Don't Send the Redline

Uncategorized Jan 17, 2022

When you edit other people, go to their desk and sit down with them. Start by telling them what they did right. After the praise, go through your edits one by one. Cite the principle behind why you made the change.

If you only send the redline, the person you're editing will click "accept" on all of them and learn nothing. You'll make the same edits next time.

Every time you edit is an opportunity to teach. When someone learns to write better, that's time you get back.

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Win the Debate -- What's Best?

Uncategorized Jan 11, 2022

WIN THE DEBATE, PART XVI. When someone says that this or that is the "most" or "best" or "greatest" or "weakest," ask them this question: What was the most or best or greatest before?

They'll rarely have an answer because we typically use superlatives (e.g. most, best, etc) for emphasis, not as fact. When you ask someone what their latest "best" replaces and they can't answer, you reveal that your opponent is offering not fact but opinion. This undercuts their authority and gives you an opening to return to fact.


(If they have a fact-based answer, fine. All you've done is make them back it up. That helps you, too, by keeping the argument in the realm of fact.)


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Stop Saying "I Think."

Uncategorized Jan 05, 2022

Don't say, "I think this is caused by three things." Say, "This is caused by three things."

Feel the difference?

 It's understood that this is your opinion. No need to underline it. As readers and listeners, we give more serious consideration to things said in confidence. "I think" and "maybe" and "perhaps" subtly diminish your authority.

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Get More Done. Use a Timer.

Uncategorized Dec 07, 2021

Write for time goals, not words or pages. Set a timer for 20 minutes and work hard for 20 minutes. Then take a break, go do something else, or do the cycle again. Knowing that you get to stop after 20 minutes will help you stay focused and productive.

Let's say you went to the gym and you asked your trainer, how long will we work? And your trainer said, "Until you're exhausted." Ugh.

When you sit down to work "all day," that's what you're doing to yourself. Use a timer. Get more done. 

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Creativity is Combination

Uncategorized Nov 30, 2021
Here's a constructive way to think about creativity: it's the combining of familiar things in unfamiliar ways.
* Die Hard was a hostage story -- set in a high rise, of all places.
* Spiderman is a hero story -- except the hero's not an omnipotent adult but a vulnerable adolescent.
* Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a love story -- but the lovers can't remember they were once in love.
Take what you already know and add something that doesn't normally belong. That's a good first step. Another is to fill your head with whatever is interesting to you. That gives you a stew of stuff that can become pieces of your story.
Creativity is unusual combination. Thinking about it this way makes the task easier, more satisfying, and more successful, more often.
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An Easy Editing Trick

Uncategorized Nov 15, 2021

For each edit pass, edit for only one thing. For instance, do a pass to identify and get rid of adverbs. Then do a pass for readability. Next, a pass for overlong sentences. And so on.

If you see other errors, ignore them until it's "their turn." Address them only during a pass dedicated to that topic.

Why do it this way? Because if you edit for everything you see, you'll get a few hundred words in, then you'll start over to see how the revisions read, and you'll do that over and over. Thus you'll end up with what everybody ends up with, a document edited to death up front with insufficient attention to the rest.

Also: when you complete a focused pass, you get the satisfaction of completing a task. That helps you find the motivation to do more.

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Here's a Shortcut

Uncategorized Oct 07, 2021
Here's a shortcut to writing stories for business and PR. The trick? Start by finding a hero, a goal, and an obstacle.
Get the details here -- you can read it in a couple minutes, tops, and you'll have a new trick:
It's this week's weekly essay. (Sign up while you're there. It's free.)
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No More "Very"

Uncategorized Oct 06, 2021
Quit using the word "very." It adds nothing. Let your choice of the word it would modify do the job alone, because that other word can do the job better. "Very quickly" is no more impactful than "quickly." Same for "very" anything. Try it and see.
The effect of dispatching with "very" is to add calmness, clarity, and confidence to your prose.
It works, promise. But you have to decide you're going to do it -- so do it! (I'm very serious about this. Heh.) 
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Add This to Your Q&A Sessions

Uncategorized Oct 04, 2021
You've given your presentation. Now come the questions. Here's the thing: when someone asks you something, not everyone is going to hear it.
So do this: repeat the question before you answer.
If you jump right to your reply, odds are some people missed the question or just weren't listening.
By opening with a repeat of the question, your answer is a speech-in-miniature, and that's a good thing -- for spreading your message, and for sounding professional.
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How Can You Tell If an Expert... Is Expert?

Uncategorized Sep 28, 2021
The best test is whether their advice works as promised -- which can take a while to determine. As writers, we can ensure that what we write inspires confidence by making it as understandable as possible. That means using short, direct, declarative sentences whenever possible. It means using short paragraphs. And it means dispensing with anything that doesn't push the reader (or listener) toward understanding.
Be simple. Be direct. Be seated. That's the formula for making an expert sound like an expert.
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