Cost-Per-Click: Will it cost less if you lose the hyphens?

Dear Copy Bitch: We are always having these debates in the office.  I am always on the losing end, but I think I’m right.

1. Is website one word or two?
2. Do you capitalize internet?
3. Do you capitalize jargon phrases like “cost per click”?  Do you put dashes between them?  “cost-per-click”

I know I have others but now of course I can’t think of any of them. I thought maybe other people need/want to know the answers…

—Becca S, New York, New York

Answer: Well, you might not love my answer, which is this: it depends. It depends on the style guide you follow (e.g., AP, MLA, Chicago, etc.). Back in the dark ages (i.e., 2002) when I started my business, I wrote “Web site.” Now I write “website” as one word, but I often see it as two words and don’t think, “Gee, that’s wrong.”

As for “Internet,” I follow the rule that it’s a place and, therefore, believe it needs to be capitalized, just as Paris and George Clooney Paradise do. But I see legit pubs that lowercase it.

As for cost per click, same answer: it depends on the person, the editor, the business owner, the publication. For me, I follow this rule: I use caps only (usually) for the acronyms (CPC). I don’t usually use hyphens if the term is used as a noun: What was the cost per click? or The cost per click was $1.45. However, if a term is used as an adjective, that’s when I’d add hyphens: We need to be mindful of our cost-per-click budget. But again, I see sentences that violate my rule all the time (and I’m sure some smart reader could point out places where I violate my own rule).

The key is consistency. Be consistent with your usage (and when I say be consistent, I mean be consistent for that particular publication or for that particular company. I’m not saying you should simply decide how you want to do it and that’s it). Publications have style guides. Smart companies should have internal style guides that address items like the ones you list above (in addition to other things, such as serial commas). Anyone who creates content for the company (marketers, copywriters, consultants, etc.) should receive copies of the style guide (and adhere to the rules).

So how would you answer your own questions? I’m curious. Let me know in the comments.

Don’t Write Like This (even if you’re a lawyer)

Dear Copy Bitch: Aren’t long, complex sentences with big words more impressive, professional, and “important” sounding than the short sentences you seem to advocate?

—The Curious Cursory Blog Reader

Answer: Here’s a story for you: A few years back, I taught a first semester writing course to law students. The reason why this brave little law school hired me, The Copy Bitch, is because it wanted someone to teach these folks how to write clearly instead of like the stereotypical lawyer.

One of my former students, now an attorney, sent me an email the other day that said, “I just had to read a clause in a legal contract. Guess how many words it had it in it? I’ll give you a hint: slightly more than twenty.” (I used to tell ’em to keep sentences as short as possible to make for easier reading. No, this rule doesn’t apply for everything. But it’s not a bad rule to guide you, at least in professional writing, which is what lawyers do.)

I asked him to remove any identifying info and send me the clause, which he did. It’s below.

Company and Mr. Smith Release.  For good and valuable consideration, the receipt and sufficiency of which are hereby acknowledged, the Company and Mr. Smith (the “Company Releasors”) do hereby remise, release and forever discharge and by these presents do for themselves and their successors, assigns, subsidiaries, parent corporation, affiliates, insurers, and past, present and future members, managers, employees, agents, and representatives remise, release and forever discharge Ms. Jones and her successors, legal representatives and assigns (the “Jones Releasees”) from, against and with respect to any and all actions, accounts, agreements, causes of action, complaints, charges, claims, covenants, contracts, costs, damages, demands, debts, defenses, duties, expenses, executions, fees, injuries, interest, judgments, liabilities, losses, obligations, penalties, promises, reimbursements, remedies, suits, sums of money, and torts of any kind and nature whatsoever, whether in law, equity or otherwise, direct or indirect, fixed or contingent, foreseeable or unforeseeable, liquidated or unliquidated, known or unknown, matured or unmatured, absolute or contingent, determined or determinable but excepting and excluding the Promissory Note (collectively, a “Claim”) which the Company Releasors ever had, now have, or which the Company Releasors hereafter can, shall or may have against the Buyer Releasees, related to, for, upon or by reason of any matter, cause or thing whatsoever from the beginning of time to the date hereof related to, for, upon or by reason of any matter, cause or thing whatsoever; provided, however, that this Release shall not affect, waive, extinguish or otherwise release the Jones Releasees from any and all future claims which the Company may have related to the Promissory Note.

This doesn’t sound impressive, professional, or important. Do not write like this, ever. Even if you’re a lawyer.

(Note: I’m not an attorney, but you don’t need to write like this simply because you are one. To wit: my former student, the one who’s now a lawyer, was pulling his hair out over this piece of crap writing.)

Poor Website Strategy: Watch Out for Poop Proliferation

Dear Copy Bitch: What’s the most challenging thing in your industry today?

–Alex, Local High School Senior

Answer: Lately, the most challenging thing has been poop proliferation via websites (I’d use a much more earthy term, but you’re still a babe, Alex <sigh>). In the last month alone, I’ve had three websites dropped on my lap that stunk to high heaven.

On the first PP (poop proliferation), the owner had spent a boatload of cash but hadn’t experienced any returns, basically because SEO (search engine optimization) practices circa 1999 were being used and the copy was oatmeal without the raisins and brown sugar. The second one involved a website that had just been “re-launched.” Sadly, I saw some pics of the old design, and it was better. Also, I think the new navigation hid Jimmy Hoffa’s whereabouts (look it up, Alex), the copy was more twisted than Tiger Woods’s love life, and there were links to sites that had nothing–and I mean NOTHING–to do with the person’s company. The third PP came to me by way of a prospect who emailed me saying her site was just about ready and that she just needed the copy to be “tweaked.” (My Redflaggalator always pings “danger” when such emails land in my inbox.) To me, “tweaked” means “spit and polish.” This site needed a bulldozer.

So what gives? Who’s to blame? Glad you asked. I have plenty o’blame to dole out:

First, web developers: Prospects often start with you (even though they shouldn’t) because they think “web developer” right after they think “I need a website” or “I need to re-launch a website.” You’re doing them a disservice in this day and age if you don’t bring up 1) SEO and 2) copywriting right away. You’re the front line, guys, so you need to battle hard for the likes of me and the SEOs out there. But get this–you do that, and if you have the right resources to refer to–YOU WILL LOOK LIKE A HERO IN THE END (which means having clients who’ll sing your praises and salaam before you).

Second, prospects: I realize your specialty is not web development, copywriting, or SEO. But neither is medicine or cars, and I bet you do a little research before shopping for both of those things, right? Do the same for your website. There’s a ton of information out there (and yes, some of it is poop), but enough of the cream rises to the top in Google searches. You’re going to be investing good money in your site. Do a little homework on what to look for, what the heck SEO means, and why you should care what your copy says.

Third, marketing folks: Make sure your stable is loaded with thoroughbreds (i.e. quality developers, designers, writers, and SEOs).

Fourth, copywriters: Professional, dry copy won’t cut it these days. Your copy needs to tell a story. It needs to engage. And trust me when I say this: you can be creative and professional at the same time.

Fifth, SEOs: Please don’t claim to know SEO unless you really do. That means having built sites  that increased conversions (not traffic per se. Anyone can increase traffic to a site. You need to deliver the right traffic that converts into leads/sales). I should probably make this #2, since there are some scam artists out there but even more well-meaning folks who think it’s not hurting anyone to add “SEO” to the list of their services. Confession: I used to do keyword phrase research for clients until I realized it–and all that goes with “it”–is a specialized skill. I refer people to the pros now so that I can focus on the copy.

Aren’t you glad you asked, Alex? (There’ll be a quiz.)

Do You Write Peek-a-Boo Headlines?

You should.

What’s a peek-a-boo headline? Let’s brush up on what peek-a-boo is, first. You, no doubt, know the game of entertaining a baby by covering your face and (in a really high-pitched, silly voice) saying “Peek…peek…peek-a-boo!” and then revealing your face on the word “boo.”

Think about what happens next: What baby doesn’t stop what he or she is doing (yes, including the one wailing in the seat in front of you on the plane), stare, laugh, giggle, and then–this is important–looks for more.

That’s what a peek-a-boo headline does to a reader. The headline stops the reader in his or her tracks. It startles the reader, in a good way. The reader then looks for “more” by reading what follows next (e.g. the blog post, the ad, the email, etc.).

My post from the other day–Apples, Peaches & George Clooney Naked–is one example. And every time I work on copy, that’s my goal: to create a peek-a-boo headline.

Of course, what follows AFTER the headline is almost as important. I say “almost,” only because you could have the most brilliant body copy on the planet, but if that headline doesn’t get the reader craving what comes next, then it won’t matter.

Apples, Peaches, and George Clooney Naked

Question: Hey, Copy Bitch: What’s the proper use of commas in a series: A, b, and c. Or A, b and c. I see it both ways. I usually do it the first way. That’s the way I remember being taught when I was in school. Thanks!

—Michelle D., Connecticut

Answer: Both are technically correct. If you’re writing for a specific publication, it will likely have a style guide it wants you to use. For example, MLA (Modern Language Association) uses the serial comma (also known as the Oxford comma), so you would write the following: I love apples, peaches, and George Clooney naked.

AP (Associated Press) doesn’t use the serial comma. So you would write the sentence like this: I love apples, peaches and George Clooney naked.

The Copy Bitch always uses the serial comma, unless she’s overruled by the publication she’s writing for. Why use the serial comma? For clarity’s sake. When you write, you want to be clear, and nine-and-a-half times out of 10, the serial comma will assist you in getting your point across.

To wit: consider this sentence: I’d like to thank my parents, William and Mary. How many people are you thanking? You could be thanking your parents and two other people named William and Mary. Or you could be thanking your parents whose names are William and Mary. If the former, I’d write it like this: I’d like to thank my parents, William, and Mary. (Actually, in this example, I’d probably put “parents” last in the series, just for added clarity.) If the latter, I’d write it like this: I’d like to thank my parents: William and Mary.

Here’s another good example from A Writer’s Reference by the late Diana Hacker: The activities include a search for lost treasure, dubious financial dealings, much discussion of ancient heresies and midnight orgies.

Are we discussing the midnight orgies or participating in them? Written as is, the reader is left to believe that the discussion includes midnight orgies. The Copy Bitch suspects this wasn’t the writer’s intent, so she would rewrite it like this: The activities include a search for lost treasure, dubious financial dealings, much discussion of ancient heresies, and midnight orgies.

If the writer did mean only discussions, then the Copy Bitch would rewrite it like this: The activities include a search for lost treasure, dubious financial dealings, and much discussion of ancient heresies and midnight orgies.

Of course, the former sentence sounds much more fun. 😉

Hope this helps!

“Making It” as a Copywriter & Voice Over Artist

Dear Copy Bitch:

My name is Kenya, and I love your website.  It is very informative, resourceful, upbeat, but to the point! I’m writing you because I’d like to learn more about your experience and history of how you became a successful copywriter and voice over artist. I know I’m a good writer, but I’m always looking to perfect my craft and gain a competitive edge. How does one gain corporate clients/on-going clients, and how do you know when you’re really hitting the mark? (We can’t really measure how many clients’ customers respond to the copy we write, and copy can be so subjective – it seems more of an art than a science.) I have a few questions for you as a ‘working freelance writer’ as well if you have the time. Also, I have a strong interest in becoming a voice over artist. How do I break into that industry?

I’ve been freelancing writing part-time for the past four to five years. I started out magazine writing, and have been published in at least seven local publications in [city redacted] – where I reside – including the [name redacted] as one of their community columnists.

Currently I’ve expanded into copywriting. I’ve written a sales letter and bios, done brochure writing, and I currently work with a steady/on-going client doing webcopy, press releases, ad copy and other business writing.

I graduated with a creative writing degree. I’m a natural when it comes to writing, and therefore feel comfortable exploring different genres of writing. However, I’m still in the ‘starting-out’ stage, and want to know how to gain that leverage to the point where this isn’t supplemental income, but can be considered sustainable income – a real business.

Please visit me at my website (I created this more so as an online resume, and am working on getting a new website): [site redacted]

Thank you for your time!

Best wishes,
Kenya

Answer:  Hi, Kenya. Thanks so much for your kind words and for visiting my site. I’ll answer your questions as best I can.

How does one gain corporate clients/on-going clients, and how do you know when you’re really hitting the mark?
You have a lot of experience between your feature writing and the copywriting you’ve done so far. The most important thing you can do at this point (in my opinion) is invest in an optimized website. The portfolio you have on Google pages is fine to point editors to when they ask for clips. But corporate clients are going to want to see a deeper website that lists your services and has examples for each service. Of course, these clients need to find you first, which brings me to the optimization part of the equation. If you’re not familiar with search engine optimization, then definitely read up on it. In a nutshell, an optimized site will help attract targeted, quality traffic (if it’s done right). Did a search engine lead you to my site? If yes, which one did you use and what phrase did you search for? That’s search optimization at work. I’m a firm believer that your website should be making you money. A well-built site will likely give you the edge over competitors—or at least allow you to effectively compete with them.

As for me, I usually get clients in one of three ways: my website, referrals (from clients or people in my marketing “sphere,” such as web developers), and word of mouth/grapevine. I also have a monthly newsletter (make sure you sign up!), and I have gotten clients from that as well. I’m active on Twitter, and, as you know, I have a blog—social media is becoming more and more important (the blog you have is fine for now and highlights your writing chops, but I’d recommend developing a blog as part of your new website—and it should focus on writing).

How do you know when you’ve hit the mark? When you can pay the rent and stop eating Ramen noodles every night. 🙂  Seriously, everyone’s definition of success is different. Work backwards. How much do you want to make in 2010? How many projects will you likely need to complete in order to make that number? How many clients does that mean? How many prospects do you need in order to yield that number of clients? And so forth. As you probably already know, you’re running a business, so you need to think of it in those terms: keep good books, pay quarterly taxes, determine how much your monthly expenses are, create a marketin plan, etc.

The good news: there are tons of resources for us writers, and many are free. Here are a few sites I recommend you check out:

Here’s one caveat: it’s harder to be “just” a copywriter these days. Learn to wear many hats. Educate yourself on marketing. Consider doing some project management (e.g. manage a website launch, including the messaging, design, SEO, writing, etc). Become active in social media. I do project management, marketing, and social media in addition to plain old copywriting.

Network, network, network. The best way to get corporate clients is to surround yourself with other businesses that cater to corporate clients. Think web developers, graphic designers, marketing firms, ad agencies, etc. A great networking group to check out is Business Networking International (BNI). The beauty of BNI is that it’s designed to get you referrals (in exchange, you get referrals for fellow members). You meet with your chapter once a week, and you’d be the only copywriter in your chapter. Look for a chapter that already has a healthy marketing sphere (i.e. make sure you check out chapters that have web developers, marketers, graphic designers etc). Women’s organizations are also a great way to expand your reach.

Also, I have a strong interest in becoming a voice over artist.  How do I break into that industry?
I got into VOs through sheer luck. I was a radio intern during the summer before my senior year of college, and that position quickly turned into a full-time gig. I started doing voice work shortly thereafter. However, I can recommend an incredible voice coach who is also a good friend of mine: Moneen Daley Harte. She co-runs voice over boot camps that teach students the ins and outs of starting and developing a VO business. Here’s her site. If you contact her, feel free to use my name.

I have a few questions for you as a ‘working freelance writer’ as well if you have the time.
Absolutely. Ask away. A lot of people helped me out in the beginning, and I believe in the concept of paying it forward.

Good luck!

Confounding the Copy Bitch: You Can Die Happy Now

I may be The Copy Bitch, but that doesn’t mean I know everything (I don’t). I often turn to my fellow scribes and editors (many of whom lurk on Facebook) and ask for their help. As you’ll see from the following transcript, not even we “experts” always agree. I was going to create a post about how to use “lay/lie” based on the following conversation that took place on my Facebook today, but I realized that the transcript was pretty amusing as is and I couldn’t improve upon it. So I’m including it below. (I’ve only removed the last names to protect the innocent.) And yes, you should learn something from it.

The Copy Bitch, as posted to her status update on 11/16/09: Grammar Geeks: when “hand picked” is used as a verb, is it one word or two…and if two, do you need a hyphen? “…but rather one that had been hand picked by a professional.”

Tracey: Isn’t it two words? Isn’t picked the verb and hand is one of those thingies that modifies a verb? Clearly I’m not a grammar geek, but for the most part speak goodly.

Christine: Yes, I would hyphenate it. The words are going together as a phrase, with Hand modifying picked.

Steve: Tough one. If homemade is one word then handpicked should be, too. However, store-bought is hyphenated. I’d go with one word. Sounds like the AP would agree.

Linda: Ask @FakeAPStylebook on Twitter… you might get a really great answer. 🙂

The Copy Bitch: well if my grammar geeks can’t agree, the general public probably won’t get caught up in it 🙂 I had it as “hand-picked” but was doubting myself.

Linda: I would put “hand-picked” also.

Steve: Dictionary.com and webtser.com list it as one word. But then who am I but just another “grammar geek” no one listens to.

Tracy (without an “e”): I would hyphenate. I also think the copy bitch should do one on “lay” versus “lie.” It drives me crazy when my yoga teachers say to ‘lay’ down on my mat. It’s LIE, people, LIE, LIE, LIE.

The Copy Bitch: Steve, did you say something? 😉 Seriously, I value your opinion and we do SO listen to you. Tracy (without an “e”): I suck at the lie/lay/lain thing (hey, we all have our weaknesses) and need to consult a dictionary whenever I have to write the word and then usually find a different word, just to avoid making mistake. I also avoid making left-hand turns whenever possible. 🙂

Tracy (without an “e”): Well, if you ever want a guest blogger, I’m there with the lie/lay/lain thing.

The Copy Bitch: Do you have any tricks for keeping them straight? I’m not above admitting my weakness in writing and quoting your tricks for keeping them straight. Would make for a funny post. And I’d learn something.

Tracy (without an “e”): Yes. “Lay” as a present tense always takes a direct object (as in “now I lay me down to sleep” or “Lay your mat down on the floor” or even “lay yourself down on your mat.” But if you are just telling people to lie down on their mats (not to lay themselves down), then you use ‘to lie’ because it doesn’t take a direct object. And the past tense of “lie” is “lay”, so I think that’s where people get confused, e.g. Last night at eight, I lay down in front of the tv and fell asleep.

Tracy (without an “e”): I think the technical way of putting it is that “to lay” is transitive.

Josh: Copy Bitch, you’ll never land Clooney if u admit you stink at the “lay thing” 🙂

Tracy (without an “e”): Quoting Josh would make for a much funnier post.

[Editor’s note: Agreed.]

Word Confusion: Farther vs. Further

Dear Copy Bitch: I love the tips you give on confusing words. How ’bout these: further vs. farther.

–Word Lover, NYC

Answer: As long as you don’t tell me you’re a Yankees lover, I’ll answer your question. Think of the phrase “traveling afar,” and you’ll have a good hint. If you’re talking distances, use “farther” (almost always). If you’re talking quantity or degree, go with further.

Examples:
George’s home in Italy is farther away from me than his home in California is.

If I go any further into my George obsession, some blog readers might think I’m seriously nutty.

My Prospecting Process: This is How I Roll

Dear Copy Bitch: Tell me more about your process in nurturing leads and prospects. I’d be curious to hear how you go about it.

—Curious in Canton, Mass.

Answer: Dear Curious…for me, it’s not about the sale. It’s about honesty, building relationships, and, at the end of the day, creating something (i.e., copy) that helps a client’s business get more conversions and sales. Want me to put my money where my mouth is? Here’s a real-life example (and an almost “real-time” example) of a prospect who came over the wire this morning and my resulting email conversation with him.

From: Cool Prospect
Sent: Tuesday, November 03, 2009 9:05 AM
To: robyn@etrobbins.com
Subject: Radio Ad

Robyn,

I’m not sure if you do this but I am looking for a 30 sec radio ready ad to be sent to me by email. If you do this what would be the cost?

Thanks,
Cool Prospect [name changed for privacy]

 

From: Robyn Bradley
Sent: Tuesday, November 03, 2009 9:12 AM
To: Cool Prospect
Subject: RE: Radio Ad

Hi Cool Prospect,

Thanks for your email. I do write radio ad copy. Questions:

1. What is the product or service that’s being promoted? (Can you point me to a website?)
2. What’s the goal of the spot (e.g. branding, driving people to website, getting people to call, etc.)?
3. Where will the spot be running, and do you have any demographic information on the radio station or stations (the radio sales reps will be able to get you this info)
4. How long is the radio flight for?
5. Where will the spot be produced?
6. When do you need the copy?

Best,
Robyn

From: Cool Prospect
Sent: Tuesday, November 03, 2009 2:05 PM
To: Robyn Bradley
Subject: Re: Radio Ad

Robyn,

Here is my response. [Editor’s Note: I’ve highlighted his responses in red]

Thanks,
Cool Prospect

1.  What is the product or service that’s being promoted? (Can you point me to a website?)

Here is the site: [Editor’s note: redacted for his privacy; he sells a cool birthday party alternative to the classic “moonwalk rental,” but I won’t give away more than that]

2.  What’s the goal of the spot (e.g. branding, driving people to website, getting people to call, etc.)?

Introduction to the concept, A great easy party for mom, Drive people to the site

3.  Where will the spot be running, and do you have any demographic information on the radio station or stations (the radio sales reps will be able to get you this info)

I would like to be able to run it at any type of station

4.  How long is the radio flight for?

Assuming you mean how long it will run, until I feel people know us

5.  Where will the spot be produced?

Don’t have a place

6.      When do you need the copy?

No major rush

NOTE: At this point, I went to his website, Facebook page, and Twitter page, and I did a search in Google’s free keyword tool on some keyword phrases. Then I responded to his email.

From: Robyn Bradley
Sent: Tuesday, November 03, 2009 2:46 PM
To: Cool Prospect
Subject: RE: Radio Ad

Hi Cool Prospect,

Thanks for the info. Here are my additional questions and thoughts.

Do you serve a certain geographic area? I looked real fast on your site, but where you’re located didn’t jump out at me (though I see you’re in South Carolina based on your Twitter account). Do you haven franchisees set up across the country, or do you only serve SC right now?

Regardless, here’s my honest input: radio might not be the best place to spend your dollars, at least not yet. Radio tends to be expensive, and it’s more about the “long-term” with radio (I worked in major market radio for 13 years [in Boston]). Also, stations have different audiences. A radio spot that’s run on a 12+ station (geared towards tweens and the 18-34 set) would be entirely different than the spot you’d run on the “mom” station (mix stations or adult contemporary). I’m thinking you’re going after both of these audiences.

I think you’re smart to have a FaceBook page and Twitter presence. I’d work on really building these and creating the conversation with your core audience. Who makes the buying decisions? Is it moms? Dads? What age group is your sweet spot? 8-12? 13-17? Is it more popular with boys rather than girls, or is there an even split? What would be the best way to get in front of this younger audience? (Radio probably isn’t since radio listening among younger people has decreased thanks to iPods and iTunes.)

Some quick hitting thoughts for developing your brand and getting traffic to your site:

  • Do cross-promotions with gamers: you advertise on their sites, they advertise on yours. Or perhaps you can do some sort of incentive with some of the games…when people buy certain games, they get a coupon discount for Cool Party Idea for Kids.
  • Optimize your website. According to Google’s keyword tool, “birthday party ideas for kids” has an average 3600 global monthly search volume. Yet, there are only 2000 competing pages that use that phrase in the title tag. Finding the phrases your audience is searching on will take your site to the next level in getting traffic. Once your site is optimized, a pay-per-click campaign will also likely be a better use of your money (rather than radio ads)
  • Take advantage of traffic for “moonwalk rentals” and create a page that targets this keyword and gives the top ten reasons why your Cool Party Idea for Kids is better
  • Have you created a 12-month marketing plan for your company? If not, that might be the best place to start. From there, you’ll know your month-to-month budget and all the marketing tasks that need to happen. Social media can be effective, but it’s a ton of work to do right (and very much a 24/7 gig in the beginning).

I’m known for my candor…it wouldn’t be fair of me to simply write you a radio spot that probably won’t deliver much (no matter how well it’s written) when there are more pressing marketing tasks at hand (e.g. optimizing your site) and other marketing programs that might be more effective (such as pay-per-click).

Feel free to ask me questions. I can also provide you with marketing and search engine optimizer recommendations.

Best,
RB

And that’s where things stand right now. Yes, I’ve put some time and thought into this prospect, and there’s no guarantee that I’ll get anything from it. That’s okay. My hope is that my free advice resonates with him and that he follows some of my suggestions. At some point, Cool Prospect may run into someone who needs a good marketing writer. My hope is that he’ll say, “Gee, I can recommend someone who gave me some solid advice.” And even if this doesn’t happen, that’s okay–hey, I got  blog post out of it!

(I earned my Copy Bitch moniker for other reasons. That will be a post for another time.)

Word Confusion: Compliment vs. Complement

Dear Copy Bitch: Any tricks for keeping compliment and complement straight in my thick skull?

—Confused in Colorado

Answer: Dear Confused: Think “complete” when thinking “complement,” which means “to go with or complete” (when used as a verb) or “something that completes” (when used as a noun). As a trick, just think of the “e”–there are two in complete and two in complement. Think of flattery when thinking of “compliment” as in “I love receiving compliments.”

Examples:

1. “I love it when George compliments me on my fashion sense and sassiness.”

2. “I think a George Clooney Love Nest would complement my lifestyle quite nicely.”