How Not To Writte… On LinkedIn

LinkedIn is that strangest of things – a social networking site where you only connect to people you do business with (and we don’t mean like on Tinder).

As a social site, LinkedIn is all about connecting with, and widening, your work and business networks. So you’ll end up connecting with everyone from Derek in Accounts, to the CEO of a pipe-lagging business you met at that conference in Dudley. LinkedIn also shows you how closely you’re connected to other LinkedIn users, like some odd business-card version of ‘Six degrees of Kevin Bacon’.

In the LinkedIn universe (linkiverse?), a first contact is someone in your network, and a second contact is someone who’s bezza mates with one of your contacts. This ability to ‘stalk’ business contacts means LinkedIn has become a favourite tool of thrusting, aspirational sales managers who desperately want to ‘get an in’ with the Operations Buyer of their current number one target business.

So, if you’re going to actually get something useful out of this sea of business contacts and ex-colleagues, here are the dos and don’ts for using LinkedIn.

Do:

  • Write a profile that grabs the attention. A short, concise personal statement, like you would find at the top of a CV will do just fine.
  • Try not to sound like too much of a corporate clone. Make your LinkedIn profile concise, to the point and with an accurate explanation of who you are and what you do. And do put a photo of yourself on there so people know what you look like – remember, with social media, personality is everything and a human face (however hideous) is a big part of your online persona.
  • Use LinkedIn as more than just an online CV. People used to use the site as somewhere to ‘show off their wares’ when they’d had enough of their current employer and were ready to jump ship. There’s still an element of this (recruiters LOVE LinkedIn as it does all the hard work of finding suitable candidates for them) but LinkedIn is much more about highlighting your skills, telling people what you do and generally making yourself sound like the slightly less egotistical winner of ‘The Apprentice’. So read our CV tips here.
  • Send contacts a personal message when you’re adding them. It will help them place you and increases the chances they’ll want to connect with you.  A simple ‘We met at that pipe lagging conference in Dudley, and I was interested in how you fill your tubes’ will probably suffice.
  • Add in your statement the sort of work you are looking for, but check who you’re connected with first. There’s nothing worse than saying you’re looking for a new job, to then remember you’re still ‘connected’ to your current boss.
  • Keep it professional. This isn’t Facebook for mates, this is for colleagues and networking. And, on that note, be very careful who you connect to – do you really want to be hounded by Derek the pipe lagger, just because you shared a beer once.

Don’t:

  • Get someone else to write your profile – it’s a cardinal sin when it comes to LinkedIn. If you get your personal assistant/bored intern/mum to write your account profile, it’s not going to be a very accurate reflection of you, your style or your particular skills – it’s more likely to sound like someone kissing your arse. Take some time out from world domination and write this yourself. Be honest, big up your good points and don’t mention bankruptcy/court cases/lack of formal qualifications or anything that might detract from your majestic rise to business stardom and well-deserved riches.
  • Leave your photo blank! This is a social media site and the managers you’re meeting from that logistics company next Thursday will be Googling you to try and see what your ugly mug looks like. Find a headshot that looks professional, approachable and try not to grimace too badly.
  • Get too trigger happy with the shares and updates. Posting a few links to interesting articles occasionally is fine, but the people in your network REALLY don’t want to see every recent article you’ve come across shared in their timeline. Be selective and don’t bore people.
  • Feel you have to list every job you ever did and a full list of all your skills. Yes, Linkedin is sort of like a CV/resume but it’s not a place to copy and paste your job description.
  • Slag off your current or previous companies, colleagues or circumstances – remember this is a business site where professional standards will be expected of you.
  • Under no circumstances use the phrases ‘show off your wares’ or ‘thrusting sales professional’ unless you work for Ann Summers/LoveHoney.
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How Not To Writte… A CV or Resume

We’ve all got to earn a buck, and unless you’re self-employed or the offspring of a member of the landed gentry, you’re gonna need to find a job to earn a living.

This means there’s an urgent need to impress your prospective employer with your cycling proficiency badge and your ability to make the text go blinky-blink in Microsoft PowerPoint… and what better place to encompass these skills than in your CV or ‘curriculum vitae’ (that’s a resume, for anyone over the Atlantic).

Your CV could just be the document that brings you fame and fortune – so what do you put in this all-important resume to help seal the deal and win you that new job?

Do:

  • Ensure your damn name and contact details are on it. Someone may have spotted you as the next thrusting buck needed for their dynamic doe-herding business, but it ain’t getting you no job offers if you don’t have your name, email address and telephone number on it.
  • Make your email address appropriate –  ihatemondays, tfifriday, biglover or other ‘personal’ addresses should be avoided.
  • Keep it to two pages of A4. Done. Nope don’t argue. I’m sure it’s thrilling to you that you once worked in Iceland stacking the freezers with mini vol-au-vents, but unless it’s incredibly relevant, a very brief one-liner will do.
  • Generally try to lead with your most recent work/life/study experience first. Yes, you can highlight previous relevant experience, but the older the job the more likely it is that technology, processes and biscuits will have moved on. Employers want to know what you’re doing now and that you’ve moved on from pink wafers, custard creams and Bourbons.
  • Be honest. Of course everyone ‘expands’ their CV and adds some flare to doe herding (reindeer rearing, moose management, pudu performance appraisals), but if you blatantly lie, you will get found out and even the smallest lie will ensure your CV languishes in the outbox marked ‘Destroy – Exterminate – Shred like White House memo’s’.
  • Explain gaps in your CV or why there was sudden change from management accounting to doe herding. Companies are not mind readers. Gaps in CVs often indicate unemployment, which can indicate you’ve been fired a LOT. If this isn’t the case, then explain – a good note is to put this alongside your role description – your reason for leaving. No one should have an issue with a change of career, career break or redundancy, but if you’re invited for interview then do expect to be asked to expand on what you’ve been doing in that time.
  • Talk about achievements and not just what you did. Talk about how you helped increase sales, brought a team together or implemented a project. If it was taken forward, let potential employers know. Your innovative doe-herding harness might be just the thing we’re looking for.
  • Tailor your CV for the role you’re applying for. We know, we know, sending out hundreds of CVs can be debilitating, but companies want to give you a job, they want you to be the best candidate and they want to know what you’ll bring to the table. Take the time, read the job description, candidate profile and their website – a little bit of legwork now might see you pole-vaulting across the finish line.
  • Ensure your CV experience matches up with any online references. Discrepancies and inaccuracies lead potential employers to question your integrity and motives.

Don’t:

  • Add pretty graphics, your photo, gifs or memes unless you work in this kind of industry. It distracts from what a potential employer is looking for – you! Unless you’re an actor or assassin there really is no need for a head shot (assassin, get it! sigh) and you should judge any company accordingly that ask for one.
  • Post anything unsuitable on your Facebook and other social media accounts. If you’re going to have public social media accounts then be very careful what you post. In these technology based times, companies will google you and they’ll trawl through your recent Malaga trip, the rants about your company and the ill-advised theft of last year’s novelty Rudolph. Your public online presence should be professional and we’ll be posting tips on how not to writte your Linkedin bio soon.
  • Start your CV or covering letter with a diatribe on all the things the company can do for you and what you want from them. Remember, you’re not alone in trying to sell yourself for this role, in what is an unfortunately saturated market (yes, even doe herders are ten a penny). So YOU need to stand out: you need to show employers what you can bring to them, not vice versa.  
  • Be tempted to just copy your job description, verbatim. Job descriptions are necessary but dull. They’re also available online and with agencies, so it doesn’t show that you’ve made much of an effort.
  • Ramble. Be succinct, with a list of key elements. If you’ve had a ‘varied’ career and the roles don’t link in with the job you’re applying for, feel free to gloss over, or extract, the key pieces of info that somehow make up that special little nugget called ‘relevant experience’.
  • Just include your qualifications and educational background, even if you’re straight of out school/college/uni. Employers want to know about your life experience, even if it was helping at scouts, volunteering for a charity or that Saturday job you had on the doe farm, it all involves dealing with people and building skills. Tell employers what you learnt from these experiences – just don’t lead with ‘I never want to do stock check for Tesco’s ever again’.
  • Get your mum to write it. Get a trusted friend or colleague to read it over, check for typos and spelling mistakes, but employers can spot Mum (or Dad) CVs a mile off.
  • Add referees to the end of your CV if you haven’t checked with them that they’re happy to provide one. You’d be amazed how many people do this – and your sixth-from-last previous employer may not remember you, rate or like you.

How Not To Writte… A Halloween or Fireworks Night Invite

The leaves are turning myriad shades of gold and rust on the trees, the huge, spindly-legged spiders are once again returning to their haunts in the corner of the living room, and across the land, families are arguing about whether it is, or is not, cold enough to justify putting the central heating on – it’s Autumn, folks!

And as any self-respecting Brit will tell you, there are only two dates in the Autumn social calendar worth worrying about:

  1. Halloween – the coming of the Autumn’s evil spirits, the Day of the Dead, or the night Cheryl from the local pub dons an ill-advised catsuit and emits a feral growl at anyone who’ll listen.
  2. Fireworks/Bonfire Night – the day we all gather around a giant bonfire and set off fireworks to commemorate the day some bloke in a massive hat almost succeeded in blowing up the English Parliament with gunpowder (yeah, we’re not sure why this is suitable for kids either…)

If you’re going get everyone along to your Halloween bash/Bonfire Night extravaganza, you’re gonna need to craft some ghoulishly great copy for your invites.

Here’s the dos and don’ts:

Do:

  • Be creative. Go wild, indulge your inner puns, dodgy Paint and Photoshop skills and overuse of Halloween fonts…(hello ‘Onyx’ my old friend).
  • Remember to give the location and a contact number – you’ll be amazed once you’ve covered your invite with pumpkins and Trump effigies that there’s no room to tell people where they need to assemble.
  • Give the date/time… always useful to know when we’re supposed to turn up, before midnight, lest you want a pile of Cinderella-style pumpkins littering your doorstep.
  • Be clear if you are expecting people to RSVP (or materialise ghostlike out of thin air), come in fancy dress (and the dreaded couples costumes), or bring something (severed head, booze, zombie survival kit).
  • Go mad with the alliteration or throwing in a pun or two, just don’t overdo it. Halloween Hijinks, Poltergeist Party, Ghostly Get-together…the list is (sadly) endless.
  • Go old school/vintage – an intricate lace-patterned gothic-style invite, with archaic terminology can work particularly well. Remember this was the time of Stoker, Mary Shelley, Poe (but not Pooh), gothic romances etc, so feel free to take inspiration from literature. Think soiree, affair, reception rather than party. Be very formal; i.e. ‘Your presence is cordially requested’.
  • Use language to create a little bit of mystery and intrigue (and a lot of internet searching)  by promising Nanty narking and that everyone will be tight as a boiled owl (Ed: nope, I’m none the wiser either).

Don’t:

  • Start your first line of the invite with the words ‘Fancy a big bang?’.  It’s a cliché, it’s dull and unimaginative – use at your peril or fear of derision.
  • Use any other clichés. The same goes for witches brew, the witching hour and spooktacular…….
  • Be a knob when people don’t turn up in fancy dress. Their body, their choice.
  • Make the invite so cryptic that your intended guests have no idea they’ve actually been invited to the party/firework display of the century.
  • Forget to state if it’s family friendly, and what time carriages can come and collect as some of your guests may have babysitters to relieve (Ed: no, not like that, you filth-monger).

 

How Not To Writte… A Dating Profile

So you’ve exhausted the local bars, crochet circle and date recommendations from friends and have decided to plunge headfirst into the world of online dating. But how do you craft the perfect profile that highlights your individual talents/style and gets those emails filling up your inbox quicker than an English stranger mentioning the weather.    

Do

  • Write the profile in the correct way… Be warm, friendly, honest and tell your potential date a little bit about yourself. The idea is to give a snapshot of the type of person you are. Don’t shy away from stating things you feel strongly and passionately about; after all you would want someone who could at least meet you halfway on things that are important to you.
  • Be original, use humour. If you can’t do that, then be honest and sincere.
  • Be positive… (end of, really no argument here, move along please).
  • Say what you’re looking for in a partner, but be prepared to be flexible. You are not looking for someone who matches you on everything you say/do/wear/ingest – you’re hoping for someone who can bring out your best qualities and won’t run a mile at your worst. A smorgasbord checklist of perfect qualities may see you miss out one someone who is just ‘perfect enough’.
  • Write something! Yes we know it sounds obvious but you’d be surprised how many profiles say very little and just come across as a tick list of wants. Potential dates need to have a ‘hook’ to get them interested – profiles with no photo, detail or warmth shout boring, not interested – or worse – player!
  • Keep an air of mystery: it’s half the fun getting to know people. We don’t need your whole life story to start of with, think onions, think trifles, think bricks… yep it’s all about the layers.
  • Be careful with your profile name. Don’t use your real name, or really obscure references and check how the spelling can be interpreted…seriously, HNTW once saw a profile listed as cuminthedog. Yep!

Don’t

  • Post your business CV – you’re looking for a partner not an investor.
  • Men – do not say ‘partner in crime’. Women – do not say ‘knight in shining armour’.  Seriously you’re just inciting a spate of armoury robberies.
  • Don’t have your profile picture of you with your boobs or pecs/penis out and then have the comment ‘Want to be taken seriously/looking for my forever person’. You are quite frankly…a knob.
  • Copy someone else’s profile.
  • Get someone else to write it. It’s ok to use the occasional ‘reference comment’ but if you really struggle with words, just say that on the profile and be nice with, ‘this is really difficult, but um, I’m nice, I hope you’re nice, maybe our ‘nices’ can get together for a chat’.
  • Say you’re looking for friendship and then in your first message ask for their number, invite them to meet your mum or join you in your hotel, so you can ‘show them around the sights’.
  • Denigrate others choices in your profile. HNTW saw a profile that said actresses and models ‘should get a real job’. Please keep this closed mind thinking to yourself, you’ll have plenty of time to weed out the supermodels when they come flocking to your door.
  • Use it as a soapbox to bitch about your ex or bang on about your political ideals, the state of the world, state of Waitrose or state of your deranged mind.
  • Put a timeline on your profile with when a response is needed by. It shows you’re desperate and automatically puts pressure on the other person.

How Not To Writte… A Holiday Postcard

It’s that time of year again. The schools are out, the out-of-office messages are on and everyone’s jetting off to sunnier climes to enjoy their fortnight of sand, sea and sangria.

And if there’s one thing we ALL love about going on holiday, it’s rubbing our friends’ and family’s noses in just how amazing our vacation is in comparison to their week of work at the corporate grindstone. Second only to forcing your nearest and dearest to painfully trawl through your Instagram posts, is the sending of the obligatory postcard back home.

Even in the digital age, we still get a strange sense of pleasure in sending a badly colourised photo of a long-dead seaside donkey to our relations. And with apps like TouchNote allowing us to send printed postcard versions of the holiday snaps on our smartphones, there’s little sign that the allure of the postcard is on the wane.

So, how do you write that perfect postcard home? Here’s the dos and don’ts for making your holiday postcard as palatable as possible, without rubbing too much salt (sun cream) into the wound.

Do:

  • Make sure you get the address correct. You might still be operating from a dog-eared address book you started in 1991, or you may be very high tech and have your addresses saved to your Google contacts. But either way, get the house number and post code right, or your friend/relative’s neighbours will get to find out all about your regrettable attack of explosive diarrhoea in the local taverna.
  • Pick a card with a lovely photo of your destination. To achieve maximum smugness points, you want your hotel and/or beach to look as awesome as possible. So choose a postcard that has the blue skies, golden beaches and beautiful vistas that will induce intense sensations of FOMO in whoever receives it.
  • Be succinct about the holiday. No-one wants War & Peace written out on the back of their postcard, so keep it short and to the point. Tell them about Grandma’s inadvertent dive into the rock pool, explain why Auntie Sarah is coming back with an ‘interesting’ sunburn mark and feel free to inform your recipient just why Mum has decided to set up a taverna with the moustachioed Georgios –  short bullet points will suffice; you can bore them rigid with the full details once you get back to Blighty with your stuffed donkey and extra holiday pounds.
  • Finish with a nice, ‘look forward to seeing you’, or ‘catch up soon’ – but do not use ‘wish you were here’. If you did, you’d’ve invited them, and you didn’t, therefore you don’t want to spend your holiday with them and that’s just rubbing salt in the jellyfish wound.

Don’t:  

  • Choose a highly inappropriate photo. Much as you may find it hilarious to send an image of a ripped Spanish man in speedos to your Great Auntie Enid, remember that it’s best not to offend your recipient, or give the Post Office workers any cause for a raised eyebrow (or more) when delivering your card.
  • Go right up to the margins with your writing. There’s limited space on the back of a postcard, which means you’ve only got a certain amount of capacity to fit in all your hastily scrawled writing. Limit yourself to a few paragraphs and some short bullets to get your point across, and don’t use tiny illegible handwriting that only a criminologist with a microscope will be able to read.
  • Write in the margins, around the margins, or by the postage stamp. No trying to be clever getting the recipient to turn the postcard clockwise to try and read anything, they won’t or they’ll end up with a crick in their neck – either way, they’re not going to be happy.
  • Leave instructions for your house sitter or other friends back home, you should have thought about that before you left. A postcard that the whole village may see is not the place to tell your sister where to find the back door key.
  • Try writing poetry, on any account. You may be half cut on sangria or ouzo, but there’s really no excuse for inflicting your badly-scanning rhymes on anyone other than yourself (and Georgios of course).

How Not To Writte…House Sale Particulars

The UK housing market isn’t exactly looking buoyant at the mo, but many of us are still looking to up sticks and put our house on the market. Whether that’s down to a change in personal circumstances, the need to free up capital or merely a lifelong search to find a mortgage rate that doesn’t leave you bankrupt and begging your parents for beer as payday approaches, there’s always going to be someone ready to nail a ‘For Sale’ board to the garden fence.

But how do you ensure that those nice people who can get a mortgage, or indeed the lesser spotted ‘cash buyer’, see your advert and want to buy your very own ‘mi casa’?

Do:

  • Point out your home’s selling points. Yeah, obvious we know, but remember people from outside your locale may be looking to relocate, so if it’s great for families, has low crime rates, incorporates a beautiful balcony or its own well-established vineyard, make sure you mention it.
  • If the house is ripe for redevelopment, investment and extending, let people know that it has potential. Some people LOVE a ‘project’ to work on, as even a cursory glance at Homes Under The Hammer on daytime TV will tell you.
  • Put the damn postcode on the advert. There’s nothing worse than trying to locate your dream home and realising you’ve been looking in the wrong ‘Middle Codswallop’, or that your ideal house is conveniently situated next to Yorkshire’s largest sewage works.
  • List the property’s best points first. Great selling points can include having a garden, a built-in garage, resplendent views of the countryside, large and roomy bedrooms or a brand spanking new Italian-designed kitchen that looks like it’s straight out of a brochure.
  • Include details of the parking arrangements and transport links, number of rooms, heating type and whether there are local shops etc (Ed: No need to mention the regular lock-in at the pub, or that your home is located equidistant to diddly-squat).

Don’t:

  • Say cosy, bijou, compact, or easy-to-maintain living space to describe your property – we all know this means postage stamp-sized lounge, where in one stride you can make a cup of tea/go to bed/have a wee.
  • Use the phrase park/city/area adjacent – any savvy buyer will be aware that this means you’re trying to extend the reach of a catchment area to include your property, which actually sits in the not-so-attractive area five miles outside the city.
  • Forget ancillary rooms and areas. If you’ve got a shed (and it’s staying) shout about it! Many a chap (or chapess) have been won over by the thought of escaping into the garden for peace and quiet with a copy of the Littlewoods’ lingerie pages and a tight grip on their power tool. (Ed: *makes mental note never to visit your shed*)

How Not To Writte… A Wedding Invitation

Weddings, eh. A social occasion much beloved by aunties, drunk uncles and teary eyed parents the world over – and for the rest of us an excuse for a massive shindig at dad’s expense.

If you and your life partner have decided to make it all official and tie the knot, you’re going to need to write that all important invite for the big day. Many months of preparation will go into making this day go with a bang, and equal amounts of care, attention and design skill will go into perfecting the ideal wedding invitation too.

So if you want to guarantee a speedy RSVP, and a lingering feeling that this is going to be the wedding of the century, here’s the lowdown on writing that invite.

Do

  • Be clear about the essential details: When? Where? What time? That’s the holy trinity you need to get right. Think ‘www or world wide web’, or ‘wedding will work’ if that helps keep this mantra clear in your head. It’s also probably a good idea to include your names, so people know who’s getting married. You can go formal if you want but remember your mates might not know you as the honourable Alistair and Archibald, so sticking with Al and Archie is just dandy.
  • State that you need RSVPs (Ed: for the uninitiated, RSVP stands for répondez, s’il nous plait, which is swanky French talk for ‘please reply’). Ultimately, just state somewhere on the invite that you need replies and, most importantly, by when. Feel free to include an RSVP card, so people don’t have to raid their drawers for lavender scented notelets (yes, these we are a thing).
  • Indicate if the invite is for the person or persons named only, or includes any ‘plus ones’. Standard etiquette is that plus ones are referred to as ‘and guest’, which hopefully negates your mate Sandra turning up with half the rugby club.
  • Be very clear whether or not children are allowed. It’s perfectly reasonable to have an adult-only do, but be aware that this may limit your guests’ attendance, or time spent with you. But if you don’t want the little buggers running round the dancefloor singing the theme from Justin’s House, make it very clear.
  • Put extra details like gift registries, directions or more info about the style of your wedding something other than the invite. You could even set up a wedding website, if that’s your kinda thing and you have lots of young, hip and trendy types coming along (Ed: get us – hip and trendy!). However, do ensure you also include this information on a standard bit of paper that can be passed to older or technophobe relatives who won’t know their internets from their fishnets.

Don’t

  • Be sappy and overly sentimental. Yes, we know romance is wonderful and you’ve found the love of your life and it’s all white doves, soulful sunsets and UTIs from all the shagging, but there is nothing more irritating to the rest of us than sickening displays of affection. We’re British (Ed: not you, overseas readers!) – so that’s reserved for dogs and John Lewis’ adverts.  
  • Use a font that’s so curly, antique or otherwise ‘fancy’ that no bugger can read it – you do want us to come don’t you?
  • Get so worked up about etiquette that you mix up your Madams with your Sirs, your ten o’clock with your 2pm or your wedding breakfast for the evening buffet. Ultimately, you want this group of people, let’s call them A, to turn up to a place you have chosen, let’s call that B, at an appropriate time, let’s call that C – and generally you want to have a good time. So ultimately It’s Dear A, Please go to place B, at C and we’ll have a jolly old shindig, wot ho!
  • Be too prescriptive – be it clothing choices, colour schemes or matter of arrival Your guests are here to enjoy your big day with you, not be part of a military siege to take over Marylebone Registry Office, complete with a SWAT team of ushers.

How Not To Writte… A Limerick

Yes, it’s National Limerick Day here in the UK today (12 May 2017)! The day is marked to commemorate the birthday of Edward Lear , the celebrated British writer, creator of literary nonsense and owner of one of the Victorian era’s most luxuriant and bushy beards – and the person who did most to popularise the poetic form we all know as the limerick.

Not sure you know what a limerick is? Here’s one we’ve just scribbled down for your delectation:

There was a young writer of words,
Whose prose became strange and absurd.
He tried to be clever,
With prose and whatever,
But his poems never quite scanned or rhymed… (Ed: bugger!)

So, if you think you can do better (and we’re pretty sure you can) here’s the dos and don’ts of writing your own limerick.

Do:

  • Stick to the strict AABBA rhyming structure of a Limerick. Your first two lines, and your final line must rhyme, unlike our tragically bad example. And it’s this rhyme scheme that makes your first choice of place/location so critical – if your subject is from Constantinople, you’ve got to find TWO more rhymes for that (Ed: good luck!!).
  • Work with the original conceit of ‘There once was a…’, or ‘There was a…’. These forms give you plenty of scope to insert names of people, animal, plants and objects… yes really! For example, ‘There was a young man called Bill…’,  or ‘There once was a venus fly trap/pretty young cat/anglepoise lamp…’ ok, possibly not the last one.
  • Make a rhyming dictionary your new best friend – rhymezone.com have a great one for free. You don’t want to be left bereft of a rhyme when you get to the end of your new limerick opus, so go through the rhyming options and see which word most tickles yer fancy.

Don’t:

  • Start your limerick with ‘There was a young man from Nantucket…’. You’ll be stuck for a rhyme that isn’t offensive or obscene and it will all end in tears, believe us. See also ‘There was an old man named Lunt…’
  • Although… there was a young man from Nantucket, who fell in love with a pretty pink bucket, they flew to the moon, and returned far too soon, as they ran out of fuel in their rocket… (Ed: good save with the ending there!).
  • Attempt to get Lear-esque with your imagery. Come up with your own style, try out as many variations as you can…and see which option raises the most smiles/giggles/looks of horror. Limericks, after all, are all about being silly, so knock yourself out.

If you’re feeling inspired, why not write your own limerick and send it to us… go on, you’re a poet and you don’t know it 😉

How Not To Writte… On Google+

You know that noise you get in cartoons when someone tells a really terrible joke and the obligatory tumbleweed rolls lazily past as the wind whistles all around? That’s what it sounds like when you log into Google+.

Google has brought us many brilliant and useful things – who, after all, searches for ANYTHING online and doesn’t use the Google search engine? Probably just people who work at Microsoft and are made to use Bing on pain of having red-hot pokers shoved in unpleasant places if they so much as look like they’re going to do a Google search. (Ed: *runs a Google search* “Do Amazon ship red-hot pokers that are compatible with Bill Gates?…”)

So we all love the Google search engine, right?

But Google+ is without doubt the worst social network of them all – there, we’ve said it and it’s out in the room! Phew, I bet you all feel better now, right? You thought it was only you, didn’t you? Even that little ‘+’ at the end is annoying, sitting there looking all smug and winking at you with its one little cross eye, twitching nervously at it contemplates whether to bollocks up your search optimisation.

Do:

  • Post your blog links and content here. Let’s face it, there’s only one reason to be on Google+ and that’s because posting your content and links on Google+ will help the search engine optimisation (SEO) of your web pages, blogs and digital marketing.
  • Post regularly. Because it’s all part of the one big Google family, if you do a quick status update on Google+, it’s more likely that your link will come higher up the search rankings – and that’s the pinnacle of your content dreams after all, right?
  • Use hashtags (# these annoying little finnicky buggers) to flag up your content – unlike Facebook, where using a hashtag marks you out as a prize tool, in Google+ tagging your posts may actually help you find the right audience for your latest treatise on why Fraggle Rock should be recommissioned (Ed: Good idea. Get on it, ITV!)

Don’t:

  • Try using Google+ as a social place to hang out, shoot the breeze and post the usual kind of chatty status updates. As a social networking site, it has all the ambience and attraction of a Wetherspoons boozer at 3pm on a Tuesday – in other words, it’s almost empty, and the people you DO meet will definitely not be your first choice of companion, drinking or otherwise.
  • Loiter once you’ve posted that update. Write it, stick in your hashtags and publish it: then get the HELL out of there! Stay around any longer and you may well be digitised and pulled into the Google mainframe to spend a Tron-like existence trapped for eternity in the HTML code of Chrome. Apply the Primark shopping approach: go in, get what you need, get out and hope no-one has spotted you paying £1.50 for your undercrackers.
  • Add anyone you actually know to the ‘Circles’ in Google+. This is Google’s way of grouping people together by friendship/work/customer type, and it’s all a bit too ‘sorting people and putting them in a box’ for our liking. Avoid at all costs, and talk to your real friends on Twitter or Facebook… or Snapchat if youse is like well young, innit.

 

How Not To Writte… A Novel

They say everyone has a book inside them (and we don’t mean in the ’embarrassing visit to A&E’ sense). We all have a story to tell, a journey to share or an idea that sounds like it could be worked into a passable novel.

But if you’ve just come up with the best idea ever for a chick lit flicker – featuring the forbidden love between a chocolate company owner and his down-at-heel cleaning lady – how do you get this blockbusting idea out of your head and into 100,000 words of tear-enducing literary prose?

Do:

  • Commit to writing, a LOT, and then some, and then some more, again… and wash, and repeat.
  • Learn the basics of editing skills. You don’t need swish software but you DO need patience and – in our opinion – rewards for getting your edits done. Chocolate works well (Ed: there’s a theme emerging here… ). Editing is not a necessary evil, it is just part of the whole process; you HAVE to do it – so make it as comfortable as possible.
  • Print your chapter or section out if you can when doing your editing. Plonk yourself down in a nice comfy chair, drink of choice in hand, sit back and relax. With whatever pen/pencil/quill you prefer, slowly go through the text, correcting the typos, grammar and things that make no sense. Does it scan, can you read it out loud, have you used ‘but’ far too many times?… But… when you get to the end of the section reward yourself with whatever you need in order to feel good about the editing process: biscuit(s), favourite TV programmes, Swedish massage from Lars…
  • Plan out the structure of the story, however roughly. With a few key ideas for story milestones you’ll give yourself a skeleton for the whole novel – you can add the flesh to these rough bones at a later point, giving birth to your very own literary zombie.
  • Make your characters feel like real people. Don’t just describe the colour of their dress/jacket. Give your reader a bold-brush-stroke idea of what this person is like and make them feel some engagement, empathy or emotion towards them. Human stories need rounded human characters – and when we say rounded we don’t mean Mr Blobby.
  • Start on the action – back story can come later. Engage with your reader and give us snippets of the back story and the ‘whys’ later on. In short, get our attention early or we’ll be tempted to turn on the telly and watch Googlebox/shout at Question Time.
  • Have a reason for everything that happens. Don’t introduce ‘colour’ to something if it doesn’t serve a purpose. It’s great that Auntie Flo’s beautiful russet red Manolo’s walked through the door, but if they don’t stamp on something, get thrown off at a disco, or describe that she’s kooky, it serves no purpose (take note, Dan Brown).
  • Write! Yes we know, prosaic, but you have to put in the time. And, yes, some of it will be bilge, but some of it will be brilliant too – write, write and write some more and soon the diamonds will start sparkling among the more work-a-day coal.
  • Get used to being ‘stuck’. It doesn’t matter – keep writing! Write anything. Write poetry, diaries, short stories, or a letter to your mum, but write something. Use writing prompts if need be, but if you’ve committed your time to write, then write, anything.

Don’t:

  • Miss huge bits of plot because you think your reader will know what’s going on. Nice as it would be, your reader isn’t psychic, so you need to give enough plot hints to make it clear what’s happening. Conversely don’t tell us everything – show not tell. No-one wants a novel to read like an Ikea instruction manual.
  • Be boring with your writing. Cardinal sins can include being too descriptive, going overboard with the adjectives (It was a dark and stormy night… ) or going into minute detail that adds nothing to the story, the character development or the excitement of the narrative – so choose wisely what to describe. Less is generally more.
  • Show all your wares up front (Ed: unless you’re drafting something for the ’50 Shades of Grey’ market). Like that unforgettable night at Foxy’s Exotic Dancing Emporium, the tease, the strip, is most of the fun… so take time to let us get at your goodies.
  • Attempt to hit your 3,000 words a day count whilst simultaneously having Twitter/Instagram/the news/CBeebies on a nearby screen. Get rid of all distractions. There is a time for inspiration (Ed: Late at night, after a few vinos, watching Michael Fassbender/Angelina Jolie), and there’s the occasions where you SAY you’re seeking inspiration but ACTUALLY you’re distracting yourself with YouTube videos of pandas on slides. Lock yourself away and (as we KEEP on saying) get writing, writing WRITING!!!