Saturday, December 8, 2012

Using Humor: 6 Reasons Why It Works | Kerri Karvetski, Company K Media

I'm a big fan of word play, making plays on words ... punning. At some of my most creative moments talking with other people, I think, I can spout puns rapidly, responding to the things people are saying. And that word play can improve when other people join me--not just in laughing (or moaning, with a smile) but also in responding to my puns with their own creativity.

I've heard that puns are the lowest form of humor, but I disagree. Sure, puns don't always work: some are a real stretch that people don't get; some double entendres can be inappropriate for the setting; some are timed inappropriately; some are too obvious or just plain silly; some detract from a serious discussion; some can affect the authority of the punster if overdone.

Admittedly, I've experienced all those reactions at times. But mostly and usually, my impression is that my word play is appreciated and aids the conversation. It can stimulate creativity among the listeners.

For me, awaiting the possibility for a play on words also increases my attentiveness to things people are saying, not just in what they're saying but also in how they're saying it, the words they use.

Heck, I've heard quite a few times that I oughta write a book of my puns!

My pun-ishment, though, doesn't appear much in my writing. One reason for that, I think, is my puns are usually spontaneous reactions to the words I'm hearing from someone else. That doesn't happen when I'm writing ... unless I'm talking to myself.

When I make a play on words in my writing, it's usually for a headline on an article.

Karvetski's article got me thinking about other opportunities for using humor--one-liners, humorous stories, funny photos ... and puns too. But writing this blog article also reminded me of opportunities for making inappropriate jokes.

I don't want to take the fun out of it, but I think it's important to consider the potential consequences of using humor in writing--negative as well as positive. Go ahead and try it, but do so thoughtfully, even seriously ... and not too often.
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Karvetski's article appears today, Dec. 8, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Good Cause Communications--available that the Nonprofit Communications tab above and by free email subscription.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Defeating Rigid Habits to Spark Creativity | Ben Weinlick, The Creativity Post

Once it gets past the introductory comments, this article describes the main points of a presentation Weinlick and a colleague made at a conference on creativity. The event was for "hackers, creatives and designers," but the advice is useful for anyone trying to stimulate creativity.

Weinlick writes:
Shaun and I wanted to present something a bit different than what might be expected at an event like Wordcamp and so we gave a session called Fostering Creativity by Looking in Unlikely Places.
The synopsis of their presentation is a quotation by George Lois:
The Creative Act: The defeat of habit by originality overcomes everything. 
(Lois is an American art director, designer and author, perhaps best known for 92 covers he designed for Esquire magazine from 1962-72, according to Wikipedia.)

The formatting of Weinlick's article is distracting; it blends the bullet points of their presentation with quotations, videos and graphics. It's all useful, but if you want to scan it first, look for the orange dots.

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Weinlick's article is one of a number of stimulating articles today, Dec. 7, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Creativity Connections--available at the Creativity tab above and by free email subscription.

Grammar Girl : Who Versus Whom :: Quick and Dirty Tips ™

My wife and I were talking about the use of who and whom last night. She teaches English as a second language to international students, and one of the assigned lessons includes those words.

She and I agreed that the correct use of those words is difficult even for native speakers of English--and everyone probably gets them wrong. I'd say that even writing experts get 'em wrong occasionally, at least in casual, informal writing and speaking.

I have read some writing experts who wish the distinction would end, that whom would simply disappear. And I agree. Given the common misuse of whom for who and (more likely) who for whom, I'd say the distinction is disappearing. Writing experts and teachers should just let it happen ... and even promote it!

Coincidentally, I came across this article today by Mignon Fogarty, the Grammar Girl. As usual in her advice, Fogarty provides a clear explanation of the two words.

Here's my advice on the distinction in Garbl's Editorial Style Manual.

Fogarty's article is featured today,  Dec. 7, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Style: Write Choices--available at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subscription.

Footprints: Progressive Steps | News and commentary not in the mainstream media

If you're looking for points of view other than what you read and hear in the mainstream news media, my daily online paper, Footprints: Progressive Steps, features articles from a progressive/liberal perspective.

For example, today's edition includes these headlines:
  • "Preview: Bernie Sanders on Why Big Media Shouldn't Get Bigger"--Bill Moyers, PBS
  • "Ann Coulter Says GOP Should Give In To Obama On Taxes: 'We Lost The Election'" (VIDEO)--Huffington Post
  • "Documents Undermine Walmart Account on Deadly Bangladesh Fire"--The Nation
  • "11 Reasons You're Glad Jim DeMint Is Leaving The Senate"--ThinkProgress
  • "World Bank: We hate climate change. Now who wants more coal?"--Grist
  • "Republicans losing blame game on fiscal cliff"--Washington Post (Yeah, I know, it's part of the mainstream news media).
Footprints is available at the the Progressive Politics tab above and by free email subscription.

As I note in Footprints:
My daily paper features news stories, blog items, Web articles, tweets, photos and videos about progressive/liberal politics in the United States -- a favorite subject and pursuit of mine. The Paper.li software selects the items automatically from my initial choices in Google+ and Twitter. I'll likely be as surprised -- and inspired, I hope -- as you by some of its posts.

Citigroup Eliminates 11,000 Jobs in History's Most Corporate-Jargony Paragraph Ever | The Atlantic

I can't put it any better (or worse, I hope) than what you can read in this short Atlantic article.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Plain Language Association InterNational (PLAIN) | How it made me a better writer and editor

Nearly 15 years ago, I was surfing the Web looking for websites that provide free, useful information and advice about writing. I had launched my first website, Garbl's Writing Resources Online, in 1997 and was searching for more websites to add to its annotated directory.

And I came across the website of the Plain Language Association InterNational, or PLAIN. I had heard statements like "Put that into plain English" and "This crap needs to be written in plain language." But I wasn't aware of any standard philosophy, principles or organization that advocated for plain English or plain language.

I encourage you to check out the PLAIN website, other Web resources listed there, and my own plain-language resources described later in this article. Following plain-language principles will improve the effectiveness of your writing.

As I learned more about PLAIN and plain language, I was intrigued. I began studying the PLAIN site and was impressed with all the hands-on advice it provides for applying its writing and design standards. It fit well with the lessons I learned in journalism classes and tried to practice through my career in newspaper reporting and public relations.

I had learned that news articles and feature stories must provide information that's important or interesting to readers. Reporters must highlight news that has or could have an impact on the lives of readers and their communities, state and country.

I also learned that articles must be clear and concise (as well as fair, objective and accurate). Reporters should strive to remove jargon or at least explain it. I learned that articles must highlight the main point(s) immediately, in the first paragraph (or lead).

I had learned and followed those principles and others in journalism. But 15 years ago, I found that those principles and others also apply to plain language. And I was hooked. I realized the principles I had learned do not just apply to the work of reporters and editors. They're valuable--and essential-- to all writers in all fields who want to meet the needs of their readers.

Of course, my discovery of plain language also improved my writing and editing.

I went on to study other websites, books and other organizations that advocated for plain language and plain English. I met and corresponded with plain-language advocates. I became active in PLAIN, eventually serving on its board, managing its website, and moderating its email discussion group for more than five years.

I also added information to my growing website, eventually called Garbl's Writing Center. The category listing plain-language resources got its own page. I added sections on concise writing. I highlighted words and terms in my editorial style manual that can confuse or mislead readers. And I added a section that describes the steps to creating a plain-language document:
In addition, I began advocating for use of plain language at work--in training sessions I conducted, in my copyediting, and in online resources for employees. I also advocated for including information about plain language when my employer developed guidelines for translating documents for people with limited English proficiency.

And I now highlight my dedication to the principles of plain language in the writing, editing and training I do through Garbl's Pencil & Good Cause Communications.
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You also can read and subscribe to my daily online paper, Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs. It's available at the Plain Language tab above.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Writing Clearly and Simply | WebAIM

This excellent resource is on a website for "expanding the web's potential for people with disabilities." WebAIM is an acronym for Web Accessibility in Mind.

But I think most of its advice is valuable and useful for communicating effectively with all audiences in all forms of media. Those audiences include people with limited English proficiency. 

The article begins by answering this question:
Is it Possible to Write "Clearly and Simply"?
The task of writing clearly and simply has never been either clear or simple. In fact, it can be one of the most difficult of all writing tasks. Clear and simple writing is an art to which many aspire and few achieve. Even so, the understandability of web content depends upon clear and simple writing. Unclear or confusing writing is an accessibility barrier to all readers, but can be especially difficult for people with reading disorders or cognitive disabilities.
Its answer to that question describes how "Language and cultural differences matter" and how "Cognitive abilities matter."

But the article then gets to the meat of the message by discussing 20 General Guidelines:
The guidelines presented here are not a complete list, nor do they apply to every situation, but they are a good starting point. Writers who take these guidelines seriously are more likely to write clearly and simply.
The article also includes discussion of these topics:
  • Additional Considerations for Users with Reading Disorders and Cognitive Disabilities
  • How Can Writers Know if They Have Achieved Clarity and Simplicity?
And it ends with this Summary:
It is not easy to write clearly and simply, but it is important to try. Users are more likely to understand your writing if you take the time to organize your thoughts and write them in the clearest, simplest form possible, taking into account your audience. To maximize understandability for people with cognitive disabilities, limit the text, add appropriate illustrations, and avoid indirect or implied meanings (such as sarcasm or parody). In the end, nearly everyone benefits from clarity and simplicity.
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WebAIM's article is featured today, Dec. 5, in my online daily paper, Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs--available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.

For more information and advice on clear, concise writing, visit these two sties of mine:



36 Surprising Ways to Boost Creativity For Free | Shana Lebowitz, Greatist

As usual, today's edition (Aug. 5) of my daily online paper about creativity--Garbl's Creativity Connections--has several stimulating articles on the topic. But this one stood out for me because of its hands-on suggestions.

Lebowitz begins her article:
We already know being creative can make us happier and healthier. But while we may think of creativity in terms of penning or painting a masterpiece, experts say it can really mean anything from trying a new recipe to submitting an original idea during a meeting. Here we've got 36 ways to fire up that creative spark, from writing by hand to visiting a foreign country. Try (at least) one today!
Her suggestions are broken into sections based on the time to do them. And most suggestions includes at least one link to more information.

Here are some examples:

10 Minutes or Less

Listen to music. Jamming out stimulates the part of our brain that controls motor actions, emotions, and creativity[1]. Classical music might give us an extra boost: According to “The Mozart Effect,” listening to Mozart’s work can increase creativity, concentration, and other cognitive functions. It’s not clear if this effect actually exists, but a little classical music can’t hurt!
Look at something blue or green. The colors tend to enhance performance on cognitive tasks.Researchers say that’s because we associate blue with the ocean, sky, and openness in general, while green signals growth. Check out that globe the next time a problem pops up[3][4].

30 Minutes or Less

Try something new. Doing things out of habit tends to undermine creative thought; on the other hand,novelty-seeking is associated with creativity (and overall well-being). Even something as simple as taking a new route to work or experimenting with a cool recipe counts.
Get some sleep. If you’re trying to solve a problem and can’t, go to bed — you might find a better solution in the morning. Sleep restructures new memory representations, meaning we think about experiences in new ways[12]. At the very least, take a power nap, which stimulates right brain activity (the part of the brain responsible for creativity).

Long-Term

Don’t expect perfection. It’s okay if that painting doesn’t make it to the MOMA. Putting pressure on ourselves to produce something outstanding can actually make it harder to create anything at all. “A lot of people sort of secretly feel, ‘I’m not creative,’ but everyone is creative to a certain degree,” says Carrie Barron. Just try your best and see what happens.
Sit in a coffee shop. In one study, people were most creative with a moderate level of noise in the background. The noise around us is slightly distracting, so it encourages us to think a little harder and more imaginatively. (Of course, some people might need quieter or louder noise to produce their best work.)

Should Your Nonprofit Have a Pinterest Presence? | Marissa Wasseluk, NP Communicator

My curiosity got the best of me about six months ago, and I signed on to Pinterest. I had been reading about Pinterest and was curious what it was all about.

I wanted to find out if it could be interesting and even useful to me. And I wanted to find out how it might be useful to nonprofit organizations--aiding their communication with members, donors, clients, employees, volunteers and others.

I'm still testing Pinterest, sporadically. That is, I've created some boards there and pinned stuff to them of interest to me. But I haven't spent much time studying the boards of other Pinterest users and doing all the linking that's apparently a big deal for users.

So I was pleased to see Wasseluk's short article. She asks several key questions (and provides some commentary) for answering the larger question of the headline: "Should Your Nonprofit Have a Pinterest Presence?"

Here are the questions:
  1. Is your audience on Pinterest?
  2. Is your site or your content ‘pin-able’?
  3. Will you change your current communications plan to accommodate the Pinterest platform?
BTW, I just noticed that Wasseluk's article was originally posted at her New Media Marissa blog

If you're interested in seeing what I've done with my Pinterest experiment, here it is! So far, it focuses on my special interests of music, travel and reading (novels and books about writing). It also includes some incomplete boards on current events, citizen action and progressive politics. 
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Wasseluk's article is featured today, Dec. 5, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Good Cause Communications--available at the Nonprofit Communications tab above and by free email subscription.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Creativity: How to live the best creative life possible | Simon Brushfield

To be genuinely creative means following instincts and not worrying about what other people think. ... Everyone is creative.
And so begins Brushfield's blog message. He follows by describing "7 simple points to help maximize your unique creativity."

I read a lot of articles about developing and strengthening individual and workplace creativity, and many of them give similar advice. But I think Brushfield's blog provides some unique, useful perspectives.

Here are headings for each of his points:
  • Often intuitive creativity goes against what everybody else thinks is right.
  • There are most definitely no short cuts.
  • Relating well to other people helps us live our best creative life.
  • Accept the fact that not everybody is going to love you.
  • It’s guaranteed … other people are needed to achieve a person’s dreams.
  • Captivate an audience with unique brilliance and forget looking at other people to compete with them.
  • Never give up on that special dream for life.
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Brushfield's blog is featured today, Dec. 4, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Creativity Connections--available at the Creativity tab above and by free email subscription.

Oxford Dictionaries Online: Useful writing advice for free

Besides producing and selling excellent printed resources, Oxford Dictionaries provides, at no cost, a ton of useful information and advice on writing at its website:
  • Better Writing--including grammar, spelling, punctuation, and abbreviations
  • Word of Words--including a blog and frequently asked questions
  • Puzzles and Games--including crosswords and Hangman.
Today's edition (Dec. 4) of my online daily paper, Garbl's Style: Write Choices, included this article from the Oxford Dictionaries website:
Let there be concord: some tips on bringing agreement to subjects and verbs.
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Garbl's Style is available at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subscription. Of course, my own website, Garbl's Writing Center, also provides a ton of writing advice and resources:
  • Garbl's Writing Resources Online
  • Garbl's Editorial Style Manual
  • Garbl's Concise Writing Guide
  • Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide
  • Garbl's Writing Bookshelf.
Also available is my writing, editing and training business: Garbl's Pencil & Good Cause Communications.

Four steps to uncluttered email communication | Deb Lee, Unclutterer

Following up on an earlier blog item, blogger Lee focuses here on email messages. She begins:
When you think of clutter, you may not consider that it can infiltrate various parts of your life, including how you communicate with others. ... If you want to send easily understood messages without several explanations on your part, be sure to craft …
And then she describes the four useful steps under these headings, with sample advice:
Clear subject lines ... [H]elp the reader to quickly figure out the purpose of your message, what they need to do, and whether or not they can quickly respond. 
Gather all the info you need … before you send (or reply to) an email. 
Be concise and specific ... Put critical information in the first sentence (or two) instead of burying it in the bottom of the email. 
Put down the mouse and pick up the phone ... A brief phone call can eliminate the back and forth that sometimes occurs with emails ....
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Lee's blog is featured today, Dec. 4, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Simple Dreams--available at the Simplicity tab above and by free email subscription.


Following up on Chicago Style Q&A: December Update

I few days ago I posted an item about the Chicago Manual of Style and its Q&A feature. That update included some sample questions and answers from the November issue of the Q&A.

Well, on Monday I got an email through my subscription with Chicago about the December update. You also can sign up for the free Q&A alerts and submit questions to Chicago.  BTW, you're also welcome to ask me questions about writing in the comments section of my blog or send me questions through email at garbltoo (at) gmail.com. 

Here are some sample questions from the latest Chicago update:



Q. A client asked CMOS about capitalizing coach when it was used as a nickname. They got the following in reply:
Yes, it’s conventional to cap words like Coach or Captain or Auntie when they stand in for a person’s name. If you refer to “a coach” or “the coach” or “my aunt” or “the captain of the ship” in a sentence, however, it is lowercased.
I would have thought that Captain would be considered a title and come under the general rules in 8.18 and not be capitalized other than in direct address—likewise Auntie ought to come under the kinship exception in 8.35 and would be capitalized. As coach is a title, and includes no name, I was lowercasing it other than in direct address. Please advise if this is incorrect.
A. Your client’s information is correct. If a person is called Coach in place of his or her name, then anytime the wordcoach is substituted for that name it should be capped. To decide, see whether an actual name would fit in the same sentence. If it fits, cap coach as a name:
“Hi, Coach!” / “Hi, Jim!” (The name works as a substitute, so cap Coach.)
I saw the coach smile and wave / I saw the Jim smile and wave. (The name does not work as a substitute, so lowercase coach.)
I saw Captain Smith smile and wave / I saw Sally Smith smile and wave. (The name works, so cap Captain.)
I think her aunt is a bookie / I think her June is a bookie. (Lowercase aunt.)
It doesn’t matter what the word is: captain, coach, aunt, joker, brain. If it’s used in place of a name, cap it.
Q. I seem to find conflicting information, and I can’t figure out the following: is it OK or not to introduce a block quotation with an incomplete sentence (such as “The passage states”) followed by a colon? Or does the sentence have to be a complete sentence?
A. Either way is fine. (In fact, “The passage states” is complete—or independent—on its own. “The passage states that” is incomplete.) Independent clauses usually require some end punctuation; incomplete ones often do not. Please see the examples at CMOS 13.11–21.
Q. Is it proper writing to start a sentence using a coordinating conjunction in a quotation? “Her dress is ugly,” said Jane. “But please don’t tell her I said that.”
A. Of course—as long as it reflects the intention of the writer. Your construction indicates a firm pause in Jane’s speech, with the effect that the second half reads like an afterthought. Using a comma and lowercasing “but” could leave open the possibility that Jane spoke without a significant pause, in which case the second half would come across as Jane’s main point: “Her dress is ugly,” said Jane, “but please don’t tell her I said that.”


Monday, December 3, 2012

The Sunflower - eNewsletter of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation - Issue 185 - December 2012

I recommend this monthly newsletter for people who care about this matter of national and global importance. I wish more people did! The Sunflower provides educational information on nuclear weapons abolition and other issues relating to global security. Articles include pieces produced by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and pieces that appear in other journals, newspapers and websites.

Among the articles in the December 2012 issue:

Perspectives:

Outlawing Nuclear Weapons: Time for a New International Treaty? 

Is it time for a new international treaty that would outlaw nuclear weapons? The short answer to this question is, Yes, it is time. Actually, it is past time. The critical question, however, is not whether we need a new international treaty. We do. The critical question is: How do we achieve the political will among the nuclear weapon states to begin negotiations for a new international treaty to outlaw and eliminate all nuclear weapons? ...

U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy:

U.S. Bomb Refurbishment Project Will Cost Billions More 

According to an independent cost assessment, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has severely underestimated the cost needed to refurbish the U.S. stockpile of B61 nuclear bombs by billions of dollars. Already facing problems with its current budget, the NNSA will need to come up with an additional $1 billion every year for the next few years to meet the goals of its refurbishment project. ...

Nuclear Insanity:

U.S. Cites Cost as Barrier to Participation in Disarmament Meeting

In November, the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly First Committee concluded its month-long annual meeting addressing disarmament and international security concerns. Fifty-three resolutions were passed, including a call for a special meeting of senior officials on the issue of nuclear disarmament. The resolution was introduced by Indonesia on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement and passed with 165 votes in favor and none in opposition. France, Israel, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States abstained. ...

Missile Defense:

U.S. Missile Defenses in Europe Evokes Sharp Reaction from Russia

In response to U.S. plans to place elements of a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin stated that Russia will retaliate "in the sharpest manner" should any U.S. Aegis-equipped warships approach Russian waters.

The U.S. views the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense technology as a crucial component of its sea-based missile defense system in Europe, ostensibly aimed at protecting the continent from potential ballistic missile strikes from Iran or North Korea. ...

Resources:

A New U.S. Defense Strategy for a New Era

A new report published by the Defense Advisory Committee convened by the Stimson Center concludes that the U.S. should "reduce the size of its nuclear forces as rapidly as possible, preferably through a new treaty with Russia, and make commensurate reductions in planned nuclear modernization programs."

The report focuses on U.S. defense planning and spending in light of the possible cuts to the Pentagon budget through automatic sequestration. ...

Let's Be Honest About What the Fiscal Cliff Means For Nonprofits | Mike King, GOOD

Honesty in communication: What a concept! And what an essential goal it is for all our writing and speaking to clients, members, customers, employees, donors, family members, friends, politicians, and the news media.

Half-truths, misleading statements, missing facts, and blatant lies too often infect the statements we read and hear from people in power--at every level. How can people form reasonable opinions and make rational decisions when they're not given, don't get, or ignore complete, reliable information?

So I appreciate this article by Mike King, national president and CEO of Volunteers of America.

I am a proud progressive/liberal Democrat who believes that wealthy people and corporations in the United States don't pay their fair share in taxes. I support efforts to increase tax rates for wealthy individuals and to close tax loopholes that give inequitable, unnecessary advantages to the rich and powerful.

That said, I agree with King's argument in this article about eliminating or reducing tax deductions for contributions to nonprofit agencies and organizations. (BTW, I'm sure some people don't think this article tells the complete story. It's a point of view, though, that I don't hear or read about in our national discussion, and the result is a misled public and, probably, some misled politicians.)

King begins:
Let's be honest about the "fiscal cliff" and the faulty logic that claims that charitable tax deduction is a benefit for the wealthy that won't be missed. Political leaders touting this bromide are justifying proposals to redirect these dollars away from important work happening in communities nationwide.
He continues (emphasis added):
Limiting or doing away with the charitable deduction at a time when people are still reeling from the recession and budget cutbacks simply makes no sense. It won't help the federal government avoid the fiscal cliff. It will simply shift it to the nonprofit sector and communities that depend on it. ...
Data suggests that for every dollar deducted through this incentive, communities receives $3 of benefit. No other tax provision generates the kind of positive impact. But, if donors have less incentive to give, donations decline. The result is the loss of billions of dollars to support worthy causes, the jobs they provide, and the millions they serve. ...
And the public doesn't support cutting tax deductions for charitable contributions. King writes:
A new public opinion poll commissioned by the United Way found that most Americans (79 percent) believe reducing or eliminating the charitable tax deduction would have a negative impact on charities and the people they serve. Of those who indicate they would reduce charitable giving, the majority (62 percent) indicate they would have to reduce their contributions by a significant amount—by 25 percent or more. Two out of every three Americans (67 percent) are opposed to reducing the charitable tax deduction.
King adds clarity to this issue by getting away from the eye-rolling, eye-drooping rhetoric and language of politicians and economists. He puts the issue into real-life terms:
The diverse nonprofit sector supports efforts to, for example, develop technology and medications to improve our health—like insulin, the polio vaccine, the MRI, electron microscope and pacemaker, provide educational opportunities and access to health services and ensure housing and shelter for the most vulnerable. Other nonprofits enhance the arts and cultural activities, conserve wetlands and protect the environment, protect civil and voting rights, and preserve historic treasures.
Concrete examples like those (with even more detail) must be included in all communications on other issues to help people understand and act on what they read and hear. 

King concludes:
Now is not the time for Congress to dismantle a tradition that supports America's nonprofits and the people and causes they serve. No doubt our nation faces a fiscal crisis that must be addressed, but Congress should stop seeing the charitable deduction as an easy mark and acknowledge the fiscal cliff they will create for America's most vulnerable at a time they can least afford it. Giving strengthens our communities. Urge your members of Congress to preserve the charitable deduction.
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King's articles is featured today, Dec. 3, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Good Cause Communications--available at the Nonprofit Communications tab above and by free email subscription.

My Pet Peeves: From the V Entry in Garbl's Editorial Style Manual

Here's the 20th in my alphabetical series of pet peeves--from entries in the V 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 | Q and R peeves | S peeves | T peeves | U peeves

vehicle Overstated, vague jargon. Simplify. Be specific if possible. If it's a car, write car or even Toyota Celica. If it's a bus, write bus or trolley bus or Greyhound bus. If it's truck, write truck or pickup truck or tow truck. And so on.

venue Pretentious, vague jargon, unless you're using the legal expression change of venue. Simplify. Be specific when possible. If it's a theater, write theater. If it's a stadium, write stadium. And so on, or use words like location, place, setting or site

verbiage Sometimes misused and misspelled. It's "an excess of words," not simply "words, diction" or "wording." Consider using simpler wordiness instead. But if you must use it, don't misspell it as verbage, and don't use the redundant excess verbiage

verbs A verb is a word that expresses existence, action or occurrence.

Follow this spelling rule when adding ed and ing to form the present participle and past tense of a verb: If the stress in pronunciation is on the first syllable, do not double the consonant: offer, offered, offering. If the stress in pronunciation is on the second syllable, double the consonant unless confusion would result.

Use a singular verb form after each, either, everybody, everyone, neither, nobody, no one, somebody, someoneAlthough both candidates oppose the tax cut, neither has said much about it. No one in my work group likes his policies. 

Use a plural verb when the word and joins two or more nouns in a compound subject. Exceptions to this rule include compound subjects qualified by each or every and certain familiar compound phrases, often cliches: Every engineer and planner in the company is getting a bonus. Fish and chips is one of his favorite meals.

A singular subject takes singular verbs even if it is connected to other nouns by along with, as well as, at least, besides, except, in addition to, no less than, together with and with: The artist, together with her roommates, is donating her earnings to the charity. 

very Use very only when its emphasis isn't already suggested in the word(s) it's modifying. Using it may be redundant, if not silly: Her death was very tragic. Where emphasis is necessary, use stronger, more descriptive words or be more precise: Her death at age 17 was tragic

Veterans Day No apostrophe according to the U.S. statute establishing the legal holiday. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, formerly the Veterans Administration, also takes no apostrophe.

via It means "by way of" [a place], not "by means of." Use via (or simpler through or by) to show the direction of a journey: Their trip went from Seattle to Cancun via Houston. Don't use via to show the means by which someone makes a journey: She made the trip via train. Instead: She made the trip by train

viable It means "capable of living." Overused and misused in references to options, alternatives, plans, products and actions. Instead, consider dropping it or using feasible, lasting, workable, possible, practical or promising.

vice versa Two words. Sometimes misused. It means "just the opposite" or "the other way around," not "something different." If your readers could misunderstand the Latin phrase, try try using in reverse, just the opposite or the other way around.

virgule (/) Avoid using the virgule--also called a slashforward slashdiagonal or slant--to stand for omitted words or letters. Examples include per in 33,000 tons/year, to in price/earnings ratioor inhis/her and oral/written testsversus in parent/child issues, with in table/mirrorw/o for without andc/o for in care of

The virgule may replace and in some compound terms: the Vancouver/Portland area, the January/February issue, an active classroom/laboratory. Using and, however, may be less ambiguous. 

When using the virgule, don't separate the punctuation mark from adjacent words or numbers with spaces. Also, avoid using virgules (or hyphens) with numerals to give dates, especially if your readers could confuse the order of the day and month: 2/11/94, 11-16-1993.

The virgule may be used to separate the numerator from the denominator in numbers containing fractions.

Use the virgule--or forward slash--in Internet addresses: http://home.comcast.net/~garbl/. Use the backslash(one word)--\--for writing commands in DOS and computer directories.

virtually Overstated. Try omitting, or use simpler almost or nearly instead.

vis-a-vis Vague foreign term. Simplify. Replace with face to face, opposite, compared with, against or about.

visible to the eye Visualize this redundant phrase without to the eye.


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