Mar 26

Five Essential Word Keyboard Shortcuts

By MichaelMaggs - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, you do a lot of writing, you’ll know how important it is to get into a flow. Once the words are rushing out, you don’t want to interrupt your rhythm in any way. That means you want to keep your hands on the keyboard. Stopping to use the mouse takes too long, is often imprecise, and worst of all, it breaks up that flow.

Some of these keyboard shortcuts are very well known: Ctrl-P prints the document, Ctrl-S saves it, and Ctrl-Z undoes the last thing you did. (Quick tip – did you know that Ctrl-Y is the opposite of Ctrl-Z? it redoes whatever you just undid.)

But Word is equipped with a number of other keyboard shortcuts, and some of them make annoying tasks easy and instantaneous. Here are five shortcuts that I personally use almost every time I am writing or editing a document.

Remove Formatting

Sometimes you copy text from another document, or a web page, and it’s got a bunch of bolding, underlining, text sizes, and fonts. Or sometimes you just get a little carried away with the formatting options yourself.

If you want to strip all the formatting out of some text, select the text, and hit Crtl-Space. The text returns to the basic text settings for the style that’s applied to it. The nice thing is that you don’t have to pick through whatever formatting changes were made one by one – they’re all stripped away at once.

Move Paragraph

Organization is key to good writing, and that means you can make a lot of changes to a document as you write – moving blocks of text from one section to another, reordering lists, and so on. It can be slow and cumbersome to do it by cutting and pasting paragraphs repeatedly, and it’s easy to misplace some text by cutting it and forgetting to paste it.

Here’s the solution: Alt-Shift-up and down arrow moves text above the last paragraph, or below the next one. Press it multiple times and you’ll watch your text whiz up and down the document.

You don’t even have to select a paragraph; Word moves the whole paragraph that your cursor is currently in. If you have to move items in a list around, this is the easiest and surest way to do it.

But if you do select multiple paragraphs, Word can work with that, too: it moves the entire selected block of text up and down in the same way.

Change Case

Maybe you’ve got a block of words in ALL CAPITALS that you want to change to normal, non-shouty text. Or maybe you just realized that the opening paragraph in your manifesto really should go for the caps-lock look. You don’t want to spend all your time re-tying this text, potentially introducing new errors while you do it.

Whenever you need to change the case of some text, Ctrl-F3 is your best friend. It cycles through UPPER CASE, Title Caps, and lower case every time you press it.

If you haven’t selected any text, it changes the case of the word your cursor is currently on. If you select a block of text, then the whole block changes at once. (Oddly enough, if you select whole paragraphs, for some reason it works slightly differently – Word puts only the first word of the paragraph in title case, although it works correctly for upper and lower case.)

Instant Heading Styles

We’ll talk more another time about why heading styles are so important, but for now, I’ll assume you use heading styles to organize your documents. Out of the box, Word provides an easy and intuitive shortcut to apply them.

Put your cursor in the paragraph you want to create as a heading – you don’t need to select the whole paragraph, just have your cursor in it.

Now hold down the the Ctrl and Alt keys, and press 1, 2, or 3. Heading 1, 2, or 3 style is applied automatically.

The only odd thing is that Word stopped there: I often find myself adding shortcuts for Heading 4 and 5 when I’m working with more complex documents.

Increase or Decrease Heading Level

Put your cursor on a heading, hold down Alt and Shift, and press the right arrow key. Whatever level of heading it was just dropped down a level: if it was a Heading 1 style, it’s now got Heading 2 applied.

The shortcut is slightly annoying when you’re on regular text, though: your body text automatically has a heading applied to it, the same level as the more recent heading in your document.

The real power of this shortcut, though, is when you use it with a block of selected text that has headings embedded in it. Say you’re moving a bunch of text into a different part of the document, and it’s now under a lower heading level. Select the section you’re moving, and use the same shortcut, Alt-Shift-right arrow. All of the headings in the text you’ve selected shift down a level, but the body text isn’t affected. Incredibly useful in the right situation.

One more thing – you might know that bulleted and numbered lists also can have multiple levels. The same keyboard shortcut moves their levels up and down – for example, if you hit Alt-Shift-right arrow on an item in a numbered list, they indent and start a lettered list (a, b, c, etc.). Try it out on one of your documents – you might save yourself a lot of time messing around with Words finicky numbering styles.


Maybe you won’t use all these keyboard shortcuts in a single sitting, but try them out the next time you’re working in a document with complex formatting. You might be surprised at how easily and automatically they become part of your editing process.

There are more hidden gem shortcut keys in Word, too – if you know any, add them in the comments!

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Feb 01

Bikini Modelling and Me

I’ve had a lot of fun with my most recent e-book: a guide to success as a bikini competitor. It’s designed to take a beginner in the sport, and give her the knowledge to go from amateur to pro.

My own bikini competition experience is, well, limited. But the source of the book is Jill Bunny, owner of FitBunnies and a champion bikini and fitness competitor. Her book is informative, her voice is engaging, and it’s just jam-packed with knowledge and tidbits that you couldn’t get anywhere else but from an actual competitor like her.

It was a real joy to write. We’re launching the ebook at the beginning of March, right before she competes in the Arnold, a huge sports and fitness convention. Last year, Jill was a huge success at the bikini competition, and this year she’s a favourite to win.

I came into the book with exactly zero knowledge about the subject matter, and the whole process was fascinating and a lot of fun. Jill’s enthusiasm and very deep knowledge of the industry and the sport made it a great project.

Why did Jill want to publish an ebook? She saw the same value as a lot of other people are seeing. It’s a great way to take some specialized knowledge and get it out there. She is hoping to make money off the royalties, of course, but it also shows that she’s an expert in the subject.

A fitness competitor’s career is inevitably limited – it’s hard on the body! – and Jill is looking forward to working as a coach and guide. This book is part of that career shift, and is a long-term investment in her future.

So the text is done and we’re working towards putting the book out in the next month. And of course we’re already talking about the next books we’re going to write.

In the meantime, I’ve got another ebook client. They’re in more familiar territory for me–they’re an exciting and innovative software company.

But do they look as good in bikinis? I’m not going to speculate. It’s a judged sport, after all.


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Jan 04

The Long Tail of Long-form Marketing Content

Long_tailOne of the benefits that authors of all kinds have discovered with eBooks in recent years is the long tail of revenue that the electronic bookstores provide. Without the need for costly warehousing and distribution, the shelf life of an eBook is infinite; no book ever needs to be out of print again. So when an author releases a new book and finds a new audience, the entire catalogue of old books is there for the author’s fans to discover. (This is true for both fiction and non-fiction in eBooks, but here we’re looking mainly at non-fiction.)

This is the long tail – small sales over a long period. Of course this is a well-known concept in sales and marketing, and it is a key benefit for eBooks, which have in ten years revolutionized publishing. But the long tail also benefits long-form content marketing, in ways that some organizations might not recognize at first.

The principal benefit is that eBooks, and any other kind of longer-form content holds its value better over time. When you’re putting 40 or 50 pages’ worth of information together, it tends to treat bigger concepts, more complex ideas. You have the space, and good reason, to tackle those areas where nuance and subtlety matter. The content tends to follow the form.

By contrast, white papers, pamphlets, and one-pagers tend to work with specific ideas and practical approaches. That information might be vital (and we certainly wouldn’t advise against anyone producing valuable content in any form!) but it’s also subject to change.

Your products evolve over time. The market evolves. You adjust the way you approach customers, and maybe even the customers you approach, as you learn more about your market and how you can fit into it. And that means that a quick guide to your products or to how your industry works can be obsolete at any time. One changed fact can render your content obsolete.

But long-form content tends to resist change better. You might need to make small changes–maybe update your product names, or add a chapter on some new wrinkle that your customers tend to be interested in. But unless there’s a fundamental shift in what you do, topics that you treat in depth typically resist needing large-scale change.

One of Calamus’s clients is a world champion bikini model and fitness guru. She has a number of one-page guides for recipes, exercises, and other heath information. Those guides are great, but she’s constantly creating new ones. Every time a new idea emerges – and in the health and nutrition field, that happens daily – she’s creating new sheets to show that she’s on top of her field.

But we’re publishing an eBook with her in the spring of 2016 that draws on her many years of experience entering and winning bikini competitions around the world. It’s full of information for beginners that could only come from a highly knowledgeable and experienced source.

And it’s also targeting long-term sales; this information won’t go stale, as long as fitness and bikini competitions still exist. She will be able to point to this book as proof of her authority on the subject long after she has retired from competition herself.

That brings us to the other value of the long tail: great content has value for a lot more people. Say you’re using a quick tip sheet to draw in subscribers for your mailing list. Even if it’s successful, the audience who’s looking for that content will eventually be exhausted, and you’ll need to create new content to find new subscribers again.

Think of using a book-length offer to do the same job. You don’t have a few tips there; you have a range of different content that you can push. You can potentially promote it in different ways to different audiences.

And of course, all of the benefits of long-form content are extended on the long tail. Your authority on a subject is more firmly established when you can show your library of published works. Interested users will find greater value when they browse your library of content. And if your eBooks are generating revenue, they can continue to do so without any additional cost or effort on your part.

The benefits of eBooks and other long-form content are clear, and they are only enhanced over time. The value of long-form content is enduring, making it a sound investment of your marketing efforts.

Contact Calamus now to talk about how long-form marketing content might work for you!

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Dec 21

What can my business write an eBook about?

free-ebook-imageI hear this from many people when I discuss long-form content for their business as a marketing tool. “It makes a lot of sense,” they say. “But what on earth would I write an eBook about?”

It’s a good question, and worth considering. Who’s going to read a forty-page marketing spiel? Who’s going to read something that specialized, especially if it’s clearly branded by your company.

But maybe you’ve heard all about how effective eBook marketing is in generating leads. Or maybe one of the ferociously skilled consultants from Calamus Communications is making it sound like a great idea. (E-mail us if you want to discuss this directly, of course!)

So you want to write an eBook. Where to start?

You are an authority

One of the best reasons to write an eBook is to establish yourself or your company as an authority. Clients are your clients because you understand their world; potential clients who don’t know you are asking who is the most knowledgeable service provider out there?

If you weren’t an authority, then you wouldn’t be succeeding in your area of business. So start there: what do you know about your customers’ point of view? What are they constantly talking about? What features or extras are they always demanding?

Let’s look at my friend’s accounting firm. She’s developing specialized software tools to help her clients navigate some of the intricate areas of corporate taxes. She understands what her clients have problems with, and every fiscal year, these clients come to her with the same demands.

What can she do? How about an eBook that helps them prepare better for tax time? How about a guide to deciding how to declare income in the most complex and intricate parts of the tax submissions?

She’s not cannibalizing her own business by doing this; she’s helping her clients do their own part of the process better. And in the meantime, she’s showing that she’s done it before. She knows the subject so well, she can tell them how to do it better.  A free eBook reminds existing clients that they made a good choice doing business with you, and indicates to potential customers that you’re worth talking to.

You solve problems

You sell products or services, but customers don’t buy them; they buy solutions to their problems. That’s a marketing truism, but it’s a good place to start when you’re thinking about what information your potential clients might be willing to download and read.

Think about some recent conversations with clients. What were their problems? What are the common themes in those conversations? What are the issues you’ve seen from every client in your business space?

Those problems are what every potential customer is going to react to. Promise them help with these problems, and not only will you establish yourself as an expert (see above), but they’ll be interested in what else you have to say.

It starts with their problems. And if you offer them a way to solve one of their problems, even a small one, you’ll get their attention. The value they can get from your expertise and experience will far outweigh their reticence to sign up for your mailing list. And if your content is good enough, they’ll be eager to sign up. And I don’t need to tell you how valuable a self-identified lead can be.

It’s part of the conversation

You know that every successful sales call – in fact every successful business transaction – is a conversation. Good business isn’t about standing on a soapbox, or worse yet shouting in someone’s ear. It’s give and take, push and pull, talking and listening.

Think of an eBook as just another sentence in that conversation. (A long sentence, maybe, but an important one.) Maybe you’re always trying to tell clients the simple tips and tricks you’ve picked up in your years in their business space; why not put them together in a handy eBook, and have that part of the conversation before you start talking to them?

Or maybe there’s a key question you use to show the client how much better their business could be. Why not make that question the subject of your eBook? Then you can spend some time discussing how your clients might answer that question, stepping through the issues they need to consider, the resources they have to marshal.

Think of some of the sales conversations you’ve had recently. Now think of how much better it would have been if your client was primed with an eBook that had already told him that you were an expert on her business, and that you could help her with her biggest problem. You would still need to have that conversation, but it would be on a different level – their level of interest, and your ability to convince them that you can provide a solution, would be much higher. That’s better for you, and for them.

Start your eBook today!

Think about it: you have a privileged position that none of your customers can ever possess. You are a specialist in solving their problems. Your whole business is designed to satisfy their needs. And you have a specialized knowledge and perspective that they probably don’t have, with the limited viewpoint of their own day-to-day business.

So it’s time to put that expertise and experience into action. Look at your authority on the subject; what do you know that most of your clients don’t? What problems could you help them solve? And what is the conversation you’d love to have with all of your clients?

That’s where to start with your eBook. It’s a unique marketing tool, with exceptional benefits. And you can begin your first one today.


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Dec 02

Three ways to write more easily about your company

PencilWritingWe talked previously about writing about your company and products, and why it’s so difficult to do. It’s all about perspective; you have to see things through the eyes of the client.

And that’s not easy. It leads to cramped, stilted writing, writing the wrong thing, writing content that makes sense, but doesn’t bring in the value you need.

You know your products and services better than anyone; that sometimes makes it difficult to put yourself in the place of a client who is considering your proposition for the first time. Effective communications are the way to bridge that gap, but to do that you’ll need to shift your mindset completely. That’s not easy to do.

But all is not lost – there are some simple techniques you can do to shift your perspective and write compellingly and effectively about yourself and the value you bring to your clients. Here are three suggestions you can try, starting today, with your next communication.

Tip #1: Start at the end

Many of us were there early on, when the company was first finding success with its products, or maybe as it broke into new markets or designed services that none of its competitors were offering. We are often deeply aware of where we came from and how we got to our current place. And we think day-to-day of our own processes and how we navigate customers through them.

That point of view is useful for us, but it’s not very compelling for customers. So let’s give them something that will compel them: the end of the process. Start out with the benefits and work backwards from there.

So if you’re providing a software product, don’t talk about bandwidth or the technologies you use; even if your potential customer knows and cares about them, they don’t evoke a reaction from them.

Instead, think of the business benefits your customers are looking for. Easy to install? Easy to maintain? Bulletproof operation? Solve a specific business problem? Start from there, and let the communications follow.

Tip #2: Think of a problem

You’ve solved your customers’ problems before; that’s why you’re in business today. So use that to your advantage. Think of a real customer who’s been helped by your product or services.

Look at the problem and your solution from all sides. Why did the customer come to you in the first place? What challenges did they face, and how did you respond to them? What were their concerns? What went well and what didn’t as you provided the solution? What kind of feedback did they provide?

Once you’ve got all that in mind, you can generalize. Multiple customers have come to you with similar problems, of course; others might have had unique and interesting needs that you helped to address. All of these might be part of your communications at some point.

But to start writing, stick with that one original customer. Imagine yourself going back in time, to when they first read your literature or saw your ad or connected with you on LinkedIn. What would you tell them? How would you sell them on your product, knowing how it would turn out in the end?

You can add and change details, generalize for other customers. But keep that one customer firmly in mind, and speak directly to them. By focusing your message through that lens, you’ll reach other customers too.

Tip #3: Think of a question

This can help with almost any piece of difficult writing. It’s a way to find a perspective to write from, and also to make yourself write persuasively. Two simple steps: ask yourself a question. And then answer it.

Part of the trick, here, is to ask the right question; when you’re writing about your company, you’ll probably want to return to your customers for help. What do customers ask? What are the problems they come to you with? What are they most skeptical about when you offer a solution?

Those questions will point you in the right direction, even if they don’t quite deal with the message you’re trying to convey; for example, you might be looking to launch a new service, so you don’t have much experience telling customers about it. But you can still put yourself in their shoes, and think of what they might ask. And once you’ve got your question, it’s a lot easier to organize your thoughts and make your case.

For example, maybe you’re trying to convince users of the free version of your product to upgrade to the paid version. A list of features won’t do it; customers might not know or even care about what features they do or don’t use. But think of how a customer would put it: “Why would I pay that much every year when I can get what I want today for free?”

Imagine that customer is standing in front of you, hands on hips, asking you that. Maybe you’ll talk about all the benefits their organization will receive by using your product more effectively. Maybe you’ll talk about how other customers improved their own businesses with the higher-value product. Maybe you’ll show the ROI on the better product, and how it actually saves the customer money to pay for the additional features.

Whatever your answer is, by framing your writing as an answer to a question, your copy will better focus on your customers, shifting to a perspective that will compel and engage them.

It’s all perspective

You’ll notice that all of these techniques focus on the same thing, in one way or another: your customer. And it’s your customer’s perspective that is key to getting your message out effectively.

Yes, marketing writing can be difficult. But as the person who knows the organization best, you need only to take the right approach to make the writing easier, more engaging, and ultimately, successful.

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