Apostrophe Rules You’re Getting Wrong – Online Writing Jobs & Freelance Content Writing Opportunities

Of all of the punctuation marks, the apostrophe has to be the most abused. He just wants to help out, filling in the gaps where other letters have gone missing, but instead, people throw him into all sorts of situations he’s just not suited for, mucking up perfectly good phrases or sentences and making him look stupidly out of place.

These crimes against clarity are so awful that numerousblogshave sprung up devoted to pointing out and cringing at them. But if you learn when to use an apostrophe in the three situations where they’re most commonly misused, you won’t have to worry about finding your writing on those sites.

How to Use Apostrophes to Make a Word Plural

This is the easiest pitfall to avoid. When do you use an apostrophe to form a plural? You don’t.

You’d be surprised how common this error is, but it’s wrong, wrong, wrong. It’ll make you look stupid pretty much every time.

However, there is one teeny, tiny, exception, one that you’ll hardly ever run into, and that’s making a single letter plural. If you’re talking about dotting your I’s and crossing your T’s, for instance, you do need apostrophes there. But that’s it. If you’re making anything else plural, an apostrophe doesn’t belong. Just add -s or -es and move on.

What about the plural of a decade? We’ve seen people using apostrophes in those, right? Well, yes and no. If you’re talking about the 1980s, you don’t need an apostrophe there, either. But if you’re cutting out two of the numbers and referring to the ’80s, you do need an apostrophe, only because you’re forming a contraction: The apostrophe is replacing the “19” that’s missing.

When to Use an Apostrophe in a Contraction

We all learned about contractions in grammar school, and these are definitely places where using apostrophes is correct. In fact, this is the primary function of an apostrophe: to replace letters that have been left out. When you shove two words together to form a contraction, the apostrophe fills in the gap where the omitted letter(s) should have been:

  • Can + not = Can’t (replaces “no”)
  • You + are = You’re (replaces “a”)
  • Has + not = Hasn’t (replaces “o”)
  • They + have = They’ve (replaces “ha”)
  • It + is = It’s (replaces “i”)

Take a look at that last one again. “It’s” means “it is.” Remember that. We’ll come back to it in a minute.

How to Use a Possessive Apostrophe

The other correct use of an apostrophe is to form a possessive, indicating ownership. But you don’t always need an apostrophe to make a word possessive. The apostrophe rules for possessives depend on the word you started with.

  • Are you making a singular word possessive? If so, add an apostrophe and an S, as in the store’s hours or James’s cookies.
  • Are you making a pronoun possessive? You don’t need an apostrophe here because pronouns have their own possessive forms: I/my, you/your, he/his, she/her, it/its, we/our, they/their.
  • Are you making a plural possessive? If it ends in S, just add an apostrophe after the S, as in the players’ contract or the Joneses’ new RV. But if it doesn’t already end in S, make an irregular plural possessive by adding an apostrophe and an S, as in the children’s recital.

When to Use Its vs. It’s: Which Is Correct?

Figuring out whether to use it’s or its is a common problem for a lot of people, but the answer lies in remembering that an apostrophe usually replaces missing letters.

  • If you want to make something possessive, “its” is the word you need: “It is” doesn’t make any sense if you’re trying to indicate ownership.
  • But if you want to say that it is raining, that’s the right time for “it’s.”

Mindy Young, an editor for Online Writing Jobs, got her start as a newspaper copy editor after earning her B.A. from Russell Sage College in Troy, NY. She spent nearly 13 years editing stories, writing headlines, and putting together pages for daily newspapers, and along the way, she also had the opportunity to write food columns and restaurant reviews. After earning a pair of Associated Press awards and a Suburban Newspaper Association award, she left journalism for the world of content marketing, where she puts her skills to work every day for OWJ clients and writers.

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Content Writing: No, Not Everyone Can Do It

People love to say, “Oh, you write blog posts for a living? I could do that!” While writing is something most people do on a daily basis, even if it’s just texting, content writing is a specific set of skills that not everyone has. Before you hire any writer for your company’s blog post, you need to know why content writing is a specialized craft that takes study and practice.

Content Writers Match Tone

Tone matching is not easy. It involves switching from a technical to a playful tone, or moving from a blog post for retirees to a post meant for teens. To become successful content writers with the ability to create for a variety of clients, writers have to inhabit and comfortably write in a tone that they did not develop and may not even like.

Lots of writers craft prose in a single voice, the ones they have developed over the course of practicing their crafts. Fiction writers are able to change tones when they switch between characters, but even in those cases the writer created the characters and the corresponding voices. That is very different from adopting a tone that a company has already developed. Plus, content writers often have to step into several different tones in the same day to fulfill deadlines.

Content writers are tone chameleons because these stylistic choices will either attract leads or push possible customers away. A content writer understands when to change the structure of a sentence, when to use shorter words, and when to inject playfulness into an article. Not everyone, not even every writer, can do this.

Now, here comes the most difficult part: a content writer still has to be original while adopting someone else’s tone. Content writers can’t steal phrases or ideas from your previous blog posts, nor are they going to copy the posts you admire from other websites. If you have three content writers working on your blog and each of them is talented at matching tone, it will sound like one person is running that blog and continuing to present original ideas.

They Understand the Content Business

A person using a laptop.

Image via Flickr by perzonseo

Some people believe content writing is just about writing, but that’s not true at all. Content writers understand SEO practices, audience pain points, and the basics of search metrics. Give a content writer the longtail keywords you want to use, and she can create some great ideas for blog posts for you to choose from. Tell her about your audience’s pain points, and she’ll help develop audience personas that will hone your blog post topics.

Ultimately, content writing is just one aspect of content creation. Writing a solid blog post doesn’t mean much if that blog post doesn’t fit the website, doesn’t speak to the audience, and isn’t going to attract traffic to your blog.

They Can Follow and Develop Style Guides

When you’re beginning a content marketing strategy for a new business, you need to create a style guide specific to your business. That means everything from deciding whether you’ll use the Oxford comma to laying out words and phrases you want to appear in your brand content. Journalists and content writers are used to working with style guides, but other writers may not be.

Have a content writer help you develop your brand’s style guide. The writer can help you develop a vocabulary and tone for your blog posts and web content. She’ll also help you create a list of don’ts for your content, to keep tones consistent and to prevent your brand’s voice or content from verging into territory you don’t like.

They Put Ego in the Backseat

Writers, especially creative writers, are vision-driven people. A writer gets an idea for a story and spends time devleoping that vision–and this is after spending hundreds of thousands of words honing a personal writing style. When writing creatively, which includes personal web essays and blogs, a writer’s vision shapes what ends up on the page.

Content writing is different. When you hire a content writer, you aren’t hiring that person for their tone or vision. You’re hiring them to match your tone and write for your vision. Content writers understand that, and will put aside their personal writing styles to create content that matches your company’s brand.

Not all content writers sound the same, and that’s a good thing, because you want your website to sound human and unique. But a content writer who is also adept at poetry isn’t going to fill your website with prose poems when you want product descriptions. When you hire a content writer over a general writer, you’re getting someone who knows to put their personal feelings and ego in the backseat to better serve you, the client.

They’re Fabulous at Research

Content writers are great at quickly learning about new topics to produce content for clients. However, research extends far beyond gaining information to write about a certain topic. The research content writers do involves reading other blog posts to understand how to fit into a new tone. It means looking at social media to figure out where your customers are, who they are, and how to reach them. It even means conducting interviews to add expert information to the pieces they write.

Unsure of your online niche? A content writer can help you research that, too. They’re great at finding new ways to spin old topics and discovering exactly what kind of content your blog ought to be posting to get the customers you want. A lot of people can use Google to learn about new subjects. You need so much more than that.

The next time someone says “Blog writing? I could do that,” you’ll know that’s not entirely true. That person can learn to become a content writer, but it takes practice and a little bit of talent, just like any profession does. Ultimately, content writing is not something people can pick up and automatically succeed at. Writing is a skill people develop, and content writing is a specialization that writers pursue. Not everyone can do it, so you want to hire someone who does it fabulously.

Featured image via Pixabay by Perzonseo

9 Tips for Improving Your Content Writing

Allow me to let you in on a little secret. You don’t have to be the best writer in the world to produce effective content, but you do need to create that content if you want to be a successful marketer, so it’s important you do what you can to improve your content writing. The best part is, it get’s easier over time, I promise (and your writing will get better as well).

Here are some tips that have helped me along the way.

1. Know your audience

Here’s the thing, you’re typically not writing content just for yourself to consume, you creating it for others, so it’s imperative that you understand the ins and outs of who you’re writing for. Knowing your audience isn’t just a writing best practice, this is a business and marketing must as well.

Understanding your audience will help you focus in on your message and create your voice, which over time, will make the writing process easier for you, and the content better for those you are creating it for.

2. Stay organized

I, along with many other marketers, use a content calendar to organize the content I’ll be developing in the near future. It helps to develop monthly themes that I can write about to help me stay on track as well as ensure I’m not writing about the same material too much. For more information on how I put this together, I highly recommend that you check out my post titled, .

Along the lines of being organized, when it comes to the piece of content itself, I suggest you create an outline prior to diving in. I may be taking you back to your high school days with this one, but developing an outline can work wonders. Having a clear path for your content will help you write faster and more clearly.

3. Read

Reading has helped me find my own style and voice more than any other way. I find the more I read, the better I write. Whether it’s a book related to your field or a fictional novel, it doesn’t matter. You’ll start to notice things that resonate with you along with things you’d like to incorporate in your own writing.

When you read, bookmark messages or highlights that grab your attention to save for a rainy day for inspiration.

4. Find your voice

Knowing your audience will help with this, but it’s important to really develop an understanding of the tone you’d like to use throughout your writing. I find it helpful to write like I talk and keep it conversational. Remember that it’s also OK to be opinionated; I actually think it’s important in many cases.

Trust me when I say it’s easier to write in your own voice and use your own personality that it is to try to mimic another.

5. Time your writing

Writer’s block is real. We’ve all experienced it and in the times when it’s the hardest, I’ve found the best way to refocus is to step away for a bit and when you get back, set small increments of time to put your head down and focus. Some people use techniques like the Pomodoro Technique to get this done, where others do it there own way. I know one of the gals on my staff will charge her computer to 100%, unplug it, and force herself to finish the content before her computer dies…hey, whatever floats your boat.

Knowing you have a finite timeline to finish something will help you focus. Start small, even if it’s just 15 minutes of concentrated time before you reward yourself with a break. You can build up from there.

6. Write without interruption

During your focus time, don’t pause to edit. If you have a thought process, just go with it. You may go back and read it and realize it doesn’t make any sense later on, but just get your ideas down on paper and work with what you have from there.

7. Writing the content

Use a compelling headline

Whether it’s the subject line of an email or the title of a blog post, you must create a compelling headline, because more often than not, people really do judge a book by its cover in the literal sense. You must create a headline attractive enough to make your reader want to know more. A/B testing is a great way to nail down what resonates with your audience. There may be some trial and error with this at first, but it’s important you lock it down if you want people to consume your content.

Make it easy for your audience to follow

If you’re writing a blog post, for example, create a post that is easy on the eyes and easy for your reader to consume. I’d recommend:

  • Avoiding long paragraphs
  • Using bullet points
  • Using images to break up the text
  • Using headers to break up various section of the post

8. Edit, edit, and edit

Your content is a representation of you and your brand, so don’t be sloppy. Once I finish a post, I step away from it for a few hours and then come back to look it over with a fresh pair of eyes. If you’re not great at editing, have another person give it a second review.

9. Use tools

There are many tools out there that can help you with your writing so do your research and decide which is better for you. Here at Duct Tape Marketing, we’ve dabbled with a few and here are a couple to kick off your exploration:

There you have it! Those are just a few of my quick tips, but I know there are tons out there. What are some of yours?

7 Important Content Writing Tips for Better SEO

7 Important Content Writing Tips for Better SEO

SEO copywriting was certainly a legitimate service in the days when keyword stuffing and density were factors to consider in making webpages more visible in organic search. Nevertheless, great content remained the core of successful digital marketing campaigns over the years.

You might think that the old approach to creating SEO articles is a thing of the past. But in reality, content that gets highly ranked on search engines is what many marketers are still aiming to achieve. The name of the game might have changed. The methodologies and approach may have tremendously evolved as well. But the goal still remains the same.

1. Target Multiple Keywords

Choose and focus on writing topics that can target multiple keywords. This will ensure that your content can consistently drive traffic through search.

It’s conventional wisdom for content to target a primary keyword. However, many marketers forget to maximize their content’s potential by including and targeting secondary search terms (long tails). That’s often enough to amplify its ability to attract more organic traffic in an extreme way.

Just imagine how much traffic you can get if you have dozens of pieces of content that each rank for hundreds (if not thousands) of search queries.

Use Google’s Keyword Planner to identify keyword variations (with substantial monthly search volume) you can target for your content.

Strategically place your chosen key phrases on the key areas of your content:

  • Title tag
  • Meta description
  • Header tags (H1, H2, etc.)

From the sample above, I’ve built a piece of content (a few weeks ago for testing purposes) that mainly aims to rank for the search term “SEO Philippines.” The topic itself is very broad (and could certainly be dull). So in order to produce something that can genuinely provide useful information to its intended audience, I incorporated specific modifiers such as:

  • Consultants
  • Experts
  • Agencies/Companies
  • Blogs
  • Conferences

This made the content more robust in terms of utility and depth of information, thus making it more sound for search engines to rank the page for the primary keyword it is targeting (and more likely with its other variations).

2. Improve Readability

Readability has a direct impact on user engagement metrics, which is one of the most important areas that Google looks into in ranking webpages nowadays. In the last Search Ranking Factors Survey by Moz, reading level was recognized by several experts as a mid-tier ranking signal for page-level keyword-agnostic features. But many things have changed in Google’s core algorithm over the past couple of years, and user experience is playing a much bigger role now.

Tips for improving your page’s readability:

  • Format your content for skim readers.
  • Use shorter sentences.
  • Break long paragraphs.
  • Highlight the most interesting parts of your content (through effective use of subheadings, bold texts, and whitespaces).
  • Use active voice.
  • Use transition words to give better direction to readers.

Install Yoast SEO, if your site is on WordPress. The plugin can guide you on how to improve your content’s readability.

Make certain to clean out spelling and grammatical errors. You can also use tools such as Microsoft Word’s spelling/grammar checker or Grammarly (a free Chrome extension) to make your content foolproof. This visual guide by Bid4Papers should also come in handy if you’re just starting to write for the web.

3. LSI and TF-IDF

As I mentioned earlier, Google has become smarter in processing and matching queries with relevant webpages from their indices. Latent Semantic Indexing, a process search engines use to understand words and term relationships, has also evolved over the past decade.

What does that mean for marketers? It’s vital to include more semantically related terms in your writing.

  • Use more related nouns and entities (for example, mentioning popular brands or personalities in your particular space).
  • Consider use of synonyms or other close variants (use natural language), rather than using your primary keyword multiple times within the content (for example, “cat pictures,”“cat pics,”“photographs of cats,” etc.).
  • TF-IDF: Include terms frequently used by other competing pages ranking for your target search query.

4. Format Content for Featured Snippets (Google Answer Box)

Include sections in your content that can directly answer question-based queries (“how to,”“what is” and “list of” queries).

Google has different factors in play for this specific search listing (apart from the usual organic search ranking factors), but what’s more important is to ensure that your content is well-formatted and prepared to adapt to these sets of queries. Based on many experts’ observations, below are some of the key signals Google uses to determine which pages rank first:

How to format and optimize your content for Google Answer Box:

  1. Include a section that states the question in a header (h2, h3, or h4).
  2. Provide a concise and direct answer or list of answers to the targeted query.
  3. Make sure that users and search crawlers will easily find this section.

5. Unexpected Hooks

According to last year’s internet statistics report, there are 2.7 million blog posts being published every day. With content saturation in almost every vertical, it has become more of a challenge for actual readers to find something uniquely valuable over the web these days. That’s why offering ideas or information that people will rarely find elsewhere is so important in this age of content.

The goal should always be to give your readers the thing they’d least expect to find in your content. This could be an element within your content that’s surprisingly practical, actionable, useful, or just plainly original.

I have been practicing this approach to writing ever since I started blogging back in 2010. I focus on incorporating the following aspects to make sure my own content will provide unique value (or perspective):

  • Personal experiences
  • Your own case studies
  • Surveys
  • Combining and connecting other publishers’ ideas (and stats) to create your own

6. Aim to Convert

Every bit of content you create must have its own goal and serve a purpose. Most of the time, we build content to get our sites ranked for our campaign’s target keywords. We often forget what to do with the traffic we get from these efforts, such as:

  • Attracting business leads, through exemplifying the brand’s expertise.
  • Building relationships with other publishers and influencers, through citing their works.
  • Strengthening readership and building your social following base, through consistent efforts to educate your target market.

Guiding principles to improve your content’s ability to convert visitors:

  • Help readers actually solve their problems.
  • Inspire and encourage readers to take action (include worksheets on your guides, printable checklists, provide relevant CTAs, etc.).
  • Aim to educate—it’s the best way to influence people, and it’s certainly the best way to sell.

7. Include Stats and Quotes from Credible Sources

Linking out, especially to highly authoritative sources or websites, is another signal that both users and Google use to assess if the information provided by a piece of content is accurate. It’s also essential for search algorithms, as this allows them to better understand relationships and associations among topics and web entities. The topical relevance of the linked sources can also improve your content’s relevance score to their target keywords.

Lastly, citing other people’s works opens up opportunities for networking (and collaboration), especially when you write great content. Most of all, it’s one of the best reasons you can have to engage and build rapport with influencers and thought leaders in your industry (which can boost your content amplification efforts).

Get a weekly dose of the trends and insights you need to keep you ON top, from the strategy team at Convince & Convert. Sign up for the Convince & Convert ON email newsletter.

5 Precious Tips To Get Better AT SEO Content Writing

The challenges facing SEO content writing is endless. If one begins to talk about it, they can go on and on. According to Copy blogger, SEO is the most misunderstood topic on the internet.

From the biggie bloggers out there to the tiny ones, they are constantly attempting to get better at it. As days evolve, SEO is adding more facets to it than ever before. And here is the thing, it is not going out anytime sooner. So how can you get better at it?

The first step to kick start the process of creating content is to get the research game going on. Use the appropriate tools to know the trending topics and hot keywords on the web. Take a note of them, and construct your content around the keyword. People may think that keyword is a part of your content, but in actuality, your content is an addition to the keyword, and only you know this. Also, the professional SEO content writer who you’re hiring.

Search engines give preference to longer content, now, that comes off as a shocker, doesn’t it? Well, make your content at least 600 words long. If it’s Twitter, that 140 characters shenanigan works, but when it comes to creating actual SEO content, you need to make it longer, interesting, inventive and precise.

As much as this world is about mechanizing things, people still do prefer content that they love. There is no alternative to having great content on your site, so write what people love. When professional SEO content writers write, they know to add a tinge of humanly emotion to everything that they pen, hence, not robbing the humanly element off the optimized words.

There is no need of beating around the bush with this one. If you don’t edit your work, then who is going to do it for you? Always ensure that you tweak those words a little, remove a couple of nonsensical things, and grammar check several times (don’t mind the haters calling you Grammar Nazi, be one anyways).

When you break your long content into shorter chunks, you’ll get just the perfect one to retain your readers. Do not clog your page with a long boring content when you can make it more attractive, understandable and readable.



Content Writing – Tips for Making Money Online

For any aspiring freelance writer or blogger, the opportunity to get paid for their output is surely one of their ultimate goals.

Content writing is one avenue popular with writers hoping to reap financial reward. But what are the pros and cons for any budding professional scribe as they set off down this route?

Content Writing Opportunities

The good news is that this is one potential revenue-earning area that is not likely to dry up anytime soon. Over 500 new websites are launched on the Internet every minute. These will cover a diverse range of subjects, and the developers, designers and entrepreneurs behind these sites will undoubtedly have channeled much of their energies into making them look good. There will have been a lot of emphasis on the overall design, the navigation menus – the technical side. But where many of these websites may well be lacking is in content.

On the Internet, content is king. It doesn’t matter if a web interface is so sleekly designed that its web manager assumes its interface is destined to win awards. If the articles within those streamlined pages are uninspiring or lacking search engine optimization, then the site will most likely fail.

This is where writers come into the equation. Web managers have enough plates to spin, so producing the actual page content is often outsourced. There are numerous platforms where would-be writers can search for this type of work, and the biggest tip about tracking down these gigs is to use the search engine of your choice. Simply input something like ‘content writing opportunities’ and sift through the numerous hits.

Some of the Key Do’s

If you aim to have a stab at making a consistent return from writing web content, you need to bear in mind that there are certain aspects that differentiate this skill from, say, journalism or writing a book.

People surfing the Internet have notoriously short attention spans, and no wonder. With the next interesting web page, a mere click away, fingers are permanently itchy, poised to move on the instant they decide they’re not captivated. So, your writing must be able to grab attention.

You’ll quickly learn how to be concise and avoid those flowery descriptions, metaphors and adverbs you were tempted to unleash when drafting that essay or short story. It’s all about maximum information in minimum space. If you’ve been tasked with producing a 300-word article, you simply won’t have time to expand on points.

You will most likely be asked to seed your writing with keywords. These enable customers to find you and stay hooked on your content. They also allow like-minded sites to connect, forming an affiliate network of related enterprises.

Summing it up

Finally, once you do start writing, it is so important to stick to timescales. Like any other freelance writing job, you must adopt strict time management.

Articles must be submitted according to deadline. The Internet is fast-moving. Your clients won’t wait for you to catch up.

Content Writing – Tips for Making Money Online

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