Tag Archives: Writing tips

7 steps to effective interviews in my October newsletter

An interesting article usually starts with a conversation with a “subject matter expert,” as companies like to call them. Your job is to pull out the human side of the subject – sometimes against the instincts of the person you interview. How do you do it? Check out seven steps to effective interviews in the […]

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How to block the three biggest crimes against plain language

What better day than International Plain Language Day (Oct. 13) to talk about getting rid of jargon and wordiness? Plain Language Day is a way to let people know that plain language doesn’t mean “dumbing down” material or making it too elementary, a worry a client once shared with me. Instead, think of plain language […]

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Lose the legalese to be understood

The plaintive opening drew me in immediately: “Why are many financial news releases and publicly filed documents written so poorly?” In A Plea for Plain English in Financial Documents, Steve Lipin and Adam Rosman make the case for good writing in financial news releases, initial public offerings and other publicly filed documents. Instead of writing […]

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In my Aug. newsletter: 4 steps to a meaningful mission statement

One of the best mission statements I’ve ever run across was framed as instructions in the managing editor’s office of the Rocky Mountain News (which folded in 2009): “Get the news. Tell the truth. Don’t be dull.” Companies spend serious time debating the words that go into mission and vision statements (terms that are sometimes […]

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Peek vs. peak; is it so hard?

There it was again, in a caption on the front page of a section of today’s newspaper: a sneak peak. (We won’t talk about the use of bugs in food. Ugh.) I feel silly offering guidance about when to use “peak” and when to use “peek,” but I see one wrongly used for the other […]

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Abuse of ‘resonate’ weakens a strong word

Have you ever noticed that some words suddenly become popular, and you see them everywhere? Next thing you know, a solid word turns into overused jargon, or it gets mangled by misuse. Lately, I keep tripping over the word “resonate.” I understand its popularity. Resonate is a strong word that reflects the original musical sense […]

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9 steps to readable writing

If you produce material that you hope will be read and understood, you can use readability tests to get an idea of how you’re doing. While researching road ecology – the study of the often deadly interaction of roads and nature – I ran across a guide called a “resource for students, citizens, government and […]

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Bottom line? Get to the bottom of numbers

How rare is it to be born on February 29, the extra day in a Leap Year? By chance I was travelling on this year’s extra day, and found this explanation by journalist Steve Rubenstein in the San Francisco Chronicle: “Being born on Feb. 29 is rare, sort of. The odds of it happening are […]

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6 ways writers can shine a spotlight on safety

A campaign described in The New York Times last week got me thinking about how writers can contribute to safety awareness. The article reported that roadway deaths are on the rise, and we need to stop calling the reason accidents. Writer Matt Richtel quotes “safety advocates” as saying that using the word accident “trivializes the […]

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Rhyme and rhythm: Musicians know how to write

If you’re looking for writing inspiration, here’s an idea: Turn up the tunes! Musicians do a masterful job of touching our hearts and souls, and sometimes our funnybones, too. Artists tell stories using many of the more traditional writer’s tools for expressive writing, such as metaphors and similes. One that always sticks in my head […]

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