Iain Wallace
16th November 2018 - 3 mins read
W

ell, at Thirty Seven we believe in making content creation as simple and efficient as possible.

Sometimes this involves adopting the latest technology to incorporate interactive games, contests and podcasts into corporate marketing strategies.

And on other occasions it can mean revisiting the tools we have used for years – like Microsoft Word – and finding ways to do things that little bit better.

So in this blog we thought we’d share some of the Word tips and tricks that our content creators love.

Tip 1 – Filling the gap

How many times have you been preparing content in Word when not all the information is immediately available? You still want to do the ground work on the document and check the layout so you need some filler text. There’s only so many times you can repeat the words ‘blah blah blah’ across your document before it looks a bit silly, so for some more realistic looking holding text you can ask Word.

For paragraphs of random text, simply type =rand() or if a bit of Latin is more your thing you can get the same by simply typing =lorem(). The standard is three paragraphs but place a number between the brackets and you’ll get the equivalent number of paragraphs of filler.

Go try it now and see what you get…

Tip 2 – Losing it

It’s very easy to lose your place when editing various sections of a document, especially when you are being continually side tracked by telephone calls, urgent emails and impromptu meetings.

When you finally get back to the work you set out to do, using <Shift> + F5 will allow you to cycle directly to the spots that you have edited most recently. Using the same shortcut on a newly opened document will put you straight back to the location where you were most recently working, allowing you to dive straight back in before the phone rings again.

Tip 3 – Repetitive strain

If you find yourself repeatedly dipping into certain words or phrases in your content, such as the sign-off at the end of blog posts, the clipboard panel could be your answer.

Open the panel using the small dropdown arrow next to the clipboard and the items you copy will stack up one by one, up to a maximum of 24. This gives you an always available list that you can pick from with a single click at any point in your document.

Even after you close down Word completely the full list is still there the next time you open a document.

Tip 4 – A ‘case’ in point

When consolidating background documents written by different authors you can save hours furiously editing or retyping erroneous upper and lower case letters by using the ‘Change Case’ button.

This button allows you to change entire sections of text from upper to lower case and vice versa as well as providing options to capitalise the first letter of each word and so on. What’s more, selecting your text and using <Shift> + F3 will allow you to do pretty much the same thing by toggling through the different case options until you’re happy.

Tip 5 – Not a paintbrush

Format Painter is another supremely handy tool when gathering and combining content from different sources. Far from anything to do with painting as the icon suggests, this button actually allows you to reformat huge swathes of text into your chosen style.

Select some text that’s in your preferred style. Hit the ‘Format Painter’ button and then drag your mouse over the separate section of text that you want to re-format to your chosen style. Quick, easy and a definite time saver.

We love the fact we are still finding out new things about a programme that has become an integral part of daily life for so many of us for so long. What Word features could you not live without?


At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper.  

Marketing

Why simplicity is vital to content marketing

Adam Fisher 2nd February 2018 — 5 mins read
W

e can probably all recall investing time to read something that grabbed our attention with an enticing headline, only to find it was convoluted and tricky to follow.

Perhaps it is the quest to create something original and valuable that drives organisations to inadvertently opt for content which creates barriers to comprehension and distractions from the main message.

Maybe it is a fear that they will not be seen as an expert in their field that leads them on a path to complicated language and clunky phrasing.

Whatever the reason, it is hugely frustrating for both the reader and the author. Ultimately, if people can’t understand what you are trying to say they also won’t know how you expect them to act.

But this situation is solvable.

Simplicity is the key to understanding and therefore should be the foundation of all written content.

Newspapers and journalists know this.

The average reading age of the UK population is generally considered to be around nine years.

The Sun has a reading age of eight, while the more highbrow Guardian has a reading age of 14. That doesn’t mean they think their readers lack intelligence, it means they know where to set their writing so that the vast majority of readers can understand it.

But how do you make your content simple to understand while still producing something valuable?


Lose the big words

The important thing to remember about your content is that you are not producing it to impress your colleagues with your vocabulary.

And very few of us have time to reach for the dictionary when we’re reading. Invariably if we can’t follow what is being said we quickly give up and disregard that content altogether.

This means that when producing content we should always think twice about the more decorative words we could use and consider if there are simpler alternatives. For example, use ‘start’ instead of ‘commence’ and ‘near’ instead of ‘close proximity’.


Short sentences and paragraphs

One of the first lessons drilled into any young journalist is the importance of using short sentences.

At the start of my career I was told to keep mine between 20 and 30 words long and it is something I try to stick to now, 20 years later.

The reason is that long sentences and those with multiple clauses invite unnecessary complexity.

Similarly, long paragraphs can be daunting for readers and cause them to switch-off and lose interest.

Again if you look at a newspaper or magazine, very rarely will you find paragraphs consisting of more than one sentence.


Avoid the jargon

A regular frustration with much written content is that organisations often fall back on jargon to explain what they do and the messages they are trying to get across.

The problem is that often these words and phrases mean little to people outside that industry or particular company – instantly turning off readers.

But use of jargon in content also suggests that you don’t know the subject perhaps as well as you should or think you do. Remember the famous Albert Einstein quote - “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

It also implies that you have nothing new to say to the reader (in which case why should they read on?).


Stick to everyday language

The key with written content, even with the more formal style used in whitepapers, is to use the language that you and your readers would use in everyday conversation.

When I’m writing content I try to use the language I would use if I was explaining the point to a friend or family member in a pub or café – just without the swearing.


Reading out loud

One of the tricks I use to test the simplicity of my own content is to read it aloud. Sure, it generates some funny looks in the office, but it’s a good way of identifying words, phrases and sentences which may be confusing.

If I stumble over parts of it, or find myself having to reread certain paragraphs, then it is fair to assume my content isn’t as straightforward as I intended.


Test the readability of your content

There are easy to use tools you can use to test the simplicity and readability of your content. Word offers two useful measurements.

The Flesch Reading Ease score uses the number of words in a sentence and the number of syllables in each word to calculate how easy it is to read a document. The lower the score, the more difficult the text is to read and ideally you should aim for a score of between 60 and 70.

The second check, known as the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, is an equation which tells you how many years of education someone needs to understand your content.

The grade score is based on the American grade system and essentially you need to add five to your grade to find the reading age of your content.



As you can see, in the above image my reading ease is 60.3 and my grade level is 9.7, meaning a 14-15 year old should be able to understand it. It’s also worth highlighting that the average length of a sentence in this post is under 20 words.

To find your score, simply go to the ‘file’ menu, then ‘options’ and then on to the ‘proofing’ tab.

Under the ‘when correcting spelling and grammar in Word’ heading you need to tick the box which says ‘show readability statistics’.

Then when you run a spelling and grammar check you will find the two readability scores.

Simplicity is a very effective content marketing strategy. It is not about dumbing down or insulting the intelligence of your readers.

It is about ensuring your content is easy to understand for as many people as possible. And that takes skill. But, it is well worth it.

Steve Jobs famously once said: “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”



At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper.

Tom Idle
29th March 2018 - 8 mins read

Every company wants to be an authority in their sector - those that engage the media usually are

Media First designs and delivers bespoke media and communications courses that use current working journalists, along with PR and communications professionals, to help you get the most from your communications plan.