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7 Tips for Building a Consistent Brand Voice

7 Tips for Building a Consistent Brand Voice

If you are a business owner, you are probably familiar with the idea of brand voice. Your brand voice is how your brand sounds and feels each time you communicate with your audience, across all platforms. Alongside your visual design, brand voice is what brings your business to life for everyone who interacts with it.

Consistency is what your brand voice needs to be across all platforms. When your brand interacts with your audience, it must always deliver the same experience. Whether it’s on your website, social media, video, email, audio, or other branded materials, a consistent brand voice is an absolute must for your brand strategy.

So how do you make sure your brand voice is consistent? First, let’s jump into what brand voice is. Then, we’ll show you how to determine whether yours is consistent across all platforms.

What is Brand Voice?

A brand voice is the embodiment of your business’s mission, vision, and values. If you’re a personal brand, those attributes will reflect who you are as an individual. A larger company or corporation, on the other hand, might have created a persona for their business and then assigned values to that.

Whether your business’s values are grounded in a person or a persona, they will naturally begin to take on a specific tone, voice, and feel. In a sense, brand voice is the personality of your brand and all that entails. It’s the overarching impression you want to leave on your audience at every touchpoint in the buyer’s journey.

Think about brands that have stood out to you over the years. When you come in contact with their marketing campaigns or buy their products, how do you feel? Is the brand entertaining or heartwarming? Does it tug your heartstrings and inspire you to action? Does it make you feel special or luxurious?

Why Your Brand Voice Matters in Marketing

Why does your voice matter to you? For one thing, helps you build and maintain trust with your target audience. Your audience comes to learn your brand like a friend or a trusted expert. They come to expect you to deliver a specific type and tone of communication within your marketing.

Think of the voice of your brand as a character. (You don’t necessarily have to have a character mascot, but many brands do.) If you break character, you’ll confuse your audience and risk breaking their trust. As a result, some members of your audience might walk away. You want to make sure your voice is consistent and that your people know what you’re about, at all times.

Tips for Keeping Your Brand Voice Consistent

Wondering how to build a consistent, authentic brand voice? Here are some tips to get you going.

1. Get Clear on Your Mission, Vision, and Values

As a brand, do you really know who you are? To get started building your brand voice, get clear on your mission, vision, and values. Why are you here? What’s important to your brand? What are you trying to accomplish?

2. Ask Yourself What Your Brand is Not

Knowing what your brand is not is just as important as knowing what it is. This will help you better define your voice. Make a list of all the attributes that you do not want to be associated with your brand, and keep them nearby as you develop your voice.

3. Know Who You’re Talking To

Do you know your target audience? Knowing who your brand is targeting is an important step toward developing your brand’s voice. If you haven’t already identified your target customer, now is the time.

4. Decide How You Want Your Audience to Feel When They Interact with Your Brand

How do you want your audience to feel about your brand? Do you want to entertain them? Inspire them to consider uncomfortable truths? Warm their hearts? Make them feel nostalgic? See your brand as a trusted expert? Once you’ve answered that question, choose a handful of adjectives to describe your brand.

5. Decide on Your Brand’s Tone of Voice

Once you’ve decided what your voice is, it’s time to focus on the tone of your brand. Use your answers from #3 to determine your tone. For example, if you want to make your audience laugh, your tone might be witty, engaging, and welcoming. Or, if you want to raise awareness of a specific issue, your tone might be thoughtful, inspiring, and passionate.

6. Create a Brand Style Guide

A brand style guide contains rules for your copywriting, graphics, colors, fonts, images, and all your business’s branding details. This guide serves as a framework for you and your team to follow when developing content.

7. Audit Your Marketing Platforms and Materials

Do a sweep of your marketing platforms and materials to check for consistency in your voice. If you’re well-acquainted with what your voice should be, you’ll be able to weed out inconsistencies easily. Then, make adjustments to those parts of your brand to bring them in line with the rest.

Examples of Companies with Memorable, Consistent Brand Voices

A brand voice can be used in pop culture to create feelings of warmth and nostalgia for those who know and love it. Here are a few standout brands with distinct, consistent voices:

Amazon Prime Video

Amazon Prime Video’s brand voice across social media feels like trading memes with your best friends. Its lively, fun fangirling is contagious, wickedly funny, and universally appealing. The brand conveys a consistent tone while featuring movies and TV shows both new and nostalgic.

Apple

Apple’s brand voice is sleek, sophisticated, and high-tech. Its voice extends past its copy and marketing content, directly into its products. Every detail and material used communicates the high quality the company is known for. While its products stand on their own as industry leaders in quality and innovation, Apple’s voice takes its campaigns to the next level.

Geico

Insurance is boring, but Geico is a master of creating silly commercials that draw public awareness to its insurance products. From its familiar little Gecko to characters like Maxwell the Pig and Caleb the Camel (“Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike!”), Geico has managed to become part of the public psyche. The company consistently delivers entertaining and amusing content across all platforms. (For the record, my favorite Geico commercial is this one featuring basketball star Dikembe Mutombo.)

Old Spice

Old Spice made waves and tickled funny bones in 2010 with its first Old Spice Guy Super Bowl commercial. Since then, they’ve continued creating humorous marketing campaigns infused with irreverent, masculine humor. For example, one of their recent campaigns features their new “PITFLUENCER”, a fictional Instagram influencer that is a literal armpit (and, um, funny bone–har, har). The PITFLUENCER’s photos feature him dunking a basketball, lounging at a red carpet event, and doing other important and manly things that men definitely want to do, and will probably do better if they use Old Spice (tongue-in-cheek alert!).

Tiffany & Co.

Tiffany & Co. has long been recognized for its signature blue packaging and beautiful, classic jewelry. Founded in 1837, this iconic brand is truly timeless. They’ve carried their distinctive brand voice into the 21st century with a modern flair and a conscious spin: sustainably-sourced diamonds. Customers who invest in Tiffany & Co. jewelry know they are not only buying from a trusted brand but from an industry leader that cares about how its diamonds are obtained.

Wendy’s

Snarky, witty, and saltier than its fries, Wendy’s brand voice is a force to be reckoned with. The company’s Twitter account is a great place to see the fast-food chain’s brand voice in action. Not only is Wendy’s highly engaged with its followers, it regularly–and hilariously–roasts other fast-food brands.

Wrapping Up

The consistency of your brand voice can make or break your brand. Much like developing a character, your voice requires careful development. Successfully keeping your brand in character takes careful attention to detail, but it pays dividends for your business.

Copywriting for Social Media: 7 Tips to Boost Engagement

Copywriting for Social Media: 7 Tips to Boost Engagement

Copywriting for social media is an important part of your digital marketing strategy. Beyond product visuals, video, graphic design, and brand aesthetics, copy is what compels your followers to action. Whether you’re building your email list, directing your followers to your website, boosting engagement, or selling a product or service, your copywriting is what will move users along their customer journey.

Wondering how to better leverage your copywriting for social media? Here are some tips to get you going.

1. Lead With The Main Idea…Or A Compelling Teaser.

When you consider copywriting for social media, the name of the game is getting your main idea in front of your followers. They’re busy scrolling, so you’ll need to snag their attention. In some cases, a strong and compelling teaser does the trick–but you’ll often need to start out with the lede in front.

Adjust your copy according to the platform and format where you’ll be posting it. Some platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, allow for fairly long captions. Others, like Twitter, demand shorter copy. (If you’re wondering about character count limits on each social media platform, here’s a guide.)

Take a look at how your posts will be structured, which lines of copy your readers will see first, and how much space you have to squeeze in your main idea before a follower has to click into the post. Consider what your audience will see first: a standard line or two of text before the cutoff? An ad headline?

Anticipating your post’s structure will help you construct the most compelling copy for your audience. If appropriate, you might decide to place your featured copy on an image or in a video, and use your caption to call attention to and support it.

Here’s a great example from Apple’s Twitter account. The caption leads with the main idea, and the attached link builds on the idea that working on a Mac machine is good for business teams of all sizes.

2. Ask Open-Ended Questions.

Asking questions in your copywriting for social media is a great way to get your followers
engaged with your posts. Ask them questions they’ll get excited about answering. People like to share about their experiences and the things they love, so consider incorporating those questions as they relate to your brand.

Take a look at how Iron and Ink Designs led with a question in the following post. “Bookish candles” are popular in the Bookstagram community, so it’s a question that’s sure to get some good engagement.

You can ask your followers what they want to know about you and your brand. Be sure to respond to their answers when possible. If you have a team, delegate engagement to a team member to ensure you have eyes on the comments section.

3. Evoke Emotion.

Depending on your brand and your audience, you’ll want to evoke specific emotions through your copywriting for social media. The emotions you want to stir often depend on the kind of experience you want your followers to have when they encounter your brand. Do you aim to entertain, inspire, or deeply affect your audience?

Consider the desired outcome before you write your copy. That’s what Mixtus Media did in the following Instagram post.

The agency specializes in book marketing for authors, and they shared this inspirational (curated) post for writers who are working to find an agent or publishing deal, but find themselves struggling. Also note that they made sure the main idea would show up for readers before the line break.

4. Incorporate Hashtags.

On certain social media platforms, hashtags help get more eyes on your content. In particular, Instagram and Twitter utilize hashtags for greater reach. Adjust your hashtag strategy depending on which platform you’re using. For example, Instagram allows users to incorporate up to 30 hashtags per post. Twitter’s hashtags are useful for following along with trending topics and conversations.

Do some preliminary hashtag research before you dive in to ensure you’re landing on hashtags that will actually help boost your post reach. Consider creating unique branded hashtags for your business, but research those first to make sure no one else is using them. Custom hashtags that are specific to product launches or seasonal marketing can help get your social media content in front of more people.

5. Post A Mix of Sales Copy, Curated Content, And Engaging Content.

Copywriting for social media should serve a variety of purposes. For example, you don’t want to post the same types of content, in the same rhythm, all the time. Don’t be afraid to shake things up by sharing engaging content, curated content (that includes your insights!), and a bit of sales copy, too.

If you sell products or services, some posts should be straightforward sales posts that direct your followers to your offer. Other posts should be your own content, or curated content, that’s meant to educate or engage your target audience. Include clear calls to action (CTA) on every post, no matter what the end goal is–whether you want the user to click through to an article or a product page.

Marketing gurus Andrew and Pete do an excellent job of engaging their audience through entertaining, energetic content and copy. Check out this post directing their followers to their latest podcast episode:

The guys grab your attention from the beginning, with a hooky, suspenseful intro that transitions into empathy (“We feel your pain!”), then showcases the benefits of their upcoming episode. Finally, they share the exact results you can expect, along with a clear CTA.

6. Be Conversational.

For the most part, social media copywriting should not be too formal. The primary purpose of social media is to connect with other humans in a digital environment. Remember, you’re having a conversation, so shoot for copywriting that comes across as friendly, relatable, and informative.

There is a post from a business and leadership consultant on Facebook. She leads with a hard-hitting, emotional topic that everyone can relate to: shame. Then, she builds on ways her audience can overcome it, creating a safe space for her followers to share their experiences. Again, here’s a great example of a post that leads with the main idea before building on it.

Keep your brand voice in mind as you build a relationship with your audience. Your exact tone can range from casual and pithy to a bit more businesslike, depending on your brand. The main idea is to remain open and approachable, because your ultimate goal here is to connect with your followers and build trust.

7. Maintain A Consistent Voice Cross-Platform.

Building a strong online presence is dependent on keeping your brand voice consistent. A consistent brand experience extends beyond graphics and visuals, all the way through to your copywriting for social media.

I like to think of brand voice copywriting as “staying in character,” much like an actress needs to maintain an unbroken and consistent performance as whoever she’s portraying. If you’re struggling to nail that brand voice, take a few minutes to get reacquainted with your established voice and the “character” of your brand. Audit your platforms from time to time to ensure you’re providing that consistent delivery.

7 Types of Blog Posts that Generate Traffic & Engagement (And How to Create Them)

7 Types of Blog Posts that Generate Traffic & Engagement (And How to Create Them)

No matter how big or small your blog is, you want it to perform well. For a blog to have success, it needs high volume traffic. To perform even better, it also needs engagement. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of the best types of blog posts that generate traffic and engagement.

Simply creating these posts isn’t going to cut it though. You really have to put the effort in to make them work as they should. For every type of blog post, we’ve included a list of steps to get you started.

Regardless of the type of blog post you choose for your next publication, there’s one thing you must always do. If you want to generate traffic and engagement, promote the post on all your promotion channels. Any blog post, no matter the amount of effort you put into it, won’t get traffic and engagement if no one knows it exists.

With that said, let’s dive in.

Expert Roundups

The first type of blog post on our list is expert roundups. The premise of an expert roundup is to select a group of experts and ask them the same question or their opinion about a specific topic. From a content marketing perspective, this type of post has huge potential for link building and influence. It’s regarded as one of the fastest ways to gain exposure as a blogger.

What isn’t fast about expert roundups, is putting them together. Actually, it might be one of the most time consuming of the list. What every blogger and content marketer will tell you is that no matter how much work they entail, they’re always worth it.

types of blog posts

How To Create an Expert Roundup

1. Choose the Topic

When creating an expert roundup, consider your target audience. If you have an engaged social media following, ask in a poll what they’d like to learn more about. Come up with an idea within your niche that will bring value to your readers. For example, in the post above, experts share their best tips on how to choose the best eCommerce Software Platform.

2. Find the Right Experts

Once you’ve chosen the topic, write up one or two questions that you’ll ask. Then, reach out to as many experts in your field as you can. Look for them on social media, or use a tool like Buzzsumo. Create a list of the most influential experts in your niche or industry. The longer the better! Make sure to get their emails so you can get in touch with them about your expert roundup.

3. Send Personalized Emails

Reach out to all the experts on your list with personalized email messages that include the question to be answered. You’ll have better results if you’ve already been engaging with these people on social media for a while. Collect all the responses and don’t forget to ask for a bio and photo.

4. Put it all Together

Put it all together in your blog editor. Use a repeating pattern to showcase each expert’s answer. Don’t be afraid to get a little visual and add colored textboxes or interesting image frames or filters. Go all out and create an infographic!

5. Tag the Experts on Socials

When you share your expert roundup, tag the experts in your roundup! Send them an email, letting them know that you’ve published the story.

How-To’s and Tutorials

The second type of blog post on our list is tutorials or how-to posts. The difference between a how-to and a tutorial is in the way you word the title and format the content. They are essentially the same. These are perfect for bloggers that want to offer helpful resources to their readers. In fact, this type of content can work with any type of blog. There’s always something you can teach your readers.

A good rule of thumb for tutorials and how-to’s is to be as visual as possible, preferably one visual for every step. For more complex topics, use video. Add the video to your blog post, YouTube, and social media for more exposure.

types of blog posts

How To Create a How-To Or Tutorial

1. Choose a Topic

Like any blog post, you’ll need to come up with a topic. Make sure to pick a topic you really know about or one that you can research easily. The last thing you want to do is give the wrong instructions.

2. Outline the Steps

Before putting together the content for the post, write an outline of the steps to follow. Make sure you don’t forget any steps and be as detailed as possible. Take notes as to how you might be able to visualize them.

3. Find a Way to Visualize the Steps

If the tutorial is for a hands-on project, use photography. For something to do on a computer, take screengrabs of the process. If it’s something else, create some type of graphic of the steps. For example, the image above is an infographic created for a how-to blog post shared on Pinterest.

Listicles or List Articles

Next up is the list article, commonly known as the listicle. Creating articles in list format is great for SEO and SERPs. The key is to format the headings in the right way. Use the list to answer a question, give tips, share resources, or inspire ideas. List articles can be about pretty much anything. In fact, A few of the other articles on this list are also listicles. If it has a number in the title, its a list article.

types of blog posts

How To Create A Listicle Or List Article

1. Create Your List

Figure out what your list will be about. As always, consider your target audience and what they want to learn from you. Tap into your own expertise and knowledge. A list can have as little as 5 items or over 100. Conduct research online to see other listicles out there on the same topic or niche. Choose a number that hasn’t been used too much already. Content marketers have found that an odd number will always perform better than an even one.

2. Write the Content

Write the content for each list item. You’ll find along the way that one item isn’t a great idea anymore. Find a replacement and stick to your odd number. Use two or three paragraphs with + or – 300 words per item. If it’s a long list, add a table of contents with anchor links at the top. Add outbound links to the items that warrant it.

3. Add Visuals

Don’t forget the visuals. Include at least one visual per list item. This will make the post easier to skim. Use graphics created by you, stock photography, or screengrabs of websites. Make sure to always follow the licensing guidelines for visuals.

Case Studies

The fourth example is a case study. A case study is an article that tells the story of a user’s success with a product or service. These are great for showcasing your company. New clients can get a feel of what it’s like to work with you through someone else’s experience.

The key to a successful case study is to always be honest and clear. Work closely with the user being featured to highlight how your product solved their problem and what the positive outcomes were. Include real quotes to help the reader feel identified. Don’t forget to ask the featured user to share the article once it’s published!

types of blog posts

How to Create a Case Study

1. Find the Right Client/User

The first thing you need is the user or client that you’ll be writing about. Look at reviews your users have left on your site and social media channels. Use your social media listening skills to find users who are talking about your product in a positive way. Check your emails to find those users that sing praises of your products. Pick the one that will be the most relatable to other users.

2. Have a Conversation

Get in touch with the user or client and ask if they’d be interested in being part of a case study for your blog. Set up a call and get some questions ready. For example:

  • How do you use our product or service?
  • What problem did it solve?
  • Have you noticed a positive outcome from using our product or service?
  • What’s your favorite thing about our product or service?

Don’t forget to ask follow-up questions. Record the call so you don’t miss anything when putting together the article.

3. Write the Article In a Problem-Solution-Outcome Format

When writing the content for the case study follow this format:

  • Problem
    After presenting the user/client being featured, layout the problem they were facing before using your product or service.
  • Solution
    Tell the story of how your product or service helped solve the problem. Go from beginning to end and include personal reflections from the user.
  • Outcome
    Finish the story with the final outcome after the problem was solved. What became easier for the user? Did they save time, get more clients, etc?

4. Use Visual Data

The best type of visuals for a case study is visual data. Create charts showing the before and after data of the problem your product or service solved. If it applies to the story, ask the featured user for screengrabs of their analytics. Add photos or visuals of things the client made or produced while using your service or tool.

Interviews

The next type of blog post on the list is the interview. These can be done in a number of ways:

  • Podcast transcribed into an engaging post.
  • A video recording of a Zoom call and a transcription in the post.
  • The classic style interview with the transcribed copy of a call or in-person meeting.

The premise of an interview is to ask someone a set of questions and publish them along with their answers.

A key factor of a successful interview post is the person you interview and the questions you ask. Don’t waste a good opportunity by asking the wrong questions or not connecting with the interviewee.

How To Create An InterviewArticle

1. Find the Right Interviewee

Choose an influential person in your niche that’ll bring value to your readers. If you can’t think of someone off the top of your head, do some social media listening to see who you are already connected to and who your audience is following. You’ll have an easier time getting a positive response from top thought leaders in your niche if they know a little bit about you. If your blog is still quite small, interview someone at your level or a little higher to start.

2. Make the Connection and Formulate Some Questions

Once you’ve chosen the person to interview, connect with them first. Have a conversation about your idea and why you’d like to interview them. Give them a chance to suggest questions that they’d like to answer. When you write up the questions, make sure they’re open-ended. Open-ended questions can’t be answered with a definite yes or no. Ask for their opinions on certain things, or ask for their personal experience on a particular subject. Ask questions that invite a bit of storytelling on their part.

3. Capture the Interview

Conduct the interview in a way that’ll be easy to review after it’s done. Record a virtual call or do it all via email. Do what the interviewee feels comfortable with and has time for. Podcasts, for example, are a great option because the exposure level is two-fold. Same with a video that can be shared on YouTube or Facebook.

4. Format the Blog Post

Put together the post. Follow the classic interview format of question/answer or create a curated story from the answers. If you recorded a virtual call, include the video above the fold. Podcasts and audio recordings should also be added above the fold. Then add the transcribed content or a summary.

Comparisons

The next type of blog post is a comparison. A post like this is good for a number of purposes; SaaS companies compare their software to competitors, affiliate marketers measure up different products in the same niche. One angle is to highlight your product other others, another is to compare two or more products so the reader can come to their own conclusions. Both are valid comparison posts and are great for traffic and engagement.

types of blog posts

How to Create a Comparison Article

1. Select What to Compare

What’re you going to compare? Choose two products that compete against each other or a number of products for readers to choose from. Compare your product to your closest competitor. Stick to your niche and industry. Listen to your users to know what they’re searching for.

2. Do Your Research

Find as much information as possible about all the items you’re comparing. Make sure all the information is up to date, your readers will know if it’s not. Separate the content into themes or features so the post is easy to skim.

3. Highlight Pros and Cons

A good comparison post includes both the positives and negatives of the items being compared. Even if you’re comparing your product to another, include what your product is missing. Be honest as so why your product doesn’t have that feature and say if you plan on fixing that. Use charts and visual graphics for added value. There are lots of comparison infographic templates out there.

Downloadable Checklists and To-Do Lists

This type of blog post does more than drive traffic and engagement. It also generates leads. The idea is to offer the reader a downloadable checklist or to-do list that fits into your niche and industry. For example, on the post below, Coschedule shares a content marketing checklist in exchange for a sign-up. Usually, these downloadable are created as PDFs. There are plenty of resources online to help you create one.

How to Create Posts with Downloadable Checklists and To-Do Lists

1. Find Out What Your Readers Need

Use social listening to find out what the communities in your niche are looking for. Think of things that can help them get better results in their own business. Come up with an idea that isn’t too long and can be used easily.

2. Create the Download

Use a graphic design program to create your download. These are so popular that you’ll have no trouble finding templates to simply fill in with your content and idea. Make sure to use your brand colors and fonts!

4. Don’t Forget the Call to Action

Create the post where you’ll promote the download. Tell your users how this download will help them. Add a call to action above the fold with a lead capture module. Make sure your email provider sends the download as soon as they sign up.

Grammarly: A Overview and Review

Grammarly: A Overview and Review

Writing with proper grammar is essential in business. Bad grammar can not only change the meaning of a sentence and cause miscommunication, but it can also reduce credibility. Many text editors and browsers have tools to help, but there are a lot of things they don’t look for. It’s easy to make mistakes that word processors don’t catch. One of the best tools to check your grammar is Grammarly.

Grammarly is an app for writers that suggests edits in real-time for spelling, grammar, and writing style. It can even suggest edits based on types of writing, such as academic, business, technical, and creative writing. Grammarly is available for free in a limited edition or as a premium edition. I’m reviewing the free edition.

Four ways to Use Grammarly

There are four ways to use Grammarly:

  • Chrome Extension
  • Online Dashboard
  • Microsoft Office Extension
  • Windows App

Let’s look at each method.

Installing the Grammarly Chrome Extension

Google Chrome can also check your spelling and make suggestions. This same tool works with any text editor that appears in the browser such as Facebook and MailChimp. It’s still very basic. Grammarly replaces that with its own tools (unless you disable Grammarly for a particular website).

To add the Chrome extension, in the upper right corner click the three vertical dots to open Chrome’s settings. Hover over More Tools and select Extensions.

Click the Hamburger menu in the upper left corner. At the bottom of that menu click Open Chrome Web Store.

Search for Grammarly. Click the blue button labeled Add to Chrome.

Clicking the image or title opens a modal that provides an overview with a video, reviews, and related extensions.

Clicking Add Extension opens one final modal asking for permission. Click Add Extension.

It will take a few seconds and then open a tab with a message and links for downloads. Here you can download it for Windows, Microsoft Office, and check an online document.

You’ll see the Grammarly logo in the upper right corner of your Chrome browser. Clicking the logo opens settings where you can disable the extension for the current website, show definitions and synonyms by double-clicking, choose your dialect of English, see the premium edition, create a new document, and go to your Grammarly dashboard.

Clicking My Grammarly opens a tab with a dashboard where you can upload documents and upgrade to the premium edition.

Personalizing Grammarly

When you click on Grammarly the first time it lets you set up your personalized options. The algorithms will adapt to suit your needs based on your choices.

Select the type of writing between school, work, or other projects, choose the dialect of English (American, British, Australian, or Canadian), your primary language (choose between English and non-English), and your grammar skill level (beginner, intermediate, and advanced).

Personalizing Your Grammarly Dictionary

Personalize your dictionary from your profile page in the dashboard. Add as many words as you want and Grammarly will no longer flag those words. This is helpful for writers in specialized fields and fiction writers that create their own unusual names.

Using the Grammarly Chrome Extension

The Grammarly icon, a G in a green circle, automatically appears on anything that Grammarly can check.

It underlines the text that it doesn’t like and the icon changes to show that there are errors. This example shows two issues. The logo has changed to a red circle with a number to indicate the number of issues.

Hovering over the text opens a box with suggestions. If I want one of the choices I just need to click on it. It indicates the type of error it is, which can help me improve my writing.

The change is automatically made when you click on one of the choices and it now indicates that I now only have one error.

Hovering on the circle opens it to show a few options. Click the red circle with arrows to open the document editor. The yellow circle shows the number of advanced corrections are available in the premium edition. The power button turns Grammarly off for this website.

Grammarly Document Editor

The document editor opens in a modal over your content where you can focus on your writing and see a few tools and options. Using this is optional.

Each of the tools on the left of the modal open on hover, identifying what they do. Here you can make selections of what to check. When you’re finished, click the back icon in the upper left corner or click anywhere outside of the modal.

Grammarly Online Dashboard Editor

You can also use the online editor to write or check your documents. Once you login to the Grammarly website you’ll see the dashboard. To create or edit your document in the Grammarly dashboard, click New or Upload on the document icon.

This opens the editor where you can type, paste, or upload your text. Clicking the logo in the upper corner opens a few tools to check your work.

Problems will be underlined. Clicking on an underlined word displays options (just like it does in the browser). Click to see more information and it opens an analysis with word options, a rank based on the goals you’ve set, insights, goals, number of alerts, number of premium alerts, a plagiarism tool (premium edition), and a human proofreader (premium).

Insights show stats about your text. It also shows vocabulary (shows the number of unique and rare words) and readability (shows word length, sentence length, and readability score). These are helpful to improve your writing. I like the reading time and speaking time estimates.

Goals allow you to tell Grammarly about your intent, audience, style, emotion, and the domain (choose from general, academic, business, technical, creative, or casual).

Once you’re done making edits you can download, print, or copy your text to the clipboard to be used anywhere you want.

Your new document will now appear in the dashboard where you can edit, download, or delete it.

Installing the Grammarly Apps

In the Grammarly dashboard click Apps to download Grammarly for Office or Windows. Once they’re downloaded, run them the same as any app.

Grammarly for Microsoft Office

The Office app adds Grammarly to Word and/or Outlook. It adds new tools to the ribbon menu with contextual spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, style, and advanced features (which requires the premium edition).

When you click on the Grammarly icon the errors are highlighted in the text and issues are identified in detail on the right. I had no issues with general performance, but it can sometimes take a few seconds to check your document.

Grammarly for Windows

The Windows app looks and works the same as the online dashboard. It even connects to your account and brings in the documents from your dashboard. This is a great choice if you want to work offline.

Grammarly Pricing

Aside from the free plan, there are four premium plans:

  • Monthly – $29.95 per month
  • Quarterly – $19.98 per month
  • Annual – $11.66 per month
  • Grammarly Business – $10 per month per member

The free plan is great for basic checking such as email, social media, and even blogging. The premium editions are better suited to writing that requires the most professional level of quality possible. The free version does have some good tools, but if you need a premium plan then I recommend the Annual option. Even the Quarterly option is a big savings over the Monthly option.

For more information, visit Grammarly.com.

Ending Thoughts

I use several word processors including Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and WordPress’s built-in editor. Word and Google Docs have tools that underline misspelled and misused words. Google Chrome has those tools and applies them to most editors. Grammarly goes further than that.

Grammarly is an excellent tool for improving your writing quality. It’s easy to make writing mistakes that you don’t notice during the editing process and Grammarly highlights those, drawing attention to them.

Grammarly works great but it’s not perfect. It doesn’t always understand how words are used in web design and development, for instance. And I’m sure there are other industries that it doesn’t understand perfectly. This means there might be times when you disagree with its choices, but it’s still a valuable tool that’s worth using. It can be personalized, which helps a lot too.

I was pleased with the types of errors Grammarly highlighted. It shows misspelled words, repeated words, punctuation, missing words, case, tense, pronoun agreement, etc. Some of these issues require a premium edition to highlight and explain them though.

At the very least, I recommend using the free Chrome extension. It works in your browser, so it applies to anything typed within an editor such as WordPress, newsletters, social media, email, etc. It doesn’t work everywhere though. For example, it doesn’t support Google Drive. The best way to analyze the Google Docs text is to paste it into the Grammarly dashboard editor and then paste it back into Google Docs when you’re done.

Grammarly’s designed for anyone wanting to improve their writing, but shouldn’t be used in place of knowing good grammar. It can’t take the place of a professional editor but it does help by identifying a lot of problems that can easily be missed.

6 Ways to Prevent Computer Eye Strain

6 Ways to Prevent Computer Eye Strain

There’s a high chance that if you’re reading this, you work on a computer for most, if not all of the day. Even if you don’t, there’s still a high chance you’re looking at a screen of some kind for the majority of the day. And that makes you tired. More specifically, it makes your eyes tired. Which them stresses the rest of your body. It’s likely a cycle we all know a little too well. We have steps, however, that can alleviate and even prevent this kind of eye strain so that your job and habits don’t have to negatively impact your overall well-being quite so much.

1. Blink More

Okay, so the actual solution is a little more complicated than that, but in the end, blinking more often can really help prevent eye strain. Even those minute flashes where you’re eyes are covered give your brain a chance to rest. And that time adds up over the day. It’s literally why when you’re strained and stressed that you can simply close your eyes and feel an almost immediate sense of relief. (You can actually tell your boss “I’m just resting my eyes, not sleeping at work” and not be lying!)

Additionally, blinking keeps your eyes lubricated. Not blinking means that your eyes will dry out more often. If that’s something that you’ve noticed bothering you, get some eye drops to keep at your desk to moisturize them often. While that is just treating a symptom of the eye strain rather than rooting out a cause, relief is relief.

Unless you’re sure that you can consciously make yourself blink more often than you normally would (spoiler: you can’t), you need to make a few changes in your workstation and habits. While change can be hard, making these changes won’t be. They’re both simple and easy. Many of the other tips will cause you to blink more often as a by-product, eliminating multiple stressors at once.

2. Change Your Font Color, Size, and Family

If you’re a content creator or web developer, you probably know that what font you choose makes a drastic impact on how much eye strain you endure. Many font families are not ideal for constant and repeated use. What looks great in a screenshot or is fine for a 3-minute-read article might not work for an 8 hour shift of programming or writing. Choosing a font other than Arial or Helvetica (blasphemy, we know) might make more of a difference than you know. The kerning, spacing, and even shape of various fonts can increase readability and make it so that you don’t have to work as hard to decipher the characters.

Fonts such as Fira Code, Consolas, and Monoid are designed specifically for long-term usage, legibility, and prevention of eye strain.

On top of that, color and size (both independently and in concert) can be one of the largest factors of preventing eye strain. If you have a high-resolution monitor, there’s a good chance that your default font size is pretty small. On top of that, a lot of what you’re reading online and in other places might be low-contrast (light text on a light background). When this is the case, our eyes have to work overtime.

So to fix that, you don’t have to lower the resolution of your screen. No one wants you to give up your screen real estate. Instead, increase the default font sizes in your OS, your code editor, and adjust different web pages in your browser to accommodate larger text. (Usually CTRL/CMD and +/- will do the trick.)

3. Turn Your Brightness Down

This one’s tough for some people, us included. Whether it’s a phone screen, laptop, or the circle of computer monitors you have around you, the brightness is probably way too high. While doing so absolutely makes the colors pop and the whole experience generally much more aesthetically pleasing.

But it also strains your eyes at an accelerated rate. You will need to find the balance of brightness that works for you. If the monitors are like lamps in a darkened room, you might have a problem. But if you’re straining to see and the OS appears dim and dull, you’ve gone to far the wrong way. Once you find the right brightness, though, your eyes will be much better off.

Also, if your office or workspace has fluorescent lighting that reflects off of your monitor, you can get screens and filters that you can affix to it so that you can eliminate external brightness and glare, too.

4. Dark and Reader Modes

You also have access to Dark Mode in a lot of apps to make reading easier, and adjusts the brightness on a software level. MacOS and iOS even have them built in. This gives you a darker, less-bright screen with a decent contrast ratio of lighter text on darker backgrounds. It’s easier on the eyes in both daytime and in darker environments. We highly suggest working this way. Dark mode has saved everyone at Elegant Themes a lot of money on headache medicine over the years.

You can also try programs like Dark Reader to make any website or app appear in dark mode, whether they support it natively or not. Also, most browsers (mobile and desktop) have a “reader” mode where the text size, font, and color palette are adjustable with other non-essential elements not rendered. Take advantage of these tools. Your eyes will thank you.

5. Consider Your Posture

Where you are in relation to your screen plays a pretty big role in eye strain, too. Not to mention muscle strain and shoulder/neck aches. You want to be looking at your monitor front-on at eye level. Or, well, slightly below. You shouldn’t have to look up or down to see it. Your neck should be neutral. Keep this in mind when working on a laptop because you’re going to have your head titled down a lot of the time. Not only is this bad for your posture, most screens have a slightly different look from various angles. Colors shift a little, glare hits it differently, and so on.

You will also want to make sure you’re the right distance away from your monitor. You ideally want to be between 20 and 27 inches away from your screen. It differs from person to person because of monitor size and setup. Generally, though, you want to be able to just reach out and touch the screen with the tip of your finger from your neutral sitting position. If you keep it at this distance, you should be able to take the entire screen into view and not have to search all around for points of interest, saving your eyes motion and wear.

Sitting too close to the screen won’t make you go blind, unlike what our parents told us when we were kids, but it can make your eyes work overtime. And that leads to easily preventable eyestrain.

6. Use Everything Anti-Blue

While the jury (read: science) is out on just what effect blue light has on your health and eyes and sleep, the evidence does point toward limiting your exposure to it as being good for your eyes. Most phones these days have a “night mode” which effectively adjusts the color temperature of the screen after certain hours. You can generally adjust them for any hours or intensity that works for you. It may seem a little odd warming up your screen’s overall tone, but you get used to it quickly, and it does make long hours of looking at the screen easier and less taxing.

Additionally, there are blue-light filters that you can hook to your monitor like the anti-glare ones we mentioned above. You can buy special “computer glasses” that supposedly filter out the light, too, which are fine if you wear contacts or don’t need glasses. For those who need prescription lenses, however, you can ask your eye center about getting the lenses covered in an anti-blue light coating that does the same thing. And bonus, sometimes that coating even makes your eyes flash purple to some people. (No kidding. It’s very surreal for them.)

Wrapping Up

Eye strain might not sound like a big deal, but anyone who deals with it can tell you just how intrusive it can be. If you have never experienced it from spending too much time in front of a screen, consider yourself lucky. But be proactive about making sure that you don’t. And if you’re a constant sufferer like many of us, it only takes a little effort and a few tweaks to make some high-quality adjustments that will make a big difference in your overall wellbeing.

Kerning, Tracking, and Leading: A Simple Guide to Effective Typefacing

Kerning, Tracking, and Leading: A Simple Guide to Effective Typefacing

When designing for the web, you have to keep one thing in mind at all times: readability. It doesn’t matter how great the design is, how gorgeous your layout is, or how genius your use of color. If people can’t read the words on the screen (and this is assuming there are words on the screen, of course), the website cannot serve its function. Three of the most important elements of readability for text are kerning, tracking, and leading, though many people either get them confused or simply don’t understand how to use them effectively. We intend to fix that today.

Kerning, Tracking, and Leading

If you boil these three down to the absolute fundamentals, you’re looking at the spacing between characters on both the X and Y axes. Digging in, you’ll see there’s more to it than that, but in essence, you’re looking at the relationship between text characters. It’s important to understand the relationship between these three attributes because good design and readability depend on your using them to the best of your ability.

And that comes with time and practice. But once you start paying attention to them, you’ll notice how kerning, tracking, and leading are used both effectively and poorly on everything you read and see on a daily basis. Let’s dig in.

Adjusting Kerning, Leading, and Tracking (and More!)

Actually, before we dig in, let’s go over how you change and adjust these settings. While most word processing programs have options for adjusting them, most people won’t ever need to when writing copy or typical text. It’s when you’re designing text that it becomes more of an issue, so programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. will have the options you need most.

In the Adobe products, you just have to open up the Text Layer Character Panel, and you have everything you need. The V/A is kerning, the VA in a box is tracking, and the underlined, vertical A’s are Leading. You can also adjust strikethrough, weight, size, super/subscript, and so much more in this panel. It’s worth getting used to keeping this open.

Kerning vs Tracking vs Leading

Just place your cursor where you need to adjust the spacing and go.

What is Kerning?

Let’s begin with kerning.  Kerning is the simplest of the three, really. It’s the space between two side-by-side characters. In a word, you can have variable kerning because the space between the first two letters may be different than between the last two (and so on).

In monospaced fonts, each character takes up exactly the same amount of horizontal space with no overlap. The A is the same width as the B as the J as the K. Adjusting the kerning between these letters tends to be easier than variable spaced fonts, where the letters might overlap as well as print at different widths.

Kerning vs Tracking vs Leading

In the example above, we have three lines that were copy and pasted using the monospace font Courier New. The top row’s kerning is set at 0, which is the default and uses whatever spacing the font designer chose. The second row is set equally between letters (and spaces) at 200. As you can see, the spaces are uniform between characters across the line. Finally, the third line was kerned at random with both positive and negative spacing within each individual word. As you can see, each character can have different kerning on each side.

What is Tracking?

Tracking is similar to kerning, but it’s not kerning. Where kerning is the space between two individual characters, tracking is the uniform space between each individual word or line. Instead of worrying about how things are put together on a letter-by-letter basis as with kerning, you make sure the entire line is uniformly spaced.  Looking back at the earlier example image, the second line could have been done in a much easier way.

Kerning vs Tracking vs Leading

What I did for the kerning was to place my cursor between each individual character and adjust to 200. I essentially tracked the whole line. Which is what you should do. Simply highlight what you need to track and adjust it in the Character Panel.

Kerning vs Tracking vs Leading

Be aware, however, that some fonts and scripts may become unreadable as the tracking is adjusted.

Kerning vs Tracking vs Leading

Handwriting fonts and cursive typefaces are set with specific kerning, and if you adjust the tracking, you will get gaps in an otherwise unbroken line. Or going the other direction to compress the lines, you might simply make the script unreadable.

What is Leading?

With Leading, you’re no longer dealing with spacing between characters. Leading is the space between lines.

Kerning vs Tracking vs Leading

Effectively making use of leading lets you effectively make use of whitespace in your designs. Cramped lines — even with correct and well-done kerning/tracking — can make a miserable experience for readers.

In some places, you might see leading called line height, but they’re roughly the same thing. One good rule of thumb is to make sure that you leave at least a little space above and below your characters. As you can see in the top example, a 40px font has a 48px line height. That means that no matter what, there will be spacing between the letters. If you set that at or lower than the font size, you will get character overlap.

Additionally, this is the height of the line that the characters sit on. This is not the height of the character. Just as kerning and tracking don’t make the characters fatter or thinner, tracking doesn’t make them shorter or taller. It is simply the space around them.

As you can see, however, the options under the kerning/tracking in the Photoshop Character Panel adjust the width/height of characters independently of kerning, tracking, and leading.

Photoshop/Illustrator Keyboard Shortcuts

The only downfall of the Character Panel is that it gets to be pretty annoying when you’re needing fine adjustment. Thankfully, there are keyboard shortcuts that make kerning, tracking, and leading an absolute breeze to use.

These shortcuts are for the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, so they might be different in Gimp or Paint.NET or another program.

  • Kerning – With the cursor between two characters, hold ALT (or Option on Mac) and use the left/right arrows to adjust the kerning
  • Tracking – With the word/line highlighted, hold ALT (or Option on Mac) and use the right/left arrows to adjust the tracking of the highlighted text
  • Leading – Highlight the lines you want to adjust, hold ALT (or Option on Mac) and use the up/down arrows to adjust the space between lines

While you can place your cursor or highlight the text and type values into the Character Panel, the keyboard shortcuts make the whole process much less tedious and time-consuming. Plus, you get more granular control, so you can make better designs that way, too.

(As an aside, if you aren’t using Photoshop/Illustrator/Premier, etc. keyboard shortcuts regularly, we highly recommend learning, as it makes your workflow much smoother, more enjoyable, and more productive, too.)

Wrapping Up

Kerning, tracking, and leading are fundamentals of readable text in web design (and design in general). Learning the difference and how to use each of them effectively will make you a much better designer. It may seem a little odd that something as simple as the spacing between letters and lines could have such a large impact, but once you deal with it for even just a little while, you will never look at websites, advertisements, logos, or billboards the same way again.