Taking Digital Content to the Trade Show

Recently a client of mine was attending a trade show for a selected group who could use his services. It was not an audience that was his “bread and butter” but a crowd that could help him seriously expand certain areas of his business. As usual, he packed up his display, business cards and brochure. But this year, he took something else along.

I had been working with him for some time on his blog posts and I suggested that for this newer audience, we create a special handout featuring the content of the blog directed at this audience on how to select services they need. The article was not an advertisement, but a piece with valuable information that would help the trade show attendees compare my client against others they would meet. The one-page, 8-1/2” x 11” handout was branded with his logo, picture and contact information but the content itself was extremely objective. Nevertheless, by distributing the content, he established himself as the authoritative source on vetting service providers and competitors.

The client was happy to have something to give away other than marketing materials or a novelty trinket and those that stopped by his booth appreciated the forthright information in the piece. The best part for the client was that the content had already been created…on his site.

I think many companies fall prey to underutilizing the content they already have available to them, especially if they are going to a trade show and already have an amazing booth. The booth should say it all, right? Well, maybe, but most companies don’t change their booth as quickly as their industry changes. Your digital content, on the other hand, can keep up with regulatory changes, emerging trends, etc.

Before you head off to the trade show, take your marketing efforts a little further…

  1. THINK about what kind of information the trade show attendees will most be seeking from businesses like yours and what kind of information your company can specifically provide that will inform, surprise or impress them.
  2. SEARCH for the information in your digital cache.
  3. PRESENT it for display or distribution at the trade show in the most effective way, depending on the type of information you are working with.

For example, if you have a blog, you already have the fundamentals of a great addition to your trade show display or booth. You can repurpose selected posts by presenting or distributing them at the trade show…

  • As a branded, pdf handout
  • As a few, summarized main points on a banner, poster or novelty
  • As a brief guide, booklet, or handout for customers to use as a guide that summarizes a series of related posts
  • As a slideshare or powerpoint presentation that loops continuously
  • As a video presentation
  • As an infographic, on a table top display or banner
  • As your own particular novelty item, sharing your wisdom (ex., a deck of cards, a USB, a paperweight, work of art, flag, t-shirt, etc.)

Before or after the event, those related blog posts can even be summarized or “teased” in social media to interest the audience leading up to the event.

The moral of the story is to never forget the information you have out in cyberspace as you’re packing up for the trade show. You don’t want to miss the chance to tell the trade show attendees what they are wanting to hear from companies like yours.

Write Down Your Goals in 2017

So we’re already two months into 2017. How are you doing on your New Year’s resolutions?

I know that for myself, setting achievable, meaningful goals can give me a real boost. Whether it’s a diet or a marketing strategy, one thing makes a big difference in whether or not I achieve my result….writing it down.

It is proven that writing down your goals can improve your focus, prioritize things, identify where you can enhance your efforts and make realistic improvements. In fact, some studies have shown that you are 47 percent more likely to reach your goal if it is written down. This works the same for personal as well as business goals and the reason why is also explained in the study. Put simply, riting down our goals connects the imaginative and logical side of our brain, thus putting both to work on the job in our consciousness to achieve our goal.

That’s why it’s extra important in business to write out your goals, especially for marketing. Have a written plan for the year that encompasses your social media, advertising, and any promotional projects. Need some tips to get started? Try these!

  1. Plan six months ahead… or more. The idea behind writing down goals is to look at the big picture. That means planning beyond this week or next.
  2. Make your goals achievable and meaningful. These will keep you motivated and organized, to produce better results.
  3. Make sure everyone knows who is responsible for what…and when. Throwing something onto a plan without assigning a responsible party is like leaving a car running without a driver. You won’t get anywhere!
  4. Don’t overthink it. You don’t need a complicated plan, but make sure you include specific details that can act as milestones. A Microsoft excel spreadsheet, for example, may help to keep you organized and can be easily shared with others in your company so that they know what they are working toward.
  5. Find connections. Writing down your goals can help you see connections between projects, and streamline your plans for marketing. For example, you will be able to plan all your social media, eblasts, etc. in advance of any special events you may be planning.

For my clients who want to initiate multiple programs simultaneously, I always advise they put together a marketing calendar. This is a schedule of when you will release new content, post on social media about business, send out e-blasts, etc. where they can see connections.  I recently helped a client create a marketing calendar and have attached the marketing calendar template for your own use. Take a look and see for yourself how writing down tangible, focused goals for your marketing can be easy and effective.

Even though its February, you can still create a solid plan for 2017. If you need a marketing makeover, or help developing goals, website management & maintenance, strategies and priorities for your company’s marketing, Big Ideas Writing can help. Contact us at 630.778.6182.

Go Ahead. Disrupt My Day.

 

If you’re like most Americans, you noticed something different about the election.  His name was Donald Trump.

He said whatever he wanted. He did whatever he wanted. He disrupted our day because his message was innovative, as was his delivery.

The definition of disruptive innovation, according to Wikipedia, is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology.

Does that mean Trump will become the “new” kind of politician that Americans will continue to elect? Will he replace the established, experienced, “stately”, politically correct model of politician that we have come to expect?

No matter what your political opinions, or what happens in the next four years, American politics have now changed. An outsider has triumphed, in part due to his disruptive approach to which created his ability to stand out from his opponents. For better or for worse, Donald Trump captured the world’s attention from the moment he began his campaign. He was aiming to disrupt the status quo of politics, and his succeeded.

As marketers, disrupting your audience’s day can work to your benefit too.

chik-fil-a

When I see the billboards and advertisements for Chick-Fil-A, starring a cow who wants you to eat more chicken, I can’t help but chuckle. Like most innovations, there is risk involved and the decision makers had to climb on board with an unorthodox idea. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall as the Richards Agency pitched those cows to Chick-Fil-A. They were planning to sell chicken with no chicken involved. The campaign idea, now more than a decade old, was something so out of the ordinary that you can’t help but talk about it. The cow mascots helped propel the company to the #1 spot in the nation for chicken sales, even surpassing KFC. Now that’s disruptive!

ad-just-got-better-340I’m sure the next four years will be filled with more disrupted days, just as they have been now that Donald Trump is nearing inauguration. I think disruption begets disruption. For example, the quintessential example of disruptive technology is the iPod. The iPod changed the way we bought, listened and interacted with music on a global scale. Ever since that first product introduction, CEO Steve Jobs, marketing genius that he was,  was smart enough to keep the excitement going. To this day, whenever the new iPhone comes out, the world seems to stop and watch. Every new piece of technology is marketed as a life-changing event, something that will redefine our society. While it might be simply a product upgrade, the original expectation and reputation that Apple has built for disruptive technology continues to play repeatedly, like a familiar song everyone wants to hear. If you’re lucky enough to endear yourself to your audience with something disruptive, you will create an expectation for more of the same!

Good disruptive marketing also makes you look, but GREAT disruptive marketing brings you into a different world.  For example, here in the Chicago area, two local hospitals, Edward and Elmhurst, recently went through a merger and successive rebranding. I recently attended a seminar where the in-house creative team explained the branding process and how they set out to be disruptive. Instead of following the rule book on hospital branding using the usual colors and language, their goal was to find a new brand, different from every other hospital–something exciting that no one had ever done before.

Edward-Elmhurst Healthcare's "Healthy Driven" initiative features professional race car driver Danica Patrick. Through the campaign, Patrick is encouraging healthy behaviors through Edward-Elmhurst's Danica Patrick Healthy Driven Challenge at HealthyDriven.com. Patrick is a native of Roscoe, Illinois. (PRNewsFoto/Edward-Elmhurst Healthcare)

Edward-Elmhurst Healthcare’s “Healthy Driven” initiative features professional race car driver Danica Patrick. Through the campaign, Patrick is encouraging healthy behaviors through Edward-Elmhurst’s Danica Patrick Healthy Driven Challenge at HealthyDriven.com. Patrick is a native of Roscoe, Illinois. (PRNewsFoto/Edward-Elmhurst Healthcare)

The result of their search was the “Healthy Driven” campaign, with racecar driver Danica Patrick involved as a spokesperson. They set out to be “provocative, yet welcoming”. Instead of subdued, soothing colors they embraced red-hot, bold orange, yellow, and black hues. Messages were edgy, empowering people and encouraging them to take responsibility for their health. But the idea of “healthy driven” was more than an ad campaign. It penetrated every program at the hospital. In fact, the marketing director said they knew the brand had really touched their audience when a disgruntled patient, calling about his bills, told the operator on the other end of the line they did not have a very “healthy driven” attitude!

This November we learned a valuable lesson about disruption and how powerful it can be whether it is viewed positively or negatively. Trying something disruptive in your marketing campaigns can be successful for many companies, and it can be successful for you too. Don’t be afraid to do something unusual, bold, and unorthodox to reach your audience. The ground you break may pave the way for a disruptive innovation for your brand.

If you are interested in exploring disruptive marketing techniques for your brand, I’d love to brainstorm with you! Contact me at 630.778.6182.

How Finding the Right Corporate Message is Like Carving a Pumpkin

What does carving a jack o’ lantern and finding a new corporate message have in common?

Change.

For some people, change is the scariest word in the English language. To Americans in this election year, or businesses facing a marketing challenge, change can be as frightening as those movies they always seem to air on TV this time of year. But before a pumpkin can become a jack o’ lantern, it must undergo a true transformation, losing pieces of itself to become something even more fantastical and magnetic to everyone around it. This is not unlike a business finding the right corporate message.

One of the joys of being in marketing is ushering companies through exciting changes. Whether it’s a new website, launching a blog program or a complete re-branding effort, revamping the existing (or creating something new out of nothing) is always an exhilarating challenge that interestingly, has a lot in common with carving that pumpkin. For example…

You remove the top from where it sits. You have to shake up things a little to produce change, right? How else can you get an objective viewpoint unless you get the cooperative leader, CEO or founder of the company to take a different perspective on what’s happening with the company? Only then can we objectively assess the company from the outside looking in. It’s just a temporary move…we always put the top back on, don’t we? It’s important, though, to remove the top to welcome the change that’s yet to come.

You take a good look inside. Scooping and scraping away the sinewy, slimy threads of “pumpkin guts” is important to get to the smooth, fleshy, peach-colored innards that reflect any new light we put inside our Halloween creation. This reminds me of the research phase when I’m working with a company to find out what makes it tick. Inside a pumpkin we find the seeds. Inside a business, we find the people who can help the company grow and prosper.

You check out the competition.  Do you peek at Pinterest for jack o’ lantern designs before you put knife to pumpkin? Every company needs to be aware of what their competitor is doing before they can properly position themselves in the marketplace. They also need to know themselves. Not every face looks great on a tall oblong pumpkin. Some look better on a short, round one.

You carve the face.  After careful deliberation, a splash of creative planning and a deep breath, you begin the transformation of the pumpkin into the jack o’lantern. There is no cry of pain from a pumpkin, and it doesn’t have to be painful for a company either to launch a new brand, marketing message or positioning statement. Nothing too easy is ever worthwhile. Stick to the plan, implement it in a slow, steady manner and the change will happen painlessly, before you know it!

You set the light inside.  As you set a light inside, the pumpkin has completed its transformation into a jack o’ lantern for all to see! The business can get a new “face” too. It can give its target audience a glimpse into its center, and reveal itself in a new way with a fresh, compelling corporate message. While a jack o’ lantern attracts trick or treaters with its newfound light, the business can expect good things too, like new markets, more leads, perhaps a business award or just putting a good scare into competitors!

This fall will be a time of transformation for the country, just as it is for so many pumpkins out there. If it is time for a change in your company’s marketing strategy, remember that change doesn’t have to be scary. Feel free to contact me and find out how.

Why You Should Avoid Passive Voice

In my daily editing, I am always amazed at the commonplace use of passive voice over active.  Many people think it sounds more formal, or makes them sound more knowledgeable, but in most cases, it really hinders reading. The passive voice reorders the sentence, so the most important noun comes last. It makes the sentence longer and often more confusing. For example:

Active: The copywriter promoted the book.

Passive: The book was promoted by the copywriter.

We see here that by writing in the passive voice we have extended the sentence by two words, and if you read the two sentences out loud, you will probably agree that the second one sounds clunky and harder to understand.

One of the most common places you see passive voice is the law profession. Why? Mainly because they are always discussing how something happened to someone. Someone is always being acted upon, rather than simply doing something. This is because in legal language, emphasis is everything. If you are trying to persuade a judge or jury of a person’s guilt or innocence, the main focus of each sentence has to be clear and deliberate.

Active: Smith took the money, unbeknownst to my client.

Passive: The money was taken by Smith, unbeknownst to my client.

On the other hand, lawyers can also use passive voice deliberately to sound less accusatory.

Active: The suspect perpetrated the crime.

Passive (preferred in legal): The crime was perpetrated by the suspect.

It can also be skillfully used in cases where there is a multi-part subject in the sentence and the reader could use the verb up front to make it more understandable.

Active:  Tax credits based on current state laws, alimony for the spouse as per the divorce decree and co-custody of the children pending the court order are included in the mandates of the proposed bill.

Passive:  The proposed bill is to mandate tax credits based on current state laws, alimony for the spouse as per the divorce decree and co-custody of the children pending the court order.

In writing for a general audience, however, the passive voice really doesn’t add much meaning to a sentence. It just makes it more complicated. In smaller sentences the change seems small, but passive voice can make a big difference in the comprehension of more complicated sentences, like this one:

Active: The talented copywriter promoted the book with expertise.

Passive: The book was promoted well by the talented copywriter with expertise.

A writer’s goal should be to sound more knowledgeable, or to make fancier sentences. In reality, effective writers try to keep things short and concise. Eliminating the passive voice will give your writing three key factors:

Clearer meaning, which is the whole point of communication, right?

Shorter, and shorter is better, because people are more likely to take the time to read it!

Easier to read, because passive voice will clean up your sentences and make them more memorable to readers.

If you compose with Microsoft Word, you should know that the spellcheck can help you identify and change passive sentences. It is hidden, but well worth the effort!

  1. Under “File” menu, select “Options.”
  2. Select “Proofing” and scroll to “When Correcting Spelling and Grammar in Word”
  3. Change box with “writing style” to “Grammar & Style.”
  4. Select “Settings” and find and click the box for “Passive Sentences” under style. Click ok.
  5. If you have not already, you can check the box next to “Mark Grammar Errors As You Type” so that you will be alerted to any times you write a passive sentence.
  6. Click “OK” to return to the Word Options window.

So next time you are writing or editing your document, ask yourself if the subject of your sentence is performing an action (active), or if an action is being performed upon it (passive). Is active voice making the writing clearer or is writing made clearer by using active voice?

If you are having trouble eliminating the active voice in your writing, or you want to see how a professional touch can make a difference in your content, contact Karen at  Big Ideas Writing today.

5 Things to Know If You Want to Write a Book

I recently attended an event hosted by the Midwest Speaking Professionals about what to do if you want to write a book. It was a perfect topic for speakers since so many of them end up being authors either before or after they become speakers. Throughout my career as a writer, I have interviewed, written, outlined, edited and coached authors. Most recently, I edited and ghostwrote some of the chapters in the Today’s Inspired Latina Vol. 1 and Today’s Inspired Latina Vol. 2. I have watched authors propelled to success as speakers and thought leaders after they publish their first book . For many, it is an important career move.

However, it’s not easy.  If you want to write a book, it’s hard to find the time and energy to work on it, let alone get it published.  One of the speakers at the conference, an experienced author named Bull Garlington, outlined a number of important things that every aspiring book author should know. They may surprise you!

1. You need to have an objective. What are you hoping to achieve by publishing your book, aside from monetary gain? (I was assured by many of the authors that there are much easier ways to make money). Maybe you want to help professionals in your field. Maybe you want to share your life experience or an adventure you had. Is the book to be used as a “business card” for prospects or as a “text book” for a course you are teaching? Be clear on your purpose before you begin.

2. You will need help to make this happen. Writing a book, even if you self-publish, is not a one-person job. Most books are produced with the help of an editor, proofreader, graphic designer, printer, marketing expert, and selling partner. You will have to do some networking if you are serious about producing a quality book and getting it to sel

3. It’s hard to stay motivated, so set goals for yourself. With his trademark wit and wisdom, Bull described how as authors, your product is words, and you should have a certain output each day. He outlined a practical way to look at writing a book –keep up a writing schedule! Here’s an example:

Say you want to write a 60,000 word book, in the span of one year. That means you will have to write 15,000 every three months, 1,162 words per week. What you should be focusing on is writing 232 words per day for five days a week. If you stick to your daily goal, your 60,000- word project becomes attainable.

4. Marketing is part of the job. In order to market your book well, you will need to make appearances, find a market niche for your book and pitch excerpts to magazine editors in order to get publicity. Before you publish, it is critical to have a plan for the promotion of your book.

5. A book is an investment. Nobody will print your book for free. Usually there is an investment involved that will have to be made before you strike it rich with your book. The return may be over a longer period of time, so be prepared if that is the case. The best reason to publish a book is not to get rich, but instead because you have a true passion to share with the world.

If you are serious about writing a book and are looking for a writing and marketing professional to accompany you on the journey from concepting, to writing, proofreading and promotion,  contact me for more information.

Why Content Writers Create Great Marketing Strategy

 

I was speaking recentlyMagnet with the owner of an agency who helps companies with the creation and implementation of corporate marketing plans. We were discussing the possibilities of using my services to manage some of his marketing projects. As we discussed ideas, he said something I had never heard verbalized before: “You know, content writers make the best program managers,” he said.

I knew exactly what he meant.  Yet I had never put it that way myself. Then after thinking about it, I decided to think it through and it makes perfect sense. Why?

Content writers are all about the message.  Let’s face it, if you are creating a marketing communications piece, you want to send the right marketing messaging to the right audience. You can put out all the blogs, videos, etc. you want but if they don’t speak to your audience, nothing will happen. Content writers understand this, and it is the bread and butter of what we do. We craft the messages that get your audience to do something…and now!

Content is at the root of many a marketing program. When I started my business four years ago, I strictly sought editorial, content writing, editing and proofreading jobs. Now, at the request of my clients, I manage marketing programs that feature content like blogs, Eblast campaigns, social media campaigns and more. Content is at the heart of these efforts so a content writer should be too! This is especially key when a client has a need to broadcast one message across multiple communication  channels, like website content, printed collateral pieces, video content and social media. I personally do this by partnering with exceptional professionals who share my passion for creative communication. Seems like program management is a natural extension of my skills!

Good content writers can also spin a message on a dime. If the first headline isn’t working, we’ve got more waiting in the wings. Again, who decides if you need a change in, say, the headline? Probably your success metrics, as analyzed by the program manager. And if your program manager is also your content writer, well…you eliminate the middle man. How’s that for efficiency? Good content writers are a fount of creativity, flexibility and versatility.

Content Writers think conceptually. We content writers do more than write. We consider the effect our words have on others. We explore options of communication to get our point across, like different media channels, graphic design or sensory experiences. All that big sky thinking is essential for the success of an integrated campaign. And we’ve got it down pat!

I agree that content writers make the best marketers. Maybe that’s why I’ve grown comfortable in my role as the content writer-program manager. If you’re looking for a content writer with a flair for marketing strategy, let’s talk. Contact me today!

Social Media Prime Time: When Your Business Should Post

Social media is an incredibly important aspect of today’s business practices, and knowing when the best time is to post or update social media can be key to exposing your content to a wider audience.

Recently, I attended a presentation on this very topic given by Maria Ramos, an award-winning blogger and social media consultant.  Her website, A Savings Wow, is an eclectic mix of coupons, savings tips, and deals and giveaways. As a social media consultant, Maria helps businesses get the most from their efforts, and her presentation gave some concrete information on the best and worst times to post on some of the most popular platforms. I’ve put together this chart as a handy guide for myself (and you!) to schedule accordingly.

Social media Best time to post Worst times to post
Facebook 1-2 times per day, 1pm to 4pm ET Weekends before 8am and after 8pm ET
Twitter About 3 times a day, Mondays through Thursdays from 1pm to 3pm ET Every day after 8pm and Friday after 3pm ET
Instagram Mondays from 3pm to 4pm ET
LinkedIn 2 to 4 times a week, Tuesdays through Thursdays at noon and between 5pm and 6pm ET Mondays and Fridays between 10pm and 6am ET

Also, if you have active social media, make sure your customers and prospects know you’re there! There are many unusual places to put your social media icons that you may not have considered.

Experts will tell you that even if you don’t follow the guidelines above, the important thing is to post, get the word out and make social media work for you!

At Big Ideas Writing, we help clients with their social media content and page management. If you need some help with yours, contact us today!

Five Hidden Values of a Marketing Consultant

sssssssssssssssssss

Marketing consultants are an amazing tool for small or medium sized businesses that need to expand their media exposure, reach a new audience, promote an award they have received, or accomplish other marketing goals. When companies have a need for marketing, they have two choices. They can use their internal marketing department (or even establish one) or they can hire an outside marketing expert. The decision usually depends on budget and resources, human and otherwise. Both internal and external marketing professionals can do a smashing job for a company. In general, however, marketing consultants, by virtue of their external perspective, can bring something even more valuable to the table, without charging an extra cent!

1. Creative Solutions Born of Experience. An external marketing consultant may have experience in yours and other industries that can come in handy in unconventional ways. They may have seen marketing strategies before that have helped other clients. They may have tried a strategy in another industry that may work in yours too. They may have experience with technology and tools that can bring results, like electronic press release distribution systems and SEO keyword planners. Let their experience enrich yours!

2. A New Perspective. Employees in an internal marketing department are employed by the company and often see everything from the company perspective. They may be there to grow their career and become a lifelong employee or just as likely be there for the paycheck and be biding their time for a better opportunity. An outside force like a marketing consultant sees things objectively, and from a different angle. In their position, they’ve had access to many different types of corporate cultures, leadership styles and marketing strategies. They’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. Don’t be surprised if they propose something completely different to you that you’ve never considered before. It’s part of the hidden value of a consultant!

3. Resources. One reason you hire an outside marketing consultant is because you don’t have the time, experience, or manpower to handle the marketing for your company. Marketing experts have all three for your business, as well as access to marketing resources that you might not know about and knowledge of many different resources for promoting a business. There are always new ways that a business can use social media, networking, and promotional material that a business owner might need.  As a marketing consultant, I have connections with specialists who can produce e-blasts, search optimization, and other tools to help businesses reach a wider audience.

4. Publicity opportunities. Marketing consultants are always on the lookout for publicity opportunities. Everything promotional tool that crosses a good marketing consultant’s path is a possibility for their client. Awards programs, for example, are a great way to put your business in the spotlight while participating in the community. As a marketing consultant, I do a variety of work for clients, but I always keep an eye out for opportunities to do even more. Sometimes I am called in to proofread a website or write content for a whitepaper, but if I find other ways that a business can make itself more accessible, I’ll let my client know! A good marketing consultant knows that their client’s success equals their own.

5. Business Consulting. Being an entrepreneur can be lonely. Sometimes the entrepreneur may feel like they are the only one in the business who truly cares about the company’s success. It’s helpful to have someone to bounce ideas off of and talk to about other, non-marketing related issues. As a marketing consultant, clients often ask me about human resources, pricing, sourcing, etc. I always try to have the answer for them and hope that my advice has saved them hours of googling for information!

So when you need a helping hand with your marketing, remember that a good consultant brings more with them than just what it says on their business card. If you need an example of what that might be, feel free to contact me.

 

Comma Comma Comma Comma Comma Chameleon

Inspired by the old George Michael song, this week the Big Ideas Writing blog is taken over by our summer intern, Erica Dix, who educates us on …what else? Commas! 20140607_182708

Some of the most common grammatical errors are comma-related. Very few of us can name all of the comma rules with certainty. They are more than just a pause in the sentence, they actually serve a purpose! Here are the ten main uses of commas and how to use them well…with or without the chameleon.

  1. Commas are used with dependent clauses, when the sentence begins with a word such as although, when, because, or if. Like this:

Although chameleons like the sunlight, they are careful not to overheat.

However, they are not used if the dependent clause comes second.

Chameleons are careful not to overheat even though they like the sunlight.

 

  1. Commas are used before a conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so)

The chameleon was blue, but he soon changed back to green.

 

  1. Commas can be used to separate adjectives when an “and” can be used between them, for example:

He was a slow, steady chameleon who was skilled at climbing trees.

..which would be written without a comma as:

He was a slow and steady chameleon who was skilled at climbing trees.

 

  1. Commas can be used after introductory phrases, such as consequently, nonetheless, etc.

However, the chameleon wasn’t at the top of the tree yet.

 

  1. A comma is used after a direct address to someone.

Chameleon, where are you going?

 

  1. Commas are used to separate a phrase in quotations.

I’m going to find my friends,” the chameleon replied.

 

  1. Use a comma when referring to dates…

The chameleon’s birthday is June 21st, 2015.

and places…

Chameleon City, USA

 

  1. And when you are indicating an exact renaming…..

The chameleon, named Jeff, was very intelligent.

 

  1. Commas are used with clauses that contain unnecessary information (nonrestrictive), beginning with “which/who”.

The chameleon, who didn’t know how to read, continued to climb.

The information between the subject (chameleon) and the verb (continued) does not affect the meaning of the sentence and needs to be offset with a comma. However, if it is a clause which contains necessary information (restrictive clause) that begins with “that/who”, a comma is not necessary.

The chameleon that was in a hurry continued to climb.

The information in the clause “that was in a hurry” describes (and often identifies) the subject and affects the meaning of the sentence. It does not need to be offset with commas.

 

  1. The Oxford (Serial) Comma

Yes, we would be amiss if we didn’t mention the dreaded Oxford Comma. The Oxford comma is used at the ends of lists before the word “and”. Many writers and publications deliberately eliminate it but here in the United States, the Oxford Comma is widely acknowledged as grammatically correct.

With Oxford Comma: The chameleon eats lettuce, carrots, and spinach.

Without Oxford Comma: The chameleon eats lettuce, carrots and spinach.

I hope this answered some of your comma questions, and got you thinking about how you use this important piece of punctuation. Leave a comment if you have any of your own tips and tricks about commas. And if you are ever in need of a look at your comma use in something you’ve written, contact us at Big Ideas Writing!