Saturday, February 16, 2013

How to charm anyone and win people over | Katy Cowan, Creative Boom Magazine

This article focuses on human-to-human, face-to-face interactions. But its advice also applies to writing, formatting and designing correspondence, websites, newsletters, marketing and PR materials, brochures, social media, displays, and other publications. It provides especially useful advice when you're trying to persuade people to like, value, use, understand or buy information, messages and products.

Cowan writes:

[H]ow do you make everyone like you? How do you become the sort of person that everyone wants to talk to? I don't claim to be an expert (I made plenty of mistakes when I first started out) but here are my top tips on how to charm anyone in business. ...
Here are headings and excerpts from Cowan's key points [followed by my interpretation for writing in plain language that meets the needs of your readers]:
Rule 1: No one is interested in you
The quickest and easiest top tip to remember is this - no one cares about you. ... With this in mind, become the kind of person who is interested in other people .... Ask lots of questions, be genuinely interested ....
[When doing research for your document, find out as much as you can about your potential readers--their backgrounds, needs and interests. And when writing your document, emphasize information and ideas that meet their needs and interests. Choose and structure your words to respect their existing knowledge and their potential comprehension of the topic. Refer to yourself or your organization in how you can meet their needs and interests.] 
If people ask you questions…
[B]e prepared to charm by following these simple tips - always keep things relatively short and sweet; don't go into unnecessary details or waffle; be humble and don't show off; ... keep things light, fun and interesting, and you can't go wrong.
[Consider in advance the questions people may have when reading your document. Answer those questions in clear, concise language that's appropriate to the response you hope to get from your readers.]  
Use the sweetest sound in the world
When you first meet someone, repeat their name to remember it and then drop it occasionally into the conversation. ... The sound of our own name is the sweetest sound in the world, and people will really warm to you if you say their name and remember it.
[Except for correspondence and social media, you can't easily identify individuals reading your documents. But you can use words that imply familiarity with your readers. Don't be too formal. Use personal pronouns like you, your, we, us and I, emphasizing the you over the I and the we or us if writing about doing something together. You also can connect better with your readers if you mention locations, interests, challenges, and resources that you share with your readers.]   
Weakness is off-putting
People can always smell weakness, particularly if you're shy or lacking in confidence. ... So stand tall and be bold. ...
[Choose clear, concrete words that have clear, powerful meanings to your readers. Use verbs that suggest action and nouns that your readers can visualize. Don't use "weasel words"--adjectives or adverbs like fairly, generally, and somewhat--that weaken the power of those verbs and nouns. But also, don't use adverbs and adjectives that exxagerate or needlessly restate the meaning of the words and information you choose. For example, the idea of very might already exist in your choice of a strong word, like huge or amazing. Be honest and direct.] 
Get your body language right
Body language is very important, so practice in front of a mirror or with a friend until you get it right. ...
[In formatting or designing your document, use fonts that are easy to read; use ample white space around the text; use headings and bulleted lists that help the reader move from section to section.] 
Use the right tone of voice ...
You want to avoid shouting or coming across as aggressive by using a relaxed, gentle tone of voice. You also want to practice the art of assertiveness, i.e. getting your point across confidently without being defensive or aggressive.
[Don't shout in your documents by using ALL CAPITAL LETTERS FOR MORE THAN ONE OR TWO WORDS. They're harder to read, for one thing, and too many all-capitalized words actually counteract the tone you're trying to set. All the letters and words look the same, there's no "inflection." Instead, use other typographic tools to highlight or emphasize words, like italics, boldface, color and type size. But don't overdo it by using more than one or two of those tools at one time.] 
Use the right language
Keep conversation professional at all times by using polite language. ... Also, try and keep everything very positive and light.
[Use positive, supportive language whenever possible. You can't always be light-hearted or overly friendly and casual in serious documents. But treat people professionally, using common courtesies in writing, from please to thank you. Don't use the odd jargon of your field if your readers likely won't understand it. Or explain it when you use it.]
Smile!
A smile is infectious. Everyone loves a happy person, so naturally smile and be happy to be around others. ...
[Make sure your document is attractive to look at and easy to read. When possible, use graphics and photographs that grab the attention of readers, that aid their comprehension of the information. Put your most interesting or important information first, summarizing it early in the document so your readers get a clue about what's coming.]  
Praise others instead of getting involved in gossip
Whether you're at a networking event or in a meeting, people can sometimes talk about others in a negative way. To combat this, don't get involved. Instead, say something really positive about that person or company. ...
[You may need to describe and define a problem in your document, but do so by highlighting  problems that can be fixed or dealt with in some way. In structuring your description, try to connect problems with solutions: If this ..., then that. ... Also, consider mistakes as an important step in being creative. Think of a pencil. Why does it have an eraser built in? So you can try something, erase it if it doesn't work, and try again ... and again.] 
 Find their interests
If the conversation is quite slow, try to discover the other person's hobbies or passions. ... When you find a topic that makes their eyes light up, ask lots of questions and be genuinely interested in their passion, even if it's something you're not bothered about. ...
[Make sure you provide a way in your document for people to respond to you, to ask you questions, to give you feedback about the information you've provided, the ideas you've expressed, even the ways you've presentedthe information and ideas. Did it meet their needs and interests? Was it clear and useful to them? By doing that, you not only meet the current, spontaneous needs of your readers, but you also get ideas or suggestions for improving your document the next time.] 
Don't people please
There will be the odd occasion when you need to speak your mind or share a point of view that others might disagree with. In which case, still keep things light but be open and honest. ... You have to still believe in yourself and your own principles and beliefs. People will always respect your opinion - just make sure you express it in the right charming way.
[I can't say these occasions are typically odd, unusual or uncommon. That depends on the content of your document, the circumstances, your readers and their needs, and your purpose in writing the document. When you must express an opinion or make a request, be clear and honest about. Express it using meaningful, powerful words--and provide essential facts to support your words. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, as the saying goes, but opinions without facts are not useful or persuasive. Describe alternatives if available, realistic and feasible. Ask for suggestions about proposals and alternatives.] 
Remember the little details
To retain your charming manner, write down little details about people so you remember them for next time you meet. ... This is a great way to show people you care while making them feel important. ...
[After drafting, reviewing and revising your document, check it again ... and again, if necessary and possible. Have someone else review it. Make sure you've spelled names correctly, provided accurate numbers, used correct grammar, been consistent in your use of capitalization, abbreviations, numbers, and punctuation. Try to get at least one potential reader to read your document; does it make sense to him or her? Proofread it at least once before printing it to make sure no typos remain after all your edits.] 
For more advice on meeting the needs of your readers, visit Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide. It describes seven steps for improving your writing skills by using plain language techniques:
  • 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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Cowan's article is featured today, Feb. 16, in my online daily paper, Garbl's Creativity Connections, available at the Creativity tab above and by free email subscription.

50 of the best websites for daily inspiration | Katy Cowan, Creative Boom Magazine

Cowan introduces this list (emphasis added):
If you're a creative professional, you'll know only too well how important inspiration is for your work. That's whether you've just made a cup of tea and sat down at your laptop to start a day of freelancing or you've arrived at your desk at your workplace, everyone needs a daily dose of inspiration to get their creative juices flowing.
We've put together this exclusive list of '50 of the best websites for daily inspiration', so you can quickly and easily find the best places on the web to be inspired.
This list includes websites, communities, blogs and e-zines from across the globe and are in no particular order of preference. And this list is for all sorts of creative fields from print and web design to interiors, handmade/crafts, illustration and arts.
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Cowan's article appears today, Feb. 16, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Creativity Connections, available at the Creativity tab above and by free email subscription.

29 Ways to Stay Creative Infographic | Islam Abudaoud, Behance

29 Ways to Stay Creative
Islam Abudaoud: "This humble piece of work is repurposed from various online sources and experts to whom we show our gratitude for their contributions."

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Abudaoud's graphic is featured today, Feb. 16, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Creativity Connectionsavailable at the Creativity tab above and by free email subscription.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Associated Press Stylebook | New Entries

As a paid subscriber to the online version of the Associated Press Stylebook, I usually get an email alert when AP adds items or revises them. I haven't gotten a message lately. But while at the site, I noticed some recent additions. 

Here are a few that caught my attention:
  • Carnival Capitalize when referring specifically to the revelry in many Roman Catholic countries preceding Lent. Otherwise a carnival is lowercase.
  • Xmas Don’t use this abbreviation for Christmas.
  • roller coaster [Two words.]
  • regifting [No hyphen.] Passing along an unwanted present to someone else.
  • populist Supports the rights and power of the common people; advocates unorthodox solutions; often critical of establishment politicians and political parties.
  • indie Short for an independent film, meaning that it was originally made without the support of a major studio. [Though AP doesn't mention it, this word is also used to identify styles of music: indie pop, indie rock.]
  • happy holidays, merry Christmas, season’s greetings Such phrases are generally spelled lowercase, though Christmas is always capitalized.
  • Christmastime One word.
  • doughnut [Preferred spelling.]
  • face-lift [Include hyphen.]

Free Infographic: In Plain English, Please! Part 2 | Brian Scott, Creative Genius 101

Blogger Scott provides the second of three free infographics here showing plain English alternatives to vague words and wordy phrases. He writes:
When readers must pause to understand a difficult or ambiguous word in your text, they are more likely to skip the sentence or quit reading. It's fine to use long words sparingly, but packing too many long words in a sentence creates confusion and chaos for the average reader. Although long words on their own are easy to grasp, you should favor simpler, everyday words to improve your document's clarity and readability.
Introducing his first infographic, Scott told his readers:
Feel free to save this image and post it anywhere you'd like. To save it to your computer, Right-Click on the image and save it. Then upload it anywhere: your website, blog, Pinterest account, etc.
In his Part 2 posting, Scott also links to another article of his that clearly describes 24 principles and uses of plain language: Plain English Writing Rules

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Scott's infographic No. 2 is featured today, Feb. 15, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs, available at the Plain Language tab above and by free emails subscription.

The top 20 grammatical pick-up lines, for Valentine’s Day | Alexandra Petri, ComPost, Washington Po

They're a day late as I post this after Valentine's Day 2013. But for grammatically correct use some other time, lines in this article could come in handy. 

Below some unrelated cartoons,  Petri writes:
A recent survey by Match.com found that the top criteria by which both women and men judged potential partners was their teeth and their grammar. It is so hard to tell if people at bars have good grammar. So, without further ado, here are some lines that are guaranteed to get you laid lain with by all the hip, grammatical singles out there ....
Some examples:

  • I’m not possessive, but I still want you to be mine.
  • Have you seen any linking verbs around here? Because you are my complement and I want to connect.
  • Let’s make like an infinitive and never be split.
  • I am your subject. Will you be my predicate?
  • I would never precede you with “which,” baby, because you are essential to this clause.
  • Are you a verb? Because you look a little tense, but I can put you in the mood.
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Petri's article is featured today, Feb. 15, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Style: Write Choices, available at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subscription.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done correctly | David Marsch, Mind your language, The Guardian

Don't get in a bad mood over the subjunctive - as Shakespeare would confirm, it will add elegance to your writing.
So says the subhead for this article by David Marsh. Fortunately, he quickly provides the meaning of subjunctive for many readers who don't know the jargon of grammar:
The subjunctive is a verb form expressing hypothesis, typically to indicate that something is being demanded, proposed, imagined, or insisted: he demanded that she resign, I wish that she were honest, she insisted Jane sit down, and so on.
You can spot it in the first and third persons singular by the use of were rather than was: if I were you, I'd tell the truth; if she were honest, she would quit.
I include related advice in Garbl's Editorial Style Manual:
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. 
I must admit that I don't recall learning--that is, remembering--much about the subjunctive in my public school English classes. It wasn't until I was working in public relations (after working in journalism) that I began paying attention to it. And that was when a colleague kindly pointed out an error I had made.

So I don't fault writers, novice or professional, who don't know, don't remember, or don't consider use of the subjunctive. To some, it likely seems odd because it appears to contradict another more commonly understood grammar rule: use singular verbs with singular nouns.

But I think Marsh describes clearly the function and value of the subjunctive, used properly. He adds, though:

As with the hyper-corrective misuse of whom instead of who, however, using the subjunctive wrongly is worse than not using it at all. Many novelists randomly scatter "weres" about their pages as if "was" were going out of fashion, presumably having heard vaguely somewhere that this is correct.
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Marsh's article is featured today, Feb. 14, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Style: Write Choices, available at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subscription.


Why it's time for galleries to dump the jargon | Christina Patterson, The Independent

The art world uses words everyone else has dropped, writes blogger Christina Patterson.

When writing a blog post about an article I'm linking to, I often summarize key points of the article and include excerpts from it in my post. But I'm not doing that with this article. The language of the article is provocative and fun to read. I can't do it justice by summarizing it or taking excerpts from it. I encourage you to read it.

I'll just say that I agree with her point--not just about text on walls in art galleries but also about the language used in any field to explain itself or things it does. If you're not writing it so your readers will understand easily what you're thinking or trying to accomplish or want them to do, you'll likely to be perceived as self-centered or selfish.

I suppose in some fields and among some people, that's the point. But I don't buy it, figuratively, and your customers might not buy it either, literally. 


(I should acknowledge that in creative writing like fiction or poetry, the joy of reading it--and deciphering the unique language it uses--might be the purpose or goal of the writer and the reader. Quick understanding of such writing might not be the intent. I can buy that to some degree, figuratively, but depending on the story, I still might not buy it, literally.) 

That said, do you need some help connecting with your readers and trying to meet their needs? Check out Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide. It describes seven steps to help you do that:
  • 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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Patterson's article is featured today, Feb. 14, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs, available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Register - PLAIN2013 | 20th Anniversary Conference, Plain Language Association InterNational

My blog links to the registration page for this conference, but I encourage you to check out the rest of the conference website. Program planning so far looks intriguing! The conference is Oct. 10-13, 2013, in Vancouver, B.C., Canada.

Here's the theme of the conference:

Plain Language Advances: New skills, knowledge, research, and best practices
Plain language is an international language that everyone in your audience can easily understand. Clear writing in plain language saves time, money, and lives. Formed in 1993 as the Plain Language Network, the Plain Language Association InterNational (or PLAIN) is a growing volunteer nonprofit organization of plain-language advocates, professionals, and organizations committed to plain language.

PLAIN 2013 will draw speakers from all over the world. It has confirmed presenters from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Belgium, Sweden, Ireland, Britain, Canada, and the United States. The conference coincides with PLAIN’s 20th anniversary and International Plain Language Day on Oct. 13.

The conference website says:

Plenary speakers, table topics and workshop hosts will share what is new in relevant research and which old guidelines are supported by recent research.

Experienced plain language professionals will share best practices and display their project successes and products. Table speakers (in round-table progressions) will offer business advice, while others will suggest better practices for self-management and development. Experts from related fields will share their knowledge and skills.
I've been to only one of PLAIN's conferences, held in every other year. It was in Washington, D.C., and it was terrific! Since then, PLAIN has held conferences in the Netherlands, Australia and Sweden. But this one is back in North America and not far from my home in Seattle, Washington.

I plan to attend!

Registration to attend is open now, but conference planners are inviting people to take part in other ways:

  1. Be a sponsor or exhibitor.
  2. Participate as a speaker or workshop facilitator.
  3. Lead a round robin conversation or share at a poster session.
Deadline to propose participation is Feb. 28.

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The conference registration page is featured today, Feb. 13, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs, available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.

4 Things Obama Could Do To Foster America's Creativity | Bruce Nussbaum, Fast Company Co.Design

Boosting the middle class, researching clean energy, building better schools--all good stuff, But if you want real economic value, Nussabuam argues, promote creativity across the nation.
Writing in this column before President Obama gave his Statue of the Union speech on Feb. 12, Nussbuam made this hopeful suggestion:
President Obama reframes himself and America’s economic agenda by making creativity the centerpiece of his State of the Union. Obama makes raising America’s creative capacities his second-term goal. There is good reason to do this.
I agree! Nussbaum went to to say:
Creativity is the source of economic value. Creativity takes what money can’t buy and transforms it into what money can buy. We have spent decades focusing on efficiency, and it has brought us stagnating incomes and falling mobility for the middle class. It’s time to focus on creativity.
He explains each of these suggestions:
  1. Make entrepreneurship, not big business, the centerpiece of economic policy.
  2. Make manufacturing, not bioscience, the major recipient of federal R&D spending
  3. Promote crowdsourcing. Release the Jobs Act from the SEC
  4. Make art and shop courses central to education.
All good ideas. I especially like No. 4.

Nussbaum concludes:
Mr. President, reframing the country’s economic narrative can set the nation on a new journey toward prosperity. Amplifying America’s creativity is a story that engages all of us across the political spectrum.
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Nussbaum's column is featured today, Feb. 13, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Creativity Connections, available at the Creativity tab above and by free email subscription.

Words to Avoid—2013 Edition | Dan Gunderman, Big Duck

Introducing his annual list of words, Gunderman includes this caveat:
If any word on the list is truly the most effective choice for reaching your reader, please go ahead and use it. I would simply suggest that you ask yourself if it’s truly the most effective choice.
Gunderman's audience for this column is nonprofit organizations, but his word choices also apply to public and private organizations. I like his choices and have several of them in Garbl's Editorial Style Manual. I plan to add constituents to my manual, and I'm pondering his strive, help, work comments.  

Here are the words, with some tidbits of his comments:
Constituents ... [L]et’s remember that unless you’ve been elected to office, you don’t actually have constituents. ...
Optimize
Ecosystem (when you don’t mean actual ecosystems) ... Unless you want people to think about biological organisms living in an interconnected natural environment, you’re likely to lose your reader or listener when you use ecosystem in another context.
Interwebs, internuts, FaceSpace, etc.
Strive, help, work, etc. ... ]T]ruth be told, there’s nothing wrong with the words themselves. But they do encourage weak sentence construction. ...
Synergistic Vomitastic.
And he notes, unfortunately, that he's "lost the war" on this word:

impact.
Here's what my online manual says of these words (or similar words):
optimum Overstated. Simplify. Think about replacing with best, greatest, ideal or most suitable.
ecosystem Lowercase, one word. It means "the system in which all the plants, animals and people in an area exist."
synergy "I don't know what it means, and I don't have time to look it up." If your readers might respond like that, don't use synergy--or at least explain it.
impact Formal and vague. Do not use as a verb to mean "affect." Instead, consider using simpler affect or influence--or be more descriptive: The tax cut will affect [or reducehuman services. As a verb, impact means "to force tightly together, pack or wedge, or to hit with force." Reserve impacted for wisdom teeth: impacted tooth.
As a noun, impact means "a forceful contact or collision." It also means "the force of impression or operation of one thing on another," but consider using simpler effect or influence instead: The uncertainties of the Bush economy had a negative effect[instead of impacton consumer confidence.
Impactful is not a word. To replace that business jargon, use an adjective like influential, powerful, effective or memorable.
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Gunderman's article is featured today, Feb. 13, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Good Cause Communications, available at the Nonprofit Communications tab above and by free email subscription.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Free eBooks on Plain English Writing (for 2013) | Brian Scott, Squidoo

Blogger Scott provides a useful, annotated and hyperlinked list of downloadable books in this post. I'm familiar with some and must check out some others.

He writes:

Download free eBooks on plain English writing! No matter what type of writing you do--fiction writing, non-fiction writing, academic or business writing--these free eBooks will help you tremendously. You will learn how to: 1) enhance your writing skills; 2) expand your word choice; 3) engage readers; 4) simplify your writing; 5) write with meaning; and 6) dramatically improve the way you communicate both to the average reader and the educated professional.
The books have titles like these:
  • How to Write Clearly
  • Making Written Information Easier to Understand for People with Learning Disabilities
  • Plain Language: A Handbook for Writers In the U.S. Federal Government
  • Plain English Campaign: The A to Z of Alternative Words
  • A Plain English Handbook: How to create clear SEC disclosure documents
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Scott's article is featured today, Feb. 12, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Plain Egnlish Paragraphs, available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.

Home | The Creativity Post

I occasionally link to and comment on articles I find about creativity. That trait is both a professional and personal pursuit of mine and one I advocate for and appreciate in other people. I get Google Alerts on the topic, and I read articles about it featured in my daily online paper, Creativity Connections (available at the Creativity tab above), and by free email subscription.

One online journal that often has stimulating, useful articles is this one, The Creativity Post. Its subtitle is "Quality content on creativity, innovation and imagination"

It typically has articles under these 10 section headings:


Here's how The Creativity Post describes itself under About Us:
"Creativity pervades human life. It is the mark of individuality. The vehicle of self-expression. The engine of progress in every human endeavor."- Elliot Samuel Paul
The Creativity Post is a non-profit web platform committed to sharing the very best content on creativity, in all of its forms: from scientific discovery to philosophical debate, from entrepreneurial ventures to educational reform, from artistic expression to technological innovation – in short, to all the varieties of the human experience that creativity brings to life.
Some articles at the website appear to be written for The Creativity Post, while other are posted from other websites and publications. They all have a synopsis, background on the author, recommended links to related articles, and (usually) comments by readers.

It has Google+, Twitter and Facebook pages, an email newsletter and an archives of past articles. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

What is plain language? (Part One: Elements of the text) | Kim Sydow Campbell, Pros Write

This article is featured today, Feb. 11, in my online daily paper, Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs. The author's follow-up article is also featured today in my Plain English paper: What is plain language? (Part Two: Audience outcomes).

In the first article, Campbell writes:
Perhaps the most obvious way to define plain language is to focus on the words a writer chooses. For instance, a common proscription from those interested in better workplace writing is for writers to avoid jargon. Jargon is a word with a highly specialized or technical meaning.
With links to related videos, she continues by describing other aspects of plain language writing. They include:
  • conciseness
  • active vs. passive voice
  • word choice
  • parallel structure
  • tone
  • placement of the bottom line 
  • paragraph unity
  • cohesion
  • transitions
  • format.
Campbell's second article covers equally important considerations for following plain-language principles. She writes:
[A] document is successful only when it fulfills the writer’s purpose for the document’s readers. There’s no such thing as a successful document considered in isolation.
And then she discusses the desired outcomes for readers:
  • comprehension
  • usability
  • efficiency
  • credibility
  • selection.
She concludes (emphasis added):
I understand plain language as the outcome of an audience’s interaction with a text, and the outcome includes but is not limited to comprehension. You may have noticed that I have said next to nothing about the third point of the rhetorical triangle. That means you can expect Part Three to address document writers and their purposes for writing.
Update: Here's my blog post on Campbell's fourth and final article in this series. It has links to her three other articles. 

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My Plain English paper is available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.


5 Principles of Creativity | Greg Satell, The Creativity Post

Synopsis
Creative geniuses tend to be less the ones with the quickest answers and more the ones who keep working till they get it right.
That synopsis lead Satell's article, and it also concludes the article. In between, Satell writes:

The good news is that, while we can’t all be a Picasso or a Mozart, there are some simple principles we can follow that will enhance our ability originate ideas that are truly new and important.
And then he describes the five principles, with links to related information. Summarized, here are Satell's principles:
1. Define and Distill The Problem ...
It’s important to build in constraints that will frame a possible solution .... Creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum, but is only valuable in service of some goal, whether that is a particular idea to be expressed in a painting or a poem, value created by a new business model or the brand to be promoted in a marketing campaign. ...
2. Learn The Rules Before You Set Out To Break Them ...
Successful creative people spend years learning their fields before they begin to change them. So if you want to create something truly new and different, your best bet is to start by learning your field extremely well.
3. Cross Domains ...
Just as familiarity breeds contempt, constant exposure to similar fact patterns produces lazy thinking. ... [B]reakthrough innovation happens when ideas are synthesized from more than one domain. ... 
4. Hedge Your Bets ...
5. Keep At It ...
Creativity is not something that comes easy, even to geniuses. ... A study of musicians found that the number of masterpieces produced is highly correlated to overall productivity. The more work you do, the better your work gets. ...
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Satell's blog is featured today, Feb. 11, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Creativity Connections, available at the Creativity tab above and by free email subscription.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The exclamation mark: Yum! no more | The Economist

This Johnson blog post clarifies an editorial style choice of The Economist: It will no longer include the exclamation point after the names of Yahoo! and Yum! Brands--even though those companies include that punctuation mark in their names and products. Thus, The Economist will refer to them as simply Yahoo and Yum Brands. 

Good for The Economist! It's important for publications--and all of us--to respect and use the preferred spelling of proper names adopted by companies (and individuals). 

But it's not the responsibility of publications--or any of us--to help market those companies without compensation. And including an attention-getter like an exclamation mark in the name is certainly a marketing ploy.

This Economist blog also gets into the tricky choice of capitalizing letters in company or product names, like eBay and iPod. Unlike with punctuation marks, though, it apparently follows the preference of the companies. The blog links to the publication's style guide listing company names. 

The blog says:
The Economist's principles are to call people and countries what they would like to be called, and to show respect at all times. But another core value is clear traditional writing. Tricks like an exclamation mark in a name arrest the eye—which is why companies do it. But we would rather try to catch eyes with the quality of our writing and analysis, without distraction. Sometimes the best we can do is compromise. So BlackBerry it is, but also Yum and Yahoo from now on.
I think its style is acceptable, though I winced when I read its flexibility--or lack of clarity--in whether to capitalize the first letter of company names when they begin a sentence. Of course they should! That's a standard style rule in writing that's separate from a company or personal choice about name capitalization. And it's a pragmatic rule: Capitalizing the first letter in a sentence helps readers know they're reading a new sentence. 

Here's my related advice in Garbl's Editorial Style Manual:
brand names When using them, capitalize the first letter in each word. Nothing requires you to follow odd capitalization in brand names. But use brand names only if essential to an article. Consider using a generic equivalent instead. 
company names When using a company (or product) name, you have no obligation to help a company market itself (or its products). For most proper names, capitalize the first letter of each word, or capitalize a different letter if preferred by a company: eBay. But capitalize the first letter if it begins a sentence.
Do not use all capital letters unless the letters are individually pronounced: IBM and BMW but Subway and Ikea (not SUBWAY and IKEA). Don't use exclamation points, asterisks and plus signs that some companies use in logos and marketing materials for their company (and product) names: Yahoo, not Yahoo!Toys R Us, not Toys "R" Us. Unless it's part of a company's formal name, replace the ampersand (&) with and.
Abbreviate company, corporation, incorporated and limited when using them after the name of a corporate entity: the Boeing Co.,American Broadcasting Cos., Chevron Corp. Don't use a comma before Inc. or Ltd. even if it's included in the formal name. Do not abbreviate those words in business correspondence. In business correspondence, spell out those words when part of the proper name: the Boeing Company.
service mark A brand, design, phrase, symbol or word used by a service supplier and protected by law to prevent inappropriate use by a competitor. If you must use a service mark, capitalize it. Unless use of a service mark is essential, replace it with a generic term (lowercased): real estate agent, not Realtor. You don't have to use the service mark symbol--SM 
trademark A brand, design, phrase, symbol or word used by a manufacturer or dealer for its products and protected by law to prevent inappropriate use by a competitor. Unless use of a company's trademark name is essential in a document, use a generic equivalent (lowercased): facial tissue, not Kleenexphotocopy, not Xeroxcola, not Coke. When using a trademark or proper name of a product, capitalize the first letter of each word.
Unless the trademark owner is paying you to follow a different style, capitalizing the first letter is your only obligation in using a trademark; do not capitalize every letter unless the word is an acronym or abbreviation: Subway, not SUBWAY. You do not have to use the trademark and registration symbols--TM and ® -- unless, perhaps, commercial products of another company are named in advertising. 
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The Economist article is featured today, Feb. 10, in my online daily paper, Garbl's Choices: Write Style, available at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subscription.

Grammarly Lite — Spellchecker Designed For The Web

I'm experimenting with this free online tool by Grammarly. Besides checking for spelling mistakes, it checks for grammar and punctuation mistakes. And it includes a dictionary and thesaurus.

When installed, it runs in the background, checking posts as you type them, in Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Blogger (including this blog post as I type it), and other social media sites,

I'm using it in my Chrome browser, but I assume it works in other browsers. So far, it works pretty well, though the pop-up window can be annoying if it gets in front of text I'm trying to write or edit. 


As with any automated spelling or grammar checker, the human user has the essential responsibility to accept or ignore their advice. Letting these tools make changes without using human judgment is no excuse for the resulting errors or embarrassment.

Since this tool called Grammarly Lite, I also assume it has a paid version with more or enhanced functions. I wouldn't be surprised if I start getting messages encouraging me to buy that one. 
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This tool is featured today, Feb. 10, 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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