How to Write a Blog Post that Gets Read

As I was thinking about this post, I remembered the professor who used a “shuffle the cards” exercise in his writing class. We were all so focused on giving good, clear instructions for shuffling cards, that we forgot the obvious step number one: “Start by obtaining a deck of cards.”

Sjuffle Cards to find the right topicSo, the obvious step number one in writing a blog post that gets read is, “Do you want to blog?” There are many good ways to pass along your information. Everything from phone calls, to text messages, to emails, and beyond.

If you have decided you want to write a blog, why?

There are different kinds of blogs. There are different ways to write a blog post, and different reasons for posting your content. You may want to express your feelings about a certain issue or happening. You may have a subject, or some ideas that you just need to share. Or, you may be supporting your organization or your business. Your blog site may be a personal one, or a business one. Next come the toughest questions:

What do you want each post on your blog site to achieve? What do you want your blog site overall to do for you? Are these goals consistent with each other?

With this in mind, what reading audience are you writing your posts for? Who will be interested in what you’re writing about? Are you speaking your language or theirs – both visually, and in words? Are the readers you’ve identified consistent with your reasons for blogging, and with what you want to achieve with your posts? Do they have the resources to do what you want them to do? How will you obtain, create, and maintain a good, appropriate mailing list?

When your medium (the blog posts); the type of content you want to write about, and the type of blog site you want to create; your reasons for writing it; the reader; the tone – the personal nature or the business nature of your blog site; and your expectations for the results you will get from each post, and from the blog site overall can be expected to work together, you’re ready to write.

At this point, with your strategy settled,

1. Figure out what you want to write about with this post. To give you clarity and focus, a good place to start is by giving the post a rough title that says what you are posting about. Later on, you can rewrite that rough title into a headline for your post.

2. When you write your introductory paragraph(s), appeal to the interests of your readers. Let them know what this post is about. Suggest how it will solve a problem they may be having.

3. Organize and write your content for easy reading. The longer the post, the more important this becomes. Consider using sections, lists, and visual clues such as drawings, charts, and photos; type sizes and weights; perhaps videos, and colors to help your reader follow your conversation.

4. Make it pretty. If it looks professional you gain credibility. Consistency in appearance helps your readers to recognize your company and your brand at first glance, reinforcing your other consistent activities.

5. Give the post a final once-over. Revise your working title into an accurate, clear, appealing “grabber” to bring your readers in. Check for awkward spots, typos and inaccuracies. Now you’re ready to go!

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Research: How Do You Find Out About Things?

Ask any kid from the age of four (maybe younger if he or she is really precocious), and that youngster will tell you, “On the Internet!”

Couple searchingINternetIt’s true. Probably the handiest, and easiest place to “find out about things” is on the Internet – on your computer, your phone, your tablet. The key? Discretion. What you “find out about things” may not always be useful. Unfortunately, much of what you find on the Internet may not be true (oh, but it makes a great story), may be highly biased, or may only be possible under limited circumstances. And many Internet researchers may not yet have the experience or background to evaluate what they are reading. Here are some tips:

1. Who wrote it, and where did you find it? Another way to say, “consider the source.” Look beyond what was said. What was the purpose of the material you found? What was the writer trying to do with it? What does the writer want you to do with it? Why did he or she write it?

2. Compare Sources. If various “reliable” sources provide the same information, ask yourself whether these sources share a particular persuasion, or whether they represent a variety of points of view. Compare sources representing a variety of points of view. If they say pretty much the same thing, it’s more likely to be accurate. Check it out.

3. What was the original source? Who said it first, thought it first, or wrote about it first? Are you getting the information “firsthand,” or are you getting what someone said, thought, or wrote about it, later?

4. Finally, ask. Ask a trusted authority in the field. Ask a teacher, librarian, or researcher. Ask yourself. Is this information reasonable, reliable, believable? Is the information accurate, current, complete? Does it make sense?

 

Let’s shift gears for a minute.

Before the Internet, we still had homework assignments, questions about how the world worked, and the need for specialized information. Where did we go? To the library. Remember your trips to the library? Remember what that library looked like, how it sounded, and the wonderful scent of years’ worth of books, magazines, and newspapers? Maybe you even had a carrel where you could hide away, and quietly bury yourself in your studies.

Or maybe you were in a main room, sharing a long table with other readers. And the research librarian was just over there. Anything you couldn’t find, he or she could.

To keep up, libraries have had to change gears too. If you haven’t been to your local branch lately, go. You’ll find that treasure of yesteryear, the research librarian, still in place, and still an invaluable resource.

Some libraries offer a live chat with a librarian 24/7. Others offer homework centers, a variety of research tools, and live one-to-one help in a variety of languages. You may also find academic support in most major subjects, real-time writing help, online tutoring, guidance for GED and citizenship tests, adult literacy programs, and back-to-school prep for adults. There are social activities, room rentals, and “meet the author” meetings. Tours, special events, and free admissions to local and regional points of historic and artistic interest.

Your library doesn’t have the material you need? No problem. Most libraries borrow back and forth from others. In some cases worldwide. If they don’t have it, they can get it for you. Many libraries offer books that can be downloaded on your mobile device, or transferred from your computer to your e-book reader or MP3 player. There are special programs and activities for hobbyists, and for children, teens, and senior citizens. Outreach services for special populations – homebound, jails, non-English speakers.

So, how do you find out about things? The Internet, of course. And the public library.

Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations, executive coaching, consulting, and writing services. To discuss how we can help, call Gail at 503/292-9681, Toll-free at 888-634-4875 or email gail@gailtycer.com

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Important Trend: Storytelling for Business Writing

It was almost buried in the speaker’s content. In fact, I wasn’t sure I had even heard it: what Shane Show, Chief Creative Officer for Contently, calls “The Biggest Business Skill of the Next Five Years.” Here’s what the speaker said,

“To explain the abstract, or complex, we need to use stories.”

StorytellerAnd it hit me. That’s what we do with business writing all the time – we try to explain the abstract, or complex! But how often do we think about using a story to do it? Oh sure, we talk about telling stories, using testimonials, and getting quotes for marketing, sales, and advertising materials. And it works! Of course, that is business writing too – but for “regular” business writing? “Regular” business writing, like memos, instructions, reports?

I don’t think so – or at least not very often, if at all. Hardly ever. But why not?

And where to begin?

Where to begin? Have you ever had this experience: You are thinking very intensely about something – It could be an on-the-job challenge, a new software program, or even a paint color for your house. As you are thinking about it, you run into thoughts, ideas and comments about that “something” just about everywhere? Well that happened to me this morning. I flipped on the radio for the news, just to hear the tail end of an interview on who-knows-what subject. And the sentence I heard just before the sign-off was, “A story begins where you think it does.”

This will likely be best accomplished by tying into your reader’s needs, problems, or interests. And that will be the point where he or she starts to “hear” your story. The sooner you get to that point, the sooner you’ll pick up your reader, or your listener.

There has been quite a bit written about using stories in oral presentations, and for sales and marketing pieces. These longer three-part stories (setup/conflict/resolution, with your product, service, candidate, cause as hero) are frequently far more sophisticated than using a simple story in an instruction, a memo, or some other “regular” piece of business writing. But they are similar, in that each has a job. Each has a specific purpose to fulfill; a specific job to do. It may be the greatest story in the world. It may be your favorite party gambit. But in the business situation, it won’t fly unless it strongly and obviously supports the point you want to drive home.

So, day-to-day, how might you use stories in your regular business writing? Stories can be used for team building, to improve morale, to make an instruction clear, to get “buy-in” for a policy or process change, to gain trust, to enhance credibility, to relate with a customer issue, to connect in a positive way with the variety of contacts you have daily – the list goes on. Stories create a “tone” that can establish, or reinforce a relationship.

Here are four more specific story tactics you can use for your “regular” business writing.

Politicians use stories of people who have benefitted from their ideas, processes, or policies to gain votes. Sometimes these folks will tell their own stories, but more often, the politician tells the story – carefully crafted, of course! – for them. So can you.

You can let the reader “tell his or her own story” by starting a sentence with, “Has this ever happened to you…” or, “Do you remember a time when…” and letting the reader fill in the blanks, which is also effective to bring your point home.

Provide informal testimonials, or anecdotes, demonstrating a problem that was solved by the new policy, or maybe a process change, or by the new product, equipment, or software.

Tell a story about another employee, or perhaps better yet, your “reader as hero.” For example, for an instruction setup, or trouble-shooting section, this could be as simple as “You’re (describe process) when (describe problem – what happens) so you (describe action to take) and (describe result of their action).

Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations, executive coaching, consulting, and writing services. To discuss how we can help, call Gail at 503/292-9681, Toll-free at 888-634-4875 or email gail@gailtycer.com

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Does Writing Really Matter?

The importance of writingMaybe you’ve asked yourself, in a moment of writer’s block frustration, what difference does it make if you can write well or not. More and more, writing well – conveying ideas clearly, concisely, convincingly – is becoming a rarity. And that’s not even considering the grammatical side of business writing.

Perhaps part of it is because email, the most common form of on-the-job writing, is a quick, often casually-approached process. There never seems to be the time to review an email for clarity, to tighten it up, or to polish those grammatical issues that seem so easy to forget, and are so frequently used that neither the writer nor the reader seems to notice them. And maybe that’s really the point.

But does writing really matter? I’ve got a book for you. If you haven’t read 1491 New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann, read it. Discussing the Neolithic Revolution, the point, about 11,000 years ago, when a formerly nomadic middle-eastern people settled down in permanent villages and invented both farming and the tools and agrarian practices to make it possible, Mann says, “The Sumerians put these inventions together, added writing, and in the third millennium B.C. created the first great civilization.”

Mann adds that “Writing begins with counting….The bureaucrats were not intending to create writing….they were simply adding useful features as they became necessary….”

And those “useful features,” at first represented by stylized symbols, have morphed, perhaps for the same reasons, into today’s writing.

That was then. This is now. How important is writing today? And especially, how important is it to write well in the business situation? Perhaps the more important question is, “How much more effective could we be in the business situation if we could write better – correctly, strategically, clearly? Concisely and convincingly. Does it really matter in our jobs?”

Your business writing is one way you can give “free samples” to a prospective employer. The clarity of your writing is perceived as a clear indication of the clarity of your thinking. If nothing else, clear writing demonstrates how well you can communicate your thoughts to others. No matter how brilliant your thoughts, for others to benefit from them, they must be communicated effectively.

If writing to prospects and customers is, or becomes part of your job requirements, strong business writing skills are important not only to getting a job, but in being promoted within your organization once you have the job. Communicating well is often interpreted as proof of intelligence, professionalism, and attention to detail – critical qualities for increasingly important leadership roles. A recent Time magazine article quoted a Grammerly study of 100 LinkedIn profiles over a 10-year period that found, “…professionals who received one to four promotions made 45 percent more grammatical errors than did professionals who were promoted six to nine times….”

When you represent your organization to customers, clients, or prospects, not only will you communicate your message clearly, you must also project a credible professional image of your organization.

A few ideas: Get right to the point; use active verbs; organize logically; write for your reading audience; proofread; make your material look (and be!) easy to read.

Your on-the-job writing can increase your professionalism and demonstrate your credibility. Your clear, correct, concise writing skills significantly enhance both your professionalism and your credibility. Start with spell checker, and then do an additional check with your own eyes. Do it with every piece you write – from that email to that text, to that tweet. Consistently.

We’d love to hear your thoughts. Please comment, and let’s start a conversation!

Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations, executive coaching, consulting, and writing services. To discuss how we can help, call Gail at 503/292-9681, Toll-free at 888-634-4875 or email gail@gailtycer.com

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Taking Good Notes

Business note takingThis week let’s talk about taking good notes in the business situation. Perhaps you’ll be making notes on an assignment you’re being given; you may be taking meeting minutes; or perhaps you’re learning a new process and want to be sure you get it right. You may be using your tablet, a laptop, or – yes, people still do this – even a piece of paper!

For a simple assignment, maybe just a piece of paper to remind you will be enough. For more detailed information, there will be two parts to taking notes: listening, and developing a good note-taking process.

1. Here are some ideas on listening:

• Listening – really listening – requires concentration, and yes, some work! So start with the idea of what you will do with the information you receive. How will you use it? What is the end result you need? Listen for, and note especially the information you need in these areas.

• There are two kinds of listening. Listen for the factual content, and then listen for the “between the lines” content. This implied content may be the most important part of the communication. Clues include the speaker’s volume, tone, gestures, and facial expressions, all of which can help you determine what the speaker actually means by what he or she says.

• As you are listening, ask yourself who (will do what); when; where; why; and how they will do it. Be sure you know your part in the whole matter. What are you expected to do, if anything? You will need answers to each of these questions to be clear on what is being said. The speaker may not include all of these elements, so be sure you are clear in your own mind about the answers to these questions.

• Much of what you will hear will be a combination of fact and opinion. Learn to separate the two. Fact is important and useful, and opinion gives you the strategic guidelines for working with this person.

• Identify the critical parts, and pay particular attention to the details in these parts. It may be embarrassing, but if you have forgotten, or didn’t quite understand some parts of the conversation, ask.

• As you review your notes, see if you can re-phrase them, as though you were explaining what you have heard to someone who was not involved.

2. As for your note-taking process:

You’ll want to think about two things – how to “format” your notes, and your own personal “shorthand” to speed the note-taking process.

We talked about how to “format” your notes when you will use them to write meeting minutes: (a) Have an agenda for the meeting; (b) have a separate piece of paper for each agenda item; (c) take notes on the appropriate agenda item page. This gathers and organizes your content for you at the same time, and eliminates the need to search every page of your notes to get this done. So think about ways you can simultaneously gather and organize your notes for the piece you will write.

If you’ve learned it, regular shorthand will work fine if you’re taking your notes on paper. If not, you can develop your own personal shorthand system. For example, you might omit articles like “a,” “an,” or “the.”

You might use abbreviations that mean something to you, like “prev,” “lbs,” “etc,” “psbl,” “s/b,” “reg,” “lg,” and so on. Perhaps your personal “shorthand” will involve the elimination of vowels. Maybe you will be using the first parts of words, like “intro.” You will want to develop abbreviations for the words you use frequently.

Hope you’ll find these tips and tactics helpful, and we’ll look for you next week – right here!

Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations, executive coaching, consulting, and writing services. To discuss how we can help, call Gail at 503/292-9681, Toll-free at 888-634-4875 or email gail@gailtycer.com

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Poor Business Writing is Not a Character Flaw!

Writing skills can be fixedPoor business writing skills are not a character flaw. Neither are they a mark of stupidity, as some of my class members start out feeling. One of them even told me, “You can’t fix stupid.”

This seriously concerns me. Talking with a group of writer friends the other day, I asked why they thought so many perfectly bright, competent business people feel apprehensive about their on-the-job writing.

Fear – of making mistakes, of inadequacy – maybe even leading to procrastination; and vulnerability – “putting yourself out there” came up from several of them. Some mentioned specific skills that business writers may feel uncomfortable using: grammar, word choice, sentence structure, inability to create interest or to make the point clearly, were some of them. While most were appreciative of the skills they learned from their English teachers, others mentioned school teachers who made them feel dumb when they didn’t “get it.” Well here’s the good news: Once you can identify where you feel vulnerable – grammar, clarity, focus, or wherever – you can fix it!

Here are some other issues we talked about:

• The feeling that you have to start and write perfectly the first time. Not true. Most good writing has been written, reviewed, and re-written. It’s quick and easy with a computer, and the “checkers” available. Just remember to put your own eyes on your writing to be sure the computer is accurate with its suggestions.

• Thinking that you were good in English in school, and not realizing there is a big difference between academic writing and business writing.

• The tendency to give too much information. Don’t try to tell your reader everything you know about the subject. Select the facts and the information that provide insight into what your reader needs to know to do whatever it is you are writing about. The “too much information” syndrome is usually caused by a sincere, and worthy desire to be complete. Too much information, or unrelated information, only leads to confusion.

• Difficulty getting started. What you have to do here is let the reader know, in the first sentence or two, (1) what this piece is about, (2) why he or she is getting it, and (3) what he or she needs to do with, or about it. If there is a deadline, you will want to include that as well. The complete first paragraph formula has been explained in previous posts, so take a look for more information. More about the first paragraph formula in future posts.

• Lack of focus. Too many interruptions in an average business day make it hard to focus. For the shorter email or note, it may not be as noticeable. For a longer piece it is. The best way I know to fix this is with my Strategic Business Writing Blueprint. Having a system to fall back on is vital in this situation. Knowing how to proceed results in the confidence you need to write well. Tip: Your subject line is a quick and easy way to focus the reader. Just be certain that what the subject line says is what you will say in your email. Again, check some of the older posts, and we will do some new ones in the future as well.

• Need for a habitual system that makes it easy to start quickly, comfortably, concisely; continue confidently; and finish strong. See the previous two sections. More posts upcoming.

• Using the best medium before starting the communication – email writing, paper writing, texting, phone calls, in-person visits, and so on – is a critical consideration before you begin.

• Using the right “tone” with your reader. Tone is the relationship the writer sets up with the reader, and is a significant portion of your communication. How do you want your reader to think about you?

• Concern about giving offense. This concern can come into play when you have a solution to a problem, but may be reluctant to present it for fear of overstepping your boundaries, and giving offense. Of course you have to know your reader, but most business people who are in a position to make a decision, or to accept or reject your recommendation, greatly prefer having a “starting point” recommendation or two to having problems moved from your desk to theirs to solve, without a good recommendation or two – with backup!

Hope you’ll find these tips and tactics helpful, and we’ll look for you next week – right here!

Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations, executive coaching, consulting, and writing services. To discuss how we can help, call Gail at 503/292-9681, Toll-free at 888-634-4875 or email gail@gailtycer.com

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Can Writing Be More Than Just “Writing”?

Man interested in business writingThe other day, we were talking about the richness and fullness of our language, from formal to informal, from slang to regional words and phrases. And once again shared the joy of words.

Someone brought up the word “take,” and how many ways it could be said. Our southern friends suggested “carry,” and “tote.” The difference, of course, is that you “carry” a person (as in “Can I carry you to town?”) while you “tote” a bundle – maybe even “toting” the groceries into the kitchen for the person you carried to town to buy them.

At that point one of the group asked, “Just what is the difference between “toting” groceries “into” the kitchen, or toting groceries “in” the kitchen? The AP Stylebook tells us that “in” is location, as in “She was in the kitchen.” On the other hand, “into” implies motion, as in “She toted the groceries into the kitchen.” Of course, you could change that meaning by saying “She toted the groceries in the kitchen,” which could mean either that she carried the groceries that were in the kitchen to somewhere else, or that she moved the groceries from one place to another in the kitchen. Whew!

At this point, you may be wondering what all of this has to do with business writing.

The point is that just as there are many ways of expressing one’s thoughts, ideas, and plans, there are many different types of writing, designed to accomplish various results. Business writing is one of them.

Although the writing “rules,” tools, and words may be similar, it’s how they are used, how they are put together, and what they are meant to achieve that makes the difference. Business writing is a special type of writing, totally different from writing a term paper, thesis, or dissertation, which our academic writing classes were designed to teach us, so we could progress in the academic environment. If our business writing begins to sound like a term paper, we may be mis-applying the excellent academic writing skills we were taught – skills that could be so useful when adapted for the business situation.

Business writing is a tool, meant to achieve a specific result, and different from poetry – where the joy of the words, and the emotions evoked are the main point. Different from the novel, with its intricate plots and skillful character development – designed to create an experience for the reader. And different from strictly technical writing – the type of writing that technical writers in a variety of fields use to communicate technical information to technical readers.

For that matter, what most readers consider to be technical writing is likely to be good business writing that deals with technical information.

Critical to good business writing is a strategy that focuses on results. It begins with determining whether writing is the best way to get the desired results. Then, consider the most effective type of writing (e.g., informal email, formal email letter, postal mail letter, handwritten note, and so on). Consider the reader, and the best way to approach that reader. Decide whether this piece should inform or persuade. Have a very clear, very focused statement as to what you are informing the reader about, or what you want to persuade the reader to do. Now, and only after you have determined what you want this piece to accomplish, you are ready to decide what to say.

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Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations, executive coaching, consulting, and writing services. To discuss how we can help, call Gail at 503/292-9681, Toll-free at 888-634-4875 or email gail@gailtycer.com

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What’s in a Name?

What's in a nameAs kids, many, if not most of us were instructed to call adults by name. Depending on when, and where you grew up, that name could have been the traditional “Mr.,” Mrs.” or “Miss.” Also on the formal side, it could have been “Dr.,” “Reverend,” or “Professor.”

Somewhat less formally, we might have been able to call a physician or dentist who was a close family friend as well, something like “Dr. Larry.” Your mother’s close friend may have been called “Auntie Susan.” She may have arrived with “Uncle Colin.” Now, as adults, we may still call our older friends and “special people” by the names we learned years ago.

And some parents and friends preferred just a first name.

Names, we learned, are important. Not only for identification, but, depending on how they’re used, to create or reinforce a “tone” – the relationship that, in writing, the writer establishes with the reader. As has been attributed to Robert C. Lee, “The sweetest sound to anyone’s ears is the sound of his own name.”

Names – the correct name, correctly spelled and appropriately used – can make a huge difference both in business and in personal life!

My toddler granddaughter and I were walking out to the garden one day, and I made the mistake of calling her by her first name. Through her tears, she reminded me that she was not the name I had called her, but that she was my “little chipmunk” – the nickname I had given her, and obviously the name she preferred, and how she saw herself.

Names have been important since ancient times, when it was believed that if you could name someone, you could control him or her. And that if you could name an issue, you could get hold of it, and control it.

“Labels” can be names as well. For example, do you label yourself as an introvert? You probably are, or will be. If you call yourself a math super star, you very possibly will do better in math than if you label yourself a math dunce.

Watch how you “name” yourself. What you tell people you do, or who you tell them you are. What you can talk yourself into being.

Names are important.

Here are five tips for “naming” in business:

1. Do not use ”he,” “his,” or “him” when you are referring to humankind in general. To avoid sexism, you can reword the sentence using a generic term for his or her position.
Campaigning eliminates a politician’s privacy.

2. You can use a plural name, and “they,” or “their.”
Politicians lose their privacy when they run for office.

3. Use optional pronouns.
A politician cannot expect privacy when he or she runs for office.

4. In a formal letter, avoid using a gender-specific salutation, such as “Dear Sir,” “Dear Madam,” or “Gentlemen” unless you know for certain the gender of your specific reader or readers. If you do not know, you can use “Dear (title),” “Dear Madam or Sir,” or “Dear Ladies and Gentlemen.” With a less-formal email, salutations are frequently not used at all.

5. Avoid making a point of the gender of a person in a formerly non-traditional role. Use “police officer,” rather than “policeman” or “police woman.” Consider using “nurse,” rather than “male nurse,” for another example.

We invite you to subscribe to our blog, and to our newsletter.
Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations, executive coaching, consulting, and writing services. To discuss how we can help, call Gail at 503/292-9681, Toll-free at 888-634-4875 or email gail@gailtycer.com

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Can Words Change Your View of the World?

Can wds change your view cropA March 10 article by Chris Gaylord in the Christian Science Monitor Weekly (On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a noun) caught my attention. Crediting the Internet with generating new words “at an unprecedented pace,” the article reports that about 14 words were added to the English language daily in 2013, thanks in large part to words invented and shared by Internet users, according to the Global Language Monitor in Austin, Texas.

So what about these new words? Are they “good jargon” – an insider language? Are they “bad jargon” – words unintelligible to just about everyone? Will they become a permanent part of the mainstream lexicon? And those are only the words shared primarily by Internet users.

Help is available in this area from BuzzFeed, who has created a style guide for what Gaylord calls the “Internet Age.” Knotty problems, such as whether one “de-friends,” or “unfriends,” along with explanations of “catfishing,” and “duckface” are to be found, he says.

How about words that have been around seemingly forever, but used by a very few until the issues to which they relate become the hot topics of the day. Take genetically modified (GM) crops, for example.

In a two-part series appearing in the March 23 and 29 issues of the East Oregonian, Harriet Isom refers to projections of the world’s increased need for food production, which has helped to spur research into the area of genetically modified organisms (GMO), “The world will definitely need more food. World food demand is expected to rise between 70 and 100 percent by mid-century…driven by a global population rising to 9 billion by 2050….”

With the significant worldwide controversy on the issue, it will be useful to understand terms like “transgenics,” and “cisgenics.”

Isom explains that new genome engineering tools mean that plants can be genetically modified without adding genes from other species, the process that has formed first generation GM crops. “Now they can rearrange genes from the same plant, a technique called cisgenics,” she added.

And then there are the made-up words, slang words, or insider words. Some know what they mean, others guess. Or not. Words like “spin fodder,” or “false equivalents.”

Finally, let’s think about expressions that have been around, and most people seem to have a meaning for them. Expressions like, “It is what it is,” or “Whatever…” (Note that the speaker’s tone of voice can change the meaning.)

Long-term, can expressions like these that have been used over time, change one’s view of the world, or of his or her place in it?  Can our words form the way we see the world? And in the larger picture, can new words serve to re-define the world as we see it? Let us hear what you think!

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Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations, executive coaching, consulting, and writing services. To discuss how we can help, call Gail at 503/292-9681, Toll-free at 888-634-4875 or email gail@gailtycer.com

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Writer’s Block: What are you talking about?

Writer's Block

I can pretty much promise you that if you suffer from writer’s block – you know, that endless period when you sit in front of your blank screen, virtually incapable of getting started – I can tell you why. And how to fix it.

If you are like most of the people who suffer from this malady, the most likely reason is, you haven’t thought through four key elements: why you’re writing, what that writing needs to achieve, or what you want to say, and how to say it. And the sticking point is most likely what you want to say.

As I like to tell participants in my business writing workshops, there’s the good news, and there’s the bad news. Then there’s the worst news, and the best news.

The good news: Writing is easy.
The bad news: Thinking is tough.
The worst news: You have to think before you write.
The best news: Here’s how!

Here’s what you need to think about before you begin to write:

1. Ask yourself:
a. What am I writing? A report? Instructions? A “regular email”? What is the piece?
b. Who am I writing to?
c. Am I writing to inform? To persuade? Of what? To do what?

This is where you’ll decide why you are writing.

2. Next, list the results this piece of writing needs to achieve. What will happen when you are successful?

3. And how you’re going to say it? What “tone” will you use, remembering that “tone” is the relationship the writer sets up with the reader. How would you describe the relationship you will create or reinforce to get the results you are looking for?

4. Now that you have primed the thinking pump, you’re ready to decide what you want to say. It can be pretty tough to start writing before you think through the first three steps. That’s where what you want to say will come from.

List the items you want to talk about. Edit your list against three criteria:

1. What do I want to accomplish with this piece of writing
2. Why does the reader need this information?
3. How will the reader use this information?

Next, no matter how interesting each thing you want to say may be, if that point does not serve, to your complete satisfaction, one or more of the above three points, ruthlessly edit it out! Your goal is to have all of the information your reader needs to meet one or more of the above three tests, and nothing else!

Beware of distracting, or overloading your reader. Lack of clear understanding can easily lead to lack of any action or decision. It’s not necessary to tell your reader everything you know about the subject. First of all, he or she probably doesn’t care to hear all of it, and secondly, probably will not read such a torrent of information. Select only the information that serves your purpose, and meets the reader’s need for, and use of this information. Truthfully. As one workshop participant put it, tell your reader “just enough.”

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Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations, executive coaching, consulting, and writing services. To discuss how we can help, call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email gail@gailtycer.com

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