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Self-Editing Part VI: Eight Sentence Patterns (Continued)

Yesterday, we talked about simple sentences and compound sentences. You saw how understanding what kind of sentence you have, makes punctuating it that much easier. Today we are going to look at complex sentences and sentences with embedded phrases or clauses.

Pattern Five: Complex Sentence (Dependent clause at the beginning of a sentence.)

Dependent marker Dependent clause[,] Independent clause[.]

A dependent clause is one that could not stand alone. This would be called a sentence fragment by
your English teachers. An example of a dependent clause is:

Because John hit the ball over the fence. 

Just reading it, you know that there is something missing. Something should follow or precede it. Otherwise, it doesn't make sense. Dependent clauses are begun with a "dependent marker." The following are some examples. 

as if

Additionally, most prepositions like "in, over, on, outside of, beneath, etc." are dependent clause markers.

When the dependent clause comes at the beginning of the sentence, it precedes what it is dependent upon. It depends on the rest of the sentence. In a way its a backwards sentence because we are getting the explanation before we get the thing that needs explaining. As such, the comma comes after the clause. For example:

Because John hit the ball over the fence, the coach made him team captain.

Pattern Six: Complex Sentence (Dependent clause at the end of the sentence.)

Independent Clause Dependent Clause Marker Dependent Clause[.]

When the dependent clause (like the ones we mentioned above) appears at the end of a sentence,  then it requires no comma. For instance:

The coach made John team captain because he hit the ball over the fence. 

Many of us, myself included, treat the word because as if it is a conjunction. It is not. It's a marker for a dependent clause. If you find yourself treating these dependent clause markers as conjunctions in your first draft, here's a quick trick. Use the find function on your word processor. Plug in a word like "because" and search for it. Check each instance to make sure there is no comma in front of it. It sounds laborious, but in reality it will take just a few minutes. 

Pattern Seven: Nonessential Dependent Clause or phrase in the middle of a sentence.

First part of sentence[,] nonessential dependent clause or phrase[,] second part of sentence[.]

Sometimes a sentence will break in the middle to provide some extra information. Sometimes this is essential to understanding the sentence. Sometimes it is not. Distinguishing between the two is sometimes an art. Two people looking at the same clause may sometimes disagree about it being essential. However, most times it is obvious. 

This sentence pattern is for times when the extra information is not really essential to the sentence. 

John, who is dating Carol, hit the ball over the fence

John's relationship with Carol is unrelated to his ability to hit the ball. 

Pattern Eight: Essential dependent clause or phrase in the middle of a sentence.

First part of sentence essential dependent clause or phrase last part of sentence[.]

Sometimes the clause is essential to the understanding of the sentence. This is often in order to set apart a class of the subject. An Example:

Players who are trained to hit a fastball have no trouble knocking John's pitches out of the park. 

We are not talking about all players. We are limiting the scope of our discussion to just those who have been trained to hit a fastball. Indeed, this would make little sense if we removed the clause. 

There you have them eight sentence patterns. I hope you didn't get too bored going over this. However, if you learn these patterns, a huge percentage of your punctuation editing issues will be solved. 

Bonus: Quick Pattern Cheat Sheet

Now that you understand the basics, print out this cheat sheet to help you when you are editing. 

Simple Sentence

Independent clause[.]

John hit the ball.

Compound Sentence (with coordinating conjunction)

Independent Clause[,] Coordinating Conjunction Independent Clause

John hit the ball, and he ran the bases.

Compound Sentence (with no coordinating conjunction)

Independent Clause[;] Independent Clause

John hit the ball; he ran the bases.

Compound Sentence (independent marker)

Independent clause[;] independent marker[,] independent clause[.]

John hit the ball; however, he thought he could have done better.

Complex Sentence (Dependent clause at beginning of sentence)

Dependent marker Dependent clause[,] Independent clause[.]

Because John hit the ball over the fence, the coach made him team captain.

Complex Sentence (independent clause at the end of sentence)

Independent Clause Dependent Clause Marker dependent Clause[.]

The coach made John team captain because he hit the ball over the fence.

Sentence with nonessential dependent clause in middle of sentence

First part of sentence[,] nonessential dependent clause or phrase[,] second part of sentence[.]

John, who was dating Carol, hit the ball over the fence.

Sentence with essential clause in middle of sentence

First part of sentence essential dependent clause or phrase last part of sentence[.]

Players who are trained to hit a fastball have no problem with John's pitches.

Self-Editing Part V: Eight Sentence Patterns

Okay, back to my fascinating series on self-editing. Stop yawning in the back of the class. We are still looking at those pesky commas, but we are stepping back and getting some sense of context.

Once you understand a bit about what kind of sentence you have, the punctuation and why it is there makes more sense.
Photo by Torley

Just a note. This is not original with me. I did most of my research at The OWL (Online Writing Lab) at Purdue University Website. This is a fabulous resource for all writers, even though the emphasis is on academic writing. Navigation is a bit tricky, but perseverance will pay off. The article related to this subject is found here.

Pattern One: Simple Sentence

Independent clause[.]

A simple sentence has a single subject and verb followed by either a direct object (that which the verb acts upon) or a prepositional phrase. This is also known as an "independent" clause because it can stand alone as a sentence. Sometimes independent clauses can be used as parts of other sentences.

The nice thing about a simple sentence is that, aside from a period, question mark or exclamation point at the end, you don't need any punctuation at all.


Simple declarative sentence or one that states something as a fact.

John hit the ball.

Simple declarative sentence with prepositional phrase

John swung at the ball.

Simple declarative sentence with a direct object followed by a prepositional phrase. 

John hit the ball over the fence.

Simple question.

Where did John hit the ball?

Pattern Two: Compound Sentence (Coordinating Conjunction)

Independent Clause[,] Coordinating Conjunction Independent Clause

Next to the simple sentence, the compound sentence is the easiest to understand. Basically, you take two sentences, each of which could stand alone, and stick them together using one of the following words:


Notice that several words frequently used as conjunctions are not included such as "however" and "therefore." Those are called independent markers and are handled differently. We will talk about them later. 


John hit the ball over the fence, and he listened to the cheers of the crowd. 

Pattern Three: Compound Sentence (Semicolon)

Independent Clause[;] Independent Clause

This one is not as popular as it used to be, however, it is the cure for the dreaded comma splice. Okay, you are scratching your heads saying, "I remember my English teacher writing that on my paper, and I never did understand it." 

It's really rather simple, but, honestly, the explanations have not always been the best. 

A comma splice is where you try to put together two sentences using only a comma between them. Think about the word "splice." I come from a radio background. Back in the day we "spliced" together pieces of audio tape. We literally stuck two pieces of a recording together using a fancy version of cellophane tape. Okay, now you know how old I really am. But stay with me a bit. If I only used a piece of tape half as wide, it would not have held. 

Think about the comma as the bottom half of the splicing tape. The dot above it as the top half. A dot above a comma is a semicolon. I see the light bulbs going on right now. The comma doesn't have enough grammatical strength to hold together two sentences without the help of a coordinating conjunction, but a semicolon does. 


John hit the ball; it flew over the centerfield fence.

Pattern Four: Compound Sentence (Independent Marker)

Independent clause[;] independent marker[,] independent clause[.]

An independent marker is simply a connecting word that introduces a sentence. It can introduce that sentence as a standalone sentence or as part of an independent clause in a compound sentence.

Some common independent markers include:


Don't think about these words as conjunctions (like "and"). Think about them as the first word of a new sentence. Therefore, if the second clause begins with one of these words, you need a semicolon instead of a comma preceding it. Since these words, used in the middle of a sentence, need commas on both sides, a comma needs to follow it when it appears at the beginning of a sentence. 


John hit the ball over the centerfield fence; however, his steroid use made him ineligible for MVP. 

Just a note here. I'm not one to say that "And," "but," or any of the other coordinating conjunctions are not to be used to begin a sentence. Sometimes, they make the most sense. However, when you see one at the beginning of a sentence consider replacing it with an independent marker. 

Okay, I can see your eyes starting to glaze over. We'll deal with the other four sentence patterns later this weekend. 

8 Social Media Marketing Tips for Trade Shows and Conferences

Even in this day and age Trade Shows are a critical component of any B2B company's marketing mix, however they involve considerable marketing investments by companies; booth space, design and fabrication of displays, travel, accommodations and marketing collateral and interactive content. It's little wonder then why more and more cities are offering more and more incentives to attract more trade shows and conferences to their cities to fuel economic development

To help maximize ROI and create awareness many companies and organizations are turning to social media to improve their success at trade shows. Below are eight tips that can help your marketing team have a successful trade show experience.

1) Make Sure Your Brand is Discoverable on Social Media.
Long before you start your trade show awareness campaign, you have to have an established presence on social media set up and ready to go. No one likes to be the first guests at a party and the same goes for fans connecting with brands on social media.
In 2013, platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and LinkedIn are still dominating social media marketing but newer entires like Instagram and Pinterest are fast becoming popular due to the visual nature of their platforms and shifting trends in how users are spending their time online.

2) Make Sure Your Social Profiles are Up to Date.
For trade shows, conferences and general event marketing, you need to put your best foot forward. Directing people to your social channels only to have them find the most recent post was six months ago does your company a huge disservice. Having an up-to-date profile not only makes your company look more professional, it helps bridge the gap between the real-world touch points and your brand's online presence helping facilitate a seamless conversation between your prospects and your company.

3) Use Social Media to Create Pre-show Buzz.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube and Instagram are currently the top tools to get the word about about your trade show. The key is to move beyond the general announcement and standard issue press release and showcase who will be there, free giveaways, and what attendees can hope to learn when they stop by your booth. The goal here is to generate foot traffic.

One good tactic is to take the press release of the event and break it up into small chunks that can be spread out across your social calendar. Create teaser campaigns where you dole out information in small amounts to pique interest and drive engagement. Make the information valuable and exciting so that it incentivizes people to share your posts with their immediate network. In this sense, it's the 2nd degree connections that is really the most valuable asset of your social presence, often increasing the reach of your content by an order of a magnitude or more.

4) Utilize the Official Hashtag for the Event or Create Your Own.
Leveraging hashtags for your event is one of the best tools for generating buzz and curating and monitoring conversations about your brand specific to the trade show or conference. It is also one of the best ways to make lateral connections with other participants, speakers, presenters, and show attendees. 

If you are exhibiting at an event, check to see if there is an official hashtag being used by the show organizers, incorporate this hashtag on all of your event specific tweets and Instagram posts. Also note that hashtags can be used on other platforms as well (LinkedIn and Google+) and that Facebook is soon expected to activate them in the next major update.

For events that do not have an official hashtag, or if you are hosting your own event. Feel free to create a unique custom hashtag to help generate buzz and awareness for your event. Double check to make sure that the hashtag is not currently in use and be sure to use intercaps to help distinguish specific words and avoid the dreaded hashtag confusion.

5) Incorporate Social Media Into Your Corporate Website and Email Marketing.
One thing we notice with a lot of companies still, is that their social media channels are nowhere to be found on the corporate website or email marketing. In 2013, this is a huge missed opportunity for brands to allow their customers to connect with them and receive news and updates in real time.

For companies that haven't done so, collect all of the live social media channels currently maintained by your brand and have your web and email teams integrate them prominently onto your company's site and campaign templates.

6) Leverage Real-time Marketing.
In a globally connected world, information is shared in real time with zero lag. Perception can turn on a dime so marketers have to be on their toes to take advantage of any opportunities that emerge. The Oreo tweet during the 2013 Superbowl is becoming a textbook example of how to leverage social media and real-time marketing to generate brand awareness.

For real-time sharing on-the-go, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook Pages are the top three Social/Mobile platforms of choice primarily due to their user friendly mobile apps, around the clock content stream, and wide popularity with Millennials.

Depending on how many people you bring with you to support your trade show/conference efforts, bringing along a dedicated person (typically an online community manager or PR person) who can post real-time updates, post visually attractive photos, and engage with followers or fellow attendees on-the-fly can offer the highest impact for your brand's marketing efforts and allows your company to maximize lead generation by making it easier for other attendees to make the connection between your brands offline presence with their online one.

7) Understand that Social Media is a one-to-one marketing strategy.
A mistake many brands make is treating Social Media as a mass communication strategy. In some instances, treating your Facebook Page or corporate Twitter as a broadcast medium is expedient and effective but the real value lies in the two way communication between you and your audience. This offers an unprecedented opportunity to engage in one-on-one conversations with prospects and fans.

Also another point to consider is that customers are now quick to vent their frustration and dissatisfaction with a company on Social Media. Getting your marketing/social team up to speed on customer service and online conflict resolution can actually help defuse negative feedback by courteously taking the conversation offline and converting critics into advocates.

8) Share Your Trade Show Experience with Those Unable to Attend.
With advancements in mobile technology and smart phones you can record an almost endless amount of data at events; insights, photos, videos, contacts, geo-locations, that you can share with your audience in real time. 

Some of this can be shared on Social Media but also don't overlook the fact that the material captured can be used to create a recap of the trade show experience where you can share what you and your team discovered and reflect on where your business or industry is headed.

New Self Publishing Course to be Offered

As you might have noticed in some of my previous posts, I'm a might disturbed by "consultants" and others who are ripping off authors interested in self publishing by charging for services most competent authors can do themselves. Well, I'm going to do more about it than complain. I've decided to offer a course called Ridiculously Simple Self Publishing

This course will teach you everything you need to know to publish your book to Amazon as a Kindle ebook. These techniques are transferable to most other online publishers as well. Although, we'll discuss why you might want to stick to Kindle exclusively at least for awhile.

Some Topics Include:
Format Your Book in a Half Hour or Less
"Freedom of the Press
Belongs to Those Who Own One"
A.J. Liebling 
Setting up a Kindle Account
Understanding your Kindle Dashboard
Setting up your author page
Free tools to use to prepare your document
How to create a cover like a pro without using Photoshop
Self-Editing techniques
Doing it all for Free
Setting your price point
Optimizing for the Kindle Search Engine
Basics of Social Media Promotion
 ... And More

When the course goes live July 15, the registration fee will be $20 (still a lot less than just hiring someone to do one of the things we teach) but for those who want to pre-register before the launch, the price is just $10.

The course will include 10 video lessons that you can work through at your own pace. I want this to be accessible and affordable for anyone interested in this exciting new field. I've been told that I'm not charging enough, but if I charged much more, I'd be like those other people taking advantage of indie writers.

Click Here to find out more and to register for the course.

About Story, Craft, Context and "Bad" Writng

A couple of days ago someone on a writer's email loop lamented that a lot of "bad" writing was very popular. They mentioned several examples. I responded with this. Someone suggested I post this to my blog. So, here it is. 

Actually, "bad" writing, all too often, is considered "bad" simply because we don't like it. The problem with that approach is that it ignores the fact that other people do. For them it's "good" writing. 

"Quality" itself (as academics, critics and esthetes define it) is not enough for a novel to be compelling enough to be popular. "Craft" is not enough either. Being able to find the exact right word or following all the "rules" about avoiding passive voice, wordiness and adverbs. So, then, what does make a novel compelling enough for a significant number of people to read it? 

It begins with a story

First, writing tells a story. If the story is compelling, and, if we can care about the characters, we will forgive the occasional foul up. Look, we forgive Shakespeare for having a clock in ancient Rome or aging Hamlet something like 10 years in a couple of days. Why? Because the story is so incredibly good. Dickens' long expositions and coincidences would be panned
mercilessly in most modern critique groups, but those characters like Fagan, Scrooge, Pickwick, Fezziwig and Little Nell keep us reading. 

A story is not simply the sum of its parts. Indeed, it is not even just the creation of the author. A reading experience exists at the intersection of the author, the text, the reader and the social context. In that sense, there is not one story but six billion possible stories. 

The Importance of Context

The same story, read by the same person separated by a number of years can produce a entirely different experience. It's not fiction, but the example that comes to mind is Robert Frost's famous poem about the "Road not Taken." That last haunting stanza:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverged within a wood and I
I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference. 

I first met that poem in high school where many roads with many intersections were before me. At that time, it was a cautionary tale, something to consider as I made the choices in front of me. 

In other words, I lived that poem in the first stanza. Now, 50 years later, most of those roads are behind me. I have "trodden black" most of the leaves on those roads, and taken my fair share of those "less traveled by," and I am living in the last stanza. My experience of that poem is not anticipatory, but nostalgic. It is a different poem for me now than it was then. 

The same can be said of Poe, Asimov, Wells, Verne, Clark, Simak, Tolkein and all the other literary loves of my youth. Even some of the books I, now, look at and wonder how they ever got published were precious to me then. The craft may not have been there, but the story was and it took me somewhere other than the dismal place I lived. 

I may not like or even approve morally of something like Dan Brown's conspiracy theory based books or the explicit 50 Shades of Gray, but they do speak to something within a person that evokes a sense of wonder and adventure. Once we replace story with "craft" we lose our audience. Ideally, we should have both, but story must always come first. And if the story does not take us out of the ordinary, it will never sell. 

Professional, Activist or Hobbyist

Recently, I've been discussing various issues related to indie publishing. I've been thinking about them because I am preparing a course called Ridiculously Simple Self Publishing. I hurt someone's feelings I think when they made the comment that they intended to pursue indie publishing "professionally" by outsourcing everything except the writing (which they nearly outsourced by having content editors and book doctors help rewrite). However, they added, that they spent a lot of money, and would not recoup their expenses, but they were proud of the professional job done.

Sorry, folks. It may be a quality job (or not). It may be a polished job. However, a professional job produces a profit. If you are not showing a profit, you are not pursuing a business, you are pursuing a hobby.

There is nothing wrong with doing something for the sheer enjoyment. Nor does it imply a low quality item just because it's produced as the result of someone pursuing a hobby. It doesn't mean someone isn't serious about what they are doing. My mother crocheted afghans that will outlast anything I've bought in stores. She was very concerned about the quality of the materials and the work. However, she never sold any of her work. If she had, she probably would not have been able to get a price that would have adequately compensated for the time and materials she had in the product. She was a hobbyist. A very skilled, very serious person who did a craft for the joy of the craft itself.

Many writers are like that when they decide to go into indie publishing. I say, God Bless them. If they can afford to take a loss in order to turn out some piece of art, that's great. However, they should not deceive themselves or others that they are more "professional" than those of us who watch our costs and produce a product that first the reader can afford and second will turn a profit.

To be professional means you make money on what you do. It doesn't necessarily mean your product is better. Indeed, it might not be as polished. A handmade cabinet done by your grandfather in his shop that took two years to complete, is probably much nicer than one produced by a furniture company. However, his costs would make it a product only a few could afford to buy and unless he lived in a high income area, he would probably not show a profit if he did that type of work all the time.

I know it sounds very noble to talk like we are artistes above the concerns of commerce, but, whether we like to admit it or not, books, even ebooks, are products. If you are an indie publisher, you are a manufacturer of books.

If you are only interested in writing for the sheer joy of it and can afford to outsource all the various parts of your project, more power to you. If you are an activist with a cause to pursue or a message to get across, likewise I wish you well. However, I do have a problem when those who are doing this at a loss advise others who may be pursuing a profession as an indie writer/publisher to do the same. That's bad business advice.

I have been writing a series (and I will return to it this weekend) about self-editing. Why? Because this is one area where an indie publisher can save some money. Even if you do eventually outsource the final proofreading, it reduce the work your editor has to do and, thus, save you money.

If you, like my friend, prefer to "just write" and are willing to take a loss, that's great. I honor that. I just ask that you not make those of us pursuing this as a business to try and do things your way.

Instagram Strategies for B2B

Since launching in October 2010, over 5 billion photos have been shared on Instagram, making it one of the most popular photo sharing platforms ever created. The app has been a goldmine with social and photo savvy brands who were quick to adapt to the social network and create a whole new touch point with customers and prospects.

Due to the mobile centric nature of Instagram, interactions are much more intimate than with traditional marketing channels, people who engage with your brand on Instagram are typically doing so during their downtime. This allows for a very unique opportunity to build a personal connection with people, take them behind the scenes a bit and generate a lot of positive awareness and goodwill for your brand that can come to fruition down the line.

Below are 9 tips and best practices that should get your Instagram marketing strategy off the ground.

1 Engage Your Audience by Posting Interesting Photos
This is the core of what Instagram is about: people posting photos they find interesting on their feed.

For brands this means going beyond photos that would appear on your website, advertising or marketing materials, and instead, sharing photos that communicate directly with your audience. Invest in the means and the time to create high-quality photographs that will allow your customers and fans to experience your brand on an emotional level.

@NatGeo One of the best brands doing this at the moment is one that has a century old track record in award winning photography. National Geographic (@natgeo) posts gorgeous photos to their Instagram several times a day and really raises the bar on the type of photography that is shared on the platform. 

@GeneralElectric On the technology side, GE's Instagram presence showcases their legacy and leadership role in the field of consumer technology with dynamic photos of their R&D efforts, engines and wind turbine offerings.

2 Post Regularly
Instagram feed is by nature, very linear; most recent photos on top. If a fan follows a large number of Instagram accounts, it's easy for your content to get buried in the feed. One strategy to avert this is to post regularly and consistently so that ideally you are catching people at their peak browsing time throughout the day or week. 

One thing to note is to not go in the other direction by constantly spamming your followers. Space out your posts throughout the day or week so that your followers are not receiving a bunch of posts in any given window of time.

3 Let Your Customers Peek Behind the Curtain
The great thing about Instagram is that you are giving your followers a sneak peek behind the curtain of your corporate brand. Snippets of office life, community engagement, visual oddities from around the neighborhood that inspires your employees will really resonate here.

@Starbucks is one of the leading brands active on Instagram today. Their Instagram account highlights how their products are integrated into millions of people's daily lives as well as touching on the human emotions that allows people to connect with the brand.

Corporate Social Responsibility is a huge initiative taking place in many Fortune 500 companies. Across all sectors, employees are being motivated to give back to their community. WIth this customers want to connect with the human face of brands, and Instagram is a great way to generate interest and support with your CSR activities. Social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook makes information regarding your brand's Corporate Social Responsibility efforts more accessible to a larger group of people.

4 Share Photos of your Products and Services
Instagram is a great place to showcase your products and services in a very immediate and direct manner. Now we're not talking traditional product photography, more evocative imagery and detail shots tend to perform very well on the platform.

@MaerskLine is an unexpected entry for Instagram. Shipping containers aren't something that most people would normally consider sexy, but the fact that Maersk Line operates over 600 shipping vessels all over the world gives them a very unique vantage point to document and share images relating to global business. The photos of their services operating in the context of global trade and commerce goes a long way to solidifying their brand presence as the largest shipping container company in the world.

@Audi does a great job of showcasing their well designed cars as well as engaging fans to share their photos of Audi products. The photos highlight Audi's performance and racing heritage and appeals to automotive enthusiasts in general and Audi loyalists in particular. 

5 Integrate Hashtags into Your Event Marketing Mix
This is a great way to generate live social media coverage in real-time. Hashtags allows for people to easily find photos related to your brand and event.

At a recent event for AIGA Houston, renown designer/illustrator Jessica Hische came to Houston to speak before a sold out crowd. To help share the experience and create awareness for the organization, an event-specific hashtag was developed to help track and curate photos shared on Instagram by various attendees. The hashtag #JessicaHischeHTX, was heavily promoted across various channels and during the event introduction. As a result it generated awareness of the event far in excess of the amount of people who attended and drove membership engagement to new heights for the organization. 

6 Connect with the Community Using Geo-Tags

Geo-tagging is a great way to connect your business with the broader community as well as transcribe location data across various other channels such as Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and Foursquare.

7 Promote Your Instagram Handle

Make sure your Instagram handle is discoverable across your other channels; Facebook, Twitter, Corporate website and print materials.

Add the social buttons to the header and footer of your website, as well as your email signature (next to your other social media channels).

Instagram provides a variety of ways to embed a badge across various platforms.

8 Invest in Mobile Photo Editing Apps. 

VSCO CAM gives users additional image adjustments beyond Instagrams bundled filters.

Experiment with various photo and imaging editing apps on your smartphone to tweak your photos. Great ones to check out are VSCO CAM, Google Snapseed and Mextures.

These additional apps will help elevate your photos beyond the default filters found on the Instagram App and give it a unique look that will help your photos stand out from the crowd.

9 Curate Content from Fans

One of the most POWERFUL tools of Instagram is to curate fan-created content for your brand.

A great example comes from GE who encourage customers and fans to submit photos tagged #GEInspiredMe to audition as GE’s official “Instagrapher” over 4000 photos were submitted and the winner (selected by their fans on Facebook) was flown to England to photograph a new engine that was being announced.

So hopefully with these tips your marketing team can start incorporating Instagram into your social media toolkit. By no means is this list meant to be complete and we will update it as time goes by. Please feel free to comment in the section below and check us out on Instagram @AxiomCreative to get a backstage view of our studio or stop by my personal account, @stimulacra to view a lot of food and Corgie pics.

Of scribes, scriveners, printers, publishers and self-publishing consultants

One of my own passions is history. I'm particularly fascinated by ancient history and the development of writing. Up until very recent times, being able to read and write gave a person a good deal of power. The scribes of ancient Egypt were the most powerful class outside of the royal family. In some ways they even wielded power over the pharaoh since, if he wanted something written, he needed to call a scribe. During the First Century, literacy was a bit more wide spread, but even in
Photo credit dalbera
those better times, in Israel, the scribes, the ones who wrote down the Torah and also did things like contracts and letters carried a great deal of influence. So much so, that Jesus was often faced with opposition by the "scribes and pharisees" since he was challenging their claim of exclusivity on the interpretation of the Law.

During the middle ages, scriveners in the monasteries preserved the literature of earlier days as well as the writings of the times, but they also controlled the access to literature, and many works of antiquity were lost because they were deemed heretical.

A.J. Leibling observed that "Freedom of the press is only guaranteed to those who own one."  Well, today, anyone with a computer owns a press. However, every time the availability of publishing written work became more widespread, society was disrupted. It happened with the printing press. It is happening again with the internet.

For many there is a vested interest in restricting access to the means of fully participating in what Milton called "the free marketplace of ideas." This is not because of some nefarious conspiracy. No, it is quite simpler than that. They are losing their sense of being "special." Therefore, while acknowledging or even embracing indie publishing, they continue to try to make it seem mysterious, complex, expensive and something you certainly cannot do on your own.

Of course, many of these voices for "quality" products also have a financial interest. Frequently, people will send me links to blog articles about how you need to hire all sorts of specialists to create your book. Editors, cover designers, formatters, publicists and the list goes on. Then they list costs ranging from several hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. And I always notice - surprise, surprise - they offer those services or sell space on their blogs to people who do.

And the mantra they keep chanting is "Quality Sells." Okay, let's butcher that sacred cow once and for all. A McDonalds sits next to a high end steakhouse. Guess which one has more customers and makes more money every year.

Now, does anyone seriously think McD's sells millions of burgers a day because they are of a higher quality than that served in the high priced steakhouse? Of course not. They sell something that is tasty, filling, forgettable and cheap. People go to the steakhouse on special occassions if at all. People go to McDonalds on a regular basis. Now, is anyone going to brag about having dinner at McD's? Not likely. But they are very likely going to spend more money every year under the Golden Arches than at the steakhouse.

Now, the home of the Big Mac could produce a higher quality product. They could grind their own hamburger from top sirloin steak, hire chefs from leading culinary schools to staff their restaurants, cook each burger to order perfectly and slowly and serve them on fine china. However, you would not get a McChicken Deluxe for $1.79.

If you need a top quality product to be successful, why is it, that, the most successful brands are those that make things that just work, but are probably not top of the line. Indeed, the closer you get to the top of the line, the fewer buyers you have.

Does this mean, you don't spend any time on your book? Of course, not. However, spend the time where it counts - writing the book. If you want to spend money, take some good quality classes in story construction, characterization, and basic writing.

Go back to McDonalds. They don't spend a lot of money on high priced stuff, but they spend millions on research into what people like to eat. They produce something that appeals to that taste. It might not be the best for you, but it is something people (not everyone, but a large number of people) want to eat. They also know that people want something they can afford and get in a hurry. In other words, they spend time and money on the content more than the packaging.

Their "quality" is in giving people what they want at a price they can afford. However, these consultants and gurus want self-publishers to spend thousands on things that, the average reader would not even notice, or if they do, it doesn't impact them enough to not buy the book if the price is right.

The problem with this is that every dollar you spend on production has to be made up somewhere. That means raising the price. Indie publishers have an edge over traditional publishers because we can work with low overhead. They can't. However, many are squandering that advantage by buying top sirloin and hiring cordon bleu chefs. Is someone going to be willing to spend the same amount of money on one of my books, if I'm unknown to them, as, say, Stephen King? Probably not. However, if my book is half the price of a novel by Stephen King, say about the price of a loaf of bread instead of that of a meal at a fast-food restaurant (I must be hungry), then they may be willing to take a chance on me. And if they have read my books and like them, they might download several books instead of just one.

In other words, like McDonalds, by controlling my expenses I not only keep a good profit margin, but I can also offer more value to my reader. Is my novel that I edited myself absolutely error free? Probably not. Neither would it be if I had it edited professionally. I might catch 98 percent of the errors. The pro might catch 99. If the story is good, and the number of errors are low, then the reader will come back for more.

I can make a good cover by spending 20 bucks or so at a stockphoto site finding a single image that conveys the idea of the story and add some text to it using a program like GIMP, which can be downloaded for free. Going to a professional cover artist might get me a cover that is a little bit better, but will it be enough better to justify the cost. Always think in these terms: "Will this cover/editing/formatting/etc. produce more sales than if I did it myself? If so, will it produce enough extra sales to cover the cost and show a profit.

If you spend $100 for cover design, $500 for editing, $200 for someone to format and upload your book (all of which you can probably do if you are willing to work) and you are selling your book at $2.99 on Kindle select, you will need to sell close to 400 units before you even see a profit. Do you honestly believe that spending that amount of money will produce 400 sales you would not have had otherwise? From a marketing perspective, that 800 dollars would be better spent on advertising.

So, lets lay this myth to rest right now. Quality, in the sense of spending a lot of money producing a slightly more polished product, does not sell, unless you can achieve it economically enough to give the buyer a good deal. The better the product does not necessarily mean the greater the sales.

If indie publishing is mostly a hobby or a way to publish, and you are not concerned about making money, then spend thousands and either take the loss or deal with  having fewer readers who will likely not even notice all the great editing or cover designs.

On the other hand, if  you consider this a business, you are more likely to show a profit in a shorter period of time if you only outsource those things you know you will mess up big time. Otherwise, do as much as possible yourself. That is one of the reasons I'm giving you a series of lessons on self-editing which I will continue next week.

Tricks to increase internet speed

Turn your modem off and on. Sometimes a simple reset can significantly increase your Internet speed. You can also turn your router on and off to see if that's helpful. Just make sure that you know your login information in case your computer requires you to enter it after the reset.
Clean your connections. Dirt is the enemy. Regularly check all modem and router cables to ensure solid and clean connections.

Dirty, dusty, or loose cables leading from your cable or DSL modem to your wireless router, or computer can cause significant reductions in your internet speed. Pick up a can of compressed air from your local computer store, and use it to blow out the dirt and dust in the connectors.
Maintain proper ventilation around all electrical components to avoid overheating.
Avoid running multiple devices at once. Turn off smartphones, tablets, Smart TVs, set-top boxes or other devices that you aren't currently using and see if your Internet speed increases.
Clear your cookies, cache and browser history. You may want to do this monthly to maintain optimum speed.
Internet Explorer: Look for the Tools menu and select "Delete Browsing History." Check the appropriate boxes for cookies, browser history and Temporary Internet Files. If your version of Internet Explorer has an option that says "Preserve Favorites website data," then de-select that option.
Firefox: Select "Clear Recent History" from the Tools menu. If your version has a "Time Range to Clear" option, select "Everything."
Google Chrome:
Enter "[chrome://settings/clearBrowserData]" into the browser bar.
Select all of the items that you want to clear, including browsing history, download history, cache, cookies and other site and plug-in data.
On the "Obliterate the following items from" drop-down menu, select "the beginning of time."
Click "Clear Browsing Data."
Safari: In the Safari menu, choose "Reset Safari." Then choose "remove all website data."
Contact your Internet service provider (ISP) to find out how much speed you should be getting. While factors such as your distance from the phone exchange may affect your speed, your ISP should be able to give you a ballpark figure.

Test your current Internet speed. 

Try an online testing site that will measure the speed of your connection. Some providers offer speeds in the 40 to 50 megabyte range, which is enough for more than one simultaneous video stream, plus other concurrent internet activities.
Check to see if your actual speed matches the speeds promised by your ISP. If it doesn't, then call the company and ask them to troubleshoot or repair your connection.
Households or businesses sharing a single network for multiple users may find that the only solution to slow online speeds is to expand the bandwidth of their Internet service provider.
Contact your ISP and mention that you are interested in upgrading your service. Ask if the provider would consider a trial or evaluation period for you to test a higher service to see its impact on your Internet speed prior to signing a contract or long-term commitment.

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Why Are You Struggling to Make Money Online with Facebook?

No excuses. If you are struggling to make money with Facebook you refuse to do a few key things on a daily basis. The whole science of money making using social media sites is simple. Really. Why do few make a dime online, then?

Well they ignore simple, so simple becomes difficult. Or, they figure that simple looks way too easy, so they develop more complicated systems, which of course, lead to failure. Sorry dude, or dudette, you are not that sophisticated, to follow a complex system, and make money with it. It is just plain dumb, anyway.

What is at the core of seeking out complex, or complicated, when it comes to making money on Facebook?

Greed. You are greedy, so you want to make money online now, and you lack patience, and you are desperate.

If you know anything about prospering, you need to set up a fair exchange. Like, you make money on Facebook by sharing something valuable with your Facebook buddies. Share helpful blog posts, or videos, or webinars, all for free.

Now, after you share this value each day, over the course of weeks, and months, you will begin to RECEIVE value, in the form of money.

Why Do So Many Struggle to Make Money Online with FB?

Well they refuse to GIVE value so they do not GET value. Remember, greed drives many people in the online realm.

Greedy people try to get before they give, using silly systems, or posting ads all day long, ads that do not provide any form of value to their readers. Now, you might wonder, how can you give value, by writing blog posts daily, and shooting videos, and doing all these things?

By busting you’re a**. You work, intelligently, and persistently, and you give value, by writing blog posts each day, and by sharing these on your Facebook profile each day, and across 20, 50 or 1000 relevant Facebook Groups each day, and you will get clicks on your ads. People will join your home business. Promise.

But busting your tail makes it all happen. Smart, intelligent work, not mindless acts, like posting the same ad to 100 Facebook Groups daily, brings you money.

The Most Fitting Analogy

You open a corner store. If you want to make money what do you do? Well you work 8, 12 or 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. You stock your shelves. You are patient. You make your store front enticing. You maintain a clean shop. As word spreads around about your shop, through your efforts, people walk in the door, buy your products and you make money.

OK, you open a cyber store…aka, start a home business. If you want to make money online what do you do? Well, you work 8, 12 or 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. You stock your cyber-shelves with valuable blog posts and videos, creating content daily.

You then share this content on relevant Facebook Groups daily.

You are patient. You make your website or blog enticing. You maintain a clear, clean-looking and clutter free website and blog. As word spreads around about your shop, through your content creation efforts, people visit your blog and website, buy your products or join your team, and you make money with Facebook.

Dwell on This Analogy

It will change your home business for good, and it will make you take a high energy approach to your Facebook efforts, if you are willing to embrace it. Treat your home business like an offline business. Create helpful, relevant content. Share on relevant Facebook Groups, and your profile.

Use this approach to start making money online with Facebook today.


Installing the Windows 8.1 preview means reinstalling all your apps

The Windows 8.1 upgrade is going to be free, but you might have to do a little work for it. Those who decide to take the Windows 8.1 preview for a spin later this month, for example, will wind up reinstalling all their apps.
Yes, that’s kind of a pain. But Microsoft is generally pretty clear about saying that its preview builds aren’t intended for users’ primary PCs. They’re a better fit for spare iron that’s laying around or a shared family PC that’s mainly used for surfing the web, emailing, and a bit of casual gaming.
It’s a preview build, after all. If you install it, it’s because you want to get an early look at the changes that will arrive later this year when Windows 8.1 is officially released. You’ve got to be willing to take the bad with the good, and the bad here is the application reinstalls.
For Windows RT users, this shouldn’t cause too many headaches. All WinRT apps come from the Windows Store, so they are tied to your personal account. When you’re done installing the Windows 8.1 preview, you’ll be able to log in to that account and fire up the Store app to re-download your missing apps in one fell swoop.
Desktop apps are another story. You’re on your own there, Windows 8.1 testers. If you want to see what the updated OS looks like, you may be better off installing it in Microsoft VirtualPC, VirtualBox, or VMware.
Then again, it’s also a chance for a clean slate. If you’re unhappy with Windows 8 so far but are willing to give Windows 8.1 a chance for redemption, then go ahead and install it on your main rig. Your broadband connection is probably fast enough that it can pull your Steam game collection back down within an hour or two anyway, right?

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Self-Editing Like a Pro Part 4: Those Pesky Commas

Nothing drives a writer-editor nuts faster than what to do about commas. Just recently, I read an article which found that we use fewer commas today than they did in the 1900s. The article also pointed out that commas are less frequently used in advertising copy than in academic writing. It even implied that, if you punctuated a sentence in a news story the same way you would in a scholarly
journal, you would be acting inappropriately. 

I guess the point is that even something, seemingly, as fixed as where to put commas is in flux today. However, that doesn't mean you can ignore them. The classic example is the difference between these two statements:

Let's eat, Grandma
Let's eat Grandma
One is calling Grandma to dinner. The other is just calling Grandma dinner.

It changes your tale from a sweet, family memoir to a horror story. All for the loss of a comma.

The Sound Approach to Commas

No, I'm not talking about the classic Victor Borge comedy routine with his verbal punctuation. It's super funny, but doesn't help us much here.

In this context, we are talking about using the sound of the sentence to decide on comma placement. Here's the rule of thumb: If, when reading a sentence, you pause in the middle of it, consider adding a comma.

In fact, let's look at that rule of thumb as an example. It is a conditional sentence. It sets up a condition at the start and ends with the action to be taken. Right after the "If," we have another conditional clause. Finally, we have the action. If you read this sentence out loud like you would speak it, you find that your voice pauses before and after "when reading a sentence" and right before "consider adding a comma."

This, of course, is not perfect. There are situations where such pauses do not indicate commas. Semi-colons and colons are a good example. Also, depending on your own idiosyncratic diction, you may not pause as much as others do.

However, try it and see. When reading a passage out loud, if you find yourself pausing, and there is no comma there, ask yourself if there should be one.

Trigger Words

Certain words appearing at the beginning of a sentence are almost certainly going to either be followed by a comma or the phrase or clause they represent will be.

For instance, words with a time frame reference like After, before, during, or later are good examples. Consider the following sentences:

After church, drop by the house. 
During the game, Bob went to his room. 
Later, I visited my mother 

Words that imply some sort of condition that needs to be met usually lead to a comma immediately following the condition. For instance:

If I get out of work early, I'll take you to the play.  
When the clock strikes twelve, the figures come out and dance.  
Where you see soggy soil, there is usually a leaky pipe underground. 

Also, introductory words or phrases are followed by commas. These include

Of course
For instance

Also ordinal numbers like first, second, third are followed by commas.

Compound Sentences

Okay, that's one of those English teacher topics that make you start to fall asleep in class. Well, wake up! It's not very difficult to understand. When you take two sentences and put them together using a word like "and," "or," "but," "however" or "therefore," you have a compound sentence. 

If each part of the sentence before or after the conjunction (that's what a word like "and," "or," "but" or "however" is called) could stand alone, then you put a comma before the conjunction. 

Every time you come across a sentence with an "and" between two sentences add a comma. 

Confusion issue

Sometimes we confuse this type of sentence with a sentence that simply has two verbs connected by a conjunction. For example:

John stabbed the vampire through the heart, and he screamed, "Die, Monster, Die!"

That is a compound sentence requiring the comma. However, if you cut out the subject of the second sentence (the word "he") you would not have the comma. Example:

John stabbed the vampire through the heart and screamed, "Die, Monster, Die."

Well, that's enough for today. I'll continue this discussion in our next post. 

8 Steps to Building Your Blog Into a Community

There are a lot of great blog posts about creating communities, but this one is different. The 8 steps I describe below is the exact process I used to build the world’s biggest collaborative blog for personal trainers, in less than 2 years, with no connections and no technological acumen.
Whether you’re starting anew or you already have a blog you can apply these steps, in any order, to build your audience, network, and repeat readership.

Step 1 – The Idea

All good blogs are based on a powerful idea that fulfils or hits on a need. Perhaps there’s a knowledge gap in your industry or, in the case of the personal training industry, there was a lot of information but it was all boring text-book material.
The gap I filled was teaching personal trainers the soft side of training but adding in jokes, usually about how much I hate that stupid useless green bird in Angry Birds. Seriously, let’s talk about that bird for a minute. Anybody else hate that thing? He adds an element of difficulty into the game that I don’t appreciate. I just want to smash pigs and move onto the next level.
But I digress.
Build your community on a single powerful idea. Understanding the blogging medium requires a lighter and more approachable tone — don’t be afraid to approach your topic with humor and wit.
Most of all don’t ever hide your personality. People buy into what you do because of the 1% that makes you different, not the 99% that makes you the same.
I should also note that once your blog grows, it might grow out of your initial idea so you need to flexible about its evolution. An experts power doesn’t come from knowing, it comes from knowing where to find and that’s why step 2 is so important.

Step 2 – The Sea Lion System to Build Your Network

I’m reminded of a family trip I took to Alaska. We found ourselves watching a group of whales bubble feed — it was spectacular — but something grabbed my attention and it wasn’t the whales; it was the Sea Lions.
You see, Sea Lions wait patiently on the outside of the vicious bubble feed and catch the fish that the whales fling out. Sea Lions are opportunistic.Sea Lion
You must be the Sea Lion
In any industry there are existing influencers who I’m sure you can name off of the top of your head right now. These people have social media pages and blogs. Existing on those pages are what I call connectors.
When an industry influencer posts a status update or a new blog, there’s a flurry of activity. Instead of trying to get the influencers attention, be the Sea Lion and find the people who are avidly liking, commenting, and sharing the influencer’s material — there are your connectors.
Over a short period of time, you’ll notice the same names keep appearing. Likely they have blogs and even if they don’t they will probably be open to network. Read and comment on a blog post or two of theirs and send them an email saying hi. Or, if they don’t have a blog, send them a message saying that you would like to connect.

Step 3 – Implicit Understanding, Explicit Meaning

Choosing a name for your blog or community is an important step. Even if you blog in your basement at night, the name should make it sound like it’s bigger than you. You’re building a community here that others will want to be a part of.
In addition, you want to have the option to sell the blog later on. A community blog is valuable and it’s a nice option to have. isn’t going to be easy to sell but the Personal Trainer Development Center is.
Lastly, your blog name should be something that is intuitively meaningful for your audience. It should also be something that will make them feel like they look good by passing it on to colleagues, friends, or family members.

Step 4 – Contact potential contributors

Now the fun part starts.
There are 3 different types of contributors that you want for your community blog.
1. Camp Busters

In every industry there are established camps that you should be able to identify. There’s probably an influencer at the top and varying levels of followers underneath him or her. Ideally, you want to break into every camp that serves your industry. To do so, try to find somebody that’s well connected in that camp and is currently lower down in the pecking order.
2. Up and comers

In step 2 you identified your connectors. Many of these people will be up and coming bloggers. Have a read through their material and note which ones are good. In addition, look to contact the ones who are hustling the hardest and get them on board with your community.
3. Established authorities

There’s a Catch-22 here. You need readers to attract established authorities to write for you, but you can’t get readers without established authorities right?
Here’s one approach: When you sign up for my free content course, you also get to download my free Diamond in the Rough System Ebook. This is how to use Twitter to get the attention of the people behind the people.
When contacting authorities you probably can’t pay them but you can offer them value. Usually these people have years of archived high-quality material on their blogs. Sell them on your powerful idea in step 1 and ask them to come on board as a “coach” or “advisor” for your community. Assure them it is 0 work on their part.
Tell them that you want to go through their entire archive and will send them a list of all the material that you would like the opportunity to use. You will re-edit and re-format the material so that it’s different enough that Google doesn’t view it as duplicate material and post it to your blog attributing it to them as the sole author with links back to their site.
Some people may say no, but many will agree.
Having established authorities on your site does two things: It establishes credibility for other contributors and you gain the audience of the authority.

Step 5 – Planes, trains, and automobiles

As personal as social networks are (sometimes too personal) nothing can ever replace meeting, shaking hands, and having a conversation with somebody in real life. Look for more intimate industry events that leave time for networking. I’ve even been known to skip entire afternoons of talks to sit down and network with one person at a conference I was looking forward to meeting.

Step 6– Develop a course

What’s the biggest issue or misconception facing your industry?
Identify it and write a course that you will integrate with an autoresponder sent over 10-20 days. Here’s a breakdown of how to plan out the course:
Example of a Mindmap
To start, I suggest some brain mapping software (I use the MindNode App)⁠ or grabbing a note pad and writing it down the old fashioned way.
Put your topic in the middle of page and write down everything you can think of surrounding the topic. Don’t consider whether or not you want to include it at this stage, just write it all down.
Upon finishing, come back the next day with another blank piece of paper and copy the exact same formula.
When you’ve finished this 2-4 times, take all of your brain maps and create a master map out of them eliminating all the obvious dumb stuff you wrote down and keeping the good stuff.
Then grab some cue cards and write out each sub-topic on a cue card or in Scrivener (an awesome word processor for organising large projects like this). After you’ve organized the course on cue cards or in Scrivener, it’s a matter of filling in the blanks.
When you’ve finished writing each section, tie them all together.
Start the course with an introduction email saying hello and telling the person what to expect. At the beginning of each email refer back to the previous lesson for a line or two. At the end of each email, let the person know what they can expect for the next email.
Go to and get a cover created for your course and integrate with your email marketing software. Create a simple squeeze page for your course — this will be important in the next step.

Step 7 – Build up a fanpage for social proof

You’ve probably already created a fan page on Facebook, but now it’s time to get it cranking and, to do so, you’re going to get a brief lesson in Facebook advertising.
Create a Facebook status update with a link to your squeeze page for the course. Keep it short and include the following 3 things:
1. Have a punchy headline that grabs attention.
2. Give 3 points that are secrets or that you “reveal” in your course.
3. Tell the reader to click the link to grab their course right away and provide the link.
Then you need to target your Facebook ad.
Step 1: Identify your audience. Is it 25-30 year old females who workout and are interested in holistic fitness? Be as specific as you can.
Step 2: Identify any other pages on Facebook that specifically serve your audience. Be as precise as possible.
Step 3: Think about parallel industries that your lead may be interested in. For example, somebody interested in holistic fitness is probably interested in Lululemon clothing and Yoga. Identify the main pages here.
Step 4: For $10-$25 you can run an ad promoting your post to each of these pages individually, for at least 3 days. After creating your first ad, you can copy the ad and simply change the targeting. You should see the option in your control panel.
Step 5: Take stock of which pages gave you the best response rate in terms of click-throughs . Write down all pages that had at least a 0.3% click through rate.
Step 6: Run an ad to all of the pages that had a good response together and run that ad continuously for more money.
Bidding for clicks is a bit of a science. The better you target your ad, the less you’ll have to pay. Reason being, if you have a high converting ad then Facebook will show it to more people for cheaper.
If your ad isn’t converting well, you’ll have to pay more per click to get Facebook to show it to people. If you’re targeting a big audience or a big page, clicks will cost more than an audience in countries outside of North America interested in oddball stuff. Ideally, you want to pay no more than 25 cents a click.
This ad will both get people to like your Facebook page and add a slew of new subscribers into your email list.

Step 8 – Viral!

This is where my real interest lies.
Now that your Facebook ads have gotten a following on your page, you have an avid audience to spread your materials — so make them viral.
The easiest way to get status updates to spread throughout a niche industry audience is by following these steps:
Write down any issues or misconceptions that face your industry. For example, in the fitness industry the fact that too much of the public still thinks that women shouldn’t lift weights is a sore spot.
Note beside your topic, which side of the debate the majority of your audience sits on.
Write a status update or upload a picture 4-6 times a day (you can schedule them) that articulates the majority of your communities views on the issues you’ve identified. Don’t be afraid to be one-sided and somewhat brash. Emotion drives sharing. People will share if they love you or hate you.
Step 8 – Post 1-2 times per week

Post 1-2 top quality blog posts on your webpage per week (or even less). You can write them or have contributors write them. Continue to spend the majority of your time growing the community through your email list via the course and through Facebook through ads and viral material.
Take in guest contributions on your own blog so that you can spend your time writing awesome material for other blogs in your niche creating link juice and getting traffic back to your site.


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