Friday, December 14, 2012

Demand a Plan to End Gun Violence | Action Writing Links

The school shooting in Newtown, Conn., is a tragedy beyond comprehension. My thoughts are with the victims, their loved ones and the community that has suffered this horrific act of violence. 

But words of condolence are not enough. Mass shootings and gun murders have become commonplace in our country because our laws are broken and our leaders have no plan to address gun violence.


NOW is the time to talk--and write--about guns. Now IS the time to prevent more pointless deaths. Now IS the time to Demand A Plan to End Gun Violence. 


This website is one place to start. It features a petition to President Obama and members of Congress and asks them to act NOW!


For advice on writing about your concerns and putting them into action, visit Garbl's Action Writing Links. It's an annotated directory of websites that can help you get people to read your writing, keep readers interested and persuade them to respond while they're reading or afterward. 


In a democracy, we each have the right and the responsibility to speak out on matters that concern us.


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Here is related Web information:


'Your fantastic website' | Garbl's Writing Center--writing resources and style guides

I recently got this email message from a graduate-school student in Calgary, Canada, with the subject line, "Your fantastic website":
Hi Gary ...
I just wanted to say that I really like your website. It has so much great information in it. It’s going to take me weeks to get through it. I can’t believe you were able to compile such an amazing list of information on concise writing. I have to say that it is an inspiration for me and I am going to take the time to read every bit of it. Excellent work and I can’t wait to start learning something! Well, good news- I already did apply some of your ideas to my proposal.
As I wrote her in my reply:
I manage and offer my website for almost no compensation (commissions for Amazon book sales usually wouldn't even pay for one latte a week!). So comments like yours are the compensation I get … and appreciate!
Giving me her permission to identify her, Elise responded to me:

I liked your website so much that I showed it to my friend Ben (from the UK) who writes a blog on literature reviews and he included it in today’s blog: http://www.literaturereviewhq.com/plain-english-day/ look under Fat Free writing (I hope you don’t mind). 
He linked to a section of my annotated directory of websites that "give advice on cutting the fat from your writing--so your readers can easily chew, digest and be nourished by your top-choice words": Garbl's Fat-Free Writing Links

If you haven't visited my website, Garbl's Writing Center, it's a free portal to these writing tools:
Speaking of those Amazon commissions, here'a note from my website:
Except for selected books on the Writing Bookshelf and Favorite Writers pages, website listings do not signify endorsements of fee-based services, products or programs. 
My website also includes a link to my writing and editing service: Garbl's Pencil & Good Cause Communications.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

How Sticklers Give Copyediting a Bad Name | Carol Fisher Saller, The Subversive Copy Editor Blog

Copyediting, done well, can improve the readability, comprehension and credibility of a document. I'm proud of the work I've done for more than 30 years as an editor (and writer). I value my editorial skills and believe using them has benefited my employers, colleagues, staff, clients and readers.

But I agree with this article. Saller writes:
When copyeditors brag that they haven’t overlooked a typo since they were twelve, they reinforce the image of a superficial reader with her elementary-school list of rules chopping away at the weeds without noticing the forest or where the path is headed. They relegate our profession to the status of other stereotypes that ignore the challenging, creative, intellectual aspects of a job ...."
She concludes:
Writers are trying to communicate something–and writers are not the best proofreaders and copyeditors of their own work. It would be helpful if all those cheerleaders for communication could focus a little more on the message and put the occasional grammar or punctuation gaffe into proportion.
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Saller's article is featured today, Dec. 13, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Style  Write Choices--available at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subscription.

My online work is featured at Garbl's Writing Center, my free portal to these writing tools:
You can read more about my services at Garbl's Pencil & Good Cause Communications

BTW, as I writer and website manager, I emphasize the value and necessity of quality copyediting with a statement like this one on various pages of my website: 
Whatever their acclaim and position, all writers need editors. I don't have one for Garbl's Writing Center, so if you spot a typo, unclear message or possible error, please let me know.
 It also should note that all publications and websites need proofreaders!

Hiking in Nature May Boost Creativity | Denise Mann, WebMD Health News

I'd say, from personal experience, that the findings of this study are true. Mann writes:
New research shows that backpackers scored 50% better on a creativity test after spending four days in nature while disconnected from all electronic devices.
The study reports:
Our modern society is filled with sudden events (sirens, horns, ringing phones, alarms, televisions, etc.) that hijack attention. By contrast, natural environments are associated with a gentle, soft fascination, allowing the executive attentional system to replenish.
My "research" isn't based on backpacking, however. It's based on visits I make to local parks in Seattle. And I do take a piece of technology with me--my digital SLR camera. But I use it to help me focus--literally and figuratively--on nature, my temporary natural surroundings. I view the forest, but I also view the trees (and other flora and fauna).

That experience takes me away from myself and challenges I'm facing and reading or hearing about in the news. And I return reinvigorated to my home, my desk, other realities. (And I return with digital memories of the experience so I can relive them within my home, at my desk. I also share them with family and friends.)

That natural experience arms me with new energy, new openness, to write, to think, to learn.

Sure, backpacking or driving for hours and miles for a day hike in the mountains can be wonderful creative experiences. But I like trekking through local parks for a quick, simple burst of energy.

Another report on this study appeared in the Los Angeles Times"Communing with nature can recharge your creativity, study finds."

It reports a reaction to the study by James P. Nicolai, MD, medical director of the Andrew Weil, MD, Integrative Wellness Program in Tucson, Ariz.:
He says the new findings are “right on.” Disconnecting from media technology allows people to stay in the now, and nature can do the rest, he says. “Take a 10- to 15-minute walk in a park five days a week,” he says. Or “if you can’t get to nature, bring nature to you by having flowers in your house or plants in your space.”
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Both articles are featured today, Dec. 13, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Creativity Connections--available at the Creativity tab above and by free email subscription.

2013 Nonprofit Marketing Trends: How They'll Affect You | Nancy Schwartz, Nonprofit Marketing | Getting Attention

This article, Part I in a review of of 20 marketing trends, focuses on five of them. One of those five, in particular, would benefit from an approach to clear, concise writing that I discuss frequently: using plain language, aka plain English.

The trend, as Schwartz refers to it, is Prediction #3: So Speak Like a Human. A second trend that would benefit from using plain language is Prediction #2: Relevance Rules.

Plain English is an approach to writing that concentrates on the needs of readers Plain English matches the needs of your readers with your needs as a writer, leading to effective, efficient communication. It is effective because your readers can understand your message. It is efficient because your readers can understand your message the first time they read it.

Plain-language principles emphasize the thoughtful choice of familiar words people will understand. And they emphasize organizing those words in easy-to-read sentences, paragraphs and documents. 

But before choosing and organizing those words, plain-language principles emphasize getting a thorough understanding of the expected readers--their interests, knowledge about the topic, and so on. And they emphasize selective use of information to fulfill the purpose of a document that's aligned with the reasons people would read the document.

For more information about plain language plain English, visit Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide. It covers these seven steps:
  • 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.
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The Schwartz article is featured today, Dec. 13, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Good Cause Communication--available at the Nonprofit Communications tab above and by free email subscription.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Why Trying to Learn Clear Writing in College is Like Trying to Learn Sobriety in a Bar | Michael Ellsberg, Forbes

Ellsberg begins his provocative article by noting that writing is "one of the most effective skills you could develop for expanding your leadership and impact on the world—and for fattening your wallet."

But he then writes:
Unfortunately, despite the amount of writing you do in college, you’re about as likely to leave there having learned to write clear, compelling prose as you’re likely to leave a kegger with clear mental faculties.
Ellsberg probes possible causes of that problem and emphasizes this one:
We enter college hoping to learn effective communication skills—the kind of skills the recruiter in the Wall Street Journal article wished we possessed. But the joke is on us: the professors from whom we seek guidance, themselves don’t know good prose from porridge.
When we attend college, we throw our impressionable young minds headlong into this bog of ”scholars” ...; headlong into this asylum in which esteemed academic journals will publish gibberish if one uses the right buzzwords; headlong into this funhouse in which a computer program can generate random meaningless prose that reads passably like the stuff assigned in most graduate and undergraduate humanities classes. And from within this stylistic cesspool, we hope to get an education in how to write good prose.
He notes, however:
[M]ost writing by professors in the hard sciences also employs highly specialized language which is impenetrable to people outside the respective field. The difference is, the jargon they use tends to have precise and widely-agreed-upon meaning; the meaning of a physics or biology paper is almost always crystal-clear to another physicist or biologist.
Instead, professors of the humanities and social sciences are victims of Ellsberg's disdain. Responding to someone who commented on his article by pointing out that composition professors try to help students avoid "swampy prose," Ellsberg writes, "Fair enough."

But he then writes:
Thus, in college students are getting mixed messages about writing: the one or two composition professors they might encounter in four years try to teach them to write crisp, lively prose, and with rare exception all other humanities and social science professors in the rest of their studies--including full professors of literature--encourage them to ape the academic version of the Official Style, which these professors are churning out themselves in their "research."
Fortunately, Ellsberg concludes by noting that many excellent books and courses out there are available for improving writing skills. And he lists several options.
___________

Ellsberg's article is featured today, Dec. 12, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs--available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.

8 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Master the Creative Mind | Marty Zwilling, The Creativity Post

The headline for this article names entrepreneurs  but the advice is useful for anyone striving to be creative.

Zwilling reviews a new book by Bryan Mattimore, Idea Stormers: How to Lead and Inspire Creative Breakthroughs. Zwilling writes:
[The book] outlines well eight attributes of the most creative people, which seem to match the mind-sets of some of the best entrepreneurs I know. Investors look for these in the people they fund, and you should be looking for them in yourself.
Zwilling's review summarizes these attributes:
  1. Forever curious. 
  2. Always open to new things. 
  3. Embrace ambiguity. 
  4. Finding and transferring principles. 
  5. Searching for integrity. 
  6. Knowing you can solve the problem. 
  7. Able to visualize other worlds. 
  8. Think the opposite. 
Zwilling's article is featured today, Dec. 12, in my daily online paper: Garbl's Creativity Connections, available at the Creativity tab above and by free email subscription.

Understand Music — Smarter Creativity

Here's a fantastic experimental animation by finally., a recently founded creative studio in Mainz, Germany:
Music is a complex thing, this animation is about the attempt to understand all the parts of it.


I found this video at the Smarter Creativity blog of Antonio Ortiz:
Exploring the ways artists, artisans and technicians are intelligently expressing their creativity with a passion for culture, technology, marketing and advertising.
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The Ortiz article is featured today, Dec. 12, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Creativity Connections--available at the Creativity tab above and by free email subscription.



Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The 23 Absolute Best Quotes To Boost Your Creativity | BuzzFeed

As stated in the introduction to these graphic illustrations of the 23 quotations:
Stuck in a creative rut? Listen to these guys. They know what they are talking about.
The people quoted include Steve Jobs, Soren Kierkegaard, Henry David Thoreau, Ray Bradbury, Charles Mingus, Voltaire, Albert Einstein, Sylvia Plath, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, William James, Rita Mae Brown, Erika Jong, Emily Dickinson, Walt Disney, Kurt Vonnegut and Oscar Wilde.

Among other things, the quotations encourage people to:

1. Make connections ...
Steve Jobs quotation

3. Get anxious.
4. Get angry ...
6. Stop thinking...
8. Don't be afraid to imitate ...
10. Stop second-guessing ...
12. Be reckless.
13. Change your perspective...
15. Stop talking
16. Trust your instincts.
17. Listen to your talent.
18. Cultivate longing.
19. Be open ...
21. Dwell in the future.
22. Take risks.
23. Live dangerously.
Oscar Wilde quotation

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This article is featured today, Dec. 11, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Creativity Connections--available at the Creativity tab above and by free email subscription.


Monday, December 10, 2012

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

Here's the 21st in my alphabetical series of pet peeves--from entries in the W 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 | V peeves

waiter The person who takes orders and brings food in a restaurant is a waiter or server, not a waitress, waitperson, waitron or member of the waitstaff. Neither the job title nor the quality of the service depends on the sex of the server.

war "War is hell," said Civil War General William T. Sherman, no matter what it's called. Avoid euphemisms like armed conflict, armed intervention, a military solution, police action, uprising, use of force. Capitalize the word when part of the name for a specific war: World War I, World War II, the Cold War, the Korean War, the failed Vietnam War, the endless Gulf War. Also, if one country invades or attacks another country, there's no war until the other country starts defending itself, as it has a right to do.

Also, avoid diluting the meaning and realities of war by using that word in terms like war on drugs, war on women, and war on religion. Instead, reserve war for referring to battles of one country's military against another country or countries--and against its own people.

warn in advance Redundant. Simplify. Delete in advance

was, were Use was to state a fact: He was planning a vacation trip to Kauai. I was hoping to go too. But use the subjunctive verb were to express a nonexistent, desirable, hypothetical or far-fetched condition--even with a singular subject like I or heIf I were a rich man, I'd move to Kauai. If he were to plan a vacation trip, he'd go to Kauai.

we Use the editorial we (as well as us and our) when those words stand for the authors of a collaborative work. Use of those words is also acceptable to refer to an organization and its organizational elements and programs, especially in quotations, opinion pieces and informal publications, and to avoid redundancy and wordiness. Make sure it's clear who we, us and our is. Don't use the pretentious we when writing about yourself or for one person. Instead, use I, me, my and mine

weapons Other guidebooks provide more than enough advice for using weapons and weapons terminology appropriately.

weapons of mass destruction Potentially misused. If used, these nuclear, biological or chemical weapons would cause overwhelming devastation and loss of life among both civilians and military personnel. The United States and at least eight other countries build, sell and threaten to use them to boost the egos of their leaders, enrich the bank accounts of arms manufacturers, and overthrow countries that have natural resources they desire. 

Avoid using the abbreviation WMD; it minimizes the death and destruction that would come after use of these deadly weapons. Instead, shorten the phrase using nuclear weaponschemical weapons or biological weapons

weather conditions It'll be pleasant, hot, stormy or pouring buckets whether called weather or weather conditions. Simplify. Drop conditions or try climate

weatherman They're not all men, and few if any are girls. Use weather forecaster instead.

well Hyphenate as part of a compound modifier before the noun it's describing: He is a well-dressed man. But the hyphen may be eliminated when the modifying words come after the noun they're describing: She is well dressed.

what Sentences, clauses and phrases beginning with the pronoun what commonly take singular verbs when what is about "the thing that." They may take plural verbs, however, when what is about "the things that": What I long for is butterflies--if you're longing for butterflies as a group. What I long for are butterflies--if you're longing for butterflies in all their beautiful variations.

Also, beginning a sentence with what adds needless words. Delete it and simplify: I long for butterfliesI long for the butterflies. Finally, because what is often the first word in a question, beginning a sentence that's not a question with what may confuse some readers.

where ... at, where ... to Adding the prepositions at or to is redundant. Drop the unnecessary prepositions in sentences like these: Do you know where the hammer is at? He doesn't know where the concert is at? Where do you think you're going to? The phrase where it's at is slang best used when talkin' with your buddies about what's cool, what's in and what's happenin', man!

whether or not The words or not are not always necessary--because they're suggested in whether. When writing about a choice between doing something and not doing something, drop or not--or use ifShe does not know whether the candidate will support the proposal. She does not know if the candidate will support the proposal. 

To stress the alternative, however, adding or not can be useful: The City Council will consider the offer whether or not it is cost effective. Usually, it's best to keep whether or not together, especially if or not would be separated from whether by a long description of the alternative: The City Council will consider the offer whether it is cost effective or not.

while at the same time Redundant and wordy. Simplify. Change to either while or at the same time.

who, whom Often confused. Who does something, and whom has something done to it. Use whom when someone is the object of verb or preposition: The man to whom the car was rented did not fill the gas tank. Whom do you wish to see?

A preposition (such as to, at, by, for, from, in, toward, upon and with) often comes just before whomWho does something to whomWho is the word in all other uses, especially when someone takes an action as the subject of a sentence, clause or phrase: The man who rented the car did not fill the gas tank. Who is still here?

To test for correctness: Who equals he, she or they while whom equals him, her or them. Replace who or whom in the sentence with one of those pronouns. If it sounds wrong, it probably is.

who's, whose Who's is a contraction for who is or who has, not a possessive: Who's using the cellular phone? Who's been eating my radishes? For the possessive, use whoseI do not know whose galoshes these are. Whose may refer to things as well as people: The shopping mall, whose customers come from miles around, began charging for parking.

widow Widow of the late ... is redundant. Instead, use widow of ... or wife of the late ....

will, would Often confused. Use will when expressing a certainty. Use would when noting that something is conditional, that it will happen if something else happens first. The stadium will cost $362 million means the stadium has been approved by taxpayers, or the stadium board is omniscient and knows it will be approved by taxpayers (a real leap of faith). The stadium would cost $362 million means taxpayers haven't decided yet if building the stadium is worth $362 million.

Also, beware of saying something will happen unless you have total control or a crystal ball: The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. or The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m., not The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. They plan to leave on Friday, not They will leave on Friday.

-wise No hyphen when the word means "in the direction of, in the manner of" or "about": lengthwise, otherwise, slantwise, clockwise. Avoid contrived combinations: The department rates high efficiencywise. Instead, say: The department has a high efficiency rate. Or: The department is very efficient.

with reference to Wordy jargon. Change to about, for, of or on.

with regard to Wordy jargon. Change to about, for, in, of or on.

with respect to Wordy jargon. Change to about, for, of, on or with.

with the exception of (that) Wordy. Simplify. Change to besides, except for or apart from.

WMD Find weapons of mass destruction above.

worker's compensation Not workmen's compensation.

would of Incorrect. Use would have (preferred) or would've, a contraction for would have.

wreak havoc Overstated, vague, wordy and sometimes misspelled. Simplify. Omit and describe the damage, problems, confusion and chaos instead. Or try using demolish, injure or ruin instead. And don't spell it wreck havocwork havoc or reek havoc.

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