#5000colo Day 0: The Bottom of the Mountain

A ride on the bike, a roll in the hay…

I am at the bottom of the mountain. It’s a long, long way to the top.

5,000 miles, in fact.

As I write this, my campaign will launch in one hour’s time on ITV Anglia News (awkward lycra screenshots above). Already, I feel almost overwhelmed by the level of admin, social media, emails and conversations I’m generating; and this is before I even get on the bike.

I will get on the bike, though. Tomorrow I’ll set off on my first ride, ticking off the first tiny tranche of villages on my hundreds-long hitlist.

I know there will come a moment when I roll into the final uncharted village on my epic challenge; I don’t know when, or where, that will be. What I do know is that, by then, my life will have changed markedly.

I am going to learn so much about myself in the next 5,000 miles: I’m going to listen, I’m going to learn, I’m going to share, and I’m going to grow.

Some days, I’m going to feel pretty lame. Sometimes I’m going to be snarky, or reply to an email or message in haste and later wish I hadn’t. Some days I’m going to glide through a dozen villages feeling like an intrepid adventurer, and get home feeling like a Tour de France champion.

This ride will be a microcosm of life, and that’s not just using the elevation profile of my route as a lazy metaphor about ‘ups and downs’. I will feel pain, elation, confusion, hopefulness, hopelessness, relief and despair. I might even learn how to change an inner tube.

In the words of Agent Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks: “I have no idea where this will lead us, but I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange.”

Come on then, Norfolk, let’s be having you.


Tuesday morning tips: advanced apostrophes

We generated some good discussion last week off the back of Apostrophe 101 (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/tuesday-morning-tips-apostrophe-101-matt-colley/). As a further tribute to the sterling work of John Richards, I thought I’d delve a little deeper into the apostrophe this week; it’ll be a shorter lesson, but one that I hope will allow you to use our little friend with increased confidence.

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Above: this is you, smashing the apostrophe.

1. The ‘false friend’

A pronoun is a word that replaces a noun, such as ‘he’, ‘you’ and ‘we’. All pronouns have possessive versions of them: for example, if it belongs to ‘he’, it is ‘his’. If it belongs to ‘we’, it is ‘ours’. These possessive pronouns, although they indicate possession, do not have apostrophes.

This leads us to probably the most common misuse of the apostrophe: its. The word its means ‘belonging to it’, as in: “The tree was bare; it had lost its leaves.” The word only has an apostrophe when it’s a shortened version of it is (as with the instance earlier in this sentence). Where the apostrophe is concerned, it’s clear that it’s going to take a while to perfect its usage. Got it? It’s easy when you know how!

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Above: this tree has lost its leaves. Don’t worry, they’ll grow back.

2. Decades of doubt

Last week we touched upon plurals of initials and capital letters. Our CDs and DVDs never take apostrophes (hey, that was quite poetic). Similarly, when we refer to decades we don’t put an apostrophe before the following ‘s’. That’s how it was done in the 1860s, and in the 1960s, and that’s how it’s done in the present day.

However, sometimes we abbreviate those decades. If someone refers to the swinging 60s, you naturally assume they mean the 1960s. However, because we’ve removed the ’19’ from the start, we need to replace these missing figures with an apostrophe. Therefore, it’s correct to say the swinging ’60s.

Similarly, omissions at the start of words also require apostrophes. For instance:  ‘Twas the night before Christmas. It’s a contraction of it was, so the apostrophe is required. Some old-school proofreaders will even tell you that we should say the ‘phone is ringing, as it’s a contraction of telephone, but phone is generally considered to have become a word in its own right.

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Above: a phone, back in the days when you’d call it a ‘phone.

3. The exception to the rule

There is one occasion where you can use an apostrophe to indicate a plural. If you want to pluralise a single letter, an apostrophe can give some much-needed clarity. The most common example of this is a well-used idiom to imply that you’ve finalised all the necessary details: “I’ve dotted the is and crossed the ts.” Without the apostrophes, as you can see, it’s pretty confusing. We read the word is, rather than seeing it as the plural of the letter i. Therefore, in this scenario, we’d say: “I’ve dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s.”

Some style guides also suggest that a plural apostrophe could be added to single numbers, as in a pair of kings and a pair of 7’s, but this is certainly not universally accepted and personally I don’t use the apostrophe in this instance.

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Above: I see a pair of 7s.

Thanks for reading – and, as ever, just shout if you need further explanation on anything.

People notice error’s: the evidence.

Here’s something interesting. In a recent study conducted by Method Marketing, 93% of respondents said they were less likely to trust a company with spelling/grammatical errors on their website, and 94% said they were less likely to spend money with a company with errors on their site. https://www.methodmarketing.org/news/state-of-content-survey-2019-results/

Demonstrable evidence that people notice error’s!

Flooding: what’s in a name?

Here’s an interesting little language lesson for a Friday morning. The recent floods that have inundated parts of northern England have been in the news, with the village of Fishlake being particularly badly affected. The folks at WIRED UK have recently published this brilliant article that looks at the etymology of a lot of our UK place names, and looks at how we might be able to predict the likelihood of flooding by the name of the place. Fascinating stuff! https://www.wired.co.uk/article/england-flooding-place-names

MOOC the most of it! (Sorry.)

I’m looking forward to starting this really interesting course with FutureLearn next week. Twitter has always been a bit of a ‘blind spot’ for me, so I’m excited to learn more about social listening and how to analyse social media conversations.

Anyone else done any MOOCs? I’ve done a few now, and find them a brilliant way to acquire new skills and knowledge. https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/social-media-analytics/11

“You don’t get something for nothing.”

Such is the received wisdom, especially in business. Even if a product or service is ostensibly free, it’s generally going to be a loss-leader, or at the very least a fast-track to endless spam mail and aggressive sales calls. Right?


Since I started my company back in August, I’ve received so much great advice from so many different people, and I’ve read tons of literature about how to make your startup successful. But one theme that keeps recurring is the mantra not to undersell oneself.

In my previous agency role, I spent more than a decade working with Harley-Davidson Motor Company. Harley is notorious for its premium market position: they don’t do discounts, they don’t do loss-leaders, they don’t do gimmicks. If you want a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and everything that goes with it, you pay for it. And people do.

But I’m not Harley-Davidson. I don’t have more than a century of engineering excellence behind me. I know that I’m good at what I do, but at the moment only a handful of other people know that. So, in order to make my business a success, I need to enhance my reputation.

I’m aware that in this article I’m ‘breaking the fourth wall’ of marketing, but that’s just who I am. I care about people, about communities, about feelings. I want to build relationships. Naturally, some of those may turn into business relationships, into revenue, into profit; but more important than that is the cultural capital I will accumulate along the way.

The people with whom I converse along the way are not ‘warm leads’; they’re people. Real people, with hobbies, pets, families, problems and idiosyncrasies. We may exchange cards and end up doing business together, or we may not.

I love talking about words, about content, about communication; I love strategising, dreaming and building things using words. But, more than that, I love people. I love talking, listening, enthusing, debating… it’s so much more fundamental to the human experience than selling things.

So reach out to me. Say hello. Ultimately, we may or may not help each other to enrich our businesses, but we’ll definitely brighten each other’s days.

Dyslexia awareness

Here’s an interesting insight into living with profound dyslexia: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-50206103

As a fully signed-up member of the so-called ‘grammar police’, I think it’s incredibly important to be mindful of where your expertise is required; and, more importantly, where it isn’t required.

We all have different specialisms, strengths, blind spots and weaknesses, and belittling people for their weaknesses is no way to help the greater good.

If I make a spelling error, though, I fully expect to be castigated for it; it’s my livelihood, after all!