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Writing Tips

February 20, 2018

Surveys consistently show that the ability to communicate well is the skill employers value most. Today, most communication is written, so time spent improving your writing is time spent well. 

In this podcast for the Engineering Management Institute with founder Anthony Fasano, I share a few tips that should help. http://bit.ly/TECCEp169

Abused Word of the Day: Actionable.

July 23, 2019

In the action-packed world of business, the word “actionable” has become ubiquitous, but unnecessary. Can you think of anything that is “inactionable?”

“Action” is “the fact or process of doing something,” so anything is “actionable,” whether it’s advisable to take action or not. Among the synonyms for “actionable,” Merriam-Webster lists “practicable,” “serviceable,” “usable” and “workable,” each of which is almost as horrible as “actionable.”

Like many words that shouldn’t be used by people who want to communicate clearly, “actionable” also has a definition used by lawyers. If circumstances provide sufficient reason to take legal action, they are “actionable.”

The word also means “having practical value,” but the word itself has none.

Abused Word of the Day: Hack.

April 22, 2019

“Hack” used to be a simple word. As a verb, it was what your cat did when coughing up a fur ball. If you had a tree with dead branches, you might hack them off. As a noun, it was someone who was not especially good at a chosen profession. It especially applied to writers.

As the Internet developed, “hack” evolved into someone with proficient computing skills and exceptionally warped morals who would “hack” into your computer with malicious intent.

Today, though, a “hack” is something else. Writers and editors, who are in the business of writing for a living, have adopted the word and given it a new, more positive meaning. Today, a hack can be a clever tip.

Writers who favor this usage of “hack” come off as old people trying to sound like millennials. Remember that if caught “hacking,” imprisonment may result. Only a hack would use the word “hack” to describe clever tips; this new use for “hack” has already become hackneyed.

Cliché of the Day: Life Is a Journey

January 17, 2018

Life is a journey, alright. And it’s an especially arduous one if you have to listen to banalities like “life is a journey,” “the journey to recovery,” “life is a journey, not a destination” and other variations. You can find many additional examples on inspirational posters, but it’s not going to inspire those of us who dislike clichés and hate to travel. “Life is a journey” has traveled far enough. Let’s retire it.

We’re Writing for Your Customers

May 29, 2013

The most difficult task we have as marketing professionals should be the simplest – convincing clients to think like their customers.

It’s difficult, because clients are wired to think in the language of their industry.  When we translate it into English, it sounds foreign to them.

When Should You Use An Exclamation Point? Almost Never!!!!

April 1, 2013

“An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Remove the exclamation point from the keypad, and the volume of e-mail and text will drop by half, as fingertips around the world are struck dumb.

Exclamation points today are so ubiquitous, we hardly notice them.  They’re everywhere, like pickets on the fence of prose.

Anyone Can Write – Just Like Anyone Can Sing

December 12, 2012

It’s true that anyone can write – in the same sense that anyone can sing. Writing well, like singing well, takes practice, skill and a discerning ear.

Unfortunately, many people in the business world write off key without realizing it. They produce a cacophony of overused words like “quality,” “solution” and “service,” and mistake it for a concerto. Like the tone-deaf singer at church, they attempt to make up in volume what they lack in skill.