Federal Courts to Lower Appellate Brief Word Limits. Are You Ready?

The practice of an appellate lawyer rises and falls with brief writing. Thorough brief writing is the key to winning cases and getting bad law overturned. But will the federal courts’ new lower word count limits weaken your brief or make you a sharper writer? Continue reading

To Master Writing, Try Different Lengths

I have recently had the opportunity to experiment with several different lengths of written works – from long-form book, to op-ed, to blog post, and the hyper-short back cover blurb. What I have learned from it is this: writing outside your depth (or length) can make you better at what you do. Continue reading

eBooks Are Marketing Too

Has anyone ever told you that you should write a book? Maybe you have a strong opinion on an aspect of your business, or have a unique way of explaining a difficult concept. An eBook could be a great way to put your thoughts in order and market your expertise at the same time. Continue reading

NaNoWriMo Tells Bloggers to Write Bigger

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This month writers across the country and internationally will be scrambling to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Most bloggers are afraid of anything long-form. But NaNoWriMo and it’s non-fiction counterpart, National Nonfiction Writing Month (NaNonFiWriMo) can inspire bloggers to do more with their archived articles, even publish a book.

If you are like many bloggers, you are convinced you don’t have time to write anything longer than your weekly 500 word blog post. Maybe you have trouble even finding that much time to write. So when your readers tell you “you should write a book” you cringe in fear.

Bloggers and short-story writers have the same take on this: there’s no way they have it in them to write something that long. Sure, 500 words a week may be easy enough, but who could possibly create whole chapters of original content?

The thing is, you may have already done just that. The average non-fiction book runs 50,000 to 75,000 words. But an eBook could be as little as 3,000. That’s 6 blog posts. If you look back at your blogging archive it’s a safe bet you have 6 or 10 or maybe even 20 posts all on the same topic. With a little editing, there is your book.

Books and eBooks can also be a great way to repurpose your hard-wrote blogs and even make a little money. By re-editing your blog series on weathering a bankruptcy, you could create a self-help book that earns you money while you sleep.

Being a published author can also boost your reputation and distinguish you from your competition. Imagine being able to offer potential clients a free copy of a book with your name on the cover and your picture on the fly-leaf. Pretty impressive. Why would they go with any other lawyer when you literally wrote the book on their issue?

You may not think you have the time to write a book, but the organizations that run NaNoWriMo and NaNonFiWriMo beg to differ. And when you already have the content written in your blog, what do you have to lose? Join the thousands of writers dedicated to creating a book this November. You may thank yourself later.

 

Lisa Schmidt is a writer for Legal Linguist in Southfield, Michigan. She can offer you and your firm writing services from ghost-blogging to brief writing, to ghostwriting a book based on your blog content. If you don’t have time to write it yourself, contact Legal Linguist to reach a ghost writer today.

 

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

 

Catching Your Reader’s Attention

We live in a fast-paced culture. Our average attention span is 8 seconds. Goldfishes’ are 9. The key to writing blogs that catch and hold your readers’ attention is to keep them short and focused on a catchy topic. Here are some tips to guard against rambling:

Use Subheadings to Prevent Topic Drift

Subheadings can help break up your page and make it easier for the reader to follow along. They can also help you stay on target. If you can’t figure out how to tie your subheading to your title, you probably are off course. Subheadings give you a chance to check your heading and stay on target.

Reference Your Header Paragraph

You spend extra time on your header paragraph, making sure it is tight and attractive to your readers. Don’t be afraid to go back to the metaphor you used at the start and mention that goldfish again. Doing so will help you tie everything together and keep you from drifting off on a tangent.

Refine Your Topic

If you are having trouble keeping your post short and sweet, it’s probably because your topic is too broad. Take the time to distill your topic to its purest form. What is the one point you are trying to make? If you’re making 2 points, you’re writing 2 posts. Refine your topic and increase your focus – honing in on the one main thing you’re trying to say.

Tie It All Together In the End

Your closing paragraph is just as important as your header. It gives you a chance to call your reader to action and drive your point home. Make sure that closing paragraph connects to your header and all the headings. Just like you learned in high school writing class: Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em, tell ’em, and then tell ’em what you told ’em – then give them something to do with it.

You have 8 seconds to catch and hold your readers’ attention. If you go on too long or stray from your topic, you’ll lose them. Stay focused, use subheadings, and tie everything together to get your readers from beginning to end.

Lisa Schmidt is a ghost-blogger and blogging coach for LegalLinguist.com. If you need help creating your professional blog, contact Legal Linguist today for customized writing and editing assistance.

TL;DR When Enough is Really Too Much

Are you losing your readers with long, difficult posts?TL;DR: Lawyers like to use lots of words when a few are enough. It can make their blogs long and boring for readers.

Have you ever seen a comment “TL;DR” or “TLDR” on your blog? If so, you probably are one of the many lawyers who write too much. TL;DR is an Internet meme that stands for “too long; didn’t read.” Urban Dictionary says it is:

Said whenever a nerd makes a post that is too long to bother reading.

So what do you do to keep from being that nerd?

Watch Your Word Count

Long blogs turn off casual readers. If people are faced with an immediate need they may be willing to slog through 1000s of words, but your regular subscribers won’t. Keep your posts short. If a concept is complicated, break it up into a blog series. Otherwise you risk losing your readers halfway through.

Use Short Sentences

Your mastery of the semicolon may have impressed professors in college and law school, but it doesn’t impress the Internet. Complex sentences force your readers to go slowly and re-read parts they did not understand. That can double or even triple the perceived length of your piece. Break up your thoughts into short, digestible ideas and your readers will be able to bear with you longer.

Avoid Legalese

Nothing will lose your readers faster than words they don’t understand. Unless you specialize in legal malpractice, your clients probably didn’t go to law school. You don’t want your readers giving up on the important point you are making, so break it down for them. As a rule of thumb, if the word appears in Black’s Law Dictionary, you probably need to define it for your readers.

Use Introductions and Headings

Your readers like to know what to expect when they start reading. The “stub” – your lead paragraph – should chart a clear course. Then you can use headings to mark the way. Readers will feel like they’re making progress and will be more willing to read on.

Keep it Interesting

No matter how short your post, you can still lose readers if your topic is dull. But just because you are discussing loan agreements doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Spice up your blog with quotes, stories, examples, and illustrations. They will keep your reader’s interest and help them understand your point.

Let’s face it, law can be boring. But just because the topic is dry doesn’t mean you can’t get readers to follow you. By keeping careful eye on your structure, word choices, and article length, you can get clients to read all the way to the end.

Do you have other tricks that have helped readers make it through your content? Share them in the comments.

Should You Blog Over Vacation?

With Memorial Day behind us and the summer ahead, you are probably looking at your calendar looking for a few days’ vacation. But how should you deal with your blog while you are away? Here are a few ways to get through your time off:

1. Write Ahead

If your blog is still getting its sea legs, you probably will want to take the extra time to have blogs scheduled and ready to go while you are away. Most blogging platforms allow you to schedule your posts in advance, so you can set everything up and walk away without worrying that something could go wrong.

2. Write Abroad

One of the great things about the web is that you can access it from almost anywhere. Sometimes your vacation will inspire you. If it does, write. Don’t bottle it up and try to wait until you get back. You can upload your blog posts on the go or save them electronically to use later.

3. Cut Back

Maybe you don’t have time to write a fresh blog for each day of your vacation (if you are blogging daily), but you probably have time for 1-2 extra posts. It is okay to cut down your frequency while you are away, as long as you pick it back up when you get back.

4. Use Guest Bloggers

If your blog has a decent following you probably have a few other bloggers reading your work. Send out a call for guest bloggers to fill the gaps while you are away. This will take burden off of you and will help grow your audience at the same time.

5. Use Ghost Bloggers

If none of these options suit you, you can always hire someone to write on your behalf. A ghost blogger reads what you have written and provides additional articles that fit your topic and writing style. You can hire one to keep up your content stream while you are away.

Just because you go on vacation doesn’t mean your marketing efforts have to go with you. With some careful advanced planning you can have an uninterrupted flow of content marketing while you are away that will keep you up and running when you get back. If you need a ghost writer to help fill the gaps, contact Lisa Schmidt today before you jump on that plane!

 

Top 5 Reasons to Use Numbered Lists

Why you should be using top 5 lists

“Wooden Numeric 5” by Stoonn on freedigitalphotos.net

Top 10 lists are extremely popular within the blogosphere. Someone is probably writing a new one even as you read this. But can numbered list posts be useful to a blogging lawyer? Aren’t the issues we deal with too complicated to explain that way? Here are 5 reasons I say no:

5. Built-In Structure

Creating a Top 10 (or 5 or 3) list automatically breaks your blog post up into manageable pieces with natural headings. This makes it easier for the casual browser to get the gist of your blog and decide whether he wants to read on.

4. Enforced Brevity

If you are monitoring your word count, you will notice you don’t have many words to explain each of your Top 10 points. This forces you to get to the point and be compelling.

3. Cohesiveness of Ideas

For your regular subscribers, Top 10 lists are a great way to show how some of your other, more in-depth posts fit together. Whether they are all “top tips” or different stages in the same process, you can use a numbered list to bring the ideas together in one place.

2. Teasers and Links

You’ll never be able to fully explain each of your Top 10 items in one post. But don’t despair, you just created teasers for 10 great new posts! As you publish them, go back and add links to your Top 10 to give readers instant access to more information.

1. Trends on Social Media

No matter how accurate your explanation of Michigan No-Fault Insurance may be, it is not likely to get shared on any of your social media platforms. But a Top 10 list that includes mention of that explanation could be. Why? Because social media is enamored with easy reads and bite size information. Sure, many readers will just scan your list and be done with it, but the real potential clients will find something in that Top 10 that speaks to their need and will click on links to read more.

Numbered lists are a great way to connect with casual readers through social media and on your blog. Use them to create gateways to your other blog content, and to your door. If you need help creating content for your blog, contact blogging coach Lisa Schmidt for help.