Well, I’ve been thinking about some sort of a new angle for this blog for a while, now — perhaps reviewing the best nuggets from my email is one way to go. In any event, here’s a delightful little exchange from this morning. It starts off with an email forwarded to me by my sister. The site in question is the Kenneth Peters Center for Recovery.
Subject: Your Writing Isn’t What It Should Be
When I came across your site, I was surprised to see a lot of unengaging text, poor phrasing, and even some typos. Your writing isn’t connecting with your audience the way it should, and that needs to change.
Producing writing that engages readers and spurs them to action is a struggle for most businesses. It’s a struggle that I’ve helped many overcome. What I’ve realized is that everyone’s doing something wrong, and with my unique experience and outside perspective, I can find those weaknesses in your site, marketing materials, and everything else that bears your message. And my client list even includes nationally-known brands like 1and1.com and The Art of Shaving.
I’m passionate about what I do. I love digging deep, finding what’s special about a company, and bringing that message to the world, and you deserve that kind of writer.
I like your company, but your current writer isn’t doing a very good job of selling you. I’d love the chance to fix that and improve upon what you’re already doing right. Let me know if it’s okay to send over some writing samples. Thank you for your time, Claudia, and have a great day.
P.S. At the very least, let me bring those typos and other serious errors to your attention. A business of your calibre can’t afford to ignore them, and I’d be happy to help you hunt them down pro bono, even if you don’t want to work with me beyond that.
IMHO, I thought my response was both measured and appropriate:
Thank you for your email. I would be very interested in knowing where on my sister’s site there are “typos and other serious errors.” I appreciate your pro bono assistance in identifying them.
I’m also curious: Does an insulting email such as the one you sent bring you a significant volume of new business? As a copywriter and content specialist for more than three decades, I’m always looking for new ways to find clients. I’ve tried to take a positive and constructive approach to my work, but telling prospective clients that they suck is something I’ve never attempted in earnest.
Thank you for your time, Trevor, and have a great day.
P.S. Your email hyphenates “nationally-known” – virtually every style guide I own says don’t hyphenate adverbs. I probably wouldn’t begin a sentence with the word “and” either, but I suppose that’s more of a personal preference than a serious error.
P.P.S. I can’t seem to find a website that provides additional information about your experience, skills and services. Having a quality website that engages readers and spurs them to action can help you connect with your audience the way you should. With my unique experience and outside perspective, I can help you bring your message to the world. You deserve that kind of exposure.
If “Trevor” ever responds, I’ll be happy to share the next step in the exchange right here.
UPDATE: I was actually very surprised to receive a lengthy response from Trevor. I guess he’s not the spambot I anticipated he’d be based on his initial email. Our follow-up exchange:
I’m sorry to have offended you two. That wasn’t my intention at all. I should have been more careful with my language.
At this point, it’s obvious that you’re not going to work with me, but I’ll still uphold my word and give you some free advice. You can take it or leave it, but I do think there are some very simple things you can do to improve your website.
You have a lot of gems that I had to work entirely too hard to find. For instance, “On November 14, 2004, she received the prestigious 2004 Fisher of Men Humanitarian Award at the 15th annual Peter Sweisgood Breakfast,” is something that really differentiates you from your competition, but I only found it at the very, very bottom of page that already has probably 700 words. Instead of hiding it at the bottom of a page, display it prominently.
Another example of this is the beautiful story behind the origin of KPC. A recovering alcoholic makes it his life’s work to help addicts, and his daughter continues his legacy after his passing. That’s a very powerful and personal story. That’s the sort of thing that really sets you apart from everyone else, yet it was only briefly mentioned in two paragraphs in a corner of your site. Again, display it prominently.
I’d also suggest adding some testimonials to your site. Because of the nature of your work, you’ll probably just want to list their initials and city of residence. You could have a page of testimonials or just a few of them in a sidebar. That’s all up to you, but potential patients would like to see what your past patients have to say.
The perfect place for all of this is your home page. Your home page is the most important part of your site. That’s where a visitor decides whether they’ll read your site or move on, and they make that decision very quickly. Some studies say it’s as quick as three seconds. So instead of leaving all those great facts about your business hidden in distant corners of your site, put them on the front page. That way, a visitor can see, within just a few seconds, what makes your business special.
As far as grammar goes, there are a few minor errors that I noticed like missing commas. I didn’t see any huge mistakes, just a few small things that you’ll want to clean up.
You have a really great business here. My advice is just to make it easier for everyone else to see that. You’re already doing great. You don’t need to do any of what I just suggested, but if you did, I think your site would be better off.
Again, I’m sorry for offending you. Have a great day!
P.S. The phrase “nationally-known” in the sentence, “And my client list even includes nationally-known brands like 1and1.com and The Art of Shaving,” is describing “brands,” which is a noun. That would make it an adjective, not an adverb, so, yes, it should be hyphenated. Also, “and” is a perfectly fine word to start a sentence with in more informal settings.
Sorry, Trevor, I just can’t let the -ly hyphenation slide:
Thanks, Trevor. To clarify your P.S.: I do know the difference between an adjective and an adverb, but you may find page 329 of the 2007 edition of the AP Stylebook interesting:
COMPOUND MODIFIERS: When a compound modifier – two or more words that express a single concept – precedes a noun, use hyphens to link all the words in the compound except the adverb very and all adverbs that end in –ly.
As for the missing commas, that’s probably because we’re not using the Oxford comma on the site.
The site is about 3 or 4 years old, and is going to be updated at some point in the not-too-distant future. Testimonials and content revisions are definitely top of the ToDo list.
Still can’t find anything on the interwebs about his company or services, though.