All about writing

Words are fascinating ... Put them together in the right way, and we can communicate with people in other places and other times. Make a mess of it and ...

My Photo
Location: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Rule of Three

"Third time lucky!" we all say.

"Bad news comes in threes."

"I'm going to count to three!" we tell our kids.

Just what is it about the number three?

We have the Holy Trinity, the Three Musketeers, a ménage à trois ...

The three witches in Macbeth, the Three Little Pigs, the Three Bears ...

Spells and incantations from all religions use the magic number of three ... and so it goes on ...

It's a number that crops up all the time in everyday speech. Listen closely the next time a friend or associate is ticking off options, it will nearly always be along the lines of, "... first, there's A, secondly there's B and thirdly, there's C ..." or "I can give you three good reasons why we should X ..."

(Even the ellipse ... the dots used to indicate a pause ... is a series of three dots, no more and no less!)

Writers throughout history have recognised the power of the number three:

Julius Caesar's most remembered line would have to be Veni, vidi, vici! (I came, I saw, I conquered!)

Benjamin Disraeli bemoaned the existence of "three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics!"

And civic-minded people dreamed up the classic road-safety campaign: "Stop, look and listen!"

So, if the number three IS such a powerful force, can it be harnessed to improve your bottom line?


If you're writing for business, you should always use bulleted lists to make your key points stand out in your advertising, so organise your material into threes:

give your buyers three reasons to buy your product
suggest three benefits
offer three different ways to purchase your product

And finish with three testimonials from satisfied customers.

No doubt about it, the number three packs a punch! So, brush up your writing skills and then start writing:

Ready. Set. Go!

Enough "Stuff!"

Did you know that the English language has an estimated vocabulary of 800,000 words? (Words R. McRoberts) We have words to describe every object, movement, feeling and thought on the planet; we can pinpoint each little nuance of meaning, simply by choosing the right word for the right spot.

Language isn't something that remains static - it's a living thing that grows and changes to meet our needs. We create new words to describe and explain new objects and concepts - just consider the number of words that have come into the language as a result of technological developments over the past decade. Words like Internet and fax are common-place now; we all recognise the abbreviation WWW and children around the world know what Pokemon means.

Shakespeare, who was one of our most prolific and enduring writers, used approximately 22,000 different words in his published works. Well-educated people today use about 5,000 different words when speaking and about 10,000 in their writing. Most of us have a 'working vocabulary' of 2,000 (which means that there are over 788, 000 words that are gathering dust on the shelves of our minds). Of those 2,000 words, the most commonly used are: the, of, and, to, a, in, that, is, I, it.

Those ten little words (and I do mean little), account for 25% of all speech.

There are fifty words, which make up 60% of everything we say - and only two of these have more than one syllable ... which brings us to ... "stuff."

Why oh why (oh WHY) do otherwise professional sites use this term? Surely with 800,000+ words to choose from, it's possible to find a term to describe more specifically what is being offered.

The experts are always advising web owners to offer visitors something for free - and rightly so - this is a unique medium of communication. It's fast, widely accessible and almost ridiculously inexpensive when you consider the technology involved - so it should be used for the free exchange of ideas and information wherever possible.

If you visit ten websites at random, you'll find more than half will have a link to "Free Stuff," and regardless of the nature of the site, the link will read "Free Stuff."

Looking for graphics? Click on "Free Stuff."

Looking for information on black holes or quantum physics? "Free Stuff' will take you to it.

Need a dietary plan for diabetics? Try clicking on "Free Stuff."


Enough "stuff!"

"Stuff" indicates a lazy mind - one that can't be bothered spending a second or two scouring the memory banks for a precise term. Think for a moment about what you're offering for free - then use those words to describe this on your link.

Your visitors will appreciate knowing that they can find:

a trial program
a sample sales letter
a series of articles on how to do whatever it is you do so well
a mousepad
a video
a diet
links to related sites
a template for a web page design
a report on how to be a squillionaire

or whatever it is you're giving them.

Don't make them guess.

So dust off the cobwebs and start using a few more words - your visitors will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Sign up for my free weekly writing tips and give your little grey cells a workout with the vocabulary quiz:

Monday, December 06, 2004

When to Add -ible and When to Add -able

Here's a tricky question for you:

Why do some words add the suffix -ible and others -able?

Why indeed.

A good rule of thumb is that if the root word is a complete word, you add -able
e.g. accept - acceptable; laugh - laughable; suit - suitable and so on.

If the word ends in y, change it to i e.g. justify - justifiable, and if it ends in e, you usually (but not always) drop the e.
e.g. believe - believable.

But ... if the consonant preceding that vowel is a g or a c, you keep the e. If you don't, the consonant would become hard, and the word would sound odd.
e.g. notice - noticeable; knowledge - knowledgeable.

And, if removing the e would change the pronunciation of the preceding vowel then you leave the e.
e.g. like (long i) - likeable; sale (long a) - saleable.

If the root is an incomplete word, you add -ible
e.g. vis- visible; tang- tangible; cred - credible.

Remember this by the two i's: Incomplete -ible.

That's a pretty easy way to work it out, don't you think? You'll find more helpful writing tips at

Some Points of Style from

When you're writing for general consumption, you need to follow certain conventions of style.
Print out these tips and keep them handy as a ready reference!

These have evolved over the years as the most effective / efficient ways to convey ideas to a mass readership, so who are we to buck the system?

You'll often find that there are 'in-house' variations on these, so follow the lead of your own organisation / community.

NB Organisation is a perfect example - US-based spelling prefers organization, but in Australia, Britain and other places, it's organisation.

The important point with style is to be consistent. If you use organisation on your first page, then that's how it must be spelt (or spelled ...) on every page.

If you use the -ed form of the past tense for verbs like spelled (rather than the -t), then use it for all similar verbs throughout your document (learned / learnt; burned / burnt etc).

The whole point of writing something is to communicate your ideas to others. If readers are constantly distracted by your devil-may-care approach to the rules of consistency, they'll be so busy watching for the next example, they won't pay any attention to your message or content.


The general rule is to write the word for numbers under (and including) one hundred, and to use numeral for numbers over:

Ten green bottles; seventy-six trombones; 500 miles; 1,500 people (or 1 500)

When the number is greater than 999, you can use a comma or a space (be consistent and follow 'house rules').

If the number opens the sentence, write the words:

Four thousand tickets were sold, of which 3 000 were pre-booked.

When using approximations and round figures, write the word:

about forty thousand horsemen; nearly ten million sheep

When referring to millions (and these days) billions, use the numerals to indicate the number of millions / billions:

$238 million; 3 billion potential customers

When referring to spans of numbers, use as few numerals as possible:

pp. 350-5; 626-48;

except for numbers between 10 and 19:

10-15; 12-19

and dates:

1630-1698; 1985-2000

When decimal numbers are less than unity, place a zero before the decimal point (except in cases such as calibre):

0.25 (not .25); but .303 calibre

Use numerals for sums of money, times, weights, measures, degrees of inclination and temperature, percentages and a person's age (sometimes):

$5.50; 48c; 11.30a.m.; 15 tonnes; an angle of 45 degrees; 50 per cent (or 50%); a woman aged 90; he lived to the age of ninety

If writing about military forces use abbreviated ordinal numbers for units and formations up to divisions:

the 2nd battalion; the 6th Division

Use roman numerals to designate corps:

the X Corps

Use full ordinal numbers (and capital letters) for armies:

the Eighth Army

Roman numerals are upper case if they're used in titles:

George V; Henry IV

but are lower case when used for preliminary pages in books:

pp. iii-xx


The preference is for a format that leaves no possibility for ambiguity:

1 January 2000 (This requires no punctuation and is clear.) However, 2/11/2004 could be 2 November or 11 February!)

Years and spans of years are as follows:

A.D. 1066; 44 B.C.; 1855-59 (not 1855-9); the 1960s (NO apostrophe)


All proper nouns take a capital letter:

people - Garth Hopper; Grandmother (but not her grandmother)

places - Australia; Sydney Harbour

days of the week - Monday; Friday

months - April; August

But NOT the seasons - spring; winter

important holidays / festivals - Christmas; Easter; Passover; Ramadan

groups - Labor Party; Wilderness Society

languages and nationalities - Swahili; Cantonese cooking; Persian cat;

religious deities - God; Buddha; Allah; Yahweh; Zeus

the World Wide Web; WWW; the Internet

Points of the compass take capitals when they're part of the name of an area or when they refer to a part of a country:

South Pole; East Malvern; We're moving to the West

Abbreviations use capitals:

MCG - Melbourne Cricket Ground; B.Sc. - Bachelor of Science

Titles of books, films, plays, television shows etc use capitals for all words except articles and conjunctions (unless the first word of the title) and are also italicised or put in quotation marks:

The Day of the Triffids: Star Wars; One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; This Day Tonight


Numbers are hyphenated when used to denote age:

twenty-five year old man

Compound terms in titles take a capital for the first word but lower case for the second word IF it's a modifier:

Hands-on Learning Program

Both words have capitals if they are of equal weight:

English-Speaking Facilitators

You'll find lots more tips at my site

Tips for Writing a Short Story

Writing a short story can be a very satisfying experience for you and for your reader ... provided you follow a few simple steps ...


Novice writers are often given this advice on how to structure their short stories:

Put a man up a tree
Throw stones at him
Get him down

When you come to think of it, it's good advice for any writer.

Start with a situation - a problem to be resolved for your protagonist ( the man up the tree).

Then present the problems that can occur (throw some stones):
Misunderstandings / mistaken identity / lost opportunities etc.

The final step is to show how you can solve the problem - get the man down from his leafy perch - safely.

Love triumphs / good conquers evil / honesty is the best policy / united we stand ...

When you've finished writing, always (always) proof-read your work to check your spelling, punctuation and grammar. Don't spoil all your hard work by presenting an unprofessional image to your readers.

Put this simple plan into action with your next piece of writing.


Every piece of writing must have a theme. This theme is the skeleton or framework on which you hang your plot, characters, setting etc.

As you write, make sure that every word is related to this theme.


The best stories are the ones that follow a narrow subject line. Decide what the point of your story is and even though it's tempting to digress, you must stick to the point otherwise you end up with either a novel beginning or a mish-mash of ideas that add up to nothing.


An effective short story covers a very short time span. It may be one single event that proves pivotal in the life of the character or a single day. That event must illustrate the theme.


Around three main characters is all a short story can effectively deal with because of the theme.

Never underestimate the power of dialogue in conveying character, but it must contribute to the main focus of the story - don't just use it to pad out your characters.


Begin with an arresting first paragraph or lead, enough to grab the readers and make them curious to know what happens next.

Make sure your plot works - there must be a beginning, a middle and an end but don't spend too much time on the build-up, so that the climax or denouement (as in the twist ending) is relegated to one sentence, leaving the reader bothered and bemused but sadly not bewitched.

And don't signal the twist ending too soon - try to keep the reader guessing until the last moment.

If you're telling a fast-moving story, say crime, then keep your paragraphs and sentences short. It's a trick that sets the pace and adds to the atmosphere you are conveying to the reader.


Readers are easily put off by bad formatting, bad punctuation or spelling mistakes. Don't distract them from your story - always proof read and then proof read again.

Try these tips in your next short story!

The Bold and the Beautiful ...

Umm ... I have a very embarrassing confession to make ... I watch B. & B. No, it's not some kinky activity that involves chains and leather ... it's much worse.

It's a soapie!

There. I've said it and I feel better for it.

What's that? You're not familiar with the tangled web that binds the folks who inhabit the rarified world of the Bold and the Beautiful? But you'd love to find out? Then I'm just the person you need.

Now I have to tell you at the outset that I just sort of fell into the habit of watching; it wasn't a conscious choice on my part. Out here in Australia, the show comes on at 4.30 each weekday afternoon and that's about the same time I'm in the kitchen, pottering around deciding what to cook for dinner. So what could be more natural than to switch on the telly for a bit of company?

And what magnificent companions there are in B. & B.The scriptwriters (and I use the term loosely) must be the world's only living brain donors because they come up with some doosies in the plot. Allow me to illustrate ...

Among the central characters are square-jawed Ridge and his on-again, off-again wife Brooke. A few short weeks ago, Ridge and Brooke married (for the second or third time ... I've lost count ... there's nothing this show loves more than a wedding).

You see, Ridge was deficient in the wife department to the tune of one following the death of his former wife, Taylor. We know she died because we saw her expire in his arms and collapse in an attractive heap on the hospital floor after she'd been shot by Mad Sheila. (However, that doesn't necessarily mean that she's really dead ... we may well see Taylor back in the full bloom of health sometime soon. Stay tuned.)

So there they were on their honeymoon on an exotic island, having left their assorted children back home with those obliging nannies. It's important that you know a little about the children for what happens later, so let me introduce you to them.

Brooke has two adult children, Bridget and Eric, from her marriage to Ridge's father. Did I forget to mention that as well as having been married a couple of times to Ridge, she's also been married to his father (or at least to the man who thought he was Ridge's father ... more on that another time) and to his brother? I did? Well, now you know.

She also has a baby girl, the daughter she had with Deacon, her daughter's husband. (What can I say? Brooke is just one of those gals who likes to keep it all in the family!)

Then there are Ridge's three kids that he had with dead wife Taylor. There's a young son, who seems to occasionally complain about homework so we know he's school-age, but he's still very much of the age where he jumps up and down and claps his hands with glee when his Aunt Bridget offers to read him and his younger, twin sisters, a bedtime story. And there are the twins.

So, all the above were at home when the lovebirds celebrated their nuptials, and all went well until Ridge was kidnapped by Mad Sheila. (Remember her? She'd been caught and put in prison after shooting Taylor but had managed to escape with the help of her prison warden. And here she is wreaking havoc - again.)

Ridge's recently discovered half-brother, Nick (I didn't tell you about him, did I? Oh well, you'll just have to trust me on this ... we'll talk about him another day), had come to rescue him, but had been captured, too. In the scuffle that ensued during their rescue, Ridge fell into a fiery furnace.


And we saw him fall, as did Brooke, who was devastated. So devastated that the next night she was back at the aforementioned fiery furnace (which, by the way, was still burning brightly). Nick also happened by at the same time and prevented her (just in the nick of time, you could say) from throwing herself into the furnace after her husband.

What is a girl to do? After some heavy sighing and close-ups, she chose to throw herself into Nick's arms instead, since he was there and he had all the qualities Brooke admires and needs in a man (viz. he was there).

They consoled each other in the only way the good folks at B. & B. know, and before you could say "there's a baby growing inside her," there was a baby growing inside her. But whose was it

Poor Brooke! She's just witnessed the rather grisly death of the love of her life ... or has she? No, dear reader, she hasn't - because Ridge survived! Hooray! He was rescued by a sultry damsel who just happened to be passing by and to know that there was, in fact, a back door to the fiery furnace.

Phew! What a lucky break!

Not only did he survive, but so, too, did his jet black locks ... There was not so much as a seared eyebrow to show for his brush with death. Phew again!

OK, are you still with me? Good, because we're getting close to the reason I started all this (fool that I am!)

The story so far: Ridge is back, Brooke has a bun in the oven and the kids are as we left them - little kids.Then, Brooke confesses to Ridge; they opt for a DNA test to determine paternity and discover that the sprog is Nick's; Ridge is distraught and takes it out on Nick; Brooke decides to do the honourable thing (that's your cue to fall about laughing) and leaves.

We see nothing more of her for several episodes, but know that Ridge is concerned because he still loves her and he really, really wanted her to stay despite the fact that the baby-growing-inside-her wasn't his.

Now, and this is the important part, we hear that Brooke hasn't yet had the baby, so we'd be forgiven for assuming that only a few months at most have passed, but what's this? We're back at Ridge's house. (Remember his little kids - knee-high to grasshoppers all three?) Well, hang on to your socks, boys and girls, have I got a surprise for you!

Scene 1: Ridge calls up the stairs to Thomas (his little boy) and a voice over announces that the part of Thomas is now being played by another actor. The door to the bedroom opens and out onto the landing steps a teenager who's as tall as Ridge!

Hello? Casting?

The Kid then attempts to seduce Dad's old childhood chum who was attempting to seduce him because his mother had ... Oh, you don't really want to know all that, do you?

Sheesh!Golly, do they think we're a few sandwiches short of a picnic?

Maybe, but I'll still be dashing out from the kitchen again next week, just to see if the writers can top this one!

How to Write a Soapie

A Soapie is just like every other genre of writing - it has its conventions and key elements. A sonnet must have fourteen lines; a Shakespearean drama must have an exposition, a climax and denouement; a Three Act play must have ... well, three acts.

Here's a list of Must Haves if you're planning to write a Soapie:

Number 1

A square-jawed hero - it's absolutely essential that you make it crystal clear in your directions that the actor playing the hero must be able to show the whole gamut of emotions from A to B ( ... sorry, I pinched that line!)

He must be able to look:

a) sexy - this is done by half-closing the eyes and parting the lips
b) anguished - this is done by furrowing the brow
c) puzzled - (this is where you really test the acting abilities of your hero) - the eyes must be half-closed AND the brow must be furrowed (phew ... challenging stuff).

For academy-standard actors, those who know that less is more and that subtlety rules, learning how to twitch that little muscle that runs down the side of the jaw is well worth the effort. Then, as a writer, you simply have to give your directions thus:

Hero (hearing that lover is leaving): You're leaving? Now? (twitches muscle in jaw)

Hero (receiving news that child he thought was his is really his father's): Not mine? (twitch)

Hero (watching plane bearing his wife, mother, new lover and father off to Paris for the weekend): (twitch twitch)

Number 2

Forget the nuclear family with its 2.2 children - family relationships must be as tangled and convoluted as is humanly possible. Allow me to illustrate: Mum and Dad have two grown-up sons; Dad trades Mum in on a younger, spiffier model and has two children with her. Mum hates new wife and vows to bring ruin down upon her pretty, blonde head.

New wife ditches Dad and takes up with son number one (her step-son as it happens ...) Just before the wedding, new wife is in a plane crash and is rescued by ... wait for it ... a billionaire sultan who decides to keep her for his harem.

Hero, being a tad thick, continues to plan the wedding, apparently not realising that a wife is somewhat de rigueur for such events. When the hour of the nuptials arrives, hero decides to cut his losses and marry nearest available female who has been consoling him through recent episodes.

Wedded bliss must then be interrupted by the unexpected return of spiffy blonde. Unperturbed by the fact that she's ditched Dad and missed out on son number one, Spiffy sets her sights on a hat trick and seduces son number two.

Mum, meanwhile, has hatched a plot, with number one son's second-choice wife, to finally rid themselves of Spiffy. Plot must backfire and son number one must ditch second-choice wife and marry Spiffy.

Now toss in a disputed paternity for one of Spiffy and Dad's children - could it be that son number one is the father? (While Spiffy was married to Dad, she was already making it a family affair.)

Number 3

Any baby of disputed parentage must have a birthmark.

This birthmark has only ever been seen by the natural mother, the adopting mother and the nurse who was present at the birth but who has since left the country for an exotic location.
The baby, naturally, has been secretly adopted by a key member of the family who must be kept on tenterhooks in case someone discovers that the baby isn't really hers.

Number 4

Despite the advances made in telecommunications, and the various devices used by characters in every episode - mobile phones, telephones, hands-free phones, lap-top computers etc - it's imperative that every vital phone call goes unanswered. In fact the only person who ever hears the phone ringing on these occasions is the camera-man, and he knows exactly where the ringing is coming from.

Number 5

It goes without saying that every character must be either a Mover or a Shaker. Normal human beings do not a Soapie make.

The medical profession is always a good choice - plenty of opportunities for your hero to look anguished and puzzled here - and there's nothing like a white uniform to get the pulses racing. The Law too allows you scope for intrigue and passion. But the hands-down winning field has to be Fashion - no other background gives you quite the same scope to deck out the heroines in flash frocks or to liven up the settings with foreign locations.

Number 6

One or more medical emergencies are required, preferably occurring at a crucial point in the plot - before a court case, prior to an important meeting, when a birth is imminent. Don't feel at all inhibited here - who knows what advances medical science is going to make? Be in the vanguard of modern technology and technique.

It's quite permissible for your hero or heroine to die at the end of one episode and then to miraculously come back to life in the next (see "advances in medical science" above). In Soapies, unlike real life, death is not always permanent.

Number 7

On the subject of medical emergencies ... don't overlook the dramatic potential of amnesia. It's an undisputed law that a hit on the head will cause amnesia and a similar hit on the head (after a suitable passage of time) will cure it. The amnesia is of a special kind, it never causes the victim to forget how she did her hair or how she applied her make up, only who she is.

Number 8

Some criminal activity is, of course, essential. A stalker is good - giving ample opportunities for your heroine to be seen walking around in a flimsy negligee; a hunky cat burglar adds a little spice if he's hurt while getting away and forced to take off his shirt while the heroine (still wearing that flimsy negligee) dabs cotton wool soaked in that lotion that causes grown men to grimace, on his brow.

Best of all, however, is a kidnapping. And best of all kidnappings are the ones that nap kids! For the ultimate plot twist, have the kidnapper take the child of disputed parentage (come on now ... keep up ... remember the birthmark?) If the kidnapper happens to have connections to the nurse (remember her?) and the billionaire sultan (you must remember him) and be doing all this because ... but I don't want to give you too many ideas ...

Number 9

All your characters will be self-educated - they must be, because none of them ever goes to school, not even the little children. This is just as well, since it provides excellent training for their later lives when none of them ever actually works. They'll all spend a great deal of time organising meetings and conferences and flying around the world, but no-one ever really does anything.

Number 10

All your characters must have a fondness for talking to themselves, expressing all their innermost thoughts, deepest desires and dastardly plots - but only when the one person in the whole world they don't want to hear them is standing outside the half-opened door or under the half-opened window.

Good luck!

Saturday, December 04, 2004

In the beginning ...

Tapping away at a keyboard is what fills my day. It wasn't always this way. For twenty years I was a High School English teacher - the change really started one day during my long service leave ...

I was sitting in the dentist's chair having root canal treatment and it occurred to me that at this time I would normally be teaching my year nine class (15 year olds). When I realised that I'd rather be sitting where I was than in front of a class, I knew it was time to look for something new!

After leaving teaching, I spent six months doing all the things that teachers dream of doing when they're busy preparing lessons and marking assignments:

I read best-sellers instead of The Classics

I finished a crocheted bedspread that I'd started when my daughter went to preschool (and I was going to have all that spare time...) She was 18 when I finished it (!!)

I cross-stitched bookmarks for every member of my family and for any visitors who were unlucky enough to arrive when I'd completed another creation. Then I started on wall hangings for every room in my house.

I patch-worked enough quilts to keep a family of Eskimos snug

I rearranged furniture and gardened and made the entire family fleecy track suits

And then I had nothing to do...

In desperation, I turned back to my teaching notes - thinking I'd just go through them and toss out all but the really interesting ones.

It was while I was doing this, that I realised what a resource I'd accumulated over twenty years; so I decided to put them to use again.

My first inclination was to set up a coaching college for after school and holiday times, but I reasoned that it was limited by the physical space available and by the number of students who lived close enough.

My next thought was to conduct seminars for businesses - but after six months of not having to wear make-up, not having to get dressed up in suits, not having to be conscious of my every move (as is the case when teaching), I couldn't bring myself to get back into that scene.

The solution that finally struck me was one of those "bleeding obvious" cases - if I didn't want to have people come to me and I didn't want to go to them, what else could I do? I could send the information to them.

I spent several months writing a series of tutorials that would help people master the intricacies of our language, so that they could confidently take on any writing tasks.

Then I registered a business name, had my tutorials printed, got myself an 1800 number, a Postage Paid address and ran a series of two-step ads in the major Saturday papers. I was building up a steady stream of customers (although nothing like the hundreds I'd fantasised about), when I discovered the Internet! Here was a way to sell to millions, not just thousands (I've always been an optimist...). As we all know, it doesn't happen that way - but it does happen eventually!

My original tutorials have since expanded into a full writing course; I've branched out into writing content for web pages, press releases and award submissions for clients; into editing and proof reading and writing journal articles and newsletters. My articles on writing have appeared in numerous ezines and are archived on sites throughout the web.

As a result of this recognition, I've written for clients around the world - I have a wonderfully diverse range of work, writing press releases for business sites; preparing advertising material for autoresponders; ghost-writing articles for an introduction agency; proof-reading submissions for entrance to Ph D programs at universities; proof-reading course papers; editing entire websites; rewording the content of sites that have been translated into English and editing short stories for writers preparing to submit their work.

I have clients from within Australia and New Zealand; throughout the US and Canada; from the UK and from Iran, France, Switzerland, Zimbabwe and all parts in between. The Internet has made it possible for me to work quickly and easily with all these people - a highly satisfying aspect of the job!

I've had my own website since 1998 ( and have noticed that my business has steadily improved over time. High listings in the search engines (accomplished, I'm proud to say with no underhanded tricks and all by myself) have all helped bring visitors to my site.

My initial efforts make me cringe with embarrassment now (read my article The Saga of the alt tags ), but they were all part of learning how to manage this wonderful new medium of communication.

I've found that the best way to deal with people from such a diverse range of backgrounds, is to treat them exactly the same as I treat everyone else I meet. I don't try to be someone I'm not even though the temptation is there to pretend that I have a huge conglomerate behind me and dozens of staff to carry out the work.

Even though I'm thousands of kilometres away from most of my clients, I maintain a personal tone in all my correspondence with them. I try to include a sentence or two about my family/ home / pets or whatever I think will interest them to let them know I'm a real person.

It just takes time to get known, to build up your own little networks and to find your niche - but it's worth it when you succeed in creating something out of nothing!

If the spelling of words like "realise" and "humour" in this article worries you, please read this: