Although the English language originates from England, it is one of the most spoken languages in the world and has spread to all corners of the globe. Countries where English is the first language are predominately those who were colonised by Great Britain at one point. Around 400 million people are native English speakers however in total there are over 1 billion people who can speak the language. Due to this there are lots of different variations of grammar, spelling and pronunciation.
For such a small area of land, the United Kingdom really has a ridiculous amount of regional dialects and expressions. I lived and worked in Edinburgh for a year and everyone I met knew I wasn’t brought up there (Edinburgh is only about 35 miles from my home town!). Likewise, Liverpool and Manchester are only 30 minutes away from each other by car yet their dialects are chalk and cheese.
In the last few years I have been lucky enough to have lived in Australia, New Zealand and Asia. I have also been to the USA a few times so I have been in contact with many different native English speakers as well as those who speak International English as a second language and seen first hand how much the language has evolved.
Of course, as I said at the start of this post, English has not only evolved verbally around the world, different countries also have different variations of grammar, spelling and pronunciation. Even though there are so many different dialects in the UK, the written form of English is quite consistent throughout the country because of a shared education system and because everyone watches the same TV stations.
However, I strongly believe that that in the next 30 years there will be more convergence towards a standardised form of English across the world. There will still be thousands of different dialects but the written form will be more consistent across the globe. The internet will of course be a huge factor in this as will television and other media.
American English VS British English
You may be wondering why, with so many different countries speaking English, I have singled out American and British English. There are three main reasons for this.
- First of all, British English is the variation of English which was taken to all native English speaking countries therefore it is the form which most variations have spawned from.
- Secondly, American English is spoken by around two thirds of native English speakers therefore it is the form which is influencing other forms of English the most (via the internet, books, tv and other media).
- Lastly, American English is the form which has influenced my written English a lot in the last few years.
The last point is my main inspiration behind this post. You see, during University my written English could best be described as British English with some influence from Scottish English on how I construct sentences. However in the last few years my written English has developed into some kind of bastardised hybrid of American and British English. This has developed due to the time I spend working online.
There are many differences between American and British English however the most notable is the difference in spelling of certain words. For example, American English uses f instead of ph in many words, it uses o instead of ou and it uses a z in many words where British English would use an s.
My strange hybrid form of English
I have been aware of the fact that I use some American English spelling for some time however something happened yesterday that made me take a closer look at how just how bad it was. For the record, I don’t believe that either form of English is right or wrong, however this example will show you why having a mixed up version of it can look really bad.
I was writing an article the other day and used the word color. The British English spelling of this is of course colour (ie. ou instead of o) and it’s this spelling which I used up until a few years ago. For years I have used the spelling color on a regular basis as it’s the spelling which is used in HTML, CSS and other programming languages. It was inevitable that I would use this spelling because I was using it on such a frequent basis. At first I tried to fight it and would go back and add the letter u but over time I got lazier and eventually just used the American spelling (A vast majority of people reading my posts were from North America anyways so I didn’t think it would be a major problem).
However, the other day I noticed that shortly after using the word color I had wrote the word colourful ie. for the noun I used the American spelling and for the adjective I had used the British spelling. When I looked back at the paragraph it looked strange to say the least. The funny thing is, I know it doesn’t look right together however individually my brain thinks that color is the correct spelling to use and that colourful is the correct spelling too (instead of colorful).
I also use center and centre interchangeably, another problem which has been caused by programming a lot. Common programming words aside, another bad habit I have is checking the spelling of words online by typing them into Google. Quite frequently this brings up results using the American spelling. Frequent searches have highlighted the fact that many other British people are being influenced by the American spelling of words and perhaps there are others out there who use British spelling for some words and American spelling for others.
American English creeping into the UK
As someone who has been influenced greatly by the American English form, I’m not too surprised that other native English speakers from the UK are being influenced too. For example, I have seen some UK websites use the date format month-day-year instead of day-month-year (which seems to have annoyed some people greatly). It is also becoming common for the American spelling of words to be used.
For example, familiarise is the British spelling of the verb to be familar with something whereas the American spelling is familiarize. If you search for familiarise on Google UK you will notice that Google asks if you mean familiarize ie. the American spelling. When you do click on the American spelling you will see that thousands of mainstream UK websites are using the American spelling of this word instead of the British one.
Other native English speaking countries like Australia and New Zealand are obviously being influenced by American English too however there are less differences in spelling so perhaps it’s less of an issue.
The search results for familiarize surprised me a little and showed that many other British people are using the American spelling of words from time to time too. I do believe that over time there is going to be less differences between the different forms of English. Internet usage in English speaking countries is very high and for most people the internet is where they will do the majority of their writing so it makes I think it would be impossible not to be influenced by the way other people use English.
This is an interesting subject and one which I admit I don’t know all the answers to. Do International readers mind posts which has words spelled in the British English way? Do readers mind posts with some words spelled in American English and some spelled in British English?
I’d love to hear what readers think about this, particularly if you believe that your English grammar or spelling been influenced from using the internet a lot 🙂
The Do’s and Don’ts of Writing Your Very First Blog Post
Your very first blog post is a very big deal.
For businesses, it’s their way of attracting more clients by creating content that resonates with your target audience.
For hobbyists, it’s their chance to of sharing to the world your thoughts and ideas about their topics of choice.
Either way, nothing validates your online identity more than a well-written blog post.
Therefore, you need to make the most of this opportunity by writing the best possible blog post. Assuming that you don’t have much experience in writing, you can always keep things simple by following the basic do’s and don’ts of writing a blog post for the very first time.
Do: Come up with a topic that your audience would like
The success of bloggers stems from the ability to determine what their audience wants to read. To reach their primary goals, bloggers must appeal to the need of their target readers for useful and relevant information. Doing so allows them to attract lots of visitors with the content they publish, resulting in increased conversion rates.
Therefore, you need to approach blogging deliberately. You can’t just pull a topic out of thin air and expect your audience to come in droves. You must find out what makes your readers ticks and what their wants and needs are.
That means research, research, and more research!
First, you need to come up with a reader persona that you will target for your post and the succeeding ones. The persona you will develop will embody your demographic such as age, gender, hobbies, and others. Researching these factors will help you refine how you will write your post and what you will write about. From here, unearthing blog post ideas to write about will become much more convenient for you.
Don’t: Veer away from your branding and persona
Your brand is what defines you online. Your audience will associate all your online activity with the brand you’ve developed. Part of your brand is the persona you project from the blog posts you will write.
The best blogs exhibit unique voices that set them apart from the rest. The Onion is popular for its tongue-in-cheek humor veiled in satire. Lifehacker is famous for producing informative blog content geared towards readers who want to find ways to simplify their lives.
The brand and persona these sites exude help bloggers develop consistency in their writing. By observing their persona on all the posts they write at all times, they allow readers to create a level of expectation every time you publish a post. By meeting their expectations with every post you write, you can develop a sustainable stream of blog traffic over a period.
Therefore, it is crucial that you develop a writing voice that resonates with your readers and then sticking with it. You need to play your brand and persona across all your blog posts, starting with the very first post you’ll be writing.
Do: Edit before publishing
Before hitting the “Publish” button, you need to make sure that there are no grammar mistakes and errors in your writing. Your command of the language is crucial if you want to send the right message to your readers.
A post that’s filled with errors will cause readers to leave your blog and possibly not read another post from you. If you can’t write correctly, then why should your audience read your posts?
Double-checking your post and reading it again can do wonders for your edits. It’s best to take time between finishing the post and reading it for review. The time allows you to get your mind off from writing so you will have a fresh perspective on the post, which lets you spot errors easier.
If you’re not comfortable with your editing skills, then you could use tools like Grammarly and Hemingway Editor. Both will make recommendations on how to tighten your sentences and improve your blog post. Keep in mind, however, that these tools are meant to complement your editing process and not replace it entirely.
Don’t: Worry about word count
If you’re counting words when writing your post, then you’re blogging for the wrong reasons.
When writing, your focus should be communicating ideas as clearly as possible.
For SEO reasons, you want your post to be as long as possible. According to the latest studies, your post should be at least 1,890 words if you want to rank on top of Google Search.
However, if you can’t reach that many numbers of words, you don’t have to beat yourself up about it. Having lots of words doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a great post.
What’s more important is that you can share everything that your readers need to know about the topic. By focusing on the quality of the post and not the number of words, you can engage your audience and keep them longing for more.
Do: Promote your post
Promoting your post is not part of the writing process. However, part of your job as a full-fledged blogger is to be a marketer as well.
Sharing your first blog post is your step towards reaching out to your online audience. After all, your post won’t promote itself. You need to proactive share your blog post to the right channels, so you show it to as many people interested in your topic as possible.
One of the best ways to promote your post online is to hop on Facebook and Twitter.
“If you have created high-quality content on your blog then social media is a great way to your blog to go viral.” said Scott Chow of The Blog Starter.
You can also submit your post on platforms that allow you to reach out to your audience more effectively. I have detailed the best sites where you can send your post for promotion in this article.
Don’t: Set unrealistic goals
Starting at the bottom and working your way up to where thousands of blogs are also vying for the attention of your readers will be a tumultuous journey. Therefore, you have to curb your expectations as a blogger. It is ideal to set the bar with attainable goals in mind instead of aiming for the moon.
Don’t get me wrong – reaching thousands of visitors for your blog post in a day is not impossible. However, like catching lightning in a jar, it’s more improbable than anything else. In fact, this problem is what plagues most bloggers. They set high goals that are difficult to achieve. As a result, they get discouraged once they realize that they can’t fulfill them and stop blogging altogether.
Therefore, it’s always better to follow a tried-and-true template that you can sustain for a long period. You don’t want to be one of those flash-in-the-pan bloggers who fizzle out as fast as they started.
Did I miss any other tips for first-time bloggers in preparation for their very first post? Chime in with your advice by commenting below!
4 Tips for Effectively Training New Hires and Freelance Writers
You’ve been interviewing prospective job candidates for weeks. Whether this has been for adding talent to your existing company, or if you’ve been looking for some qualified blog writers, the process is quite overwhelming, yet one that needs to take place. You’ve narrowed down the field, compared resumes and extended an offer. Soon, you’ll have a bright-eyed new employee walking through your door, eager to get started. Are you prepared for the onboarding process?
Handing each new employee, a packet to read at their desk doesn’t cut it these days. In order to help new hires hit the ground running with their duties and acclimate to your work environment, you’ll need to utilize more dynamic methods for effectively training new hires. Here are four tips to help you get started.
Prioritize Need-to-Know Material
Training includes a veritable avalanche of information—like a general company overview, employer-specific policies, human resources information and specific job duties. It’s your job to equip your team members with everything they need to thrive. So, where do you start? This is also usually simple enough when looking to hire freelance writers or new blog team members, as there are many online job boards that allow you to fill in the needs and requirements you are looking for, while also having the ability to weed out any leads that don’t fit.
Create an outline that breaks down different training sessions into manageable chunks. This way, you’ll provide some foresight to the new hires and keep them from getting overwhelmed. For example, on their first day, you could start with job-specific information: frequently used programs and files, chain of command within their team and department and the location of hotspots like bathrooms, break rooms, conference rooms, HR, etc. The next day, the new hire can easily see that they’ll be learning about a broad company and departmental overview, project management and communication best practices within the office. After that, they’ll tackle short- and long-term goals and KPIs that show they’re doing well in their new job.
Take it one day at a time, based on order of importance.
Make It Interactive and Engaging
Passive presentations make it all too easy for new hires to forget material almost as soon as they learn it. Remember, they’re encountering new information left and right. To make it stick, you’ll have to make it extra engaging. Delivering an interactive presentation with crowdsourcing tools like Poll Everywhere will wake them up, collect their honest thoughts and make them feel like part of the team right off the bat. Instead of listening to a one-way stream of information, new hires can grab their mobile devices and get involved.
Create a Longer-Term Plan
Whew, you survived the first day of training. Your newest batch of hires are basically onboard, right? Not so fast. You need a long-term plan to ensure a smooth process over time. One HR manager uses an onboarding checklist complete with agendas for the first week and first month—including future training sessions, group lunches and manager check-ins. This way, the employee knows that they’re not suddenly on their own after the first round of introductions; they have resources, a plan and scheduled times to ask questions and provide feedback.
Assign a Concrete Task
Training often feels theoretical for new hires; they’re left wondering “but how does this connect to my job?” One way to drive the points made in training home is to assign a relevant task after a learning session. It should relate to their daily duties and allow them to learn (and make mistakes) as they go. They will be able to put the principles they learned in general training into actual use on an actual assignment! At the end, a manager can go over the results with them in a helpful way, pointing out things they did well and how they can improve in the future.
These four tips for effectively training new hires should help you with the onboarding process, but be sure to experiment and come up with a system that works for your company. After all, onboarding is the first impression new employees get and it factors heavily into company culture. If you want to build a success blog, brand or business on the internet today, you need to make sure you are building a quality and talented team around you.
How to Give Personality and Life to Your Blog
In the sea of content, competing for the attention of your audience, your blog needs to sizzle with personality in order to stand out and make a lasting impression.
Remember even if you offer the best suggestions and advice when delivered badly, is not going to make the slightest of an impression.
When a reader first visits your blog, they evaluate your content to see if you are worth their time. If you lack a blog theme, you will not be able to build a strong personality that can pass through reader’s screening tests resulting in your content being ignored and eventually forgotten.
So how do you add personality to your blog and how do you give it a voice? Here are some tips:
1. Don’t be Switzerland – take a stand
Well, the hate comments and reviews you receive when you take a stand can be demoralizing and so, often, it’s easy to take a neutral position and write content that is devoid of opinions. But what you are really doing is diluting your content’s potential and by extension, your blog’s personality.
In fact, strong and powerful influencers or brands always have negative judgments following them around. Taking neutral positions just to dodge them isn’t going to help you build a blog with a personality.
Your experiences, your perspective, and your learnings are your own. Present them to your crowd unadulterated and undiluted.
Additionally, the way you express your opinion matters too. When saying something that goes against the popular belief, instead of throwing a rude short statement at your readers, explain why you think the way you do.
One of the best exercises to get an understanding of the kinds of opinions your blog might generate – start from your own team.
Share your blog content with your team, collect and interpret the different shades of opinions that your team members might form after reading your blog. It helps to prepare arguments in advance to tackle potential criticisms. This gives a distinct personality to your blog of not only giving hard hitting opinions but also proudly standing beside them.
In the end, users might not agree with you but they will respect you and your opinions – that’s just damn good PR.
2. Build a niche audience
Many bloggers want to cater to a large ‘general audience’, instead of figuring what is it that they can best offer and what type of audience would resonate with their messages.
So the first thing to do is to understand what type of people you can and want to cater to. Figuring that out will help you discover your niche.
Instead of supplying vague generic content for everyone’s appeasement, provide super high-quality content that might interest relatively fewer people. This is your target audience and they are worth your time. Because these audiences are the ones that will get you real results be it through shares or profits.
To find your niche audience, carry out regular customer feedback surveys. They help you understand your target audience’ tastes and preferences better. Using the insights, you can come up with blog topics which are relevant to their taste.
Creating a blog personality or brand that resonates with both you and your audience is important; it allows genuine engagement among a niche audience, providing quality over quantity.
3. Write in the first person and offer narratives and anecdotes
Sentences like ‘One must never eat after 6 PM’, ‘One must sleep for 8 hours’ etc. sound very distant and preachy. Using objective language like that can put a barrier between you and the reader.
Alternatively, using ‘I’ and ‘You’ completely changes the tone of the content and is so much more engaging.
Also, writing in a narrative, conversational style is much lighter than a bookish style of writing. If your audience wanted to read white papers and newspaper pieces, they wouldn’t have come to a blog, would they?
Anecdotes are another powerful way to offer advice and connect with your audience. It can help you communicate who you are as a person and what your blog stands for. Plus, a good anecdote gives validity to whatever advice/tips/suggestions you are giving on the blog.
The only way to have a lasting impression is to get creative with your content and stories/anecdotes are the best way to do that.
4. Be shockingly authentic
If you take facts into your hands and add a pinch of your imagination to over-inflate them so that they will make for a good read, then not only will your blog have no personality but it will be considered a fake and will be filtered out as nonsense.
Spicing up your content so that the readers find it enjoyable is fine, but if you are blending facts and fiction to give advice and opinions, then your blog will become an inauthentic source of information or judgments.
Also, in another sense of authenticity, staying true to your original voice can help a lot too.
If being sarcastic and sassy is your thing, go for it, if you like writing formally then that is okay too. Just staying true to your style of articulation will most certainly lend your blog personality.
5. Incorporate emotions to give your content character
Exposing your vulnerabilities through your writing always lends character to your content.
For example, say you want to talk about a social cause that you deeply care about on your blog, telling your story and adding emotion to your writing will inspire your readers and motivate them to action, as opposed to bland articles with facts and figures.
When you can use your writing to trigger emotions in your readers, that’s when you are truly doing a great job at building your blog’s brand perception.
Instead of being wishy-washy, express emotions and opinions on a given topic. Clearly, demonstrate your attitude and complement them with personal stories if possible.
6. Practice writing hygiene
Amateur writing never gives a good impression. I don’t mean for you to use the most impressive sophisticated vocabulary when writing, but practicing well-learned writing is a good start.
Reckless writing implies you are not as invested as you should be in your blog. Without practicing a hygienic writing etiquette, neither will you be considered a professional blogger nor a trustworthy source.
Often times bloggers get blinded by emotions and cannot access the tidiness of their writing. One of the ways bloggers can solve this problem is through getting a fresh point of view.
More fresh eyes, more new perspectives. But, make sure the number of people is ‘Just enough’ to give a great feedback and not ‘more’ which might change the entire essence of the blog because, in the end, it is still ‘your’ blog.
Once you have drafted your blog(s) share it with your entire team using collaborative tools – encourage other team members to fine tune the writing so it looks crisp and clean.
This helps give you new perspectives every time you write a blog which in turn reflects on your blogs as well, giving your blog a dynamic and engaging personality.
Your blog’s personality cannot be built in a day; it is a slow brick-by-brick process and to succeed at it, you must incorporate your efforts to establish a personality in your daily blogging routine. for example, every time you write a piece, check to see if it resonates with your blog’s voice and if you stay consistent at it then before you know it your blog will become a brand of its own.
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