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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Parsing an apostrophe: why Restaurant R'evolution has punctuation in its name |

This use of the apostrophe isn't taught in school or mentioned in style manuals. But I can't fault it!

Here's the explanation for the restaurant's oddly punctuated name:
The chefs toyed with the idea of calling the restaurant Evolution to describe Louisiana's food ‘evolution’ through the centuries with the addition of each new culinary culture that made Louisiana home. However, the name Evolution was taken. The chefs talked about how evolving Louisiana food to the next level was, after all, revolutionary in food concept, d├ęcor and style. So, they said, ‘What about Revolution?’ Revolution without an apostrophe seemed a bit harsh and unbecoming. But, R’evolution, with an apostrophe, was poetic, yet profound and playful, exactly what Restaurant R’evolution is meant to be.
For normal, correct use of the punctuation mark, check out the apostrophe entry in Garbl's Editorial Style Manual.

DISCOVERING THE PRESIDENTIAL ORIGIN OF ‘OK’ | Richard Lederer, San Diego Union-Tribune

Who woulda thunk? The ubiquitous word OK should be credited to a Democratic president!

According to Lederer's column, a university professor has tracked down the first-known published appearance of OK with its current meaning. And as the story goes, use of OK meaning “oll korrect” should be linked to the political nickname of the eighth U.S. president, Martin Van Buren: "Old Kinderhook."

Lederer writes:
Echoing the “oll korrect” initialism, OK became the rallying cry of the Old Kinderhook Club, a Democratic organization supporting Van Buren during the 1840 campaign. Thus, the accident of Van Buren’s birthplace rescued OK from the dustbin of history.
BTW, I just learned that Van Buren was a key organizer in launching the Democratic Party. He also was the first president born as a citizen of the United States. All earlier presidents were born before the American Revolution.

Also, given the silly hoopla about making English the official language of the United States, I find it interesting to learn, just now, that Van Buren spoke English as a second language. His native language was Dutch, as spoken by his Dutch-speaking parents and neighbors in Kinderhook, N.Y. 

Van Buren's great-great-great-grandfather had immigrated to North America in 1631. Looks like it took several generations for his family to finally adopt English as its first language.

Five lessons in retail creativity

Despite the headline for this article, I think the five "retail" ideas in it could be applied to other fields, with some creative thinking, of course!
According to the article:
Fast Company has just released its 2012 list of the one hundred most creative people in business and a number of people associated with fashion retail made the cut.
Each of the ideas below is followed by an example of how the retailer put it to use [emphasis added]:
Bradford Shellhammer, Cofounder & Chief Creative Officer, His lesson in creativity: envelope every product in a story that enables people to form an emotional attachment with the product and an affinity with the seller. 
Aslaug Magnusdottir, Cofounder & CEO, Moda Operandi. Her lesson in creativity: disrupt conventional retail channels to bring the shopper designer pieces that she would not otherwise be able to get. 
Rachel Shechtman, Founder, Story. Her lesson in creativity: bring theatre back to offline shopping. 
Ron Johnson, CEO, J.C. Penney. His lesson in creativity: Forget about tinkering around the edges with a broken concept – reinvent it to make it relevant again.

Jessica Alba, Co-founder of The Honest Company. Her lesson in creativity: create products that help people to feel better about activities they despise.

Often, 'another' can bite the dust | Barry Wood, The Taunton Daily Gazette

Writing columnist Wood comments on the various uses of another:
“Another” appears to have become one of those “comfort” words, something a writer throws into a sentence to feel better about it.
Often, it has no real function. At other times, it is asked to do something it isn’t designed for.
He gives examples of its correct, prime role: conveying the sense of "one more," including:
And let’s have another piece of pie.
Another one bites the dust.
And he gives examples of its incorrect role, meaning "an additional." In this sentence, for example, another should be replaced with additional:
The House approved a special appropriation of $200 billion for the war in Iraq and another $50 billion for hurricane relief efforts.
Wood explains that for another to be used correctly in a sentence like that, the two amounts must be equivalent. So, if the House had been generous and caring enough to give $200 billion for hurricane relief efforts, "another $200 billion" would have been correct.

And as implied in the headline for Wood's column, there are times when using another isn't necessary. He provides some examples.

Finally, Wood also notes Associated Press style on the differing meanings of one another and each other.

According to AP style:
Two people look at each other.
More than two look at one another.
Either phrase may be used when the number is indefinite: We help each other. We help one another.
Wood notes that not all writing guides feel it's necessary to distinguish between the two phrases; not all readers know the difference. While that's probably true, I still think it's worth preserving the differing meanings.

This is a subject for another blog post, but if we start ignoring the precise meanings of similar words and phrases -- and just lumping all the meanings into the common words, might we lose something in the clarity of our writing?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Two out of three ain't bad, Web-readability-wise


I just posted an item advising you not to read the three articles in the post about writing for the Web. But I encourage you to read two of the three items below, which were listed in a Google Alert I got on Thursday.
  • One of them -- "The New Style of Writing for the Net (Are You Up with the Play?)" by Mary Jaksch -- uses headings, graphics, and text formatting to aid the reader, to make the blog interesting to look at and read. It's even fun to read!
  • The other one -- "10 hard lessons I’ve learned about writing for the WWW" by Suzan St Maur -- uses numbered, boldfaced headings to announce and separate each tip. 
  • The third one, unfortunately, has the same problems as the three articles I mentioned in my other post today. Its title, ahem, "Writing for the Web Doesn't Have to be Complicated." Very true. But it absolutely must be something that helps the reader  read it. Otherwise, why waste the time writing it for the Web in the first place.

The New Style of Writing for the Net (Are You Up with the Play ...
I know this is the new way of writing for the web, and we should all copy this, as it really works, as it is a sell, sell, sell world. So this is what the world has come to: ...
Writing For the Web Doesn't Have to be Complicated « Market Place ...
Writing for the web is something all online marketers have to do sooner or later. Unless you have the budget to outsource writing, you really have to do it yourself ...
10 hard lessons I've learned about writing for the WWW | How To ...
Because I've been writing for the web for a long time now I've learned a lot of lessons the hard way. Here are my top ten to share with you… 1. It's essential to ...

My lesson for the day, sadly: Don't read this.

I get daily email alerts from Google on various topics. One of them is "writing for the Web." Today's alert had links to the three articles below.

And what disturbed me about all three is that each of them was nothing but a bunch of text, a bunch of text with no headings, no bullets, no highlighted words.

None of them said, "Read this" or "Read me." They all depended, I guess, on the incredibly provocative headline or the incredibly provocative name of the blogger or the incredibly provocative name of the blog.

Yeah, right.

All I felt like doing is to skim them, and that's all I did. But what did I get from doing that?

Absolutely nothing. Again, there was absolutely nothing in them to stop my eyes, to get me to even want to read any of it!

So I can't recommend these articles, sadly, I suppose. Why? Because I question the qualifications of the writer and his or her Web editor.

For useful advice for writing for the Web and other types of documents, check out Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide.

3 new results for "writing for the Web"

Getting the Most Out of Writing For the Web | Sparks on the Ridge
Tips And Strategies For Writing On The Web Profitably Many online marketers find writing for the web one of the most grueling challenges they ever face. Many.
Tactics To Make Writing For the Web Easier - Mary Mother of ...
Every Internet marketer understands that writing high-quality content for their online business is mandatory. This is something that most experienced online ...
Richard Vasquez Online | Getting the Most Out of Writing For the Web
Herpeset Writing for the web can take many forms, which is why it's essential to do adequate market research before you create your content. This way, you ...

This once a day Google Alert is brought to you by Google.

Philanthropy is for everyone, even our kids | Ronda Niehaus, Fremont Tribune

[I]t is very easy for most of us to dismiss philanthropy as something that doesn’t apply to us or something that we aspire to participate in when we are older and have more financial means. The reality is there are very few of us who can make a large impact with our dollars alone.
But that's no reason not to give! Instead, Niehaus focuses on philanthropy that requires little or no wealth. She writes:
Philanthropy is defined as “goodwill to fellow members of the human race” or “an act or gift done or made for humanitarian purposes.” With this definition in mind, it is easy to see opportunities for philanthropic acts all around us.
She looks to things students are doing as philanthropists, noting:
While financial contributions are a necessity, they are not the only way to make an impact.
A few examples:
  • Students from the Young Adult Program volunteered at the Salvation Army during the holidays.
  • National Honor Society members volunteered by unloading food at the Low Income Ministry.
  • Members of the Multi-Cultural Club rang bells and held a cold weather blanket drive for Salvation Army.

9 steps for handling international communication | Roger HB Davies, McLuhan & Davies Communications Inc.

Communicating globally is becoming the norm, but it requires a new set of rules to ensure messages are heard and understood as they're intended. 
So Davis provides guidelines to help you avoid some of the communication traps. Summarized, here they are:
  1. Start off with the premise that the written word is the best option. ...
  2. Ask: Is English their first language? If not, assume that the audience handles English as a second language (ESL), and keep sentences and paragraphs short. Write in the active voice. Do not break any grammatical rules. Write complete sentences ....
  3. Avoid idiomatic expressions, slang, figures of speech.  ...
  4. Do not assume language usage is the same even if English is clearly the audience's first language. ...
  5. Test the information release. ...
  6. Handle any illustrative material sensitively. ...
  7. Decide on which spelling style to use: British, American or Canadian. ... Avoid words like "color/colour," "favour/favor," and any words that end in "ize/ise"; that way you also avoid agonizing discussions on which is right? ...
  8. Once you have opted for a spelling style, stick to it. ... 
  9. Use all e -mail transmissions carefully. ...
Also consider following the principles of plain language (aka plain English). Check Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide. Plain English is an approach to writing that concentrates on the needs of your readers. It helps us write for people who read at all levels of time, interest, education and literacy.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Words of Wisdom, Garbl's Concise Writing Guide

Need some help convincing your boss or colleagues that clear, concise writing is good for your readers -- and your business? Check out the quotations at this website. Some examples:

Winston Churchill: "Broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old words when short are best of all."

Albert Einstein: "Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius--and a lot of courage--to move in the opposite direction."

Hippocrates: "The chief virtue that language can have is clearness, and nothing detracts from it so much as the use of unfamiliar words."

James J. Kilpatrick: "Use familiar words--words that your readers will understand, and not words they will have to look up. No advice is more elementary, and no advice is more difficult to accept. When we feel an impulse to use a marvelously exotic word, let us lie down until the impulse goes away."

C.S. Lewis: "Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say 'infinitely' when you mean 'very'; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something reallyinfinite."

George Orwell: "The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns, as it were, instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink."

Will Rogers: "I love words but I don't like strange ones. You don't understand them and they don't understand you. Old words is like old friends, you know 'em the minute you see 'em."

Mark Twain: "Anybody can have ideas--the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph."

William Butler Yeats: "Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people."

Creating Planned Serendipity For Your Conference Success

Although this article is about building in planned serendipity at conferences, I think its advice could be applied to other uses -- especially in using social media to build connections between people.
Author Dave Lutz writes:
By definition, serendipity is a happy accident or surprising discovery that comes when we least expect it.
Planned serendipity, on the other hand, is an effort to increase the likelihood and frequency of these discoveries. ...
Lutz discusses these three ways to make connections more likely at a conference, but consider each as a method for sharing information and interactions in a virtual event: a Facebook page or to a Google+ circle or in a Twitter tweet or in some other social media tool:
1. House conference guests on the same floors.
When like-minded attendees are in closer proximity, the chances for them to meet and engage in meaningful conversations increase. ... The more a person is seen by someone, the more likeable that person becomes.
2. Create small-group seating clusters to spark impromptu conversations.
[C]reate pod-seating clusters where four to six people can easily gather and chat. Create similar cluster-seating arrangements at restaurants, in lobbies and surrounding all networking receptions. ...
3. Train staff and volunteers to be connectors.
As participants arrive at sessions and receptions, staff and volunteers need to be on their toes, circulating and engaging in conversations. Show staff and volunteers how to ask participants the kinds of questions (e.g., What session did you enjoy most today?) that can guide them in making valuable introductions to others. ...

Persuasive Writing | Shaun Roundy, University of Life

This advice-packed site is a roundup of articles that blogger Roundy has posted about persuasive writing. It covers the topics below, with a link in each article that continues with more advice, information and examples.

If you're very interested in improving your persuasive writing, I recommend taking the time to read each linked article.

First Impressions
They can clarify what the paper will cover so readers who want that information will continue reading, or pose questions, or build significance, or generate curiosity.

Introductions also create expectations for the rest of the paper. ...
Managing Opposition
When writing on controversial issues or if you make statements that readers disagree with, they may become uncooperative. This does not mean you can’t make such statements, it just means that you’d be wise to prepare your audience first. ...
Overcoming Barriers
Consider the following strategies for getting around barriers.
  • Inform. ...
  • Create dissatisfaction. ...
  • Frighten or warn. ...
  • Reward. ...
Values accomplish two important goals in papers. First, they generate interest. By appealing to readers’ values, by definition you also appeal to their interests.
Second, because an individual’s values determine the vast majority of their choices and actions, skillfully-developed values can become a motivational force in persuasive papers. ...
Adequate Arguments
"Anything worth saying is worth saying well." ...
One of the best ways to make sure you say something well is to say it thoroughly. Don’t risk a paper’s most important ideas or images to a few hasty words when developing those items with explanation, example or comparison could make them so much stronger. ...
Bridge Sentence Structure
Bridge sentence structure moves the subordinate phrase to the beginning of the sentence, and the main claim to later in the sentence. Thus the “bigger” ideas get piled atop “supporting” information, just like a bridge spanning a river where the pilings are placed before setting the road or walkway atop it. ...
Abstractions ...
Love. Fear. Pleasure. Pain. Greed and generosity.
These are all abstractions, and if you can evoke them effectively them in your writing, you will capture and harness interest, passion and motivation. ...
Yet for all its power and beauty, abstractions have their limitations. ...
Concrete Details
Most people have an easier time processing concrete details than abstractions. ... We live in a very concrete world, after all. Concrete details are therefore easier for readers to grasp (literally).
Make it real. ...
The Weakness of Strong Telling
The danger of accidental exaggeration happens when writers use very powerful descriptive words but fail to “earn” such a strong reaction by creating a compelling case for the strong claims, or when the strong words are imprecise and inaccurate.
» The airbags deployed and the smoke consumed me.
Really? Consume = “to eat.” Was it an acid or super-heated smoke that melted the flesh from her bones? If you meant that it surrounded or “swallowed” you, then pick a verb with a more precise connotation. ...

Sentences:  Simple, Compound, and Complex

The lesson here on three types of sentence is presented for non-native speakers of English, or speakers with limited English proficiency. Most native English speakers probably got lessons like these in their first eight or nine years of school.

But depending on the instruction and practice back then, memories of those English lessons may have faded. And with those faded memories may also be lost understanding of the value to communication of using these various sentence structures.

The lesson begins:
Experienced writers use a variety of sentences to make their writing interesting and lively. Too many simple sentences, for example, will sound choppy and immature while too many long sentences will be difficult to read and hard to understand.
That's a useful, true statement. And the rest of the lesson provides a clear explanation of how each sentence type is structured.

But I'd like to emphasize a few other points to help ensure clear, concise writing -- and thus, quality communication -- for all writers, native English speakers or not.

The simple, declarative sentence is the easiest to understand: Someone (or something) does (or is) something. Sentences that differ from that simple structure may cause readability problems for some people.

Readers can only take in so much new information at once. Short, simple sentences are less likely than the longer compound and complex sentences to include ambiguities that reduce readability or hinder translation.

Make the average sentence length in your document 20 words. That means, of course, that some sentences can be shorter than 20 words, and some can be longer. Readers can understand some longer sentences (up to 30 words) if they are well written and use familiar terms.

As the lesson says, too many short simple sentences can become repetition and boring. So some carefully written compound and complex sentences are acceptable.

But those compound and complex sentences should be 30 words or shorter, and they should stick to only one idea. If you're trying to cover two ideas in a compound or complex sentence, it's better for the reader if you break the sentence into two.

For more information on clear, concise writing, check out Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide.

Empathy in Leadership – 10 Reasons Why It Matters | Tanveer

Last week I had the distinct pleasure of co-hosting the weekly #LeadFromWithin tweetchat with Lolly Daskal. The subject of my chat was “The Role of Empathy in Leadership” and I have to say I was gratified by both the level of participation and depth of contributions/insights which arose during the discussion ....
Although I’ve written previously about the importance of empathy in leadership, I want to use last week’s talk as an opportunity to delve into this issue more, sharing some of the points I provided during the talk, as well as some of the insights proffered by the various participants. ...
So begins this article by Tanveer Nasser. He's writing about interpersonal relationships between individuals. But the traits and behaviors he discusses are equally valuable between an organization and its larger community, its larger audiences, its markets.

Quality marketing, public relations, community relations and government -- quality leadership and representation in those fields -- requires empathy. Without empathy, true communication is difficult, if not impossible. 

Nasser continues the article with the 10 questions he asked participants as they discussed the role empathy plays in leadership. Here are the questions, plus some excerpts of his comments:
1. What does empathy mean? ...
[W]hat empathy really means is being able to understand the needs of others. It means that you’re aware of their feelings and how it impacts their perception. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with how they see things; rather, being empathetic means that you’re willing and able to appreciate what the other person is going through.
2. Why does it matter for us to understand the needs of others? ...
3. What traits/behaviours distinguish someone as empathetic?
I’ve written in a number of pieces about the importance of listening in leadership. And how effective or intentional we are in our desire to listen to what others are saying is a key trait among empathetic individuals. ...
4. Can we learn to be more empathetic or is this an innate trait? ...
As mentioned earlier, one key trait of empathetic people is their ability to listen attentively to those around them. One way they do this is by paying more attention to both the verbal and non-verbal cues that are a part of everyday communication. ...
6. What role does empathy play in leadership? Why does it matter? ...
7. So why aren’t we being more empathetic at work? ...
8. How can leaders encourage a culture of empathy? ...
9. How can we use empathy to become a better leader?
10. If leaders could do one thing to create a more empathetic workplace, what would it be? ...
It’s also important that we remind ourselves that the story we tell in our minds is different from the story playing in the minds of others. It’s only through listening intently to others that we can begin to understand these differences.
As one of the pillars to developing empathy is being attentive to what others are saying, I’d like to end this piece with these two quotes which I think do an excellent job of capturing the very essence of the role empathy plays in leadership:
If you wish to know the mind of a man, listen to his words. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care. – Theodore Roosevelt

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Creativity Is Essential to a Campaign, Not Just an Extra | Sandra Stahl, Advertising Age

Take Risks to Find the Most Effective and Most Talked-About Solutions

Stahl begins by explaining that a multinational company recently asked her firm to delete creativity from a tool to measure communications campaigns. The reason:
[C]reativity is not a "must have" for an effective campaign that meets business objectives.
Huh? Stahl wonders the same thing:
Wow. Is creativity now just a "nice to have?" Is that how little it is valued?
Defending the value of creativity, Stahl writes:
Creativity takes work. It requires risk taking and a concerted effort to identify and think through a new idea, make it work and sell it up the line. ...
Creativity breaks molds, takes us to places we didn't think possible. Creativity is exciting. It is often why marketers got into their profession in the first place. ...
A CEO with a reputation for creativity can lead a company out of a difficult period. ...
She notes a survey that shows creativity is still important. It topped the list of "quality that clients look for in media agencies" but was closely followed by data and analytics, and efficient business processes. She writes:
While creativity is at the top, these numbers reveal the tightrope that marketers are walking between a desire for innovation and the determination to win.
Stahl makes four suggestions "to keep the creative juices flowing,"
Demand creativity, creative thinking, and creative solutions of your teams and from your agencies.
Find a balance of creativity and business objectives within your overall brand strategies.
She concludes:
There are many ways to win in marketing or beat the competition. Market research, analytics and a tight strategy all have their places as "must haves" -- alongside creativity.
For more information, 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. 

Siegel+Gale's Alan Siegel Moves On From Namesake Agency | Adweek

This is both bad news and good news.

The bad news (emphasis added):
Alan Siegel, the driving force behind the "plain English" movement of communications simplification, is leaving his namesake branding firm after 43 years.
The good news (emphasis added):
The Siegel+Gale chairman ... now plans to devote his time to personal nonprofit marketing efforts, research and writing.
The article explains that Siegel pushed in the '70s for using plain English in complex legal documents produced by business and government. He also advocated clarity in government communications and in business communications for insurance policies, bank loans and mutual funds.

As for what's next for Siegel, the article says:
His new projects include working on a new Cornell University corporate identity for a science graduate school on NYC's Roosevelt Island; communications work for New York University in its efforts to become a global educational entity; the Alzheimer Foundation of America and the Lupus Foundation of America.
For more information on using plain English (aka plain language), check out Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide.

Strategies For Writing On The Web – Proven Tactics - RecriWeb – Web Info and Tech

This article begins with this subhead:
Writing For the Web Doesn’t Have to be Complicated
But that's all I read of the article. I skimmed the rest of it.

Why? Because the incompetent writer did not practice what he or she is probably preaching. 

This article is a good example of questionable information and advice that appears too often on the World Wide Web.

Please, do not attempt to read this article.

Thank you.

If you need help with your writing, check out Garbl's Writing Center. It contains these free tools:

Lost in Automatic Translation: Do you have what it takes to be a clamp boss?| Elliott Hurwitt

In a parenthetical "full disclosure" statement, Hurwitt writes:
All quoted passages in this article are from actual machine-translated press releases. Really.
I'm not sure what type of automatic machine (or software) is translating these documents--making all those reported errors and ridiculous statements. Hurwitt doesn't explain. Is it Word's spell and grammar checker? Some other add-on grammar and style checker? An online translation tool for converting Spanish to English? Is it some smartphone app?

But whatever the tool is, the individual, organization, agency or business using it has a responsibility to himself, herself and itself -- as well as to owners, customers, donors and other readers -- to check the accuracy and clarity of the tool.

If an individual, organization, agency or business is unwilling or unable to check the quality of documents produced or edited by these writing tools, that individual, organization, agency or business deserves to fail.

Good riddance. I pity only the victims -- the customers, clients, members, donors, other employees, other readers and users -- for suffering the incompetence of the publisher. May they easily find an alternative, intelligent, thoughtful publisher of the information they need.

Capitalism Is Taboo in America | Richard D. Wolff, truthout

Wolff makes excellent points in this article. In the United States, we seem to question everything, for good and bad, about the value, future, purpose, weaknesses, and strengths of various institutions. We question the structure of government, the news media, education, the entertainment industry, even our families.

Yet the value, function, and weaknesses of capitalism aren't discussed much. It's like such a discussion would lead to socialism, at best, or communism, at worse.  And that narrowly focused fear is silly, to say the least.

What makes capitalism so sacrosanct. It's not mentioned in any of our founding documents. It's not officially stated in those documents that capitalism is essential to our democratic way of life. In fact, the only related reference in our Constitution is that Congress has the power to "regulate commerce"!

Wolff writes:
Fear-driven silence has substituted for the necessary, healthy criticism without which all institutions, systems, and traditions harden into dogmas, deteriorate into social rigidities, or worse. Protected from criticism and debate, capitalism in the United States could and has indulged all its darker impulses and tendencies.
Wolff asks:
Does capitalism serve the interests of most people? Can we do better than capitalism? ... It is possible to democratize the economy? And is it possible to advance society beyond capitalism?
This discussion continues in Wolff's new collection of interviews with David Barsamian: Occupy the Economy: Challenging Capitalism.

Three Steps to More Word-of-Mouth -- and More Business | Gail Goodman,

[W]hen you connect with your customers online, you stop speaking to them and start talking with them. And wonderful things begin to happen. Those golden word-of-mouth moments that happen naturally offline at parties or networking events suddenly begin happening online right in front of your eyes on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and review sites.
So writes Gail Goodman, but she makes clear that these word-of-mouth connections  are more than just fun moments. They can aid the business, entrepreneur, nonprofit organization, or government agency using them.

She writes:
On social networks, word-of-mouth referrals become amplified: the friends, families and networks of your customers see these referrals and might just beat a path to your door.
She goes on to describe three steps for using word-of-mouth to market your services or products. Customers and clients who know your business might use social media to spread the word about it.

Step 1: Provide a Wow! experience

She gives several examples of how a small or midsize business can create personal connections with customers by doing something they remember ... and then tell other people about.

Step 2: Entice to stay in touch

Besides asking people to “like” your Facebook page or subscribe to your newsletter, you can entice them to do so by offering something in return. She gives examples of free information, special events, birthday cards and discounts.

Step 3: Engage people

Goodwin writes:
“Engagement” means sharing content that inspires your fans, followers, email subscribers, blog readers and other online contacts to interact with you.
She describes five things you can do to engage your customers, consumers and donors, covering these topics:
  • Question and Answer 
  • Sharing/Information
  • Discussion
  • Promotions and Announcements 
  • Events.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Amazing people & travel photography by Adde Adesokan | The D-Photo

Originally from Nigeria -but born and raised in Germany-Adde Adesokan lives and works in Hamburg. He is a creative director & co-founder at polargold, who considers himself to be just a self taught photographer that loves shooting. It’s up to you to decide what kind of style his is, as he sets no limits to himself.
As the website implies in the last sentence above, there's no information here about Adesokan's thoughts and ideas when taking the wonderful photos on display.

But just studying the black & white and color travel photos can provide some inspiration on things to consider and look for when taking pictures. Here are things I noticed:
  • closeups of individuals that capture their eyes; obviously, they were aware of the picture-taking and, hopefully, gave permission. 
  • shots that put individuals or small groups of people in settings that tell a story
  • use of perspective and light to emphasize the "horizon"--usually with the target point in the center (which I usually try not to do). 

Advice to nonprofits on using mobile technology, email

The two articles linked below both provide advice to nonprofits about connecting with their target audiences more effectively through the Web, social media and email--and the technology for using them.

Building an Effective Nonprofit Mobile Strategy

Tonia Zampieri writes:

Most US nonprofits are not addressing mobile technology adoption by creating a clear strategy to meet demand. Mobile devices today are an extension of our desktop computers, whatever can be done there is heading to their purses and back pockets. This is not a fad. This is our new reality. Websites will be built to suit mobile screens before computer screens sooner than later – mark my words.
She provides three short tips that mostly stress things to think about; they don't provide much "how-to" info. The headings for them:

1. Build a mobile matrix.
2. Do your homework and pick your most pressing need.
3. Write copy easily consumed via mobile.

Visualizing The Impact Of Social Media, Especially Email

Christopher Gardner writes that:
35% of all online giving in 2011 came through email, whereas all other platforms together made up the other 65%. Therefore, email remains the single biggest tool in a nonprofit’s outreach toolbox, but it should not be considered the only tool. But how to be successful with email?
Before introducing a useful video, Gardner writes:
  • Email outreach should be simple and with a clear call to action. 
  • It also should be systematic and professional: develop a branded email that makes it visually identifiable as soon as it’s opened.
  • Emphasize calls to action to engage your audience, and provide the necessary nuts-and-bolts that show you have met expectations and standards (like providing the ability to unsubscribe).

Writing for the web is different: Print-style article needs re-focusing, rewriting and/or re-formatting | Mu Lin, Multimedia journalism and social media journalism

I agree with blogger Mu Lin that something doesn't compute in the Web article he's writing about. The headline and the first (lead) paragraph don't align; it's like the headline was meant for another article. But the article and its headline weren't written poorly for only the Web; they were also written poorly for print.

(It's ironic that the website posting the article and Lin are both in the journalism biz, where I also worked before transferring my skills and knowledge to PR more than 30 years ago.)

The "inverted pyramid" Lin mentions in his first paragraph is an essential writing method for useful, informative news articles; it's been a requirement for newspapers and broadcast news for decades, perhaps centuries.

With a matching, complementary headline, the first paragraph (the lead) in news stories highlights or summarizes the most interesting, most important point of the article. And the following paragraphs--in a declining order of interest and importance--add details to that first paragraph. Similarly, a news article can have internal inverted pyramids that provide details on other related topics.

And now, with the much-later advent of the World Wide Web, the inverted pyramid method is also essential for most writing for the Web. While in print, subheads can be used to separate different topics (for those internal inverted pyramids), websites can use both subheads and new linked pages for covering other topics.

Obviously, the author and headline writer for the article in Lin's blog did not agree on the most important point of the article. But someone--a key editor?--should have rewritten either the headline or the lead paragraphs to align their focus. (Or told the reporter to add more details to support the headline, as I get to below.)

If the article were really about the "five literacies" that the headline and Lin highlight, the lead should have been rewritten to focus on them. Unfortunately, the article focuses mostly on only one of those literacies (attention). So the headline is very misleading. 

As Lin suggests, I would be frustrated as a reader if I decided to read that article based on the headline--and the article doesn't provide the information I was expecting. Obviously, better collaboration between the headline and article writers--or a strong editor--would have improved the experience for readers.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Global push to guarantee healthcare coverage leaves U.S. behind | Noam N. Levey, Los Angeles Times

China, Mexico and other countries far less affluent are working to provide medical insurance for all citizens. It's viewed as an economic investment.

I am truly embarrassed and saddened by the continuing opposition to guaranteed health-care coverage for all U.S. citizens. Are we so self-centered and selfish in the United States that we are unwilling to care about maintaining and enhancing the health of all our fellow Americans? If people and politicians in China, Mexico, Thailand, India, Ghana, Rwanda and South American countries understand the value of healthy citizens, why can't we be as smart in the United States?

After all, the United States was the model to our planet for providing education for all its citizens. We should have been the model to our planet for providing health care for all our fellow citizens. Unfortunately, it's too late for that. But it's not too late to do the right thing within our borders.

The articles points out:
Today, the U.S. is alone among the world's richest nations in not providing healthcare coverage to all citizens. ... [P]opular demand for insurance protection has fueled an effort in nearly all [former communist countries in Eastern Europe and elsewhere] to rebuild their systems. 
Dr. Julio Frenk, a former health minister in Mexico and dean of the Harvard School of Public Health:
This is truly a global movement. As countries advance, they are realizing that creating universal health-care systems is a necessity for long-term economic development.
At this point, I can only hope our Supreme Court or, perhaps, a future president and Congress, won't undo all or parts of the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010.  Obamacare isn't perfect and needs to be improved, carefully. But when (if?) the law, as written, is fully in effect in 2014, it will certainly be better -- and healthier for all U.S. citizens -- than what we now have in the United States.

And that is good for all Americans: poor, middle class or rich; Democrat, independent, Republican or libertarian; progressive, liberal, moderate or conservative.

I can't take credit for this graphic, but it's oh so true:

Garbl's Concise Writing Guide--alternatives to pompous words and wordy, redundant phrases

If you want to make your writing easier to read and understand, try out Garbl's Concise Writing Guide. This free guide provides alternatives to overstated, pompous words; wordy, bureaucratic phrases; and verbose, sometimes amusing redundant phrases:
The website also has a collection of Words of Wisdom about concise writing by writers, philosophers, scientists and others. 

4 tips on writing for social media | Nick Usborne, Wordtracker

Copywriting professional Nick Usborne says that writing social media content needs to be tackled in a particular way if it's to get noticed. Here he gives four tips on how to go about it.
This article takes advice from Usborne's new book, Popcorn Content: The craft of writing short-form content for social media.

Using the popcorn analogy, he sets the stage by advising readers:
You can imagine yourself at some social event, wandering around, offering people a quick snack from your bowl of popcorn, and joining a few conversations as you make your rounds.
And if you want your popcorn--or your content in the social media you use--"to be the talk of the party," Usborne makes suggestions covering these four points:
  1. Give more than you ask.
  2. Hook them within the first 5 words.
  3. Stick around for the conversation.
  4. Understand that the number of connections you build has little to do with the value of the relationships you create.
I'm especially going to be thinking about Nos. 2 and 3.

Usborne concludes:
By thinking about ourselves cruising a party with a bowl of popcorn, we are reminded that building relationships, whatever the venue or media, is about being generous, about pausing long enough to listen, and about giving more than we ask for.

How to achieve simplicity? | Anum, DT Blog

Always remember that removing anything is not simplicity. Adding enough information at the right time is simplicity. If you are a designer or a writer then simplicity is the best thing, which you can offer to your clients. Simplicity can be achieved in everything, which we do in our day to day life.
Those sentences conclude this blog article by graphic designer Anum. Her advice in the blogs earlier sentences and paragraphs mostly uses design examples. But as Anum notes above, her advice can be applied to writing and "everything ... we do."

Her blog gives advice on these topics:
  • Presenting a single idea (including a short plug for using plain language)
  • Improving clarity
  • Maintaining consistency.
Fore more information on concise writing, check out Garbl's Fat-Free Writing Links. It's an annotated directory of websites that give advice on cutting the fat from your writing--so your readers can easily chew, digest and be nourished by your top-choice words. 

Also check out Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide. It provides seven lessons on how to improve your writing skills by using plain-English (or plain-language) techniques.

Is Democracy the best or weakest form of Government? | News24

This short article, from South Africa, I think, gives some answers to the headline question. It provides short lists to these topics:
  • What is so good about Democracy?
  • What is then bad about Democracy?
And it gives brief comparisons between democracy and autocratic rule, dictatorships and communist governments.

But what caught my interest was this paragraph (emphasis added):
Does democracy's success depend on how competent and informed a country's citizens are? Democracy gives power to the people right,so an informed and competent nation that stays abreast with world events and understands the political concepts of the world gives democracy real strength over all other forms of governance one would think.
The answer to that question, of course, is "of course!"

I learned years ago while studying the history of education in graduate school that the reason we have public schools in the United States is that our country's early leaders knew its citizens had to be literate if democratic self-rule could ever work. They knew that people who could not read and write, think independently, and discuss issues knowledgeably would be dependent on a powerful, authoritarian elite.

And I learned in my journalism classes, in both high school and college, that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is built on the need for U.S. citizens to be informed and outspoken about their government, without government interference and control.

As an idealistic student, I majored in journalism and political science  believing that my key role was to tell people about their government so they could understand its processes and decisions--and take actions to influence and use government services.

Forty years later, I've not lost that idealism. I moved from journalism to public relations, but I chose to work in the public sector so I could help local governments provide two-way communication with citizens. I believe that reporters should be skeptical about what they hear from the government but not be cynical about the ability of citizens to influence their government. I saw and see too much of that in the news media.

I am saddened, frustrated and sometimes angered by the weakening of an informed, activist citizenry in our country. But I'll save that topic for another time.

Meanwhile, check out Garbl's Action 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.

What 'The Avengers' can teach you about writing | Andrew Daglas, Ragan's PR Daily

Now this is a timely column, with the superheroes movie "The Avengers" just out in theaters across the country. 

But step back from that screen and check out the headings below for each of the avengers. This article might just give you the nugget of advice you need to become a writing superhero:
  • Captain America: Live up to your principles.
  • Iron Man: Never stop improving your tools.
  • Thor: Back up your talent with purpose.
  • The Hulk: Don't be afraid to turn your passion loose.
  • Black Widow: Take advantage of the element of surprise.
  • Hawkeye: Everyone has a niche.
  • Col. Nick Fury: Ask for help when you need it.
For more advice, 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. A separate directory features websites that can help you prevent or defeat Writer's Block.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

War on 'war': the overuse, dilution of the word itself | Saritha Prabhu, The Tennessean

I hadn't thought before of the language issue raised by Saritha Prabhu, but having now read her column: I agree with her concern 100 percent. 

As a longtime opponent of nuclear weapons and the nuclear arms race, I stopped using "nuke" and "nukes" years ago. Those casual words minimize and dilute the true meaning of the ghastly catastrophe that would undoubtedly occur if any country again uses such weapons on human beings.

And as Prabhu writes, misusing "war" also for casual purposes dilutes the true meaning of that word. In real wars:
  • Blood and guts are spilled all over the place.
  • People are trained to hate other human beings.
  • Innocent children and other civilians die in each other's arms.
  • The childish leaders launching the battles never die leading the attacks.
  • People shoot and bomb with the singular purpose of killing other human beings.
I will never again use the word war except when referring to battles of one country's military against another country or countries--and against its own people. I will never again quote anyone who uses that word in silly, preposterous, misleading ways. 

And I encourage you, our news media and our leaders to make a similar vow. 

I will be adding this type of advice to Garbl's Editorial Style Manual, which now says this in the war entry:
war "War is hell," said Civil War General William T. Sherman, no matter what it's called. Avoid euphemisms like armed conflict, armed intervention, a military solution, police action, uprising, use of force. Capitalize the word when part of the name for a specific war:World War I, World War II, the Cold War, the Korean War, the failed Vietnam War, the endless Gulf War. Also, if one country invades or attacks another country, there's no war until the other country starts defending itself, as it has a right to do.
Here's what my style manual says in the nuclear, nuke entry:
nuclear, nuke Potentially misused. George W. Bush and some other U.S. presidents have mispronounced nuclear. But just because presidents say something doesn't make it true or correct. (Think WMD in Iraq.) It's "noo-klee-ar," not "noo-kyuh-lar." And spell it correctly too; it's not nucular. Also, casual use of the slang word nuke for nuclear minimizes the death and destruction that would come after use of nuclear weapons. Avoid using nuke whether you're writing about attacking with nuclear weapons or cooking with a microwave oven. See weapons of mass destruction.
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