Category: write better English

On the shoulders of giants: idiom usage

Standing on shoulders of giantsAlthough English is widely spoken, it’s seldom spoken well. And nowhere is this more true than in the use of idioms. People who speak English as a first language are often tripped up by the idiomatic turn of phrase.

Smoke and mirrors: usage and origin

Smoke and mirrors is part of our language

Last Friday, I attended a virtual networking event which was held over a hugely impressive digital platform. This included tables of six, different floors and a plenary area. Wow. It was truly a landmark in cyberspace – if you’ll excuse the irony.

Introducing  us to the event, the host said, “There will be no smokes and mirrors.” Not only was this quote completely out of context it was also incorrectly stated. The correct expression is of course “smoke and mirrors”.

Letting the cat out of the bag: idiom origin

Yesterday on my walk as I approached the park I saw a massive canvas bag, filled to the brim with litter.

I hoped that it was a sign that the debris and been collected and responsibly discarded. However, this was not the case as the trail of rubbish still surrounded the park.

Kicking the can down the road: idiom usage and origin

Kick the can down the roadWhen I take my evening walk after about six blocks I reach the park and I walk around it. I can’t help noticing that the streets are strewn with litter. From KFC boxes to disposable face masks, singular socks, uneaten slap chips and a few empty Coke tins, there is just a big mess.

Veracity and voracity: use these words correctly

Is this voracity or veracity?
Voracious appetite

In the spell of untruths around COVID-19, today, we are going to have some fun exploring the difference between veracity and voracity.

These words if not heard correctly can be interchanged to disastrous effect.  The one has to do with truth, the other appetite.

Cat got your tongue? Origin of idioms

Cat got your tongue?
Cat got your tongue?

Sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night, my mouth feels like a snake has slept in it and left its blanket behind. My mouth gets that uncomfortable woolly feeling that only a good cup of tea can resolve.

Now, just imagine that the cat’s got your tongue. It’s climbed into your mouth, and with its claws yanked out your tongue to ferry away and eat somewhere as a delicacy.

Visual Aid

This creates a lively visual picture, vivid enough to have us believe that we cannot speak if the cat has our tongue.

“Cat got your tongue?” is an idiom that dates back to the 18th century and is asked of someone who is not responding. This is particularly so, for example when a child is asked, “Why have you not done your homework,” and there is silence. The adult would say, “What’s the matter, cat got your tongue?”

The most confident source on its origin comes from www.theidioms.com

Origins

“This phrase has an interesting origin. In the 18th century, the English Navy had the practice of whipping erring sailors with a whip which had multiple endings. This whip was nicknamed “the cat” because it commonly had nine endings. So, after receiving a beating, while the poor sailor lay in a corner sulking or not speaking, other sailors will walk up to him and tease, “Did the cat get your tongue?”, referring to the whip. As time went on, this became shortened to Cat got your tongue.

The expression “cat got your tongue” is always directed at someone else. You could never say in response to a question, “The cat’s got my tongue,” because by making this utterance you are making it clear that your tongue is well placed in your mouth and you are free to use it.

Take the log out of your eye and other idioms

On the horns of a dilemma: origin of idioms

From six yards to nine: how idioms originate

 

Speak better English

Say it simply with said. Correct attribution in writing

Photo by Elle Hughes
Sub-editor multi-tasking

In my work as a sub-editor, the only word allowed for an attribution is ‘said’. No, ‘revealed’, no ‘pointed out’, no ‘suggested’, no ‘argued’ – just plain ‘said’.

Tintinnabulation: Words – old and new

Pic by Aakash Sethi

Finally, I’ve found a word to rhyme with it . Constipation. Not just the physical kind. The emotional, psychological and social constipation that lockdown has forced upon us.

But back to the word. Try to say tintinnabulation when you are sober – that is prior to a binge as lockdown opens up to sales of alcohol.

17 Strategic Business Pivots to Make in the Time of COVID-19

pic by Larry Costales - unsplash
Closed for Covid

Last week, we spoke about the word ‘pivot’ and how it has become significant in the language. It’s not just a word,  it’s an action point and here are 17 ways to go about it.

Worry and fear

Just like that we woke up in a different world! The coronavirus epidemic has completely changed our lives and transformed the way we do business.

For many, this can be an incredibly frightening time to be a business owner.

You worry about the health of your employees and the business, the bills that keep coming, your income and family obligations.

But rather than let worries overwhelm you, smart small business owners can use this opportunity to plan and prepare for future growth and success.

This handy COVID-19 checklist will help you make the most of this uncertain time:

1) Announce changes to business hours.

Are you an essential business that is staying open? You may have shorter business hours to allow more time for cleaning, or senior hours where high-risk and elderly customers can come and safely shop with fewer customers.

Post any new business hours on the front of your physical location and share them on the home page of your website.

Don’t forget to update your hours on your social media profiles too as well as your Google Business listing so everyone can stay up to date.

2) Pivot to meet the current needs of your customers

Find creative ways to do business with customers who are at home on quarantine. Are you offering pick up or delivery? Let customers know what you are doing to accommodate them during this new, and hopefully temporary, normal.

For example, amid shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders, most car dealerships will deliver your new car to you. Similarly, service-based businesses can pivot their offerings to meet the demands of customers who are staying home.

One example is a website landing page.

The advantage of a landing page is that it’s quick, easy, and allows you to speak to the specific needs of customers at this time without having to redesign your whole website.

3) Provide ways customers can still support you

If you operate a service-based business like a restaurant or a salon and have been forced to close your doors, you may want to consider offering online sales of gift certificates.

Encourage your customers to buy a certificate now so they can treat themselves and redeem it when the virus outbreak has slowed, and their self-quarantine period is over.

This can help maintain sales for you, while giving your customers something fun and exciting to look forward to.

4) Communicate with your customers.

People want to know if and how your business has changed in light of the pandemic. Assure them their health and safety are your #1 concern and tell them what you’re doing to ensure a safe shopping experience.

Explain any extra precautions you’re taking to disinfect and clean and let them know how you’re promoting social distancing as a small business owner.

5) Announce any new services you’re offering.

Whether you sell food or fashion, are you offering pickup or delivery? The more ways you can accommodate your customers during this new normal, the better for them and fewer financial losses you’ll experience.

Share the news on your website and on your social media accounts

6) Ditch out-of-date information and broken links.

It’s the perfect time to step back and take a long hard look at your website.

Are there any typos? Did a team member featured on the About Us page quit? Are certain articles no longer relevant?

Maybe your site is too far outdated and needs a complete overhaul. Don’t try to go it alone, it’s best to hire a professional web development firm who can assist in ensuring your site is professionally done to give your business the best exposure once this crisis is over.

7) Lighten the (remote) workload.

Give your staff easy ways to track their hours like the free time-tracking tool Toggl that we use. Encourage team communication with tools like Zoom, Slack or Discord. Look into team collaboration tools like Monday and Asana to manage project workflows.

8) Get lean and mean.

You’re going to have to accept that things may be tight for a while. Are there some non-essentials you could cut from your small business budget?

Re-evaluate the services you use to make sure you have the best value for your money, but don’t tighten your belt so much that you miss out on marketing or business opportunities.

9) Plan your editorial calendar.

You want to provide your customers with informative, valuable content that inspires them and builds your expertise and credibility in in their eyes.

If you have some downtime now, invest it in your future content. Look at what products and services you’ll want to promote down the road and plan some engaging content and marketing materials to support your efforts.

10) Learn a new skill.

Do you want to learn to use Instagram more effectively? Maybe you want to master your video marketing skills or learn a new language to better communicate with your customers.

If you can slow down a bit, grab the chance to read, learn and grow! This might be a good time to check out our AMPLiFY! Business Academy where members get instant access to a large library of training videos from social media marketing to lead generation and content marketing.

11) Make your employees feel safe.

Always communicate your COVID-19 plans to workers around sick days and compensation. If your employees have to come into work, assure them how you’re keeping their area clean and safe.

They are looking to you to feel taken care of during this scary time. That said, don’t lie or withhold negative information; if you can’t give bonuses or have to lay off staff, let them know as soon as possible and support them as best you can.

12) Attract more traffic to your site.

It’s always a great idea to add fresh, useful content to your website. Your visitors will appreciate solution-focused content that honestly speaks to why they need your product or service.

Focus on writing some keyword-rich articles to boost your search engine rankings.

13) Grow your social media following.

You may be self-isolating, but you can connect online! Message people who liked or commented on your social media posts to start a conversation.

Be active in the Facebook Groups where your ideal clients hang out. Be visible and helpful (not salesy and annoying) while you are making new connections and offering people a human connection.

14) Segment your email list.

Over time, email lists can get messy. Small business owners may lack the resources to write targeted messages for each group of potential clients (e.g., hot prospects, warm leads, new prospects, business colleagues).

Focus on segmenting your email list to make people feel like you’re speaking directly to them and offering them unique content.

15) Develop a new product or service.

Maybe you have a business idea that’s been on the back burner these past few years. Or, maybe you’ve identified a product or service that would really help people during or after the COVID-19 pandemic.

16) Perform competitive research.

Staying on top of what your competitors are doing gives you an incredible advantage, whether you run an established small business or are developing a new product or service.

Invest some time now in better understanding your competitors. How is their messaging different from yours? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How do they engage with their social media followers?

17) Share the love.

Don’t miss the chance to strengthen your most important relationships. Think about the people who are important to you (family, friends, customers, vendors, mentors, partners) and tell them what you most appreciate about them!

Stay Engaged with Customers and Keep Sales Alive During COVID-19.

While the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented and uncertain, let’s try to see these slow times for small businesses as an opportunity to think, review and plan for future growth and success.

Guest Post

Five tips to retain customers

How sticking to your knitting will get you stuck: idiom usage

Pivot on your toes
Pic by David Hoffman -unsplash

There was not enough wool to buy for all the crochet hours I would need to fill during the slumpy ‘non-work’ hours of lockdown. For one thing, I only bought enough for three weeks.

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