Stop Making These 12 Word Choice Errors Once and for All

"Write the correct words the first time, and you’ll spend less time editing later." – Stefanie Flaxman

Bill is at a wine bar on Saturday night, enjoying a glass of Pinot Noir.

After striking up a playful conversation with Lisa (who prefers Syrah), he asks for her telephone number. Lisa agrees to Bill’s request, and he creates a new “contact” in his cell phone.

“No,” Lisa stops Bill. “You’ll have to memorize it. I don’t want you to write it down.”

Bill accepts the challenge and confidently repeats the 10-digit number a few times aloud. Lisa proceeds to talk about her cat Nibbles for an hour and then leaves the bar after she realizes how late in the evening it has become.

By the next day, Bill has forgotten Lisa’s phone number. He remembers how much Nibbles loves playing with yarn because he used to have a cat that loved yarn … and although he wants to send Lisa a text message, her digits weren’t meaningful to him.

The same thing happens when you memorize the definitions of two similar words instead of learning how to use them.

When you memorize without any meaningful context, you may quickly forget a definition and continually select a word that doesn’t mean what you think it means.

When you learn how to use the following 12 pairs of words, it will be easier to choose the proper one for your content.

Write the correct words the first time, and you’ll spend less time editing later.

1. Compliment vs. Complement

Compliment

A “compliment (noun)” is an “expression of praise.” When you “compliment (verb)” someone, you praise something about her.

“I like your neon-rainbow, unicorn t-shirt” is a compliment.

The word “compliment,” spelled with the letter “i,” should remind you of saying “I like” — how you begin a compliment.

Complement

A “complement (noun)” is “something that completes something else.” When something “complements (verb)” something else, it “makes it whole/adds value to it/completes it.”

Complete is part of the word “complement.”

2. Premiere vs. Premier

Premiere

“Premiere (noun)” is “the first showing of an event.” “Premiere” as other parts of speech conveys a similar meaning.

Premiere could describe a movie premiere. The words “premiere” and “movie” both end with the letter “e.”

Premier

Use the adjective “premier” to describe “the best ___.”

Premier means premium. Neither word ends with the letter “e.”

“Premier (noun)” is less common. The term describes a person who is first in rank.

For example, a “premier” may be a chief executive officer or president of a company.

3. Effect vs. Affect

Effect

The noun “effect” refers to an “outcome or result.”

If you associate “special effects” in movies with “effects,” you’ll remember that “effect” should be used as the noun to describe an outcome.

Affect

The verb “affect” describes something that “manipulates or causes a change.”

An emotional piece of news may affect how you feel after you hear it.

4. Accept vs. Except

Accept

The verb “accept” means “to take in or receive.”

When using the word “accept,” associate it with the word “acceptance” — you take something in; you receive it.

Except

The word “except” is not a verb. It can be used as a preposition, a conjunction, or an idiom. In each form, the word “except” means “with the exclusion of ___.”

When you use the word “except,” you want to exclude something.

5. Ensure vs. Insure

Ensure

Use the verb “ensure” to convey “make certain or guarantee.”

To remember when to use “ensure,” note that the last two letters of the word “guarantee” are “e” and the word “ensure” begins with the letter “e.”

Insure

The verb “insure” communicates “protecting assets against loss or harm.”

If you are discussing the protection of assets, think of car insurance and then use the word “insure.”

6. Regard vs. Regards

Regard

Use “regard” when you want to express consideration or reference something specific.

Writing “in regards to” is one of my content pet peeves.

“Regard” is typically the proper word choice, unless you are sending your feelings of empathy to someone else. Which brings us to …

Regards

“Regards” are your “best wishes or warm greetings.”

7. Beside vs. Besides

Beside

If you want to convey the meaning of “next to or alongside,” use “beside.”

Associate the word “beside” with the word “alongside.” Both words end with the letters “s-i-d-e.”

Beside can also mean “not connected to.” You would write “that is beside the point.”

Besides

The word “besides” means “in addition to.”

“Besides” ends with the letter “s,” which reminds us of a plural word — two or more of something, additional items.

“Besides can also mean “other than/except.”

Associate the “s” sound in the word “except” with the word “besides,” which ends with the letter “s.”

8. Stationery vs. Stationary

Stationery

“Stationery” is always a noun. It’s typically decorative paper and ornate pens. You might use it to jot down quotes from your favorite writing books.

Associate the noun “stationery” with “paper.” The last three letters of the noun “stationery” contain the letters “er.” The word “paper” also ends with the letters “er.”

Stationary

“Stationary” means “still, grounded, or motionless.” It can be used as a noun or adjective.

Since the word “stationary” can also be used as an adjective, associate the “a” in the word “adjective” with the letter “a” in the last three letters in the adjective “stationary.”

9. Precede vs. Proceed

Precede

“Precede” means “to go before.” It is a verb.

Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace (1999) was a “prequel” to the original Star Wars film (1977).

The events that took place during the prequel came before (or preceded) Star Wars.

Proceed

“Proceed” is also a verb, but it means “carry on, continue, move forward.”

Think of “proceed” as “proactive, taking the next step in a sequence.”

“Precede” is “before” and “proceed” is “after.”

10. Who’s vs. Whose

Who’s

“Who’s” is a contraction of two words — most commonly, “who is” (present tense), “who has,” or “who was” (past tense).

If you are combining a verb with the word “who,” it’s appropriate to use “who’s” (with an apostrophe).

Whose

“Whose” is a possessive pronoun, similar to “mine,” “yours,” “his,” or “hers.”

If you don’t intend to combine two words with an apostrophe, use the possessive pronoun “whose.”

11. Sometime vs. Some time

Sometime

When “sometime” is one word, it’s an adverb that refers to “one point in time.” For example, “I’d love to have coffee with you sometime.”

Some time

When “some” and “time” are separated as two words, think of the word “some” as an “amount.”

“Some time” is “an amount of time.” For example, “I just ate so much ice cream. It will take some time before I’m hungry again.”

12. Into vs. In to

Into

“Into” is a preposition that means “entering or transforming.” For example, “The fashion designer transformed the ugly fabric into a chic dress.”

A noun typically follows the word “into.”

In to

A verb that pairs with the word “in” typically goes before “in to.”

For example, “During the baseball game, the outfielder moved in to catch the ball.”

Your turn …

Do you have any word choice pet peeves? What are your favorite tips for learning how to use certain words correctly?

How could Lisa have helped Bill learn her phone number, rather than memorize it? 😉

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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3 Ways the ‘Cruise Ship’ Model Invites Your Audience Aboard

"We didn't feel like customers. We felt like family." – Will DeWitt

Recently, my wife and I went on our first cruise.

Even though we didn’t have an inkling of what to expect, we now have what we’re calling “Cruise Fever.” We plan on being repeat customers for the same cruise line — and wouldn’t even consider another.

Why?

It’s all due to the completely satisfying experience we had from the moment we stepped foot on the ship to our final moment aboard. The cruise line earned our loyalty by instantly pulling us in and retaining our attention in unique and entrancing ways.

Here’s how you can use the “cruise ship” model to help build your own loyal audience.

1. Provide top-notch customer service

When we arrived on board, we had so many questions.

  • Where is our room?
  • When do we eat, and what meals are included?
  • Where is the pool?
  • What should we do if there is some sort of emergency?

The cruise line understood that most people were going to have those questions, and they used that foresight to create an easy-to-read, but comprehensive, information packet.

But that was just the first day.

For the remainder of our trip, the cruise line continued its excellent customer service with friendly faces and warm smiles. They made us feel at home for the duration of our time with them.

We didn’t feel like customers. We felt like family.

If we ever needed something, we felt more than welcome to ask for it. Whether we were poolside, in our stateroom, or at the bar, the staff was polite and professional … without feeling “corporate.”

You should also anticipate the questions your audience and customers are going to have. By doing so, you can address them from the get-go and reduce any uncertainty first-time visitors to your site may have … which ultimately leads to more sales.

To implement this approach on your website, you could:

2. Offer a variety of content

From the moment we woke up to the time we went to bed, there was never a dull moment.

In fact, there were so many things to do, it was impossible to actually do them all in a single day. So, we had to pick and choose which activities were right for us.

Did I really want to sit around and play bingo? No, I would have felt a little bit out of place in that room.

Learn how to salsa dance? Ehh … I’m kind of clumsy with my feet, and I didn’t want to embarrass my wife like that.

Go watch some bigger-bodied men partake in a belly flop competition? Now we’re talking!

The point is, what appeals to some may not appeal to others.

To reach the highest number of potential customers, it’s wise to have a wide variety of content available on your site.

Mix things up a bit. Instead of just having a blog, consider adding other forms of content to your site like a:

Don’t give your prospects a dull moment that prompts them to look for someone or something else. Make it easy and fun to keep consuming your content.

3. Keep your guests full to the gills

It’s rare to find yourself hungry while on a cruise. There’s a buffet for both breakfast and lunch, and a nightly three-course dinner.

But it’s not just the quantity of the food; it’s also the quality, and trust me: this was top-notch cuisine.

You better believe that if the cruise line only had fast-food, we wouldn’t have been excited for each and every meal. Instead, due to the high quality, we found ourselves daydreaming from time to time about our next meal.

That can be the experience your audience has when you consistently create excellent content. They gorge on what’s in front of them and — as soon as their plate is clean — impatiently await more.

When you publish exemplary content that has your audience eagerly awaiting your next piece, you become their only reasonable choice.

Land ho!

The cruise line now has two recurring customers because of their excellent service, abundance of activities, and delicious meals.

By applying these lessons I learned while on vacation, you can create unforgettable experiences for your audience.

Now go … set sail and stand out from the competition.

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How to Conduct Not-to-Miss Podcast Interviews

"If you want interesting responses, you have to ask the right questions." – Jon Nastor

When I started Hack the Entrepreneur, I had never conducted a single interview before.

But during the past two years, I’ve hosted more than 350 podcast interviews. I’ve also made a lot of mistakes, embarrassed myself a few times, and learned countless lessons.

So now I have a number of insights to share with you today, as well as tips to avoid some not-so-obvious blunders.

Want to learn a simple path that builds an audience of dedicated listeners? A path that eases the burden of content creation, puts you at the forefront of your brand, and harnesses the power of experts and their audiences?

Although interview-based podcasts may seem like casual conversations, becoming a great interviewer takes practice.

Let’s start at the beginning.

The work required to conduct a not-to-miss conversation starts before you sit down for an interview …

Do the work, then let it go

The foundation of any good interview is knowing your guest and the topic you’re discussing. Podcast hosts need to treat interviews with extra care, especially when they’re performed remotely.

Your job is to quickly and effectively warm up your guest, engage them, and remove any barriers holding them back from sharing compelling details of their story.

Researching your guest before the interview helps you empathize with them. Your research can be as thorough or basic as you want it to be, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish with the interview.

Your research should give you everything you need to ask good questions.

The familiarity you will have with your guest will also breed confidence. When your guest feels confident that you know your stuff, it will be easier for them to relax and open up to you.

But once the interview begins, your job is to be fully present in the conversation — so let go of your research. Following your notes is distracting.

Prepare a guide and signposts for your conversation, but not a strict direction for every single step in the discussion.

Ask better questions

When I began conducting podcast interviews, one of my biggest fears was that my guest would answer my question with a simple “yes” or “no,” and I would be caught off guard without having a follow-up question ready.

The fear was not entirely unfounded, as that very scenario has happened to me on more than one occasion.

It turns out, in order to get interesting responses, you have to ask the right questions.

What, how, and why

“The question is just as important as the answer.” – Charlie Rose

The best questions will entice your guest to open up in unique ways. It’s your job to ask questions that make it easy for your guest to shine.

Try asking:

  • What was it like?
  • How did that feel?
  • Why did you ___?

What, how, and why questions are an interviewer’s best friend: they prompt your guest to describe something, look a little deeper, and avoid a one-word answer.

Can silence produce better podcast interviews?

The next time you are having a conversation with a friend or coworker, try this small, three-step experiment:

  1. Ask, “What did you do last night?”
  2. Listen attentively until they stop talking.
  3. In your head, count to five.

Nearly every single time you do this, your friend will start talking again — and typically elaborate on their previous answer.

As humans, we are conditioned to avoid those awkward pauses. Smart interviewers can use them to draw out more from their guests.

Former PBS NewsHour anchor Jim Lehrer describes it as:

“If you resist the temptation to respond too quickly to the answer, you’ll discover something almost magical. The other person will either expand on what he’s already said or he’ll go in a different direction. Either way, he’s expanding his response, and you get a clear view into his head and heart.”

When you leave space for your guests to respond, it will seem agonizing at first. But the rewards are worth it — a deeper conversation and a better understanding of your guest’s true nature.

This is what matters most

There is nothing more valuable to your growth as a podcast host than the experience you gain from getting behind the microphone.

My simplest advice boils down to:

Ask a good question, listen attentively, and sit quietly.

If you research your guest and subject, prepare open-ended questions, and take advantage of uncomfortable silences, you’re well on your way to becoming a great podcast-interview host.

Oh, and most importantly, have fun. Seriously.

None of the advice above works or matters if you aren’t enjoying yourself.

Grab Your Free, 9-Step Showrunner Guide …

If you want to take the next step to develop, launch, or run your remarkable podcast, start with The Beginner’s Guide to Launching a Remarkable Podcast.

The free ebook helps you get your podcast off the ground.

It follows the framework mapped out inside The Showrunner Podcasting Course. Yet, at the same time, it is a standalone guide to getting started today.

Get your free copy:
The Beginner’s Guide to Launching a Remarkable Podcast

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Nasty

Originally posted: http://bohobunnie.com/nasty-girl-mysterioso-rock-art-panties/

Desert sun and buns

My home away from home, under the desert sun of Joshua Tree. The cities I have traveled to this summer on the European tour with Zucchero have been AMAZING, but I’m itchin to get to the coastline. To me there’s nothing more energizing than sand, sun and water. Joshua Tree is far from my thirst for a large body of water, but these photos sure do inspire me to jump on a beach in the South of France. And actually pretty similar to something I’d don on the beach (sans the glitter leggings and boots of course:) These little Nasty boy shorts from Mysterioso Rock Art can go from vacation mode, to music festival mode, to ‘I’m not leaving the hotel on my day off’ mode. I love the hand designed font on all of their apparel, and of course they’re printed onto super cozy fabrics. 

I sure do love me some glitter leggings!

Stay nasty, my bunnies!

Nasty Panties Mysterioso Rock Art / Glitter Leggings Gypsy Junkies / Snakeskin Boots Free People

Photography by Ashley Marie Myers

The post Nasty appeared first on Bounce Deals.

Advice to Writers Who Feel Like a Fraud (from a Writer Who Feels Like a Fraud)

Let me guess …

Every success in your writing career has been a fluke.

When people praise your work, they don’t know what they’re talking about.

You’ll never measure up. You’re not a real writer. And any day now, everyone will see you for the fraud that you are.

That’s how you feel, anyway.

You read other blogs and feel crushed at how little you know and how little you have to offer. You wonder why you even bother with your own blog when so many great writers do it way better than you ever could.

Well, here’s a secret …

Those writers you admire probably feel the exact same way.

Even famous writers like Neil Gaiman, Tina Fey, and Seth Godin are on record that they still feel like frauds — like they don’t deserve their success and they’re getting away with something.

We all do.

The Voice Inside My Head That Tells Me I’m Unworthy

I have been a freelance writer for over three years, but I still feel I have no right to claim that title — writer.

I have a nagging voice inside my head that constantly reminds me of my unworthiness. It tells me to give up before I’m laughed off the Internet. That I’ll never compare to other writers — the real ones.

It provides a symphony of thoughts like:

“Who do you think you are?”

“Why would anyone care what you have to say?”

“Sooner or later, they’ll find out you have no clue what you’re doing.”

I call this voice the “Imp.” Her full name is Imposter Syndrome, and chances are you’ve already met. If you’ve ever had that dread of being outed as a fraud because you don’t stack up to other writers, you’ve experienced Imposter Syndrome, and you have an Imp of your own.

Imposter Syndrome is common across industries, but writers are especially susceptible.

Why is that?

Why Do We Feel Like Frauds All the Frickin’ Time?

Writing is a peculiar profession.

One thing that sets us apart is that we work in isolation.

That means nobody’s around  to tell us we’re doing a great job until we put it out there for total strangers to judge. We’ll often work for a while on a project with no direct feedback, so it’s easy to start second-guessing our ability.

We have nobody to discuss our doubts with, so we are locked into internal conversations, which makes the Imp’s voice sound all the louder.

Working in isolation also means we don’t have any peers around to compare ourselves with, which leads us to compare ourselves with industry giants. No wonder we feel like we don’t measure up!

This also leads to us to create standards for ourselves that don’t exist. After all, you don’t see the time and effort other writers put in. You just see the result. That blog post that seems so effortless could be the result of weeks of work. But when you fail to churn out a perfect first draft, it means you’re an amateur.

The writing profession becomes even more dangerous when you step outside your comfort zone. You may have pitched an article to a large publication, and to your horror, they actually said yes. Then the insecurity takes hold and the fear of being exposed as an imposter rears its familiar head.

Sigh …

So are we doomed to deal with this nagging voice throughout our profession?

I’ll be honest; you may never fully get rid of it.

But you can learn to live with it.

How to Beat Imposter Syndrome: 4 Tips from a Writer Who Knows How You Feel

The first step on your road to recovery is to be aware that isolation, new challenges, and pointless comparisons are common causes of Imposter Syndrome. You may not always be able to avoid them, but if you are mindful of their effect, it will help you wrestle your Imp to the ground when needed.

And here’s how to do it.

#1. End the Isolation and Surround Yourself with Writers


The first step to beating Imposter Syndrome is to tackle one of its main causes: isolation.

You need to make friends with other writers who are at the same stage in their careers. You need to have people around you who understand you, who make you feel part of the writing community instead of an intruder.

Here are a few ways to meet other writers:

  • Join online writing communities (forums, Facebook groups, etc.)
  • Find local writing meetups on meetup.com.
  • Attend writing or blogging conferences.

Meet writers who are your peers, see who you get along with, and then join or start a mastermind group. Get together every week with a small group of people (around 4–6) and discuss what you’ve been up to and what’s been on your mind.

Share your fears and frustrations, and find comfort and reassurance in your similar experiences. You’ll inspire and encourage each other to grow as writers.

And as you grow, give back to the community by mentoring less experienced writers. Not only will you be helping others, your confidence will strengthen as you prove to yourself you do know what you’re doing and people do care what you have to say.

It’s rewarding and empowering at the same time.

Imposter Syndrome Advice #1

#2. Prepare for Failure AND Success (Because Both Can Be Crippling)


The Imp comes with a cruel twist. It won’t just berate you for failures; it will berate you for successes as well.

When a pitch is rejected or an article bombs, your Imp will use it to convince you that you don’t have what it takes.  Having a few failures in a row can make you want to curl up in a ball of despair.

On the other hand, when your writing is successful and gets glowing responses, your Imp will convince you it was a fluke. It will make you feel like you’ve now set expectations you’ll never be able to meet again.

The effect is the same. You procrastinate.

Because no idea feels good enough. You never feel prepared enough. And nothing you write feels like it stacks up.

You get stuck over-analyzing and don’t start anything new.

But the trick to beating your Imp is to keep yourself busy. Because the more you have on your mind, the less time you have to listen to that debilitating inner voice.

So prepare for these situations by creating an action plan. Have a list of tasks ready for whenever they come up, so you won’t have time to drive yourself crazy.

For example, when a pitch is rejected, you might make a point to ask for feedback, find different sites to pitch, or come up with 20 new headlines.

When a post takes off, you might make a point to read all the comments, identify what connected with readers, and see if you can find ideas for a follow-up post.

Whatever you do, stay active, and end each plan with you writing your next post.

Imposter Syndrome Advice #2

#3. Log Your Victories to Reinforce Your Self-Esteem


Most of us have an instinct to devalue our talent. When a post does well, we think we got lucky. When someone compliments our work, we shrug it off.

But those are terrible habits.

You need to take responsibility for your victories.

When a post does well, you did that. When you get a compliment, you earned that.

And you should never forget it.

So log your victories in a “nice things” file. Log accomplishments big and small. Log every compliment you receive. Print them out or store them in Evernote.

Then read them on a regular basis. It will banish your Imp and reinforce your belief that you have talent. It will reinforce your belief that people value your work. Plus, it just feels good.

It’s okay to bask in your own glory from time to time.

Imposter Syndrome Advice #3

#4. Remember That Nobody Expects You to Be Perfect (Except You)


As writers, we put ourselves out there as experts, which can feel intimidating.

You feel pressured to put forth a veneer of perfection. You don’t want to show the cracks in your knowledge, as that would show everyone you’re not an expert at all.

Because you don’t feel like one. You’re certainly not as much of an expert as those other guys, right? Because they know more than you?

So what if someone asks a question you don’t have the answer to?  What if your post doesn’t include everything an expert would know? What if everyone realizes you don’t know everything?

Well, relax. Because readers aren’t looking for the holes and imperfections in your posts. They’re more interested in what you do know than what you don’t. The only one who’s worried about the latter is you.

Readers only care whether your knowledge and experience can help them reach their goals. You may not know as much as that other expert, but if you can do that, you’re expert enough for them.

Remember that.

Imposter Syndrome Advice #4

You Are Not a Fraud, You Are a Writer

Your successes aren’t flukes.

You deserve all the praise you get.

And you are a writer — a real one.

So it’s time you finally convince yourself.

It’s time you fight back, wrestle your Imp to the ground and say, “Enough! I am smart, I am brave, and I earned everything I’ve worked for. I AM NOT A FRAUD!”

I’m right by your side, my fellow writer friend.  Let’s do this together.

Let’s tear down the walls of isolation and surround ourselves with writers. Let’s stop feeling intimidated by success. Let’s stop expecting nothing but perfection from ourselves.

Let’s promise to keep writing no matter what, and let’s take responsibility for all the victories along the way.

Are you with me?

About the Author: Mel Wicks is a freelance copywriter and content marketer. Download her free bonus ‘7 Golden Writing Rules — A No-Fluff, Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Quality Blog Posts’ and be one of the first to hear when her new blog, The Craft of Copywriting, goes live in August 2017.

The Path to Freedom, More Creativity, and … Really Good Audio Quality

The Path to Freedom, More Creativity, and ... Really Good Audio Quality

We kicked off the holiday week on Monday with your July creativity and productivity prompts.

Each month this year, we’re suggesting practical ideas to improve your content and help you get more done. In July, we’re challenging you to select two content types that are new to you and schedule an extra hour each day to work on something meaningful.

(If one of your new content types is audio, be sure to check out Wednesday’s post this week as well.)

Tuesday was U.S. Independence Day, and I shared my latest thoughts on three steps toward greater economic and time independence: growing your audience, creating a revenue stream, and committing to growth and learning.

Each of those three is a big topic, which is why it’s our privilege to help you with them throughout the year.

On Wednesday, Toby Lyles, who was instrumental to the development of our Rainmaker FM podcast network, gave some of his best tips on how to get that smooth pro sound from your audio — without killing your budget.

Toby has given me some fantastic tips for improving my own recordings over the years, and I’m so glad we convinced him to write a post for us!

That’s it for this week — have a great weekend, and we’ll see you Monday. :)

— Sonia Simone
Chief Content Officer, Rainmaker Digital

Catch up on this week’s content


2017 Content Excellence Challenge: The July Prompts2017 Content Excellence Challenge: The July Prompts

by Sonia Simone


How to Carve Out Your Own Slice of IndependenceHow to Carve Out Your Own Slice of Independence

by Sonia Simone


your sound should be a welcome mat that invites the listener in for what feels like a face-to-face conversation10 Easy Tips for Professional Audio Quality

by Toby Lyles


How to Attract Your Ideal Customer with Perfectly Positioned ContentHow to Attract Your Ideal Customer with Perfectly Positioned Content

by Jerod Morris


How to Create Stability and Success as an ArtistHow to Create Stability and Success as an Artist

by Sonia Simone


How Award-Winning Short Story Writer Abigail Ulman Writes: Part OneHow Award-Winning Short Story Writer Abigail Ulman Writes: Part One

by Kelton Reid


The post The Path to Freedom, More Creativity, and … Really Good Audio Quality appeared first on Copyblogger.

10 Easy Tips for Professional Audio Quality

"Your sound should be a 'welcome mat' that invites the listener in for what feels like a face-to-face conversation." – Toby Lyles

I started working with podcasts because I was an avid podcast listener.

I would be listening to a conversation, hanging on every word, and then it would happen: the guest would bump his mic at the exact moment when he said the one thing I wanted to hear, and I’d miss out.

Our content should connect and engage, not frustrate and push away.

Since I run a podcast production company, I’ve learned that most people think any sound problem can be repaired with the simple twist of a knob. If only that were so.

Do you know how to avoid the most common podcast production pitfalls that distract your listeners?

Read on to discover how your podcast can stand out from the majority of the audio content available on the web.

Quality audio defined

Audio quality can be as subjective as Picasso’s art in a museum. One person says it’s brilliant … the next walks away scratching their head.

Let’s start with what quality audio is not.

You can tell audio needs to be improved when you hear:

  • Hum
  • Buzz
  • Hiss
  • Room reflections (echoes from the recording room)
  • Microphone handling, bumping sounds
  • Other foreign sounds: animals, lawnmowers, keyboard clicks, etc.
  • “Plosives” (the explosive sound consonants make when spoken into a microphone)
  • Extreme audio processing (audio effects that create an unnatural sound)

On the other hand, quality audio can be defined in one word: natural.

Quality audio sounds as if you’re talking around a kitchen table or with a client in your office. Your sound should be a “welcome mat” that invites the listener in for what feels like a face-to-face conversation.

How do you accomplish that? Here are 10 tips that will help you produce the “welcome mat” experience.

1. Value your listeners

Podcasts and blogs are similar.

In the same way that good website design helps attract and keep blog readers, quality audio attracts and keeps listeners around.

Quality audio isn’t about making you sound good, it’s about engaging your audience.

2. Invest in the right microphone

You knew this one was coming.

Microphones are the most important element of quality audio, but podcasters don’t need fancy, expensive ones.

If you record a monologue or interview-style podcast in an office or room in a home, a dynamic microphone is what you need. Other microphones work, but they can require more resources to coax out good sound.

Want some recommendations? My favorites are:

  • Audio-Technica 2100: a great USB microphone at an amazing price
  • RE20: the most popular microphone for radio for decades

The microphones listed above will produce quality sound, but remember that choosing a microphone is mostly about personality and taste. You need to ask yourself if the microphone is right for you, your voice, and your brand.

One way to answer the “which is best for me” question is to book a session at a professional recording studio and try out a variety of microphones. Take those recordings and get some feedback.

Between the engineer at the studio and your friends and family, you should be able to find a clear winner. Also, keep your target audience in mind. Does the microphone help communicate who you are? Does it match the tone your audience needs to hear?

Here are a couple guidelines about microphones to avoid:

  • The headset microphone that came with your smartphone. While those are great for appearing live on Facebook, they’re not ideal for podcasting.
  • A condenser microphone. They’re made for the acoustics in big, fancy, recording studios. Unless you’re planning to build a recording booth in your garage, leave these microphones in the store.

3. Use a microphone stand

Some podcasters like to record with the microphone in their hands. Unless holding the mic is absolutely necessary, avoid that technique.

Another common microphone-stand mistake is connecting it to a surface your hands or feet easily touch. If it’s a desk-mount stand, try connecting it to a nearby piece of furniture that’s not touching the desk. Or, if it’s a floor-mount stand, make sure the feet rest on carpet or padding.

Otherwise, the small movements you make during recording can transfer up the stand and into the microphone, which produces distracting sounds.

4. Find a great place to record

This item alone is a quick win for good sound.

Before you record, double-check that your room doesn’t reflect your voice back into the microphone. Carpet, furniture, wall decorations, and non-parallel walls all help calm the reflections. Trying a smaller room, or even a closet, is often easier than acoustically treating your current recording space.

You should also keep outside noises to a minimum. Common offenders are:

  • Fans
  • Refrigerators
  • Furnaces
  • Cars
  • Phones and other electronics
  • Open windows

5. Speak near the microphone

Nearly everyone shies away from the microphone. Don’t.

Even a slight distance from a mic makes you sound like you’re in a cave.

You’ll want to nearly kiss it. Make it your friend, and it will make you friends as you build your audience.

6. Set up a pop filter

The downside of speaking near the microphone is that it causes “plosives.”

“Plosives” are simply the air from consonant sounds disrupting the sensitive components of the microphone.

The pop filter, a screen that goes around or in front of a microphone, is a tried-and-true solution. Expensive or cheap, they’re all about the same.

7. Select an audio interface

Although many recommend using a mixing board, I’ve found that the never-ending knobs create more headaches than freedom.

The simplest solution is to plug your microphone into an audio interface, which converts your analogue microphone sound into digital, so your computer can understand it.

As a side note, even if you’re using the Audio-Technica 2100, it’s still a good idea to utilize an audio interface instead of the USB connection. It produces a much more detailed and clear sound.

My current audio interface favorites are:

8. Record separate tracks

Take advantage of multiple tracks to make sure every voice has its own separate recording.

With a two-person interview, it’s easy to pan the host to the left track and the guest to the right track. If your guest joins you via video chat, capturing a separate track of their local recording is helpful.

In the past, this was only possible if the guest was well-versed in audio or recording in a radio station. Thankfully, technology has advanced.

One of my favorite tools is Zencastr. It records via a web browser and uploads the best audio possible to your dropbox account.

9. Back up your recordings

Some people prefer to avoid a computer and record into a small recording device. I often do this myself, after having one too many recording sessions ruined by computer glitches.

I know of an author whose power went out while he was recording an audiobook. He lost four hours of recorded audio!

You can avoid that exact situation by recording into an external recorder. Or better yet, record into a computer for convenience and add an external recorder as a backup, just in case.

One of the fastest ways is to simply use an XLR splitter, which will split the signal into both the audio interface and the external recorder. If you have multiple sources, running an output from the interface into the recorder is a great way to use it as a secondary backup.

A couple external recorder favorites of mine are:

10. Edit and produce your content

While creating a good recording is the bulk of what’s involved in producing a podcast, quality editing and production wraps up the package.

If you have audio experience, go for it, but if you’re hesitant, grab someone who’s spent some time in the field. Even if you don’t hire a producer who specifically works with podcasts, their wisdom can help ensure you avoid expensive mistakes and end up with a quality product.

For those producing podcasts on their own, check out Auphonic. Auphonic has turned years of professional audio experience into an inexpensive piece of online software. Their specialty is leveling audio and removing background hiss and noise, an audio producer’s two most important jobs.

Bonus tip: loosen up

Before you record, have some fun: watch a cat video, laugh a little, do some vocal warm-ups.

Think about the person you’re aiming to help and the problem you can’t wait to solve for them.

Better recordings strengthen your message

Remember, audio equipment exists to enhance your message.

Who you are and what you have to say is invaluable … the gear is just a method of transporting the gold.

Special offer for Copyblogger readers only: Contact Toby on Twitter or at TwentyFourSound for a one-time, free podcast review. He’ll help you find the exact steps needed to match your audio to your voice.

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