Category Archives: Everyday writing


Here’s an exercise you can try this week: Make everything you write as simple as possible. Think Shaker furniture. Don’t add words. Cut them. Pare your message to its core. Don’t use big words. Use the simplest words you can. … Continue reading

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Spot the Error: Pawn shop edition

From an article in the local newspaper: Bahls said popular television shows like “Hardcore Pawn” and “Pawn Stars” have helped business because many people are exposed to what it is pawn shops really do, and it peaks curiosity in new … Continue reading

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Look your reader in the eye

Copywriter Nick Usborn says that the fundamental advice given to speakers applies to writers: Look your audience in the eye. So far, as I sit here writing, I’m looking you in the eye. Hopefully, you can hear my voice through … Continue reading

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Don’t fear contractions

Are you still fearful of using contractions? Don’t be. They have a long and storied history. For more, see my article “Contractions and how not to abuse ’em.” (Hat tip to Ray Ward.)

Posted in Everyday writing, Grammar, Plain Language, Usage | Tagged | 1 Comment

A call for help: Teaching unmotivated learners to write better

I recently received this plea for help from P, a friend and former writing colleague, and with her permission, I’m sharing it with you: I am being asked to come up with some course or online topics or some such … Continue reading

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Handwriting: Cross-training for your brain

The Wall Street Journal points out several recent research projects that show that handwriting is good for your brain: Using advanced tools such as magnetic resonance imaging, researchers are finding that writing by hand is more than just a way … Continue reading

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From the mailbag: How do I hyphenate that?

Phil asks: What advice do you have for where to place the hyphen in a long word that wraps to the next line?  For example, should the word “transformational” be hyphenated transform-ational or tranforma-tional?  Is there a rule on that?

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Advice for effective e-mail: Slow down!

E-mail dominates our workplace communications largely because of its speed. You click a button and WHOOSH! Within seconds, your message pops up in the recipient’s inbox. Just as quickly, they can respond and WHOOSH! Their reply is back in your … Continue reading

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What’s the cost of content?

Before you begin writing something, ask yourself this: What’s the cost, and what’s the value? Everything you write has a cost. This cost matters more in a business context, but it’s still present, regardless of what you’re writing, and why. … Continue reading

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Why use more words than you need?

I subscribe to an e-mail list called Freecycle—it’s like an online swap-meet, where people post messages listing items they don’t need, and others request items. (Go here for more info: I’ve noticed that many people, when they’re requesting something, … Continue reading

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