Plugs Our Web Spots

By Anna Goldsmith
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We were really psyched to see a mention today in the about our new Web spots for Down:2:Earth. See below for a snippet, or read the whole piece here.

With MBTA hiking fares and the threat of rising gas prices, everyone could use a shorter commute to work. But living in your office? Down 2 Earth, an eco-friendly sustainable living convention happening in April at the Hynes, created some web spots featuring an enthusiastic office green-er named Ned who thinks workplace living is the perfect environmental solution to commuter emissions.

The Hired Pens gets props from Green Cotton

By Anna Goldsmith
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Thanks to Shana Yansen who owns Jute & Jackfruit, an up-and-coming organic and sustainable clothing and accessory company for women, for giving us a plug in her latest blog entry about Down:2:Earth.

Of particular interest to Eco-Fashion Gurus will be the two Eco-Fashion Shows to take place throughout the weekend: one at 4:30 on Saturday April 4, 2009 and the other at 1:30 pm on Sunday April 5th. The fashion shows will feature this season’s hottest new trends by a number of designers, especially those in New England. Organized by the School of Fashion Design of Boston in collaboration with D2E, the show is sure to be a great. Green Cotton will be there, covering the event, so stay tuned for some expert reporting on the fashion show. Meanwhile, check out D2E’s funny video clip “Eco Suit,” promoting the event: Eco Suit. View more of these D2E spots on The Hired Pens production site.

You can read the full story here.

Searching for Readability Through the Fog

By Dan O'Sullivan
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Anyone who writes for a living has to be conscious of readability. Or at least anyone who writes for marketing and/or advertising purposes.

Since becoming a professional writer, I’ve taken pride in keeping things readable. Reining in long sentences and paragraphs. Avoiding complex words. Adopting a friendly, conversational tone. After so many years of writing, habits like these become second nature.

When clients review my work, they rarely comment on readability. If anything, they’re more likely to make suggestions that hurt readability. Add in some more detail to this sentence. Throw in some multisyllabic techno-jargon. Etc.

So I was surprised to see that readability actually took precedent with this new technology client of mine. Before delivering website copy, I first had to run it through the Gunning fog index.

This little tool has been around since the 1950s, but it was the first I’d heard of it. The Wikipedia entry explains how the fog index works. To sum up, it gauges the readability of your writing by weighing the average sentence length and percentage of words with three or more syllables.

After digesting your prose, the fog index spits out a figure indicating the number of years of formal education you’d need to easily comprehend the text. Scoring a 12 means a high school graduate could get it.

My client encouraged me to aim for an 11, and I figured it’d be no problem. But it was. My first draft scored a 15.5, so I had to go back and make some fixes. Soon I found myself shortening sentences that I had thought couldn’t be shortened, and replacing the occasional big word with a little one.

Of course, when writing for technology clients, it’s tough to cut out many of those big words (how else can you say “virtualize,” anyway?). Still, it’s worth trying. And even though I’ve always considered my writing to be very readable, it’s good to know how I could do better. So thank you, Gunning fog index. I’ll be seeing you again soon.

By the way, this blog entry scored an 8.6. Sweet.

What this Hired Pen does when she’s not writing

By Anna Goldsmith
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She has an art show … and writes about herself in the third person. The Somerville Journal wrote a nice article about the show so you can read all about it here or just come by True Grounds and see it for yourself.

Introducing The Hired Pens Productions

By Anna Goldsmith
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That’s right, The Hired Pens is now writing, shooting, editing and producing Web spots. Why? We wanted to add a little BOOM to our life of nouns and verbs. (Get it, boom?! If you were also making Web spots, you would.) 

Read all about our new venture and watch our latest videos here. Or, if you have a fast enough Internet connection, you can watch them on YouTube’s HD Player here:  

Recycling Drive

The Brilliant Seth MacFarlane

By Anna Goldsmith
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I typed “The Brilliant Seth MacFarlane” into my search engine and 11,000 entries came up. So how brilliant is the creator of Fox’s hit show Family Guy?

Not yet 40 and still looking like he’s about 15, MacFarlane is the highest-paid television writer in Hollywood. But is this what makes him brilliant? No. It’s the fact that he’s helped turn Google AdSense into a hugely successful video distribution network where everyone wins.

Really? Everyone wins? Yes, really. Adam Ostrow from Mashable breaks it down for us: 

  • Publishers get to serve up content that viewers actually want to watch. (No offense, banner ads: I know some of you are very good. Like, um, the ones we do with our good friend, Rich Nadworny from Digalicious.) 
  • Advertisers know they are reaching their target audience.
  • Google gets more data based on how the shows do on different sites.

Ostrow fails to mention the biggest winner of all: the viewer who is treated to MacFarlane’s highly entertaining Cavalcade Webisodes. The two-minute format is perfect. It’s short enough that viewers don’t navigate away, but long enough to include a few ads.

But here’s what’s truly unique. MacFarlane creates the ads too – all in his own style. (Check out a nunchuck-wielding William Shatner shill for Priceline.) The ads are so entertaining you don’t even realize you’re being sold to. It just feels like more great content.

Sneaky? I don’t know, maybe. Brilliant. Oh, yes.

Feeling Over-Stimulated

By Anna Goldsmith
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This morning I drove by my neighborhood Mexican restaurant to see their marquee now reads: “Our Stimulus Package: Buy One Lunch, Get a Second for Half Off.”

A minute later on the radio, some car company was advertising “our version of the stimulus package.” And when I arrived at my destination, I saw a store linking “stimulus package” to “bundle of joy” to sell baby clothes and accessories.

I’m thinking maybe The Hired Pens should get onboard. “For every 20 words we write, you’ll get an extra 20 for free!” Or, “This month only, all ‘stimulating’ words half off!”

If only we offered this deal when we were writing for Brookstone. Imagine how much they could have saved on their line of (relaxing, indulgent, powerful, gratifying) massage products. 

Anyway, I guess you can’t fault companies for trying to be timely. I just wish they didn’t all think of it at the same time. And if you’ve got a good example of one of these “stimulating” ads, please do share.