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Writing Effective Resumes

Writing a resume can intimidate anyone. How should I start? What should I write? What points should I include? What format should I use? These are just a few of the questions that can bother anyone. But if you keep a few things in mind, you’ll see that it’s not really that daunting a task.

Employers receive hundreds of resumes, so the main thing to keep in mind is to try and make your resume stand out and grab the employer’s attention at first glance. To be able to do this, it should be visually pleasing as well as well written. There are no set rules to writing a good resume, nor are two resumes ever alike. They cannot be, because each resume is structured around a particular job. The only thing all resumes should be is that they should all be as effective as possible, because remember – a resume is supposed to be a selling tool. The more effectively it is written the better your chances of being selected. For a resume to be really effective, tailor it around the particular job that you are applying for, and address the employer’s requirements. So the more you know about the job and the employer, the better you can tailor your resume for that position.

A good resume should include all of the following:

  • Heading – includes your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address.
  • Objective – tells the employer the sort of work you’re hoping to do. The rest should be structured around this objective.
  • Education – tells employers what you’ve learned.
  • Experience – this should be built around the employer’s requirements.
  • Skills and accomplishments – this includes special skills and accomplishments like fluency in a foreign language, proficiency in specific computer programs, leadership experience, a listing of honors and awards, activities that relate to the job, etc.

The contents given above should be written clearly keeping the following points in mind:

  • Keep it free of grammatical and spelling errors.
  • Use bullets and short sentences.
  • Use action words to make the resume stand out.
  • Highlight your strengths, especially those that the employer is looking for
  • Be positive and leave off negative and irrelevant information.
  • Be professional in tone, otherwise you won’t be taken seriously.

There are two basic types of resumes – chronological and functional.

The chronological format highlights your job titles, places of employment, and dates of tenure by presenting them as headings under which your achievements are listed. This format is used when you are staying in the same field, your work history shows growth, your current position is one you are proud of, and there are no gaps in your work history.

The functional format presents your experience under skill headings, so you can list your accomplishments by impact rather than by chronology. In this format, your work history is listed very concisely in a section separate from your achievements. This format is used when you change careers, you need to emphasize skills or experiences, your most recent position is not impressive, or your job titles don’t accurately reflect the level of responsibility you had.

Sometimes the two formats are combined to give what is called a ‘combination’ format.

Which format to use depends on your particular situation.

To get a better idea of what good and effective resumes look like, you may refer to these Sample Resumes.

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Writing Effective Titles for the Web

Writing titles and headlines for the web is much different than writing them for print. When readers take a print newspaper or magazine in their hands, they know what they wants to read and know that they’ll find it there. But with the web, readers generally search for articles to read or to find information.  They go to search engines to search for what they want, or to websites that have been recommended to them. They scan and skim the sources looking at all the different headlines searching for what they want, and then click on the title that they think will contain their information.

So, what does this mean? This means that your title or headline should be such that it immediately catches the attention of the searcher. In order to prevent your title from going unnoticed, just follow these simple rules. They will make your content more visible on the web:

1. Keep your title short. The ideal length is between three to six words, and never more than ten.  This is because most search engines usually pick only a few sets of words.

2. Keep the most relevant words in the beginning. The most relevant words should also be the keywords of your content. But be careful – don’t overstuff the title with keywords, otherwise it will not only sound irritating but will also be ignored by the search engines.

3. Make your title the “summary” of your article. In other words, the title should clearly say what your article is about. This increases the possibility of the searcher clicking on your article.

4. Be sure to keep it honest. It is very important that your title is exactly what it says. Don’t let it be just something to attract readers. If your readers are attracted by the title but find something different in your article, they’ll never return. Your reputation as a writer will be affected. This is why honesty and truthfulness is of prime importance.

It’s really not very difficult keeping these points in mind. It only takes a little care and practice. Just remember this – your title is what defines the success of your article.

What do you think – does the title of this post have all the points given above?

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Plan Your Writing

Good writing isn’t only correct grammar and punctuation. It’s a lot more. It requires interesting and informative content, logical approach, and well-organized text. If all the right ingredients aren’t there in the right quantities, the final product isn’t going to be a good one, no matter how good your grammar, punctuation, or vocabulary. This is why the first writing advice given to anyone is to plan your writing. What is planning?

Planning your writing is thinking in advance about what you’re going to write. The points to consider are:

1. The purpose of your writing. That is, why are you writing? This is important because it is the purpose that decides on the content, style, and layout. For example, if you are writing an essay or a research paper for school, the style and layout would be much different than it would if you were to write an article for a newspaper or magazine, or perhaps a book or a journal entry.

2. The context of your writing. This refers to the situation you are writing for. That is, is the essay for an entry to a university? Is the article a political commentary or a financial analysis? This is important because it is on the context that that the format and style depends.

3. The audience for whom you’re writing. This is pretty obvious. If you’re writing for children, your content, style, and format will naturally differ from what you’d be writing for your professor; or if you’re writing for business executives than when you’d writing for the general public.

Once these points have been considered and thought of, get your ideas together. Some ideas may already be in your mind, others you may have to look up for, or research. Gather all your ideas from wherever you have to and put them down on paper in any form that suits you – lists, idea maps, spider diagrams, flow charts, or any other way that you prefer. Put down your ideas in brief without going into too much detail. You can use just keywords or phrases, depending on your preference. The idea here is for the points to serve as reminders as to what you are going to write, how you are going to write, and in which order.

Once you have everything down, re-read it. Have you got everything down? Do the ideas follow a logical order? Is the approach right? Once you have satisfied yourself in every way – start writing.

Do you plan your writing? If yes, how? If no, why not? We’d love to hear from you.

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Richard Glover on Writing Comedy

Australian author and journalist Richard Glover talks about the tricks of writing comedy.

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Writing Keyword Articles

Keyword articles are a great way to attract visitors to your website. Keyword articles are articles written on topics related to your website and optimized for words or phrases that visitors search for – called keywords.  Keywords are important because it is only after these words are entered into search engines (like Google, Yahoo, or Bing), that the engines show the sites that best match the words. When the sites show up in search, people click on the links, thus increasing traffic to the sites. More traffic means more sales. Therefore, the better the articles are optimized for keywords, the better the chance for search engines to pick your site, which means more traffic and more sales.

Writing keyword articles is a little different than writing a newspaper or magazine article. There are a few things that must be kept in mind when writing an effective keyword article. These are:

1. Choose an appropriate topic for your article. It should be related to the content of your website, and more importantly, it should benefit the reader. For example, if your site sells baby clothes, write an article related to baby clothes – like selecting clothes that best suit a baby, or materials that babies feel most comfortable in.

2. Select your keywords carefully.  The keywords should be related to the topic of your article, and must be words or phrases that people search for most (but don’t choose highly competitive words). It is always better to select multiple keywords rather than just one.

3. Use the keyword (or words) in the title of your article. But be sure to make it interesting and attractive. Badly placed or overuse of keywords will only make your title sound odd.

4. Place your keywords judiciously in the article.  Don’t force or overstuff your article with keywords, otherwise the article won’t flow well.  The best way is to first write your article freely without thinking of the words. Then go back and place the keywords in all the right places (you may need to re-write some sentences to make them sound right). Be sure to place them in a natural way. Badly placed or overuse of keywords will only make the search engine mark your article as spam, which is obviously not good for your website.

5. Proofread. This is very important because sometimes, when placing the keywords, you tend to overlook errors like proper grammar and spelling. So, proofread and make sure your article is informative, reads well, and is error-free.

Well written keyword articles not only attract visitors and boost sales, but also help increase incoming links to your website and establish trust in you as a professional in your field of expertise.

How have keyword articles helped your website? We’d love to hear your story.

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Business Letter Writing

True, electronic mails are slowly taking over hand-written letters (ref: video below). This is indeed sad, because letters written by hand, especially the personal ones, have (or is it had?) their own charm… a personal touch, the touch of hands, both of the writer and the reader. But I don’t think e-mails can completely take over letter writing. Letters will remain, especially formal or business letters. These still are, and will, remain important; though, of course, they are not written by hand anymore, but are typed on the computer and then printed out. Still, they are letters, and are written and used daily in all offices and homes.

Writing business letters is an art in itself. Business letters have to be written effectively in order to convey the right message. And in order to be effective, they have to be well written in the proper format. And for that, certain guidelines have to be followed  —

A business letter should be aimed at the reader’s needs. What are the reader’s needs? They are relevant information presented in an easy-to-understand style. So make your letter clear, helpful, and as friendly as the topic allows. The key principles of business letter writing are:

  • Keep it short: Cut useless words, needless information, and stale phrases.
  • Keep it simple: Use familiar words, short sentences and paragraphs, and a simple conversational style.
  • Keep it strong: Start subject matter in the first paragraph, use concrete words and examples, and do not stray from the subject.
  • Keep it sincere: Write as if you were talking to the reader, and be as friendly as possible.

Use active verbs rather than passive verbs. Passive verbs are long-winded, ambiguous and impersonal. Active verbs are simpler, less formal, and more precise.

The start:

Dear Sir or Madam (if you don’t know who you are writing to)

Dear Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms (use if you know who you are writing to, and have a formal relationship with)

The finish:

Yours faithfully (if you don’t know the name of the person you’re writing to)

Yours sincerely or Yours truly (if you know the name of the person you’re writing to)

Best wishes or Best regards, (if the person is a close business contact or friend)

A business letter may be written in different formats, depending on the situation.

Look at the different formats of business letters here.

Samples of written business letters may be seen here.

So, what do you think? Is letter writing a dying art?

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Stay Motivated When Writing Is Boring

motivation 2Staying motivated when writing for yourself is at times hard enough, but when you’re writing for someone else…. well, it’s not that easy, especially when the topic is one that you’re least interested in. This is what freelance writing is all about – having to write about things that interest your client, not you. But whatever the topic, you must stay motivated or you’re out of business.

In the beginning of my career, I sometimes found it difficult to remain inspired when the writing was boring, but not anymore. Now words flow easily, no matter how uninspiring the topic.

This is what keeps me motivated:

1. I know I am not writing for myself. I am writing for others. I am writing for people who are interested in the topic. They are going to read my words and gain something from them. Just the thought that someone is going to learn something from what I’m writing gives me a sense of satisfaction.

2. I myself am gaining knowledge about something that I otherwise would never have. Quite a bit of research goes into the writing – whatever the topic. During the process of researching and writing, I am learning as well. Learning and gaining knowledge is always gratifying.

3. Researching involves a lot of reading, and while you’re reading, you inevitably hit upon an idea – ‘now this is something I can write about’. A writer is always on the lookout for ideas to write their own articles on, and here I am, getting ideas without even having to look for them. So, the more I read and write, the more ideas I get.

4. A wide variety of writing increases your versatility. You become adept at writing almost anything at any time. This in turn hones your writing craft. In other words, I am improving as a writer on the whole.

5. I will be rewarded for writing. Now let’s be honest here – why are we writing? To earn some money. So, it’s not like I’ll get nothing out of writing something that doesn’t interest me. Besides all the benefits given above, I’ll also be paid for the writing. This in itself is gratifying.

Now aren’t these reasons enough to keep a writer’s muse active?  Just keep these points in mind and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t stay motivated, no matter what the topic.

What about you? What do you do to keep your words flowing? Do share your thoughts and ideas here with us.

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