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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Checklist: Is My Message Relevant? | Kivi Leroux Miller, Kivi's Nonprofit Communications Blog

Kivi's blog features an easy-to use, printable graphic about the relevance of messages in nonprofit communications materials (and other types of materials too!).

To be relevant, the graphic says, a message should meet at least two of these criteria:
  • It's rewarding.
  • It's realistic.
  • It's real time.
  • It's responsive.
  • It's revealing.
  • It's refreshing. 
The graphic briefly explains each of Kivi's Six R's of Message Relevance. 
This article is featured today (Aug. 18) in Garbl's Good Cause Communications--available at the Nonprofit Communications tab above and by free email subscription.

Grammar, a Victim in the Office - Sue Shellenbarger,

This Embarrasses You and I*

Grammar Gaffes Invade the Office in an Age of Informal Email, Texting and Twitter

Following those headings of this article, Shellenbarger writes:
Managers are fighting an epidemic of grammar gaffes in the workplace. Many of them attribute slipping skills to the informality of email, texting and Twitter where slang and shortcuts are common. Such looseness with language can create bad impressions with clients, ruin marketing materials and cause communications errors, many managers say.
And the asterisk in the main heading? To be grammatically correct, that I should be replaced with Me.

Shellenbarger quotes a couple of respected authors of books on writing and some employers about problems in the workplace with employees who make embarrassing errors in things they write.

She writes:
There's no easy fix. Some bosses and co-workers step in to correct mistakes, while others consult business-grammar guides for help. In a survey conducted earlier this year, about 45% of 430 employers said they were increasing employee-training programs to improve employees' grammar and other skills, according to the Society for Human Resource Management and AARP.
This article is featured today (Aug. 18) in Garbl's Style: Write Choices--available at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subscription.

For help in writing correctly, consistently and concisely, visit Garbl's Editorial Style Manual. My free writing guide can answer your questions about abbreviations, addresses, capitalization, English grammar, Internet terminology, numbers, plurals, possessives, punctuation, spelling and word usage.

Friends With Words: A Review of Joe Romm's New Book "Language Intelligence" | Rep. Ed Markey:, Huffington Post

Rep. Markey's review suggests that this new book on powerful, persuasive language is timely in a year filled with speech-making by politicians and political columns by newspaper pundits. I may have to get it!

Markey writes:
Two decades in development, mining 25 centuries of rhetorical work, Language Intelligence will help readers simplify and sharpen their skills of persuasion. Whether to sway a room the size of the Coliseum, or a boardroom filled with executive gladiators.
In the book, Markey writes, Romm discusses the "main pillars of effective rhetoric":
He scripts ways to master the metaphor, and incorporate irony. Solutions the reader can use for speeches, social media, or just winning the debate around the kitchen table.
This article is highlighted today (Aug. 17) in Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs--available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.

Video: Say What You Mean | Terin Izil, TED-Ed

In this short, playful video Terin Izil explains why simple, punchy language is often the clearest way to convey a message.
 As the introductory text at this site also says:
Long, fancy words designed to show off your intelligence and vocabulary are all very well, but they aren't always the best words. 
To help teach the lesson of the video, the site also includes:
  • a five-question quiz
  • discussion questions about this significant statement: 
The author thinks that speakers and writers are “fighting for space in an attention span that continues to shrink across generations.”
This article is featured today (Aug. 18) in Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs--available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription. For more advice on this topic, visit Garbl's Concise Writing GuideThis free guide provides alternatives to overstated, pompous words; wordy, bureaucratic phrases; and verbose, sometimes amusing redundant phrases.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Garbl's Concise Writing Guide--and Words of Wisdom on Concise Writing

This free Web tool of mine provides alternatives to overstated, pompous words; wordy, bureaucratic phrases; and verbose, sometimes amusing redundant phrases: But it also lists Words of Wisdom on concise writing that you might find helpful, if not inspiring. Here are some of them:
Winston Churchill: "Broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old words when short are best of all."
Cicero: "When you wish to instruct, be brief; that men's minds take in quickly what you say, learn its lesson, and retain it faithfully. Every word that is unnecessary only pours over the side of a brimming mind."
Samuel Taylor Coleridge: "Words in prose ought to express the intended meaning; if they attract attention to themselves, it is a fault; in the very best styles you read page after page without noticing the medium."
George Eliot: "The finest language is mostly made up of simple unimposing words."
Wilson Follett: "Whenever we can make 25 words do the work of 50, we halve the area in which looseness and disorganization can flourish."
Anatole France: "The finest words in the world are only vain sounds if you can't understand them."
Thomas Jefferson: "The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do."
Samuel Johnson: "Do not accustom yourself to use big words for little matters."
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 really infinite."
John Locke: "Vague forms of speech have so long passed for mysteries of science; and hard words mistaken for deep learning, that it will not be easy to persuade either those who speak or those who hear them, that they are but a hindrance to true knowledge."
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: "Many a poem is marred by a superfluous word."
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."
William Penn: "Speak properly, and in as few words as you can, but always plainly; for the end of speech is not ostentation, but to be understood."
Alexander Pope: "Words are like leaves; and where they most abound, Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found."
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."
William Safire: "It behooves us to avoid archaisms. Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do."
William Shakespeare: "Men of few words are the best men."
William Strunk: "A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts."
E.B. White: "Use the smallest word that does the job."

Make Your Life and Work a Work of Art | Linda Naiman, Creativity at Work

How do you make life and work a work of art?
Building on the headline, Naiman asks that obvious question to begin her column. She responds:
Art-making is meditation in action. It nourishes my craving for beauty, clarity and harmony. By beauty I mean aesthetics, that is the beauty of meaning-making, when all the parts come together to create a whole, or when clues are combined to solve a mystery. It's about finding elegant solutions to problems we face. ..."
And she asks another question:
How can you bring more artistry into life and work?
Naiman responds with six answers, summarized here.
Artists begin their work with intention and purpose. They have some idea about the end product they want to create ....
Focuses Attention ...
To establish more flow in your work, the first step is to prioritize and focus on what is most important. Devote your best thinking time for tasks that most need your creativity and focused attention. And don’t allow interruptions.
[I like how she describes the flow between action and reflection: "as Frank Sinatra put it so eloquently: 'Do, be, do, be do.'"]
Artistry ...
Artistry can be defined as having mastered a skill sufficiently enough so that you don't have to think about it. ... Once you have mastered a skill you can transcend technicalities and focus on creating, inventing and innovating. ...
Aesthetic Experience ...
Art here is not divorced from life, but rather informs life. We can enrich are own life and work, by incorporating the aesthetics of emotion, sensory experience, values, and sense-making into daily experiences.

Artistic Reflection
Artistic qualities such as: Seeing with new eyes, sensing and perceiving, mastery, finding beauty, meaning, elegance, rhythm, melody, harmony, and composition — can be applied to all aspects of our lives.
Reflect on these qualities and ask yourself which ones are present in your life and which ones are missing. ...
Act ...
Imagination without action doesn’t make you creative; it only makes you imaginative. Action brings ideas to life. ...
Naiman's article is featured today (Aug. 17) in Garbl's Creativity Connections--available at the Creativity tab above and by free email subscription.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Beyond Child’s Play: Peace Now | On Civil Disobedience and More

My daily online "paper" features an article today (Aug. 16) titled "Civil Disobedience." It concludes:
Before we too go gently into that good night, perhaps Cold War boomers should make sure nuclear weapons go with us to the grave. For those of us in our 60s and 70s, still active and with time on our hands, the abolition of nuclear weapons is a worthy goal. We claim to have ended the Vietnam War with our protests and our marches. Perhaps we have one last act of social justice in us. Perhaps we could bring about the end of nuclear weapons and remove the prospect of nuclear war for our children and grandchildren.
Beyond Child's Play is available at the Peace Now tab above and by free email subscription.

Garbl’s Good Cause Communications -- My daily online paper on nonprofit communications

If you work or volunteer for nonprofit agencies, my daily online "paper" -- Garbl's Good Cause Communications--may interest you. It's available at the Nonprofit Communications tab above and by free email subscription.

It features blog articles, tweets, photos and videos about nonprofit communications and marketing--a professional interest and pursuit of mine. The software selects the items automatically from Twitter, Google+ and other sources I selected. I'll likely be as surprised--and inspired, I hope--as you by some of its posts.

For example, today's edition (Aug. 16) includes these articles:
  • How To Create Clear Objectives For Your Nonprofit’s Website
  • Let's Be Fearless Communicators | Nonprofit Marketing
  • Checklist: Is My Message Relevant?
  • Philanthropy Front and Center - Washington, DC: Developing a Communications Strategy
  • One Bad Ass Annual Report - re: charity
For advice and information about writing, check out Garbl's Writing Center. It's my free portal to these writing tools:
  • an annotated directory of writing resources on the Web
  • an editorial style manual
  • plain-English writing guide
  • several guides to concise writing
  • bookshelf of writing references I recommend.

How to Boost Creativity NOW! | Rebecca Scott, buyerhive

As usual, today's (Aug. 16) edition of my daily online "paper" about creativity, Garbl's Creativity Connections, has some interesting and even useful articles. It's available at the Creativity tab above and by free email subscription.

This short article, for example, provides four "tips on how to boost creativity and get yourself back on track in no time!"

Scott writes, knowingly:
We've all been there … you have a deadline looming and you can’t come up with a single creative idea for your design, report or presentation.
Here's a taste of her tips:
Stepping Out ...
Seriously, just pick yourself up and get away from wherever you are. Go outside and walk around; take a 30 minute break .... 
Map It Out ...
[Y]ou can still work through the inner workings and connective webbings of your brain when you’re alone — the answer is Mind Mapping.
The process is very simple. ...
Ignite Your Senses
Sometimes it’s as simple as stirring up another area of your brain to kick your creative juices back into high gear. ... lighting a candle ... the strong refreshing smell of a freshly peeled orange ....
Time for a Spot of Dance ...
[F]ind your favorite playlist and crank it up (be sure to close your office door first though)! Letting yourself cut loose for a bit ...
Other articles in today's Creativity Connections include:
  • 10 Powerful Quotes on Creativity That Will Inspire
  • On Unleashing Your Creative Potential
  • Seth Godin on Creativity, Childhood and Heroes 

Game changer: AP Stylebook moves faster than Merriam-Webster as linguistic authority | Steve Myers, Poynter.

Game changer? Ha!

The Associated Press Stylebook has been my first editorial reference since I studied and taught journalism and worked for newspapers years ago. But I doubt if it ever will be the first reference for the general population. To even wish such a trend is silly.

Still, I think Myers' article is interesting, though it's not comprehensive in its comparison of newly added terms in the AP manual and Merriam-Webster dictionary. I wonder what Myer would have discovered if he had checked terms in Webster's New World Dictionary, AP's preferred dictionary.

He asks:
Which is more in tune with the English language: Merriam-Webster, which traces its origins to the early 1800s, or the AP’s Stylebook, which only two years ago sanctioned “website“?
He compares terms like aha moment, cloud computing, F-bomb, game changer, mash-up and sexting.

I'm not surprised that Myers found the AP manual to be more current. Its main purpose to to aid reporters and editors in maintaining consistency in their use of the language--from abbreviations and capitalization to punctuation to word usage. So if new terms become popular, even temporarily, AP should provide guidance.

Dictionaries, however, should provide a more stringent standard for adding or revising words and their definitions. I don't believe they should modify their listings for language fads, at least for words and uses that exist for a limited time, whatever that might be. Two years perhaps? And widespread in their country of origin.

Guess I should also should review my own writing guide, Garbl's Editorial Style Manual, to make sure it's up-to-date!

This article is featured today (Aug. 16) in Garbl's Style: Write Choices--available at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subscription.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Inventing a Toilet for the 21st Century | Bill Gates, Impatient Optimists

At a "Reinvent the Toilet Fair" in Seattle, Bill Gates announced on July 14 the winners of an effort to develop “next-generation” toilets that will deliver safe and sustainable sanitation to the 2.5 billion people worldwide who don’t have it.

For the fair, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation brought together about 200 grantees, partners, and others who are passionate about creating safe, effective, and inexpensive sanitation services for people without access to flush toilets.

Gates writes: 
Toilets are extremely important for public health, and – when you think of it – even human dignity. For most of us living in the developed world, we often don’t give them much thought. ...
The flush toilets we use in the wealthy world are irrelevant, impractical and impossible for 40 percent of the global population, because they often don’t have access to water, and sewers, electricity, and sewage treatment systems.
And he concludes:
Inventing new toilets is one of the most important things we can do to reduce child deaths and disease and improve people’s lives. It is also something that can help wealthier countries conserve fresh water for other important purposes besides flushing.
We don’t have all the answers yet, but I’m optimistic that we can and will solve this problem. I’m hopeful that this unusual summer fair will be a positive step toward that important goal.
This articles is featured today (Aug. 15) in Garbl's Good Cause Communications--available at the Nonprofit Communications tab above and by free email subscription.

Tripping into Terra Incognita: How Mistakes Take Us To New Places | John Caddell, 99U

The home page of my website, Garbl's Writing Center, and all its sections have a pencil at the top of the page. I also call my writing-and-editing service Garbl's Pencil.

And there's a reason for my use of that image besides needing an appropriate graphic. I explain it at Garbl's Creativity Resources Online. Under the pencil image there is this line: The Ultimate Creativity Tool. It's followed by an asterisk linked to text at the bottom of the page.
And that linked text says:
* It's OK to make mistakes. That's why pencils have erasers.
As Cadell's "Terra Incognita" article discuses, we can learn from our mistakes. Of course, that learning process includes fixing our mistakes quickly if the immediate consequences might be negative. Thus, the eraser on the pencil, and the lead at the other end to correct the mistake and try again!

Cadell writes (emphasis added):
When we inevitably do make a mistake, we act like someone tripping on a crack in a sidewalk – we move on as fast as we can and hope no one notices.
But if we think about where mistakes can take us, it's to the margins, to the unknown, the unexplored – the area beyond Sigmas. And what can we learn there? We can see that some of our cherished assumptions are invalid, and that there are opportunities we never imagined.
He then briefly describes the mistakes, the "happy accidents"--the serendipity--that led to the invention of vulcanized rubber and our first artificial sweetener.  He writes:
A mistake is a collision between your perception and reality. As such, it's a terribly valuable asset. Goodyear had not imagined that the charring process could be useful. Fahlberg wasn't looking for flavorers. Only by erring did they discover these heretofore unknown qualities.
As Cadell concludes, he quotes a related article in the Harvard Business Review:
Successful people work with what they have at hand — whatever comes along — and try to use everything at their disposal in achieving their goals. And that is why they are grateful for surprises, obstacles, and even disappointments. It gives them more information and resources to draw upon.
Cadell's article is featured in today's (Aug. 15) Garbl's Creativity Connections--available at the Creativity tab above and by free email subscription.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Is Our Children Learning Enough Grammar to Get Hired? - Room for Debate -

This New York Times feature article follows up on a recent news item about a business executive who won't hire anyone to work for him if the person fails a grammar test:
“Grammar is my litmus test,” the C.E.O. of iFixit wrote recently in the Harvard Business Review. “If job hopefuls can’t distinguish between ‘to’ and ‘too,’ their applications go into the bin.”
The "debate" at this website features statements by five people--three authors, an English professor and a business consultant. The article asks:
Are schools undervaluing grammar, given that employers may rule out applicants with sloppy writing? Or are these employers being old-fashioned and missing out on some qualified candidates?
Summarized, here are the various points of view:
Even a poorly constructed tweet reflects a poorly constructed thought. Without command of grammar, one can't even truly read, much less write.

After we pat ourselves on the back for upholding grammar standards, can we really justify barring someone from a job because he flubbed “your” and “you’re”?

Some public schools teach that grammar is unimportant compared with “expressing yourself.” But people are judged every day on their grammar.

For younger generations, the content of the message is far more important than the structure. Employers have to ask: Does this represent shortcomings in skills and know-how?

A weak writer is not necessarily a weak reader, and the applicant whose writing seems halting may be fully fluent in other areas, like visual media or social skills.

AP compiles US Elections Style Guide

The Associated Press has compiled a list of U.S. political terms, phrases and definitions to assist in coverage of the 2012 national elections. The guidance encompasses the Democratic and Republican conventions to nominate presidential candidates; terminology for presidential races; campaign rhetoric; and elections for the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. Many of the terms are from the AP Stylebook. Others include writing with context and avoiding cliches.
That's how AP describes its new online resource for journalists. But it's also useful for other people, whether they're writing about the coming election or just paying attention to it as they should.

Some examples:
House and Senate
At stake are all 435 House seats from all 50 states, currently with a 240-191 Republican majority. In the 100-seat Senate, 33 seats are being contested. Democrats currently hold a 51-47 majority, plus two independents. In the House, seats held by nonvoting delegates from the District of Columbia and other U.S. territories are also at stake.
close race
Don’t describe a political race as close unless polls show it is and you reference polls.
“fair shot,” “fair share”
Obama’s belief that the government has a role in creating conditions for prosperity, that the income gap is hazardous to the nation. His belief is that a stable middle class gives everyone a fair chance to succeed. The terms are in quotes on first reference.
middle class (n.), middle-class (adj.)
Key voting group encompassing about 42 percent of U.S. households with incomes ranging from $25,000 to $75,000 annually, according to White House Council of Economic Advisers.
PAC, super PAC
Political action committee raises money for candidates or parties from donations by individuals, but not businesses or labor unions. A super PAC may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, including from corporations and unions, to support candidates for federal office but must operate independently.
Supports the rights and power of the common people; advocates unorthodox solutions; often critical of establishment politicians and political parties.

barnstormed - traveled across a state campaigning or campaigned across XYZ.
pressing the flesh - shaking hands is preferred.
rope line - the physical barrier that separates a candidate from the audience. Instead, the candidate shook hands and posed for photographs with the audience.
war lingo - use criticized instead of attacked, or choose a better verb to describe what the candidate is doing, i.e., challenging, doubting, etc. Also avoidable: launch an assault, take aim, open fire, bombard.
war chest - use campaign bank account or stockpile of money.
This article is featured in today's (Aug. 14) Garbl's Style: Write Choices -- available at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subscription.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Which vs. That - Grammar Rules | Brian A. Klems,

If you've been confused about choosing between which and that, this blog provides a clear explanation. (And yes, making that choice is easy to do. And it is important to do, because using the correct word helps readers understand the information in your sentence.)

I was surprised that Kiems did not emphasize one important difference between the words: how to punctuate them. On the other hand, he punctuates his examples sentences correctly.

My style guide, Garbl's Editorial Style Manual, also provides advice on using that and which. But here's what it says about punctuating the words:
Which clauses are always set off with commas (or sometimes dashes or parentheses), and that clauses aren't. Essential that clauses cannot be cut without changing the meaning of a sentence. Don't set off an essential clause from the rest of a sentence with commas. Nonessential which clauses can be dropped without altering the meaning. Set off a nonessential clause with commas.
Examples: The camera that is broken is in the shop (tells which one). The camera, which is broken, is in the shop (adds a fact about the only camera in question).

My Pet Peeves: From the G Entries in Garbl's Editorial Style Manual

Here's the seventh in my alphabetical series of pet peeves -- from entries in the G section of Garbl's Editorial Style Manual. My style manual covers editorial issues like abbreviations, addresses, capitalization, English grammar, Internet terminology, numbers, plurals, possessives, punctuation, spelling and word usage. It focuses on U.S. standards for spelling, punctuation, definitions, usage, style and grammar.

Earlier blogs: 

Garbl Acronym for Gary B. Larson, webmaster for this online style manual and Garbl's Writing Center. He means "to untangle and clarify misunderstood or incomprehensible rules and guidelines of grammar, style and usage." Avoid garbling with the unrelated creator of the excellent "The Far Side" cartoons.

gay, lesbian Identify a person's sexual orientation only when it is relevant. Do not refer to "sexual preference" or to a gay, homosexual or alternative "lifestyle." Use gay (n. and adj.) to describe men and women attracted to the same sex, though lesbian is the more common term for women. Avoid using homosexual except in clinical contexts or references to sexual activity.

Instead of referring to lesbians and gays, consider using gay women and men or lesbians and gay men. Lowercase gay and lesbian except in names of organizations. Don't refer to gays with disparaging, offensive terms. Use gay and queer carefully in other contexts. Do not use gay as offensive, incorrect adolescent slang meaning "stupid."

gender Gender has become an acceptable term for writing about differences between males and females, especially their social, psychological and cultural traits--or who we are. Sex is more often used when writing about physical and biological traits--or what we do. Stay tuned.

get Get is good English. It's an acceptable, simpler substitute for formal words like obtain, receive, become and procure. And so are its verb forms: got and gottenHe got a digital camera for his birthday. I have gotten really tired of pulling morning glory.

gift To give one is a wonderful thing to do. Just don't gift it. If you must, you can present a gift, donate it or contribute it. But giving it is simpler, less formal and just as nice.

gobbledygook Complicated, highfalutin, obscure, pompous and wordy language and jargon that's especially useful in official letters and technical documents you don't want your reader to understand.

goes without saying, needless to say Well, what more can I say? Omit needless words and information. Either phrase may be useful to stress a common bond with your audience, but think about clearer, stronger ways to do that. If you still want to make say something, simplify. Consider using clearly, naturally, obviously, of course or plainly--but avoid insulting your reader by stating the obvious in condescending ways. And accept that your reader may ignore or question your words.

good, well As a modifier, good is always an adjective for writing about the quality of someone or something, which means it describes nouns and pronouns (or people, places and things): good English, good guitarist, a good many. As a modifier, well is usually an adverb for writing about the way something is done, which means it describes verbs, adjectives and other adverbs: to play well, well-paid employee.

Well also can be an adjective but usually when describing someone's health, as in "not sick": She is well. When asked the unavoidable question "How are you?" a reply like "I am well" refers to your health. But replies using "good" or "fine" or a similar adjective (or "bad" or "terrible" or a similar adjective) refer to your situation, thoughts, feelings and so on. And if the question is "How are you doing?" a reply like "I'm doing well" refers to your actions.

graduate, graduated Commonly misused. People graduate from high school or college, they don't graduate high school or college. Remember that they received their diploma from some place; they graduated from that place.

ground zero Often misused. Use it to identify the site of a devastating nuclear bomb blast or the location of the tragic World Trade Center attack in New York on Sept. 11, 2001. Don't use it to describe the beginning of something. Instead, use phrases like the beginning, starting point or start from scratch.

grow Unless you're writing about growing crops or a beard, use less trendy expand, develop, build or increaseexpand your business, not grow your business.

guardedly optimistic Wordy cliche. If you can't simply write that you're optimistic, don't bother writing anything. Delete guardedly or replace the phrase with confident, encouraged or hopeful.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

7 punctuation staples for polished writing | Steve Vittorioso,

Proper grammar and word usage are essential, of course, but sloppy punctuation can confuse readers and even distort your meaning.

Blogger Vittorioso introduces his advice:
Follow these simple guidelines from the Associated Press Stylebook for proper use of these punctuation staples that'll keep your writing crisp.
He covers these seven so-called "punctuation staples":
  1. apostrophe
  2. comma
  3. colon
  4. semicolon
  5. quotation marks
  6. ellipsis
  7. hyphen
For more advice on these punctuation marks and eight others, see the punctuation entries at Garbl's Editorial Style Manual

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