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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Educating to be Creative in the Workplace | Mark Craemer, Workplace Wrangler,

Craemer's article is filled with wise thoughts about creativity--or the lack of it--in schools and the workplace ... and what to do about that problem. Here are some samples of what he writes:

While better communication skills and the ability to work together effectively are vitally important and also the primary focus of my consulting work, I believe this lack of creativity is what may be holding back not only our workers, but perhaps our entire country from fully competing in this new economy. ...
Creativity ultimately requires a willingness to make mistakes and be wrong, which are the very things schools often discourage most. When the goal is primarily if not entirely to get each student to answer a test question correctly, this avenue to creativity is no longer of value. ...
And if the company wants workers to develop curiosity and imagination, then that company must accept that there will be missteps, mistakes, and bad decisions along the way. This is a part of learning and an essential part of being creative. Only then, through this trial and error process, can workers and companies embrace the benefits of creativity for problem solving and innovation.

If You Want To Get Creative, Take A Page From Caine's Arcade | Sam Blogger, Fast Company

If you're feeling stuck creativity, the examples of a creative 9-year-old boy in this article might inspire you. Or, as Harrison writes, "For pure creativity in motion, there's nowhere better to look than to kids."

The examples cover these topics:
  1. Ban boredom.
  2. Pursue passion.
  3. Use what’s there.
  4. Encourage creativity.
  5. Dive in.
  6. Don’t give up.

Self-Expression in Creative Writing | Melissa Donovan, Creative Writing | Writing Forward

Donovan writes:
If we’re writing strictly for personal reasons, it doesn’t matter whether we write clearly or in a way that interests other people, but if we want to write professionally, to connect with an audience, our personal expressions must be clear and they must go beyond ourselves; they must resonate with readers.
She then provides some tips to help creative writers accomplish that essential goal, covering these topics:
  • Grammar and vocabulary matter
  • Honesty is the best policy
  • Connect with readers
  • Know your purpose.

From coconuts to chaos: The virtue of simplicity | Evan Zislis,

Zislis writes:
When the tangible clutter in our space overcomes our ability to think clearly, to reason on our own behalf, at the expense of our relationships, our families, our very sanity, we begin to understand the value of less. ...
When we simplify our world, our existence, the scope of our being down to the most fundamental essence of who we want to be in this lifetime, the weight and value of our things tends to fall away.

When we simplify our stuff, we make room for a more meaningful life.

When Less is More. Black and White Travel Photography | Jeremy and Shirlene, Idelish

The authors write (and provide photos to show what they mean):

You must have heard that the best time to take photos is early in the morning after sunrise and a couple hours before sunset. At other times, the sun may cast too harsh of a shadow on your subjects and at other times may cause the colors to be faded.
When this happens, we prefer to take our photos in black and white. We find that the shadows and the faded colors actually “enhances” the black and white photo that we take. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Workplace Literacy – it’s not as high as you might think | Karen Payton, Bright Communications

Payton writes (emphasis added): 
All employees have a right to clearly understand the information they receive at work be that about workplace safety, employee benefits, or a memo from their supervisor. They need to understand information that is posted on a bulletin board, attached to their pay stub, and handed out at a team meeting. Frighteningly, almost 1/3 of low literacy workers can’t understand basic information and warnings on a hazardous material sheet. Frighteningly, almost 1/3 of low literacy workers can’t understand basic information and warnings on a hazardous material sheet.
So as a communicator how do you ensure everyone in your organization 'gets the message’?
Payton's blog provides some more data about illiteracy among workers and some useful tips to answer the concluding question above.

For more online resources about concise writing and plain language, check out these free websites of mine:

A Modern Definition of Public Relations | Gerald Corbett, Public Relations Defined, Public Relations Society of America

Corbett writes: 
Following 1,447 votes, hundreds of submissions, abundant commentary and nearly a year of research, we are pleased to announce the winning modern definition of public relations. Based on a public vote, held Feb. 13–26, of three candidate definitions, the profession’s choice for the modern definition of PR is:
“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
I didn't take part in any of the discussions or votes on this new definition. But having worked in public relations (and its related communications and marketing branches) for more than 32 years, I think that's a functional definition. (I can't compare it to the other two candidates; they seem to have been removed from the linked pages.)

I think it's much better than the definition adopted by the Public Relations Society of America in 1982: “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.” The new definition includes "communication"--an essential component of public relations, in my opinion.

Punctuation :-,?;!. | Stefanie Hollmichel, So Many Books

Hollmichel writes:
I must say I do like the idea of using comma-by-sound and I am sure I’ve used the method without actually realizing it.

While I can understand the comma use Hollmichel describes (especially in fiction), I'm concerned about the confusion that use can and does cause readers, writers, editors and teachers. If clear, consistent, common rules aren't followed for using commas--instead, basing their use on pauses a writer is trying to simulate through typography--how can people know what they mean?

The free-for-all pause "rule" is difficult to teach, evaluate or edit; any use of a comma could be considered correct if the writer says he or she wants the reader to pause in a certain place. But what if readers don't look at commas as pauses; instead, they consider them a grammatical device for structuring a sentence. And what about that use of commas as a grammatical device? If a writer uses them for both pausing the reader willy-nilly and structuring the grammar of a sentence, how might readers respond? With confusion, perhaps?

I'd say that if clarity, comprehension and understanding are essential--such as in nonfiction, academic, legal and business writing, follow the rules of comma use. And if you as an editor or teacher require a clear, consistent method to edit or teach comma use, follow the rules! I'd say following the rules in creative or fiction writing is also a good idea. But if you want to let your readers' minds wander and visualize your sentences and paragraphs, consider the pause method.

For more information, check out the eight general ways I suggest using commas in Garbl's Editorial Style Manual.

In Defense of “Nutty” Commas | Mary Norris, The New Yorker

The column focuses on two uses of the comma, including the serial comma (also called the Oxford comma)--the comma that goes before the conjunction in a listed series of things:

Nobody is really arguing about the serial comma. We like it because it prevents ambiguity. For instance, “I invited my boss, her nephew and my acupuncturist to the party.” Without the serial comma, one might mistake my boss’s nephew for my acupuncturist. This would be misleading, if only momentarily: Sam is a nice kid, but I would never let him near me with a needle. With the serial comma, there is no ambiguity: “I invited my boss, her nephew, and my acupuncturist to the party.”
I immediately noticed another potentially misleading ambiguity caused by inserting the comma after "nephew": Some readers might think "her nephew" is a descriptive phrase about "my boss."

If the writer really wanted to prevent confusion, she could have written: "I invited three people to the party: my boss, her nephew and my acupuncturist." In that case, the serial comma would not be needed.

As a former journalism student, newspaper editor/reporter and journalism instructor, I learned long ago that Associated Press style is to drop the serial comma in simple lists. Critics of that style don't know or forget that AP says to include the comma in complicated sentences.

Other than writing news releases occasionally, I haven't worked in the news biz for years. But I continue to follow AP's optional choice for using the serial comma. If using the comma could aid readers in complicated sentences, I don't hesitate to use it.

That said, always using the comma is never wrong (unless it goes against your publication's adopted style). But it's worth checking its use to see if the ambiguity I pointed out above might result by inserting the comma.

PTA chapter in NY addresses needs of gay students | Associated Press

In this news article, a gay 18-year-old senior at the Portledge School in Locust Valley, N.Y., says many of her peers use hateful vocabulary as generic putdowns without realizing the harm:
These slurs are used very cruelly, and when I ask people about it they say they are not being anti-gay; they are just substituting the slur to mean ‘stupid’ or something like that.
If it's not clear, she's referring to times when other students refer to something as "gay." They don't mean it's homosexual or even that it's cheerful or colorful (earlier definitions of the word). Instead, the mean it's stupid "or something like that."

I used to hear hear my sons using "gay" in that way and have suggested they use other words that aren't hurtful or misleading.

Serendipity and Science: 30 Minutes with Dr. Sharon Long | Scientific American

Long responds to a question about her research:
Many other things in my career path have been serendipitous: What I majored in as an undergrad, my graduate school and my graduate advisor were all partly due to chance. But this symbiosis system was a very careful choice. I made sure that this was really what I wanted to do and I’m so glad I did. I was in love with it– I still am– and it continues to be fun.
Long responds to a question about young people (scientists) just beginning their careers:
Always think about the important questions. Not just what you are curious about, and not just what is possible, but what is truly important. What answer would change the way other people do their work? You can’t know in advance what is going to be a great result but you can know what is a great question. If you work to understand a central issue about whatever it is you are studying you will make an impact.

Students need to learn to write well | Barbara J. Mayfield, Purdue Exponent

Mayfield concludes:
If most classes included writing assignments, students would have the opportunity to improve their writing. Faculty must write clear directions and expectations, grade consistently and promote both basic and discipline-specific skills. We can't expect students to become proficient writers if we never require them to write. We don't expect a surgeon to be skilled after just one surgery or an athletic team to win with only one practice.
I especially appreciated Mayfield's point in the article that English classes often "focus on discussions of literature or movies rather than composition. Although they have instructional merit, these topics do not teach writing."

"Love Has No Pride" | Bonnie Raitt with David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, Madison Square Garden, Oct. 29-30, 2009

I'm a longtime fan of Bonnie Raitt, as well as Crosby, Stills and Nash (and Young).

The Maddow Doctrine: We Need to Make War Hard Again | Kevin Drum,Mother Jones

Drum reviews Rachel Maddow's new book, Drift, and summarizes her arguments. For example:
And above all, Congress should start throwing its weight around again. It's fine to criticize presidents for accreting ever more power to themselves, but what do you expect when Congress just sits back and allows it to happen? Our real problem is congressional cowardice: They don't want the responsibility of declaring war, but they also don't want the responsibility of stopping it. So they punt, and war becomes ever more a purely executive function.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Challenges of Travel Photography | Rich Pomerantz

Pomerantz stresses the importance of trying to interact with people you want to photograph, to show respect for them as individuals, not just as subjects of photos. Though it's difficult to do when I don't speak the language, I've been learning to interact more with (potential) photo subjects while traveling to various European countries, China, Cambodia and Indonesia. And more to come!

Pomerantz writes:
So traveling affords us such a rich and fulfilling opportunity with which to exercise our photographic muscles. One of my favorite quotes is that “The camera is a passport into the lives of others.” (Alas, I have lost the attribution). It is so true. The trick when travelling is not to act like a taker, which is how tourists are usually characterized. Hence the difference between a tourist and a traveler, and between a tourist with a camera and a travel photographer.

How Does Your Emotional Intelligence Influence Creativity? | Susan Liddy, M.A., PCC, CPCC, Huffington Post

Liddy writes:
As entrepreneurs and natural leaders, we wear a lot of hats and juggle multiple balls (especially female entrepreneurs). It's only a matter of time before these responsibilities begin to erode the creative spirit. Stress, fear, frustration, and the never-ending list of tasks can overwhelm the most successful business person. It's usually easy to pinpoint the problem(s) sabotaging our creativity.
She goes on to describe four tips "to unblock your creative arteries."

Naked verbs mean plainer prose | Michelle Black, SimplyRead

I highly recommend this article! Black writes: 
If you want to give your documents a leg up in being clear, I suggest you strip your nouns – have ‘em let it all hang out. You’ll shake off a lot of clutter that weighs down your sentences, throws a ball and chain ’round the neck of your paragraphs.
What do I mean by ‘clutter’? I mean all the suffixes that get added to verbs, such as -ment, -ation (or -ization); and I mean verbs that have evolved into nouns over time.
For more online resources about concise writing and plain language, check out these free websites of mine:

20 Ways to Kill Your Writer's Block Forever | Carol Tice, Stepcase Lifehack

Tice writes: 
The good news is you can learn how to write on cue.
How do I know? I had to write at least three articles a week for 12 years, to keep my staff-writing jobs. Over the years, I developed a whole bag of tricks and techniques to get the writing going.

10 Most Unusual Collective Nouns Revealed and Explained | Victoria,

This article includes a useful, clear graphic about collective nouns, followed by additional descriptions for each of the collective nouns shown in the graphic. The collective nouns listed include "a stand," "a bevy," a pride" and "a bed."

Victoria begins her column:
Collective nouns are tricky because they’re applied to groups of things, but they’re treated like singular nouns. At this point, many people are wondering what are collective nouns, and how do they work? Notable examples of collective nouns include words like group or team that cover a number of people who are treated as a singular entity.

Editing is Evil But Necessary in Blogging | Amberr Meadows, Business 2 Community

Meadows writes:
Regardless of how flawless your writing may be, even if you are the most obnoxious stickler for grammar rules, you will need to edit your blog posts. Every single one of them, every time you write a new post. I even make a habit of checking through old posts when I have time,and guess what I always find? Yep. Small, annoying errors I probably would have caught before publishing, had I slowed down and edited the way I’ve found to be effective.
She provides her "simple editing method in case you need inspiration."

Reading her blog also reminded me that I should always take another look at my posts more carefully, before AND after they go public.

Shades of gray in grammar rules | Mark Abadi, The Daily Tar Heel

Abadi warns, correctly, about unquestioned belief in the famous Elements of Style by Strunk and White, noting some incorrect examples (of active voice) and some mythical rules of writing:
[T]he authors insist that we avoid split infinitives, and they consider ending a sentence with a preposition “bad grammar.”

But those supposed rules have no basis in the English language. As many sources can attest, the preposition rule was invented in 1672 by essayist John Dryden, who wanted English to conform more closely to the structure of Latin.
Similarly, there is nothing inherently unacceptable about split infinitives, other than the fact that they don’t occur in Latin.
But I think he overemphasizes the acceptability of breaking grammar rules and standards. Consistent use of widely accepted rules aids consistency and understanding for readers, who should be our highest priority as writers.

Rules do have a purpose; readers generally know what to expect, grammar-wise, and thus pay more attention to the content and less to how it's worded. But if the rule-breaking grabs their attention, they may miss the main point of the content in a sentence or paragraph. And worse, some readers may question the authority of the writer if the readers consider the rule-breaking to be poor writing.

When it comes to Persuasive Writing, Let Me Show You How to Break the Rules | Constant Contact Community

I don't support frequent or limitless breaking of common grammar, style and word usage rules. Such rules have value to readers (and writers) because they reduce confusion, aid readability and understanding, and prevent surprises or distractions ("This writer doesn't know basic grammar! Why should I believe him?").

And some rules of writing are myths; despite common references to them, language authorities for decades have denied their value and function. The  "rule" about not beginning sentences with a conjunction is such a myth (though frequent use of a conjunction at the beginning of sentences can be distracting and repetitious).

Anyway, the blogger does provide some useful ideas, such as writing in the second person, using "directive" language, keeping sentences and paragraphs short, beginning [some!] sentences with conjunctions, and using contractions.

I'd avoid using many sentence fragments (potentially confusing and distracting), redundant phrases (wordy, time-wasting), and familiar terms (beware of using boring, tired cliches). But consider the needs of your audience; familiar, everyday words and terms may be more understandable to your readers than, say, business jargon.

How Persuasive Writing Tactics Help You Connect With Readers | Mary Chris Hines, Interact Media

Hines writes:
Here are some vital points of persuasive writing, and an explanation of the human nature that makes these points pertinent to persuasive writing. As you study these tactics, you will come to better understand your readers, enabling you to perhaps get more effective in writing persuasive copy.
Here are the headings for each of her points:
  1. Make an Emotional Appeal
  2. Tell a Story 
  3. Use Analogy and Comparisons 
  4. Repeat Important Factors 
  5. Tell the Reader the Reason Why 
  6. Be Consistent 
  7. Provide Authorities or Proof.

Clear Writing with Mr. Clarity: In speech and in writing, be yourself

Blogger Joe Roy concludes:
If you wish to be taken seriously, don’t imitate the sociolects of poseurs, bimbos, shysters or politicians. Be yourself. Talk like yourself. Write like yourself. You know you have the courage to do it. Do it.
 Earlier, he has links to other articles that define the highlighted words.

PR With Benefits: What 'Mad Men' Can Teach Us About Writing Press Releases | Andrew Hindes, PR News

Hindes writes:
One secret that advertising copywriters have long known is that the benefits of a product or service are far more compelling to potential customers than its features. What’s the difference? Features describe the positive qualities of a product or service. Benefits describe the ways those qualities positively affect the consumer—usually by making his or her life better or easier.

20 phrases you can replace with one word | Ragan's PR Daily

As PR Daily publisher Mark Ragan often points out at his seminars, readers have “an incredibly shrinking attention span.” As writers and editors, we need to communicate as clearly and concisely as possible. One way we can do this—avoid circumlocution. 
You'll find some good examples at this link.

For more online resources about concise writing and plain language, check out these free websites of mine:

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

If you have to be an English teacher, be an English teacher | Gladys Edmunds,

Here's part of a question asked by the owners of an employment agency:
I am an entrepreneur, not a teacher, and I don't have time to train my staff in English and grammar 101. What should I do to make certain that staff members correspond properly?
Here's the main point of the answer [emphasis added]:
It is important to your company's image for your employees to spell their words properly and use proper grammar. Training employees in whatever area you need them to function in is critical. And if you have to conduct teaching sessions on how to send properly written correspondence, by all means do so.

Good News's Spotify Playlist: How To Feel Good In 20 Minutes Or Less

I like the playlist of songs here, provided by the Huffington Post:
And so, we give you the ultimate feel-good playlist: 25 songs that are the auditory equivalent of our favorite Good News stories. A mix of the old and the new, the corny and the indie, these songs will make you smile and tap your feet; they'll cheer you up and remind you of the best in all of us.

'Inspiration is 80% Mental, 40% Physical': Your Secrets of Creativity | Jared Keller, The Atlantic

Keller begins:
I asked Atlantic readers to share how they come up with their best ideas. The feedback was excellent: readers shared responses long and short through our comment section and on our Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr pages. As we suspected, inspiration takes many forms, and everyone has their own particular process for spurring on creativity and inspiration. Below, a sampling of longer responses from our readers.
I especially liked one response that begins, "I am agog with the power of serendipity." The unattributed writer said:
It is one thing to be hit by serendipity and another to be ready for it. An open mind, a big reading list, and a curiosity about the world around me has, I think, put me in a position such that when those serendipitous moments come, I am at least partially prepared to be struck by them.

Be More Creative Today: Five ways to sustain creativity at home and school | Lisa Rivero, Psychology Today

This article is mostly aimed at working with children, but I believe its advice applies to adults as well. As author Rivero concludes:
While individually we cannot always do much in the short term to change our educational system or paradigms, we each have the power to change our approach to creativity right now in our homes and classrooms so that more of our children retain their creative genius into adulthood. In the process, we may just recapture some of our own creativity at the same time.

Principles of effective clear writing for web writers | Digital Evangelism Issues

This article provides some basic suggestions for improving your writing for the Web (and elsewhere). But the highlight is the infographic: 15 grammar goofs that make you look silly.

How to Write for the Web | Nick Thacker, Media Outreach

This article, written for pastors, provides useful advice for people in other professions. It's main message is that you'll probably have to write differently for the Web than you speak in conversations and presentations with frequent or regular customers and clients.

Thacker writes [more details at the link]:
Here are some ways you can write in a compelling, impacting, and insightful way, without “dumbing it down”:
  • Use smaller words. ...
  • Use lists. ...
  • Use subheads. ...
  • Use bold and italic words. ...

Are You Taking Advantage of Social Media the “Write” Way? | Kaity Nakagoshi, The Urban Muse

Nakagoshi writes:
One of the biggest ways in which social media writing differs from web writing is the fact that you are writing for specific people, not for algorithms. Even though web writing is generally crafted to appeal to people, it must also take into account how to best attract attention from search engines and how to stand out in search results. With social media, the emphasis is on building conversations and relationships, not page rank.

Vocabulary: Words that will save your life! - Lexiophiles

Especially useful advice here if you're traveling to a country where you don't speak the native language.

The author writes:
In this article I would like to share some of the words that we must learn (no matter what!) in order to communicate and bond with people around us (even if you don’t speak their language!).
The five categories of "must learn" words are greetings, commonly used verbs, adjectives, question words and numbers, and commonly used vocabulary.

Writing for the Web | Fierce Clever

The author begins:
The words on your website are the most important element by far, both for search engines and for customers. We have compiled a few useful tips and tricks on how to get the best return on the time you spend on your website copy.
The article briefly covers these topics: content, key words, headings, length, legalities.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Diane Stafford: Freedom of speech limited at private-sector workplaces -

This article makes an important distinction that U.S. citizens must understand when discussing our First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

Note the wording in that amendment; emphasis added: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

That statement--which also applies to local and state governments in the U.S.--restricts the government from censoring or limiting the speech of individuals (as well as corporations). It also restricts the government from requiring certain speech.

Our right to freedom of speech is important in a democracy so we can comment on and criticize the actions of our government and political leaders and representatives. We must be vigilant about safeguarding that right.

But that right does not apply to private individuals, property owners, employers and organizations. It does not even apply to the news media. With some exceptions based on court interpretations of the Constitution and various laws, non-governmental entities may and can restrict and prevent speech within their jurisdiction.

To be simplistic, you can "censor" whatever other people say in your home, and the government can't stop you from doing that or require you to allow them to speak. And, likewise, a private employer can "censor" what employees say or write in the workplace--and the government can't interfere with that right of employers.

The bottom line: The freedom of speech guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution is not absolute. It applies only to what our government can and can't do.

Garbl's Pencil: Ready to write, edit and teach for you | Gary B. Larson

My goal as an editor and writer--or as a writing trainer and coach--is to help you connect with people through the written word and prompt your readers to take action that meets your needs--and theirs. I will strive to write or edit documents for you that people will read, keep readers interested, and prompt them to respond while they're reading or afterward.

Grammarly Answers: Quotation Marks and Other Punctuation - Inside or Outside?

This useful article provides answers to the question by quoting the advice in several style manuals. For all but one manual, the advice is similar. Here's what my main style reference for decades--Associated Press Stylebook--says about it:

The period and the comma always go within the question marks. The dash, semicolon, the question mark and the exclamation point go within the quotation when they apply to the quoted matter only. They go outside when they apply to the whole sentence (p. 362).

Fanfare for the Comma Man | Ben Yagoda, New York Times

Yagoda writes:
I said earlier that personal preference and style play a big role in punctuation use, and this applies to some aspects of comma-by-sound. A modifying or transitional phrase at the beginning of a sentence can be followed by a comma or not, depending on your personal style, the meaning of the particular sentence and the length of the phrase.
But he emphasizes later that the "house style" of a particular publication [as well as the house style of a particular company or organisation] also dictates the preferred uses of the comma.

Writer’s Block? Take a Shower | Daedalus Howell, Creative Lot

Howell writes:
Feeling washed up? Creative energy in the tubes? Most creatives will occasionally experience feelings like these. In its extreme form, writers, prone to neurotic narcissism such as we are, call the symptoms “writer’s block.” Fortunately, neuroscience has found a cure. Behold, the power of the shower.
He then provides a writing prompt and a writing exercise created by a couple of other writers.

The 2×4 Interview: Creativity and How to Improve Yours | CustomerThink

The author interviewed a blogger who's created a series about creativity and productivity on the Web. Here's one question and answer: 
Any suggestions for those who feel they may not be creative take to unlock their inner artist?
Practice doing it. It doesn’t matter if that’s blogging, painting, making movies, taking picture or whatever. Make time every day – even if it’s just five minutes – and take a picture, or write a blog post, or shoot something on your video camera. You don’t have to publish it – just get into the habit of doing it, and learning your trade. You’ll be surprised at how you grow, both in creativity and the strength to actually make your creation public.

How to have a creative breakthrough | Courtney Shea, The Globe and Mail

Shea reviews a new book by Jonah Lehrer. She begins:
It’s often said that necessity is the mother of invention, but it turns out it takes more than just need to prompt a big idea. In his new book Imagine: How Creativity Works, Jonah Lehrer deconstructs the almighty Eureka moment.
And then she describes some of the useful tips in the book.
Below, some tips on how to channel your inner Einstein.

"Imagine" by Jonah Lehrer looks to crack the code of creativity |

Mary Doria Russell reviews Jonah Lehrer's new book, noting that it "is about how creativity works -- not how it happens, but how it works." 

She concludes:
Telling good stories, moving gracefully from neurophysiology to sports, from the humanities to science, from business to poetry, he lets us eavesdrop on the creative processes of the obscure and the famous. He lets us look over the shoulders of Yo Yo Ma, Bob Dylan and Ruth Handler (who came up with Barbie) to see how others transform practice, frustration, insight and persistence into artistry and industry.
"Imagine" is a wonderfully entertaining and useful book, exhilarating and instructive in equal parts.

More Words We Love Too Much | Philip B. Corbett, New York Times

Corbett writes:
In deadline haste, sometimes it’s hard to avoid falling back on a familiar stockpile of words and phrases. But let’s stay alert and not write on autopilot. And copy editors — help those harried writers out.

What Every Web Writer Needs to Know About Submitting Copy to a Web Designer | Heather Robson, American Writers & Artists Inc.

Robson writes:
Fortunately, Word has built-in formatting tools that can make your copy look how you’d like and yet communicate everything necessary to the web designer — without introducing errors into your copy. When used correctly, much of Word’s formatting will transfer almost seamlessly into HTML when placed into the visual editor of most content managers like WordPress.
Unfortunately, many web writers may not know how to take advantage of these tools, or may be misusing them. And, that means many web writers are missing an opportunity to increase their value to their clients.

What Are You? – Society’s categories and labels | Moon Under Water

The author writes:
“Who are you?” might be a more accurate question than “What are you?”, but it has just as vague a line of definition. Who you are speaks more about a person’s cultural, ethnic or historical background, as well as the things that the person does to help define their personality. This is a small obsession that I have noticed since arriving in America. Regularly you will ask a person about themselves and they will tell you about both themselves and half their family tree.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Giggles Guide to Glamorous Grammar | Mandi Harris, Hello Giggles

Harris writes:
Language is alive; it evolves right along with those who speak it. Even the word “grammar” itself has evolved. Grammar and glamour used to mean the same thing, and they were both related to charm and magic. By its very definition, grammar is enchanting and bewitching. Maybe in that definition, I can find the truth behind my obsession: I love all things glamorous, and there’s nothing more glamorous than good grammar.

Grammar Today: Rigid Rules or Rhetorical Choices? | Loretta Gray, Publishing Perspectives

Gray reviews the wise advice in this book:

The Hodges Harbrace Handbook, first published by John C. Hodges just over seventy years ago and now in its eighteenth edition, takes a nuanced view of proper grammar. It asks students to learn not only what is deemed correct but also what is considered appropriate for a particular purpose and audience. (After all, proper and appropriate have the same Latin root.) Instead of just referring to rules, the book mentions conventions, asking students to think of the expectations held by their readers.

Selecting Immediate Solutions Of Persuasive Writing Guides

Here's one of the author's examples for writing persuasively:
Don’t forget to invoke the power of tribal instincts when writing persuasively. In other words, if you give somebody to be a part of a group that they want to be a part of, regardless of what it is about, they will join it happily. This type of persuasion writing is extremely successful and continues to be seen in profit-pulling sales copy across the Internet today.

The Psychology behind Persuasive Writing | Jani Seneviratne,

Seneviratne writes that for copywriters ...
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is the foundation for writing content that persuades and motivates readers to purchase various goods and services to fulfill different needs. Listed below are successful brands that fall under each of the needs displayed in Maslow’s pyramid.
The author lists the five needs -- physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self actualization -- and gives product and corporate examples of how they're being treated in promotional material.

Nurturing Creative Writing Skills | Jonathan Chua, Learning Edge Education Hub

Chua aims this article at parents, but I think adults can apply its advice to themselves. He writes:
Creativity depends on environment, self-activity and genes. It is important that parents and teachers create an environment that is conducive to creative, imaginative and innovative thinking. Encouraging self-activity in this ideal environment is the next step.

Using "Music Writing" to Trigger Creativity, Awareness and Motivation | Peter Pflaum, Edutopia

Pflaum concludes his column about "music writing":
This healing, relaxing and empowering form of writing, triggered by music of all kinds, lets kids get into self and others via peace, compassion, empathy and friendship. These are keys to inspiring emotional intelligence, and to developing character and values that will serve them well into adulthood.

A Serendipity Sort Of Day | Linda Wolf, worldwide hippies

Wolf writes:
According to, ‘Serendipity means 1) an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident or 2) good luck or fortune. I realized my situation wasn’t going to change, but a change was needed. Today wasn’t going like I planned, so WTF? Drastic times call for drastic measures.

Making connections at conferences, ambient social media trend | Maureen McKeon, SeaSite Blog & Cruise Events Forum

McKeon writes about new networking apps:
If you haven’t heard about “ambient social network apps” get ready. According to the tech press reporting from the SXSW (South by Southwest) Conference in Austin last month, it’s the next big thing. These new “proximity based” apps (continually running in the background) tap into smartphone GPS systems and social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn to alert users when persons of interest are nearby. ...

20 Tips That Can Help You in Making Connections | Chad Nicely,

The author writes:
Never mind how outstanding your blog or product is. Never mind how outstanding your mind is. What really matters to the success of any venture, professional or personal, is your ability to make connections. That’s the all-important cinch right there – making connections with your customer, with your peers, with top players in your area – it’s all about making connections.

Writing for the Web | Phil Buckley, Virante Orange Juice

Buckley writes:
You have been gradually conditioned to feel anxiety after doing the same task for 12 minutes or more.
As alarming as that may seem, there’s no way I expect you to spend 12 precious minutes reading this blog post. So let’s get to the 10 steps to writing specifically for web consumption.

Simplicity is Freedom | Courtney Carver, Be More with Less

Carver writes:
Simplicity goes far beyond sparse closets and short sentences. Whether you call yourself a minimalist, strive for a simple life, or simply focus on the essential, you likely live or are beginning to live a life of freedom.
When I asked some well-known minimalists what the benefit of minimalism was, time and time again, they said freedom. It is the freedom to do, be, have anything or nothing at all.

How To Punctuate Speech and Thought in Your Writing | The Australian Literature Review

The author writes, "Many amateur fiction writers are uncertain how they should punctuate speech and thought in their writing." The article has two sections:

  • Punctuation when attributing speech in writing
  • Punctuation when attributing thought in writing 

English Language Etiquette for Russians: Advice-points on written English #1: Clarity

The author begins:
One of the main points I make to Russian students of English is that it is much harder to write well than to speak fluently. English is such an international language these days that we have become tolerant of different ways of (mis-)using it—in speech. But when it comes to writing, poor English still looks decidedly деревенский
And concludes:
To write English well, is to write it in a way which anyone who is vaguely literate can understand. The habit of openness and accessibility, which is not always obvious in Russian journalism, is one of the reasons why English is so widely-used around the world today

Political foes are not 'enemies' | Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald

What a sad, frustrating development in both our language and our politics. Like "liberal" in the past, now "moderate" has become a dirty word to the U.S. Republican Party. And political "opponents" must now be "enemies."

Pitts writes:

[I]t is the GOP that has abandoned the center and embraced ideological extremism as a virtue. It is telling to hear its candidates use 'moderate' as an epithet and argue over who is the most 'conservative,' as if the word contained some pixie dust of common sense and moral rectitude. It is sobering to realize that Ronald Reagan, patron saint of modern conservatism, would be unelectable by the standards thereof: he raised taxes and was known to compromise with political opponents — not 'enemies' — to get things done.

Plain Language Checklist | Center for Plain Language

This checklist is from the website of the Center for Plain Language. Use this checklist to determine if a document, website or other information is in plain language.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Advocates of the Plain Writing Act prod federal agencies to keep it simple — Nation — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine

"Government is all about telling people what to do,” said Annetta Cheek, a retired federal worker from Falls Church, Va., and longtime evangelist for plain writing. “If you don’t write clearly, they’re not going to do it.

For more online resources about concise writing and plain language, check out these free websites of mine:

10 Tips on Writing from David Ogilvy | Brain Pickings

On Sept. 7, 1982, iconic businessman and original “Mad Man” David Ogilvy sent this internal memo, titled “How to Write,” to all agency employees.

12 unforgivable writing mistakes | Ragan's PR Daily

The author writes: 
Though the casual tone of blogging has allowed us to be less formal with the written word, it doesn't mean we can simply ignore the fundamental rules of writing and grammar. The occasional typo can be brushed off as an innocent oversight, but there are some writing errors that are just plain unforgivable.
These blunders can ruin your credibility as a writer.

Black and White Photography by Pierre Pellegrini » Creative Photography Blog

Following up on an earlier post about minimalist photography, here are some more wonderful examples, by Swiss photographer.

When Boring Essays Lead to Higher SAT Scores

Can't say I'm inspired by what the author of a new book, Anthony James-Green, says about how SATs are now scored:
Students can't gain points for saying smart things, expressing profound ideas, or using poetic language," says Green. "They can't gain points for anything. Instead, their whole focus should be on writing robot-esque prose that follows a precise structure. If a student treats the SAT Essay as a fill-in-the-blanks exercise, where each blank is an essential element of his argument, and he doesn't add anything outside of those blanks, he can't possibly lose points.

Bad Grammar, Punctuation, etc.

Graphic examples on a Pinterest page.

Examples of Minimalist Photography | Michael Dachstein, InspireFirst

Terrific photo examples here!

Dachstein writes: Minimalism is indeed the art of less. As a life philosophy, minimalists focus on a few essential elements of life and cast unnecessary things aside. In today’s showcase, we have collected 50 examples of minimalist photography, where the focus is one one small key element and the rest of the composition is completely clutter free. You’ll be surprised at how powerful these images can be!
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