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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Warren Buffett’s 10 Steps To Better Report Writing | Ivan Walsh, Standard Operating Procedures Tips

I wrote this short guide to help you write Business Proposals in clear English. It explains how to prepare an business documents that readers can digest in one reading. That’s the acid test. They shouldn’t have to read them twice and three times to get the meaning. It also covers how to use Plain Language writing techniques to win more business, accelerate your tender process, and encourage staff to contribute to the overall tender process.
After describing how he was inspired by the writing advice of financial expert Warren Buffett, the blogger provides this useful list for improving the clarity of all business documents, not just reports and proposals. 

Here are headings for each of the steps:
  1. Start Early
  2. Study the principles of Plain English
  3. Promote Plain English among your Staff
  4. Contact an experienced proposal writer
  5. Review previous Proposals and see where you can improve
  6. Create an outline to help readers find information faster
  7. Write the RFP, section by section, using plain language techniques
  8. Review and Revise
  9. Create an easy-to-read format
  10. Get feedback – and share it.
For more advice on plain language and clear, concise writing, visit Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide. It describes the process in these seven steps:
  1. Focusing on your reader and purpose
  2. Organizing your ideas
  3. Writing clear, effective paragraphs
  4. Writing clear, simple sentences
  5. Using suitable words
  6. Creating an enticing design
  7. Testing for clarity.
Walsh's article is featured today, Dec, 22, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs--available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.

Friday, December 21, 2012

An A-to-Z Guide to 2012's Worst Words | Jen Doll, The Atlantic Wire

We mean no offense to these words, even when we call them despicable. One woman's worst word might be another's best. Bad words are a matter of opinion, and each is entitled to his own. And sometimes by hating a word, you—strangely—grow to love it. ...
With that warning, Doll also writes:
But agree with me on this: There is no better way for a semantic-minded person to remember the year than with a list of the words we used and saw and heard, those words we'd just as soon never write or see or hear spoken again.
Her first word is one I use too often:
Actually. Adverb, mostly. When Sarah Miller declared war on literally over at The Awl, I argued that actually was worse, the "talk to the hand of the adverb community," or "the word that you use when you're actually saying, 'You are wrong, and I am right, and you are at least a little bit of an idiot.'" Actually, I still agree with that.
Doll's list includes these and other words, with comments on each:
  • Baby Bump. Horrid compound noun.
  • Curate. Verb.
  • Ecosystem. Noun
  • Epic. Adjective.
  • Fiscal Cliff. Noun.
  • Gaffe. Noun with political inclinations.
  • Hehehe. The way a serial killer chuckles. 
  • Historic, historical. Adjective.
  • INITIAL-WORDS. Usage type.
  • Legitimate rape. Adjective-noun clause.
  • Organically. Adverb.
  • Really?! Expression of incredulity.
  • Sustainable. Adjective.
Doll concludes, however:
Disclaimer: Simply because a word appears above does not mean we will cease to use it. That's just the way the word world works.
Doll's article is featured today, Dec. 21, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Style: Write Choices--available at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subscription.

Challenging the violence belief system in the wake of Newtown | Ken Butigan, Waging Nonviolence

I just posted an item about word usage (lighted vs. lit) that's appropriate to this holiday season. But here's another article that's also related to the season ... and how we communicate with one another, individually, within our communities and internationally. Peace on earth.

Butigan's article begins by noting the violent tragedy in Newtown, Conn., and our responses to it. But he describes how that event could be the tipping point for fostering larger changes in U.S. attitudes and behavior toward violence of any kind.

He writes:
The resounding horror of what took place touches a nerve about guns, but it also may prompt a concerted exploration of the larger culture of violence in the United States. We are called by the anguish of that hushed Connecticut classroom — and by our long, baleful history of violent action—to question our belief in violence and to embark even more steadily on the path of nonviolent change in our lives and in our world.
Butigan writes that such a change won't be easy. But he emphasizes that changes like he suggests have happened. He writes:
When Gandhi said nonviolence is as old as the hills, he meant this, not as a rhetorical flourish, but as a matter of the human record. Without nonviolent options violence, by its escalatory logic, would have spun irretrievably out of control. We likely would have disappeared long ago. Instead, peacemaking, peacebuilding and peacekeeping in many guises and using many tactics have neutralized that logic and spawned a saner alternative.
He then gets into actions we can take to bring about this change:
So, in the aftermath of Newtown, we are nudged to smoke out our beliefs in violence and live by something else — a way of being that wagers that we can grapple with the deep frustrations of this life without resorting to inflicting harm; which peers into the fog of the chaos of human life and see that we are all irrefutably connected; and which finally recognizes that our survival depends on one another. This takes nothing more — and nothing less — than personal, communal and social moves bent on transforming fear, anger and powerlessness.
Butigan's article is featured today, Dec. 21, in my online daily paper, Beyond Child's Play: Peace Now--available at the Peace Now tab above and by free email subscription.

Today's edition also features other related articles:

Grammar Hammer: Are Your Trees Lit or Lighted? | Catherine Spicer, Beyond PR

Here's a question of word usage that likely comes up in this light-hearted time of year in some homes and businesses.

Spicer writes:
Grammatically speaking, either word is correct because both words are past tense verbs and interchangeable as past participles. I hate to say it, but in most cases, it’s really going to come down to what sounds best to you.
But check my advice too (below). Referring to another writing site, she notes:
According to Grammarist, lit is favored for both uses outside the U.S.. Lighted is usually used as an adjective, while lit is more often a verb. ...
I think Spicer means in the United States when she adds:
Currently, we’re favoring lit over lighted.
Here's somewhat similar advice in my online editorial style manual:
lighted, lit Both lighted and lit are acceptable as past-tense verbs, though lit is more often used: The mourners lighted 100 candles for the vigil. The mourners lit 100 candles for the vigil. Lighted is preferred for the adjective form: The intersection is well-lighted. A well-lighted intersection. A lighted candle.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Plain language is good business | Candi Harrison, Standard of Excellence, Writemark

Harrison concludes her blog post:
Businesses, non-profits, and governments all over the world are getting on the plain language band wagon. Why? Because it just makes sense. When your customers can find and use what they want, easily and effectively, they’re happy. Happy customers come back. They tell their friends. ...
She gained her insights while writing for U.S. government websites. She learned that "getting your words right" is essential:
if you don’t communicate effectively, you can’t serve effectively. If customers come to your website and cannot understand what you offer and how to get it, they leave and never come back. They tell their friends what a rotten website you have and, by extension, how bad you must be.
Harrison's blog ends with links to websites that can aid you in using plain language. My website also can help improve your writing skills!

Garbl's Plain English 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
  • Testing for clarity
  • Other plain-language resources.
Harrison's article is featured today, Dec. 20, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs, available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What makes Christmas merry? A brief history of yuletide adjectives | OxfordWords blog

Here's an article appropriate for this time of year!

It begins by describing how "Merry Christmas" came first as a holiday greeting, followed by "Happy Christmas." The article notes that "Happy Christmas" never really caught on in the United States, as it did in England.

As an American, I first recall hearing "Happy Christmas" in the great song by Britisher John Lennon, "Happy Christmas (War is Over)." I even was expecting a reference to that song in this article; it never appeared.

But I was surprised to read that "Happy Christmas" was actually
the original phrase used in the famous poem by Clement C. Moore, “A Visit from St. Nicholas." It closes with this line:
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night."
The articles notes that in the U.S., "Merry" is often substituted for "Happy" in that poem.

Of course, the article also describes changes in references to Christmas (emphasis added):
It is probably no coincidence that use of Happy Holidays and Season’s Greetings started picking up steam around the same time Merry Christmas peaked, gaining popularity as an appeal to greater cultural sensitivity in a society becoming more conscious of religious and ethnic diversity.
The article notes silly uses of "Happy Holidays" or versions of the phrase. It concludes, however:
[I]n phrases like “holiday recipes”, it usefully encompasses latkes as well as gingerbread, and when used as a seasonal greeting, “Happy Holidays” is an apt acknowledgement of what is in the United States a full two months of overindulgent celebration, beginning with Thanksgiving, spanning December’s multitudinous offerings, and ending arguably not with the New Year, but with the Super Bowl in early February. ...
The Oxford article is featured today, Dec. 19, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Style: Write Choices, available at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subscription.

Creativity: A Crime Of Passion | Andrea Kuszewski, Science 2.0

The common impression is that our society values creative people and creative thinking. But in this article, Kuszewski maintains that schoolroom and workplace rules discourage it. She discusses why that happens and how to overcome the obstacles.

Kuszewski writes (emphasis added):
Creativity is supposed to be a good thing, something we aspire to achieve. However, those who are the most creative are often faced with the worst treatment and the most rejection for their ideas. To put it simply, people in positions of authority and management generally like and value those who follow rules. It is much easier to maintain order when everyone is following the rules. Breaking rules = bad. Right? But in order to be truly creative, you must break rules. That is what creativity entails.
After commenting some more on how schools and employers hinder creativity, she writes:
This may sound like I am advocating rule-breaking. And in a way, I am. But it is selective and purposeful rule-breaking that serves to advance ideas or thinking about a situation, in order to come up with a new solution to a persisting problem. There is a difference between rule-breaking for selfish purpose (illegal motive) and rule-breaking for creative purpose (idea advancement).
Kuszewski continues by discussing the types of creative rule-breaking that are more effective, because they're most acceptable. She writes:
So really, what we are being told is, "be creative, but not TOO creative". Any creative ideas that attempt to shift the current paradigm or reject a paradigm completely are usually driven by extreme passion, and almost always met with some type of resistance from society.
She concludes:
While we need more people who are willing to face the firestorm and stand up for their creative ideas, the real change needs to come from society itself. Society needs to have flexibility and tolerance in situations where breaking rules is necessary and provides a clear social benefit, instead of treating the passionate innovators of the world as common criminals.
I'm no psychologist, but I can't help thinking these days that contradictions about creativity--and associated rule-breaking--in our schools and workplaces affect our attitudes, feelings and behaviors. And sadly, the negative effects of those contradictions become more noticeable, and even tragic, in some people. Of course, those effects cannot be an excuse for anti-social behavior.
Kuszewski's article is featured today, Dec. 19, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Creativity Connections--available at the Creativity tab above and by free email subscription.

Top 20 Insights, Talks, and Quotables On Making Ideas Happen :: Articles :: 99U

99U ends 2012 with this to-do list of its most popular creative, innovative insights of the year:
To help take a look back at 2012, we rounded up our most popular features, essays, 99U Conference talks, and tweets. We hope it gives you a chance to discover (and rediscover) content from throughout the year while providing the spark needed to start 2013 off right.
The linked articles include:
2. Test Your Creativity: 5 Classic Creative Challenges
How creative are you? Find out by taking a few quick tests that psychologists have been using to study creativity for decades.
4. Why Boredom Is Good for Your Creativity
Why does boredom always emerge just as you're about to get in gear on a creative project?
5. How Rejection Breeds Creativity
With a few small changes in your mindset, you can turn rejection into a dramatic boost for your motivation and focus.
Following those articles are U99's most popular videos, with titles like these:
  • Do What You've Never Done Before 
  • Keep Other People's Opinions Out Of Your Creative Process
And the article ends with its five most popular tweets, including:
  • Time is a created thing. To say "I don't have time" is to say "I don't want to" - Lao Tzu
  • "Nobody does their best thinking sitting at their desk. Your desk is for executing; do your thinking elsewhere."
The 99U article is featured today, Dec. 19, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Simple Dreams, available at the Simplicity tab above and by free email subscription.

Monday, December 17, 2012

My Pet Peeves: From the X, Y and Z Entries in Garbl's Editorial Style Manual

Here's the 22st (and final) entry in my alphabetical series of pet peeves--from the X, Y and Z sections 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:


Xerox Trademark for a brand of photocopy machine. Commonly misspelled as Zerox. Don't use Xerox as a verb or noun to mean copy, photocopy, copy machine or copier. Use one of those words instead: The assistant made a photocopy, not The assistant made a Xerox.


Yahoo Unless the company is paying you to promote its website and search engine, don't end Yahoo with an exclamation point. You're under no obligation to follow its marketing style.

years Use numerals without commas: In 2004 a disastrous earthquake hit the region. Use an s without an apostrophe to show spans of decades or centuries: 1790s, 1900s, '90s.

Years are the one exception to the rule against beginning a sentence with numerals: 1994 was a wonderful year

If it's necessary to spell out a year, avoid using and within the number: two thousand one, nineteen sixty-eight.

year to date No hyphens unless used as an adjective: year-to-date sales. Except for charts and graphs, avoid abbreviating as YTD. Also, consider using simpler so far instead of to date.

yet Like the conjunctions and, but and soyet is a useful, correct transition word at the beginning of sentences--instead of regardless and in spite of. For emphasis, yet may be followed by a comma. 

you By using the pronoun you, you suggest immediacy and directness between you and your reader. But make sure you and the reader know who you is. And avoid using you if it sounds accusatory or insulting. 

Also, always use a plural verb with you, even when you is singular, referring to only one person: Nate, I know you are sick. You alone have understood. You both are busy. See Myths and Superstitions of Writing.

your, you're Often confused or misspelled. And computer spellcheckers won't catch the mistaken substitution of one of these homonyms for the other. Your is the possessive form of the pronoun you, meaning "belonging to you," while you're is a contraction of "you are."

yours Sometimes misspelled as your's. Don't ever add the apostrophe before (or after) the s.

youth, youths Use for boys and girls ages 13-17. Use man, men, woman and women for people 18 and older.

yuppie Colloquial, trite term. It means young urban professional. Avoid the word but not the people.


zeitgeist Capitalize the name of the excellent coffee shop in Pioneer Square, Seattle. If you use this German noun in other ways, lowercase it; it means "the spirit of the age," or, more clearly, "the general thought, feeling, ideas and outlook of a particular generation, era or place."

zero, zeros (n.); zero, zeroes (v.) Don't include unnecessary zeros in times and dollar amounts: 10 a.m., $35; not 10:00 a.m., $35.00

ZIP code Use all caps for the abbreviation for Zone Improvement Program, but always lowercase the word code. Don't put a comma between the state name and the ZIP code: Seattle, WA 98126-2225

Sunday, December 16, 2012

99 Life Hacks to make your life easier! | Tuxedo Mask

The photos and graphics at this link don't have much to do with my general blog topic of communications. But I sure like what they communicate! And I'm delighted by their creativity and simplicity!

Check 'em out for simple, surprising tips to deal with those things that annoy us far too often.

Consider it a Christmas gift from me--and from whomever compiled the photos. Re-gifting encouraged. 

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