One of the easiest traps to fall into as a writer is using repetitive words and phrases. Fortunately, this is a trap that you can see and correct before you publish or print. It’s tricky, though, because sometimes it takes a couple of “go-overs” to really see (and avoid!) the muddy, weed-choked ditch you’re about to fall into.

Take a look at this writing:

  • Be flexible to food preferences. Keep long-standing personal preferences in mind when preparing food, and be aware that a person with dementia may suddenly develop new food preferences or reject foods that were liked in the past.
  • Give the person plenty of time to eat. Remind him or her to chew and swallow carefully. Keep in mind that it may take an hour or longer to finish eating.
  • Eat together. Make meals an enjoyable social event so that your loved one looks forward to the experience.
  • Keep in mind the person may not remember when or if he or she ate. If the person continues to ask about eating breakfast, consider serving several breakfasts — juice, followed by toast, followed by cereal.

Find three times when the same phrase was used.

I admit that I edited the content (it’s not my content) three times and was just about hit “publish” (and bill my client) before I saw this particular ditch. Now, of course, I can’t unsee it.


Le mot juste

Good writing is all about word choice in a specific situation. Some words you’d use in formal writing would not be (emphatically not be) what you’d use when writing, for example, colloquial conversation.

Here are three words that people seem to use interchangeably, but really do have shades of meaning that make each a bad, good, or better choice, depending on your audience.

Difficult, hard, and tough are three words I see being used interchangeably, with hard and tough seeming to be more common. I’m not sure why, unless it’s because “hard” and “tough” are words of one syllable: the old dumbing-down-your-writing ploy.

Let’s look at these three sentences:

Changes in your loved one’s visual and spatial abilities may make it difficult to distinguish food from the plate.

Changes in your loved one’s visual and spatial abilities may make it hard to distinguish food from the plate.

Changes in your loved one’s visual and spatial abilities may make it tough to distinguish food from the plate.

Of the three, the first sentence is the most precise: the writer is talking about the challenge of distinguishing between two different things.

The middle sentence, using hard, is not as good as the first, because hard  means impenetrable, solid, etc.

The third sentence is the worst, the most slangy, and the least appropriate for formal writing, especially not for an Alzheimer’s nonprofit’s website, which is where I found it.

What is it “they” say? Write to a third-grade level?

God help us all.

Timely Testimonial Tips!

Well, if I’m going to blog about it, I guess I’d better get started doing it myself! Look for a “Testimonials” tab coming soon!

Overview: Why have testimonials? Testimonials should be a part of every website. The purpose of a testimonial is a public demonstration of two things: your professional expertise and professional behavior.

The goal of each project you undertake should be to ask for a testimonial at the project’s completion.

A smart businessperson controls all messages pertaining to his or her business, so it will behoove you not only to cherry pick the person who will give the testimonial but to actually write the testimonial yourself and ask for the client/customer’s approval prior to posting.

There are three components of a worthwhile testimonial:

  • Specifying the tasks you performed for the client/customer
  • Describing how you/your team behaved
  • Choosing the words that will make the testimonial vivid, compelling, and relatable

Step 1: Selecting the customers/clients. Review your last six months to a year’s worth of business, and select four to six clients/customers for whom you did outstanding, but varied, work. I would also suggest that, if possible, you select projects that were came in at different price points.

Give priority to clients that come with their own built-in credibility, like a chamber of commerce, a bank, a hospital, a church or nonprofit, or a well-known business or organization.

Step 2: Scope of the job. List one to three notable aspects of each project that demonstrate your expertise, whether they be the tasks themselves, a particular challenge that the project presented, or an unusual aspect of the project that makes it stand out. Write as many as two sentences here.

Step 3: Say something good about yourself and the way you behaved. Saying that you were prompt, you were careful, your crew kept the jobsite tidy, you were accurate, and so on will do much to give potential customers/clients confidence in you and your services. Write one sentence here.

Once you have Steps 2 and 3 on paper, go to Step 4.

Step 4: Choose your words carefully. Sprinkle one or two vivid, powerful, and compelling words into your testimonial. Words like outstanding, state-of-the-art, exemplary, and innovative are the types of words you should be able to use to describe your product or services. A good editor will give you a list of appropriate words to pair with the statements you’ve made. Limit yourself to one, at most two, of these words.

Always be positive and assertive. Instead of would, use will. Instead of anyone, use everyone.

For example, not:

I would recommend you to anyone.

Too tepid! Big deal!


I will recommend you to everyone.

What a difference!

Step 5. The endorsement. Always conclude with an endorsement:

I will recommend you to everyone.

I recommend you highly.

I will tell my friends and family about you.

A friend told me about you, and I will tell all my friends as well.

Step 6. Edit. Condense. Re-write. Sharpen. Tweak. Tweak again.

Step 7.  The ask. After you’ve been paid, but before the dust settles, do this:

“Hi Mr./Mrs./Miss/so-and-so, I was hoping you’d be willing to give me a testimonial about the project we just did together/the work I just did for you. I wrote this up and I’d like to show it to you to see if it would be okay for me to use on my website.”

Most of the time, if you have been accurate, your clients will be happy to sign off on the exact message that you’d like to see on your website and marketing materials.

Other issues about testimonials.

Using names. You’ll have a better chance to get their approval if you do not use customers’ first and last names, though that is ideal. Use first name plus last initial, and specify the city/town where the service took place or the product was sold. Drop the name down to another line, and put a dash (not a hyphen!) in front of the name.

Font use. When adding the testimonial to your site, I’d suggest using the italicized version of the site font to visually separate the testimonial from the rest of the text. If the testimonials follow one another, alternate the italicized testimonial with one in the regular font.

The time frame. Be vague about the date the transaction took place. Phrases like “recently,” “last year,” or “not too long ago” give currency to the testimonial, but also give it a long shelf life.

Quotation marks. It is not necessary to enclose the testimonial with quotation marks if it is set off from the other text; if it is “in” the text, however, use double quotes for the entire testimonial. If you incorporate a direct quote from the person, use double quotes if you haven’t used them before, but use single quotes if there are already double quotes, like in the example below.

When the same speaker speaks into a second paragraph, do not use quotation marks to start the next paragraph. (Grammarly.com is so wrong about this issue!)


“My family recently purchased a dog from Canine Companions. We wanted a guard dog, but we also needed a dog who could be a playmate for our children. Francis McNair, owner of Canine Companions, listened to our concerns and then used his 36 years of experience to carefully select and train a wonderful Belgian Malinois, Marshal, for us. My son calls Marshal his ‘new best friend,’ the girls adore him, and my husband and I have tremendous peace of mind knowing that Marshal is now part of our family.

I trust Canine Companions, and will recommend its service to all my friends, and especially to my friends with young children.”

—Lauren B., Sarasota

Someone like this would be unlikely to provide you with a photo of her happy children playing with “Marshal,” but certainly a website like this would be stuffed with photos of handsome Belgian Malinois, German Shepherds, Dobermans, etc.

Use photos to accompany your testimonials whenever possible.

It goes without saying, which is why it’s worth saying, that each testimonial should be impeccably edited to a fare thee well. A misplaced semicolon or a misspelled word is death to credibility and will make you look like a jackass.

Don’t forget: a business or organization is a singular noun. A business is never a them or a who; a business is always an it and a that.

Writing is rarely “finished.” I suggest that you continue to update, tweak, and otherwise perfect what you write. I know I do.

December 16, 2016 QUIZ!

Hey, I’m sorry it’s been so long since I posted a quiz. I had one of those life-changing, pivotal moments last month that was such a, well, it changed everything. One of those. A reset moment for sure.

At any rate, life is good, and here’s a very interesting quiz. The majority of this quiz is composed of material from two professional website designers—really, really talented in many respects—and, most unfortunately, both need a punctuation/grammar review of their own websites. There are also a couple of sentences in this quiz that were taken from a website designed by one of these designers. I found one designer through a professional connection, and the other through the one designer’s client’s site.

It doesn’t follow that just because you can design websites really well, you’re a whiz at punctuation and grammar. Graphic design isn’t my thing; writing is. A beautiful website with incorrectly written content is such a wasted opportunity!

As you can see, I took item #4 very much to heart, and hastened to post a new quiz!

Yours in good grammar, Liz Coursen, Sarasota

  1. Almost nothing captures people’s attention like a special intensive.
  2. Every company has a mission and with that a story. Exactly how did you get began?
  3. “Did you hear the one about the little guy that took on the big guy and did something fabulous”?

6 Simple Ways to Create Excitement About Your Website

Published October 2, 2014 | By admin

  1. Keep your content fresh

If your content seems stagnant, it can feel like your business is not keeping up, and potential customers might pass you by.

5. Whether it be a promotion, Something you did for a community charity or event.

6. More than just a “logo”.

7. Not every company needs Facebook and Twitter, but if a company does then they should definitely have a presence on those sites.

8. Print design and advertising are a vital part of any company’s strategy to find and develop new customers.

9. XYZ was born from the passion and spirit of a creative professional that wanted to take average business design to new levels.

10. That’s what makes us stronger, because we love our customers, and we make it our goal to help every customer stand out from the crowd by finding the perfect creative and marketing solutions to make their businesses grow.

11. With expertise in Java and all of those C things, the Geek is able to render web sites active and functional with ease.

12. Therefore, we welcome in “The Editor”.

13. Our best product is top of the line website design and development that works with company marketing strategy to connect them with a larger online audience.

14. ABC is an Everthing (Web, Print, Brand) Design, company which proudly works everyday on projects such as highly creative websites, clever graphic identities, succesful e-commerce development, and many more great projects.

15. If you want to know more about how we at LMNO can help your business grow, give us a call, or contact us through our site.

16. We are excited about the our new Retail Warehouse location!

17. We love it when the care we put into our products, makes it to your table and you can share a good meal with the ones you love.

18. Need a custom design? Inquiry today!

19. My marketing pieces have helped my company to be taken seriously and I feel the designs compliment the luxurious quality of my handmade products.

20. We carry a classic and a colorful line of fresh infused QRS oils that playfully allow for a creative culinary experience.