by Barbara McNichol
Ever heard someone say “his bucket is emptier (or more empty) than mine”? How can something be emptier than empty?
The same holds true for all “absolute” words. In grammar, “absolute” means it can’t be compared. That is, you would never use “less” or “more” in front of these absolute words:
Consider the word “destroyed.” If a hurricane sweeps through a small town, it’s tempting to say, “Our town was destroyed.” But be careful. Destroyed is an absolute that means totally, completely gone; it doesn’t exist anymore—no streets, no rubble, no fences standing. Chances are the more accurate word is “damage.” So watch out for absolutes, clarify their true meaning, and use them correctly.
Your challenge: What other absolute words would you add to this list? Write them here.
by Kathleen Watson (used with permission)
What’s wrong with this headline:
How to Setup a Marketing Campaign
to Capture More Leads
If you recognized setup as incorrect (it should be set up), good for you! You have a better sense of grammar than the person who wrote the headline.
When a verb such as set is used with a preposition such as up, it is called a phrasal verb: set up. Combining a verb with an adverb also creates a phrasal verb: cut back.
But when the elements of the phrasal verb are combined and expressed as one word, they create a noun: set up / setup | cut back / cutback | break down / breakdown.
Each of the following examples has two sentences. The first uses a phrasal verb (two words), and the second uses a noun — a single word created by a verb and a preposition. (Exception: cut in No. 4 is followed by the adverb back.)
Please arrive early to set up the room.
Setup should be done by 3 o’clock.
Guests must check out before 11 a.m.
Checkout is 11 a.m.
We had to clean up the pavilion after the picnic.
Cleanup didn’t begin until late afternoon.
We’re going to have to get more exercise and cut back on desserts.
If you want to lose weight, calorie cutback should be part of your plan.
Businesses that start up with too little capital often fail.
The startup required SBA financing.
You can sign up for the seminar in room 208.
Seminar signup ended last week.
I back up my computer daily.
Do you use the cloud for computer backup?
Please break down the price by material, labor and profit.
What kind of price breakdown did she provide?
He’s going to fall out of favor with his boss if he misses more work.
He got fired — the fallout of missing too much work.
If you can stand by for a later flight, you’ll get a free fare.
If you have a flexible schedule, flying standby can save you money.
When you take a shortcut and combine words, take care not to cut short the accuracy of your message.
Share these free Killer Tips with a friend or colleague who is striving to become a better writer and speaker.
Kathleen Watson is known as the ruthless editor who has just published an excellent grammar book that clears up questions that have been festering. Grammar for People Who Hate Rules: Killer Tips from The Ruthless Editor.
You can also request a One-Word-or-Two handout by emailing Barbara at editor@BarbaraMcNichol.com with One-Word-or-Two in subject line.
Have a notebook full of ideas for a nonfiction book? Ready to write a book that transforms people’s lives? Books have that power!
My colleague Book Writing Coach Lisa Tener has helped hundreds of authors take their messages out into the world. Through her coaching, she takes them from good to great to transformative–and best-sellers, too.
I invite you to read these two articles Lisa has crafted to help you do exactly that.
Want more? Lisa’s free teleclass with Sam Bennett will get you writing. Grab some magic on this free call Wednesday, January 25 at 8:30 ET/5:30 PT.
Please share the ideas from these articles that most resonated with you in the comment section.
by Patrice Rhoades-Baum
Have you heard this advice: “Never edit or change your testimonials.” Not true! You SHOULD edit them so they’re professional and add value using a light touch. Just be careful not to change the meaning.
Use this checklist:
- PROOF – It’s vital to fix typos and punctuation issues. This helps to ensure your website and other marketing tools are polished and professional.
- SHORTEN – Brief testimonials get to the point and are easy to read. Trim long testimonials to 3-5 sentences. Yes, this means sacrificing content. But that’s better than loooong testimonials, which cause readers’ eyes to glaze over.
- REWORK (IF IT’S CONFUSING)– If a testimonial contains good content but is confusing or poorly written, consider rewording key sentences. Be careful not to change the meaning or the person’s intent. Then email the revised testimonial to your client for approval.
- ORGANIZE – I like to place testimonials with the most impact at the top of the website’s “Testimonials” page. When you organize testimonials, alternate those that address similar challenges.
- INCLUDE FULL NAME & MORE – Make every testimonial work hard for you! Include the person’s full name, title, organization, and books written.
- ADD SEO KEYWORDS – When you edit client testimonials, sprinkle in organic SEO keywords. For example, if your name is Jane Doe and you’re a business coach, you can do this:
- Replace this statement: “Jane guided me to…”
- With this statement: “As my business coach, Jane Doe guided me to…”
- MAKE A BOLD STATEMENT – Your website visitors (your prospects) don’t read every word on your website. They skim. That’s why I select one sentence in every testimonial and make it bold.
Always take time to edit or change testimonials you use in your book marketing. This adds professionalism to your marketing efforts – and adds value for your book.
Please share your opinion on this topic in Comments below.
This article is from my colleague Patrice Rhoades-Baum. As a marketing consultant and branding expert, she guides solopreneurs – professional speakers, corporate consultants, and business coaches – to create a clear brand, strategic website, and polished one-sheet brochure. Patrice specializes in branding for small businesses and writing strategic, hardworking one sheet and website copy.
by Barbara McNichol
Words make it possible to say what you mean in writing. But they can step on your success, too.
In your communications, what happens if you use the wrong word in the wrong way—such as ending that important message “with my complements” instead “with my compliments”?
Definitely, you risk raising doubt in the minds of those you want to impress.
Don’t Get Egg on Your Face
You risk embarrassment and a lot more. You can:
- Cause confusion, even delays, by sending unclear messages
- Waste precious time revising and rewriting to clarify your meaning
- Smudge your reputation among co-workers, colleagues, and customers who wonder, “Does she know the difference between ‘compliments’ and ‘complements’—really?”
When pesky pairings (is it “adopt” or “adapt”?) trip you up, you need to know!
Word Trippers Example
Adopt, adapt – “Adopt” means to take as one’s own (e.g., someone else’s child), to choose (e.g., a lifestyle), or to formally accept (e.g., a position or principle). “Adapt” is to adjust to various conditions. “When you adopt a young girl, make it easy for her to adapt to your living environment.”
Turn to Your Ultimate Source for Choosing the Perfect Word When It Really Matters!
Yes, you can find lots of free resources online. But why spend your precious time when you can have a word choice guide at your fingertips—instantly?
No drawn-out searches or wild goose chases. You expedite your time and avoid unknowing mistakes with a subscription to Word Trippers Tips.
By knowing the right word to use in the right place, your professionalism moves up a notch. And by receiving a new Word Tripper each week, you can isolate the latest and learn it well.
With Word Trippers Tips, you’ll get a Word Tripper of the Week (text plus graphic plus audio) in your in-box every week for a full year. Plus the minute you register for Word Trippers Tips, you’ll receive an ebook compilation of 390+ Word Trippers.
Plus once a quarter, you’ll receive practical bonuses—tools to improve your punctuation, grammar, and word use—plus a webinar and crossword puzzle.
by Barbara McNichol
When I started university many moons ago, I saw a need for knowing how to read FAST. Reading opens up avenues to learning, and I was revving up for a long academic and professional career centered on reading as well as writing.
But the speed-reading course I took then didn’t cut it for me. Blame it on distractions of being a freshman and all the temptations of life away from home. It was a bust!
Read with Speed
Now, I have the opportunity to make up for it through a fabulous speed reading program called Rev It Up Reading. I’m jazzed about it because I know it’s not too late to read with speed—for my editing work, my professional development, and my desire to read for fun.
This online course helps you take control of any reading workload. It’s perfect for busy professionals and for those looking to further their studies and careers. You might be even inspired to finish those half-read books on your bookshelf with speed and comprehension. That’s my goal!
Speed Reading Expert
The comprehensive Rev It Up Reading program was created by speed reading expert Abby Marks Beale. As the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Speed Reading and 10 Days to Faster Reading, she has decades of experience teaching this skill.
Want to know more? Please go here for complete details on a variety of amazing online options—including a free 24-hour pass to try out the materials before you buy.
P.S. Do you know a student who faced with lots of reading as I am? Pass this along! #read #write #ESL
by Patrice Rhoades-Baum
Have you heard the expression “murder your darlings”? It’s not a Halloween joke. It’s a century-old, highly respected writing tip.
Who said it?
“Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it – whole-heartedly – and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.”
What does it mean?
Sometimes while writing, we create a sentence or paragraph that is particularly energetic. It flows! It sparkles! It may be brilliant!
But if that sentence or paragraph does not support your message, you need to kill it. You need to whip out your red pen or hit the delete key.
It breaks your heart, but it must be done.
I believe every word, every sentence must support the message. “Murder your darlings” reminds us to be objective when writing and editing our content.
We are servants of the message we seek to communicate. We cannot fall in love with a passage that does not serve our message.
I’ve been writing professionally for 30+ years, and I know it’s tough to “murder your darlings.” My advice? Take a breath. Buck up. Do it.
The more you “murder your darlings,” the easier it becomes. Implement this writing tip to make your message clear. Your writing improves and everyone wins – except that “darling.”
Patrice Rhoades-Baum is a marketing consultant and branding expert. She guides solopreneurs – professional speakers, corporate consultants, and business coaches – to create a clear brand, strategic website, and polished one sheet brochure. Patrice has a 35-year marketing background: 25 years in high-tech corporate marketing + 10 years as a business owner. She specializes in branding for small businesses and writing strategic, hardworking one-sheet and website copy. She can be reached at www.patricerhoadesbaum.com
Share an example of when you “killed a darling” and didn’t have to stand trial for murder.
By Barbara McNichol
Imagine having a resource at your fingertips that allows you to quickly find the right word when it matters most. Then imagine refreshing your knowledge every week so you can confidently use confusing English words correctly.
As a professional, you know people pay attention to your ability to communicate accurately. Others rely on you for that! But having the right word at your fingertips hasn’t always been easy—until now.
Here’s a solution that enhances your excellence every day (not everyday).
Your Word Trippers Tips subscription offers:
- An ebook featuring 390+ pesky pairings of words that can trip you up (except vs. accept, advise vs. advice, further vs. farther, to name a few)
- A Word Tripper of the Week arriving in your in-box for 52 weeks (see sample on this page) and includes audio
- Bonus PDFs on grammar and punctuation tips every quarter
- Surprise bonuses on better writing along the way!
Sample of Word Tripper of the Week
Build Credibility, Confidence, Competence in the Nuances of English
Finding the right word to use that matters most—
- Allows you to be seen as a credible professional
- Ensures you’re using the right word properly—a confidence builder
- Boosts your reputation for competence and excellence in your world
Your Word Tripper of the Week hones your knowledge and keeps the learning alive. And its usefulness has been time-tested for more than a decade.
How Did Word Trippers Tips Come About?
As an expert editor of nonfiction books and articles, I’ve been on a crusade to curb the misuse of words through Word Trippers. I keep creating Word Tripper of the Week because I know we’ll never run out of words that trip us up.
To get a better grasp of the English language with ease, invest in Word Trippers Tips—only $99/year.
Questions? Click here for FAQs.
“You can easily find the words, all listed in alphabetical order, without digging through heavy tomes or clicking around the Web for hours. Choosing the right word for the right circumstance can make all the difference in presenting yourself as a credible writer. Barbara has made it easy with this easy to use reference tool.” – Janie Sullivan
by Barbara McNichol
Just as you’d wear a straw-brimmed hat in the sunshine and a rain cap in the pouring rain, remember the importance of wearing two different hats when you’re writing versus editing your nonfiction book.
One hat represents the creative process; the other deals with the critical process. Attempting to edit as you write can dampen your creativity, as I learned when working with an author recently. Because she was on a fast track to get her book printed, she had me editing the beginning chapters while she was still writing the middle and final chapters. What happened? She had to interrupt her writing flow to give me feedback on the chapters I’d sent back. It affected her ability to move forward smoothly, plus we had trouble keeping track of our progress. What frustration!
Differences Between Writing and Editing
In retrospect, we needed to put on the brakes and say, “Each task—writing and editing— demands a separate and specific focus.” Here are three reasons why:
- When editing your own work, your mind can fill in, correct, or overlook errors. It’s easy to miss things that should be corrected—like missing words and inconsistencies.
- When you put a week or two between completing a draft and reviewing it, you break the link between what you thought you wrote and what you actually wrote.
- Once a first draft is finished, if you rush in to evaluate it too quickly, you haven’t allowed your brain to “hang out in the shade and cool.” That’s when you mentally step back and “see” gaps in information, research, and logic. Taking a “big picture” look also enables you to see what fits and what doesn’t.
Create Even More Separation
What can you do to separate writing from editing even more?
- When you reread your work, reformat it by changing the font, margins, line spacing, and other elements so it tricks the mind and looks like a new document.
- Keep wearing your creativity hat and go through each chapter asking these important questions:
- Is it complete from a content point of view? What’s missing?
- Have I included all the facts and stories I want to meet my objectives for this chapter?
- Can I take out any content that doesn’t fit?
Once you have answered these satisfactorily, you’re ready for the critical process to take over. While wearing your editing hat, leave behind your content questions and look for the elements of good writing—style, grammar, spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and so on. And when you’re ready for feedback, call in an objective editor who can apply both the creative and critical process to perfecting your manuscript.
Do you agree with this thesis about keeping writing and self-editing separate? Share your thoughts here.