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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Everyone smiles in the same language.

Everyone smiles in the same language.

In praise of ... the oxymoron | Gary Nunn, Mind your language,|

It's an open secret that everyone, from compassionate conservatives to champagne socialists, loves an oxymoron.

Like British blogger Nunn, I love an effective or amusing oxymoron, a word or term -- a figure of speech -- that combines contradictory or incongruous terms.

Nunn begins with a good one -- "Now then" -- and then comments on a bunch of others. I'll list some of them here; Nunn places them and others in categories:
  • compassionate conservative
  • "I'm definitely unsure what I want ...."
  • "It costs a lot of money to look this cheap." 
  • "I like restraint - if it doesn't go too far." 
  • "Instant gratification takes too long."
  • happily married 
  • working from home
  • deafening silence 
  • pretty ugly
  • open secret 
  • terribly nice 
  • bittersweet
  • "Dress – smart casual." 
This article is featured in my daily online paper for June 30, The Write Style: Editorial Choices -- available at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subscription. 

You also can check out Garbl's Word Linksan 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.

Effective Business Writing: The Importance of Plain Language | Nicole Breit , Small Business BC

When running a business, it is important to be aware of how you communicate with your customers, your staff, your investors, and your suppliers. Your written materials, from your business plan to your marketing, are often the first encounter a person has with your company. It is therefore important to make sure that your writing is clear ....
As is the nature of small business, one of the essentials skills you must learn is the speed factor. You need to get your message across quickly and in a way that is easy to understand. ...
Blogger Nicole Breit begins her article with that good advice and then continues by describing some how-to-do-it principles of plain language.

She writes:
Plain language means keeping your writing clear and succinct. It means removing the content that detracts the reader from your message.
And she suggests ways to simplify your writing. Summarized, they are:
  • Remember your audience. ...
  • Drop the jargon. ...
  • Replace inflated language with simple words. ...
  • [Use an easy-to-follow] organization. ...
  • Use active voice. ...
  • Use clean design. ...
  • Minimize long blocks of text. ...
  • Use tables, charts, and examples. ...
This article is featured in my daily online paper, Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs -- available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.

20 Art Inspiration Ideas for Creativity | Artpromotivate Art Promotion Tips

Blogger Graham Matthews writes:
Whether you are experiencing artists block, or just need some ideas on where to look for artistic inspiration, this article should be for you.
BUT ... the ideas in his blog are good ones for anyone seeking inspiration and creativity.  

Matthews writes:
Inspiration ideas are all around us – everywhere an artist [or any of us] ventures, who they speak with, what they experience, and everything an artist [or other creative person] does outside of the art field.
Here are excerpts from a few ideas in Matthews' blog:
Listen to Music

Listening to music always sets a mood while painting and creating art. ...
Take Lots of Photographs

Carry a camera wherever you go and take lots of pictures. ...
Do not Always Focus on Good Ideas

Good ideas are generally hard to come by, even for the most talented artists. ...
Talk to Senior Citizens

Visit a senior citizens home, or talk to your own grandfather. ...
Communicate More

As artists we tend to spend a lot of time alone creating in our own little world. ...
This article is featured in my daily online paper for June 30, Garbl's Creativity Connections -- available at the Creativity tab above (and by free email subscription).

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Race to Be First to Be Wrong at the Supreme Court | FAIR Blog

Here's an excellent column that's NOT just about the recent Supreme Court decision. It boggles my mind that Fox News compares its coverage of that decision to reporting on a silly baseball game.

Accuracy in news reporting on that decision or on election results or on  terrorist attacks or on supposed weapons of mass destruction certainly must be a higher priority than winning a silly race to be first. At least that's what I learned when I studied journalism and tried to achieve as a newspaper reporter and editor.

A Kick In The Teeth Is Nothing To Smile About | Corinne Wnek, NJtoday

I love the point of this column. It's not just about writing; it's also about speaking. It's about the use of terms and references to a person's occupation that can be hurtful, unexpectedly perhaps, by the speaker or writer. The "job descriptions" -- often cliches -- can belittle or denigrate the value or importance of a job.

As a writer and editor for an organization, for example, I've winced occasionally when I've been called a "spin doctor," even a "wordsmith." The speaker may not have meant to be insensitive (and I must acknowledge that, at least within my head), but those terms sometimes seem to minimize the effort and impact of my work.

And consider this caricature, from Wnek's article: "Those who can, do and those who can’t, teach." One implication of that statement, perhaps unconscious to the person saying it, is that the work of teachers isn't all that valuable or necessary. Or course, the fact is that no one would be where they are today if it weren't for at least one of their teachers.

Wnek writes:
The problem with this kind of caricaturing of occupations is that it doesn’t tell the whole story. Someone who works with their hands, for instance, is often portrayed as being not as smart as the person who earned a college degree. But do we ever think that the person who earned that college degree might not be as smart as the person skilled with their hands? Last I checked, the head and the hands work together.
I'm reminded of this type of caricaturing when I'm discussing the value of a college education, buying or ordering a product or service about which I have have no expertise, or even ordering a meal at a fancy restaurant.

While I certainly value my college education and believe it accomplished more for me than just providing a career skill, I do not believe everyone needs to go to college or should go to college.

We each depend on many important jobs in which the person serving us gained expertise on the job or perhaps in a technical or occupational school. That person at that moment is as valuable in our society as someone with multiple college degrees or a penthouse office with a walnut desk and gold-engraved pen and pencil set.

And that person serving us also must feed himself or herself and perhaps a family of four as well.

Travel Photography Tips Part II – Photo Composition | Alberto Molero, Wild Junket

I was pleased to read the five photo composition tips in this article. I use them often in all my photography -- not just travel photography. I recommend them.

Here are the headings for each tip, some with my comments; each tip in the article includes a useful photo example:

1. Less is More [Molero refers to a "teletype lens." In my lingo, I think he means a telephoto lens. At least that's what I use to accomplish the vision he's describing.]

2. Rule of Thirds [I use this a lot! If I don't follow this rule when taking a photo, or if I don't see the rule-of-third focal points while taking a photo, I'll look for them later when I'm editing -- cropping! -- my photos.]

3. Framing [This technique seems common among photographers at all levels of skill. And that's a good thing! I see it often when a photo shows a fellow traveler in front of sight-seeing highlight. But too often, the person's face is too small or too shadowed. That problem can be reduced by cropping the photo (in the camera or later on the computer) to include only the person's head and shoulders or upper torso; showing feet and legs isn't always necessary. Also possible, especially when editing photos, is to use the editing tool to lighten a person's shadowed face.]

4. Repetitive Elements [This can be a fun, striking photo element.]

5. Play with the Lines [And this can be fun too!]

This article is featured in my today's (June 29) online paper, Garbl's Picture-Perfect Traveling, available at the Travel Photography tab above  (and by free email subscription).

Beyond Reading & Writing: The Importance of Health Literacy! | Pima County Health Department, Literacy Connects

As the United States continues its tardy debate about providing affordable health care for everyone, the issue of health literacy also must be considered.

As this article notes:
Research shows that people of all ages, races, incomes, and education levels are affected by limited health literacy. This is often because most health information is unfamiliar, complicated, or overwhelming.
The article explains that people with high levels of health literacy are better able to get, process and understand basic health information. As a result, they're better able to get the services needed to make appropriate health decisions.

But, the article notes:
Unfortunately, the latest data shows that nearly 9 out of 10 adults have trouble understanding most health information that is available. This is often complicated by the fact that there is so much conflicting information, leaving people unsure of which sources to trust.
Also, related to the U.S. debate about the cost of health care and how to finance it, the article notes [emphasis added]:
Low health literacy is a significant cost burden on healthcare, with some estimates indicating the annual health care costs for individuals with low literacy skills are four times higher than those with higher literacy skills.
I don't recall reading about anything in the U.S. legislation about improving the health literacy of citizens. So it's important for writers and editors in other fields -- including the health-care field itself and  organizational personnel/human relations offices -- to ensure information is provided in clear, concise and understandable plain language.

I note HR offices above because the U.S. continues to be one of the few countries on the planet to rely on employers to provide (pay for) health care for their employees.

For more information on writing in clear, concise language, check out Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide. It provides a step-by-step process on how to improve writing skills by using plain-English techniques:

Thursday, June 28, 2012

How to Stand Out by Keeping it Simple | Erika Napoletano,

Here's the main point of Napoletano's article:
You should be able to clearly explain the following about your company within 10 seconds:
1. Who you are
2. What you do
3. Why you're different
4. Why they should care
The article gives various examples about how companies and organizatons can create a concise yet effective message about themselves using plain language.

Napoletano concludes:
First, it's unlikely that anybody will want to use your product unless they understand what it does--and simple language is the best way to get them there. Second, words can deliver you both to and from evil. Kick-ass iterations keep our economy moving forward, but they never imitate. Rather, they emulate, taking the best of the past and present to show us a better future.

This article is featured in today's (June 28) Plain English Paragraphs paper -- available at the Plain Language tab above and by a free email subscription.

The secret to creativity: Background noise? - The Week

Darn! I was hoping this article would suggest music as acceptable background noise for fostering creativity. I'll keep looking for that research!

Anyway, a new paper published in the Journal of Consumer Research says the perfect working environment should buzz with a little ambient noise.

The article goes on to describe how much background hum is optimal and answers this question:
Why does background noise foster creativity?
The authors of the study say that moderate background noise creates just enough of a distraction to force people to think more imaginatively, without breaking their focus so completely that they can't think at all. "Instead of burying oneself in a quiet room trying to figure out a solution,"the authors write, "walking out of one's comfort zone and getting into a relatively noisy environment may trigger the brain to think abstractly, and thus generate creative ideas."
This article is featured in today's (June 28) Creativity Connections paper, available at the Creativity tab above -- and by free email subscription.

Garbl's Editorial Style Manual: H -- revised entry for 'hopefully'

I finally got around to updating my online editorial style manual to reflect the changing consensus on acceptable uses of hopefully.

This change was brought to the forefront earlier this year when the Associated Press Stylebook revised its advice on use of hopefully. Most U.S. newspapers and many corporate communications departments follow the AP's editorial style preferences.

Here's my revision in Garbl's Editorial Style Manual:
hopefully Ignore the rapidly dwindling number of style gurus who think it is incorrect to modify the meaning of an entire sentence by beginning it with the adverb hopefully. As other style experts note, adverbs such as apparently, fortunately and obviously are already used correctly to modify entire sentences. And hopefully can be used that way too! Thus, go ahead and use hopefully to mean "it is hoped, let us hope, we hope" or "I hope" when describing feelings toward the entire sentence: Hopefully, the war will end quickly with few civilian casualties.
Hopefully may also be used to mean "hopeful or with hope or in a hopeful manner" when describing how the subject of a sentence feels: Hopefully, the dog sat by the dinner table. (The dog is hopeful.) Hopefully, Carlos emailed his request for a vacation. (Carlos is hopeful.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Updates to The Associated Press Stylebook

Below are some recent updates to AP's so-called "Journalist's Bible." The AP Stylebook has been my first reference since majoring in journalism and working as weekly newspaper editor, daily newspaper reporter, and community college journalism instructor early in my career. It's continued to be my first (and my employer's first) reference since I began working for nonprofit and public-sector agencies.

While I also consult other more-comprehensive style manuals, the alphabetically arranged AP manual is the easiest to use and covers most of my needs and the needs of my employers. I've adapted AP style (and the style of other manuals when needed) in internal/employee manuals for my employers and for Garbl's Editorial Style Manual.

I also consult the Chicago Manual of Style, the Gregg Reference Manual, Garner's Modern American Usage, and other resources when necessary.

OK, some recent AP Stylebook updates:

June 21

This update featured new Fashion Guidelines, 185 of 'em!
flair, flare. Flair is conspicuous talent or style. Flare is a curving or spreading outward, as in a skirt.
girlie. Connotes young, feminine, flirty.

June 13

This update featured other new Fashion Guidelines.
compliment, complement. Complement is a noun and a verb denoting  completeness or the process of supplementing something: The ship has a complement of 200 sailors and 20 officers. The tie complements his suit. 
Compliment is a noun or a verb that denotes praise or the expression of courtesy: The captain complimented the sailors. She was flattered by the compliments on her project.
dyeing. Refers to changing colors.

June 8

ethnic cleansing. Euphemism for a campaign to force a population from a region by expulsions and other violence often including  killings and rapes. ... AP does not use "ethnic cleansing" on its own. It must be enclosed in quotes, attributed and explained. ...
rack, wrack. The noun rack applies to various types of framework; the verb rack means to arrange on a rack, to torture, trouble or torment: He was placed on the rack. She racked her brain.
The noun wrack means ruin or destruction, and generally is confined to the phrase wrack and ruin and wracked with doubt (or pain). Also, nerve-wracking.
 The verb wrack has substantially the same meaning as the verb rack, the latter being preferred. 
semi-. The rules in prefixes apply, but in general, no hyphen.
Some examples:
But semi-automatic.  
wracked. The preferred spelling when used to say a person is wracked with doubt or wracked with pain. Also, nerve-wracking.

June 5

This update also featured other new Fashion Guidelines.
atelier. A designer's workshop or studio.
back-to-school clothing.
batik. ...
boho. Style that draws on bohemian influences.
bra. Acceptable in all references for brassiere.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

5 Words to Ban from Your Vocabulary | Terri Trespicio , Healthy Living - Yahoo! Shine

Given the source of this article, Trespicio wrote it mostly for people looking to enhance their health and life style. But her legitimate banned-word suggestions for that purpose also are words to limit or use with care in writing and speaking for other purposes.

Trespicio writes:
I thought about what words we use on a regular basis and why it may serve us to drop them (or at least rethink our use of them). Now, it's fairly easy to recognize how using undeniably negative terms can cut into your happiness quotient. But what about the more subtle words, the ones that sneak in and sabotage you in ways you may not know? Here are five that we can very well do without.

Trespicio writes:
"Should" is a hollow word that serves only to heighten your insecurity. So the sooner you drop it, the better.
But it's also sometimes misused or confused with the use of would. If you must use should, use it to express an obligation (meaning "ought to"), a condition (an "if" statement) or an expectation: We should help the needy. If I win the lottery, I should give at least 10 percent to charity. They should be back in 15 minutes. Use would to express a usual action, a hypothetical situation or a preference: In the summer we would spend hours by the seashore. She would do it if she could. I would like to see you.

Also, should of and would of are misspellings of should have and would have and the contractions should've and would've; same with could of, may of, might of, and must of for could have, could've, may have, might have or might've. In writing, the (correct) spelled-out version is less awkard than those contractions .


Trespicio writes:
It's a cop-out compliment, a verbally ambiguous, vague, and featureless comment that rarely does anyone any good. ...
I agree! Nice has many meanings, including "finicky," "precise and subtle," "delicate," and "scrupulous." And it's commonly used to mean "friendly, pretty, courteous, respectable or good." If you mean one of those words -- or any of the other definitions of nice -- be nice to your readers and use one of them. Or describe why you think something is "nice" He volunteers at the dog shelter; not He's niceTheir house has indoor plumbing; not Their house is nice. 


Trespicio writes: 
I don't want to rule out the notion of success, or of ambition for that matter. But I do challenge you to take note of how and when you use the term. Why? Because it's one of those amorphous, unquantifiable, blanket-type words we often use to describe other people's achievements. ...
Also, a form of successful -- successfully -- is often unnecessary: She finished the assignment successfully means the same as She finished the assignment.

Another form of successful, succeed, is commonly misspelled. It's one of only three English words that end in -ceed. The others are exceed and proceed


Trespicio writes:
[I]t has an insidious way of becoming a prediction when you use it as a sweeping statement. ... Some people believe that this "never" mind-set becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, since, more often than not, you get what you expect in life. ... Any term that implies an "absolute" statement may be right for the wrong reasons or wrong for the right ones. And either way, you lose.
Also, avoid the wordy, redundant phrases never at any time and never ever. Instead, use never or not ever or not once


Trespicio writes: 
[I]t reeks of a kind of better-than attitude. It's almost a status thing, a contest to see who's busier than whom, and whoever's more crazed wins. ... Being busy, after all, means that we're active, vital, and needed. So let's stop saying it to each other over and over. ...
Also, the difference between abstract and concrete words and ideas is relevant here. If it is important to express that you or a work group or an organization is "busy," give some examples.  That will help the reader or listener understand, and perhaps accept, what you mean by busy.

For more advice on word usage, check out Garbl's Editorial Style Manual and Garbl's Concise Writing Guide.

The Art of Listening | Brenda Ueland, Zen Moments

I've been trying to write a useful summary of this moving article by author Brenda Ueland and can't. I suggest you read the stories Ueland tells in it, providing evidence to support her advice. 

But without those stories, here are some tidbits of her suggestions to grab your attention before you start "listening" to the words she writes:
It makes people happy and free when they are listened to. And if you are a listener, it is the secret of having a good time in society (because everybody around you becomes lively and interesting), of comforting people, of doing them good. ...
You are taught in school to put down on paper only the bright things. Wrong. Pour out the dull things on paper too – you can tear them up afterward – for only then do the bright ones come. If you hold back the dull things, you are certain to hold back what is clear and beautiful and true and lively. ...
You love your children, but probably don’t let them in. Unless you listen, you can’t know anybody. Oh, you will know facts and what is in the newspapers and all of history, perhaps, but you will not know one single person. You know, I have come to think listening is love, that’s what it really is. ...
Creative listeners are those who want you to be recklessly yourself, even at your very worst, even vituperative, bad- tempered. They are laughing and just delighted with any manifestation of yourself, bad or good. For true listeners know that if you are bad-tempered it does not mean that you are always so. They don’t love you just when you are nice; they love all of you.
In order to listen, here are some suggestions: Try to learn tranquility, to live in the present a part of the time every day. Sometimes say to yourself: “Now. What is happening now? This friend is talking. I am quiet. There is endless time. I hear it, every word.” Then suddenly you begin to hear not only what people are saying, but also what they are trying to say, and you sense the whole truth about them. ...
Ueland's essay is featured in my daily paper, Garbl's Simple Dreams, for June 25, available at the Simplicity tab above.

John Fogerty At Telluride Bluegrass 6/22/12 - No Depression Americana and Roots Music

YES! I can write I was there, and this article describes John Fogerty's wonderful set perfectly, though I feel I heard two hours (not 1 1/2 hours) of terrific Creedence Clearwater Revival and Fogerty solo tunes.

I was blown away, as was my wife and probably everyone else lucky enough to be there. 

I was mostly in my late teens when Fogerty & Co. released their biggest hits and excellent albums -- and this concert took me back there. I was on my feet the entire show, moving with my old dance steps as I sang quietly along, recalling nearly all the words.

If you liked CCR way back when and even Fogerty's later work, I encourage you to see and hear him when he comes to town. Or if you're new to his style of alt-country-rock music, check him out! He's *only* 67 (as I write this), and his roots music is true Americana.

This article, from the online No Depression magazine, is featured in my daily Americana Songbook paper for (June 26) -- at the tab above.

I've learnt to stop | Amanda Patterson, Writers Write

Near the start of Patterson's blog, she writes that she locks up the first draft of her books and gives the key to her mother. And then she waits three weeks before she begins the "real work" of rewriting and revising her manuscript.

I like that idea. If there's time to let your first draft sit unedited for awhile, it's useful to let it be, to take a break from it, to give you some time to read and then revise it with refreshed eyes.

Patterson writes books, novels, I think. But her blog applies well to other forms of writing.

When beginning the rewriting/revising process, she first reads her manuscript without marking her hard copy with a green pen. And then:
Once I’ve finished, I ask these questions:
  1. Does the story make sense?
  2. What’s missing?
  3. What should I remove? 
Attacking her draft, Patterson looks for the obvious and not-so-obvious things to change, correct and improve. She provides useful reminders in her blog of things to check and fix.

And then, with satisfaction she's done her best, she stops ... after making backup copies.

For more suggestions on this topic, 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.

Monday, June 25, 2012

5 Ways To Spark Your Creativity | Sarah Zielinski, NPR

In the past few years, neuroscientists and psychologists have started to gain a better understanding of the creative process. Some triggers of innovation may be surprisingly simple.
And so blogger Zielinski lists five things that may well increase the odds of having an "Aha!" moment for you. Here are summaries of the suggestions [emphasis added]:
1. Take a shower. [This works for me!]
A seemingly mindless task — showering, fishing or driving — might help spur creative thoughts, as the mind wanders from "lather-rinse-repeat" to a recent problem, and then back again. There's even history to back this up. ...
2. Work in a blue room. ...
Red makes us anxious, and "anxiety causes you to focus," says Mark Beeman, an associate professor of psychology at Northwestern University who studies the neuroscience of creativity. Blue, he says, tells us we can relax and let the imagination roam free.
3. Live abroad. ... [I like this!]
The researchers think adapting to a new culture may spur some sort of psychological transformation that enhances creativity.
4. Watch a funny video.
Mood matters when it comes to creativity. Anxiety focuses a person, but good cheer and contentment liberate creativity. It "might not just relax your scope of interest, but actually broaden it further," allowing you to look at a problem in new ways and come up with a solution ....
5. Sleep on it. ...
During sleep, the brain consolidates memories. That act of consolidation actually reorganizes thoughts, much like organizing books on a shelf. The new arrangement can help extract knowledge and generate new associations. ...
For  more articles on this topic, check out my daily Creativity Connectioins in the Creativity tab above.

Jargon gibberish: just say what you mean | HRM Online

According to this blog, your possible use of  business jargon may happen because of these reasons:
Insecurity: ... people think certain phrases and words make them sound knowledgeable.

Lazy thinking: ... people have not thought through the ideas, so they dress up incomplete thinking with all kinds of blah blahblah.
Fear: People are afraid to explain the facts, especially in touchy situations like redundancies. They think that if they couch things in obscure explanations, people won’t get upset or ask difficult questions. ...
The blogger goes on to list some of the worst offenders, according to Forbes:
Core competency
This expression refers to a firm’s or a person’s fundamental strength—even though that’s not what the word “competent” means. ...
This is what someone above your pay grade does when, apparently, they would like you to do a job of some importance. ...
Open the kimono ...
Lots of moving parts ...
A scalable business or activity refers to one that requires little additional effort or cost for each additional unit of output. ...

Think outside the box
This tired turn of phrase means to approach a business problem in an unconventional fashion. Kudos to one reader who suggested: “Forget the box, just think.”
Leverage ...
‘Leverage’ is mercilessly used [as a verb] to describe how a situation or environment can be manipulated or controlled. ...
Vertical ...
This otherwise harmless adjective has come to suggest a product or service with a virtually endless capacity to please. ...
Learnings ...
Whatever happened to simply saying: “I learned a lesson from that project?” ...
Impact ...
A tip: “Affect” is most commonly a verb, “effect” a noun. For instance: When you affect my thinking, you may have an effect on my actions.
Giving 110%
The nice thing about effort, in terms of measuring it, is that the most you can give is everything—and everything equals 100%. You can’t give more than that ....
Take it to the next level
In theory this means to make something better. In practice, it means nothing ....

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