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6 tips for writing your business blog

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Writing a business blog can boost your online presence and become a lucrative marketing tool.

But blogging is just for lifestyle brands and mommy influencers, isn’t it?

Actually, no. When done properly, a business blog can improve your website’s ranking in search results and drive traffic to your company’s website. This gives you the opportunity to advertise your products and services, and engage with your target audience – which will inevitably lead to more sales. In fact, blogging is one of the most cost-effective ways to promote your brand.

That’s great news. But when it comes to blog content, quality matters. You won’t attract new customers by posting random, hastily-written articles. So, if you’re wondering where to begin, we’ve put together 6 tips to help you get started with business blogging.

1. Post consistently

This is important. Don’t post five blog articles one week and nothing for the next few months. Your audience will disengage if you disappear.

Some studies indicate that posting four or more times a week will bring the highest increase in website traffic. That’s a lot of articles, especially if you’re new to writing and you’re trying to run a business. Our advice is this: don’t panic, set a schedule that works for you, and be consistent. That might mean posting weekly, or even monthly. Try keeping a content planner to help you plot out future topics, so you aren’t left wondering what to post about. You can store useful links and make notes in your planner too, to give you a head start when you sit down to write.

Many blogging platforms will also let you schedule posts in advance, so if you have a good writing streak, you can set your posts up to go live at regular intervals ahead of time.

2.  Quality over size

Although longer blog posts tend to rank best in search engines, the key is quality. Your blog posts need to be long enough to explain all the key information you want to share with your readers. And they want material that is interesting, informative, and possibly entertaining. Sometimes that takes 2000 words, sometimes you can do it in less. (Fun fact: shorter articles are often harder to write. There’s an art form to explaining key information clearly, in an engaging way, in less than 500 words.)

Whatever the length, your articles should be clear, detailed, and free of waffle. If you’ve repeated the same information several times, go back and remove the repetition so the article reads better. Ask yourself if you would want to sit and read the post you’ve just written. If the answer is no, chances are your audience won’t want to read it either.

3. Strike the right tone

The tone of voice that you write in affects your business image. Your business blog isn’t a textbook, nor is it a text message to your mate. When you write, you need to strike the correct tone. Aim for friendly, professional, not overly formal, not too informal either. Unless you’re a niche b2b (business-to-business) company, some of your readers may not understand industry jargon. So keep the language simple and clear, and explain any industry-specific terms.

It may help to read your article out loud and imagine that you’re talking to a customer. If it sounds too stuffy, or too colloquial, adjust the tone until you’re happy with it.

4. Use keywords to improve search rankings (but don’t overdo it)

To read your article, people must be able to find it when they use a search engine (such as Google). As a rule, your article needs to appear near the top of the search results on page one; customers won’t trawl through 3 pages of results to find it.

One way to improve your search ranking is to use keywords in the title and body of your blog. Keywords are the words that people type into a search engine to find articles on any given topic, for example “how to grow tomatoes”. Certain keywords will be more popular (and more competitive) than others. So, spend a little time on keyword research to identify the most promising keywords associated with your topic. There are several free keyword research tools available online – try them out and see which one suits you best.

Including keywords in the title of your article helps grab the attention of the search engines, while using questions and action verbs (like plan and solve) attracts readers. Aim for a short, catchy title that captures the meaning of the post, around 6-12 words is usually best.

Remember, your article should be relevant to your industry, but it needs to be relevant to your target audience too. There’s no point writing an article if nobody wants to read it. For instance, people may search “how to grow tomatoes”, so if you sell plant pots your title could be “learn how to grow tomatoes in a patio tub”.

Include keywords in the body of your article too, after all your article should deliver the information that your readers searched for. But don’t overdo it – your words need to flow. The road to hell is paved with articles that are so packed with keywords they are virtually unreadable. In the early days of the internet, search engines were easily fooled by poor-quality articles stuffed with keywords and awarded them high search rankings. Those days are thankfully behind us. The algorithms now reward quality, readability, and relevance. Which brings us to our next point…

  1. Post relevant content

Think about your business, but don’t forget about your target audience. Try and focus on writing articles that will interest them. Keyword searches may help you think of blog topics, but your business itself is a plentiful source of material. Try using your blog to share insights into your company, introduce new products, and promote your business culture. These “behind the scenes” posts allow customers present and future to get to know your business personally. That personal connection will generate customer loyalty, which underpins a successful marketing strategy.

Your customers provide another source of blog content through their queries and frequently asked questions. If one person has asked a particular question, you can be sure that others will be interested in the answer. So, keep a note of customer questions and queries to use in future articles. Answering customer questions through your blog offers numerous benefits. It adds a personal touch, it delivers actionable content for other readers, and most importantly it allows you to position yourself as an expert in your field. This in turn builds a positive reputation for your business and improves customer confidence, which can ultimately convert to increased sales.

Lastly, if you’re stuck for ideas, publish a roundup of recent articles that your target audience would be interested in. Don’t just share the articles though, offer a quick summary of each, and explain how they could benefit your audience. These roundup posts represent a fantastic networking opportunity, as the authors of the articles you share will appreciate the extra exposure, and may even return the favour.

  1. Proofread before you post

Well we would say this, we’re an editing service. But it’s sound advice nevertheless. You could have ground-breaking information, a hot new product, a relatable writing style, and those trending keywords, but the quality of the finish matters. If your article is littered with typos and poor grammar, it makes you and your business look careless and unprofessional.

Automated spelling checks are helpful, but they are no substitute for reading the article through yourself. The most effective proofreading is done with fresh eyes, so leave your article for a few hours, preferably overnight then read it through carefully to catch those last lingering mistakes before you post.

And finally….

Hopefully you’re bursting with ideas for your business blog. However, if you lack the time or confidence to write your own articles, contact Wordsmiths. Our experienced copywriters can provide quality articles tailored to your business needs. Alternatively, if you’ve written your own articles and want to give them a professional polish, ask about our business editing services. More information is available on our website. You can contact us by email, or catch us on social at Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Don’t forget to sign up to our mailing list to hear our latest news and offers first.

Online courses – 5 study techniques you need to succeed

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If you want to pass your online courses you need effective study techniques.

Thanks to social distancing measures, more adults than ever are enrolling for distance learning – and it’s not just college students. Ambitious professionals, determined jobseekers, and smart business owners know one thing: online study can help you diversify and gain an edge in the jobs market.

Unfortunately, many people fail to complete their online courses. Not because they lack intelligence, but because they lack the right study techniques. Distance learning requires discipline, the right mindset, and a plan. Without these it’s easy to become overwhelmed. That’s especially true if your study skills are rusty, or you’re trying to balance study with work and childcare.

Giving up is the easy option, but that means wasting opportunities as well as your money – so what can you do?

The good news is this: effective study techniques can be learned. So read on to learn our top 5 study tips that can help you pass your online course with flying colours.

1. Organise your study time

Organisation is the key to effective study, and the first thing you need is a study timetable. Online courses allow you to learn flexibly at a time to suit you, so work out when that is: are you a night owl or a morning person? Once you’ve worked that out, arrange your timetable so you study when you’re most alert, but don’t forget to factor in work and parenting responsibilities. Even if you’re a morning person, you can’t study effectively at 7am with a toddler crawling over you.

2. Your coursework needs structure

Coursework is a key component of many online courses, and well-structured answers are key to getting the highest marks. Write a clear introduction, a thorough analysis, and a conclusion that highlights your key points. Consider your language use too – keep it short and simple. Rambling, disjointed answers are not your friend. When you’re studying online courses, it’s easy to forget that a human has to read your work. Your examiners won’t waste their time wading through overly-complex prose to search for your key points, they’ll just downmark you.

3. Get the right content

Examiners don’t mark your conclusions, they mark your delivery and analysis of the information. Most online courses require you to demonstrate critical thinking – a simple explanation of your ideas won’t be enough. Instead, you’ll need to argue the case for and against your theories, and offer some supporting evidence. Professionals who are taking CPD courses may be required to reflect on a learning experience, and constructive reflection requires a certain technique; it’s not sufficient to state what you did or what you learned. Instead, explain why you took certain actions, what the outcomes were, and how the experience helped you to develop – this will demonstrate your learning.

4. Revision

Online courses often include an exam, and being well prepared for these tests is essential. Try to access past exam papers – studying these will help you to target your revision time effectively. Is there a certain topic that always comes up? Are they multiple choice questions, short questions, or essay-style answers? When you’ve done this, timetable your revision so you allocate enough revision time for each topic.

Exam technique

So it’s the day of your online test, and the fact that you’re taking the exam in your kitchen rather than a school hall doesn’t make it any less stomach-churning. You’ll need the right approach to manage your nerves and perform well. Read through the paper before you begin writing, so you know how many questions you have to answer. That way you’ll avoid spending too much time on one answer and rushing the others.

If your exam requires essay-style answers, take a minute to plan them. It’s important to answer the actual question – churning out reams of irrelevant information will affect your grades. Give structured responses, provide evidence, and demonstrate critical thinking. Lastly, if your exam has flexible start times, take the test at a time that works for you. The more alert and less distracted you are, the better your performance will be. Finally, make time to eat well and rest in the days before your exam – your performance will suffer if you’re running on empty.

Need more support with your online courses?

Our study tips are a good introduction to effective study techniques, but if you need more help, Wordsmiths have you covered. We produced Mastering Study – our downloadable studying techniques manual – with distance learners in mind. The comprehensive course contains 5 PDF workbooks and 23 short tutorial videos. The modules are:

  1. Get Organised: Timetable Tips
  2. Structuring an Essay
  3. Revision Tips
  4. Exam Technique (Humanities: essay writing)
  5. Exam Technique (STEM)

It’s the only study skills programme you’ll ever need.
You can access Mastering Study by clicking on the following link:

https://www.udemy.com/course/universitysuccess

We sometimes offer discounts on our course. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn to catch our special offers early.

And remember, our academic editing service is available to all students. So get in touch if you’re concerned that your language and writing skills are dragging your grades down. You can email us at info@wordsmiths.org.uk.

 

Help your business survive the coronavirus outbreak – advice for business owners

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Are you wondering how to help your business survive the coronavirus outbreak? You aren’t alone. The measures put in place to manage the spread of the virus has caused an unprecedented crisis for business owners. For many, the future is uncertain. Unless you produce toilet rolls, face masks, or tinned sardines (the unsung success story of the corona crisis) your custom has probably plummeted. You may even have been forced to close temporarily. If you have mounting bills, staff to pay, and a home to maintain, thinking ahead may seem impossible. But you need to plan ahead. Times are tough now, and the economic aftermath of this crisis will be tougher still.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that you aren’t powerless. You can’t wave a magic wand to make this go away, but there are things you can do right now to help your business survive and leave it well-positioned for the future. Here are just some of them.

Check what financial support is available to you.

The UK government have set up various grants and schemes that could help your business. Check the gov.uk website to find out whether you are eligible for financial support.

Pivot.

This isn’t a dance move. Pivoting means adapting your knowledge, skills and equipment to fit a new purpose or market. For example, craft beer company Brewdog are switching to producing hand sanitiser. It’s not easy to move into a new sector, but think outside the box. List your skills, experience and equipment/product, then think of all the people you could help, both now and in the future. Direct your business towards those people. To pivot successfully, you may need to consider further training, so read on.

Train, upskill, learn.

It might seem counterintuitive to think about spending, but extra training is an expense worth considering. If you can upskill and expand your knowledge base, you’ll be able to offer more services and expand into new markets. You could also offer a more comprehensive service to your existing customers, making them more likely to stay onboard. And remember, training doesn’t just enhance your products and services: with the right skill set, you could help your business by promoting and running it more effectively, and even save yourself some cash. For example, you could learn to build and maintain your own website.

Brick and mortar training centres may be closed, there are plenty of excellent courses and programmes online. Check them out before you buy, as their quality and relevance are variable. Basically, don’t buy snake oil. Also, look out for free learning resources, and don’t be afraid to ask your peers to recommend courses that they’ve done.

Get online.

There may be ways you could deliver your products and services electronically. This won’t work for everyone, but think creatively about how technology could help your business. Video conferencing and conference calls can replace face-to-face meetings. They can also be used to deliver tutorials, assessments, exercise classes, talking therapies, and even lead prayer or worship sessions. Equally, you could produce an eBook or online learning package that customers can purchase and use while they’re socially isolating. In these strange times, technology could provide the lifeline that your business needs. So don’t fear it, focus on how it can help you.

Overhaul your website and social channels.

You’re going to have more spare time, so look at your business website. Check your social channels too. Are they cluttered, and full of typos and tired old service descriptions? Do they contain inaccurate prices, outdated information, and old pictures? If the answer is yes, overhaul them, especially your website – it’s your shop window. To help your business, your website should reflect who you are and what you offer. It should appeal to the kind of customers that you want to attract in the future, so have them in mind when you’re planning and writing your content.

Start a business blog (or update your old one).

Contrary to rumours, blogging isn’t dead. Creating original content for your business blog is still a fantastic way to engage customers, build your brand and help your business grow. It’s also a great way to improve your SEO and satisfy Google’s pesky algorithms. If you see business blogging as a chore, try to look at it positively. Think of your blog as a place to show off your expertise, demonstrate your passion, and showcase your products and services. You don’t even need to think of clever topics, it’s more important that your customers learn about what you offer, who you help, and how your product or service can benefit them. You could even throw in some case studies of clients that you’ve helped in the past.

Remember, if your customers can get to know you now, they’ll be more likely to approach you later. Everyone, including your target audience, will be spending a LOT more time online, so keep yourself uppermost in their minds. Which brings us to our next point…

Get active on social media.

Out of sight doesn’t have to mean out of mind. Even you’ve closed down for the time being, stay active on your social media channels. Places such as Facebook groups, Instagram and LinkedIn are a great way to remain engaged with your customers. Post regular content to keep the algorithms happy, but do it with engagement and shareability in mind. It doesn’t all have to be business-related. Post a good mix of content, including informative, inspiring, and funny material. People need uplifting content at the moment. You could also comment on and share posts from other local businesses and charities. Which leads us neatly to…

Network with other businesses in your community.

This could be businesses who are local to you, or businesses in your sector. For example, if you’re a personal trainer, you could network with a nutritionist. After all, your services and online content are likely to have similar target audiences. You could share each other’s content, or even produce guest articles and video training sessions for the other’s social channels.

Equally, supporting your local community puts you in a favourable light, and most importantly, could help those in real need. For example, if you usually deliver food and drink to restaurants, could you help out a local shop or takeaway with food deliveries? That way you’d be supporting a local business and getting supplies to those who cannot leave the house. The people you help today may not be your future customers, but they will be forever grateful, and if their gratitude leads to a word-of-mouth recommendation, even better.

Work on that CV

Inevitably, this crisis will lead to job losses. Our heart goes out to all those who are looking for work in this tough climate. It’s vital that you update your CV, to maximise its appeal to prospective employers. Your CV should be unique, snappy and really showcase your skills, knowledge and experience. It might also help to build a portfolio of your work and get some up to date references, so you have them to hand.

Plan Bs and bucket lists

Sometimes, you need a plan B. It may be that you decide to take time out of the job market and return to full-time study. Now is a great time to start looking at university and college courses. You can do most of your applications online. To increase your chance of success, check out our tips for writing personal statements and completing Master’s degree applications. Many courses offer the option to study online from your home, so look at what’s on offer, and pick up our comprehensive guide to studying successful. Or, if writing a book has always been on your bucket list, now’s your chance. Read our earlier posts for some useful advice on beating writer’s block and improving your writing skills.

And finally…

Try and stay positive. We know things look bleak now, but these tough times won’t last forever. Hopefully this post has given you some ideas about how to help your business. Remember, Wordsmiths offers proofreading, editing, digital copywriting, and translating services. We work with academic papers, CVs, manuscripts, social content and digital content. If we can help you at all, with the tasks above or anything else, please get in touch. You can find us on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, and we are also contactable via email. Our very best wishes to you all.

Understanding the editing process (and how to choose the right type of edit)

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There are several stages to the editing process, and they all have one simple goal: to make your written work the very best that it can be. If you’re a writer, or if your company is looking to outsource its editing work to the experts, understanding the different types of edit will help you identify the right editing service for your needs. Unfortunately, understanding the different types of edit is where many people, especially new writers, come unstuck. There are beta readers and document critiques, developmental edits and copyedits, and proofreading – the whole process can be overwhelming.

If that sounds like you, read on.

In this post, we explain the various types of edit to help you better understand the editing process. We hope that you can use this post to decide which editing service you need. 

Document critique

Put simply, a document critique provides a broad, thorough analysis of your work. This is very different to beta reading (where volunteers read through your document and offer feedback). In a document critique, an experienced editor will read through your work and offer specific advice on pacing, narrative, and plot development (fiction); or the soundness of your analysis and argument (nonfiction). This stage informs the developmental edit (see below).

Developmental edit 

Developmental editing is all about the big picture.

Developmental editors examine everything from plot to character development, pacing, structure and dialogue. They also examine the narrative for:

  • Inconsistencies, such as plot holes and continuity errors.
  • Plot development, characterisation, and dialogue (fiction)
  • The strength of your argument or premise (nonfiction)

The process explores how the text communicates the author’s ideas and themes. Ultimately, the developmental edit is the difference between a mediocre self-published novel  and an independent smash hit.

Line edit

While developmental editing is all about the big picture, the line edit focusses on individual words and sentences. In short, it’s a detailed, comprehensive edit that tackles your document line by line. Editors are perfectionists by nature, and most will point out technical errors because they want to improve your writing. However, it’s not the specific purpose of a line edit to fix your grammar, or change humor to humour because your automated spell check was set to American English.

Instead, this stage of the editing process focuses on how you use language to communicate information to your reader. A line editor will cut down on wordiness, tighten your writing style, and review your creative content. Above all, the line edit makes your manuscript more enjoyable to read.

Line editors will check for:

  • Pacing issues
  • The clarity and precision of your meaning
  • Weak transitions
  • Unwieldy run-on sentences and bland language
  • Confusing digressions in your narrative
  • Unnatural phrasing and awkward tonal shifts
  • The overuse of words and sentences
  • Redundant words or information
  • Instances where paragraphs or sections of dialogue require tightening

When it’s done right, line editing will give you the understanding and creative tools needed to become a better writer, as well as improving your document.

Copy Editing

So, what is copy editing, isn’t it just glorified proofreading? Well, no.

The copyeditor’s job involves more than checking your grammar and spelling. They ensure that every element of your story is consistent, cohesive, and complete. The copyediting process checks for mistakes, inconsistencies, and errors in your language use, including your spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Although detail-orientated, the copyeditor must remain aware of the overarching themes and arguments of your document. The aim of a copyedit is to address flaws at a very technical level, ensuring that your document is polished for submission or publication.

A copyeditor will:

  • Correct spelling, grammar, punctuation, and syntax
  • Ensure consistency in spelling, hyphenation, numerals, fonts, and capitalisation
  • Highlight ambiguous or factually incorrect statements
  • Monitor and resolve overarching issues with internal consistency, such as discrepancies in character traits. For example, your copyeditor will notice if you describe Napoleon Bonaparte as being tall, then later comment on his short stature (he was actually 5ft 7”)

It’s worth mentioning that copyediting and line editing should only be done after the developmental edit, never at the same time or before. This ensures that your editor isn’t wasting their time (and your money) by editing content that may be deleted during the developmental edit.

Proofreading

Proofreading is the final stage of the editing process. It happens after the other editing processes are completed. Now is NOT the time to make substantial changes to your work, so put that idea out of your head. The proofread aims to catch any lingering mistakes before your work is submitted, printed, or published. We recommend that this process is done by a professional who is reading your document for the first time. That’s because over-familiarity with the text can lead to ‘typo blindness’.

In the print industry proofreading happens after a copy of your manuscript (known as the “proof”) has been printed. A proofreader will compare the original edited copy to the proof, making sure that there are no omissions or missing pages. They will correct awkward word or page breaks, and may do light editing (such as correcting inconsistent spellings). The proof will be returned for further copyediting if too many errors are found. Many publishers require professional proofreading as a quality assurance measure before they send your manuscript off for mass production.

And finally…

To meet your editing needs, Wordsmiths offers a range of editing services:

  • Paraphrasing – includes a document review, developmental edit, copy edit, and final proofread. With this service we can also provide a line by line rewrite of your document, if required.
  • Editing – includes copy editing, final proofread, and general guidance on how to improve your argument.
  • Proofreading – Provides a thorough proofread, and polishes your document for submission or publication.
  • Final Check – If you’ve previously edited your work but since made some changes, this service will check for typographical errors and last-minute spelling mistakes.

If you still aren’t sure what type of edit you need, contact Wordsmiths. We can review your document and advise you on the best service to meet your needs. To find out more about our editing services, check our website. You can also follow us on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn to get more tips on writing and editing. Don’t forget to sign up to our mailing list to receive our latest news and blog posts first.

 

how to write concisely. A white desk, with small notlets that read "less is more".

How to write concisely (and say more with fewer words)

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Have you ever wondered how to write concisely? The answer is probably yes – especially if you have assignments with a word limit. However, the benefits of concise writing extend beyond university. For example, writing concisely helps you create more effective business letters, project reports, and emails. Beyond this, making your point clearly and promptly gives your readers easy access to key information. This keeps them engaged. So, read on, and we’ll explain how you can say more with fewer words.

What is concise writing?

The word concise is an adjective. It means giving a lot of information clearly and in a few words”. Or, to be concise, “brief and comprehensive”. In a nutshell, concise writing is the art of conveying your ideas using the fewest possible words.

Why is it important?

Long-winded sentences can be overwhelming and confusing. If your key message is buried in reams of sprawling prose, your readers will become confused and disengaged. Essentially, concise writing is clear writing, and clear writing has two benefits. Firstly, it engages your readers, secondly, it explains your ideas in a way that they can understand. This will make your writing more persuasive, more memorable, and ultimately more successful.

So, how do I write concisely?

Here are a few ways to make your point using fewer words.

3  Eliminate repetitive filler words

Sometimes, writers will use repetitive words to boost their word limit. However, this only serves to make your writing harder to read. Consider the following sentences:

Mother will be home after a period of 10 days.

Mother will return in 10 days.

They both have the same meaning, but the latter is more direct. If you’re stuck for material, research your topic further: there may be some relevant points or arguments that you haven’t included.

2    Be specific – replace phrases with words

It can be tempting to use more complex phrases, especially in academic writing. Yet often, using a single word will make your point more effectively:

The report emphasised the negative economic situation experienced by working families.

The report emphasised poverty amongst working families.

3      Avoid using the passive voice

Using the passive voice (where the object comes before the subject) can make your sentences needlessly unclear. Consider these two examples:

After the family had finished their meal, father paid the bill

Father paid the bill after the meal.

The second sentence has greater clarity. It’s also four words shorter. That may not sound like much, but imagine how easy sticking to your word limit would be if you could remove four words from every sentence!

4.      Remove unnecessary intensifiers and qualifiers

Intensifiers and qualifiers are used with adverbs or adjectives to add meaning to descriptions. However, as the following example shows, sentences can be equally effective without them:

Her conclusions, though bluntly stated, were entirely accurate.

Her conclusions, though bluntly stated, were accurate.

5.    Remove unnecessary “to be” verbs:

Look out for sentences and clauses beginning with “it is”, “this is”, or “there are” – these can often be shortened without altering the meaning:

There is a large crowd which is gathering outside the council building.

A large crowd is gathering outside the council building.

6.   Avoid negative constructions

Writers often use negative constructions in the belief that it makes their writing sound more sophisticated:

His contribution to the campaign was not insignificant.

His contribution to the campaign was significant.

Yet, as we can see, using the positive construction adds clarity to the sentence.

 7.  Re-read and revise your work

When considering how to write concisely, revising your work is vital. So once you’ve finished your first draft, read every sentence carefully to see what you can delete without losing meaning. Every word, sentence, and paragraph should have a purpose – if they don’t, remove them.  Remember, you may find that reading your work aloud makes this process easier.

8.   Think about your argument

As you revise, ask yourself – what is the purpose of your writing? Also, in academic writing, each section of your work should support your argument. So, when you revise the first draft, review each paragraph critically and objectively. If it doesn’t support your argument, remove it. Deleting sections that you’ve worked hard on is tough, but your work will be stronger for it.

9.  Think about your audience

When you write, think about your readers and consider what they need to know. For university assignments, imagine that your audience is composed of educated readers who are not experts on your subject. For example, you won’t need to explain what a literature review is, but you will need to explain the key findings from the literature. Similarly, your CV should include information that will help potential employers to evaluate your application.

And finally…

Hopefully, this post has helped you understand how to write concisely. However, if you’re struggling with your word limit, contact Wordsmiths. Our professional editing service will streamline your written work, giving your message clarity and impact. If you want to see more posts from us, follow Wordsmiths on Instagram and Facebook.  Or, subscribe via email to receive our latest news and blogs first.

vote, student, general election, register to vote

Why the student vote matters (and how to register to vote).

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The student vote matters. Yet with less than four weeks until the general election, many students still aren’t registered to vote. Some students simply don’t know how voter registration works. However, others are unclear about why their vote is so important. For students in particular, the question of voting can get complicated, especially if they split their lives between two constituencies – home and university. Does this sound like you? if so – then read on. Wordsmiths can’t tell you who to vote for, but we can explain why it’s important for students to vote. We’ll also explain how students can register to vote.

How General Elections work in the UK

The country is divided into 650 constituencies, and each constituency elects one MP to represent them in the Westminster Parliament. The party with the most MPs forms a government, and their party leader becomes the Prime Minister. They can either govern alone (if they have an overall majority), or in a coalition with another party. Unlike the 2018 European Parliament elections, the elections for the Westminster Parliament use a “first past the post” system. In this system, the candidate with the most votes in each constituency wins the seat. Therefore, votes for other candidates are effectively disregarded. This is why re-counts sometimes happen in constituencies where the result is extremely close.

Why the student vote matters

For many people aged under 21, December will mark their first chance to vote in a general election. In fact, those in the 18-25 age group have seen a big increase in voter registrations – with more than 200,000 joining the electoral register since the upcoming election was announced.

Now, cynics may say that political parties view the student vote merely as an untapped resource for boosting their numbers. Certainly, rates of voter registration and turnout amongst young people have been historically poor. Nonetheless, the newly-elected government will shape the way that our economy and society functions for the next five years. And remember – today’s young voters are the workforce of the future – some have already entered the workplace since the last election. Student voters will go on to run businesses, pay taxes, buy houses, and raise families. So clearly, even though many of the issues discussed in the election campaign may not feel relevant to you now, they will be in the future. This, ultimately, is why the student vote matters.

 Why students should vote

Fundamentally, voting gives students and young people the chance to have their say on the issues that matter to them. These might be local issues, or wider issues such as Brexit, student debt, or the environment. Elections are a keystone of democracy, and they enable the public to choose who will represent their community on the national stage.

There are are also other, less obvious reasons why students should vote. For example, registering to vote means that you are entered onto the electoral roll (or register) – which can help improve your credit score. How does that work? Well – banks and other lenders use the full electoral roll to run background checks when they calculate your credit score. Clearly, registering to vote can make it easier to borrow money, or qualify for a mortgage. It could also mean you get a better repayment rate. This will definitely be important once you leave university, so think ahead.

However, a recent study by the Electoral Commission showed that only 71% of people aged 18-34 are correctly registered to vote. Students and recent graduates – who may have frequent or recent changes of address, are especially vulnerable to being incorrectly registered. If you can’t vote, you can’t have your say. So, read on for our handy guide on how to register to vote.

When is the General Election?

The general election is on Thursday 12th December 2019.

When is the deadline for voting registration?

The deadline for voter registration is 26th November 2019. If you want to vote by post, you must apply by 5pm on 26 November to receive your voting pack (see below).

Where do I register to vote?

You can register to vote on the Gov.UK website. The process takes about five minutes. You’ll need your National Insurance (NI) number, date of birth, and address. The process takes about five minutes. You can also register by post.  Don’t worry – you can still register without your NI number – you just need to explain why you don’t have it and provide a different form of ID.

You can be registered to vote at more than one address. This means you can register to vote at your university address even if you’ve previously registered to vote at your parent’s address, and vice versa. Despite this, it’s illegal to vote more than once, so you need to decide where to vote: home or university.

How can I check if I’m already registered?

Contact your local electoral registration office (ERO) to check if you’re already registered to vote. They hold the electoral register listing the names and addresses of eligible voters in the area. The contact details for your ERO can be found on the Electoral Commission’s website.

 

And finally…

Don’t forget to vote.

Registration is not the same as actually voting. Your vote won’t count if you don’t cast it, so make time to vote on 12th December!! You can vote in person on 12th December at your local polling station – this will be named on your poll card. Most polling stations are open from 7am until 10pm. You can also vote by post, or by proxy (under certain conditions).

 

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How can students deal with stress?

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University can be a stressful experience. Whether you’re a new undergraduate or a seasoned postgrad, it’s likely that you’ll experience stress at some point in your studies. That’s the bad news. Fortunately, a little stress can be helpful, and besides this, there are plenty of ways to help students manage stress. Dealing with stress early can prevent it becoming a bigger problem that affects your grades. So, read on to find out what stress is, how it affects students, and what to do about it.

What exactly is stress?

Put simply, stress is a natural reaction that helps us to manage challenging situations. These situations stimulate our bodies to produce stress hormones that trigger a “fight or flight” reaction: this helps us to respond to danger more quickly. Sometimes, this stress reaction can be useful for students – for example, it could help you to perform better in exams. However, repeated or prolonged stress reactions can affect your physical health and leave you struggling to cope with your studies.

What causes stress in students?

Students can experience stress for a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons are directly related to studying – such as a heavy workload, deadlines, pressure to perform, and difficult subject material. Certain courses bring extra pressures, especially those that require you to study abroad, and clinical subjects that involve shift-based placements. As well as this, the wider experience of student life can throw up a number of stressful situations – leaving home, meeting new people, and building up debt are just some of these. Clearly, exposure to stress is unavoidable for students. So how can you tell when you’re becoming stressed?

What are the effects of stress?

Stress affects students in a variety of ways, and recognising the sign of stress can help you to act as soon as possible. The problems caused by stress can be split into three categories: Physical, Psychological/Emotional, and Behavioural.

The physical effects of stress include sweating, breathlessness, rapid heart rate, a dry mouth, and a churning stomach. The psychological effects of stress may involve feeling depressed or anxious. This could lead to problems with your cognitive functioning – such as poor concentration, or difficulties with learning and remembering. Finally, stress can affect your behaviour, making you withdrawn, prone to irritable outbursts, over (or under) eating, and disturbed sleep. Your friends may notice these behavioural effects before you do, so if they raise a concern with you – listen. Don’t become defensive. Their observations may be an early warning sign that helps you to tackle stress head-on before it becomes a long-term problem.

How to manage stress

If you (or someone else) has noticed that you’re showing signs of stress, the most important thing is to identify the cause. This could be something obvious, like an impending deadline or exam. It could be something else – like money worries or relationship problems. Identifying the cause of your stress will help you to resolve it. As well as this, there are several things you can do to help manage your stress levels before they affect your health and academic performance.

  • Eat healthy

Having a good diet with regular, balanced meals will help stabilise your blood pressure and blood sugar levels. This in turn will limit the damaging physical effects of stress. Also – and we can’t emphasise this enough – stay hydrated. Dehydration will affect every aspect of your physical and mental functioning, so make sure you drink enough water. Along with this, eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, and avoid sugary and salty foods – they will only dehydrate you. Finally, limit your caffeine intake. Even if you think coffee helps you to study better, too much caffeine will make you jittery, and less able to concentrate.

  • Take a break

You can’t study every minute of every day, and trying to do so will just make you more stressed. So, don’t be afraid to take a little bit of time out. Visit a café, watch a film, spend time with friends, or even get some chores done. Stepping outside of your own thoughts for a short while is healthy, and it can help you to regain some objectivity.

  • Get some exercise

Be active. Beyond the obvious health benefits of exercise, physical activity releases hormones that help to lift your mood. Choose an activity that fits with your interests and abilities, whether that be swimming, lifting weights or simply taking a walk. You’ll be surprised by how mentally refreshing exercise can be.

  • Plan your workload

Don’t leave things till the last minute. Exam dates and deadlines are set well in advance, so plan your workload and revision timetable accordingly. Doing this puts you in control, and will help reduce your stress levels. Also, if an unexpected situation occurs which will could seriously disrupt your work plan, you’ll be able to let your tutors know earlier rather than later.

  • Seek help

Lastly, and most importantly, seek help. Stress is nothing to be ashamed of, and it’s ok to admit that you’re struggling. Sometimes, just chatting things through with a friend or family member can help to clear your thoughts. However, if your stress levels need more than a chat over a cuppa, you may need to talk to a professional. You may be able to access counselling through your university, and you can contact your GP to discuss prescribing options and referrals to psychological services. Also, and this is vital, make your tutors aware of what is happening. You won’t be the first, or last, student to struggle with stress. Your tutor may be able to reduce your workload, or extend your deadlines to help reduce the amount of pressure you’re under.

And finally…

Your health and wellbeing are the most important things, so don’t be afraid to make YOU the priority. If the demands of academic writing are causing you stress, why not speak to Wordsmiths? Maybe you’re worried about the grammar in your essay or the structure of your dissertation. Perhaps you want an experienced set of eyes to give your article a final professional check before you submit it for publishing. Whatever your needs are, Wordsmiths’ specialist academic editing service is here to help. To find out more, email us, chat direct via our website, or message us on Facebook and Instagram. If you’ve enjoyed this article and want to see more from Wordsmiths, don’t forget to subscribe to our emails to receive our latest news and blogs first.

Settling into university

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Settling into university can be a wonderful experience, but it can also be overwhelming. In fact, it’s one of the biggest changes that you’ll ever make.

For many new students, it’s a time where they have hundreds of questions floating through their heads. Questions like “Will I make friends?”, “Will I cope with the course?”, “What will my accommodation be like?” and so on. Don’t worry – it’s totally normal to feel nervous. Leaving behind your family and friends is a big step, and it may take a while to find your feet. In light of that, we’ve rounded up some common truths about settling into university life.

Getting to know your housemates is important

There are no two ways about it – moving in with a group of total strangers can be really scary. The important thing to remember is that everyone is new, and the chances are that your housemates are nervous too. You may not become soul-mates, but getting to know your new housemates will really help you to settle in. So, pluck up the courage to introduce yourself, and don’t forget to show an interest in the other person. For instance, simply asking how their day has gone or offering to make them a cuppa can be enough to get a conversation going.

Groups, clubs, and societies are a great way to meet people.

You might be an experienced rugby player, or want to try choral singing for the first time. Or perhaps you want to become an environmental campaigner. It could even be that you feel disconnected from university life because you’re living at home. Whatever the reason, joining a club or society is a great way to try new things and meet people who share your interests. Get involved in Fresher’s Week, this will give you the chance to find out about the range of activities and clubs that your university has on offer. And even if Fresher’s week is over, ask your student’s union to point you in the right direction.

Your room is your home-from-home

Your room is more than a place to sleep; it’s your private, personal space. So, don’t be afraid to decorate it with some personal items, such as photos, cushions, and travel souvenirs. Doing this will help your room feel like home, and help to ease any pangs of homesickness. In addition to these familiar items, you’ll need to buy a lot of new things to get you set up in your new life. When it comes to priority purchases, a comfy bed is a must. It’s long been said that a good night’s sleep cures many ills, so investing in good-quality bedding is DEFINITELY worth it! Finally, make sure you don’t take too much stuff – your new room might be smaller than your room at home, and if it gets too cluttered you might find it harder to study and relax. 

Everyone has times when they struggle.

Settling into university is a challenging thing to do, and even the most confident person will have moments when they struggle. Some people feel lonely or homesick, and some worry about money. Others experience “imposter syndrome” – questioning whether they are clever enough or good enough to be at university.

The important thing to remember is that everyone, even the most seemingly-confident person, has tough times. Don’t compare yourself to other people, and don’t be ashamed to admit when things are getting you down. Instead, reach out, whether it’s to a friend, a tutor, or even a counsellor – talking about your problems can often give you the reassurance that you need to move forwards. Lastly, check on people if you think they’re struggling. Asking someone if they’re ok may seem like a small thing, but it can make so much difference.

You need to schedule your time

Compared to the routine of home and school, the university environment is a lot less structured. This can be disorientating, and if you don’t get organised, it’s easy to miss things or let things get on top of you. To help with this, we recommend making yourself a weekly schedule. Include things like study sessions and lectures, but don’t forget to make time for socialising and doing your laundry. After all, study is important, but if you let your social and domestic life slide, your studies will suffer too. Keep your timetable realistic; it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and so consistency is key. If you’re still struggling, try to incorporate some familiar activities into your new routine. For instance, if you normally attend worship at a certain time, or swim first thing in the morning, try to maintain those routines at university.

Keep track of your money.

Many new students get worried about managing their money, and it’s easy to overspend if you don’t keep track of your outgoings. That’s why planning your budget is important. Keep a list of what money you have coming in, and what money you have going out. Whether you use a spreadsheet, and app, or a piece of paper, budgeting will put you in control of your finances. This way, you can make sure you have enough set aside to buy essential items like food and toiletries, and still treat to yourself every now and then.

And finally

Settling into university takes longer than 7 days, so give it time. Embrace the new opportunities that come your way, and try to make the most of your University experience.

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How to write a master’s personal statement.

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Writing a convincing master’s personal statement is the key to a successful application. The personal statement is where you sell yourself. It’s also your chance to show the admissions tutors that you are the perfect candidate. In short, it’s one of the most important documents you will ever write. So read on for our guide to writing a personal statement that succeeds. 

Before you start writing

All institutions will provide guidelines for master’s applications. Read them carefully, and make sure that you meet the selection criteria. Don’t waste your time applying for a course that you aren’t eligible for. Take some time to read about the course and the institution. This will help you decide whether they are right for you. While you’re reading, make notes on how your skills, experience, and interests will benefit the university.

Finally, check the word limit. Some institutions set a limit of 500 words for master’s personal statements. Your application may be rejected if you exceed the limit, so write a plan. This will help you to structure your personal statement, and make sure you don’t miss out any important information.

Structure and content

When you write your personal statement, your thoughts should flow smoothly. To improve readability, make sure you link every paragraph. The word count will vary between courses, but keep things as short as possible. As a rough guide, aim to write 4-5 paragraphs for a personal statement of 500 words. We recommend sticking to the following structure:

Introduction

Writing the introduction to your master’s personal statement can be tough. Ironically, the more stressed you get about your introduction, the harder it can be to write. So if you get stuck, move on to another section. You can always come back to it later.

You need an opening paragraph that has impact, but avoids clichés. Institutions receive hundreds of applications per course, and admissions tutors have to read all of them. They much prefer introductions that get straight to the point.

Main Body

In this section you need to provide evidence of your skills and knowledge. You also get the chance to show why you are the right candidate for the course. As a general rule, admissions tutors will be looking for the following information:

  • Why you are applying for this course and this institution – Display some knowledge of the university and the department. Focus on their reputation, achievements, and area of expertise. Then, link these to your academic interests to show why the course appeals to you.
  • Your goals and aspirations – State your career goals. Then, describe how gaining a place on the course will help you reach them.
  • Your skills and experience – Highlight how your skills and knowledge will benefit the work of the department. To do this, try grouping your abilities into key areas., such as communication, leadership, organisation, critical thinking, and research. At this point, mention any awards you’ve received. And don’t forget to highlight any work placements and conferences you’ve attended. All of this will provide further evidence of your suitability for master’s study.
  • Why YOU deserve a place – Explain how your undergraduate experiences have prepared you for the realities of postgraduate life. You’ll need to demonstrate your passion for the subject. Then, you’ll need to prove that your skills, commitment, and enthusiasm make you a perfect fit for the course. And remember to mention your non-academic abilities and interests – these can be a great way to show why you will be an asset to the university.

Conclusion

The conclusion of your personal statement is just as important as the introduction. Again, keep things short and simple, summarising your strengths and key points. Your goal is to leave the admissions tutors with no room for doubt that you are the perfect candidate.

Some quick do’s and don’ts:

DO give yourself plenty of time to complete your master’s personal statement. DON’T leave it to the last minute.

DO write a memorable personal statement. DON’T use humour and over-used quotes.

DO be positive. DON’T be negative about other institutions.

DO mention relevant research and relate it to the subject. DON’T name-drop key authors without context.

DO explain any lower-than-expected grade, or gaps in your education. DON’T gloss over these.

DO sell yourself and your abilities. DON’T beg and plead.

DO use clear, short sentences. DON’T use overly-long phrases and sentences.

DO include relevant academic and personal information. DON’T repeat information, or include irrelevant details.

DO highlight your skills, knowledge and experience. DON’T lie or exaggerate.

DO write an original personal statement that is specific to the course and institution. DON’T use the same supporting statement for all the courses you apply to.

DO make sure that your spelling, grammar and punctuation are perfect. DON’T submit your master’s personal statement without proofreading it.

And Finally…

If you need help with your personal statement, contact us today. Wordsmiths can proofread and edit any of your application documents. To find out more, email us, chat direct via our website, or message us on Facebook and Instagram. Check out our July blog for more advice on completing your master’s application. And don’t forget to subscribe to our emails to receive our latest posts.