It would certainly make my work easier if I had a magic formula to create the "aha" moments that help me write the perfect headline, refine a particularly difficult sentence, or find the unifying theme for a complex story. But, alas, inspiration rarely comes on command. Instead, it sneaks up when least expected, on a walk, in the shower, or in the middle of the night -- and typically when … [Read more...] about In search of the “Aha” moment
Ideas, Insights, Quick Notes & Commentary
Okay. I can't be the only one who is annoyed with how the media is using "sequestration" to talk about the huge U.S. budget decisions that have been kicked down the road. It's all the buzz in the news media, and the latest shorthand for a huge quagmire of problems related to the government's (mis)management of our tax dollars. But why the need for a single handle to talk about the situation? I … [Read more...] about “Sequestration” and the fine art of obfuscation
Just how savvy are U.S. investors? Not as smart as most investment companies would like to think, says the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). According to their Financial Literacy Report, released this summer as part of the Dodd-Frank Act: Investors do not understand the most elementary financial concepts, such as compound interest and inflation, diversification or the differences … [Read more...] about SEC “sez” plain language can fix financial literacy
Editing a particularly difficult document this past week -- full of extra words and turgid, academic prose -- I was reminded of Elizabeth Swann's priceless line from the Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Using the most pretentious dialogue she can muster to confound Jack Sparrow, Swann says, "I am disinclined to acquiesce to your request." In other words, "No." Which … [Read more...] about 200 words to make your readers feel smarter
Looking back at last month's post about real vs. virtual meetings, I got to thinking today about whether virtual interviews are adequate substitutes for the real thing. Of course it depends on the purpose of the interview. If you need to capture the essence of someone's personality and mannerisms, then the answer is probably NO. But for the most part, as verified by the hundreds of satellite … [Read more...] about Can a good phone interview replace face-to-face?
This post from financial writer/editor Art McPherson was written as a follow up to our recent discussion about the virtues and pitfalls of today's "virtual" meetings and the value of meeting face-to-face with real people. Perhaps his most cogent point: "A virtual beer just doesn't taste the same." What do you think? --PJW (Thanks, Art!) ________________________ By Arthur MacPherson … [Read more...] about The power you get from “real” meetings
"Collaboration is in. But it may not be conducive to creativity." That was the teaser for a recent (Jan. 15) New York Times article on "Groupthink." And it got me thinking about whether collaboration truly is the enemy of creativity. I suppose it depends on how you choose to define collaboration and what your objectives are. But if you're talking about sharing ideas to create better … [Read more...] about Three steps to create content that works
Just ran across a recent blog post from writing expert/instructor L Michelle Baker, PhD on active vs. passive sentence construction. Like most versatile, creative writers, she advocates using both the active and the passive voice, depending on what you need to make the information clear, and the cadence and rhythm engaging. But she also suggests that passive sentences can be a deliberate way … [Read more...] about Writing responsibly — with an active voice
Editing an article today on how diversification can help investors manage risk, I quickly lost count of the number of times I change "equities" to "stocks" and "fixed income" to "bonds." And while I know those changes may raise my client's eyebrows, I'm confident that making them is the right thing to do. I also know that I'm not alone in this seemingly endless quest to speak with consumers … [Read more...] about Are inmates managing your money?
Among the many observations that language expert Joe Kimble shared with the corporate lawyers at his “Sure Fire Ways to Improve Your Writing” workshop last week, three in particular stuck with me: 1) Plain language is not about “dumbing down.” It is about writing more clearly and effectively for your audience. For lawyers, in particular, he cautioned, “It is the opposite of the … [Read more...] about Plain Language: Easy to read; hard to achieve.