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Hello, friend! Welcome to the 47th edition of The Write Fit, a fortnightly newsletter from Dan Hatch and Sarah Mitchell at Typeset. It's Dan, diving into some 90s schlock with a serious message every marketer needs to know. (Don't go into the greenhouse!)
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The hand that rules the world

When I was 12 or 13 my mother and I sat down and watched The Hand That Rocks the Cradle together. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so traumatised (and I’m not sure what message my mother was trying to send me) but I stand by my nearly 30-year belief that Rebecca de Mornay deserved an Oscar for her performance as the deranged and homicidal nanny.

I’ll come back to that film in a minute. First, I want to tell you about another memory I have.

This one happened just 10 years ago. It was when Sarah first invited me to dip a toe into the waters of content marketing. I was a traditional newspaper guy, so she took the time to explain a few core principles of the field. Among them was the ironclad advice “not to build your house on rented land”.

She meant, in no uncertain terms, not to build your audience on a platform where someone else has control — where someone else can change the rules and take away your audience, or control your ability to reach them, whenever they like. This was a no-brainer for me: after all, newspapers live and die on subscriptions.

Don’t build your audience on rented land

This principle is why we’ve never really focused on building social media audiences, and why we’ve always advised our clients to grow and nurture their own email databases.

Having someone’s email address means you can reach that person whenever you want, directly, with whatever message you want, without the filter of a third-party algorithm.

So, it was with some amusement I read an article in The Times (of London — paywall) last week that explained email was “the next big thing” for Facebook. You know something is valuable when Facebook wants in on it. It seems the social media giant has noted the success of Substack and is getting onboard the email newsletter bandwagon. They’ve now launched their own email newsletter platform, called Bulletin.

Your database is your most valuable marketing asset

Now, I have no idea what Facebook’s plans and hopes are for Bulletin, but I do know that the company says Bulletin will be free for creators until 2023. That set off a tiny alarm in the ol’ noggin – and I heard Sarah’s words playing on loop inside my head: “Do not build your house on rented land.”

Your email database is the single most valuable marketing asset you have. That’s why third parties want to access it. I’m not saying don’t use services like Bulletin and Substack — perhaps they’ll be a useful tool for your brand, audience and business. But I’m certainly advocating sticking to the content marketing principle Sarah shared with me all those years ago and which has proved solid in the decade since: the hand that rules the database is the hand that rules the world.

Dan Hatch
6 July 2021

A la carte...

Pride Month is over for another year so this is perhaps a little late, but is there ever a bad time to help people write about transgender people in a respectful and sensitive way? This advice was written after consultation with quite a few members of the trans community. We hope you'll find it useful!
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However, I will indeed, therefore, use conjunctive adverbs

I’m a grammar geek; I’ll admit it. This morning I sat down at my desk and tried to think of something to write for this Super Grammar. Two hours later I was still reading from the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS). Chapter 6 on punctuation draws me in every time. (It helps that I’ve consulted this chapter so many times, my book falls open to it.)
Sometimes CMOS seems to contradict itself. Take, for example, the rules about conjunctive adverbs such as however, therefore, and indeed. One rule tells us to use commas to set off these adverbs, another says commas are unnecessary, and yet another tells us to use a semicolon paired with a comma. Let’s look at these rules and some examples to help clear this up.
Use commas to set off conjunctive adverbs:
  • Indeed, not one student had the correct answer.
  • There was, however, no way to keep the dog from barking.

But commas are usually unnecessary when the adverb is essential to the meaning of the clause or if the emphasis is on the adverb itself:
  • He was indeed a good dog.
  • He cheated and was therefore flunked.
Precede certain adverbs with a semicolon when they are used to join two independent clauses. (These conjunctions include however, thus, hence, indeed, accordingly, besides, and therefore. A comma usually follows the adverb but may be omitted if the sentence is just as effective without it.)
  • Harry went swimming with friends instead of studying; besides, he’d long ago decided he couldn’t pass the class.
  • The couldn’t travel abroad; therefore, they made plans to visit California.
  • The singer had a horrible sore throat; therefore her third show was cancelled.

I know; I know. That’s a lot to remember and it’s probably still a bit confusing. Trust me; this is the reason my CMOS falls open to Chapter 6.

Wendy Wood

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Actually, give me the lot!
Bulletin lowdown
Find out more about Facebook's Bulletin service. Apparently Malcolm Gladwell has already agreed to write on Bulletin. Expect to see a lot more big names join as Facebook ramps up its marketing for the platform.

Connect the dots
Carla Johnson proves that consistently coming up with great ideas isn’t a talent you’re born with or something that requires skill. Her new book, RE:Think Innovation, has a simple 5-step framework anyone can use to connect the dots in their work.

Tricky customer?
Customer service expert Shep Hyken has some advice on how to handle difficult customers. There's probably nothing there you don't already know, or don't already do, but it's always good to have a bit of a refresh on these things from time to time.

The Hand that Reviews the Thriller
Someone (specifically, Hallie Shepherd) has written a hilarious review about why The Hand That Rocks the Cradle is a ridiculous-but-wonderful film. (Serious respect to Hallie for the line: "Peyton hits Michael in the face with a shovel, seriously injuring him. Injures him how? Wait for it. The impact breaks his legs.")

Until next time,
Happy writing!
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