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Monday, December 31, 2012

Wrong Again About Plain Language - Joseph Kimble, National Conference of State Legislatures

Kimble begins his article (emphasis added):
In a way, you have to admire someone who has spent almost two decades campaigning against plain language — unsuccessfully — and who still carries on. ...
What’s troubling is to see the recirculation of criticisms that are demonstrably false and that have been answered so many times. You have to wonder: How could anyone who knows the plain-language literature keep trotting out these inaccuracies and arguments? It’s hard to figure.
Kimble first tackles, in detail, Stark's charge that "Plain language generates errors." Kimble responds to a particular before-and-after comparison of plain language that Stark criticized.

Here's the article Kimble is writing about.

Kimble concludes:
All in all, then, the changes in meaning that Mr. Stark summons up are nonexistent, insignificant in practice, or deliberate. The revised version is not only shorter and clearer but also more accurate. More accurate, not less. And so it is that Mr. Stark’s case against plain language comes unmoored.
Kimble continues by responding briefly to Stark's other  mischaracterizations of plain language. Stark's charges include:
  • Advocates believe that “it is more important to be clear . . . than to be accurate.” 
  • As an example of a rule that he says “makes no sense,” Mr. Stark cites the rule “to address you” — that is, to address readers as you. 
  • “[Another] fallacy is the command that short sentences should be used.”
  • “The most damaging Plain Language rule is to write only words that are commonly used by laypeople in ordinary speaking and writing.” 
  • “I would be embarrassed to admit that my job is to write dumbed down statutes.”
Kimble's article is featured today, Dec. 31, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs, available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.

For more information on this topic, visit Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide. It describes seven steps on how to improve your writing skills by using plain English techniques:
  • Focusing on your reader and purpose
  • Organizing your ideas
  • Writing clear, effective paragraphs
  • Writing clear, simple sentences
  • Using suitable words
  • Creating an enticing design
  • Testing for clarity.

Bryan Garner | Interview by Jesse Pearson, VICE

As a writer and editor, I have great respect for the person interviewed for this article. Bryan A. Garner is the author of Garner’s Modern American Usage, editor in chief of Black’s Law Dictionary, and  contributor of the Grammar and Usage chapter in The Chicago Manual of Style. His Modern American Usage is the contemporary equivalent of the earlier Follett and Fowler books. It's one of the few writing references that sit on my desk.

Pearson writes: 
Garner recently spoke with Vice, taking a little time from his busy schedule of lecturing, researching, writing a book with Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, and generally fighting the good fight of preserving the grace of American English while also tracking its evolution.
(I'm no fan of conservative Scalia and haven't read their book. But I don't hold that against Garner.)

Here's a taste of the Q&A's in this interview:
Vice: To start, I’m interested in how English grammar and usage morph over time.
Bryan Garner: Well, grammar is constantly changing. It was changing fairly rapidly from the period before Chaucer wrote in the 1200s through probably the late 1500s, when Shakespeare began writing his plays. ... And most of the speakers were not literate. In those kinds of conditions, when you have a largely oral culture, things can change quickly. ... It’s very interesting that a grammarian like Lindley Murray, who in 1795 wrote his English Grammar, became the best-selling author of the first half of the 19th century. He sold more than 10 million copies of that book.
Nobody else was close, and grammar was something that Americans seemed to care about a lot. Murray was an American lawyer who ended up sort of defecting to England after opposing the revolution and moving to York. But he became very influential as an English grammarian. He outsold Stephen King or J.K. Rowling—and to a smaller population. It really is quite extraordinary.
I’d say that the general decline of proper grammar today has to do with the fact that it’s not really put into practical use by as many people as it once was.
Well, we have lost serious readership in modern culture. It is astounding how few lawyers whom I deal with subscribe to any serious journalism at all.
How do you see the quality of writing and communication on the internet affecting grammar today?
I can’t really tell. Some of it is quite bad and quite sloppy, and some of it is quite good. I just don’t know what most people are reading on the internet. I have the idea that it’s mostly a few middlebrow vehicles that give quick news dispatches.
Here are some other provocative questions that had provocative answers:
  • Do you keep up with the state of grammar as it’s taught in public schools nowadays?
  • And if public schools don’t teach grammar as well as private schools do, it would follow that grammar helps to maintain class differences in culture.
  • Going back to these points of grammar that you refer to as “superstitions,” such as not ending a sentence with a preposition or not beginning a sentence with and or but… these things were taught as gospel in my high school, and they’re just wrong.
  • A lot of people—when they come across somebody who uses abstruse words or a larger than usual vocabulary, or who speaks with noticeably proper grammar—will perceive that person as arrogant or snooty. Do you come across that much?
  • In your work on legal writing, there’s a lot of support for plain and simple—a kind of directness that is lacking in a lot of legalese.
  • How about giving us a layman’s definition of descriptivism and prescriptivism?
  • Will you tell me the names of a couple contemporary fiction writers of whom you’re a fan?
  • And when you are reading fiction for pleasure, is it difficult to be so attuned to grammar and usage?
  • What advice would you give to people who are in their mid-20s and might feel like they’re lacking in proper education regarding these things? Where can one educate oneself regarding grammar?
The VICE article is featured today, Dec. 31, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Style: Write Choices, available at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subscription.

The Best of Brain Pickings 2012 | Maria Popova, Brain Pickings

Brain Pickings is the brain child of Maria Popova, who writes:
Brain Pickings is a human-powered discovery engine for interestingness, culling and curating cross-disciplinary curiosity-quenchers, and separating the signal from the noise to bring you things you didn't know you were interested in until you are.
For this article, Popova writes:
On this last day of the year, what better way to send 2012 off than with a look back at the its most stimulating reads? Gathered here are the most read and shared articles published on Brain Pickings this year, to complement the recent omnibus of the year’s best books. Enjoy, and may 2013 be inspired in every possible way.
Here are headlines for six articles that focus on writing:
  •  "The Daily Routines of Famous Writers"
  • "10 Tips on Writing from David Ogilvy"
  • "Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments of Writing & Daily "Creative Routine"
  • "Why Emotional Excess is Essential to Writing and Creativity"
  • "Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Tips on How to Write a Great Story"
  • "New Year’s Resolution Reading List: How To Read More and Write Better."
"Why Emotional Excess is Essential to Writing and Creativity" is featured today, Dec. 31, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Creativity Connections--available at the Creativity tab above and by free email subscription.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Simply Beautiful Photographs, Tips on Composing Photographs, Gallery – National Geographic

When I began this blog, I thought I might be writing more posts on two of my favorite topics: travel and photography ... and travel photography! Those topics are essential parts of quality communication. Mostly, though, I've focused on writing and editing.

Still, I liked the tips provided in this National Geographic article. Fortunately, I try to follow most of them in my photography.

This article is featured today, Dec. 29, in a new daily paper of mine, Garbl's Visualizing Culture. I'm experimenting with its content about "inspiring photos while we travel."

If you're interested, here are photo albums of my recent trip to Peru, including Machu Picchu.

85 Low-Cost or Free Web-Based Tools for Nonprofits « A Social Media Guide for Nonprofits

This article is featured today, Dec. 29, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Good Cause Communications, but many of the tools it lists could be useful to people generally, in other workplaces and professions.

Some random examples from the first half of the list (I haven't visited all these sites or others in the list, so their presence here isn't an endorsement):
2. 360 Panorama ::
Ideal for mobile social networkers, this $.99 app allows you to easily create panoramic photos on your smartphone. Simply tap the screen and pan your device in any direction. You’ll see your panorama being built in realtime as every incoming frame is processed. This is a must-buy app if your nonprofit regularly tells your story through mobile photo-sharing.

5. Alexa Top Sites ::
This website tracks what sites are the most popular in the world today. In addition to the list of global top sites, you can also view top sites by country.

9. :: is an iOS App that allows users to earn points for doing things like volunteering at local food banks or animal shelters. Points can later be redeemed for deals and free items at local merchants.

15. CrowdVoice ::
Ideal for activist organizations, CrowdVoice allows organizers to create “Voices” of protest where users can monitor and contribute links, photos, and videos of protests worldwide. It’s a creative, visual way to tell your organization’s stories of protest to your online communities.
24. FotoFlexer ::
FotoFlexer is a free Web-based photo-editing tool that allows you to cut, crop, resize, and embed text and logos onto your photos. If your nonprofit is active on Pinterest or wants to make better use of your digital library, knowledge of photo-editing is essential.

44. LastPass ::
LastPass is a tool that consolidates all your online passwords into one easy-to-use, secure password manager. Ideal for social and mobile media managers that are juggling 20+ accounts, the premium version is only $12 a year.
50. Museum of Me ::
A Facebook app that creatively displays you and your Facebook friends in a virtual museum. While at first it may feel a little narcissistic, it is a clever and moving exhibition of your Facebook life – and one of the few Facebook apps I have recommended that anyone add on Facebook.
My daily Good Cause Communications paper is available at the Nonprofit Communications tab above and by free email subscription.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Associated Press Stylebook | Updates

As a subscriber to the online Associated Press Stylebook, I got an email today about new entries and recent changes to the handy manual.

All the terms relate to the growing vocabulary of social media and related apps and devices: Android, circles, flash mob, Google Hangout, hashtag, Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit, retweet, Skype and tablet.

Most are simply descriptions; for example:
Android An operating system created by Google that's used in many smartphones and tablets.
flash mob A gathering of people performing an action in a public place designated by a text message, email, social media post or other notification sent to the participants. ...
 And a few provide advice on using the terms: 
hashtag  The use of a number sign (#) in a tweet to convey the subject a user is writing about so that it can be indexed and accessed in other users' feeds. If someone is writing about the Super Bowl, for example, the use of #superbowl could be an appropriate hashtag. No space is used between the hashtag and the accompanying search term. ...
retweet The practice, on Twitter, of forwarding a message or link from someone else to your followers. Users can either formally retweet to make the forwarded message appear exactly as written by the original user or use the informal convention of "RT @username:" to share the tweet and edit or add comment. Spelled out in all references, though common usage on Twitter abbreviates to RT. If you amend the tweet before forwarding, use the abbreviation MT for "modified tweet." ...
AP also provides this advice to its staffers (and other journalists, I assume):
[R]etweets, like tweets, should not be written in a way that looks like an expression of personal opinion on the issues of the day. However, AP staffers can judiciously retweet opinionated material by making clear it is being reported, much like a quote in a story. Add this context before the RT in the tweet, or write a new tweet that includes the original in quote marks.
The AP email message includes more advice on news media use of "user-generated content," or UGC. But that discussion deserves its own blog entry. Stay tuned.

Shall We Abandon Shall? | Bryan Garner, ABA Journal

As a writer and editor, I have great respect for the author of this column, Bryan Garner. One of his books, Garner's Modern American Usage, is a contemporary equivalent to the Fowler and Follett books. It sits on my desk with my dictionary and style manuals.

As a legal writer, Garner also advocates clear, concise writing in legal documents ... and other types of documents. This article focuses on use of shall in legal documents, but its advice is worth heeding for other writing.

Garner concludes:
My own practice is to delete shall in all legal instruments and to replace it with a clearer word more characteristic of American English: must, will, is, may or the phrase is entitled to. ...
Here's advice from my online guide, Garbl's Editorial Style Manual; I think it's similar to Garner's recommendations:
shall Avoid this formal, ambiguous, pretentious word:
  • Try dropping use of any pronoun.
  • Use is when something is fact: The senior editor is [not shall beresponsible for reviewing all documents for clarity and consistency.
  • Use may instead to give permission: Members may borrow up to three CDs a month.
  • Use must instead to express legal obligation: Tenants must pay rent by the 15th of each month.
  • Use have to, must, need to or required instead to express other requirements: Each student is required to take the exam.
  • Use should when recommending a course of action: We should move ahead with the project by Friday.
  • Use will instead to express what someone plans to do or expects: I will be there. We will meet. You will like it. She will not be pleased.
My manual also provides advice on other related verbs: can, maymay, mightshould, wouldwill, would.

Garner's column is featured today, Dec. 28, in my online daily paper, Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs, available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Plain Language in Plain English | Cheryl Stephens's Books and Publications Spotlight

I haven't read all of Stephens's books. But I know her work and her expertise in clear, concise writing from emails we've shared, her comments in writing forums, and her articles published on the Web.

She's also a leader in the global plain-language movement, having co-founded the Plain Language Association International in the '90s.

You also can learn more about plain language at Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide. It describes a seven-step approach to writing clearly and concisely to meet the needs of your readers:
  • Focusing on your reader and purpose
  • Organizing your ideas
  • Writing clear, effective paragraphs
  • Writing clear, simple sentences
  • Using suitable words
  • Creating an enticing design
  • Testing for clarity.
Stephens's article is featured today, Dec. 26, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs--available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.

Why Encouraging Childlike Creativity is Essential in Business |

This day after Christmas, I'm thinking of the smiles and happy thoughts inspired by Christmas giving and sharing--especially among young people. My two sons are in their 30s, but I still feel the joy from them--and I love it!

Rubin's article caught me as I'm recalling this Christmas and the coming year.

He describes how parents and teachers knock the creativity out of children and students. But he writes (emphasis added):
Spend time with very young children, and you’ll soon notice that they default to happy. They sing at the drop of a hat. They skip rather than trudge. And as a parent I think we need to encourage this—not penalize it—because that creative spontaneity is sorely needed in the adult world of business. Why? Because innovation springs from creative thought. When a child is happy and relaxed rather than stressed, they think better and learn faster. ...
And he describes how employers often knock the creativity out of their employees. But Rubin writes:
[C]ompanies that are always innovating generally have a much more energized set of employees because they have a less rigidly structured environment. They create the space and time for people to doodle, daydream and collaboratively think up out-of-the-box ideas. They reward those ideas—even if they fail—because they understand that it’s essential to encourage that type of thinking in order to keep innovations happening.
Rubin notes, however, that the creativity spark can't just come from employer motivation. He concludes:
As employees we need to start a revolution of creative thought, empower our co-workers and subordinates to freely express ideas and truly jump into the creative process. We need to push this up to the c-suite and help them to understand the value. Social Media, internal and external to the organization, can help us do that in ways we never could before. Let’s make 2013 the year of opening up the floodgates to creative and innovative thought … at home, at work, and at play.
Rubin's article is featured today, Dec. 26, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Creativity Connections, available at the Creativity tab above and by free email subscription.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays to my Garblog readers

Photos from the annual Christmas Ships cruise on Lake Union in Seattle, Dec. 23, 2012.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Warren Buffett’s 10 Steps To Better Report Writing | Ivan Walsh, Standard Operating Procedures Tips

I wrote this short guide to help you write Business Proposals in clear English. It explains how to prepare an business documents that readers can digest in one reading. That’s the acid test. They shouldn’t have to read them twice and three times to get the meaning. It also covers how to use Plain Language writing techniques to win more business, accelerate your tender process, and encourage staff to contribute to the overall tender process.
After describing how he was inspired by the writing advice of financial expert Warren Buffett, the blogger provides this useful list for improving the clarity of all business documents, not just reports and proposals. 

Here are headings for each of the steps:
  1. Start Early
  2. Study the principles of Plain English
  3. Promote Plain English among your Staff
  4. Contact an experienced proposal writer
  5. Review previous Proposals and see where you can improve
  6. Create an outline to help readers find information faster
  7. Write the RFP, section by section, using plain language techniques
  8. Review and Revise
  9. Create an easy-to-read format
  10. Get feedback – and share it.
For more advice on plain language and clear, concise writing, visit Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide. It describes the process in these seven steps:
  1. Focusing on your reader and purpose
  2. Organizing your ideas
  3. Writing clear, effective paragraphs
  4. Writing clear, simple sentences
  5. Using suitable words
  6. Creating an enticing design
  7. Testing for clarity.
Walsh's article is featured today, Dec, 22, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs--available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.

Friday, December 21, 2012

An A-to-Z Guide to 2012's Worst Words | Jen Doll, The Atlantic Wire

We mean no offense to these words, even when we call them despicable. One woman's worst word might be another's best. Bad words are a matter of opinion, and each is entitled to his own. And sometimes by hating a word, you—strangely—grow to love it. ...
With that warning, Doll also writes:
But agree with me on this: There is no better way for a semantic-minded person to remember the year than with a list of the words we used and saw and heard, those words we'd just as soon never write or see or hear spoken again.
Her first word is one I use too often:
Actually. Adverb, mostly. When Sarah Miller declared war on literally over at The Awl, I argued that actually was worse, the "talk to the hand of the adverb community," or "the word that you use when you're actually saying, 'You are wrong, and I am right, and you are at least a little bit of an idiot.'" Actually, I still agree with that.
Doll's list includes these and other words, with comments on each:
  • Baby Bump. Horrid compound noun.
  • Curate. Verb.
  • Ecosystem. Noun
  • Epic. Adjective.
  • Fiscal Cliff. Noun.
  • Gaffe. Noun with political inclinations.
  • Hehehe. The way a serial killer chuckles. 
  • Historic, historical. Adjective.
  • INITIAL-WORDS. Usage type.
  • Legitimate rape. Adjective-noun clause.
  • Organically. Adverb.
  • Really?! Expression of incredulity.
  • Sustainable. Adjective.
Doll concludes, however:
Disclaimer: Simply because a word appears above does not mean we will cease to use it. That's just the way the word world works.
Doll's article is featured today, Dec. 21, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Style: Write Choices--available at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subscription.

Challenging the violence belief system in the wake of Newtown | Ken Butigan, Waging Nonviolence

I just posted an item about word usage (lighted vs. lit) that's appropriate to this holiday season. But here's another article that's also related to the season ... and how we communicate with one another, individually, within our communities and internationally. Peace on earth.

Butigan's article begins by noting the violent tragedy in Newtown, Conn., and our responses to it. But he describes how that event could be the tipping point for fostering larger changes in U.S. attitudes and behavior toward violence of any kind.

He writes:
The resounding horror of what took place touches a nerve about guns, but it also may prompt a concerted exploration of the larger culture of violence in the United States. We are called by the anguish of that hushed Connecticut classroom — and by our long, baleful history of violent action—to question our belief in violence and to embark even more steadily on the path of nonviolent change in our lives and in our world.
Butigan writes that such a change won't be easy. But he emphasizes that changes like he suggests have happened. He writes:
When Gandhi said nonviolence is as old as the hills, he meant this, not as a rhetorical flourish, but as a matter of the human record. Without nonviolent options violence, by its escalatory logic, would have spun irretrievably out of control. We likely would have disappeared long ago. Instead, peacemaking, peacebuilding and peacekeeping in many guises and using many tactics have neutralized that logic and spawned a saner alternative.
He then gets into actions we can take to bring about this change:
So, in the aftermath of Newtown, we are nudged to smoke out our beliefs in violence and live by something else — a way of being that wagers that we can grapple with the deep frustrations of this life without resorting to inflicting harm; which peers into the fog of the chaos of human life and see that we are all irrefutably connected; and which finally recognizes that our survival depends on one another. This takes nothing more — and nothing less — than personal, communal and social moves bent on transforming fear, anger and powerlessness.
Butigan's article is featured today, Dec. 21, in my online daily paper, Beyond Child's Play: Peace Now--available at the Peace Now tab above and by free email subscription.

Today's edition also features other related articles:

Grammar Hammer: Are Your Trees Lit or Lighted? | Catherine Spicer, Beyond PR

Here's a question of word usage that likely comes up in this light-hearted time of year in some homes and businesses.

Spicer writes:
Grammatically speaking, either word is correct because both words are past tense verbs and interchangeable as past participles. I hate to say it, but in most cases, it’s really going to come down to what sounds best to you.
But check my advice too (below). Referring to another writing site, she notes:
According to Grammarist, lit is favored for both uses outside the U.S.. Lighted is usually used as an adjective, while lit is more often a verb. ...
I think Spicer means in the United States when she adds:
Currently, we’re favoring lit over lighted.
Here's somewhat similar advice in my online editorial style manual:
lighted, lit Both lighted and lit are acceptable as past-tense verbs, though lit is more often used: The mourners lighted 100 candles for the vigil. The mourners lit 100 candles for the vigil. Lighted is preferred for the adjective form: The intersection is well-lighted. A well-lighted intersection. A lighted candle.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Plain language is good business | Candi Harrison, Standard of Excellence, Writemark

Harrison concludes her blog post:
Businesses, non-profits, and governments all over the world are getting on the plain language band wagon. Why? Because it just makes sense. When your customers can find and use what they want, easily and effectively, they’re happy. Happy customers come back. They tell their friends. ...
She gained her insights while writing for U.S. government websites. She learned that "getting your words right" is essential:
if you don’t communicate effectively, you can’t serve effectively. If customers come to your website and cannot understand what you offer and how to get it, they leave and never come back. They tell their friends what a rotten website you have and, by extension, how bad you must be.
Harrison's blog ends with links to websites that can aid you in using plain language. My website also can help improve your writing skills!

Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide:
  • Focusing on your reader and purpose
  • Organizing your ideas
  • Writing clear, effective paragraphs
  • Writing clear, simple sentences
  • Using suitable words
  • Creating an enticing design
  • Testing for clarity
  • Other plain-language resources.
Harrison's article is featured today, Dec. 20, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs, available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What makes Christmas merry? A brief history of yuletide adjectives | OxfordWords blog

Here's an article appropriate for this time of year!

It begins by describing how "Merry Christmas" came first as a holiday greeting, followed by "Happy Christmas." The article notes that "Happy Christmas" never really caught on in the United States, as it did in England.

As an American, I first recall hearing "Happy Christmas" in the great song by Britisher John Lennon, "Happy Christmas (War is Over)." I even was expecting a reference to that song in this article; it never appeared.

But I was surprised to read that "Happy Christmas" was actually
the original phrase used in the famous poem by Clement C. Moore, “A Visit from St. Nicholas." It closes with this line:
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night."
The articles notes that in the U.S., "Merry" is often substituted for "Happy" in that poem.

Of course, the article also describes changes in references to Christmas (emphasis added):
It is probably no coincidence that use of Happy Holidays and Season’s Greetings started picking up steam around the same time Merry Christmas peaked, gaining popularity as an appeal to greater cultural sensitivity in a society becoming more conscious of religious and ethnic diversity.
The article notes silly uses of "Happy Holidays" or versions of the phrase. It concludes, however:
[I]n phrases like “holiday recipes”, it usefully encompasses latkes as well as gingerbread, and when used as a seasonal greeting, “Happy Holidays” is an apt acknowledgement of what is in the United States a full two months of overindulgent celebration, beginning with Thanksgiving, spanning December’s multitudinous offerings, and ending arguably not with the New Year, but with the Super Bowl in early February. ...
The Oxford article is featured today, Dec. 19, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Style: Write Choices, available at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subscription.

Creativity: A Crime Of Passion | Andrea Kuszewski, Science 2.0

The common impression is that our society values creative people and creative thinking. But in this article, Kuszewski maintains that schoolroom and workplace rules discourage it. She discusses why that happens and how to overcome the obstacles.

Kuszewski writes (emphasis added):
Creativity is supposed to be a good thing, something we aspire to achieve. However, those who are the most creative are often faced with the worst treatment and the most rejection for their ideas. To put it simply, people in positions of authority and management generally like and value those who follow rules. It is much easier to maintain order when everyone is following the rules. Breaking rules = bad. Right? But in order to be truly creative, you must break rules. That is what creativity entails.
After commenting some more on how schools and employers hinder creativity, she writes:
This may sound like I am advocating rule-breaking. And in a way, I am. But it is selective and purposeful rule-breaking that serves to advance ideas or thinking about a situation, in order to come up with a new solution to a persisting problem. There is a difference between rule-breaking for selfish purpose (illegal motive) and rule-breaking for creative purpose (idea advancement).
Kuszewski continues by discussing the types of creative rule-breaking that are more effective, because they're most acceptable. She writes:
So really, what we are being told is, "be creative, but not TOO creative". Any creative ideas that attempt to shift the current paradigm or reject a paradigm completely are usually driven by extreme passion, and almost always met with some type of resistance from society.
She concludes:
While we need more people who are willing to face the firestorm and stand up for their creative ideas, the real change needs to come from society itself. Society needs to have flexibility and tolerance in situations where breaking rules is necessary and provides a clear social benefit, instead of treating the passionate innovators of the world as common criminals.
I'm no psychologist, but I can't help thinking these days that contradictions about creativity--and associated rule-breaking--in our schools and workplaces affect our attitudes, feelings and behaviors. And sadly, the negative effects of those contradictions become more noticeable, and even tragic, in some people. Of course, those effects cannot be an excuse for anti-social behavior.
Kuszewski's article is featured today, Dec. 19, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Creativity Connections--available at the Creativity tab above and by free email subscription.

Top 20 Insights, Talks, and Quotables On Making Ideas Happen :: Articles :: 99U

99U ends 2012 with this to-do list of its most popular creative, innovative insights of the year:
To help take a look back at 2012, we rounded up our most popular features, essays, 99U Conference talks, and tweets. We hope it gives you a chance to discover (and rediscover) content from throughout the year while providing the spark needed to start 2013 off right.
The linked articles include:
2. Test Your Creativity: 5 Classic Creative Challenges
How creative are you? Find out by taking a few quick tests that psychologists have been using to study creativity for decades.
4. Why Boredom Is Good for Your Creativity
Why does boredom always emerge just as you're about to get in gear on a creative project?
5. How Rejection Breeds Creativity
With a few small changes in your mindset, you can turn rejection into a dramatic boost for your motivation and focus.
Following those articles are U99's most popular videos, with titles like these:
  • Do What You've Never Done Before 
  • Keep Other People's Opinions Out Of Your Creative Process
And the article ends with its five most popular tweets, including:
  • Time is a created thing. To say "I don't have time" is to say "I don't want to" - Lao Tzu
  • "Nobody does their best thinking sitting at their desk. Your desk is for executing; do your thinking elsewhere."
The 99U article is featured today, Dec. 19, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Simple Dreams, available at the Simplicity tab above and by free email subscription.

Monday, December 17, 2012

My Pet Peeves: From the X, Y and Z Entries in Garbl's Editorial Style Manual

Here's the 22st (and final) entry in my alphabetical series of pet peeves--from the X, Y and Z sections of Garbl's Editorial Style Manual. My style manual covers editorial issues like abbreviations, addresses, capitalization, English grammar, Internet terminology, numbers, plurals, possessives, punctuation, spelling and word usage. It focuses on U.S. standards for spelling, punctuation, definitions, usage, style and grammar.

Earlier blogs:


Xerox Trademark for a brand of photocopy machine. Commonly misspelled as Zerox. Don't use Xerox as a verb or noun to mean copy, photocopy, copy machine or copier. Use one of those words instead: The assistant made a photocopy, not The assistant made a Xerox.


Yahoo Unless the company is paying you to promote its website and search engine, don't end Yahoo with an exclamation point. You're under no obligation to follow its marketing style.

years Use numerals without commas: In 2004 a disastrous earthquake hit the region. Use an s without an apostrophe to show spans of decades or centuries: 1790s, 1900s, '90s.

Years are the one exception to the rule against beginning a sentence with numerals: 1994 was a wonderful year

If it's necessary to spell out a year, avoid using and within the number: two thousand one, nineteen sixty-eight.

year to date No hyphens unless used as an adjective: year-to-date sales. Except for charts and graphs, avoid abbreviating as YTD. Also, consider using simpler so far instead of to date.

yet Like the conjunctions and, but and soyet is a useful, correct transition word at the beginning of sentences--instead of regardless and in spite of. For emphasis, yet may be followed by a comma. 

you By using the pronoun you, you suggest immediacy and directness between you and your reader. But make sure you and the reader know who you is. And avoid using you if it sounds accusatory or insulting. 

Also, always use a plural verb with you, even when you is singular, referring to only one person: Nate, I know you are sick. You alone have understood. You both are busy. See Myths and Superstitions of Writing.

your, you're Often confused or misspelled. And computer spellcheckers won't catch the mistaken substitution of one of these homonyms for the other. Your is the possessive form of the pronoun you, meaning "belonging to you," while you're is a contraction of "you are."

yours Sometimes misspelled as your's. Don't ever add the apostrophe before (or after) the s.

youth, youths Use for boys and girls ages 13-17. Use man, men, woman and women for people 18 and older.

yuppie Colloquial, trite term. It means young urban professional. Avoid the word but not the people.


zeitgeist Capitalize the name of the excellent coffee shop in Pioneer Square, Seattle. If you use this German noun in other ways, lowercase it; it means "the spirit of the age," or, more clearly, "the general thought, feeling, ideas and outlook of a particular generation, era or place."

zero, zeros (n.); zero, zeroes (v.) Don't include unnecessary zeros in times and dollar amounts: 10 a.m., $35; not 10:00 a.m., $35.00

ZIP code Use all caps for the abbreviation for Zone Improvement Program, but always lowercase the word code. Don't put a comma between the state name and the ZIP code: Seattle, WA 98126-2225

Sunday, December 16, 2012

99 Life Hacks to make your life easier! | Tuxedo Mask

The photos and graphics at this link don't have much to do with my general blog topic of communications. But I sure like what they communicate! And I'm delighted by their creativity and simplicity!

Check 'em out for simple, surprising tips to deal with those things that annoy us far too often.

Consider it a Christmas gift from me--and from whomever compiled the photos. Re-gifting encouraged. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Demand a Plan to End Gun Violence | Action Writing Links

The school shooting in Newtown, Conn., is a tragedy beyond comprehension. My thoughts are with the victims, their loved ones and the community that has suffered this horrific act of violence. 

But words of condolence are not enough. Mass shootings and gun murders have become commonplace in our country because our laws are broken and our leaders have no plan to address gun violence.

NOW is the time to talk--and write--about guns. Now IS the time to prevent more pointless deaths. Now IS the time to Demand A Plan to End Gun Violence. 

This website is one place to start. It features a petition to President Obama and members of Congress and asks them to act NOW!

For advice on writing about your concerns and putting them into action, visit Garbl's Action Writing Links. It's an annotated directory of websites that can help you get people to read your writing, keep readers interested and persuade them to respond while they're reading or afterward. 

In a democracy, we each have the right and the responsibility to speak out on matters that concern us.

Here is related Web information:

'Your fantastic website' | Garbl's Writing Center--writing resources and style guides

I recently got this email message from a graduate-school student in Calgary, Canada, with the subject line, "Your fantastic website":
Hi Gary ...
I just wanted to say that I really like your website. It has so much great information in it. It’s going to take me weeks to get through it. I can’t believe you were able to compile such an amazing list of information on concise writing. I have to say that it is an inspiration for me and I am going to take the time to read every bit of it. Excellent work and I can’t wait to start learning something! Well, good news- I already did apply some of your ideas to my proposal.
As I wrote her in my reply:
I manage and offer my website for almost no compensation (commissions for Amazon book sales usually wouldn't even pay for one latte a week!). So comments like yours are the compensation I get … and appreciate!
Giving me her permission to identify her, Elise responded to me:

I liked your website so much that I showed it to my friend Ben (from the UK) who writes a blog on literature reviews and he included it in today’s blog: look under Fat Free writing (I hope you don’t mind). 
He linked to a section of my annotated directory of websites that "give advice on cutting the fat from your writing--so your readers can easily chew, digest and be nourished by your top-choice words": Garbl's Fat-Free Writing Links

If you haven't visited my website, Garbl's Writing Center, it's a free portal to these writing tools:
Speaking of those Amazon commissions, here'a note from my website:
Except for selected books on the Writing Bookshelf and Favorite Writers pages, website listings do not signify endorsements of fee-based services, products or programs. 
My website also includes a link to my writing and editing service: Garbl's Pencil & Good Cause Communications.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

How Sticklers Give Copyediting a Bad Name | Carol Fisher Saller, The Subversive Copy Editor Blog

Copyediting, done well, can improve the readability, comprehension and credibility of a document. I'm proud of the work I've done for more than 30 years as an editor (and writer). I value my editorial skills and believe using them has benefited my employers, colleagues, staff, clients and readers.

But I agree with this article. Saller writes:
When copyeditors brag that they haven’t overlooked a typo since they were twelve, they reinforce the image of a superficial reader with her elementary-school list of rules chopping away at the weeds without noticing the forest or where the path is headed. They relegate our profession to the status of other stereotypes that ignore the challenging, creative, intellectual aspects of a job ...."
She concludes:
Writers are trying to communicate something–and writers are not the best proofreaders and copyeditors of their own work. It would be helpful if all those cheerleaders for communication could focus a little more on the message and put the occasional grammar or punctuation gaffe into proportion.
Saller's article is featured today, Dec. 13, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Style  Write Choices--available at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subscription.

My online work is featured at Garbl's Writing Center, my free portal to these writing tools:
You can read more about my services at Garbl's Pencil & Good Cause Communications

BTW, as I writer and website manager, I emphasize the value and necessity of quality copyediting with a statement like this one on various pages of my website: 
Whatever their acclaim and position, all writers need editors. I don't have one for Garbl's Writing Center, so if you spot a typo, unclear message or possible error, please let me know.
 It also should note that all publications and websites need proofreaders!

Hiking in Nature May Boost Creativity | Denise Mann, WebMD Health News

I'd say, from personal experience, that the findings of this study are true. Mann writes:
New research shows that backpackers scored 50% better on a creativity test after spending four days in nature while disconnected from all electronic devices.
The study reports:
Our modern society is filled with sudden events (sirens, horns, ringing phones, alarms, televisions, etc.) that hijack attention. By contrast, natural environments are associated with a gentle, soft fascination, allowing the executive attentional system to replenish.
My "research" isn't based on backpacking, however. It's based on visits I make to local parks in Seattle. And I do take a piece of technology with me--my digital SLR camera. But I use it to help me focus--literally and figuratively--on nature, my temporary natural surroundings. I view the forest, but I also view the trees (and other flora and fauna).

That experience takes me away from myself and challenges I'm facing and reading or hearing about in the news. And I return reinvigorated to my home, my desk, other realities. (And I return with digital memories of the experience so I can relive them within my home, at my desk. I also share them with family and friends.)

That natural experience arms me with new energy, new openness, to write, to think, to learn.

Sure, backpacking or driving for hours and miles for a day hike in the mountains can be wonderful creative experiences. But I like trekking through local parks for a quick, simple burst of energy.

Another report on this study appeared in the Los Angeles Times"Communing with nature can recharge your creativity, study finds."

It reports a reaction to the study by James P. Nicolai, MD, medical director of the Andrew Weil, MD, Integrative Wellness Program in Tucson, Ariz.:
He says the new findings are “right on.” Disconnecting from media technology allows people to stay in the now, and nature can do the rest, he says. “Take a 10- to 15-minute walk in a park five days a week,” he says. Or “if you can’t get to nature, bring nature to you by having flowers in your house or plants in your space.”
Both articles are featured today, Dec. 13, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Creativity Connections--available at the Creativity tab above and by free email subscription.

2013 Nonprofit Marketing Trends: How They'll Affect You | Nancy Schwartz, Nonprofit Marketing | Getting Attention

This article, Part I in a review of of 20 marketing trends, focuses on five of them. One of those five, in particular, would benefit from an approach to clear, concise writing that I discuss frequently: using plain language, aka plain English.

The trend, as Schwartz refers to it, is Prediction #3: So Speak Like a Human. A second trend that would benefit from using plain language is Prediction #2: Relevance Rules.

Plain English is an approach to writing that concentrates on the needs of readers Plain English matches the needs of your readers with your needs as a writer, leading to effective, efficient communication. It is effective because your readers can understand your message. It is efficient because your readers can understand your message the first time they read it.

Plain-language principles emphasize the thoughtful choice of familiar words people will understand. And they emphasize organizing those words in easy-to-read sentences, paragraphs and documents. 

But before choosing and organizing those words, plain-language principles emphasize getting a thorough understanding of the expected readers--their interests, knowledge about the topic, and so on. And they emphasize selective use of information to fulfill the purpose of a document that's aligned with the reasons people would read the document.

For more information about plain language plain English, visit Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide. It covers these seven steps:
  • Focusing on your reader and purpose
  • Organizing your ideas
  • Writing clear, effective paragraphs
  • Writing clear, simple sentences
  • Using suitable words
  • Creating an enticing design
  • Testing for clarity.
The Schwartz article is featured today, Dec. 13, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Good Cause Communication--available at the Nonprofit Communications tab above and by free email subscription.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Why Trying to Learn Clear Writing in College is Like Trying to Learn Sobriety in a Bar | Michael Ellsberg, Forbes

Ellsberg begins his provocative article by noting that writing is "one of the most effective skills you could develop for expanding your leadership and impact on the world—and for fattening your wallet."

But he then writes:
Unfortunately, despite the amount of writing you do in college, you’re about as likely to leave there having learned to write clear, compelling prose as you’re likely to leave a kegger with clear mental faculties.
Ellsberg probes possible causes of that problem and emphasizes this one:
We enter college hoping to learn effective communication skills—the kind of skills the recruiter in the Wall Street Journal article wished we possessed. But the joke is on us: the professors from whom we seek guidance, themselves don’t know good prose from porridge.
When we attend college, we throw our impressionable young minds headlong into this bog of ”scholars” ...; headlong into this asylum in which esteemed academic journals will publish gibberish if one uses the right buzzwords; headlong into this funhouse in which a computer program can generate random meaningless prose that reads passably like the stuff assigned in most graduate and undergraduate humanities classes. And from within this stylistic cesspool, we hope to get an education in how to write good prose.
He notes, however:
[M]ost writing by professors in the hard sciences also employs highly specialized language which is impenetrable to people outside the respective field. The difference is, the jargon they use tends to have precise and widely-agreed-upon meaning; the meaning of a physics or biology paper is almost always crystal-clear to another physicist or biologist.
Instead, professors of the humanities and social sciences are victims of Ellsberg's disdain. Responding to someone who commented on his article by pointing out that composition professors try to help students avoid "swampy prose," Ellsberg writes, "Fair enough."

But he then writes:
Thus, in college students are getting mixed messages about writing: the one or two composition professors they might encounter in four years try to teach them to write crisp, lively prose, and with rare exception all other humanities and social science professors in the rest of their studies--including full professors of literature--encourage them to ape the academic version of the Official Style, which these professors are churning out themselves in their "research."
Fortunately, Ellsberg concludes by noting that many excellent books and courses out there are available for improving writing skills. And he lists several options.

Ellsberg's article is featured today, Dec. 12, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs--available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.

8 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Master the Creative Mind | Marty Zwilling, The Creativity Post

The headline for this article names entrepreneurs  but the advice is useful for anyone striving to be creative.

Zwilling reviews a new book by Bryan Mattimore, Idea Stormers: How to Lead and Inspire Creative Breakthroughs. Zwilling writes:
[The book] outlines well eight attributes of the most creative people, which seem to match the mind-sets of some of the best entrepreneurs I know. Investors look for these in the people they fund, and you should be looking for them in yourself.
Zwilling's review summarizes these attributes:
  1. Forever curious. 
  2. Always open to new things. 
  3. Embrace ambiguity. 
  4. Finding and transferring principles. 
  5. Searching for integrity. 
  6. Knowing you can solve the problem. 
  7. Able to visualize other worlds. 
  8. Think the opposite. 
Zwilling's article is featured today, Dec. 12, in my daily online paper: Garbl's Creativity Connections, available at the Creativity tab above and by free email subscription.

Understand Music — Smarter Creativity

Here's a fantastic experimental animation by finally., a recently founded creative studio in Mainz, Germany:
Music is a complex thing, this animation is about the attempt to understand all the parts of it.

I found this video at the Smarter Creativity blog of Antonio Ortiz:
Exploring the ways artists, artisans and technicians are intelligently expressing their creativity with a passion for culture, technology, marketing and advertising.
The Ortiz article is featured today, Dec. 12, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Creativity Connections--available at the Creativity tab above and by free email subscription.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The 23 Absolute Best Quotes To Boost Your Creativity | BuzzFeed

As stated in the introduction to these graphic illustrations of the 23 quotations:
Stuck in a creative rut? Listen to these guys. They know what they are talking about.
The people quoted include Steve Jobs, Soren Kierkegaard, Henry David Thoreau, Ray Bradbury, Charles Mingus, Voltaire, Albert Einstein, Sylvia Plath, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, William James, Rita Mae Brown, Erika Jong, Emily Dickinson, Walt Disney, Kurt Vonnegut and Oscar Wilde.

Among other things, the quotations encourage people to:

1. Make connections ...
Steve Jobs quotation

3. Get anxious.
4. Get angry ...
6. Stop thinking...
8. Don't be afraid to imitate ...
10. Stop second-guessing ...
12. Be reckless.
13. Change your perspective...
15. Stop talking
16. Trust your instincts.
17. Listen to your talent.
18. Cultivate longing.
19. Be open ...
21. Dwell in the future.
22. Take risks.
23. Live dangerously.
Oscar Wilde quotation

This article is featured today, Dec. 11, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Creativity Connections--available at the Creativity tab above and by free email subscription.

Monday, December 10, 2012

My Pet Peeves: From the W Entry in Garbl's Editorial Style Manual

Here's the 21st in my alphabetical series of pet peeves--from entries in the W section of Garbl's Editorial Style Manual. My style manual covers editorial issues like abbreviations, addresses, capitalization, English grammar, Internet terminology, numbers, plurals, possessives, punctuation, spelling and word usage. It focuses on U.S. standards for spelling, punctuation, definitions, usage, style and grammar.

Earlier blogs:

A peeves | B peeves | C peeves | D peeves | E peeves | F peeves | G peeves | H peeves | I peeves | J peeves | K and L peeves | M peeves | N peeves | O peeves | P peeves | Q and R peeves | S peeves | T peeves | U peeves | V peeves

waiter The person who takes orders and brings food in a restaurant is a waiter or server, not a waitress, waitperson, waitron or member of the waitstaff. Neither the job title nor the quality of the service depends on the sex of the server.

war "War is hell," said Civil War General William T. Sherman, no matter what it's called. Avoid euphemisms like armed conflict, armed intervention, a military solution, police action, uprising, use of force. Capitalize the word when part of the name for a specific war: World War I, World War II, the Cold War, the Korean War, the failed Vietnam War, the endless Gulf War. Also, if one country invades or attacks another country, there's no war until the other country starts defending itself, as it has a right to do.

Also, avoid diluting the meaning and realities of war by using that word in terms like war on drugs, war on women, and war on religion. Instead, reserve war for referring to battles of one country's military against another country or countries--and against its own people.

warn in advance Redundant. Simplify. Delete in advance

was, were Use was to state a fact: He was planning a vacation trip to Kauai. I was hoping to go too. But use the subjunctive verb were to express a nonexistent, desirable, hypothetical or far-fetched condition--even with a singular subject like I or heIf I were a rich man, I'd move to Kauai. If he were to plan a vacation trip, he'd go to Kauai.

we Use the editorial we (as well as us and our) when those words stand for the authors of a collaborative work. Use of those words is also acceptable to refer to an organization and its organizational elements and programs, especially in quotations, opinion pieces and informal publications, and to avoid redundancy and wordiness. Make sure it's clear who we, us and our is. Don't use the pretentious we when writing about yourself or for one person. Instead, use I, me, my and mine

weapons Other guidebooks provide more than enough advice for using weapons and weapons terminology appropriately.

weapons of mass destruction Potentially misused. If used, these nuclear, biological or chemical weapons would cause overwhelming devastation and loss of life among both civilians and military personnel. The United States and at least eight other countries build, sell and threaten to use them to boost the egos of their leaders, enrich the bank accounts of arms manufacturers, and overthrow countries that have natural resources they desire. 

Avoid using the abbreviation WMD; it minimizes the death and destruction that would come after use of these deadly weapons. Instead, shorten the phrase using nuclear weaponschemical weapons or biological weapons

weather conditions It'll be pleasant, hot, stormy or pouring buckets whether called weather or weather conditions. Simplify. Drop conditions or try climate

weatherman They're not all men, and few if any are girls. Use weather forecaster instead.

well Hyphenate as part of a compound modifier before the noun it's describing: He is a well-dressed man. But the hyphen may be eliminated when the modifying words come after the noun they're describing: She is well dressed.

what Sentences, clauses and phrases beginning with the pronoun what commonly take singular verbs when what is about "the thing that." They may take plural verbs, however, when what is about "the things that": What I long for is butterflies--if you're longing for butterflies as a group. What I long for are butterflies--if you're longing for butterflies in all their beautiful variations.

Also, beginning a sentence with what adds needless words. Delete it and simplify: I long for butterfliesI long for the butterflies. Finally, because what is often the first word in a question, beginning a sentence that's not a question with what may confuse some readers.

where ... at, where ... to Adding the prepositions at or to is redundant. Drop the unnecessary prepositions in sentences like these: Do you know where the hammer is at? He doesn't know where the concert is at? Where do you think you're going to? The phrase where it's at is slang best used when talkin' with your buddies about what's cool, what's in and what's happenin', man!

whether or not The words or not are not always necessary--because they're suggested in whether. When writing about a choice between doing something and not doing something, drop or not--or use ifShe does not know whether the candidate will support the proposal. She does not know if the candidate will support the proposal. 

To stress the alternative, however, adding or not can be useful: The City Council will consider the offer whether or not it is cost effective. Usually, it's best to keep whether or not together, especially if or not would be separated from whether by a long description of the alternative: The City Council will consider the offer whether it is cost effective or not.

while at the same time Redundant and wordy. Simplify. Change to either while or at the same time.

who, whom Often confused. Who does something, and whom has something done to it. Use whom when someone is the object of verb or preposition: The man to whom the car was rented did not fill the gas tank. Whom do you wish to see?

A preposition (such as to, at, by, for, from, in, toward, upon and with) often comes just before whomWho does something to whomWho is the word in all other uses, especially when someone takes an action as the subject of a sentence, clause or phrase: The man who rented the car did not fill the gas tank. Who is still here?

To test for correctness: Who equals he, she or they while whom equals him, her or them. Replace who or whom in the sentence with one of those pronouns. If it sounds wrong, it probably is.

who's, whose Who's is a contraction for who is or who has, not a possessive: Who's using the cellular phone? Who's been eating my radishes? For the possessive, use whoseI do not know whose galoshes these are. Whose may refer to things as well as people: The shopping mall, whose customers come from miles around, began charging for parking.

widow Widow of the late ... is redundant. Instead, use widow of ... or wife of the late ....

will, would Often confused. Use will when expressing a certainty. Use would when noting that something is conditional, that it will happen if something else happens first. The stadium will cost $362 million means the stadium has been approved by taxpayers, or the stadium board is omniscient and knows it will be approved by taxpayers (a real leap of faith). The stadium would cost $362 million means taxpayers haven't decided yet if building the stadium is worth $362 million.

Also, beware of saying something will happen unless you have total control or a crystal ball: The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. or The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m., not The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. They plan to leave on Friday, not They will leave on Friday.

-wise No hyphen when the word means "in the direction of, in the manner of" or "about": lengthwise, otherwise, slantwise, clockwise. Avoid contrived combinations: The department rates high efficiencywise. Instead, say: The department has a high efficiency rate. Or: The department is very efficient.

with reference to Wordy jargon. Change to about, for, of or on.

with regard to Wordy jargon. Change to about, for, in, of or on.

with respect to Wordy jargon. Change to about, for, of, on or with.

with the exception of (that) Wordy. Simplify. Change to besides, except for or apart from.

WMD Find weapons of mass destruction above.

worker's compensation Not workmen's compensation.

would of Incorrect. Use would have (preferred) or would've, a contraction for would have.

wreak havoc Overstated, vague, wordy and sometimes misspelled. Simplify. Omit and describe the damage, problems, confusion and chaos instead. Or try using demolish, injure or ruin instead. And don't spell it wreck havocwork havoc or reek havoc.

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