Reseller News, a magazine published exclusively for the retail industry, re-printed an article I initially wrote for, entitled ‘Talking to your target market: 9 industry trends for 2009’.


Robert Bravery / The Brave Programmer, of Integral Web Solutions, used my Bizcomm column, ‘Does your web copy work?’, on his blog as a guest piece. Check it out.


Top glossy business mag, Destiny, recently used my ‘5 Top Tips for E-mail’ in their May issue. Yay. I can’t remember what page it’s on, but buy the mag and you’ll find it. There’s also loads of other brilliant stuff in there, for SA ladies with brains.


I do. But unlike hordes of speedy US speechwriters who’ve already analysed the new US president’s inaugural address and set up shop teaching others how to get it so beautifully right, I’m still reading it a second time. Just in case you’d like to know more right now, here are two great pieces on the speech and how to write that way. Enjoy.


It even mentions me!

In her latest article, ‘Ten recession-busting tips for freelancers’, Jo Duxbury says now is a great time to be a freelancer: “Really. Nobody can make you redundant; you are in control of your own income; and clients are more likely to outsource than employ staff. Here are 10 tips for freelancers to make the most of the current economy…”


I’m thrilled to announce that, of all the interesting things published on this year, I was one of the ‘Top 15 Most Read’. You’ll see me at # 11. For the full text of this, or of any of my other pieces, click here:


Here’s the full text of the PEGBoard article about me, written by PEGBoard Editor Andre Snyders in May 2008. PEGBoard is the newsletter of the Professional Editors’ Group (

PEGboard profile: Tiffany Markman

While doing some research on editing in South Africa, I came across Tiffany Markman’s website. The PEG website will be great some day but Ms Markman’s site is already a model for editors and copywriters who are keen to develop a serious web presence. Tiffany and I agreed to meet for lunch so that I could learn a bit more about her business and her approach to editing for this PEGboard profile.

Tiffany suggested the creamy pesto and I agreed. I’m sure clients do the same: Tiffany suggests, clients agree. And then the clients go back for more. The secret, it seems, is to offer them enough to keep them interested. Your editing menu needs to offer more than grammar and proofreading, and the menu on Tiffany’s site is extensive. Tiffany already runs the sort of business that many up-and-coming editors aspire to. After listening to Tiffany explain her approach, I was even tempted to chuck in my job at the bank and have a go at being a freelancer. As it turns out, if the banking sector’s losses continue for much longer, I might have to do just that.

Tiffany studied politics and journalism and completed her honours degree in 2003. She moved into freelancing after a few years with a small school-book publisher. Tiffany has worked as a freelance editor/copywriter for nine years but this is her fourth year as a full-time entrepreneur.

Many editors are genial, self-deprecating types who seldom have a good word to say about themselves. This attitude can be endearing but it seldom survives outside academia and other protected, non-commercial environments. Self esteem, Tiffany explains, is a vital requirement for editors who want to succeed commercially. The hurly burly of the free market is no place for shrinking violets; editors need to speak up for themselves and not sell themselves short. Tiffany makes it clear to her clients that editing skills are a valuable commodity and does an admirable job on her website of making the case for polished, precise copy. Following Tiffany’s approach means you should avoid thinking of yourself as a ‘mere editor’; you must become a person with a will and an invoice book, and be ready to train, to write, to rewrite and, of course, to bill.

Cross-selling is another tip that Tiffany suggested. Once she has edited copy for a client, Tiffany is also in a position to offer other services; her website lists print and web copywriting, proposal writing, newsletters, workshops, and seminars. Offering all these other services means that Tiffany sometimes starts off editing the newsletter and then moves on to the website, and eventually on to training. Along the way, she builds a relationship with the client and makes the most of her reading and writing skills. Some PEG members are more likely to cross-sell marmalade with their editing. As tasty as that sounds, it won’t pay the bills for long.

Tiffany mentioned her work with Exxaro, a leading mining company, as an example of how editors can use cross-selling to keep their clients happy and their billable hours in the double digits. Tiffany was involved in the rebranding process when Kumba split its assets into Kumba Resources and Exxaro. After working with HKLM, an external agency, Tiffany also happened to meet some Exxaro people at a conference, who then invited her to do a training course. The course was such a success that she returned to complete the company’s style guide.

Tiffany works from a home office and uses a laptop, which means Eskom’s power-cuts don’t interrupt her too much. She enjoys and appreciates the advisory aspects of PEG, especially the ideas and advice on practical things like finding accountants who have the right skills to deal with freelancers. Tiffany offers her regular clients a volume discount on large jobs and is prepared to offer small businesses a lower rate.

I was pleased to learn that Tiffany is quite pro-Truss (that would be Lynne Truss, the author of ‘Eats, Shoots, and Leaves’) and is keen to see the rules of English usage understood and adhered to. Rules matter, she says, and cannot be ignored for cosmetic reasons. English is a ‘frisky puppy’, Tiffany explains, but the flexibility of English usage does have its limits — the basic rules must be respected if we are to be understood and be effective in our business goals.

Our lunch ended on a very positive note. Tiffany estimates that the market for editors is growing quite fast and could probably accommodate 10 more businesses like hers. Tiffany sometimes has to turn work away but she still deals with a wide range of clients: a large number of corporates, some government work, a few small businesses and the occasional NGO.


It’s brand new – click here to check it out!


Looks like Melcrum, the specialists in global research and training for internal communicators, really liked my internal communications piece. I found it on one of their products, the Internal Comms Hub, complete with a photo. Am thrilled that they a) agree with me and b) want to give me free exposure – but am a little surprised that a comms expert would use my article without letting me know. Oh well. Thanks, Melcrum.


This is what Daniel Munslow, Publications & Media Manager of Newsclip, wrote on Publicity Update about my IABC 2007 presentation:

by Daniel Munslow, Johannesburg

Writing is the foundation of everything people do… be it television producers, broadcasters, communication professionals, public relations practitioners, and so on. Why then, is it so hard to find people who can write properly? This is especially pertinent for the new online platform, which continues to dominate the way people communicate. When we talk of online, we are referring to websites, e-newsletters, emails, etc. The 14th annual conference of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) looked at this very issue earlier today.

Tiffany Markman, a freelance copywriter, editor and trainer says brilliant words are everything. When constructing a press release or a communication of some form, the way it is written is the key to catching people’s attention. “You only have 15 seconds to hook your reader. 79{7aef4e5c6853be3cc4d057a807069aa9f2ae8fd184061eb63ea53e14fedec9bd} of readers are skimming the content, 19{7aef4e5c6853be3cc4d057a807069aa9f2ae8fd184061eb63ea53e14fedec9bd} read each word and the rest are deleted without being read. This is the reality. Plain and simple‿, says Markman.

There are four key areas that need to be focused on when constructing a written piece of communication. They are, IABC (funnily enough) – interest, appeal, brevity, and clarity.

The goal, according to Markman, is to write anything in a short and tight manner. Plain, common words needs to be used, not unusual or long ones. The latter will lose the audience. Same with sentences – choose to use the shorter ones over the longer ones. Similarly, you should avoid convoluted phrases that readers must think about in order to understand. Remember, the reader will always be asking, ‘what is in it for me?’. If they have to think too long, they will lose interest.

In many written communications, writers like to use unnecessary adjectives, which often result in an adjective overload. These are phrases like, ‘an unforgettable, special and unique event’ – two of the three are pointless and most editors would slash them out when using the press release in any case. “The reader doesn’t care about these extras; they care about ‘what’s in it for me?’, says Markman.

The reality is that each person is subjected to over 3000 messages each and every day. The more concise the message, the more likely the reader is to focus on your message rather than others. In achieving this, it is also wise to avoid the use of buzzwords, which are often annoying. Markman used the following as an example: ‘at the end of the day’, ‘thinking outside the box’, ‘synergy’ and ‘paradigm’.

Similarly, why say ‘thank you for your attention, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need anything else?’, when you don’t have to. Don’t write in a way that you wouldn’t speak and say what you want to – be specific: it’s not a tall building, it’s a skyscraper. Simple? Then why don’t people do it? Because of the way they were taught. But times are changing, and we are at a place where we need to throw some of the more traditional ways of writing and thinking out the window.

Markman also notes that everyone needs to focus on the ‘one’. You have an audience that you need to communicate a message to, in order to achieve an outcome. Focus on what you want to achieve.

Some of the more traditional methods of making contact:

  • Tailor the first line of each email.
  • Use a strong subject line to catch people’s attention – it will help determine whether your email should be read over another.
  • Format emails and stories properly and cleverly. Use sub headings, use bite-sized paragraphs and be relevant.
  • When writing, use sub-headings. People love them, as they are used as a visual landmark for people to read through the text.
  • Create different groups for different target markets to reach the niche you are after.
  • Monitor the readability of your written communication using the tools at your disposal – the spell and grammar checker, Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level scoring, etc.

These tools are especially pertinent to online communication. And remember, this is the future of communication – people reading emails and website content need to be able to read quickly and concisely and are not interested in all the extras. They want to get to the point. They will open a page and look for the crux of the story. If they cannot find it, they will move on.

An example of this is emails. Don’t reply to someone with, ‘Thank you for your enquiry’. They know they made an enquiry. Start by solving their problem and thank them later. The bottom line is that times are changing; and writers need to change with the times and adapt to a dynamic and developing environment. Read more on