titles, but not so much for intriguing content. The initial click is the money-maker, so what comes after is much less important. As a result, articles are churned out faster and faster, with a corresponding drop in quality.

The power of post-click

Beyond the issues of low-quality content and greed, there’s also the problem of data collection. If audience perception is measured solely through clicks-per-page and views, the results won’t reflect the content’s true value. To obtain accurate and meaningful data, companies should shift their focus to post-click statistics: article sharing, movement to other articles, and the time spent on each one.

Post-click statistical measurement is slowly on the rise among companies, especially those focused on producing quality content and creating a loyal audience. This encourages marketing strategies that tap into a different part of human psychology: emotions. For example, it’s a widely known fact that advertisements and logos strategically utilize colors to manipulate consumers’ emotions—and motivate their purchases.

Articles can tap into readers' emotions to generate traffic and interest in content.

Angry readers means more likes

Similarly, articles can evoke emotions in readers that inform their post-click choices. Research has shown that when an article sparks anger, the viewer is more likely to “like” it. When a piece of content is inspirational, however, the viewer is more likely to share it. Using these emotional responses to engage readers and maximize viewership is an increasingly important marketing strategy.

The social media clickbait battle

The debate around clickbait is getting more heated by the day, enraging users across the vast expanse of the Internet. Some social media platforms are even considering changing their algorithms to reduce the amount of unwanted content on users’ feeds. Facebook, for example, has already taken concrete action to remove clickbait and fake news. One of their tactics consists of reviewing articles and labeling them as “disputed” if their content is of questionable quality. With 2 billion users worldwide and an infinite amount of circulating content, they’ve got a lot of work ahead of them—but it’s a start.

Hopefully, other platforms will follow Facebook’s lead and start implementing strategies to fight back against the clickbait invasion. If post-click analysis and a focus on emotional impact can successfully overtake the pay-per-click paradigm, our feeds will be all the better for it. With any luck, we’ll see a decline in low-quality articles and a spike in well-written, substantial, and meaningful content that treats readers with the respect they deserve.


VeraContent is a creative language agency producing high-quality content that aspires to more than spontaneous clicks. To see what we can do for you, consult our multilingual copywriting service page.

5 times you should drop the exclamation points in your writing

I’ll be honest; seeing too many exclamation points at once makes me slightly uncomfortable. It’s like talking to that one friend who yells at you during a casual conversation. Unless you’re speaking to your friendly, yet partially deaf abuela, there’s just no need to shout.

Similarly, putting an exclamation point at the end of every thought creates stress or excitement where none is warranted. I envision the writer reaching through the computer screen and shaking me to catch my attention. I call this sensation “exclamative discomfort.” These days it lurks around every corner, especially on social media—and even in the Tweets of some of the world’s most powerful people.

And okay, I’ll admit it; exclamation points are fun! Using them is like kicking off your shoes and not caring where they land! Once you start, you can’t stop! But the more you exclaim, the less exciting your words become. It’s like absinthe or red pepper flakes; a little goes a long way.

Using too many exclamation points is like yelling at someone standing right in front of you

Exclamation points: the written equivalent of yelling… or megaphones

Here are five places you should definitely check yourself on the exclamation points.

1. Work emails

Writing emails can be intimidating. Whether you’re sending a reminder to a co-worker or a proposal to a prospective client, piling on the exclamation points is as bad as writing the whole thing in capital letters (don’t even get me started on that).

Work emails occupy the gray area between a corporate memo and the free-for-all that is the Internet. You want to appear professional yet conversational; concise yet congenial. The best way to achieve this balance is through carefully chosen, evocative vocabulary—not excessive punctuation.

2. Article titles

A good article can draw you in with just the title. Effective titles give a sense of the content while grabbing your curiosity. You might think that exclamatory sentences will capture people’s attention, but the truth is that the title’s content is much more important than its punctuation.

If you want to create a truly interesting title, don’t rely on an exclamation point to do all the work for you. Adding one to a mediocre title will not improve it; it will simply show that you don’t know how to resist temptation.

The world's best newspapers use expressive language instead of language in their headlines.

The world’s best newspapers know that exclamation points don’t always make for good headlines

 3. Cover letters

The cover letter is like the resume’s more expressive cousin. Leaving behind the dates and logistics, it’s your chance to really talk yourself up. A good cover letter expresses who you are to your potential employer, and it might just land you that dream job.

While enthusiasm is appreciated in any work environment, your tone should remain professional. Exclaiming how badly you want the job or how fun it would be to work together (!!!) will not make you any more qualified. Keep the tone serious while expressing genuine interest in the work.

4. PowerPoint presentations

Visual presentations are a great way to share information. They offer a simple format with bullet points, graphs, definitions and images. In fact, presentations don’t need much punctuation at all.

In an informative presentation there should be no need for exclamations. The visual portion can help clarify or organize your talking points, but the presenter should be getting more attention than the slideshow. If you feel the need to express hope, surprise or urgency, use the expressive powers of voice instead of an exclamation point. 

A good PowerPoint presentation does not rely on exclamation points to express emotion and excitement.

Enchant your audience with your stellar presentation skills—not your punctuation

5. Advertising copy

The best print ads use creativity to connect a feeling to a product or service. The key here lies in word associations, stirring images and new perspectives. When I see an exclamation point in an advertisement I imagine this conversation:

   “I’m liking this copy, but I need to feel the excitement. How can we make the excitement more apparent?”

Adds exclamation point with Sharpie.

   “Perfect.”

Falling back on punctuation is tempting. But ultimately, more creative solutions exist for those willing to work a bit harder.

Expression vs. exclamation

It’s true that there are times when nothing will do but a good ol’ exclamation point. But in today’s digital world, we’re talking less and less, relying instead on exciting punctuation and emojis to make up for a lack of facial expressions, body language and inflection.

Emojis are used to express emotion, but they're no substitute for well-written text.

Emojis are great, but they can’t replace powerful language

There’s often a need to more accurately express all the emotion that can be lost when putting our thoughts into writing. We look at a sentence and think, “Does this come off too harsh? Do these words express what I’m feeling?”

When the answer is no, too often we think throwing an exclamation point at the end of a statement will pump emotion through every word. Resist that urge and believe in your writing skills. A well-formed sentence can express excitement on its own.

So here’s my challenge to you as a writer: drop those extra exclamation points. Then take the opportunity to get creative and make your words pop off the page all by themselves. No yelling necessary.


Need some help with your content? VeraContent is a creative language agency that produces expressive and exciting material—without excessive exclamation points.

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A short history of punctuation (and why it’s an essential part of communication)

The tiny dots and dashes sprinkled throughout every piece of writing we read may at first seem trivial, but we often underestimate how vital punctuation is to giving words their intended meaning and communicating effectively. The example often cited to demonstrate this point is “the panda eats, shoots and leaves”. Remove the comma and the sentence changes from sinister to the more informative, “the panda eats shoots and leaves”.

Punctuation is viewed as something necessary for reading comprehension, but this wasn’t always the case. Humans recorded their actions and thoughts in writing long before the invention of punctuation. So how could they possibly decipher the meaning of written documents that provided no indication of where one phrase ended and another began? The answer is actually quite simple: writing simply wasn’t as important back then.

In the past, more emphasis was placed on spoken word. This was especially true in Ancient Greece and Rome where politics centered on verbal debates. It was not until the third century BC that Aristophanes, a librarian living in Alexandria, suggested what would become the first set of punctuation marks. The comma, colon, and periodos were represented by a dot of ink in the middle, bottom, or top of a line respectively. Each mark indicated a different length of pause and was a great aid to readers who, in those days, had to wade through texts multiple times before even hoping to grasp their meaning.

The Bible featured one of the first uses of punctuation

The Bible featured one of the first uses of punctuation

Marks such as these soon became popular with orators and actors, who used them as speaking cues to improve their speeches or to give better performances. The popularity of punctuation was in flux over the years that followed, though, with some choosing to use Aristophanes’ rules where others rejected them. The copying and distribution of the Christian Bible was punctuation’s own saving grace. Punctuation marks were included to help people read the Bible aloud, and since the book was widely distributed across a large geographic area, the marks became normalized and were more regularly incorporated in written works.

Like any aspect of language, punctuation has evolved over time. Languages that originally did not include any form of punctuation, such as Arabic and Urdu, began to include these markings due to Western influence. The usage and appearance of punctuation continues to evolve. At one point, the interrobang, though short-lived, was introduced to express exclamation and question. French author Hervé Basin made the argument to include six new punctuation marks, including the point d’ironie (irony point), the point d’amour (love point), the point de conviction (certitude point), the point d’autorité (authority point), the point d’acclamation (acclamation point), and the point de doute (doubt point) in an attempt to approximate the full spoken meaning of language in writing. Today, some would say that emojis could be classified as a new form of punctuation, in the sense that they follow their own set of grammatical rules and help add meaning.

Variance in punctuation is not limited to time, but is also quite noticeable across geographic and linguistic boundaries. Different languages have unique punctuation marks they use to convey a specific meaning. For example, Spanish and Catalan use inverted question marks and exclamation points at the beginning of sentences to clarify the tone of the sentence. The Armenian language uses a colon to represent a full-stop where English would use a period. In Arabic, Urdu, and Persian, which are all written from right to left, reversed question marks and commas are used. Japanese has round, unfilled periods.

The diversity of punctuation across languages is especially relevant in the context of translation. Punctuation has the power to give the same words written in the same order completely different meanings (like the panda sentence from before).

Punctuation mishaps

Punctuation can be the defining factor in whether or not you give your dear old grandmother a heart attack.

Therefore, it becomes incredibly important for the translator to incorporate punctuation effectively in order to convey the intended meaning of the translated work.  Avoiding this miscommunication when translating requires doing the necessary research to determine the punctuation differences between the source language and the target language. 

Far from being negligible marks placed behind letters and words, punctuation is an integral part of language. Punctuation, in the context of a sentence, becomes a unit of meaning without which we simply wouldn’t be able to grasp the true meaning as the writer intended. In the words of Edgar Allen Poe, “the writer who neglects punctuation, or mispunctuates, is liable to be misunderstood.”


Concerned your punctuation isn’t quite up to scratch? Let VeraContent’s dedicated proofreading team take a look at your content before you give the wrong impression.

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How to write a killer crowdfunding campaign pitch

Crowdfunding has been one of the biggest upheavals to the business world. It has shifted the control of investment and enabled a whole new generation of entrepreneurs to bring their visions to life. But not every crowdfunding campaign turns to gold. Here are five key steps for how to nail your pitch.

Choose the right crowdfunding platform

Before you start building your crowdfunding campaign, you’ll need to choose a home for it. Many entrepreneurs are getting off the ground using established crowdfunding websites. These sites offer a huge boost in visibility,  but they often hit you with high fees which can put a real dent in your funds. You may want to consider one of the smaller sites, each with their own benefits and niches.

The most high-profile option is Kickstarter. The site is mainly for creative and tech projects and has an all-or-nothing funding policy. This means that if your campaign doesn’t reach its funding goal, none of the backers pay you anything. This has its disadvantages, but also reduces the risk for backers so they’re more likely to fund your project. Kickstarter’s main competitor Indiegogo is quickly catching up by offering more flexibility. It allows the all-or-nothing funding method, but also has the option of flexible funding, whereby you keep however much you’ve been pledged. Indiegogo also has a lot more campaign options.

IndieGoGo or KickStarter?

IndieGoGo offers more flexible funding options than competitor Kickstarter

The other giant currently on the crowdfunding scene is GoFundMe. This site is primarily geared towards individuals for personal needs rather than business ventures. GoFundMe is full of nice reminders of how generous strangers can be, but the site has been criticized for its usage fees. YouCaring has less name recognition, but is considered a strong alternative with no cost to use other than credit card processing fees.

Find the hook for your pitch

Once you have your platform, it’s time to start writing the pitch itself. Like any marketing campaign, it’s important to determine the problem your product solves and make your solution compelling to backers. 

If English isn’t your native language, you’ll likely want a multilingual content agency to prepare it for you, or at least edit it. You may also want to offer your pitch in multiple languages, which can be a bit tricky. Kickstarter doesn’t have the option to change the language, so you’ll have to put your translation on the same page, which could more than double the amount of copy your potential backers will have to read throughso keep it simple and concise.

If you really want your campaign to go viral, a well-made video is a great idea. This works especially well if your product is at all visually interesting, or if it does something cool that can be demonstrated. Smart gadget videos are catnip to Facebook sharers and their procrastinating friends. Invest in help if nobody on your team is savvy enough to make a good video. It will pay off. Also, bear in mind your video will need to be translated if you’re offering your pitch in multiple languages, although subtitles could be a simpler option.

In terms of style, phrases like “receive” and “offer” will pull better results than words like “help” and “support”. Make it clear why you need the money and why you’ve decided to crowdfund. People can be kind, but they’re also pragmatic; they want to know what’s in it for them. Speaking of which…

Make the backer rewards appealing

The most important thing in any marketing campaign is to make people want your product, but in crowdfunding, there’s an intermediate item to sell: your backer rewards. These are the bonuses that backers get for contributing, generally with a scale of increased rewards for larger contributions.

How to offer Kickstarter rewards

Make your rewards appealing and you’ll attract more backers, as this one from Bishop Games demonstrates

Don’t underestimate the power of these rewards. We all love free stuff, even when it’s not really free. Someone who’s teetering on the edge of backing you might well be convinced by a good reward. Set at least five reward levels, with each level getting all the benefits of those below it, plus something extra.

Be sure to have a stretch level as well—something way higher than you might imagine anyone would pay. Even if nobody forks out $10,000 to back your artisanal macaroni and get a custom piece of their face, you never know. It shows you take your project seriously and expect it to be a success.

See how others are crowdfunding

It’s always a good idea to peruse your competition. Most crowdfunding sites have a homepage that features high-traffic campaigns. Go see what they’re doing right!

Timebound - a succesful Kickstarter campaign

One of the top campaigns on Kickstarter recently was Timebound, an app that teaches you about history. That doesn’t sound like an obvious winner,  but the campaign surpassed its $20,000 goal in a short period. Why? It brands itself as “the app that makes time travel possible,” with the tagline “Live through the most important events in history—in real time!” That’s the kind of magic that people visit crowdfunding sites for. That’s not to say you can only succeed if your product promises actual science fiction, but almost anything can engage a certain spirit of adventure.

Get the world watching

Once you have a well-written campaign page with fabulous rewards, it’s time to get the world’s attention. Start by using any leverage you already have. It’s not unreasonable to post some sort of reminder about your campaign to your company’s social media every day. You can even start hyping it up before it actually launches. Just don’t bash people over the head with it.

Call on any famous friends your company has that can give you a boost. One tweet from a big name can change the life of a crowdfunding campaign. This is another thing you can be working on well before your campaign actually launches. People are more likely to support something that others are already supporting. 

 

There will always be a certain amount of luck involved in wooing crowdfunders, but all of these strategies will help ready your campaign for greatness. If you really want to get ahead, think about hiring someone who specializes in writing for crowdfunding. Experience with successful campaigns goes a long way to teach someone what works. This is why if you’re tackling the job on your own, researching successful campaigns is a great idea.

Crowdfunding ventures flop every day, but if you strike gold, your life could change overnight. With such bright possibilities, it’s no wonder crowdfunding is gaining so much traction. We hope these steps bring you closer to your golden ticket.


Need someone to take the stress out of writing your crowdfunding campaign? Whether it’s a multilingual pitch or in one language, VeraContent’s experienced multilingual copywriting and marketing team would be happy to discuss your project and make sure your crowdfunding campaign is a success.

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The psychology of good web design

Making a great first impression is important, and that goes double for websites. If you’re designing a multilingual website for your business, consider harnessing these subconscious influences for maximum effect. Read on for five small things that can make a big difference to your website.

Color

If asked to associate colors with feelings, most of us could easily rattle off some common clichés—blue and green are calming, red is energizing, purple is royal and sophisticated… The trouble with laying out a hard and fast index of color associations is that in practice, color meanings are often very subjective. One person might have a garden full of daffodils and see yellow as a happy energizing color, while someone else might remember the time they ate five bananas in a row and felt queasy. 

Website colors

The colors you use in your website can speak volumes about your brand

So you can’t put too much stake in your color choices sending a crystal-clear message. The best you can do is make sure your color choices doesn’t obviously clash with your brand’s identity. Pull up any famous logo and it’s not too difficult to work out why its colors were chosen. For example, notice how the discount store chain Target, which aims to be unpretentious and “of the people”, uses a simple unpretentious primary red. The same goes for McDonald’s friendly color scheme: eye-catching yellow and hunger-inducing red (most fast-food chains opt for red because it’s said to trigger appetite).

Meanwhile, Chipotle, the sophisticated side of American fast food, uses a deeper maroon hue. Imagine if Target’s logo was a dove-gray fleur de lis, or if Chipotle branded itself with neon orange. It would change the image entirely, and you would feel instinctively that something was wrong. These considerations are vital when designing a website, especially a multilingual website where colors can also have cultural significance.

Contrast

Color contrast adds interest and guides a viewer around a webpage. Our eyes are drawn to contrast, and we also remember information longer when it stands out visually. So if you want to get people to click on a certain button or remember a name or phrase, make it pop, like a bright red against a field of pale blue.  

If you’re using WordPress or another helpful platform for your site, you can take advantage of the pre-set color scheme options. These are nice tools for those who aren’t trained in graphic design. They let you get a more complex-looking final product without risking color clash, because they pre-pair shades that work well together.

Font

When it comes to typefaces, you must once again think hard about your brand and what qualities your core customer will be looking for. An elaborate script could intrigue a luxury shoe shopper, but strike someone looking for combat boots as snobby and bourgeois. A slick sans-serif font could speak to a hipster seeking a metropolitan hotel but come off as flighty and untrustworthy to a family that needs a bank.  

Website fonts

This font might look great on paper, but online it might be harder to read

Also important to pay attention to is the combinations of different fonts your webpage uses. If your page is too uniform, it can be like speaking in a monotone voice; everything would run together and the viewer might lose the sense of how to navigate the page. Contrast principles of color apply to fonts as well. If you want a headline or phrase to stand out, make it bold and sans-serif where the rest of the page is more delicate, or curly and ornate where its surroundings are utilitarian. If you want to keep things simple, there’s also the option of sticking to different versions of one font, adjusting the size, boldness, or italics.

When translating your website into multiple languages, be sure to check out how each language looks in your chosen font in case certain characters don’t display clearly.

Spacing

We rarely pay attention to a page’s spacing when it’s done well, but we notice if it’s out of whack. Spacing affects all elements of your webpage. Lines of text must be spaced so the reader doesn’t get them mixed up, but also doesn’t have to leap too far from one to the next. Both of these defects can make the information hard to follow. Different sections of text should be arranged on the page so that it’s clear where one ends and another begins.

In addition, pay attention to the overall composition of the page. Is there enough negative space, with no text or images filling it? If your site is a wall of words or too busy, a visitor might be overwhelmed. If one page is overstuffed with content, consider breaking it up into sub-pages, making sure there’s an easy-to-navigate menu. Let viewers get your message at a comfortable pace, not as an info dump.

Multilingual websites must take special consideration for spacing as formatting can unfortunately change with the text.

Mobile compatibility

Your work isn’t done when your website is a beautiful symphony of color and typeface. It will all be for naught if you haven’t made it compatible with mobile devices. These days, a big portion of your viewers will be browsing from their phone or tablet, and they won’t be impressed if the content is garbled or won’t load. Even if they stick around and suffer through it, a mediocre site reflects badly on your competence.ç

Mobile compatibility

Not having a well-designed mobile site today can lose you valuable users

Luckily, WordPress and other website builders can handle this issue for you. If there’s an option to create a mobile version of your site, take it. You might wish everyone could see your desktop site in its full glory, but it’s better to accept the limitations and take control of your brand’s mobile face. A mobile site should generally be simpler and less cluttered to cut back on tiny touch-screen buttons and frustrating wrong clicks. Pictures are always attention grabbing, so be sure they show up on mobile devices. On WordPress, it helps to save your images and upload them to the blog photo library, rather than copying and pasting. This will make them more stable and less likely to malfunction across platforms.

Be sure to check your mobile site thoroughly in every language it offers as formatting errors can occur on the small screen that don’t necessarily affect the desktop version.

Put it to the test

Once you think you’ve got your site design as tight as possible, it’s time to do some testing. The most obvious way to do this is to have members of your team look at it and pick out anything awkward or distracting. A pair of eyes besides your own will be helpful; it’s hard to see something objectively when you’ve been staring at it for too long.

However, to really test your site, you’ll need outside help, people who can mimic potential customers. Be clear on what concrete outcomes you want from your website. Do you want visitors to make a purchase, join a mailing list, or request more information? These specific results are what web designers call conversions.

A great way to test conversion success is with A/B testing. A/B testing shows a pool of subjects two different versions of a page, and tracks which version most often produced the desired click. Google Analytics offers an A/B testing service; this is a great proactive step to optimizing your site.

Web design is a specialized career, and this guide is of course no substitute for those years of study. But if you’re still getting off the ground and don’t have a design team, these key considerations are a good place to start. 


Don’t launch a live version of your multilingual website if you’re not 100% sure the language, tone and style is accurate. VeraContent offers proofreading, translation and copywriting services to make sure your multilingual website launch goes off without a hitch.