You have to edit. There’s no way around. If you’re lucky enough to have a professional writer in your office, then you have it easy. Send your stuff along to him or her and get on with your other tasks. But, if you’re like many of us, self-editing is your only option.

Here’s a few tips I’ve learned in my own self-editing adventures.

  1. Take your time. Give yourself as much time as possible between writing and editing. Maybe you only have a few hours. Write and then go to lunch or write something else. Then go back to your first piece and edit. If you have a few days, even better. A little time away from your writing will help you see it with fresh (and more critical) eyes.
  2. Don’t edit on the fly. Writing is writing, and editing is editing. Write first, then edit. If you try to edit as you write, you’ll just have to edit again later, and you’ll frustrate yourself with over thinking what you’re writing.
  3. Use your voice. And I don’t mean your writing “voice” I mean the voice you sing with. Read your work aloud. You’ll catch awkward phrases and all those misplaced homonyms that spell check will miss.
  4. Share the load. Give officemates or even family members an opportunity to look over what you’ve written. This should help you improve clarity and catch remaining problem phrases.

What about you? What methods do you use, and what tips can you share for making self-editing more effective and efficient? Let us know in the comments!

Grammar Guide: Affect or Effect?

Common grammar blunders to avoid.

I won’t lie. Affect and effect still trip me up sometimes. I’m guessing I’m not alone.

In general, the easiest way to remember if you should use affect or effect is to first figure out if your word is a noun or a verb. Affect is generally used as a verb, and effect is usually used as a noun. Not sure? Try this: If you can replace the word with the noun result-and your sentence works and has the same meaning-you should use effect. Otherwise, you should use affect. Unfortunately, sometimes, effect is used as a verb and affect as a noun. No wonder we all still have trouble!

99% of the time, in your own writing, you’ll be using effect, the noun, or affect, the verb. Learn to tell the difference between those two parts of speech, and remember that effect is a noun and affect is a verb, and you really should have very little trouble. But how do you remember which is which?

Here, I bow to the superior knowledge of Grammar Girl. Click here to visit her Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing on effect and affect.

Writers Block

One of those unpleasant situations you’ll face when you write your own copy.

It happens to the best of them, so I’m told. Writers block. That moment when you sit down to write and nothing comes to mind. You can’t think of a single thing to write. Or maybe you can think of a line, but a single line won’t do.

One tip for overcoming writers block is to simply start writing. It’s easier to fix something that’s not well done than it is to fix nothing. So, just sit down and start writing that property description or homepage copy. Just make sure to take time to edit your work later.

Another tip is to unplug your internet and turn off your phone. Now, you don’t want to be completely disconnected; as a real estate agent, you need to be available when your clients need you. But, if you’re struggling with writers block, one of the best things you can do is to take away distractions.

Did you leave that one line on the page last night when you left the office? Start back in on it first thing in the morning, when your mind is at its freshest and you haven’t had to begin reacting to the incoming tasks and distractions of the day.

Take a walk! Walking will give you a change of scenery, some fresh air, and get your blood pumping. You’ll come back to your desk refreshed and recharged, and while your body was engaged, your subconscious mind may have solved a few of your conundrums.

Well, that’s about it for my tips. What about yours? Do have other methods of overcoming writers block? Share your tips in the comments. I’d love to learn some new tricks!

Grammar Guide: Its, it’s and its’

Common grammar blunders to avoid.

Try as I might, I couldn’t come up with a silly near-homophone to throw into this exposition on its and it’s. Were yurts and tutus as good as it gets? Perish the thought!

Small as they are, its and it’s are rather difficult to learn to use properly, and as a result, quite commonly misused. Let’s see if we can remedy the situation a bit, shall we?

Its and it’s have the same root word: it. It is a gender-neutral singular pronoun used for objects, groups, a concept or abstract idea, activity, animals whose sex isn’t known, or as an impersonal subject of the verb to be, especially to refer to time, distance, or weather. You might not believe me, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. It is yet another word for which there are many, many entries in the dictionary. I encourage you to look it up yourself

The most likely reason that its and it’s are so difficult is the fact that they’re in reverse of the normal grammatical rules and conventions. Normally, to pluralize a word, we add an s, and an apostrophe-s to show possession, and an s-apostrophe to indicate plural possession. But it is always singular, so no need to make for plural or plural possessive.

So what to do when it owns something? Under normal grammatical rules, we’d just go with it’s, but it is a grammatical black sheep. When it owns something we add the s with no apostrophe and get its.

For example: That dog is angry and baring its teeth. Its hair is standing on end.

So what does it’s mean? It’s is a contraction or shortening of two words, the phrase it is.

For example: You can tell by the clouds that it’s about to rain.

An easy way to remember the correct usage of its and it’s is to replace them with it is. If it is works, use it’s. Otherwise, it must own something and you’d use its.

AIDA in Depth: Action

Part six in a multi-part series on improving your ad-writing skills.

While you can’t get to Action without building up to it with a great attention-grabbing headline and picture, building interest, and inspiring desire, it’s fair to say that Action is the lynchpin in your AIDA marketing. Without it, all the hard work you did with A, I, and D is pointless and fruitless. Don’t let your efforts go to waste! When your reader says, “You caught my attention. I’m interested, I want it!” tell them what the next step is.

Read on for 8 ways to more effective calls to action.

1. Give your name, your number, your email address, and your website. Seems simple, but just don’t forget to do it!

2. Online? Go beyond “click here” instead, try telling them why. “Click here to begin your voyage to home ownership!” “Click here to learn about the first-time-homebuyer tax credit.”

3. Imbue your calls to action with a sense of urgency. “Now”, “today” “hurry” “before it’s too late!”

4. Offer something in return. “Contact me for a free Comparative Market Analysis of your home.” “Click here for a free relocation packet.” “Visit my website to discover the value of your home.”

5. Make your call to action stand out. Use bigger, bolder text, and consider warm, bright colors when possible.

6. On your web pages, use bright, clear buttons rather than just text to elicit those clicks.

7. Place your calls to action in a clear location. DON’T bury them in the middle. Stick with the top or bottom (or both!) of your ad.

8. Make it easy! Don’t force your prospect to jump through hoops to respond to your marketing. That’s the principle behind at least half of these tips. Put that action on a silver platter and hand it to your prospect.

Thanks for sticking with me through this “treatment” of the AIDA principles of marketing. Here’s where you come in. Tell me what you think of AIDA. Do you have any unanswered questions about how to implement it? Share with me your unique perspectives on implementing it in your own business.

I’d love to hear how you’re using these and other marketing and writing principles in the real world. Share your thoughts and insights by leaving a comment below!

Grammar Guide: Too, to, two, and tutu

Common grammar blunders to avoid.

I like to give folks the benefit of the doubt, and assume that when I see the homophones too and to misused that it’s actually just a typo. Maybe I’m naïve. So, here’s a quick reminder on when to use too and to, two and tutu too!

Too is an adverb that means “also” or “excessively.”

To is a preposition with so many uses that it would put you to sleep to read them all.  There are literally 27 indications of its use on, and I invite you to read them all if you’re curious.

If that’s too much of a brain bender, or you simply don’t have the time, it might help to use this simple mnemonic, “too has too many o‘s” or an excessive number of o’s. If you’re using too when you mean excessive or also (“in addition,” which is related to excessive) then you’d use too, otherwise use to.

It’s rare to see the noun two misused. It represents the numeral 2. And don’t forget that tutu is not a short form of “to too”, but rather a noun referring to the short, full skirts worn by ballerinas. I don’t think you’ll have any trouble with that one.

Here are a few examples before I go.

Correct: He went to the zoo.

Correct: That shirt belongs to Sue.

Correct: They want to help

Incorrect: I’m to tired.

Incorrect: We’re going shopping to.

Correct: I’m too tired.

Correct: He spent too much.

Correct: We’re going shopping too.

Incorrect: I want too walk.

Incorrect: They went too church.

Correct: Those two girls took too many tutus to the show. (Am I good or what?)

AIDA in Depth: Desire

Part five in a multi-part series on improving your ad-writing skills.

Are you still with me? Great, because we’re in the home stretch! The third part of AIDA: desire, can be tricky, but oh-so-worth-it! You’ve taken the time to create a powerful attention-grabbing headline, and you’ve assembled some great photographs to augment your headline. You’ve let the customer know “what’s in it for me?” by building on your headline with interest. Now’s the time to go deeper and appeal to the basic and fundamental needs and desires your prospective customer already has, by explicitly showing them how your product or service fulfills those desires.

Desire is about appealing to the emotions of your reader. What are some of those desires and basic needs you can appeal to? In real estate you actually have quite a variety of desires to “fulfill” with property. It could almost be said that you, as an agent, have it easy when it comes to desire.

How about the desire for physical safety and security? Gated communities, gated properties, secluded or off-the-beaten path homes, as well as those with pre-installed security systems all answer that desire. How about the desire for respect and admiration? Any luxury home or high-end property is going to easily fulfill that, as well as appealing to the desire for comfort or leisure. A desire for love, family and community can be fostered by any home sweet home. And this is definitely not an exhaustive list!

When working on the desire aspect of AIDA, consider common and prevailing human needs and desires, then consider how your property or service can help prospective customers to meet those needs and desires. Finally, communicate those desire-fulfilling aspects in your ad copy in simple, direct language. Make sure to name the desires as well as showing how they’re fulfilled by your “product” and you’re well on your way to a successful advertisement.

Check back soon for more on calls to Action!

AIDA in Depth: Interest

Part four in a multi-part series on improving your ad-writing skills.

You’ll remember that AIDA stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. I introduced this concept in part one of this series, and gave some time to Attention in parts two and three. If you missed those, I urge you to read at least part one before continuing, but either way, today I’ll be telling you a bit more about Interest.

Knowing the next steps, you may be tempted to spend just a moment on interest before moving onto desire and action, but that would be a mistake. You’ll have a significantly harder time building your readers’ desire if you don’t first interest them.

Make sure to relate your interest to your head-line and pictures. For home sales, this may mean quoting the price, showing more pictures of the property, or describing some real benefits of that particular home. For selling yourself and your services, this would be where you describe your great sales record or tell about the increased marketing coverage provided by your unique marketing methods.

The interest portion of the formula is definitely where you focus on “what’s in it for me?” the bottom line for any potential customer. So instead of focusing on features focus on how those features benefit the reader.

Good: Professional photographs are taken of every listing I sell.

Better: Homes with many professional photos sell more quickly than the average home. My services include professional photography for every listing I sell.

Good: Your home will be listed on my website.

Better: Your home will be seen by more potential buyers when listed on my website.

Whatever statements you make, whatever services you offer, consider how you can reword them to communicate the benefits: The why instead of just what or how.

Check back soon for part five where I’ll cover the next AIDA element: Desire.

Grammar Guide: You’re, Your, and Yurt

The first of many in a series on common grammar blunders to avoid.

You’re and your are two words-well, a word and a contraction-that are commonly misused. When rolling off your tongue, they sound identical, but in print, they have different meanings and must be used properly, not interchangeably. In contrast, the word yurt is almost never used when you’re or your are meant, after all, a yurt is a portable, felt-covered, wood lattice-framed structure used as a home by Central Asian nomads.

As a real estate agent, you may someday have occasion to use the word yurt, and I expect if you do, you’ll use it appropriately. On the other hand, I’m confident that everyone reading this has used both you’re and your in print, and at least one of you could use a refresher on when each should be used.

The contraction you’re is a combination of the words you and are. If “you are” would be appropriate in a sentence, then feel free to use “you’re.” Below are a few examples of you’re in action.

Correct: You’re going to love this view!

Correct: If you’re smart, you won’t pass up this opportunity.

Correct: You’re too late.

Incorrect: You’re wife needs to be at the signing as well.

Incorrect: You bet you’re life!

In the last two examples, the word your should have been used. Your is the possessive form of the pronoun you and is properly used to refer to something that belongs to “you.” If “you are” doesn’t work in a sentence, then your is the word you want. Here are a few examples.

Correct: Your husband will need to sign as well.

Correct: I’ll have the keys to your new home with me.

Correct: Your car is parked out back.

Incorrect: Your not going to believe this deal.

Incorrect: I think your going to like this.

As an agent, beyond selling listings, you’re primarily selling yourself and your services. It’s imperative that in print you appear like the professional you are. Correct grammar is a key component to looking professional in print. Here are a few final examples for you.

Effective Real Estate Photography

Part three in a multi-part series on improving your ad-writing skills

I know what you’re thinking; photography isn’t “ad-writing.” You’re right. However, I’m committed to helping you improve your online and printed real estate advertising skills, and—as you may already know—photographs are a central aspect of real estate marketing; at least as important as a good headline, if not more so.

At best, I’m an amateur photographer, so here’s a novice’s attempt to share the wisdom I’ve gleaned from those in the know.

First and foremost, your listing photos are significant. They are an absolutely essential part of your pitch. Bad photos, like poor headlines, can almost guarantee your prospect will skip the rest of your ad entirely.

Recent numbers from the National Association of Realtors indicate that 1 in 4 buyers saw their new home for the first time on the internet, where 4 out of 5 buyers begin their home search. For a large majority of people, online photographs are the way to first view a property.

[Read more…]