11 Questions you Should be Able to Answer as a Content Writer

Originally published to my account on HubPages in 2014.

Call us web writers, web publishers (if you have your own site or blog), content writers or which ever phrase you choose – we all need to know some basic stuff about writing and publishing for the web. We should all have standard elements which make us authorities as someone who writes online. I looked at what businesses are looking for in hiring content writers and thought I’d share what I found.

What Ideas do you Have?

Before anyone hires a content writer they should find out what ideas the writer has for their topic. Not just that you have ideas, but where the ideas are going and are they on track for what the site/ blog wants? Do you have a sense of what the site is about, the style they like and the direction they want to grow in? Do you know who they are and can you fit in with them? Do you have enough of the right ideas?

Do you use a Style Guide?

Have you ever had a style guide? Do you know what a style guide is?

A style guide for writers is a collection of how-to notes, like a writing guideline about how to use the right words for the right things. It is used by newspapers as a reference.

Style guides were written for individual newspapers as a guide to keeping consistent and accurate standards with all their reporters when it comes to things like grammar, punctuation, titles, abbreviations, measurements, technical terms, forms of address, spelling, and so many other big and small things which come up in writing.

At some point, the Associated Press became the accepted style guide for all the newspapers, press, in the US. In Canada we have our own style guide which (last time I checked) originated with the Globe and Mail newspaper.

Working with Clients?

You may not have experience working with clients you have found yourself. This could be the first time you have had a serious interview about a paid job as a content writer online. So, think of work you actually have done and use the experience and knowledge you have. Don’t try to make something up or pretend you have all kinds of client experience under your belt.

Do think logically and practically. Think about what a client would want and how you could work with them to get them what they want from the site you are writing for (or building).

Professional Organizations?

I think this is debatable as a good thing. I do understand the point – a professional writer who takes their work seriously would be long to professional organizations. But, if you don’t have the budget for annual memberships are they worth it?

I have joined online groups of writers. Communities and networks are great too. I seldom have the time or the energy to put into them however. I’m not an extrovert.

Chances are professional organizations for writers will be less expensive and more interesting for you socially if you find them locally. Find out about writing groups, associations and networks in your location and see what they can do for the price of a membership. If you go to an interview where they ask about professional organizations you can say you belong to your local organization (or the national or international organization if you want to spend the money on them). You can be a lurking member after all. Someone who pays for the membership, carries the card around in your wallet and doesn’t do a thing with it.

Don’t forget to look for writer’s associations in you niche or genre too.

How well do you know Computers and Software?

How well do you know your own computer? Do you know how to use more than one OS (operating system like Windows or Linux or the Mac)? Do you know how to use the features of a word processor? Do you know more than just WordPress as content management software? Can you work on the HTML side of WordPress, type in the HTML code for a link, an image?

  • Do you know keyboard shortcuts?
  • Do you know how to reboot?
  • Do you routinely keep back up copies of your work?
  • Can you work with WordPress or Blogger?
  • Do you know basic HTML and CSS?

Content Writer Versus Copy Writer?

There is a difference between content and copy. I wonder how many web writers know this? The words content and copy have become mixed and usually it is all labelled content, like text based filler. It isn’t so.

Copy is traditionally sales copy. Written for advertising and marketing, to sell something.

Content is not sales based but meant to inform, entertain or explain.

Content is for readers and copy is for shoppers.

Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling?

Do you know the basics?

  • Do you know alot is not a word?
  • Do you know the difference between there. their and they’re?
  • Do you know when to use its and when to use it’s?
  • Do you know how to use effect and affect?
  • Do you know which letters should be capitalized in a title/ header?
  • How is your spelling – spellcheck doesn’t count.


Spellcheck can’t actually read. Every post should be proofread, manually.It isn’t enough to skim what you have written. A good way to really test it out is to read it out loud. Don’t feel silly or skip this because you “know” you checked it twice already. When you have a really important writing project to work on the best way to be sure you wrote it well is to read it out loud the next day. There is always a snag somewhere when you don’t just read it in silence to yourself. Try it and see for yourself. I know you will be surprised.

  • Do you know how to proofread, what are your best methods?
  • Do you check your work for typos, wordiness and style?
  • What is your best proofreading method or trick?

Search Engine Optimization?

Do you really know your stuff? Working for someone else means doing more than you might for your own conent, it also means doing it their way. How adaptable are you? If your way really is better can you explain and prove it to them? Do you really know what you are talking about?

  • Do you know how to find great keywords?
  • Do you know how to use meta tags and blog post tags too?
  • How many social media accounts do you have and keep active?
  • Do you know how to add a summary to your post?
  • Do you know how to write a great headline for keywords and readers?

SEO is really not my favourite thing. But, it is a part of the online content writer’s world now. It has even begun sinking into print writer’s job descriptions.

What Blogs Do you Read?

You can mention the well known standards like ProBlogger, CopyBlogger and ReadWriteWeb. But, surprise your interviewer and name some sites they may not have heard of but would love to read. Stick to content relevant to writing and publishing online but find an amazing but not so well known blog to introduce them to and show them you know what you are doing out there.

What are you Reading?

I think this is a smart thing to ask. What have you read lately? Fiction or non-fiction? What kind of writer doesn’t have their nose buried in a book at least a few times a week?

It’s a good thing to read about writing, about publishing and topics related to the publishing industry. Read books, ebooks, magazines and blogs too.

Be well rounded when it comes to fiction. If someone talks about a book from classic literature won’t you feel a bit silly if you don’t at least know the general story?

The New Gender Stereotyping

How do you go about choosing the gender identity/ethnicity/sexuality of your characters?

Question from Writing Forums.

I choose a character. The identity evolves as I write. Ethnicity and sexuality are left up to the reader for the most part. Especially in the case of a short story where character development is as important as the story itself. Let the reader decide who the character is, based on the reader’s own biases.

I’m old school, grew up in the 1970’s when we talked about gender stereotypes rather than conforming to them as people seem to do these days. I knew tomboys. We talked about how incorrect that was. How it limited women, ranking them as real girls or tomboys. As if a girl should not be climbing trees, etc.

Now it seems things have gone off track completely, in the wrong direction. Now we try to put children (and people) into tiny little boxes. Each time they fit into one box we look for an even smaller box to fit them into. Eventually everyone becomes a long string of descriptive words, but they seem to fit in, somehow. A lot of younger people seem to be backing their way into tiny boxes all on their own.

I wonder who decided we all needed to fit into tiny boxes?

I’d rather not. I don’t want to be stifled and suffocated in order to suit an outdated stereotype. Because it is outdated, all that new stuff about gender identity.

Gender is a man or a woman. Either one can climb trees. Why does gender limit people so much more these days?

When I write a character it is male or female. Identity and ethnicity don’t come from the gender of the character. If you carry all that in your crotch, you need to expand your limits. Sexuality is about gender, an aspect of each involves the other. Sexuality should not be limited by gender, any more than identity and ethnicity are.

Why is gender so much more important now than it ever was before?

Do you ever wonder, with so much focus on gender, what you’re missing?

Abusing ProBlogger Job Board to Look for Clients

Is this abuse or just stupidity/ carelessness? On the part of the “job” poster, I mean.

I’m not sure about ProBlogger itself. It is possible no one verifies, checks, or cares what gets posted there. I have seen others posting “jobs” which are not jobs at all. Keep in mind, these job postings are paid posts for ProBlogger. Do they just take the money and have no interest in creating a resource for job seekers? ProBlogger is very marketing friendly. User/ reader/ job searcher beware, right?

This isn’t the first fake job post I have seen come up on the boards. I’ve also seen jobs which don’t pay, jobs which are pretty scammy and jobs which ask writers to contribute (work for free) or accept pennies from affiliate links.

Don’t rely on the ProBlogger job boards. Try somewhere else first. Eventually, when the spammers and scammers stop paying for listings, it will just close down and sink like another old shipwreck of the Australian coast.

Discover Which Of Your Products Attract Customers

This idea (quoted below from Society6) is smarter than it appears on the surface. I would not suggest Facebook as the only (or best) option to place the survey. I would not pay for boosting the post or using Facebook services to create the poll either. You can do it yourself, without spending anything but some of your time.

    • Create this as an image file with a few of your art creations displayed. (Come up with a few unique, different from each other creations).
    • Write up the information about this being a survey to measure the saleability of your artwork. Keep the explanation simple, short and readable.
    • Play with the image sizes for your artwork. Not too small and yet not so big people will be happily making copies rather than spending something to buy your original images or product.
    • Combine the explanation text and your images into one web graphic which you can post to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, the sidebar of your website, anywhere…

You get to promote your work, your site and get information from the survey itself. Promotion without feeling like you’re selling anything is brilliant and works much better than straight sales promotion people are trained to ignore due to overkill.

What other ways can you create a promotion like this? Contests and giveaways, but those require more organizing and a prize to be sent. Simple is better.

2. Run a very simple survey on Facebook

A quick and easy way to survey is to setup a 4-design block of artwork and ask people to rank them in order of favorite to least favorite. Repeat as many times as necessary and narrow down to the most purchasable artwork. While a quick test of likes & comments is a good indicator of interest, you may discover differences between something people love and something people would actually hang in their homes. You want to lead with compelling work that is also likely to be purchased.


Alternatives to Google for Searching the Internet

One source for Google search alternatives is alternativeTo. The listings come from people on the Internet, using sites, services, and software and deciding which they like to use best. (Of course, software developers, businesses, and marketers are also free to post on the site too). Overall, the alternativeTo site is not so popular that marketers have flooded it with junk. So, the site is a really good source for software reviews and alternatives to try.

A few to get you started: 

Obsolete and Forgotten Phrases

My Mother sent me this today. Makes me sad to see words disappear, like old buildings, typewriters, wrist watches and almost everything else. (I’m sure there are some things I would not miss should they disappear).

They forgot whippersnapper, or maybe that is older than the 50’s and forgotten by more than one generation.

Love this one…..remember them all!

Murgatroyd, remember that word? Would you believe the email spell checker did not recognize the word Murgatroyd? Heavens to Murgatroyd!

Lost Words from our childhood: Words gone as fast as the buggy whip! Sad really!

The other day a not so elderly lady said something
to her son about driving a Jalopy and he looked at her quizzically and said “What the heck is a Jalopy?”
OMG (new phrase)! He never heard of the word jalopy!! She knew she was old…. but not that old. Well, I hope you are Hunky Dory after you read this and chuckle.

About a month ago, I illuminated some old expressions that have become obsolete because of the inexorable march of technology.

These phrases included “Don’t touch that dial,” “Carbon copy,” “You sound like a broken record” and “Hung out to dry.”

Back in the olden days we had a lot of ‘moxie.’ We’d put on our best ‘bib and tucker’ to’ straighten up and fly right’.

Heavens to Betsy! Gee whillikers! Jumping Jehoshaphat! Holy moley!

We were ‘in like Flynn’ and ‘living the life of Riley”, and even a
regular guy couldn’t accuse us of being a knucklehead, a nincompoop or a pill. Not for all the tea in China!

Back in the olden days, life used to be swell, but when’s the last time anything was swell?

Swell has gone the way of beehives, pageboys and the D.A.; of spats, knickers, fedoras, poodle skirts, saddle shoes and pedal pushers…AND DON’T FORGET… Saddle Stitched Pants

Oh, my aching back! Kilroy was here, but he isn’t anymore.

We wake up from what surely has been just a short nap, and before we can say, Well, I’ll be ‘a monkey’s uncle!’ Or, This is a ‘fine kettle of fish’! We discover that the words we grew up with, the words that seemed omnipresent, as oxygen, have vanished with scarcely a notice from our tongues and our pens and our keyboards.

Poof, go the words of our youth, the words we’ve left behind
We blink, and they’re gone. Where have all those great phrases gone?

Long gone: Pshaw, The milkman did it. Hey! It’s your nickel.. Don’t forget to pull the chain. Knee high to a grasshopper. Well, Fiddlesticks! Going like sixty. I’ll see you in the funny papers. Don’t take any wooden nickels. Wake up and smell the roses.

It turns out there are more of these lost words and expressions than Carter has liver pills. This can be disturbing stuff! (“Carter’s Little Liver Pills” are gone too!)

We of a certain age have been blessed to live in changeable times. For a child each new word is like a shiny toy, a toy that has no age. We at the other end of the chronological arc have the advantage of remembering there are words that once did not exist and there were words that once strutted their hour upon the earthly stage and now are heard no more, except in our collective memory.

It’s one of the greatest advantages of aging.

Leaves us to wonder where Superman will find a phone booth…

See ya later, alligator! After awhile crocodile






Photos of an Old Canadian Typewriter

These are photos I took at the Goodwill store (a few years ago) of an Eaton’s department store brand typewriter. Sometimes I wish I had bought it. But, realistically, it would just be sitting somewhere with a gathering crowd of dust bunnies. I like typewriter art but I don’t think it is something I would have gone far with. I wouldn’t like fiddling with the typewriter ribbon. I do miss the typewriter smell. This one had it. Young people won’t even know what a typewriter smells like. 

Fixing Things Again

It is so much easier to fix things on Blogger and import posts from Blogger to WordPress, than to deal with WordPress. I think that’s kind of sad. But, I am pulling this site back together, from assorted parts which are here and there on my hard drive and stashed away online in places like Blogger (blogspot). So far the posts from Blogger are up and loaded with images, intact. I was not expecting it to be so easy.

I still have all the old WordPess back up files which I will have to play around with. WordPress will not like them as they are, they are big. I can export them as big files, but I can not import them back again as big files. Even though, they are the same files.

I am wishing myself luck, and patience.

Google Knows Where you Live and They Want to Tell Everyone

Did you know Google keeps track of everything you do online, with any Google products, software, etc. You can’t make them stop, not really. (You would have to eliminate Google from your life). Also, if you do want to control how much they know and share about you, the most you can do it pause it. There is no stopping Google.

Google is not the only option for web searches. Even if you are only looking for your own site to see where it comes up in a search – why are you only looking at Google?!

The following screen captures are a mess due to problems with software I was using. Right now I don’t want to fix them. But, they tell the story, as messy as it is.