Saturday, May 12, 2012

Instant creativity | Anvar Alikhan, Business Standard

I think the headline is overstating things, but Alikhan writes an informative review of new book, How Creativity Works, by Jonah Lehrer. It's about one of my favorite subjects.

Instead of summarizing the review, though, I'll just provide this list -- "20 ways to be more creative" -- that Alikhan pulled from Lehrer's book:
  1. Don’t be too focused or serious… relax, have fun!
  2. Work with people who are different from yourself
  3. Work on problems at the fringes of your specialty
  4. Have a good laugh before looking at the problem
  5. Paint your walls blue
  6. Smoke a little marijuana (no kidding!)
  7. Think like a child 
  8. Practice day-dreaming
  9. Try to rotate yourself through your business, periodically
  10. If you’re a “day person”, think about the problem at night (and vice versa)
  11. Piggyback on other people’s experiences (and vice versa)
  12. Think about the problem when you’re drowsy
  13. Re-state the problem in general terms (not specific)
  14. Pretend you’re far away from the problem
  15. Don’t sit in a small room
  16. Go for long walks
  17. Take long, hot showers
  18. Have a diverse circle of friends
  19. Travel a lot
  20. Be happy!
Besides reading the review and the book, here's a another related website that you might find interesting:

Garbl's Creativity Resources Online--an annotated directory of websites that provide advice for increasing creativity and innovation in your writing, in your personal life, on the job, in school, in the arts and elsewhere. Many of the sites have links to other resources on creativity.

Top Punctuation Howlers – The Exclamation Point!

Read this great advice!
Many will use the exclamation point (a.k.a. the exclamation mark) excessively and overdramatically. In these cases, readers question the author’s credibility as well as whether they can actually trust the author’s claims.
Penny the blogger writes:
The exclamation point should be reserved for exclamations, commands, and the occasional sound effect, not statements.
Some examples from the blog:
Exclamations

“The party was amazing.” (statement) vs. “What an amazing party!” (exclamation)

Commands
“You should go.” (statement) vs. “Go!” (command)

Sound Effects
 “Bam! Pow! Thwack!”
Penny also provides good advice that one exclamation point will suffice. And when an exclamation point belongs to a quoted sentence or parenthetical sentence, it goes inside the final quotation mark or parenthesis.

For more advice on punctuation, check out the punctuation section in Garbl's Online Grammar Guides and punctuation marks in Garbl's Editorial Style Manual.

14 Tips for Quick and Effective Travel Photography - farbspiel photography

Because I'm traveling more these days -- and taking my camera wherever I go -- I like reading articles like this to improve my photography.

This blogger breaks his tips into The Gear, The Preparation, and The Shoot. Here are the headings for each of his tips:
The Gear
Tip 1: Get a camera with good low-light capabilities.
Tip 2: Use a monopod.
Tip 3: Get the right panorama head.
Tip 4: Get an ultra-wide zoom lens.
Tip 5: Get the right lens bag.
Tip 6: Get the right camera strap.
Tip 7: Get a biiiiig memory card.
Tip 8: Get a small external hard drive as a backup, just in case.
The Preparation
Tip 9: Know your camera setup.
Tip 10: Have a steady hand.
The Shoot
Tip 11: Auto-bracket your shots
Tip 12: Shoot RAW (and JPEG).
Tip 13: In critical situations, shoot multiple times.
Tip 14: Have fun.

Mitt Romney Website FAIL: Alarming Typo On Gun Rights Stance

As president, Mitt will work to expand and enhance access and opportunities for Americans to hunt, shoot, and protect their families, homes and property, and he will fight the battle on all fronts to protect and promote the Second Amendment.
That's the concluding paragraph on a Mitt Romney campaign page advocating gun rights (emphasis added).

As the Huffington Post blogger notes, with tongue in cheek:
Mitt Romney may be pro-guns, but an egregious error on his campaign website indicates that he's anti-copyediting.
As the writer says, the sentence is technically grammatically acceptable,  but it's meaning is potentially confusing, at best, and misleading, at worse.

The blogger blames comma use, but I don't think modifying the location of commas would improve the sentence. It would be better to rewrite the sentence -- separating the words so hunting and shooting are not used in the same reference with to protecting families, homes and property. 

But since I detest Mitt Romney and would never vote for him, I'm not going to aid his campaign by actually rewriting the sentence. If his minions are smart enough, they can figure it out.


Amusing word play from the Washington Post’s neologism section | Denis Kilcommons, Huddersfield Examiner

Here are some amusing neologisms originally submitted by readers to the Washington Post. Neologism: a newly coined word. There's more where these came from at the link.
Flabbergasted (adj), appalled over how much weight you have gained.

Negligent (adj), describes a condition in which you absent-mindedly answer the door in your nightgown.
Lymph (v), to walk with a lisp.

Balderdash (n), a rapidly receding hairline.

Cashtration (n): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.

Glibido (v): All talk and no action.
Ignoranus (n). Which I don’t think needs an explanation.
For more humor in writing, check out Garbl's Word Play Links. It provides fun word sites for your amusement and, perhaps, enlightenment.


Be an Email Expert With an Inverted Pyramid Approach « The Whitelist

I learned all about the inverted pyramid style of writing in my high school and college journalism classes. And I have continued using it and recommending it in all kinds of writing -- from newspaper stories to brochures to reports to persuasive essays to websites. Of course, it's also perfect for email messages and other forms of correspondence.

The blogger writes:
Here’s some oldie but goodie advice that’s as relevant in 2012 as it was in 1912: Use the inverted pyramid for your content.
The principle is this: The highest number of people will read the top of the message and fewer as you work your way down the page. Hence the inverted pyramid.


For more ideas on using the inverted pyramid, check out 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.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Teachers told to ignore spelling mistakes - IOL Lifestyle | IOL.co.za

A British member of Parliament has prompted some news coverage about a policy at a secondary school in his district that he fears is widespread across the country:
London - Teachers are being told not to correct more than three spelling errors at a time to avoid damaging pupils’ self-confidence, a British MP says. 
The news article confirms the MP's comments about the school policy. It says:
Teaching staff are not to highlight any more than three incorrect spellings on any piece of work.
This is in order that the children’s self-confidence is not damaged.
The MP says:
We are not kind to children if we do not correct their use of language because it is one of the most fundamental blocks of any civilised society.
There are probably thousands of schools that have got this policy but it’s a false kindness and we are letting our children down.
I agree that teachers must consider the self-confidence and self-esteem of students when evaluating their work. But allowing serious writing errors to go unmarked can be detrimental and embarrassing to student and adult self-confidence later in school and life. Spelling errors are serious writing errors.

Double, double, toil and trouble | Grammar Gang

Do you have difficulty spelling words ending in -ible, -able and -uble? You're not alone. There are so many homophones (words which sound the same but may be spelt differently) in English that choosing the right one is not always easy. Other commonly confused words are 'effect' and 'affect', or 'they're' and 'their'.
This short article lists seven websites where you can figure out the correct spelling. At those sites, apparently:
If you spell a word incorrectly in the dictionary search box, you'll be given suggestions which prompt you to find the right word - perfect for difficult spellings!
For other online resources, check out Garbl's Word Links. It's an annotated directory of websites that can help you discover, understand and use (or avoid) Latin and Greek derivations, misused words, unusual words, word origins, new words and slang. You'll also find separate sections there on spelling and vocabulary.


Democracy Is for Amateurs: Why We Need More Citizen Citizens | Eric Liu, The Atlantic

Liu expresses major concern in this article about how your everyday average citizen in the United States has dropped out of the the process of guiding our government. Amateur activists, he says, have been replaced by lobbyists, regulators, consultant, bankrollers, wonks-for-hire and organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (or ALEC).

I agree! Our country is losing its "of the people, by the people and for the people" form of government. This excellent article explores the problem and offers some solutions.

Liu writes:
When self-government is dominated by professionals representing various interests, a vicious cycle of citizen detachment ensues. Regular people come to treat civic problems as something outside themselves, something done to them, rather than something they have a hand in making and could have a hand in unmaking. ...
Liu's solution:
What we need today are more citizen citizens. Both the left and the right are coming to see this. It is the thread that connects the anti-elite 99 percent movement with the anti-elite Tea Party. It also animates an emerging web of civic-minded techies who want to "hack" citizenship and government.
He highlights four forces "to revive a spirit of citizenship as something undertaken by amateurs and volunteers with a stake in their own lives":

We need to develop "citizen muscle"
As Americans we have hugely overdeveloped consumer muscles and atrophied citizen muscles. ... Having a citizen muscle means thinking about the future and not just immediate gratification. It means asking what helps the community thrive, not just oneself. ...
We need to "radically refocus on the local"
Localism gives citizens autonomy to solve problems; networked localism enables them to spread and scale those solutions.
We need to "think in terms of challenges rather than orders"
One of the best ways to tap collective smarts is to set great goals and let diverse solutions emerge -- to be big on the what and small on the how. ...
We need to "create platforms where citizen citizens can actively serve." 

In other words, Liu suggests, we need programs that "help government work better and spark decentralized citizen problem-solving" by "talent-tapping for the common good." 

He also confronts several obstacles to "citizen citizenship":
  • "the assumption that only the privileged can afford the time to participate" 
  • the cynical belief that "the well educated and well connected will always have an edge in the game of civic participation" 
  • "the fear that when amateurs get organized they can get co-opted by the powers of the status quo."
Liu concludes:
Citizenship, in the end, is too important to be left to professionals. It's time for us all to be trustees, of our libraries and every other part of public life. It's time to democratize democracy again.
For related information, check out 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.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Research Finds Consumers Crave Simplicity | Aaron Baar, MediaPost Publications

I believe the statement in the headline applies to everything. The article, though, is about technology. Baar writes:
Technology companies may believe that the bells and whistles that come with a technological breakthrough are enough to sell a product, but consumers want a much simpler understanding about how it will relate to their lives.
Baar reports that 54 percent of 6,000 consumers surveyed "want technology to be easy to use," and 46 percent "also wanted devcies to simplify their lives.:

Says Esty Pujadas, partner and director of global technology practice for Ketchum, whcih conducted the seurvey in six countes:
The bottom line is people are looking for simplification. That’s not to say that they’re not appreciative of features and functionality, but it’s more that they want to understand better the benefits.
As a longtime professional communicator, I was most interested in the research findings about consumer understanding and communication.

Baar writes (emphasis added):
Consumers have a basic understanding that technology can make their lives simpler, Pujadas says, but they are short on specifics. Communications from the technology makers and marketers often gets weighed down in the technical specifications, rather than focusing on the user experience.
And that gets to the point I made in my first statement above. In whatever field they're in, the developers, users and advocates can be so passionate about it that they forget the audiences they're trying to reach might not have the passion, interest or knowledge they have.

As I've written elsewhere (at Garbl's Pencil):
If people can't, don't or won't read your brochure, newsletter, report, letter or website, why publish it? And if people read it but don't do anything as a result, what was the point of publishing it?
I love being around--and working with--people who have passion for their particular interests. But if they are trying to communicate with other people about their passion--and all the whats and wheres and whens and whys about it--they absolutely must put the needs and interests of their audience above themselves. 

That's especially true if they want their audience to do something more than just listen to them or read about their passion.

For more information on how to clarify what you write and present about your passion, check out Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide. There you can learn how to write clearly to meet the needs of your readers--and your needs too!

How To Kill Your Creativity | Mila Jaroniec, Thought Catalog

Now here's a unique take on creativity. I figure the point of Jaroniec's article is to inspire your creativity by telling you what not to do!

Here are some examples:
Suppress your good ideas because what, they wouldn’t make a difference anyway.

Feel weird about having free time and feel at loss for what to do with yourself when you actually get it.

Spend melty hours smoking joints making vague plans and nodding in agreement; promptly forget what was said the next day.

Put your own goals on the back burner and promise yourself tomorrow to block out the sticky vagueness of subterranean anxiety.

Stay in all the time because going out takes too much effort and there’s nothing new to see out there anyway.

Only read books that agree with your ideology, only date people who share your background, opinions, interests, and schedule.

Get personally involved in people who have no knowledge of or interest in you whatsoever.

Classify yourself and everyone, stay tight in your comfort zone and be the first to point a finger at people who move from theirs.
For suggestions on things you should actually consider doing, follow the creativity link in my Garblog Labels cloud.

8 Ways to Recharge Your Creativity and Your Business | Chris Griffiths, Innovation Excellence

I've been reading a lot lately about creativity--and posting some items in my blog about what I've read. I find creativity to be an intriguing, fascinating topic; what is it? what inspires it? how can we each achieve for ourselves or others? what kills it? And I find it a useful topic for my own self-improvement: to enhance my own creativity.

It seems many articles cover the same territory, with sometimes differing or unique choices of words and examples. Others dwell on the research or historical displays of creativity.

This article by author Chris Griffiths provides a more thorough description of specific ways "to recharge your creativity and your business."

Griffiths writes:
The following are eight strategies taken from my book GRASP The Solution: How to find the best answers to everyday challenges to keep your creativity – and your business – freshly charged. Try them out – you’ll soon rediscover your buzz!
I won't try to summarize Griffiths' commentary; you should read the article (and perhaps his book) if you've read my words here so far. But to give you a taste of what Griffiths has to say, here are his topic headings :
1 ) Define your problem clearly and correctly
2 ) Get your team involved with an effective brainstorming strategy
3 ) Reframe your problem (again and again)

4 ) Master the metaphor

5 ) Dream up an idea

6 ) Challenge your old assumptions

7 ) Change your point of reference

8 ) Reverse the challenge
For more information, check out Garbl's Creativity Resources Online.

Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide

How to write clearly to meet the needs of your readers--and your needs too!


Here's the introduction to my online writing guide. Follow the links below (or on the website) to learn more about this method for writing clearly and concisely.


Plain English is an approach to writing that concentrates on the needs of your readers. This clear writing approach is often called plain language because of its international value and use in other languages. It is ideal for people who write to and for clients, customers, employees, organization members, ratepayers, students and taxpayers. It helps us write for people who read at all levels of time, interest, education and literacy. It also benefits readers with limited English proficiency or learning disabilities.

Plain English principles can help you write clearly and concisely. 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. That reader focus--combined with logical organization, clear writing and inviting appearance--is key to creating usable, informative documents for your organization. 

The basics of clear, concise writing apply to all types of documents. Following plain-English principles will improve the readability of letters and memos, reports and newsletters, brochures and presentations, instruction manuals and legal documents, and most other documents. The principles also apply directly to writing news releases and Web pages, and they will aid translating English documents into other languages.

Check out the pages below to learn how to improve your writing skills by using plain-English techniques:

9 Ways to Outwit Writer’s Block* | Rachelle Gardner

In short, here are the headings for Gardner's nine ways to *get out of a rut:
1. Read a chapter of your WIP aloud ....
2. Write a short story ....
3. Go out for some people-watching. ...
4. Imagine your main characters in dramatic situations ....
5. Guess what? All your major characters just got laid off ....
6. Go to one of your favorite places ....
7. Record a conversation with a friend or spouse or child. ...
8. Change your writing routine. ...
9. Write a review of your book. ...
For more advice, check out the Writer's Block section at Garbl's Writing Process Links.


Danny Licht: Comma Sense, or How I Got into a Fight Over 2 Punctuation Marks

Congratulations to Danny Licht, the 15-year-old high school student writing this column. It's about punctuating this sentence correctly:
Marla and her dog Sally walked around the block.
Danny's two journalism class advisers in the fight he describes are 100 percent wrong. Undeniably.

As English teachers, they should be embarrassed and apologetic.

Good for Danny!

P.S. Without prompting by Danny, the teachers should have told the entire class in advance that Marla has more than one dog.




Writing for the Web | Goldenstar, Casual Stroll to Mordor

Blogger Goldenstar says this article is mostly for new bloggers (and other folks writing for the Web, I assume). But I believe much of its good advice is also useful in writing for print.

Goldenstar writes:
People Don’t Read – They Scan
There may be a few folks who will actually read your entire article word for word but the reality is most will not. I can attest to this in the number of questions I get on guides I write where the answer to their question is in the guide, they just didn’t read it.
All of us have so much going on these days -- multitasking all the distracting priorities -- that writers must make sure they make their creations are as quick and easy to read as possible. 

Goldenstar provides several excellent tips on "How to capture the scanner's attention" that I recommend for all writers in all formats. Here's one in particular that I'm using more often these days -- and not just on the Web:
Stress important words and phrases with tools such as bolditalicshighlights or color (avoid using underlines as in the web world that = hyperlink).
I haven't considered using highlights or color much, mostly because some background or font colors can hurt readability, or be hard to read for people who are color-blind, or may be lost if a document is copied as black and white. Still, I'm intrigued by the highlighting idea; it mimics what many of us have done or still do when reading something we think is significant. 

Goldenstar also recommends rearranging paragraphs (and the main sentence in paragraphs) so the most important point comes first on a Web page. Great suggestion! I try to do that in most of my writing--following the journalist's inverted pyramid style of writing. (I'm a former journalism student, newspaper editor/writer, and college journalism instructor).

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Increase The Odds Of Creativity | Will Burns, Forbes

[T]here are at least three different “kinds” of creativity (that I’ve seen, anyway), each of which require slightly different creative skills, and each of which can be enhanced with different methods.
Understanding these three “kinds” of creativity, particularly within the context of marketing, and understanding how we can enhance our creative skills within each, I believe will increase the odds of creativity for everyone.
So writes Will Burns, an "agency pitch consultant" and founder and CEO of a virtual marketing-ideas company.

Here, briefly, are his three kinds of creativity. In the article, Burns describes each collision in more detail, with examples, and discuss how we can improve the odds of each kind of collision:

1. Conventional Collisions.
What is it: This is the most basic form of creativity in marketing, the “fender bender” of collisions, but needs to be at least acknowledged. Think of it as a “match maker” for two existing ideas. ...
2. Internal Collisions.
What is it: Internal Collisions come to us while thinking, brooding and actually contemplating. Or they come to us after some time for incubation, when the subconscious has time to slam concepts together from the millions to choose from in your brain. The ideas that result from Internal Collisions lead to those “Aha!” moments that we all experience from time to time. ... They come from recombinations of concepts within the confines of your own mind -- facts, experiences, preferences, emotions, and everything else. ...
3. Outside-in Collisions.
What is it: These are the collisions where one concept is already in your head and it collides with a fresh, new concept “out there” somewhere. ... Think of an Outside-in Collision as the “in-prov” of creativity and it doesn’t just require talent, it requires a certain mindset, or way of living, in order to happen frequently. ... Outside-in Collisions require an optimistic view and a feeling that anything out there could be an inspiration in here.
I see "planned serendipity" as a factor especially in Collision No. 3. "Lucky accidents" can inspire creativity if a person is ready, willing and able to act on them when they happen.

But as Burns write in his conclusion:
Be Ready For Anything.
Increasing the odds of a brilliant idea, regardless of which of the three kinds of idea collisions, is a waste of time if you do not have a way to capture those ideas as they happen.

Rewarding Creativity: 3 Lessons on When it Works | Leif Denti, Innovation Management

It is well known that intrinsic motivation -- the kind that comes from working with a task because it’s interesting, involving and challenging -- has the strongest relationship with individual creativity. Extrinsic motivation -- especially based on monetary rewards -- has a detrimental effect on creativity. But is this really true?
That statement and question (highlighted) are explored in this article.

Citing a couple of research studies, Denti discusses the issue in three "lessons."

Lesson 1 is about "the right kind of jobs":
[O]ther evidence point to the fact that creativity can be appropriately rewarded in organizations. It’s all about which kind of people the organization is trying to motivate and which kinds of jobs or tasks they work on.
Rewards can motivate employees in routine jobs with little individual control, Denti says, by providing feedback to the employees and giving them a sense of value for the work they do.

Lesson 2 is about "the right kind of people":
Yet in line with the conventional line of thought, Baer and his colleagues (2003) found that individuals who were already very motivated in the first place were slightly negatively affected by extrinsic rewards.
Lesson 3 is about "the right kind of creativity" (emphasis added):
Another line of research indicates that it is important to reward a certain kind of creativity. If ideas of high quality and originality are rewarded, individuals are more likely to come up with high quality ideas in subsequent tasks.
In his conclusion, Denti says rewards can stimulate creativity "under the right circumstances," but they could lower the creativity of "highly motivated employees."

He writes:
[M]anagement should be cautious when planning reward systems tailored toward increasing organizational creativity. The reward system must be tailored to 1) the job at hand, especially the degree of job complexity, 2) the kind of people who work on those jobs, and 3) the kind of creativity that the organization is striving towards.
For more articles on this topic, check out Garbl's Creativity Resources Online.

Obama Embraces Marriage Equality | ThinkProgress


Love rules in the White House. Thank you, President Obama (and Vice President Biden).

Barack Obama, May 9, 2012:
I have to tell you that over the course of several years, as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.
For more information:

Marriage is about love, not gender.

DNA or not, compliments are nice!

Sometimes I feel that giving compliments and expressing appreciation --  comfortably with no strings attached -- doesn't seem to be imprinted strongly in our DNA. And I admit, I'm thinking of myself when writing that -- and realizing I should do better.

Still, here's an email message I got just this morning. It's one of two messages I've gotten so far today that have made my day:
Dear Mr. Larson,
I just discovered your Web site and cannot believe I didn’t know of it before. It’s wonderful.
I’m an oldish (xx) copy editor, and I find it difficult sometimes to steer a course between gibberish and the hidebound.
I feel better already just knowing that I have your site and blog to turn to.
Thank you endlessly.
Signed
New York, NY
I'm not sure which website she's writing about, since Garbl's Writing Center has separate sections, besides My Garblog:

Still, messages like that are all the compensation I need for developing and maintaining this free online resource. Of course, I make a few cents per book if visitors to my site buy a book I've linked to on Amazon.com. 

How to Achieve Clarity in your Writing | Susanna Barlow

Here are the major--boldfaced--points in Barlow's article:
One of the most valuable things a writer can learn about the craft of writing is clarity. ...
I have learned that being clear is a real art and a developed skill. ...
1. Write as if your audience will be children. ...
Or I can write that same statement more clearly. ... [followed by an example]
2. Clearly define your topic sentence. ...
3. Use your topic as a guide. ...
Here is a helpful analogy. ... [followed by an example]
4. Use shorter sentences. ...
Or longer sentences ... [followed by an example]
5. Why are you writing anyway? ...
Of course, you'll understand her points better after reading Barlow's article. 

10 Animal Idioms and Their Meanings | Grammar Newsletter - English Grammar Newsletter

My wife, who teaches English to international students (from Japan, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Columbia and elsewhere), might find the idiom definitions here useful. But I found them interesting, enlightening and perhaps useful one of these days.

One thing that the article reminded me, though, is that idioms can be confusing to people who don't understand their metaphorical meaning. So ponder if using one of them will aid your particular audience.  Of course, some idioms can also be so common as to be boring and unnoticed -- in other words, cliches to avoid.

This site begins:
Humans and animals have a long history. The behavior of animals and their interactions in modern-day situations have inspired a variety of zoological idioms and expressions that are applied to people and everyday circumstances. 
Blogger Victoria describes these idioms:
  • An Alley Cat
  • A Paper Tiger
  • As Poor as a Church Mouse
  • To Make a Mountain Out of a Molehill
  • To Serve as a Guinea Pig
  • To Back the Wrong Horse
  • The Black Sheep of the Family
  • To Cast Pearls Before Swine
  • A Cat Gets One’s Tongue
  • To Have a Tiger by the Tail

Science and Serendipity Part 1: The Smallpox Vaccine | Robert Chapin, Think Science now

This article ends with a story about how a "delightful accident"--or serendipity--helped British scientist Edward Jenner discover a vaccine for smallpox back in the late 1700s.

But before telling that story, Chapin writes about his research into the topic of serendipity and, most importantly, how to "engineer the environment around me to be more accommodating of serendipity."

Chapin reports on a book he read on serendipity. In it, an "operating accident" might cause someone to find something they're not necessarily in search of OR finding something while you're searching hard for it.

In either case, Chapin writes that for serendipity to happen:
The two keys that emerged for me are 1) knowing an awful lot about your field and related endeavours, and 2) being in a position to create stuff. If you don’t know enough about the area, you won’t know when the mistake you’ve made yields something useful; you won’t be able to separate the good mistakes from the just wasteful ones.
Chapin offers a couple of relevant quotations (emphasis added).

Louis Pasteur:
In the fields of observation, chance favors only the prepared mind.
Paul Flory, Nobel laureate in chemistry:
Significant inventions are not mere accidents …. Happenstance usually plays a part, to be sure, but there is much more to invention that the popular notion of a bolt out of the blue. Knowledge in depth and in breadth are virtual prerequisites. Unless the mind is thoroughly charged beforehand, the proverbial spark of genius, if it should manifest itself, probably will find nothing to ignite.

The Privilege Genie and Subversive Philanthropy | Simone Joyaux, Nonprofit Quarterly

I’m more and more convinced that one of the obligations—and glories—of philanthropy is questioning privilege and its resulting power. I’m convinced that philanthropy can and should be—more often—a subversive act.
I like the way Joyaux begins this blog!

He then tells a short story about a genie and setting the rules, prompting this question: "What does privilege look like."

Joyaux then raises questions about what would happen if that genie arrived before he was born. What rules would he set then? He says he'd set rules of "equity and social justice for all. Marriage equality. Civil rights. Women’s rights and choice. Strong labor unions and living wages."

Joyaux concludes [emphasis added]:
I know that to create this world requires social change. And progressive philanthropy—not traditional mainstream philanthropy—can help make social change. I know that the genie’s offer means transformation, more probably revolution. I think it’s time for more subversive acts. Examining our own privilege and our complicity in maintaining the status quo. Exploring morality and speaking out. Increasing philanthropy for social change.
Revolution is hard. But I have hope.

Recalling 30 years of public service: Pride in my work and our work

We're now in the middle of Public Service Recognition Week, a time to honor the dedicated people in our federal, state and local government of the United States for their work for people who want, need and use our public services. I posted a brief item about it on Tuesday.

But here's something I wrote a little more than a year, when I retired from King County government, home of Seattle, Washington:
During the 30-year retirement ceremony for me on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011, I described briefly how each of my communications jobs at Metro/King County built on my career goal of helping people learn about, understand, influence and use their government services. I noted that I had been an editor, public information officer, lobbyist and service information chief for the public transit, wastewater treatment and road services functions of Metro/King County.

I then said:

"I’ve had a lot of pride in all the publications I’ve produced or helped produce during the past 30 years. I’ve saved at least one copy of most of them—partially to preserve my good memories and partially to have examples of my work to display if other opportunities come my way.

"I’ve been going through those publications during the past month --- at home and at work. ... And reviewing those publications stimulated my pride in the efforts of everyone I’ve worked with.

"We’re hearing a lot lately from some people who have a political agenda that includes attacking public employees. But based on my experience, I know that their comments are mostly based on ignorance of the good work done by public employees like us—or deliberate misrepresentations of our work for political purposes. ..."

I concluded:

"Thank you to every one here and not here for being part of our beautiful symphony of public service. We’ve made beautiful music together. Without our fine-tuned work, the people we serve every day would have less harmony in their lives—even if they don’t hear about the good work we do!"

Here's a photo of my family and me from that event, when my former boss was telling stories about me.


Five Churchillian tips for writing like a leader | Doris & Bertie, Good Copy, Bad Copy

This blog begins with an excerpt from one of Winston Churchill's inspiring speeches and then analyzes why it works. The blog provides five reasons, with examples from the speech. 

Summarized, here are the the five writing tips:
1. He gets straight to the point

Lesson: If you’ve got to deliver some bad news, don’t start by warming to your theme – the wait only makes things more painful. Worse still, never try to make out the news is good.

2. He doesn’t flinch from the truth

Lesson: If you want to get people on board with your strategy, it pays to be honest.

3. He paints a picture

Lesson: Be concrete, not abstract. Use metaphors to get your message across.

4. He uses short, simple words

Lesson: Run your own text through the Gunning Fog Index and replace as many long words as you can. Pitch your writing at the level of the primary school, not the PhD.
5. He makes his verbs do the work
Lesson: Break out of the corporate language rut and ditch dead verbs.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Garbl's Myths and Superstitions of Writing | Gary B. Larson, Garbl's Writing Center

For decades and even centuries, respected authorities on writing, reading, editing, grammar and word usage have disputed the following 11 myths and superstitions of writing. Unfortunately, they continue to be taught and followed in education, business, law, and government, on the Internet, and in conversations between parents and children. 


Here are a few of them. Each myth includes a list of writing references that dispute the myth.


Myth: Never split an infinitive.
Myth: Never begin a sentence with But or And.
Myth: Never end a sentence with a preposition.
Myth: Never use contractions.
Myth: Never use the first-person pronouns I and me.

Serendipity, a photo from Jammu and Kashmir, North | TrekEarth

The beautiful photograph and accompanying poem are called "Serendipity."

What more can I say, except that I hope I have lucky photographic accidents, of being at the right place at the right time, in my coming travels around the planet and my country. But as I'm learning, "planned serendipity" is possible too.

This photo is posted at TrekEarth, which is dedicated to fostering a global community interested in photography from around the world.

Do you speak Texan? | Jessica Sinn, University of Texas at Austin

Is the Texas twang fixin’ to die out? That's a question writer Jessica Sinn asks near the start of this interesting article.

I'm not a Texan and have spent only an hour or two at the Houston airport. But I've known folks from there (and elsewhere in the South)--and have been fascinated by their accents. And I must make it to Austin City Limits one of these days!

The initial answer to Sinn's question:
Not necessarily, says Lars Hinrichs, assistant professor of English language and linguistics and director of the Texas English Project at The University of Texas at Austin. Despite the drastic changes in the Lone Star State’s iconic accent, Texans will continue to use their twang, but only in certain contexts.
Hindrichs explains that high mobility and rapidly increasing access to mass media have affected the Texas twang. But:
[T]his isn’t just happening in Texas, Hinrichs said. The distinctive sounds and vocal patterns of America’s regional accents – like the way Bostonians drop the “r” in some words – are rapidly transcending into a more homogenized Midwestern American dialect.
Later in the article, linguistics graduate student Kate Shaw Points, a participant in the Texas English Project, notes that Texas-born Hispanics in the Austin area revert to Hispanic English when the conversation turns toward local politics and gentrification. (In Hispanic English, the sound is produced with the tongue toward the back of the mouth.)

Sinn asks what’s causing this unconscious switch in accents?
Points suggests it’s a way of expressing a certain identity. When they are happily waving their Texas-pride flags, they tend to infuse some twang into their speech. But when they’re staking claim to their East Austin neighborhoods, they employ the Hispanic accent to distance themselves from encroaching developers and affluent interlopers.
Sinn explains that these insights can help dispel harmful stereotypes about different ethnic groups. Understanding this behavior also may increase a sense of tolerance for other cultures. 

Points said (emphasis added):
Appreciating that different groups of people have varied linguistic patterns, and that none of these patterns are a priori "better" than others, could lead to increased understanding of other cultures. The more you know about how an ethnic group outside your own uses language, you are better prepared to accept their culture.

Ideas for how federal leaders can mark Public Service Recognition Week | Tom Fox, The Washington Post

As a public servant for more than 30 years, working in local government communications, I appreciated reading this column. Fox notes that this week, May 6-12, is Public Service Recognition Week.

He writes to federal government leaders (though, of course, these comments apply to workers at all levels of government):
It’s especially important this year to recognize your employees given the current climate — morale is down because of the recent government scandals and congressional efforts to cut employee compensation.
Set aside by Congress to honor the men and women who serve our nation as government employees, PSRW is a time to honor public servants working each and every day to find solutions to our country’s problems, assist Americans in need, keep us safe and advance national interests.
Before listing ways that leaders can express appreciation to public employees, Fox quotes a letter from 15 Cabinet secretaries who head federal departments in the United States.
[Public servants] make our country stronger and they make a difference in the world. Yet, it is rare that they are publicly thanked for the work they do, every day, to serve their fellow Americans. This week, we would like to call attention to those public servants who help make life better in our communities, the nation and around the world. It is our pleasure and honor to serve with them.
I'd also like to express my thanks to our public-sector employees. I worked with many of them in King County, Washington, who are committed to serving the needs and interests of people and our communities:

Do Bonobos And Chimpanzees Offer A Path To Understanding Human Behavior? | Sheril Kirshenbaum, NPR

What leads people to acts of violence and genocide? What triggers empathy and altruism? Duke evolutionary biologist Brian Hare and research scientist Vanessa Woods believe the answer may be found in the great ape known as the bonobo.
The two biologists studied the differences between bonobos and chimpanzees, and they found "marked diffrences" between how they each react to strangers. According to Kirshenbaum: "A chimp treats the other as an outsider or rival. If food is available, he will hoard it for himself."

But the biologists found bonobos react differently: 
[A] bonobo will treat the stranger as if he is already part of the same group. If his new companion is locked out of his enclosure containing food, the bonobo finds a way to open the door in order to share his meal. And in case you're wondering, there might be some sex involved between them as well.
But so what? Kirshenbaum asks why such experiments, along with accounts of war and peace among other primates, are important to the human species.

She notes that humans are capable of acting at both ends of the spectrum. "[T]here is an aggressive side to humanity that is often also visible in chimpanzee populations," she writes. But humans also have "the capacity to do a tremendous amount of good," as reflected in the "less aggressive bonobos." 

Kirshenbaum concludes (emphasis added):
By understanding all we can about the behavior and biochemistry of both species, evolutionary biologists such as Hare and Woods suspect that we may learn more about what pushes humans toward either extreme. And if we're lucky, that knowledge could be the key to a more peaceful existence for all of us.

For-profits are a partner with, not an enemy of, philanthropy | Steve Gunderson, Inside Higher Ed

This column responds to a column I featured April 26: "For-profit colleges undermine traditional role of philanthropy." Gunderson writes that "Johann Neem misses the point" in his column.

Gunderson writes:
While he’s absolutely right that public universities have long played a vital role in society, he fails to see that it’s ultimately the students, more than the universities or their legal structure, that matter. ... I’d suggest that each element of higher education today -- public, private nonprofits and private for-profits -- plays a different, yet important, role.
But what confuses Gunderson the most about Neem's article is "his suggestion that for-profit colleges undermine the traditional role of philanthropy." He writes that "philanthropy -- unlike charity -- is meant to be a long-term strategic investment in positive social change." And he says that most grant-making foundations have "moved to public, private and philanthropic resources." And that includes private as well as public and nonprofit universities.

Gunderson writes:
At a time when state and federal budgets are limiting support and access in traditional institutions of higher education, we should all celebrate the role private-sector colleges and universities provide to keeping our nation competitive and to equipping our students with the skills demanded in today’s workplace.

Centaurus Founder To Focus On Philanthropy | FINalternatives

Centaurus Capital founder John Arnold will turn his attentions to philanthropy after shutting down his hugely successful natural gas hedge fund.
According to this article, Arnold, 38, and his wife, Laura, already ranked in 2011 as the 11th-biggest donors in the United States.

Says Jim Crownover, chairman of the Rice University board of trustees:
They make a distinction between charity and philanthropy. They think investment vs. donations. They're looking at places where the market doesn't work, like in education.
The Arnolds both serve Rice, she as a trustee and he as an overseer of its $4.5 billion endowment. But they're also supporting or plan to focus on such issues as prison-sentencing reform, pension reform and public schools.

John Arnold said last year:
We have the benefit of being young, so we can look at very complicated problems. We have years to see these through.

In other words’ (unofficial) guide to writing in plain language (part 2) | Caryn Gootkin, The Media Online

This guide is part 2 of Gootkin's useful two-part guide. Here's part 1, which focused on her general guidelines of writing in plain language. In part 2, she gives some specific examples for those rules, relating each to four parts of speech (grammar). Gootkin suggests people read part 1 first.

She covers:
  • nouns and pronouns -- five guidelines
  • verbs -- five guidelines
  • adverbs -- two guidelines.
If interested, you're welcome to check out Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide.

  .


In other words’ (unofficial) guide to writing in plain language | Caryn Gootkin, The Media Online

This guide is part I of Gootkin's useful two-part guide. Here's how she said she's arranged it:
For obvious reasons I have tried to make this guide easy to understand and simple to use.
So, there are going to be bits in here that are nothing new to some of you. Bear with me, I am writing for a wide audience and hope that this will become a reference resource. I want it to be useful to both mother-tongue and second-language English writers.
But before providing tips on using plain language, she explains why it's useful. For example (emphasis added):
If you are writing fiction, an opinion column or other words that readers may choose to read, personal expression will dictate your writing style. But if you are writing words that customers, colleagues or members of the public need to read, always try write in plain language. If you are using words for marketing or advertising, bear in mind that the simpler your message, the better your chance of reaching your target audience.
At the risk of stating the obvious, you should write in plain language because you will get your message across more quickly and in a way that more people can understand more easily. ...
Besides a simple, handy chart defining grammar terms, Gootkin lists eight general rules of plain language. They cover word choice, word usage, sentence structure and punctuation.

Part II of Gootkin's guide provides more details on grammar and these rules.

If interested, you're welcome to check out Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Bob Flor Connects With Writers | Poets and Writers:

I like this statement in a short blog post by a former colleague, now retired, creatively. He's been the April Artists in Residence for Poets and Writers:
Advances in technology makes it easier than ever to make connections with other writers. Through these bridges, I hope to help foster a new generation of poets and writers... something I’ve always thought was incredibly important.
Best wishes, Bob! 

Communications: It Takes Two | HealthNet.Federal Services

As implied in the headline, this article is targeted at both the health-care provider and the health-care patient.

It's the responsibility of the provider, the article says, to communicate with patients in plain language and to promote health literacy to patients.

To benefit the patient, the article advises providers to do these things (summarized):
  • Know your audience. ...
  • Organize information so the most important ... points come first.
  • Use simple language. ...
  • Be aware of body language ....
And it's the responsibility of the patient to expect use of plain language and to ask questions if information isn't clear.

The article says:
Plain language is now a consumer right and providers know clear and concise communication means better results and relationships.
Questions a patient should ask, if necessary, included the following:
  • Can you break this information into simple sentences?
  • What does that mean?
For more information, check out Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide.


Creativity Can be Learned | Ned Smith, BusinessNewsDaily.com

This article reports a question and answer interview with Tina Seelig, author of the new book, inGENIUS: A Crash Course on Creativity.

I like how Seelig says creativity is a renewable resource that we can tap into at any time. And yes, she says, creatvity can be taught.

Some excerpts from the interview:  
BusinessNewsDaily: How do you define creativity?
Tina Seelig: Creativity is easily defined — it is the process of generating new ideas. ... Generating fresh ideas is actually quite challenging because most people find it difficult to get beyond obvious, incremental solutions. True creativity requires the ability to break new ground, which requires significant effort.
BND: What are the tools and techniques of creative thinking?
TS: There is no one path to creative ideas, just as there isn't one way to get from San Francisco to São Paulo. ... At the core is the ability to look at problems from different angles, to connect and combine concepts, and the ability to challenge traditional assumptions. ...
BND: Is creativity a learned skill or an innate talent?
TS: We are all naturally creative and, like every other skill, some people have more natural talent than others. However, everyone can increase his or her creativity, just as everyone can increase his or her musical or athletic ability, with appropriate training and focused practice. We can all learn tools and techniques that enhance creativity, and build environments that foster innovation. ...
BND: Can anyone learn creativity?
TS: Our brains are built for creative problem solving, and it is easy to both uncover and enhance our natural inventiveness. ... Every sentence we craft is unique, each interaction we have is distinctive, and every decision we make is done with our own free will. That we have the ability to come up with an endless set of novel responses to the world around us is a constant reminder that we are naturally inventive. ...
For more information on this topic, check out Garbl's Creativity Resources Online. It's an annotated directory of websites that provide advice for increasing creativity and innovation in your writing, in your personal life, on the job, in school, in the arts and elsewhere.

Digital Altruism: How Social Media Marketing Can Change The World | Bridge Consulting Inc.

Whether your organization is attempting to raise money through donations, or simply to promote awareness of a particular cause, you can use the principles of social media marketing to achieve your goal.
So writes blogger Kate W. She writes:
[B]usiness isn’t the only arena that can benefit from social media marketing. Social media is also a very powerful tool for motivating social change. Nonprofits and other organizations can leverage the basic tenets of social media marketing in order to ensure their message reaches a wider audience.
She provides a couple of examples of how social media have been used to benefit nonprofits. And she provides some encouragement (emphasis added):
Choose where you’d like to have a social media presence, and update each site regularly, while ensuring that your message stays consistent across each platform. Partner with other businesses and organizations that share your goals and message .... And most importantly, interact with your supporters and followers, as the more engaged they feel, the more they will continue to spread the word. ...

Impact Investing for the Rest of Us | David Farrell, Entrepreneur.com

"Impact investing"? What's that headline talking about? Here's the David Farrell's explanation (emphasis added):
Impact investing, like traditional investing, is intended to bring a financial return. Instead of buying the usual types of stocks, bonds and real estate, however, impact investors sink their dollars into companies or organizations known to be accomplishing some social good, such as developing clean energy, making loans to small-business owners in impoverished nations or constructing affordable housing in depressed urban neighborhood
"In theory," Farrell adds, "the investments generate a return even while they help to address significant problems both at home and abroad."

Much of the rest of the article is about how Ron D. Cordes, 52, co-founder of AssetMark investment Services, sold that multimillion dollar firm (along with his two partners) with plans "to be equally successful in a new, wholly different career mission: giving money away."

He and his wife created the nonprofit Cordes Foundation and eventually adopted impact investing strategy. Cordes didn't think the traditional investment approach for the foundation was accomplishing enough to help people in need.

The article continues, describing Cordes' efforts and success at impact investing. 

Says Marc Freedman, founder and CEO of the baby boomer think tank Civic Ventures (emphasis added):
He's thrown himself into the idea of creating a better world for future generations. He's the embodiment of someone who's taken skills from an earlier chapter and is applying them to new ends. It's not really a reinvention of himself but rather a bringing together of earlier expertise and lifelong passions and a desire to accomplish something in the next part of life. He has a kind of clarifying intelligence. He makes everyone around him feel smarter and be smarter -- and that's a wonderful gift.
Says Antony Bugg-Levine, CEO of the Nonprofit Finance Fund and co-author of the book Impact Investing: Transforming How We Make Money While Making a Difference (emphasis added):
Because he's speaking to people who recognize him as a peer, he's had the ability to open up doors. He has a level of credibility you need to bring these ideas into the mainstream.
This article gives me some hope. I wish more wealthy people with follow the model Cordes and others have set.


Writing for the Web: You Learned All You Need to Know From Cocktail Parties

I like the attitude at this site--and its concise advice on writing for the Web. 


Following the tone of the headline, here are the main tips here. The blog provides more details:
  • When writing for the web, remember: It's all about them.
  • Make your website content the life of the party.
  • They want to like you, they really do. So be likable!
Josh the blogger also asks, "How effective is your website?" You can answer by downloading a Beginner's Website Health Checkup.

From Idea to Drafting: My Writing Process | Sara McClung

I love when writers talk about their processes. How they write. How they plot. How they revise. It's kind of like getting to take a peek in your neighbor's house. Getting to see how they decorate, their furniture choices, their color schemes. Sometimes it might not match your particular style, but still. You can't help but be curious. (And sometimes you discover a style that might work for you as well!)
So begins this blog by Sara McClung. She writes stories for teens. And here "a high-level peek into how I write a book." Before providing six tips, she writes:
For the record, I've yet to have my process work the same way twice. It changes every time I start something new, but some of the basics are pretty constant.
Here are the headings for her tips, which also include estimates of the time she takes for each one:
  1. I usually get hit with inspiration for a new story (one that actually sticks, I mean--I have plenty of concepts that fizzle out after a day or two) right around the time I'm halfway (or almost) finished with the draft I'm currently writing. ...
  2. I spend a while letting the story/characters develop organically--if (in the story's case) somewhat vaguely--in the back of my mind. Every once in a while I'll jot notes down ....
  3. I get serious about the project and start plotting for real. ...
  4. The writing starts. ...
  5. More plotting. ...
  6. The REAL writing starts. ...
Note all the planning she does before actually getting into her writing. Good point! 


For more information, check out Garbl's Writing Process Links. It's an annotated directory of websites that can help you follow the steps in the writing process, such as prewriting, research, drafting, editing, revising, proofreading and publishing.

Plain Language Humor: How to Write Good | Plain Language Action & Information Network

The first set of rules was written by Frank L. Visco and originally published in the June 1986 issue of Writers' digest.The second set of rules is derived from William Safire's Rules for Writers, also titled Fumblerules.

This plain-language website is maintained by a group of U.S. government employees striving the make public documents more readable by citizens and other government employees.

If you like this sort of stuff, also check out Garbl's Word Play Links. And here are other sites about plain language.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Scotland :: travel photography | Jennifer Crane, Snapshots of Life

Photographer Crane doesn't provide any text about her photos, except for this introductory statement:
Scotland is magical. From the moors and lochs of the country to the dark and twisty closes of the city, it is full of beautiful mystery. At every turn it feels like something out of Harry Potter or Emily Bronte. I could not get enough. We spent time in Edinburgh, Inverness and with Nessie at her home in the Loch.
But for clues about what you should try to capture in photos on your next trip, study these photos! They provide some great ideas. My travel photography post just before this one provides tips to help you study these photos. 

8 Tips To Take Better Travel Pictures | Valerie Jardin, Digital Photography School

Before you travel again, Blogger Jardin wants you to think about your what you remember most fondly on your last vacation: the famous landmarks you see pictured in all the postcards?
Or the colorful markets, the fresh pastries in the bakery window, the people sitting in the cafes, the street vendors and buskers, the smell of the streets after a morning rain?
To help you think "outside the postcard" on your next trip, she advises you to "create your own iconic images, your own stores and memories." And she provides eight great, useful tips and some sample photos. 

Here are the headings for her tips and some excerpts from them: 
1- Include signage in you pictures. The name and price of the fruits and vegetables at farmer’s market written in the local language ....
2- Include people in your frames. Try to feature local people rather than tourists. ...
3- Create a photo story with a handful of frames. Start by taking a wide shot of an antique market to set the stage, then shoot a few close-ups of items for sale ....
4- Avoid those boring family group shots in front of landmarks. Instead, take action shots of your kids eating the end of fresh baguette in France ....
5- Resist taking those traditional postcard shots. ... Shooting lots of architectural details will nicely compliment any traditional picture of those famous landmarks ....
6- Practice your food photography on location. ... Shoot the local cuisine. Then enjoy your meal!
7- Pick a theme or two each day. This will help keep you focused – no pun intended – and you won’t feel so overwhelmed by trying to capture it all in one day. ...
8- Be a gear minimalist when traveling. Carry just one camera and one lens because that perfect shot will inevitably happen while you are switching lens, and you’ll miss it. ...

How to be more persuasive in your writing and speaking | David M.Ward, The Attorney Marketing Center

Ward begins his blog with an amusing story. You can read it to understand his point better. But here's his point anyway:
So, why did I tell you this story? I could have simply made the point that your clients want to know you care about them and really do appreciate the little things you say or do.
Telling you that story was a better way to make that point, don't you think?
He then writes that "facts tell but stories sell" -- followed by this explanation [emphasis added]:
  • Stories have people in them and the reader or listener can relate to them and their experiences.
  • Stories have a dramatic theme; people want to know, "what happened next?"
  • Stories have verisimilitude; they "show" instead of "tell," and are often more persuasive than a logical argument
  • Stories appeal to human emotion. When you make people feel something, you connect with them on a deeper level.
  • People remember stories long after the facts are forgotten.

Top 5 Tips to Help Parents Become Involved with their Child’s Literacy Skills | Literacy News

Needing no introduction, this article provides the tips described in the headline. Here are the headings and an excerpt for each tip:
1. Learn and practice new words. ... New words can come from anywhere, for instance, you can describe the ingredients you are using to cook dinner. ...
2. Read together! ... When reading aloud to your child, place your finger under each word as you pronounce it. ...
3. Tell your own stories. ... Oftentimes if your child is coloring, you can ask them to tell you about the story they are coloring ....
4. Play word games. ... You can make colored flash cards with the color written on them and ask your child corresponding questions. ...
5. Practice writing. ... Words that your child gets excited about will stick with them more easily. So if your daughter loves Disney movies, you can practice writing the names of the Disney princesses, or the word princess ....

Writing for the web - Leeds University Library

Supposedly, the advice at this website is "mainly aimed at writing academic text content for an existing website." But I disagree. Most of its guidelines are useful for all types of writing in any form.

The article begins:
The following guidelines include information and advice on presenting your content to best effect, getting it read, and making it interesting to your target audience. They also introduce you to issues such as copyright that you'll need to consider when using images and other media.
Before providing a list of guidelines, the article gives a key points on the difference between writing for the Web and writing for other types of documents, like this one:
Web content is different from other written forms. Most visitors come to a website looking for a particular piece of information - and they don't want to read the entire contents of the site to find it.
By clicking on each of these guidelines at the website, you can get additional advice and examples:
  • Use clear, plain English
  • Be concise
  • Keep paragraphs short
  • Use subheadings to help people scan the page
  • Use bullet points to break up text and convey key information
  • Aim for a maximum word count of 350 per page
  • Be wary of using idioms and humour
  • Use an active rather than passive voice
For more advice on using "clear, plain English," check out Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide.

The Writing Process Revealed in How to Write Better, Faster | Jodi Torpey, The Daily Blatt

Writes blogger Jodi Torpey:
The more I read about the writing process, the more I wanted to know about it. And the more I learned about it, the more I wanted to share that information with other writers.
Writes blogger Jodi Topey before providing some tips about her discoveries, like this one:
[I]f you’re happy with the results of your business writing ... then you probably don’t need to change anything in your writing process.
However, if you struggle to organize your ideas and write them down in a clear and concise way or if others are always asking you to explain what you just wrote, something needs to change in your writing process to get a better result.
Later, she writes about shocking "on-the-job writers":
I suggest 50 percent of their writing time should be spent planning before they start to write. I also suggest that 15 percent of the writing time should be spent quickly writing a rough draft. The remaining 35 percent of time should be spent on revising.

Life gives Diamondhead author ‘Lemon Trees and Bumblebees’ | Cecily Cummings, SunHerald.com

Quotations about the writing process of author Diane Sherrouse of Diamondhead, Mississppi, about her first digital book, Lemon Trees and Bumblebees. Her book explains the process of pollination to children [emphasis added].
As I’m there on the ground, recording this rhythm, the title and first lines of my book write themselves. These little buzzers are just being greedy in slurping up nectar to feed themselves and their colony, but they’re really doing us a huge favor. This seems magical, the more I think about it.
“Most children really have no idea how they get the foods they love or how much science is involved in things we take for granted daily,” Sherrouse said, adding she really wanted to write a book to help kids understand that concept.
Above all, it had to be fun. If it would appeal to the natural curiosity of children and make them ask questions, it would meet my goal.
Little details in the illustrations ideally tell as much of the story as the words themselves. Images and text in any children’s book should be as symbiotic as the relationship of bees and lemon trees in this story. 
For more information, check out Garbl's Writing Process Links. It's  an annotated directory of websites that can help you follow the steps in the writing process, such as prewriting, research, drafting, editing, revising, proofreading and publishing.

Social critic Naomi Wolf credits parents' support with her success | Jessica Burchard, Examiner.com

Quotations of nationally recognized author and social critic Naomi Wolf on May 5 during the Ninth Annual Writer's Conference at Columbus State Community College, Ohio. Emphasis added.
My parents very much demystified the idea of being a writer. My dad likened writing to being a cobbler—writing is your craft.
I grew up in a weird household. They always said ‘yes’ to imagination.
She defines advocacy writing as “non-fiction writing in which you take a stand.” The writing genre can also include dystopias such as Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and satires like Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal.

Without advocacy writing, we’d still be living in [Charles] Dickens’ world,” Wolf said, adding that anyone willing can do advocacy writing. “I do believe every person on the planet has a message; something unique to him or her.” 
Telling the truth in your own voice is intoxicating and addictive. Even though, I have to warn you, turmoil will follow. 
For more information, check out Garbl's Writing Process Links and Garbl's Action Writing Links 

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