by Barbara McNichol
If you resist improving your writing skills, here’s my suggestion: Make friends with good writing. A shift in attitude—from resisting to embracing—just might make all the difference. And here’s the payoff. When you improve your writing skills, you advance your career and make a positive impression.
Here’s a fresh resource for improving your writing filled with must-have skills to jump start your resolve: an e-guide called—ta da—Making Friends with Good Writing.
This brand new e-guide comes with a special introductory offer. You’ll save $$ when you use the Coupon code FRIENDS at checkout. So check out this e-guide now!
An Inspiring Quotation for These Times
“If we can’t do what we do, we do what we can.” – Jon Bon Jovi (a song he just composed while in seclusion)
Do you recognize this quotation as being a figure of speech called a chiasmus? You’ll find a whole collection of them in Making Friends with Good Writing. Enjoy!
By Lynne Franklin (reprinted with permission)
Kathy was my first assistant when I was working at a public relations agency in my twenties. I made a point of writing thank-you notes to her when she finished something for me.
Walking through the office one day, I heard Kathy talking to another assistant. She said, “Lynne writes me thank-you notes for everything. That makes them all kind of meaningless.”
I was shocked! I thought I was being a good supervisor … Not knowing what to do, I never discussed this with Kathy and just wrote fewer of them.
What’s the Difference?
Praise is defined as “the expression of warm approval or admiration.” It comes from the Latin pretium, meaning “reward, prize, value, worth.”
Gratitude is “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” Its root is the Latin gratus, for “pleasing, agreeable, thankful, grace.”
If this seems like so much hair splitting, here’s the sense I make of it. Praise recognizes something a person has done. Gratitude is about the meaning of what they do and who they are to you.
With that in mind, I can see how my notes fell short for Kathy. They didn’t show approval or admiration of her work. Nor did they show appreciation or a wish to be kind back. She was right: my scribbles were a meaningless pleasantry that made me feel good.
Our Brains on Gratitude
Here’s the great thing. Gratitude is a gift to the giver and receiver.
It stimulates both brains to produce the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which make us feel good and boosts our moods. It also reduces fear and anxiety by lowering the amount of stress hormones in our systems.
When we practice gratitude every day, this rewires our brains. We strengthen these neural pathways, making us more grateful and positive by default. (This affects the people around us, because moods are contagious.)
Then we all get the documented benefits of gratitude:
- Being happier—having more positive emotions and thoughts, becoming more aware and awake, feeling greater satisfaction with ourselves, enhancing our mood
- Being healthier—building a stronger immune system, having fewer aches and pains, having optimum blood pressure and heart function, experiencing better sleeping and waking cycles
- Being better versions of ourselves—improving our communication with others, having more empathy, having stronger relationships, being more likeable, being a more involved team member
Don’t make my mistake of sending thoughtless thank yous. Whether giving praise or gratitude, be specific:
- Praise—“You did a great job of leading that meeting, Kathy. You kept things moving. We got a lot done—on time! And now everyone knows what to do next.”
- Gratitude—”You’re an inspiring leader, Kathy. This meeting is a great example. Not only did you get everything covered in an hour, but you made sure we all felt involved in the solution and know what to do next. I’m so happy to be part of your team because we’re making a difference!”
Look for opportunities to express gratitude. It could be a comment—face-to-face or phone/Zoom/Skype. It could be a note—which has even more impact when you deliver it in person, or even read it out loud to the recipient first. It could even be thinking about someone and thanking that person in your head. And don’t forget to regularly send yourself a note or thought of gratitude.
Make gratitude a practice. Some people keep gratitude journals, where they write what happened this day or week that they’re grateful for. Or they have a “gratitude partner” whom they regularly discuss this. Whatever path you choose, focus on how these instances made you feel.
In the middle of your over-busy day, take time to notice and express appreciation. Consider it the emotional equivalent of the boost you get from coffee or chocolate—without the calories!
Lynne Franklin is a communications expert who can increase your persuasiveness in three ways:
- Speeches, workshops and coaching that give you tools you can use right away
- Strategies that help you turn difficult business communications into opportunities to succeed
- Written and spoken communications created to reach your corporate and marketing communication goals
Get more people to do what you want. Let Lynne show you how. Call 847-729-5716
by Barbara McNichol
When polishing your sentences, pay attention to the nuances of word order. Yes, it matters!
Here’s a simple example from a recent book I edited:
“He was well respected and loved in the academic community.”
I changed it to:
“He was loved and well respected in the academic community.”
Because “loved” is 5 letters and “well respected” is 13, it makes for a smoother read if the longer phrase follows the shorter word. See if you agree.
“Good leaders don’t waste time, effort, financial resources, or opportunities.”
“Good leaders don’t waste time, effort, opportunities, or financial resources.” This shift creates a tidy parade of words from short to long.
Word Order in Lists
In addition, a list is visually easier to follow when the line length goes from short to long. This example is from a leadership newsletter:
It would be counterproductive if you:
- Take the time to plan your day, but you don’t follow the plan.
- Hire people to do a job but don’t take time training them to do that job.
- Have slow-moving products in your inventory that generate low margins.
- Conduct an employee engagement survey and do nothing with the results.
- Attend a trade show to network with customers but spend your time on the phone.
To get a feel for how adjectives line up best in a sentence, this blog post summarizes it beautifully: http://barbaramcnichol.com/2017/11/02/order-place-adjectives-sentence-explained/
For even more tips, go to http://barbaramcnichol.com/2016/03/06/5-writing-tips-to-improve-your-readability/
Key message: Better writing means paying attention to the best use of word order!
by Barbara McNichol
Incremental learning makes a difference when you set any goal for yourself, including becoming a better writer.
Why would you desire to have better writing? To get hired or promoted, to attract more clients, to build your reputation and boost your book sales–to name only a few benefits.
Your action item: To reap these benefits, set aside time for 18 days to improve your writing, whether it’s for book chapters, reports, or sensitive emails.
In each of those days, you would study one of these easy, effective tips to hone your writing craft. Using them habitually, you’ll find you get better results and your confidence will grow. Any time you might spend in a writing WordShop (including those I offer) is reinforced by the ideas in this e-guide.
Your assurance: These practical, immediately usable tips have been compiled over years of editing nonfiction books and conducting business writing classes. You can feel assured writers have tested them thoroughly!
Your goal: Make a point of integrating a fresh tip into your writing every day. You’ll see how perfecting the communication loop through improved writing benefits your readers, your coworkers, you clients, and ultimately your career.
Your Key to Better Writing
This e-guide can be purchased for only $14.95. Click here to order. Use code 18DAYS to receive a $4.95 discount! Any questions? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you already worked with this e-guide? If so, please leave your comments here. How did it help you? Inquiring minds want to know!
By Abby Marks Beale
Don’t you just envy people who always keep up with their reading? You may be surprised to know that a quick reading speed is not the only way to get caught up. It’s those who devote an adequate amount of TIME to it are also the ones who are not haunted by their “to-read stack.”
Being Intentional with Your Reading
That makes sense, you say, BUT you’re feeling time-starved? It’s really as simple as being intentional about wanting to make more time to read.
Review these common-sense suggestions. Which ones do you already do? Which ones you can start doing to relieve your reading guilt and get more reading done?
Capitalize on free moments by always having something with you from your reading pile – be it digital or on paper – and kept in your car, in your purse or briefcase, etc. An unexpected delay in an appointment is now viewed as a gift of time.
Watch less (or no) TV! If you watch an hour or more of television a day, just think how much reading you could get done if you swapped some TV time with reading just a few days a week!
Only read things that are of value to you so you don’t waste your precious reading time on useless material.
Plan it! Make an appointment with yourself during work hours (this may mean moving to a conference room to get peace and quiet), on weekends (you can read while kids are watching cartoons) or during your commute (if you have one where you’re not driving!)
Try to read more at your peak time(s) of day – your most mentally awake and alert times. If you are a morning person, then make some time then. If you are a night owl, carve out time after dark.
Upgrade your reading skills so however much time you do spend, you get a lot more accomplished! You can take our interactive reading course online OR if you prefer to learn auditorily, you can start by listening to the 10 Days to Faster Reading audiobook available on Audible.com.
March is National Reading Month. Here’s to getting more time to read!
Abby Marks Beale makes a difference in the world through her speed reading programs, which I highly recommend. Details at https://revitupreading.com
How will you celebrate National Reading Month? Please comment here.
By Mary Walewski, guest blogger
It’s time for holiday parties—a season when you attend parties where you only know a few people. There you are, chatting away with total strangers when someone asks you what you do for a living.
“I write books. I just published my latest one,” you say.
“Wow, you wrote a book? What’s it about?”
Before you start on a blow-by-blow description of your subject or plot that leaves them looking around the room for somebody—anybody—to interrupt you, STOP.
You’ve just received an invitation to practice your Very Short Description of What Your Book Is About. Its purpose is to keep the conversation going. Most authors feel they need to relay a lot when they’re asked, “What’s your book about?” But that’s not what people really want. They want a one- or two-sentence answer to respond to and generate a conversation.
What is Your Very Short Description?
Before you go to your next party, practice a 10- to 20-second description that will encourage others to respond with questions, not leave them looking for an escape. It’s natural for you to want to tell them all about your book. But, please remember, this is a conversation, not a sales call.
What happens when you begin to describe everything in your book? You shut down the conversation and the other person becomes a hostage to your narrative. Instead, reply with something like, “It’s a mystery novel set in a hospital.” This is short and concise, while encouraging the other person to say something like, “Wow, I’ve always wanted to write a book. How did you get started?”
Then the conversation can continue to a natural conclusion—and that person isn’t suddenly seeing someone across the room to speak to.
Ideas for What to Say at Holiday Parties
Examples of your Very Short Description of What Your Book Is About:
- If it’s nonfiction, what problem does it solve? Who is it for?
- “It’s a self-help book for single fathers on how to start dating after divorce.”
- “It’s a diet book for people who don’t want to give up carbs.”
- If it’s fiction, state the genre (Is it mystery, detective, romance, etc.) and where it takes place.
- “It’s a historical novel set during the California Gold Rush.”
- Who’s your main character and what happens to him/her?
- “It’s set during the California Gold Rush. It’s about a sheriff who falls for the local madam in a mining camp.”
May all of your conversations at holiday parties end with “Where can I buy your book?”
Enjoy the season!
Mary Walewski is a book marketing consultant who works with indie authors and publishers. Request her online report The 5 Marketing Habits of Successful Authors at Buy The Book Marketing.com.
Book Selling University is pleased to announce it now offers live, virtual “classes” with Guy Achtzehn, an expert in selling books in both small and large, non-returnable quantities to non-bookstore (special sales) buyers.
Individuals will get an understanding of their target prospects, steps for selling to them, and ways to repeat the process for long-term sales growth.
- A list of target buyers customized to their content
- Basic contact information for each prospect
- Tips and techniques for reaching them
- Networking hints for meeting buyers in person
- Role playing to build their confidence
- Tips to follow up with buyers successfully
- Ways to build recurring revenue from each customer
Book Selling University is an online, on-demand series of pre-recorded courses. These course help self-published authors and independent publishers produce better books and sell them profitably in large quantities.
All online courses are conducted by instructors who are experts on their material. This includes Barbara McNichol’s hour-long webinar, Strengthen Everything You Write, BSU-176.
Book Selling University (www.booksellinguniversity.com) is sponsored by BookLife, Bowker, Ingram Spark, and the Association of Publishers for Special Sales (APSS). It creates an awareness of special sales (non-bookstore marketing) and steps to achieve greater revenue.