John M. Wills

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Search Engine Optimization

isAll of us with websites and blogs constantly try to devise ways to drive traffic to our sites. Good writing, coupled with keywords, are a part of that strategy. However, the game keeps changing and what worked yesterday may not work as well today. There is a new technique known as “The Long Tail Keyword.” I stumbled upon this concept as I searched for ways to optimize my blog. I give full attribution to the website, eHow, for the following information:

The Long Tail Keyword is King

Optimizing your website with a high-ranking, generic keyword will do little to generate traffic. A generic keyword such as “tablet computer” will simply have too much competition for you to have a shot at getting into the first page of search engine results. Instead, the so-called “long tail” strategy works best — and that is to focus on longer key phrases, written in natural speech, which will be used to guide users to specific and often localized information. Of course, there is a place for the shorter keywords in each page’s metadata, although Google now puts more emphasis on actual, visible content than those invisible indicators.


Your Web page that includes the word “tablet computer” may come in on page 25 of the search engine results, but you’ll have a better chance of getting to page one if you optimize on something more specific, like “How do I fix my tablet computer,” or “tablet computer won’t boot,” or “adding games to a tablet computer.” Search engine optimization has changed significantly over the last few years, and SEO experts have to think less like a machine, and more like a human. And that’s the key to good writing.

To read the entire article, How to Use SEO Keywords, copy and paste this link in your browser:

On Freelance Writing

For a freelance writer, writing non-fiction can be challenging, particularly if you’re attempting to write for profit. If you have a certain expertise, it only makes sense you’d want to write about that topic. If you’re a new freelancer, study the particular magazine or website you’re interested in writing for. What’s their style, what are the popular topics? How does your writing compare with those who’ve been published already? What about word count? (Typically, 600-1200 words for an internet article.)

isSometimes you may not have to be an expert in the field about which you’re writing. I once had a freelance job writing web content for a world-wide trucking corporation. I know very little about the transportation industry, but by studying what had already been written I was able to rewrite their web content and make it more contemporary and readable.

Another problem with non-fiction is creativity and originality. I have been writing a monthly article for a popular law enforcement website for the past fourteen years. Coming up with a hot topic or original concept is a constant challenge. How do I do it? Simply by following the news and seeing what’s current—what’s impacting the genre in which I write? However, remember what you write today may be old news by the time it gets published. So if you write your article and submit it a couple of weeks before deadline, be certain your article still has value when it appears online.

The good thing about freelance writing is there are myriad outlets to write for, both fiction and non-fiction. However, non-fiction will likely get you paid for your efforts. Regardless, seeing your byline will always have intrinsic value and put a smile on your face.


Common Grammatical Errors

Grammatical errors that bear mentioning again.

Grammar_nimishgoelSome seem like common sense, however, writers continue to make the same mistakes. I’ve listed a few of them below:

  • Mixing tense. This error is common.
  • Using too many dialogue tags, e.g., he said, she said, particularly when only two people are speaking.
  • Clichés—avoid them. You can program MS Word to catch them by using the Help menu.
  • Eliminate the word, that, whenever you can. And don’t use “it” and “thing,” they’re too vague.
  • It’s TV or television, but not T.V.
  • ID or identification, but not I.D.
  • These words at the beginning of a sentence do not require a comma:
    • But
    • And
    • So
    • Perhaps
    • Yet
  • These words do require a comma:
    • However,
    • Nonetheless,
    • For example,
    • For instance,
  • British spellings are often different from American:
British American
Grey Gray
Towards Toward
Backwards Backward
Colour Color
Realize realize

More About Self-Editing And Robots?

If you’re like me, self-editing never works flawlessly. I consistently miss things which are obvious to another person reading my work. Misspelled or out of context words, missing punctuation and missing words, are often overlooked because the brain automatically knows what should be there and has us see it that way. For those reasons, it’s a sound idea to become part of a critique group so others can catch the errors you aren’t able to spot.f4ac3a9d547faa821a034891bcf27708

However, I recently discovered two other ways to uncover mistakes in my writing, thanks to Chris Weller at Tech News. Both are a bit uncomfortable and unconventional, which is why they will likely work.

First, change the font. With conventional or attractive fonts such as Times New Roman or Calibri, the mind works effortlessly through a passage. But if you change a particularly challenging selection of your work to say, Comic Sans, a party-type font, it causes the mind to work harder to make sense of the information. Weller says, “Errors stand out more, because as the science of learning has discovered, the more difficult a task is, the more of our mental resources we’ll automatically put toward it.”

Second, make a robot read it aloud.

Feed the passage or selection into a text-to-speech generator. I experimented with Natural Reader and found it easy to work with. If you don’t like this free software, there are others on the internet to choose from. The strange robotic-type voice causes you to listen carefully, thus, catching errors you may have missed previously.

These two methods may be just the thing that helps you in the editing process, particularly if you have spent a lot of time on a piece. Working with fresh eyes, or in this case, a new tool, makes the obvious, well, obvious once again.

What type of edit do I need?


You need an editor, but what type of edit are you seeking? There’s a lack of knowledge about editing , particularly among new writers, and it can have a huge impact on your work. Let me give you an overview of the different types of edits, just in case you are considering having someone go over your manuscript or other piece of writing.

Copy editing

This covers the basics, to include spelling, typos, punctuation, and grammar. It may also cover word usage, style, and jargon. A good editor can usually accomplish this task within three business days. Sometimes, copy editing is referred to as proofreading.

Line editing

This form checks for sentence clarity, overuse of adverbs and adjectives, run-on sentences, opening words of paragraphs and sentences. Line editing also checks consistency of chapter titles, names, titles, etc. Your manuscript is examined line by line, and line editing is the most common editing request.

Substantive editing

This editing is the most exhaustive examination of your manuscript. It will include rewriting, moving blocks of text from one section to another, looking at structure, logical consistency, and organization. This form also looks at POV, plot, and readability. Since changes may sometimes be major, turnaround times are negotiable, and generally, one revision is included at no extra charge.

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