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Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Politics for the 99 Percent | The Nation

An excellent column by Katrina vanden Heuvel and Robert L. Borosage. I've reformatted an excerpt to make it more readable: 

"No one should discount the potential destructiveness of a victory for Mitt Romney. ... A Romney victory could be accompanied by GOP control of all branches of government, with the party’s right-wing majority in the House driving the agenda. ... 

"The 'stuff' they would pass—already endorsed by Romney—includes:
* repeal of the modest reforms enacted to police corporations after the Enron scandal and banks after the financial collapse;
* repeal of healthcare reform, stripping some 30 million people of coverage;
* budget cuts that would gut almost all domestic functions of the government, from education to child nutrition to safeguarding clean air and water;
* and an end to Medicare and Medicaid as we know them.

"These draconian measures would be used to pay for increases in military spending and tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. Under the Romney plan, those making over $1 million a year would receive an average tax break of $250,000.

"A Romney victory would buoy a Republican right eager to roll back social progress, constrict voting rights and exacerbate racial divides in an era of middle-class decline. The offensive against labor and workers’ rights would escalate.

"And Romney’s bellicose foreign policy would make George W. Bush look dovish. If Romney wins, we will spend four years fighting to limit the damage he will inflict on the nation."

For more progressive news and commentary, see the my daily Footprints: Progressive Steps paper at the Progressive Politics tab above.

Why Sharing Your Work, Setbacks & Struggles Breaks Creative Blocks | David Burkus, The 99 Percent

We tend to believe that creative work is a lonely endeavor. But, research – not to mention past precedent – suggests otherwise. In fact, one of the single most effective ways to enhance your creativity is to regularly break the cycle of isolation and interact, talk, and share your work with your colleagues and friends.
In this article, reports on a study of four microbiology labs to gain insights on how new theories are developed. The researcher, psychologist Kevin Dunbar, found that most creative insights and discoveries happened during regular lab meetings, when individual researchers shared their latest findings and their most difficult setbacks.

Burkus writes [emphasis added]:
Dunbar discovered that as the researchers developed analogies, and as other researchers built on the ideas around those analogies, the solutions to their problems just seemed to develop. Sometimes, a researcher would spend a week vexed by a problem and the solution would seem to present itself in just 10 minutes of discussion with peers.
Burkus provides examples from two other research locations and concludes:
These findings imply that getting individuals to regularly connect and share their work, setbacks, and insights can amplify the creativity produced by each. So the next time you get stuck, don't go it alone. Rally your colleagues, or even just a friend, to talk over the problem, and see what happens.
As a writer/editor for more than 30 years, I've met frequently with other writers and editors to discuss work. And from my experience, I believe Dunbar is on to something here.  

To rally more articles on creativity, see my daily Creativity Connections paper at the Creativity tab above.

Friday, June 8, 2012

That's the way to do it | Mind your language | David Marsh,

Marsh's column clearly explains the difference in use between that and which. Some writing authorities don't think the distinction is important. But I disagree.

Using these words correctly is not difficult to do if you take the time, like right now, to consider their differences. And using them correctly can aid your readers, which should be your highest priority as a writer.

One memory tip that I would like to emphasize: Phrases and clauses that begin with which should be surrounded by commas. Those commas signify that the statement is parenthetical; it's not providing information that's essential to the point of your sentence. If the information is essential, you probably should use that instead of which to begin the statement.


This article is featured in today's (June 8) Write Style: Editorial Choices, available at the Editorial Style tab at the top of this blog. 

16 words that may not mean what you think they mean | Laura Hale Brockway, The Plain Language Programme

Here's a useful set of words, as reminders to yourself -- as some were for me -- and as words to watch for in work you're editing -- as some also were for me.

Brockway comments on each of these words:

1. Comprise (often confused with compose)

2. Forgo (often confused with forego)

3. Imply (often used incorrectly for infer)

4. Less (often confused with fewer)

5. Literally (different from figuratively)

6. Poisonous (often confused with venomous)

7. Precision (often confused with accuracy)

8. Unique (different from unusual and rare)
9. Averse (often confused with adverse)

10. Bemuse (sometimes confused with amuse)

11. Decimate (precise meaning different from kill, remove, reduce)

12. Ensure (often confused with insure)

13. Epic

14. Facetious (sometimes confused with sarcastic)

15. Nonplussed (often confused with calm, relaxed)

16. Verbiage (sometimes confused with wording, content, language

For more articles and websites on language, 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 below on spelling and vocabulary.

Don't take it personally - why criticism is a good thing | Mark Thomas, Creative Boom Magazine

Criticism can be hard to deal with, writes blogger Thomas, but it's not all bad news, because we can sometimes use it to get a competitive edge.

His article describes six ways to benefit from criticism. Here they are, summarized:
Criticism is a form of communication ...
Take a moment to think before you respond to what they're saying; working with someone who is patient and able to receive and act on criticism means that both parties can work towards getting the best outcome.
Feedback helps to make your product stronger ...
Whatever you're selling, whether it's a product or service, listening to people's opinions will tell you what's good about what you're doing and what could be done better. ...
It helps you to think about how you work
Constructive criticism can guide you away from bad practices and towards good ones. Try to be objective and look at what you're providing as though it's not yours. ...
The right kind of criticism can give you an advantage
Think about it: if you can get a customer to tell you - and just you - how to give them the perfect product or service, that's information you've got that no one else has. That puts you at an advantage over everyone else in your sector ...
Use positive language; elicit a solution
The language you use to respond to criticism is vitally important. Try to avoid getting into an argument. Instead, turn the exchange into a discussion about how to resolve the problem. ...
Don't take it personally ...
Even if you feel you're being criticised unfairly, don't retaliate with a rude reaction or else you can irreparably damage your prospect of working together and maybe harm your reputation as well. ...

This article is from today's (June 8) Creativity Connections, available at the Creativity tab at the top of my blog.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

How to Break Out of a Creative Rut | Copyblogger

Here's a great infographic featuring seven of the most common creative blocks and how to break out of them.

How to Break Out of a Creative Rut
Like this infographic? Get more content marketing tips from Copyblogger.

Combinatorial Creativity and the Myth of Originality | Maria Popova, Innovations

I like the LEGO analogy in the concluding paragraph of Popova's blog (to aid readability, I broke the single paragraph into two). It clarifies the point about making connections with a hands-on visual clue:
We can, however, optimize our minds for combinatorial creativity – by enriching our mental pool of resources with diverse, eclectic, cross-disciplinary pieces which to fuse together into new combinations.
For creativity, after all, is a lot like LEGO – if we only have a few bricks of one shape, size, and color, what we build would end up dreadfully drab and uniform; but if we equip ourselves with a bag of colorful bricks of various shapes and sizes, the imaginative temples we build might appear to an onlooker to have been inspired by “a ray of grace,” yet we need only look to our bag of LEGOs to be reminded from whence they came.
FYI, this article is the lead item in today's (June 7) Garbl's Creativity Connections. For other articles on this topic, see the Creativity tab at the top of this page.

Grammar cheat sheet | HeidiStevens,

Not, actually, a very handy "cheat sheet." But Stevens clarifies five word choices that I have seen people struggle with in my editorial work. I've added links to these terms in Garbl's Editorial Style Manual:

Lay versus lie

i.e versus e.g.:

Stevens provides the following advice, but I'll go one essential step further: Instead of using confusing, misused abbreviations for confusing Latin terms, use the clear English terms instead [emphasis added]!
Grammar Girl offer's this trick: "From now on, i.e., which starts with i, means 'in other words,' and e.g., which starts with e, means 'for example.' I = in other words. E= example."

I've seen some references that poo-poo the difference between these two words. But why not use them in precise ways?! Their differing uses are usually easy to determine. Just do it -- and it will aid your readers.

BTW, don't be embarrassed if you sometimes confuse the terms above. Before using lay or lie (and their variations), I always check a style guide. And I decided that using English for i.e. and e.g. is smart because I could never remember the difference between them. And even though none can be plural or singular, I sometimes check my understanding of that just to be sure!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

100 Most Often Mispelled Misspelled Words in English

Here are the 100 words most commonly misspelled ('misspell' is one of them). Dr. Language has provided a one-stop cure for all your spelling ills. Each word has a mnemonic pill with it and, if you swallow it, it will help you to remember how to spell the word. Master the orthography of the words on this page and reduce the time you spend searching dictionaries by 50%.
OK, so that first paragraph in this article makes some tall promises (and overstates the memory tricks provided to remember most of the words). But it's still a useful list to study (and perhaps remember).

For more advice on this topic, check out the Spelling and Vocabulary sections at Garbl's Word Links. That site is 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.

Unmasking the Muse | Lisa Cron, Writer Unboxed

This article includes an excerpt from a new book, Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence, by Lisa Cron.

Cron begins by revealing "the Myth of the Muse." She writes:
Writers are often led to believe that the muse is responsible for unleashing, not to mention guiding, their creativity. They’re told to tap into the force, write down to the bone, court the muse for all they’re worth, and if they’re lucky, the notoriously capricious muse will speak through them and bring their prose to life.
But she says the muse "undermines writers at every turn."  She writes:
[T]he myth of the muse encourages writers to fly blind. To write whatever is in their heart, and somehow the muse will transform it into a story. As someone who spent the latter part of her career reading the novels and screenplays that such advice has yielded, I can tell you that it’s not only bad advice, it’s heartbreaking. 
That myth instills in writers either a sense of entitlement or a sense of inferiority. And both can lead to writer's block.

Cron provides some advice on how to escape the "terrible fate" of the muse: "How do you outwit the muse? Unmask her."

Ultimately, Cron writes:
The muse in the basement is you. And that inspired creativity? That’s you, too. You are, as the erstwhile Wizard confessed to Dorothy, the man behind the curtain.
And she provides some hands-on advice, provided here in bullets:
  • Take the time to ask “why” of everything in your story. 
  • Then ruthlessly edit it. 
  • Don’t polish. Don’t prettify sentences. 
  • Forget about the sound of the words, concentrate on their meaning.
  • Make sure that everything in your story is there for a story reason. 
  • Repeat, again and again, draft after draft. 
Following those steps, Cron writes, is the only way to earn "the very last step in the writing process — polishing what has survived the knife."


This article is featured in today's (June 6) Write Style paper, available at the Editorial Style tab above.

For more related 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 there features websites that can help you prevent or defeat Writer's Block.

The Simplicity Thesis | Aaron Levie, Fast Company

The only companies or products that will succeed now are the ones offering the lowest possible level of complexity for the maximum amount of value.
That's the main point of this article. Writer Aaron Levie says:
A fascinating trend is consuming Silicon Valley and beginning to eat away at rest of the world: the radical simplification of everything.
As a professional writer and editor, I believe "everything" in Levie's thesis includes writing and editing.

He asks asks:
So what do you do about it? ... [H]ow do you build sufficiently simple solutions to complex problems?
And responds:
By abstracting as much of the work that’s actually going on from what’s required of the consumer, and maniacally slashing any process or barrier that prevents consumers from getting the best possible experience. It’s all about reducing choices and unnecessary steps, narrowing clutter, and adding a touch of class to boot.
After stressing that simplicity "isn't an excuse for solutions to accomplish less," Levie lists a few ways to start achieving minimum complexity:
  • Think end to end. Simplicity relates to the entire customer experience, from how you handle pricing to customer support.
  • Say no. Kill features and services that don’t get used, and optimize the ones that do.
  • Specialize. Focus on your core competency, and outsource the rest--simplicity comes more reliably when you have less on your plate.
  • Focus on details. Simple is hard because it’s so easy to compromise; hire the best designers you can find, and always reduce clicks, messages, prompts, and alerts.
  • Audit constantly. Constantly ask yourself, can this be done any simpler? Audit your technology and application frequently.
He concludes:
When technology was inherently and unavoidably complex, it was forgivable that solutions weren't elegant and simple. ... But with a myriad of elegant and simple solutions entering the market, users are learning to expect far more from their products. Simplicity has become a virus that will either destroy you or catapult you to the front of the market.

This article is highlighted in today's (June 6) Plain English Paragraphs paper, available at the Plain Language tab above.

For more advice on plain language, check out Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide. It provides a seven-step approach to writing clearly and concisely to meet the needs of your readers: reader and purpose, organization, paragraphs, sentences, words, design, and testing.

24 Creativity Quotes to Bring Out Your Inner Artist

Below you'll find some quick inspiration from a blog in today's (June 6) Creativity Connections paper. For more, see the Creativity tab above.

Writes blogger Ciara Conlon:
I believe a life free from creativity is a life free from joy. Our creativity is the essence of who we are. We have a responsibility to ourselves and to the world to feed from our personal well of inventiveness and imagination.
Here are a few quotations from her blog:
  • “Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up” – Pablo Picasso
  • “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” – Scott Adams
  • “Creativity comes from trust. Trust your instincts” – Rita Mae Brown
  • “Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and at last, you create what you will” – George Bernard Shaw
  • “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” — Maya Angelou
  • “The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.” — John Maynard Keynes
Conlon concludes:
So live life a little more today, dance, sing, play and love. See the beauty in life and you will bring out the beauty from within.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Inspiration at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

My wife, her sister and I visited the Visitor Center of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle on June 2. With a guide headlined, "Every person deserves the chance to live a healthy, productive life," the visitor center aims to inspire as well as to inform people.

The center has features five rooms:

Voices. Visitors can hear from people around the world who support, work for and benefit from the foundation.

Family and Foundation. Visitors can find how why and how the Gates family started the foundation, see examples of how the foundation works around the world.

Partnerships. Visitors can discover how foundation partners are making progress on tough problems globally and locally.

Theater. A rotating program of short videos offers a perspective on the work of the foundation.

Innovation and Inspiration. Using hands on computer and "old-fashioned" tools, visitors can try solving real-word problems and learn more about how people are making a difference.

Check out the foundation website for more information.


Steven Pinker on the false fronts in the language wars. - Slate Magazine

The main point for Pinker's article in Slate seems to be a response to a critical article about him in The New Yorker about another article he wrote about language.  Got that?

But, fortunately, not lost in that "I'm right" "No, I'm right" battle is Pinker's clear description of the issue. The issue: Are the rules of writing and grammar "prescriptive" or "descriptive"?

Briefly, as I see it, a strict prescriptivist attitude is that many rules of writing are to be followed by everyone all the time; they're "prescribed" to aid communication among writers and readers. On the other hand, a strict descriptivist attitude (perhaps a contradictory phrase) is that the rules are not set in concrete; instead, they "describe" only how many people use language at a given time.

As Pinker points out, that debate also surrounds the production and use of dictionaries. Editors and proponents of some mainstream dictionaries contend  the words and definitions describe only how words are being used when the dictionary is published; thus, words can have many, even contradictory meanings. Critics and publishers of some other dictionaries contend that, for dictionaries to be useful, they must provide the only acceptable definitions (or, at least, they must emphasize the preferred definitions).

I fall in the prescriptivist camp, as a writer, editor, website publisher, blogger, and occasional writing instructor and adviser. But I also recognize the undeniable and acceptable fact that some words and terms do change in their common use and their preferred use. And so the rules must change.

The latest "big name" change, for example, is the decision by the Associated Press to allow the adverb "hopefully" to modify an entire sentence and not just a particular verb, other adverb or adjective in a sentence. (Much has been written about use of that word. Though not the clearest, most comprehensive discussion, here's what Wikipedia says about it; I may revise this link later.)

For decades, as a prescriptivist, I followed AP's advice -- its prescribed rule -- on using hopefully in my own writing and writing I edited. The editors and writers I worked with didn't have to discuss its use whenever the word appeared. We simply changed it (corrected it), citing AP as the reason. Doing that saved us time, energy and brain power. And, most importantly, preventing endless debates on use of that word -- and on other prescribed styles --- helped us meet deadlines.

BUT, at least for hopefully, our fine editorial work ignored reality. Everyone who isn't a full-time editor or writer in the prescriptivist mode uses hopefully "incorrectly." Fortunately, AP (and other style guides) are recognizing that using hopefully in the same way I used "fortunately" at the start of this sentence does not confuse readers. They get it!

I've gone off here on a bit of a tangent about hopefully. But, hopefully, my comments provide some clarity on the value of prescriptive style -- but a prescriptive style that's open-minded. Writing gurus and editors need to be open-minded enough to accept changes when long-time styles no longer reflect common use -- and will continue to be used "against the rules" no matter what editors and style manuals have to say about it.

I encourage you to read Pinker's article -- and my own "prescriptivist" editorial writing guide: Garbl's Editorial Style Manual. Pinker's article, BTW, is featured in today's (June 5) edition of my Write Style: Editorial Choices paper. It's available by free subscription and in the Editorial Style link at the top of this blog.

The importance of using plain English in business, commerce and industry | Jerome Espinosa Baladad, Moving On

Baladad begins his blog noting that language is such a powerful tool that people have used it to dominate other since mankind started writing down history. He writes:
The English language, per se, is not the main culprit but those interesting characters we meet all the time in our lives and who think of themselves as superior, one way or another, just because they happen to be speaking in a language that’s used in business, commerce and industry.
Fortunately, Baladad is not advocating use of plain language to dominate others. Instead, he makes four points to simplify language in any kind of transaction.

Summarized, here are Baladad's points:

1) Keep in mind that many people (so many, actually!) outside of the USA, Canada, some Caribbean countries, UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand who know and understand English. But the kind of English they know may sound different from what you may be using now. ...

2) Be deliberately simple whenever you use English whenever you talk with others who speak languages other than English. You’ll certainly be more appreciated ....

3) English is constantly being mixed with other languages in other countries. Keep in mind that there are other versions of English that are spoken freely with other languages, like Taglish, Singlish, Indian English, etc. ...

4) Also, try to always remember that others actually read and hear better in English than when they speak it. ...

For more advice on using plain English, check out Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide. The guide describes these steps:

Biased Towards Action (or How to Avoid Overplanning) | Michael Roberts, Revive Your Creativity

Roberts is on target in this blog. He emphasizes that *some* planning is good, even essential. But his second emphatic point: Don't let planning be your crutch.

Roberts writes:
The problem can be that we spend so much time planning that we never actually get to creating. I find that my need to outline the story just one more time always reasserts itself right around the moment when I start to struggle with the writing process.
He then provides the meat of his blog: four ways to beat the temptation of over-planing. Summarized, they are:
  • It’s time to have a bias towards action. ...
  • Put a time-limit on your planning. ...
  • Have a list of what needs to be planned. ...
  • Put down the blogs, instructional books, and planning guides and get to work. ...
This article is featured in my June 5 Creativity Connections paper. You can read other articles at the Creativity tab near the top of my blog.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Writing in Plain Language | Cory S. Clements, The Clements Review

I'm impressed that the blog writer, a new intern with the American Association of People with Disabilities, is advocating use of plain language. Clements writes in his blog (updated link):
It's great to be in the nation's capital and to read that Congress thinks plain language is important. On October 11, 2011, the Plain Writing Act of 2010 became fully in force. Congress passed the Act to require agencies to draft all new forms, publications, and publicly distributed documents in easy-to-understand, everyday English.
Clements begins with this brief definition from the Plain Writing Act:
The Act defines Plain Writing as "writing that is clear, concise, well-organized, and follows other best practices appropriate to the subject or field and intended audience."
And after highlighting a couple of word usage suggestions, Clements summarizes the five attributes of plain language, as described by the Federal Communications Commission:
  • Concise word use
  • The active voice
  • Cohesion
  • Reader-focus
  • Tone.
For more information, he links to the complete Plain Language Workbook: Five Steps to Clear, Effective Communications for the Federal Communications Commission. You also can get more information at Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide

11 Words Adults Just Can't Spell | Jonathan Anker,

I think this is a pretty good list of words to think twice about. As Anker says:
Here are 11 words that many adult screws up, presented for you in standard spelling bee form.
The word is: Occasion ...
The word is: Fiery ...
The word is: Embarrassed ...
The word is: Restaurant ...
The word is: Vacuum ...
The word is: Loose ...
The word is: Daiquiri ...
The word is: Independent ...
The word is: Recommend ...
The word is: Separate ...
The word is: Misspell ...
I usually give at least a second thought to a couple of them: occasion, misspell. (Misspell is an ironic word in this list.) Of course, none of them should be capitalized unless they begin a sentence or are in a title or part of a proper name.

For more resources on spelling check out the Spelling section in Garbl's Word Links.

Why 'Amercia' needs copy editors | Merrill Perlman,

Whatever their acclaim and position, all writers need editors. I don't have one for Garbl's Writing Center, so if you spot a typo, unclear message or possible error, please let me know. 
Perlman's article reminded me of that statement, which I have on various pages of my website. Perlman begins with the latest embarrassing news for former businessman Mitt Romney, about a typo that when viral on one of his website apps. It referred to "A Better Amercia."

Perlman notes that it's an easy typo to make, but he stresses: " almost all typos are easy to make."

The article goes on to discuss the growth of the Web and social media, in which more and more people and firms are publishing information without someone assigned to copy-edit and proofread articles before they go online. And so, more and more typos -- and outright errors -- are appearing.

Perlman also discusses the poor decisions being made by the regular news media to eliminate or reduce their staff of copy editors. He writes:
People reading newspapers and news sites can empathize. They're seeing lots of typos, as well as errors of grammar, fact and logic — many more than they would have seen before news organizations decided that they did not need so many copy editors. No other job classification has suffered so many losses as the news business downsizes (except, perhaps, for classified ad takers, who have been craigsdelisted).
His article is mostly advocating for the value of keeping copy editors employed, and his arguments are accurate. It's pure foolishness to deny his points.

But I want to end by stressing that it's near foolishness for any of us -- not just publishers -- to send off an article, blog post, email, report or other piece of written work without carefully reading and editing it, looking for that inevitable error or typo. And the final essential act before pushing "Send": proofreading those edits.

(I should note that I write that last paragraph also as a reminder to myself. I recall too much self-perpetuated embarrassment of my own!)

Of course, the most effective way to avoid embarrassment is to get someone else to edit and proofread for our bloopers ... before publication!

For more articles on editorial style, check out the related tab at the top of my blog. It'll take you to my daily paper, In Style: Tips for Writers, Editors. 

8 Bad Habits that Crush Your Creativity And Stifle Your Success | Dean Rieck, Copyblogger

"Why are so few people highly creative?" asks blogger Dean Rieck. His answer:
Because there are bad habits people learn as they grow up which crush the creative pathways in the brain. And like all bad habits, they can be broken if you are willing to work at it.
In this blog, Rieck, lists eight of the very worst bad habits that he says could be affecting your creativity. Here they are, summarized:
1. Creating and evaluating at the same time ...
Most people evaluate too soon and too often, and therefore create less. In order to create more and better ideas, you must separate creation from evaluation, coming up with lots of ideas first, then judging their worth later.
2. The Expert Syndrome
This a big problem in any field where there are lots of gurus who tell you their secrets of success. It’s wise to listen, but unwise to follow without question. ...
3. Fear of failure ...
It has been said that to increase your success rate, you should aim to make more mistakes. In other words, take more chances and you’ll succeed more often. ...
4. Fear of ambiguity ...
[M]ost great creative ideas emerge from a swirl of chaos. You must develop a part of yourself that is comfortable with mess and confusion. ...
5. Lack of confidence ...
[Y]ou must have confidence in your abilities in order to create and carry out effective solutions to problems.
Much of this comes from experience, but confidence also comes from familiarity with how creativity works. ...
6. Discouragement from other people
Even if you have a wide-open mind and the ability to see what’s possible, most people around you will not. They will tell you in various and often subtle ways to conform, be sensible, and not rock the boat.
Ignore them. ...
7. Being overwhelmed by information ...
It’s been said that information is to the brain what food is to the body. True enough. But just as you can overeat, you can also overthink. ...
8. Being trapped by false limits ...
Be open to anything. Step outside your comfort zone. Consider how those in unrelated areas do what they do. What seems impossible today may seem surprisingly doable tomorrow. ...
Rieck's blog fills in the details for those eight bad habits.

For more articles on creativity, check out the daily "Creativity Connections" paper at the Creativity tab above. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Let’s Get Specific: Bland is Bad | Business 2 Community

I find a bunch of articles on the Web about "writing for the Web." I used to link to some of them but hardly do so any more because the advice was often redundant -- and more importantly, they were difficult to read! Ironically, they often seem wordy, with long sentences and paragraphs, no subheads, no bullets, no graphics of any kind -- just gray matter.

This article offers content different from others I've read, though I think it makes it point over and over again. But it also breaks up the text with some catchy subheads. The subheads help the readers know what's coming next ... and helps keep them reading!

One example:
Words matter. Really.
The thing about copywriting—and writing for the web in general—is that your words are what your customer interfaces with. If you have a brick-and-mortar outlet, you likely understand that it’s important to have a store that is attractively and logically laid out; your employees may greet customers at the door and ask them if they need assistance. Even before the customer buys, your business’ handshake is one that is pleasant, put-together, and comfortable. It’s convincing.
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