Category archive - Web Writing

The World of Ghostwriting

The World of Ghostwriting

Ghostwriters are the illicit side of writing. Prostitutes of the written word, if you will. Authors don’t like to admit they’ve used a ghost — it’s a bit like admitting they can’t do it themselves.

But that’s drivel. Time and skill-set play a big part in why a celebrity, businessman, politician or Joe Public with a fascinating story might ask the help of a ghost.

We can’t all be good at everything, can we? I’ll admit that I find the ideas part of writing my biggest challenge, which is why being a ghost is my own personal heaven. I don’t need to bring the ideas, I need to bring knowledge, writing skills and the ability to draw the details of an idea out from my ‘author’.

For some of my clients, I am their online voice, the voice that talks to customers, and quite often the whisper that puts down the words to push Google rankings up!

For other clients, I am a muse, a tutor. We talk and mull over how a piece of writing could work, what is missing and what the author needs to focus on to find their voice. And then, when they’ve done the writing I bring my invisible pen and chivvy, neaten and tighten in a process that can even take months until we find the exact voice, the exact tone and the exact narrative structures.

The fun of being a ghost is the worlds that you find yourself in. I live my writing world up scaffold towers, cleaning houses and offices, building loft extensions and as a journalist in Palestine — I never know where my next piece will take me. Each client is different, and my role as ghost, or writer, or editor, or whatever you want to call it, differs dramatically.

While I do a lot of writing for other people, I consider myself a writer rather than a ghost at the moment. But over the next couple of months, my study and research will focus on what it means to be a ghost and what legal, practical and ethical challenges there are to overcome deep in the business, with an eye on moving more in that direction within my own writing career.

In the spirit of sharing, of informing (and of getting my MA) I’m just off to buy a domain name where I’ll stick all my research, interviews and hand-me-down advice about the world of ghostwriting. It’s a secret world, and understandably so, but won’t it be lovely to just peek in through the keyhole?!

While you’re waiting for me to get my finger out, there are two eye-opening novels about how a writer’s day-to-day life can be turned upside-down by being a ghost: The Ghost by Robert Harris and Ghosting by Jennie Erdal.



Riot Rebuild Volunteer

Riot Rebuild Volunteer

Watching the riots spread across Britain this month was truly vile. I wanted to be part of the Broom Army, pulling together to show the rioters that what they did was unacceptable and ‘we’d’ fight back.

But I’m in Austria, so there wasn’t much cleaning up for me to do. In solidarity, I followed the clean-up on RiotCleanup, then spotted RiotRebuild a day later.

As part of my day job I write for Lakeside-Hire, an at-height equipment hire company in … go figure … Lakeside. For the last year I’ve updated their Facebook fanpage daily with news about the construction industry around London, so I’ve become pretty on the ball with what’s happening in the world of building stuff. And it’s fascinating. I may have become just a teeny bit geeky about it, truth be told.

When RiotRebuild put a call out for writers, I jumped at the chance — finally a way to help out 🙂 I could use my knowledge of the London construction industry AND sate my need to help my fellow countrymen…women…people.

So, to cut a fairly dull story, shortish, my first article — about getting free legal advice to the victims of the riots — is now live. Hoorah.

Top Rated on People Per Hour!

Top Rated on People Per Hour!

Would you look at that! Time for a bit of shameless trumpeting, I reckon.

I had an e-mail this afternoon from one of my lovely clients telling me that I was on the top-rated freelancers’ board on People Per Hour.

For the last few years, I’ve been working through PPH; now I have regular clients I bid much less, but the requests to bid keep coming in. I tell you what, though, when I get the daily bulletin of posted jobs I am very tempted to take on juuust a little bit more work!

But until these projects are done – within the month – I have to just let the PPH bulletins be the carrot that tempts me onwards.

e-mail, Email or email?

e-mail, Email or email?

Teaching at Salzburg University of Applied Sciences there is a heavy focus on business English and, of course, e-mail writing.

Across the internet, there is a range of spellings for e-mail, but I will argue, till I’m blue in the face, that it must be spelled with a hyphen: e-mail.

When e-mail started out it was written with a capital, now you just look old-fashioned if you use a capital for it (and a bit daft, after all, you don’t use a capital ‘L’ for ‘letter’, do you?!).
Reuters says that e-mail should be ’email’, without a hyphen, but what happens when we talk of  ebanking, ecommerce, eentertainment, egreeting? According to Reuters, these should all have a hyphen (becoming e-banking, e-commerce and, thankfully, e-entertainment, e-greeting). So why should e-mail be different? If we have a rule, surely it’s easier to apply it to all the words that are likely to need it, than to select one that should break the rule.
OED, in its benevolence, says that you can use either, but email, without the hyphen, is the default.
I think it’s a shame. Here we are at a massive moment in the English language; it’s changing and evolving, and it’s a great opportunity to rid the language of all these silly exceptions to rules that confuse both native-speakers and learners of English.
While the definitive answer is still in flux, I will continue to teach that it should be spelled with a hyphen, so that there is some hope of maintaining consistency within the rule.

Cleaning, Scaffold Towers and Website Design: What Do They Have In Common?

Cleaning, Scaffold Towers and Website Design: What Do They Have In Common?


While my kids were skiing yesterday, I supped a hot chocolate and thought about next year’s cleaning articles for CleanerLondon.

It going to be a good year, I reckon.

Follow my ever-evolving writing style, as I work on my master’s in professional writing, through the articles I write for my clients.

For CleanerLondon there will be more articles about domestic cleaning, commercial cleaning and carpet cleaning. From basic Feng Shui in your home, to chambermaid’s cleaning tips (from my own days cleaning a hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon) and uses for the archaic sugar-soap, which really should be given far more credit than it gets now that Mr Muscle rules the cleaning products aisles.

For Lakeside-Hire, I’ll continue helping out with their daily construction updates and industry leads on the Facebook fan page as well as adding to the wealth of articles about how to use scaffold towers, podium steps and razor decks in all kinds of situations, both commercial and in the DIY world.

A new client, ClearCut Web Design, needs a couple of articles a week exploring its new web designs for its own clients. It’s great to be able to see what’s going on in cutting edge design and share it with ClearCut’s potential clients.

What?! Only three clients, you say? I know, but alongside this I’ll also start my master’s in a few days at University College Falmouth and am still lecturing at Salzburg Uni and Salzburg Uni of Applied Sciences. All good fun 🙂

Information Architecture begins

Information Architecture begins

Squidoo tells me that “Information architecture brings together how people think with how systems work. It’s a strategy and a discipline.”

This sounds great … if somewhat vague.

Webmonkey adds that “Information architecture is the science of figuring out what you want your site to do and then constructing a blueprint before you dive in and put the thing together.”

I want to know more about from a copy-writer’s point of view – I want to know what my writing role is in this discipline … this blueprint.

Of course, the guys that are most obviously involved in information architecture initially are the ‘techies’ – the ones who do things no-one else has the foggiest idea about. While the site needs to please the eye and actually work, the writing is what will actually do the job further down the line.

It seems to me that the questions being asked by the techie should also make it to the writer’s to-do list and should be answered in terms of building a ‘back-story’, if you will, for the written copy.

  • define the business’s mission
  • learn about the business’s brand
  • identify the goals of the website
  • define the audience
  • know exactly why people are going to visit the site

Well, now how is that any different to any marketing/website you produce? It’s not, but taking a while to consider these things properly could make writing a lot easier.

Webmonkey advises talking to everyone in the business from the top, down; writing down all the answers to distil into lists that should then be approved by the business before you get writing the copy.

Leaving the ‘audience’ responses till later, responses from the other bullet points should be rephrased into a set of goals, to be circulated and ranked into order of importance by the people involved in the business.

The ranked goals provide a set of clearly defined goals that will help enormously when it comes to writing (as well, of course, to designing and programming for the rest of the site team!).

Hmm, I think I’m going to enjoy information architecture – I’m a little worried by how obsessed I could get by it! I’m really looking forward to finding out about word tracking a little down the line – apparently users’ reactions change dramatically simply by writing a different word or phrase in a certain place (often the call to action). That’s probably a long way down the line … baby steps!

Information Architect?!

Information Architect?!

There’s a new kid on the block and I’d quite like to get to know him.

Writers Are Out

Once upon a time there were writers, then web-copy-writers and SEO experts. They’re living happily ever after somewhere – they’re out, apparently. Information architects are in.

Information Architecture

A riveting conversation with a graphic design friend of mine, Mike Carrick, opened my eyes to this brave new world. He described a cyberworld in which the designer, writer and programmer work as one to produce a website in harmony.

Bliggedy Blog

This sounds like something I want to know a LOT more about, and something I’d hope to use to bring value to my English Pro clients in the coming months in a series of research blogs. The ethereal ‘they’ are always saying that blogs are about information, about informally sharing knowledge while building a readership, a readership in a niche.

Nice Niche

Niches in writing are somewhat flooded, but it seems, on a first quick squizz that there is very little written to help we lowly copy-writers find our way through IA, and I, for one, want to know more. A lot more.

Master of IA?

Initially I’d been planning on writing my master thesis on international punctuation variation (oi – wake up!!), but this sounds like a far more fascinating and ultimately far more useful study.

Although I don’t start officially start studying for my master’s until January, I find myself itching to get started on this. As I read, build an understanding – and hopefully ‘master’ it in the coming months, I shall share choice bits with anyone who wants to read along,

Jump In

If you have any useful titbits you’d like to share jump on in 🙂

To capitalize or not?

To capitalize or not?

I’ve just had a very peculiar response to an English proofread I completed for a German speaker.

She had written a letter thus:

Dear James,

it was lovely to see you at the weekend….

Naturally I corrected the ‘it’ to read ‘It’; she responded ardently stating that this should not be capitalized; I checked around to confirm I was correct, looking at business letter templates and so forth and found no version that wasn’t capitalized.
But in fact grammatically speaking it’s right, isn’t it? There is no other time we’d capitalize after a comma, so why do we in a letter?

What do you think? Has anyone ever seen the rule that states the beginning of a letter should be capitalized?