Words carry more than information. The words you choose change the texture, the flavor of the information. They change the way readers view the world.
For instance, my public speaking students frequently choose “Legalization of Marijuana” as a topic. (The fact that they have been choosing this topic for over 30 years says something about our nation, but that’s for another article.) The audience of college students has probably heard this discussed dozens of times in various settings. So I suggest instead they discuss “Relegalization of Marijuana.” That often makes audiences cock their heads, the way a dog looks at a ceiling fan. That recasting of the topic can completely change the way the speaker approaches the topic and the way the audience hears it. Continue reading “The texture of words”
I got behind on posting updates here, but I’ve been getting a lot of writing done on Medium. (Follow me there.) As my own writing evolves, I continue to focus on effective communication, but I’m also branching out into other areas of interest. This blog is, therefore, more and more focusing on my work as a writer in general. Accordingly, I will start including here links to things other than just communication-related posts, but I will use subheads to help you find the things you are most interested in.
As an old newspaper reporter, I can tell you firsthand how it interferes with the writing process when the editor stands over your shoulder. Yet, most of us do this to ourselves every time we try to write.
Writing and editing are two different functions. You will do a better job with less stress if you will separate them. When you write, write. Don’t worry about punctuation, editing, spelling, etc. You can clean that up later.
If you think you don’t have time to do that, let me tell you: you don’t have time to not do it. It actually takes less time to separate writing and editing.
Since we are concerned with helping you speak more effectively and avoid writing it out word for word in the first place (because you’ll then sound like you’re reading, even when you’re not), it’s even more important to find another way to prepare for your speech—and this is it. Continue reading “Respecting your inner writer and editor”
As I write this, I am in my disabled daughter’s bedroom looking at some of the balloons that float over her bed. She has no volitional control over her body–can’t sit up, can’t roll over, can’t communicate. She has never even been able to do something like blink once for yes and twice for no. We see evidence that she hears and understands what goes on around her, though–for instance, now that she is 13, if I come in and say something like, “How’s Daddy’s baby today?” she will roll her eyes like any 13-year-old would. Since she has no volitional control, it suggests to me that eye-rolling is simply a teen-aged reflex.
She follows things with her eyes, and that’s one reason for the balloons. They can float in her field of vision and provide some entertainment and diversion for what must be a very isolated experience, even though they are starting to lose their helium and dangle just above her headboard now.
As I watch those balloons, I am suddenly transported to a Nash automobile in 1959.
James Altucher has really had an impact in the last few years with his books, his blogs, his videos, etc. His core ideas are contained in Choose Yourself. I want to encourage you particularly to apply one of them he advocates for exercising your “idea muscle” that I have started calling the Ten List.
The Ten List is part of his four-part system he calls The Daily Practice–or, actually, a technique that addresses the Mental part of the four. So it’s not particularly about speaking or writing, but I have found it to be really useful for both.
I have been thinking about this for awhile. I’m going to change the publishing schedule a bit, and also the way I’m approaching things.
People of my generation and earlier will recognize the reference to “the Reader’s Digest version.” While the magazine has a U.S. circulation of 4.5 million these days, in the 1970s it reached its peak at 17 million. It was known for, among others things, taking longer magazine articles and longer books and condensing them down into much shorter form.
Academics know about article abstracts, those entries that are only two or three paragraphs at the beginning of a journal article or academic paper that mostly summarizes the entire article. Graduate students quickly learn to focus on the abstract along with the methodology and conclusion section as a survival tool, because no one has the time to read entire articles when you are in grad school.
The internet has spawned its own response and version. Some commenters on long posts began around 2003 using TL;DR to label such as a means of signifying “too long; didn’t read.” Newspaper reporters have long written in inverted pyramid style to address readers’ short attention spans, although magazines (a print form more aimed at leisurely reading) have mostly followed a more traditional introduction/body/conclusion approach. It somehow seems natural with so many people reading online to combine these approaches.
I’ve been noticing lately that you seem to be engaging in longer content, but that doesn’t mean that all of you want to read longer articles. So I’m going to accommodate both approaches. I will finish out this week the way I’ve been going, but starting next week, I’m going to post a longer article on Monday–but it will start with a special segment labeled “TL;DR” for those who want to read shorter.
I’m also going to move away from the once-a-week digest posting to the email list–though again, we will finish out the week the way we’ve been doing it. Starting next week, when an article goes up on the blog, it will also go out on the email list. The subject line will start with [King’s Corner] to make it easy to find later if you want.
So we’ll see how that goes. Please let me know your thoughts about it, though! I want to put out material that is useful to you, and I won’t know unless you tell me. (Remember one of our basic principle: people (including me) are not mind readers.)
I made chocolate cookies a few days ago. When I say “I made,” I mean I opened the package of refrigerated dough and followed the directions. I have made chocolate chip cookies from scratch before, and done a pretty good job if I do say so myself. But why bother? The refrigerated dough turns out almost as good, and take a whole lot less time. And less dish washing, too.
Along with the fun of eating them (since I’m the major cookie consumer in our household), I gained something of an insight for speaking and writing. (Does that make the cookies tax deductible?) Since they were “home made,” I put them into a Ziploc bag after they cooled, and when I ate the last one few hours later, I noticed a lot of crumbs in the bottom.
In fact, there were enough there to make up two entire cookies after I dumped them out into my hand. One does not simply waste cookies.
I had a great idea for a blog post. It came to me while I was in the kitchen, working on making an omelet for me and fried eggs for my wife. The stove was hot, the butter at just the right temperature in the pan, so I couldn’t go write the idea down right then. No problem, it was a great idea, I would remember.