Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Costs of Poor Writing | William H. DuBay

Don't think it's worth the time, energy or expense of improving the writing in your documents or the documents of your organization?

Think again.

Plain-language advocate Bill DuBay makes a convincing case in this article about the costly consequences of writing that's hard to read and hard to comprehend.


He asks these questions:
How much money and time do you waste in:
  • Unnecessary support calls caused by unclear instructions?
  • Poorly written forms and applications that are badly filled in?
  • Manuals, reports, and specifications that are hard to understand?
  • Confusing internal procedures and regulations?
  • Ineffective memos and business letters that are never answered?
  • Undecipherable legal notices and briefs?
  • Uninteresting press releases that are ignored by the media?
DuBay's website provides other articles and resources for making documents more readable by following plain-language principles. For more information and advice on clear, concise writing, visit Garbl's Plain-English Writing Guide.

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DuBay's article is featured today, Jan. 26, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs, available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Wow! | Garbl'd Thoughts: Week of 2013-01-20

Oh am I pleased, mystified and impressed today! For some reason, the blog item I posted Wednesday, Jan. 23--about my writing resources website--had 4 times as many pageviews in its first 24 hours of existence as my previous most popular post has had since it went public on Nov. 26, 2012.

I don't know the typical number of pageviews for a personal, independent blog like mine. But as I write this, the difference between pageviews for those two posts is 562--and it's growing.

I'm pleased by this trend because my Jan. 23 post was about the first website I created, back in 1997: Garbl's Writing Resources Online. Most of my posts comment on other Web articles, blog posts and websites I come across. They often refer, though, to particular advice on writing in my online editorial style manual and plain-English writing guide.

But perhaps this latest trend is telling me something I should consider in writing future posts: Four of my top 10 blog posts in the past year featured sections of Garbl's Writing Center. Besides the latest post on my writing resources site, here are three of my most popular posts in the past year:

Now if only more of my blog readers would comment more often on my posts or send me email messages about them. I'd then have an even better idea about what my readers think, what they like, and what they don't like. And I could base future posts on their comments. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Garbl's Writing Resources Online--grammar, concise writing, writing process, style, word usage, plain language, word play, creativity

[Update: This blog post has become my most popular post, by far, during the past year. More details.]
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When writing in my blog about other articles, blog items, and websites, I occasionally mention a couple of my Web resources: Garbl's Editorial Style Manual and Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide. But I don't often mention this site: Garbl's Writing Resources Online.

It may be just the site some people need. As its name suggests, it's an annotated directory of websites that provide free advice and information about various topics of writing: English grammar, concise writing, word play, the writing process, style and usage, words, plain language, action writing, creativity, and reference sources. You'll also find lists of websites there on punctuation, overcoming writer's block, avoiding bias, spelling and vocabulary, and writing for the Web.


I launched my writing resources site in 1997--in a much smaller form (one page!)--partially as a way to learn website design and management. I used early website design software to create it, but I also learned how to use HTML for updating its content and look. In fact, I still use only an HTML editor to update not only that site but also all other parts of Garbl's Writing Center.


I can't endorse all the standards, guidelines and links on websites listed in my writing resources site. But I hope you can find sites there that are useful, interesting and even fun.

I haven't added many links to the site in recent years, though I try to update existing links (or delete them) when other sites have changed their Web address (or disappeared). 
You're welcome to contact me if you find a dead link. 

Although I might not respond, you're also welcome to recommend a website that could fit in one of the writing resources categories. It should provide a substantial amount of free, useful information and advice about writing. I will determine if the site meets my standards. No compensation or reciprocal link is required, though I appreciate links to my sites.

Also, whatever their acclaim and position, all writers need editors. I don't have one for my websites, so if you spot a typo, unclear message, or possible error, please tell me.

Except for selected books on the Writing Bookshelf and Favorite Writers pages and StyleWriter on the Plain Language page, my website listings do not signify endorsements of fee-based services, products or programs. Besides expressions of appreciation by site visitors, my only compensation for maintaining this labor of love is the infrequent commission paid by Amazon.com for items bought through my website.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The most dangerous word to use at work | Brad Hoover, Fortune Management

After fraud, theft, flood, and fire, the most precarious office word is short, deceptively sweet, and open-ended: try.
Reading this article today--the day after the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day and President Obama's second inauguration--I'm thinking about how weak those two men would have been if their only conviction was to try to do something.

Referring to another context, Hoover writes:

Whether in a job interview, on a resume, or in the office, try simply shows a lack of belief, passion, commitment, and confidence -- all the qualities you need to succeed in today's tight job market.
After describing the effect of that word in work documents, he writes:
While try is the most dangerous word that an employee or job seeker can use in the workplace, there are certainly other "danger words" that also indicate negativity, uncertainty, or controversy at work: someday, if, never, maybe, used to, can't, and excessive acronyms or slang can also doom your chances of getting (or keeping) a job.
And he concludes:
Ultimately, words carry plenty of power in both verbal and written communication. ... When you use words with power and impact, and deliver on expectations, you are sharpening your image, bolstering your potential, and giving your career a chance to shine.
So don't try, do; don't doubt, believe; and don't wonder, act.
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Hoover's article is featured today, Jan. 22, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Style: Write Choices, available at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subscription.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Rhetorically Speaking | Allison Wright, OxfordWords blog

Today, a day after the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States, it's still timely in a blog about communication to consider King's rhetorical techniques.

Wright writes in this article:

Oratory, the art of public speaking, is a formal practice of eloquent speech making that utilizes elements of language to influence an audience. In short, it is rhetoric on a public stage. Dr. King, an impassioned orator, made use of a wealth of rhetorical techniques in order to communicate the messages of equality, justice, and peace during the divisive and violent civil rights era.
She goes on to describe these rhetorical devices in King's "I Have a Dream" speech, using samples from the speech:
  • anaphor
  • metaphor
  • allusion
  • hyperbole.
Wright also refers to the authority, passion and rationality in King's speech that day in Washington, D.C., concluding:
He was a remarkable orator, and his words helped change the world.
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Wright's article is featured today, Jan. 22, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Style: Write Choices, available at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subscription.


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