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Saturday, November 10, 2012

The fiscal cliff | Katherine Connor Martin, OxfordWords blog

Ah, the "fiscal cliff." It's the latest favorite expression of bloviating politicians (in both parties) and the news media. A popular favorite expression=cliche.

Martin's article explains that the term isn't new. It's been around since the 1980s, but it's been born again to describe what's supposed to be a financial crisis if U.S. political leaders in Washington, D.C., don't do something before the end of 2012 to prevent it.

Language-wise, I suggest we not jump off that cliff or even walk close to it. Instead, let's use the language of reality to find out the facts about what could or would happen in dealing with circumstances that our political leaders created in the first place when they reached a budget deal in 2011. 

Some wise people are suggesting we cool it on worrying about this cliche--and instead tackle U.S. spending and taxing matters with clear heads and hearts early in 2013. They say all the rhetoric about terrible things happening if we fall off the fiscal cliff is just that, rhetoric.

Fear-mongering is not leadership. It's also lousy communication.

Speaking of using plain language (yes, politicians, the news media and the rest of us should do that), here's some advice about how to do it: Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide. It describes a seven-step process for clear, concise writing that meets the needs of readers (and writers):
  • Focusing on your reader and purpose
  • Organizing your ideas
  • Writing clear, effective paragraphs
  • Writing clear, simple sentences
  • Using suitable words
  • Creating an enticing design
  • Testing for clarity.
For more comment on the so-called "fiscal cliff," see Paul Krugman's recent column in the New York Times, "Let's Not Make a Deal."

Martin's article is featured today, Nov. 10, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Style: Write Choices--available at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subscription. 

10 Best Kept Secrets To Become More Creative By Boosting Your Brainpower | James Richman, WebDesigner

You are what you eat, as the saying goes. And according to Richman's article, what you eat affects your creativity.

 Richman writes:
To avoid becoming a fool because of the lack of creativity, you better learn how simple super-foods can boost your brainpower, which will, without a doubt, increase your, in web design, so needed creativity (I guarantee!).
Well, I can't guarantee Richman's advice for enhancing Web design or any other endeavor, but I found his suggestions worth considering ... and potentially tasty.

Using words, photos, videos and recipes, Richman describes his smorgasbord of the "10 basic superfoods." Here are the key headings to give you a taste of what he's serving:
1. So Many Berries Out there, Go And Eat Them All
Eat This: Homemade Blueberry Jam
Not This: Blueberry Bagels, Seriously!
2. Dark Chocolate, The Darker, The Better
Eat This: Dark, Dark Chocolate Bark
Not This: Any Kind of White Chocolate is Big No, No!
3. Nuts Are Rich With Great Nutrients To Boost Your Brainpower
Eat This: Laura’s Holiday Spiced Nuts
Not This: Going Nuts On Nuts Will Do No Good To You
4. Wild Salmon Will Get Your Brain Functioning Again
Eat This: Gordon Ramsay’s Crispy Salmon
Not This: Never Ever Try Salmon Soup, Made With Tinned Salmon
5. It is Brain Healthy To Have a Couple of Eggs In The Morning
Eat This: Morning Omelet With Cheese, Ham Or Just Anything You Fancy
Not This: Apparently Eating Too Much Egg Yolks Is as Bad As…
6. Coffee Has a Profound Effect On Your Brains
Eat This: Start Your Day With Starbucks Dark Roast Coffee
Not This: Cold Stone Creamery Lotta Caramel Latte
7. Avocado Is Like a Goldmine of Nutrients
Eat This: Very Easy To Make Guacamole
Not This: Never More Than 5 Avocados
8. Eating Your Broccoli Is An Amazingly Good Idea
Eat This: Raw Broccoli Is an Ultimate Powerhouse of Green Nutrients
Not This: Broccoli In China Are Full Of Toxins
9. Eat a Lot More Tomatoes Than You Already Do
Eat This: Grilled Tomatoes With Fresh Tomato Sauce
Not This: They Say Hunt’s Tomato Ketchup Is The Worst Ketchup
10. Popeye Will Tell You Everything About Spinach
Eat This: Home Grown Spinach Will Always Be The Best Tasting
Not This: Eating Too Much Raw Spinach Can Harm Your Bones.
Richman's article is featured today, Nov. 10, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Creativity Connections--available at the Creativity tab above and by free email subscription.

Friday, November 9, 2012

10 Tips to Banish Typos | Mignon Fogarty, Grammar Girl

Noting that typos in a document can be embarrassing, costly and misleading, Fogarty's article provides useful tips to help us prevent them before publication.

Summarized, here they are:
  1. Have someone else read your work. ...
  2. When you’re writing on your computer, use the auto-correct feature. ...
  3. Run your work through your computer’s spell-checking tool. ... Don’t think the computer is infallible though. ... The computer can highlight things you should check yourself, but it isn’t perfect.
  4. Print your work. ... Many people find that if they try to proofread on a computer monitor, they miss more errors than when reading a printed copy of their work.
  5. Give yourself some time. If possible, let your work sit for a while before you proofread it. ...
  6. Read your work aloud. This forces you to read each word individually. ...
  7. Force yourself to view each word. If you don’t want to read aloud, you can force yourself to consider each word by using the tip of a pencil or pen to physically touch each word. ...
  8. Read your work backward, starting with the last sentence and working your way in reverse order to the beginning. ...
  9. Separate proofreading tasks. Read the article through once to just check the spelling, and then read it through again to just check the punctuation. ...
  10. Print your work in a different font with different margins. ...
I typically follow tips 1-3 and 5, and I occasionally follow tips 4 and 6. Tip 10 is intriguing, as it was for Fogarty when she read about it.
This article is featured today, Nov. 9, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Style: Write Choices--available at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subscription.

“Plain Language” Is More Than Words | Candi Harrison, Candi on Content

Expanding on the headline to her blog article, Harrison writes:
“Plain” means information you can find, understand, and use quickly and easily. So, in addition to choosing the right words, how the information is organized and presented is critical to making content “plain.”
Harrison continues by describing criteria she and other judges have used to evaluate websites for plain-language competitions in the United States and New Zealand. I think most of the criteria also apply to other types of documents.

Here are the eight assessment factors with some sample questions from Harrison's article:
  1. Purpose – ... Is the purpose of each page you review clear, without relying on the reader having visited other pages on the site? ...
  2. Organization – Is content organized in categories that would make sense to typical customers? ...  Does content anticipate audience wants and needs? ...
  3. Writing – Are sentences and paragraphs short and to the point? ... Do they use words that the typical audience will know and understand the first time they read them? ...
  4. Design – ... Is the most important information placed where readers look first? Does the site use headers and sub-headers, bullets and numbers, color to highlight important information, and other design devices to make skimming easy? ...
  5. Graphics and links – Do graphics add value to the site by adding or clarifying important information – no gratuitous graphics? ...
  6. Accessibility – Does the site use best practices to help people who are visually impaired (for example, dark fonts on light backgrounds, links describe target content)? ...
  7. Performance measures – ...  Is the organization tracking measures to make sure customers can find and use what they want as fast and effectively as possible?
  8. Overall assessment – Is this site easy to use? ...
For other criteria for evaluating the readability of documents, see the Testing for Clarity section at Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide. Other steps described in my writing guide:
  • Focusing on your reader and purpose
  • Organizing your ideas
  • Writing clear, effective paragraphs
  • Writing clear, simple sentences
  • Using suitable words
  • Creating an enticing design.
Harrison's article is featured today, Nov. 9, in my online daily paper, Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs--available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.

Creativity Predicts a Longer Life | Tori Rodriguez, Scientific American

The trait of openness improves health through creativity.

I like this! As a guy who strives to be open-minded and creative in the things I do, I hope there's truth to this article.

Rodriguez reports on the findings of a study published recently in the Journal of Aging and Health:
[O]penness, which measures cognitive flexibility and the willingness to entertain novel ideas, has emerged as a lifelong protective factor. The linchpin seems to be the creativity associated with the personality trait—creative thinking reduces stress and keeps the brain healthy.
According to the study author, Nicholas Turiano, only creativity--and not intelligence or overall openness--decreased the risk of mortality. This study and another one this past January drew connections between creativity and health by studying the way neurons work in different parts of the brain--something way beyond my understanding.

Says Turiano:
Individuals high in creativity maintain the integrity of their neural networks even into old age. ... Keeping the brain healthy may be one of the most important aspects of aging successfully—a fact shown by creative persons living longer in our study.
The ability of creativity people to handle stress also benefits overall health, Turiano said:
Creative people may see stressors more as challenges that they can work to overcome rather than as stressful obstacles they can't overcome.
One more bit of good news from the study: Besides people who are naturally open-minded, people who practice creativity-thinking techniques might improve their health by lowering stress and exercising the brain.
This article is featured today, Oct. 9, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Creativity Connections--available at the Creativity tab above and by free email subscription.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

When You Can’t Change Your Circumstances, Change Yourself | Michael Michalko, The Creativity Post

Michalko's blog post begins with a provocative parable that ends by asking this question:
When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond?
Are you, according to the parable, a carrot, an egg, or ground coffee beans?

Being a coffee lover, uh, addict, I liked Michalko's conclusion about coffee beans. But I won't spill the beans here about the parable revelations for the carrot, egg and coffee beans. Read the blog post.

But Michalko goes on:
The moral of the parable is that it is not the experience that matters. What matters is how you interpret and react to the experience. ... Your interpretations of your experiences shape your beliefs and theories about the world which, in turn, influence the way you live your life.
And the lesson of the parable: 
When you can’t change your circumstances, you change yourself.
Michalko gives two more examples of how people respond to their circumstances, one about someone bumping into you ... and why? Was it an accident or deliberate? Was it someone else's fault or yours? Was there a message to get from getting bumped, or was it just random and forgettable?

The other example involves Abraham Lincoln. Michalko briefly describes circumstances and events of Lincoln's life--and how Lincoln responded to them.

Michalko writes:
Lincoln was not born with a positive "can do" attitude. On the contrary, his life is testimony that a positive attitude toward one's experiences takes considerable effort and practice. Lincoln learned to expect difficulties, and, so was not traumatized and defeated when faced with problems but viewed them as part of the natural course of events. Lincoln learned the harder one works to sustain a positive interpretation, the more one appreciates life.
Michalko concludes with a broader, insightful interpretation of Lincoln's life lessons. But as an optimist in seeking solutions to problems, I like the lessons I've boldfaced above.
Michalko's article is featured today, Nov. 8, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Creativity Connections--available at the Creativity tab above and by free email subscription.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

'Hope is that stubborn thing inside us ...' | Excerpts from President Obama’s Election Night Speech |

I was delighted and inspired again by the reelection of President Barack Obama on Nov. 6, 2012. I believe his first term was only a beginning in responding to the hope for change he inspired in me and many others during the 2008 campaign. Despite the continuing challenges he inherited and the obstacles created by his opponents during his first term, I believe President Obama, the Democratic Party, their supporters and the United States accomplished much during the past four years.

As he said during the speech:
I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting.
And as he said:
The role of citizens in our democracy does not end with your vote.
We citizens have not only a right but also a responsibility to lobby President Obama, our senators and representative in Congress, and our other elected officials about the decisions we want them to make for us.

Here are excerpts from President Obama's election night speech in Chicago, after midnight on Nov. 7, 2012; emphasis added:
Democracy in a nation of 300 million can be noisy and messy and complicated. We have our own opinions. Each of us has deeply held beliefs. And when we go through tough times, when we make big decisions as a country, it necessarily stirs passions, stirs up controversy. That won’t change after tonight. And it shouldn't. These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty, and we can never forget that as we speak, people in distant nations are risking their lives right now just for a chance to argue about the issues that matter -- the chance to cast their ballots like we did today.
But despite all our differences, most of us share certain hopes for America’s future. ...
Now, we will disagree, sometimes fiercely, about how to get there. As it has for more than two centuries, progress will come in fits and starts. It’s not always a straight line. It’s not always a smooth path. By itself, the recognition that we have common hopes and dreams won’t end all the gridlock, resolve all our problems or substitute for the painstaking work of building consensus and making the difficult compromises needed to move this country forward.
But that common bond is where we must begin. ...
And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together -- reducing our deficit, reforming out tax code, fixing our immigration system, freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We've got more work to do.

But that doesn't mean your work is done. The role of citizens in our democracy does not end with your vote. America’s never been about what can be done for us; it’s about what can be done by us together, through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self- government. That’s the principle we were founded on. ...
What makes America exceptional are the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on Earth, the belief that our destiny is shared -- that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations, so that the freedom which so many Americans have fought for and died for come with responsibilities as well as rights, and among those are love and charity and duty and patriotism. That’s what makes America great.

I am hopeful tonight because I have seen this spirit at work in America. ...
And tonight, despite all the hardship we've been through, despite all the frustrations of Washington, I've never been more hopeful about our future. I have never been more hopeful about America. And I ask you to sustain that hope.
I’m not talking about blind optimism, the kind of hope that just ignores the enormity of the tasks ahead or the road blocks that stand in our path. I’m not talking about the wishful idealism that allows us to just sit on the sidelines or shirk from a fight. I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting. ...
America, I believe we can build on the progress we've made and continue to fight for new jobs and new opportunities and new security for the middle class. I believe we can keep the promise of our founding, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or who you love. It doesn't matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, abled, disabled, gay or straight. You can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.
I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and forever will be, the United States of America. ...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Taking ownership of your nouns and pronouns | Possession in Garbl's Editorial Style Manual

Below is advice from Garbl's Editorial Style Manual on forming nouns and pronouns to show possession:
  • Add 's to singular nouns not ending in sthe church's members, the girl's parents, Xerox's profits.
  • Add 's to singular common nouns ending in s unless the next word begins with sthe bus's engine, the bus' seats, witness's answer, the witness' story.
  • Use only an apostrophe for singular proper names ending in sDrakes' decision. And add only an apostrophe to plural proper names ending in sthe Parkses' home.
  • Add 's to plural nouns not ending is schildren's passes, men's bike, women's rights, women's room.
  • Add only an apostrophe to plural nouns ending in sthe girls' books, boys' bike, plants' supervisors, families' cars.
  • When a plural noun is possessive but each person "owns" only one item, the item should also be listed in plural form. To confirm correctness, rephrase the possessive relationship as an of phrase:the children's brains or the brains of the childrenthe teachers' hands or the hands of the teachers.
  • Follow the rule above (and its test for correctness) when using plural nouns and possessive pronouns: The children became upset when their mothers left the room or the mothers of the childrenGerry and Lena took their dogs for a walk or the dogs of Gerry and Lena.
  • When two or more people jointly own an item, put the apostrophe after the noun closest to the item: Gary and Gina's car (they jointly own car), Gary and Gina's cars (they jointly own more than one car). But when two or more people separately own items, put an apostrophe or an 's after each noun: Gary's and Gina's cars.
  • When writing about a family in the plural, add s and then an apostrophe: the Abernathys' Christmas greeting (but Bob Abernathy's Christmas greeting). 
  • Add only an apostrophe to nouns plural in form, singular in meaning: mathematics' rules, United States' wealth.
  • Treat nouns that are the same in singular and plural as plurals, even if the meaning is singular: the two deer's tracks
Many pronouns have separate forms for the possessive that don't use an apostrophe: yours, ours, his, hers, its, theirs, whose. Use an apostrophe with a pronoun only when the meaning calls for a contraction: you're (you are), it's (it is). Follow the rules listed above in forming the possessives of other pronouns: another's plan, others' plans, one's rights, someone else's umbrella
Do not add an apostrophe to a word ending in s when using the word as an adjective--describing the following noun. If the prepositions for or by would be more appropriate than the possessive of, do not use an apostrophe: a radio band for citizens, citizens band radio; a guide for writers, a writers guide; a day for veterans, Veterans Day; a union for carpenters, a carpenters union. Add 's, however, when a term involves a plural word that does not end in sa children's hospital. If you're giving the proper name of an organization or other item, try to respect the style it uses--even if that style differs from these guidelines: the Metropolitan Teacher's Association, The World-Class Speller's Guide.
Follow the rules above for possessive words that occur in such phrases as a day's pay, two weeks' vacation, four years' experience, your money's worth.
Avoid excessive personalization of inanimate objects. Use an of construction instead when appropriate:the rules of mathematics instead of mathematics' rules.
Also, avoid using a possessive name as a plural: The free passes are available at four McDonald's restaurants. Not: The free passes are available at four McDonald's.

Monday, November 5, 2012

My Pet Peeves: From the Q and R Entries in Garbl's Editorial Style Manual

Here's the 15th in my alphabetical series of pet peeves--from entries in the Q section and the R 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:

A peeves | B peeves | C peeves | D peeves | E peeves | F peeves | G peeves | H peeves | I peeves | J peeves | K and L peeves | M peeves | N peeves | O peeves | P peeves


quantum leap Ironically, a quantum leap (or quantum jump) in its technical sense from physics is only an abrupt change (within an atom or molecule), not necessarily a significant or large change. But as used in the cliche, it's a sudden and important change or improvement. Clarify your words by replacing this term with an explanation of the change or improvement. If you mean "large" or similar adjectives about size, use large or similar adjectives about size.

question mark (?) Direct questions always take question marks: Who is going with the reporter? Did Samuel ask you if you were going? Indirect questions never take question marks: She would like to know who's going with the reporter. For multiple questions, either use a single question mark at the end of the complete sentence: Did Josephine plan the project, manage the budget and supervise the staff? Or stress each element by breaking up the sentence: Did Josephine plan the project? Manage the budget? Supervise the staff? Also, put only one space after a question mark (and other sentence-ending punctuation).

The question mark replaces the comma normally used when attributing a quotation: "Who is going with the reporter?" she asked. The question mark may go inside or outside quotation marks depending on the meaning: Who wrote "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey"? She asked, "How long will it take?" Also, use a single question mark, inside the quotation mark, in sentences like this: Did you hear him say, "Who ate all the doughnuts?"

quite Quite may be redundant, imprecise and unnecessary to mean "entirely, completely or very." Where emphasis is needed, use stronger, more descriptive words or be more precise: He performed all his hits with energy, instead of His performance was quite good.

quotation marks (" ") Put quotation marks around direct quotations: "No comment," the director said. The manager said, "Complete your time sheets by the end of the day Thursday." If a full paragraph of quoted material comes before another paragraph that continues the quotation, do not put quotation marks after the first paragraph. But do put quotation marks before the second paragraph.

Avoid fragmented quotations. Do not use quotation marks to report a few ordinary words used by a speaker or writer.

Don't put the words of one person into the mouths of many: Witnesses at the accident said there was "a tremendous bang, and then all hell broke loose."

Also, put quotation marks around single words or terms for the following uses, but don't overdo it: to suggest irony or a double entendre, The "tycoon" turned out to be a pauper; to note an unfamiliar or unusual term on first reference; and to refer to a word as a word, He tried to explain what he meant by "knowns" and "unknowns" (or use italics instead). Avoid putting single words or terms in quotation marks to draw attention to them as slang, informal or cute.

Quotations within quotations: Use single quotation marks for passages contained within a direct quotation ("She said, 'Ouch!'").

Punctuation: The period and comma always go within the quotation marks. The dash, question mark and exclamation point go within the quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter only. Colons and semicolons go outside quotation marks. Also see question mark above, quotations below.

In headlines, use single quotation marks: Man cries 'Fire!' in theater, causes panic

quotation, quote Quotation is the preferred noun form. Use quote as a verb: Don't quote me on this. He recited a quotation from Hamlet. 

quotations Quoting another writer adds authority to your writing and speaking and strengthens your thoughts and feelings--especially if the reference is recognized by your audience. When possible, quote the other writer directly rather than paraphrasing all his or her words. Try mixing strong direct quotations, paraphrasing that summarizes the other writer's words, supporting facts and figures, and your perspective or analysis if appropriate.

Introduce full-sentence quotations with commas. Introduce multiple-sentence quotations with colons. When using partial quotations and the titles of books, movies and other publications, punctuate as if the quotation marks weren't there. See quotation marks above.

Spell out (don't abbreviate) all words and phrases in direct quotations if that's they way they were expressed by a speaker or writer: "We were in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on October 6." Similarly, use abbreviations in quotations as expressed by a speaker or writer, but make sure its meaning is clear--or spell it out before or after the quotation. 


race Name a person's race only when it is relevant. Some examples, suggested by The Associated Press:
  • In biographical and announcement stories that involve significant, groundbreaking or historic events: Barack Obama is the first black U.S. president. Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Suspects sought by the police or missing person cases using police or other detailed descriptions. Drop the racial reference after the individual is caught or found.
  • When reporting a demonstration or disturbance involving race or such issues as civil rights or slavery.
When an ethnic reference is necessary to identify U.S. citizens, don't hyphenate terms when used as nouns: a Japanese American, an African American, a Norwegian American. But hyphenate the terms when used as adjectives: a Mexican-American organization.

Be aware of stereotyping words, images and situations that suggest all or most members of a racial or ethnic group are the same: flashy, aggressive and happy-go-lucky blacks, inscrutable Asian, conservative Briton, cold Dane, hearty German, exuberant Italian, sleepy Mexican, tight Scot, fiery Spaniard.

Avoid using qualifiers that reinforce racial and ethnic stereotypes: Betty Wong is quiet and reserved might suggest that Asians are shy and docile. Avoid using ethnic cliches: fiestas when writing about a Hispanic.

Be aware of possible negative connotations of color-symbolic words: a black reputation, yellow coward.

Be aware of language that might have questionable racial or ethnic connotations: Culturally disadvantaged suggests superiority of one culture over another.

Avoid patronizing and tokenism toward racial or ethnic groups. But make sure publications represent all groups fairly--in articles and photographs.

racial slurs Of course, do not use a racially derogatory term unless there is a compelling reason to include it. For example, it might be part of a direct quotation that's essential to document specific communication in a conversation or speech.

If a full quotation containing an offensive term must be included, consider using only the first letter of the term followed by hyphens to replace the other letters.

rank Consider using this simpler word instead of the pompous prioritize. Other choices: order, set priorities.
rather Vague adverb. Usually adds little. Omit, or be more precise: The train was rather late. The train was 15 minutes late. 

rationale Formal and overstated. Simplify. Try reason(s), thinking or explanation instead.

reach (a) an agreement (conclusion, decision, etc.) Wordy. Simplify. Change to agree, decide or settle.

real, really Sometimes confused. Both refer to truth, fact or reality, but real is an adjective for modifying nouns: a real illness, a real friend, real diamonds. And really is an adverb for modifying verbs, adjectives and other adverbs: really sorry, a really hot day, it really rained today. A vague word, use really sparingly, substitute very or be more precise. Instead of The assignment was really difficult, write The assignment took two days longer than expected.

reason why, reason is because Redundant. Omit needless words. They canceled the contract because ... Not: The reason they canceled the contract is because ... Also: The reason for the decision is ... Not: The reason why the decision was made is ... Other simpler alternatives: is caused by, is that.

receive Formal, and commonly misspelled. Remember the "i before e except after c rule. Also, consider replacing with forms of simpler get

record Avoid the redundant: The team set a new record. Omit new. Records are new by definition. Other redundant uses: all-time record, a record highThis summer's temperatures may have set a record high. Drop high.

redundancy Unnecessary repetition can annoy readers, take up space, annoy readers, waste time, cause confusion, hinder readability and annoy readers. See Garbl's Redundant Phrase Replacements.

refer back Redundant and wordy. Drop back.

regard As regardsin regard to and with regard to are pompous. Simplify. Replace with about, or try as for, for, in, of, on, over, respecting, to, toward or with.

regarding Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try replacing with about, for or on.

reimburse Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try repay or pay back instead.

reiterate again Redundant and wordy. Simplify. Drop again. Also, try using less formal repeat or shorter iterate instead of reiterate.

reimburse Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try repay or pay back instead.

reiterate again Redundant and wordy. Simplify. Drop again. Also, try using less formal repeat or shorter iterate instead of reiterate.

reluctant, reticent Often confused. Use reluctant to describe someone who's unwilling and slow to do something. Use reticent to describe people who are quiet and unwilling to talk, especially about themselves. Also, hesitant is a more common word to describe people who are not willing to do or say something because they are uncertain or worried.

remain Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try stay.

remainder Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try the rest, surplus, balance or what is left.

remunerate, remuneration Formal and commonly misspelled. Simplify. Use pay instead of remunerate and use payment, reward, pay, salary, wages or money instead of remuneration. Also,remuneration commonly misspelled as renumeration.

renown, renowned Commonly confused. Renown is a noun and synonym for fame, distinction, prestige and eminence. Renowned is an adjective and synonym for famous, notable, celebrated and distinguished. Reknown and reknowned are misspelled words.

reoccur, reocurrence Unnecessary words. Simplify. Replace with recur and recurrence to mean "happening again" or "happening several times."

repeat again (and again), repeat back, repeat over again, repeat the same Redundant and wordy. Drop everything except repeat.

repetitious, repetitive Commonly confused or misspelled. They both mean doing something the same way many times, but repetitious suggests the action is tedious or unnecessary, and repetitive is neutral in its judgment of the action

request (v.) Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try ask, seek or question.

require Overstated. Simplify. Try need or want instead.

reside Pompous. Use a form of live or stay.

residences Use simpler homes or houses instead.

retain Formal and overstated. Consider replacing with simpler keep, continue, hold or save.

refer back Redundant and wordy. Drop back.

rhythm Commonly misspelled.

rock 'n' roll The Beatles and The Rolling Stones are two of the greatest rock 'n' roll bands.

roommate One word. Two m's.

R.S.V.P. The abbreviation for the French repondez s'il vous plait, it means please reply. To avoid confusion, miscommunication, disappointment and frustration, use Please reply instead. And if you must use R.S.V.P., don't put a redundant please in front of it.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Are You an Armchair Advocate? | Charles Bentley, Impatient Optimists

Answering that headline question: Yes, I am one! At least I'm trying to be one. And being an armchair advocate helps me feel strong, effective, conscientious and even proud.

In his blog post, Bentley explains the term and role of armchair advocates (emphasis added):
I am talking about someone who uses the power of social media to advocate on behalf of the causes that matter most. Someone who uses everyday online tools like Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Pinterest and the bazillion other social media sites to promote social good among their spheres of influence. Someone who manages to drive their peers to invest their time and talents to solve global problems, all with the click of a mouse.
And he responds to the question, "Why does this matter?":
It matters because it means that anyone – an individual, company, government or organization – can be a change agent using social media to create social good. Nonprofits and governments are no longer the sole drivers of a cause. Anyone with access to a mobile device or a mouse can organize an impactful campaign.
Bentley emphasizes that simply "Liking" a Facebook post or "Re-Tweeting" a  Twitter post isn't enough. To be effective, armchair advocates need to make more of an effort that that. And he provides some examples.

One of the values of social media--as we've seen happening across the planet in the past couple of years--is that they help people connect with other like-minded people in promoting social and political action. Users of social media can bypass the mainstream news media and even political tyrants to promote their causes.

And people respond! They endorse candidates and causes on Facebook ... and explain their positions. They create discussion. They attend rallies and marches. They write emails and letters to their elected representatives.  They join organizations that support their interests. They volunteer for food banks and phone banks and more. They contribute money. They vote! And they spread the word to other people ... using social media, of course.

For a democracy like the United States, social media are now an essential tool to helping citizens protect their rights and fulfill their responsibilities. Though still difficult to accomplish, social media can help us counter the wealth and connections of large, wealthy corporations and other organizations.

Bentley's blog post is featured today in my online daily paper, Garbl's Good Cause Communications--available at the Nonprofit Communications tab above and by free email subscription.

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