3 tips to writing better chatbot content

Writing content for chatbots can be fun and interesting work. You get to learn lots about different companies and how different each chatbot framework is.

If you’re looking to start writing content for chatbots it’s a great job if you like writing short, clear text. Writing for chatbots means including as much information as necessary with as few words as possible.

One form of chatbot writing is QnA format. You know your clients well enough to know what questions they will answer, so you need to write question and answer pairs.

I have three simple tips to follow when writing content:

  1. Never use yes or no in your answers

This is my golden rule for writing chatbot content. Never use yes or no as part of the answer. Why? People have different ways of asking questions and some answers you write will be able to answer more than one question. By using a yes/no response you immediately limit your response to a very specific question, which when asked differently could provide your customer with the wrong answer.

i.e.  Q: Is there a closing date? When do applications close?

A: Applications are open year-round. Visit our How to apply page for instructions on how to apply and to access the application form.

If you had started the above answer with a yes or no, the answer wouldn’t have applied to the “when do applications close?” question.

You want your answer to be broad enough to answer multiple variations of questions.

This is also important, depending on what platform your chatbot is on and what you have the confidence score measure set at. The higher the confidence score the less opportunity for your chatbot to access the correct response from the knowledge base.

  1. Use plain English

Readability levels for any content are important. Many government departments aim for a reading level of 9–10 on the Flesh-Kincaid readability scale. This is the average reading level of Australian adults. As it is important that our customers can read and understand our chatbot content.

So now is not the time to crack open a thesaurus and try to increase your vocabulary. Plain English is the way to go, not only for readability but also for succinct, clear writing.

You can set MS Word to include the Flesch-Kincaid reading level when you have finished using spellcheck. The reading level for this blog post is 8.8.

  1. Be succinct, and refer to other sources where necessary

People use a chatbot as a quick way to get the information they need, rather than reading pages of web text, so brevity is important. Keep your writing short and sharp. There is no beginning, middle and end when writing for chatbots. Just the middle. Cut straight to the message and provide a hyperlink to the relevant page if further information is needed, i.e. extensive eligibility criteria, application forms, return forms etc.

Also, now is the time to use contractions. Can’t, don’t, I’d, you’d are all better use of limited space than cannot, do not, I would, and you would. They are also easier to read (see point 2).

Remember, you are writing a conversation between the chatbot and the consumer, it should be friendly, informative, and brief.

Have fun, hopefully you get to work on different chatbot projects with different personas and flex your writing muscle.

Katie Poidomani is a Canberra-based content writer and has written chatbot content for tertiary institutions and government.

Content writing for chatbots

Have you ever visited a website and interacted with the site’s virtual assistant (a.k.a chatbot)?

For every question you pose there is a scripted answer that the chatbot retrieves from its knowledge base to provide you with an answer. Have you ever wondered what happens behind the scenes to get you that answer?

Content writers like me work with the chatbot developers to create the scripts so that the chatbot can answer your questions. Now, no chatbot will ever be able to successfully answer 100% of the questions posed, but the informal industry benchmark is 80%.

I have been lucky in the last 18 months to work on two chatbot projects. One writing content for a university chatbot answering student questions ranging from applying and accommodation to what is available on campus. Another one I am still working on is a chatbot for a government department helping people/businesses learn more about available funding.

This type of writing is perfect for me. When I was at uni I often had trouble making essays fit the longer word counts. I am not a waffler (maybe when talking but not when writing), I like to write the most information with the least amount of words, which pretty much sums up writing for chatbots. Providing the necessary information in as few words as possible. Plus, as a consumer I don’t like to read two paragraphs of information before I get to what I need.

We live in a era where we glance at webpages, very rarely reading every word on the page; rather we want easily digestible information that can be easily found.

In my next post, I will include tips for writing chatbot content for anyone thinking of creating their own bot.

Thesis template

Formatting your thesis can cause a lot of headaches, with hundreds of pages, two different ways to number pages, different heading levels, as well as inserting figures and tables.A woman standing in front of a green chalkboard with the words believe in yourself written on it in white chalk

I have tried to make it easier for you by developing a thesis template. This is a great template to get you started, but remember each university has their own guidelines on margins and order of preliminary pages, so check what your university requires and then you can make changes to the template.

The Word template has been formatted with title page, headings, body text, and table and figure captions. All you need to do is download and start writing. When you have finished you can right click on the Table of contents and Word will automatically update the page numbers for you.

Thesis template

If you have any questions regarding thesis editing or formatting, get in contact to discuss how Edge Editing can assist you.

 

5 tips for engaging a corporate editor

Your document has been written with input from your team and feedback has been gained from your stakeholders, but you know it needs to be consistent in tone. Plus, you know there are bound to be spelling errors that have been missed.An open book with glasses sitting on top of a wooden table with a mobile phone in front.

This is where a corporate editor can assist you to make sure your document is error-free, spelling and grammar are correct, and your tone and use of terminology are consistent.

An editor can assist with a simple proofread through to a structural edit or rewrite. Just make sure you communicate what level of editing assistance you need, or discuss with your editor and see what their suggested level of editing is.

Below are 5 tips to consider when engaging a corporate/business editor.

  1. Make sure they are a professional member of the Institute of Professional Editors (IPEd). This is the Australian industry association for editors (most countries have their own). To become a professional member you need to demonstrate editing experience and qualifications.
  2. Ask for referrals from colleagues or ask an editor for samples of reports/publications they have previously edited. Some editors will have their portfolio available on their website for you to view.
  3. Get a few quotes. But don’t base your decision purely on cost. Look at the skills and experience of each editor and work out who you think is the best fit for your project.
  4. Ensure they have experience editing your type of document. Some editors have broad experience in editing communication and marketing materials, annual reports, websites, and white papers. While some have a narrower scope, preferring to niche.
  5. Book in early. Don’t leave it until the last minute to book your edit in. Most editors book out weeks in advance, especially around annual report editing time. A good editor needs plenty of notice to allocate time to edit your work.

There are some fabulous editors out there who will do a great job working with you on your project.

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5 tips for engaging a great thesis editor

Your thesis is the culmination of years of hard work; all your blood, sweat, tears, and lost An aqua blue typewriter sits atop a wooden desk with papers around itsocial life. Before you submit your thesis for examination make sure you have done all you can to make this piece of research showcase who you are as an academic. To assist you to find a great editor to help polish your work, below are 5 tips for engaging a great thesis editor.

  1. Make sure they are a professional member of the Institute of Professional Editors (IPEd). This is the Australian industry association for editors (most countries have their own). To become a professional member you need to demonstrate editing experience and qualifications.
  2. Ensure they have experience editing in your chosen field. Editing a mathematics PhD is entirely different to editing one in humanities.
  3. Ask for referrals from your supervisors and colleagues. Most of my work comes from referrals, and if a colleague or friend has used an editor before and was happy their work this is a good indication they will do great work on your thesis.
  4. Get a few quotes. But don’t base your decision purely on cost. Look at the skills and experience of each editor and work out who you think you can work with best.
  5. Don’t leave it until the last minute to book your edit in. Most editors book out weeks in advance, so unless they have had a cancellation or student delay, a good editor needs plenty of notice to allocate time to edit your work.

Once you have sent your thesis for editing, try and relax. Catch-up on everything you missed while deep into the throes of writing.

Finally, congratulations for making it this far, you have almost finished your studies. This is a major accomplishment and you should feel proud.

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Every content writer needs a sidekick

Sherlock has Dr Watson, Batman has Robin, and Wallace has Gromit. We all need a sidekick, someone to bounce ideas off, talk to when things are good or bad. Someone to make us feel better about ourselves.

As a freelance content writer and editor I work from home, which, while having lots of other benefits, can be pretty isolating and is why I talk the ears off other parents when I see them at school pick up!

So I don’t look like a crazy person, I am fond of talking to my sidekick, Copydog.

If you follow me on Twitter you will see that he pops up in my tweets quite regularly. I discuss writing projects, talk about a tricky line I don’t think it working, or just read my copy out loud to him. He is very good at not interrupting.

Besides being a great listener Copydog is also very good at reminding me that I shouldn’t spend all day in front of the computer and regularly encourages me to get out of my office, usually just to feed him, but occasionally he likes a good walk too.

If you are busy working away on a writing project, be it a novel, thesis or marketing content it is important to remember that there is a world away from your computer and your deadlines. We all need to get out of our chairs, stretch, eat and go for a walk, even if only around the block.

So, you could subscribe to the Pomodoro working technique or you could get yourself a pet. Copydog’s regular reminders to move are saving me a fortune in physio bills. If only I could teach him to empty the dishwasher!

My referencing secret weapon

When I was at university I hated referencing. Where does the comma go? Why is a full stop here? And really who cares whether the book title or journal article title is italised? Now that I am an editor, I care. And not because you pay me to. I actually find the differences in referencing styles fascinating. My favourite referencing style for its sheer complexity is AGLC. So all of you humanities students should be thankful you aren’t doing law, ‘cause let me tell you their referencing system is a special kind of pain that makes APA look like Playschool. 

I have a special shelf in my office saved for books that detail referencing systems, Harvard, APA, AGLC, Chicago (I feel happy whenever I look at them and their orderly existence, but I also collect old dictionaries so that tells you a little something about what kind of bibliophile I am).

If you just want to submit your essay or thesis and know that you have to get this referencing thing right because a percentage of your mark is based on it, I’ll let you in on a little secret (a website I go to when I am too lazy to turn my chair around and reach for one of the abovementioned books) re:cite. I bolded it because it is really is that awesome. The University of Melbourne Library houses re:cite, a tool that lets you click on the referencing system you are using, then click on the type of reference you want to cite (i.e. book, chapter in a book, journal article, webpage etc.) and voila, it sets out exactly how you should reference the book. Have I mentioned I love it? And because the University of Melbourne understands plagiarism and providing credit where it is due, they even have a little note at the bottom of the page stating that it is based on a similar tool from the University of Auckland.

Other universities have their own websites, but I haven’t found one as good as this. So if you are writing an essay or even your thesis, have a look at the website and give it a go, it will save you time and maybe even a little sanity!

Capitalisation

As a content writer it is important that capitalisation is used correctly. This is especially important when working with government clients and adhering to style guides.

The word capital comes from the Latin word capitula and was used to describe the first word of a chapter in Old English manuscripts.

While in some cases capitalisation is straightforward—always begin a sentence with a capital letter, and use capitals for proper nouns and proper names—in others it can cause confusion, particularly when referring to terms associated with government. Following is a summary of when and when not to use capitalisation in relation to government:

Government – when applied as a formal title it should be capitalised, but appears in lowercase elsewhere, i.e.:A variety of pencils sharpened until they hardly have any grip, If you look closely where the lead tip should be has been replaced with a small letter of the alphabet, organised from A through to Z.
• The Australian Government is mandated to…
• The government declared…
• The Australian and Japanese governments…
• The New South Wales Government…
• The governments of the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria agreed to…

Parliament – as with government, parliament is lower case except when used as part of a full formal title, i.e.:
• Parliament House in Canberra…
• Concerns regarding the Bill were raised in the Victorian Parliament
• …talks continued in parliament…

Commonwealth – when referring to Commonwealth in regards to the Commonwealth of Australia it always appears capitalised. When used in lower case commonwealth has other meanings, so to avoid confusion always use a capital.

Federal – as an adjective it is capitalised only when used as part of an official title, i.e.:
• The Federal Court handed down…
• The federal government policy…
• …the health portfolio will become a federal responsibility…

Other words requiring capitals:
• the Budget
• the Cabinet
• the Treasury
• Regulation(s)
• Bill(s)
• Act(s)

If in doubt always capitalise as part of a formal, full name and use in lower case in abbreviations.

Remember: sentences, proper nouns and proper names should all be capitalised.

Why you need an editor

Have you ever read something and thought to yourself, did the writer even read this before they published it?

No matter how great a speller or writer, we all need a fresh set of eyes to look over our documents to find the errors we have missed. A professional editor will go through your document letter-by-letter and word-by-word to ensure that your writing is error-free and succinct.

A pressed metal sign with the word communication burnt into itSpell checker

While your spell checker may be great for picking up simple errors, depending on its settings your spelling could be aimed at an American audience rather than an Australian one. Spell checkers also miss some of our quirky English words which sound the same but have completely different meanings – weather/whether, two/too, etc.

A great editor will ensure that your spelling is correct, consistent and targeted to your audience.

Credibility

If you are writing for an audience (Facebook, marketing materials, business documents, corporate documents, even your blog) you want your audience to know that you are a credible source; and nothing will ruin your credibility faster than poor spelling and grammar. People may forgive the odd typo but if your writing is riddled with errors your audience will turn-off and seek someone else’s advice.

Another positive to using an editor is that when you are writing you can let your creativity flow without having to second-guess your spelling and grammar as you know that you will be paying someone to worry about that for you.  In the end, a small investment in an editor could save you time and money.

Verbs

Verbs are the most important part of a sentence and are used to express an action or state of being. There are different types of verbs:

Action verbs: these power your sentence and are used to express an action, i.e. she threw a plate. Learn English, picture shows a lady in front of a blackboard with words such as verb, noun, adjective and preposition

Linking verbs: express states of being and are considered the equals sign in a sentence, i.e. the thunder is loud.

Auxiliary verbs: are small words that assist the main verb in expressing a meaning, asking a question or forming a particular tense. They consist of: to be; to do; and to have. i.e. she will answer the question, he has made an error.

Verbs can also change depending on whether it is in the first, second or third person, and singular or plural in number.

Verb tense also indicates the time of the action or state of being, it also indicates if it is completed or ongoing. There are six standard tenses:

Present simple                  Past simple         Future simple

Present perfect                  Past perfect        Future perfect

A good copyeditor/proofreader will ensure verb agreement and use of tenses are correct within your document.

Your local library will have lots of great grammar books you can borrow, many with exercises you can do to test and improve your knowledge of grammar.