by Abby Marks Beale
Summer reading lists have always raised a whine and a loud groan from my kids. “Why do I have to read THAT?! It’s not what I want to read!” It’s always a challenge to read something that is not of your choosing. But there is some value in actually doing the reading. And believe it or not, the books listed have been vetted carefully.
From prestigious prep schools like Deerfield Academy, to UC Berkeley, public school districts and mega bank JP Morgan Chase, educators, influencers, and employers have rolled out their summer reading lists for students and lifetime learners. Most likely your school district, college, and possibly an employer have recommended or required summer reading for your household.
Why the Push for Summer Reading?
Darin Oduyoye, Chief Communications Officer for J.P. Morgan Asset & Wealth Management says, “Business executives, entrepreneurs, philanthropists and all clients in between will discover creative and inspiring stories from our list. While summer is a time to relax, it is also a time to recharge and revitalize our thinking. Great books are the perfect fuel.”
Inc. magazine cited several studies that found reading both fiction and non-fiction stimulates our brain in ways that help us:
- Empathize and hone our social skills so we can better understand and interact with others,
- Assess and adapt to our environment, by helping us understand and reflect on change,
- Boost creativity by making us more comfortable with ambiguity, which research found helps us think in exploratory, out-of-the-box ways.
There is something to be said for thinking out of the box. We need more of that to solve our problems and live more positively.
If you don’t have your own reading list, check out these interesting ones:
What books would you add to these summer reading lists?
Abby Marks Beale is the founder of Rev It Up Reading. If you’re daunted by all you have to read, there’s still time to upgrade your reading skills. Do check out her complimentary One Day Pass and learn new strategies to get up to speed with what you read.
by Barbara McNichol
Grammatically speaking, disagreements show up in writing constantly. Some sources including Associated Press (AP) style guide give the green light to using one disagreement: the plural pronoun “they” with a singular noun. A recent AP statement noted:
They, them, their … In stories about people who identify as neither male nor female or ask not to be referred to as he/she/him/her: Use the person’s name in place of a pronoun, or otherwise reword the sentence, whenever possible. If they/them/their use is essential, explain in the text that the person prefers a gender-neutral pronoun. Be sure that the phrasing does not imply more than one person …:
Grammarians ask why would this be necessary? Doesn’t correctness matter above all else—especially when easy fixes are available?
Consider these noun/pronoun disagreements and the ways to correct them:
Noun/pronoun use that doesn’t agree:
“We want the school board to do their job.”
Revised to create agreement:
“We want the school board to do its job.”
“We want school board members to do their jobs.”
Noun/pronoun use that doesn’t agree:
“Your reader can peruse your book at their leisure.”
Revised to make them agree:
“Your readers can peruse your book at their leisure.”
“Your reader can peruse your book at his or her leisure.”
To keep agreements in place, apply these suggestions:
- State the person’s name or write “This person ….” instead of a pronoun.
- If the gender is unknown, using “his or her” or “he or she” or “s/he” works fine.
- Change singular to plural in a sentence. However, if plural doesn’t cut it, alternate the use of “he” and “she” in a section when the subject changes. In a book I recently edited about raising a baby, the author applied this technique beautifully.
Do you agree or disagree with my conclusions? Please weigh in. Given our changing language, would you side with AP’s suggestion or my advice to put accuracy first in your writing? Share your opinion below.
Bonus: Request an explanatory Pronoun Use Chart so you can see at a glance which pronouns to use where in a sentence.
by Dee Dukehart (used with permission)
Spring’s the time for planting, nourishing and growing, and not just plants and vegetables.
When you present your ideas, knowledge, directions, or how to’s, plant your points into the readers’ minds with word pictures, and continue to nourish the points along the way. When you want to grow their learning, their future, and their well-being, use action verbs and descriptive information.
Describe your points with action verbs: verbs you can “see”: e.g., produce, generate, write, sell, achieve, deliver, etc. When possible, rid your spoken and written words of auxiliary verbs: e.g., is, was, has, had, have, etc. Use a strong, action verb in their place if you can.
- We had an increase in sales last quarter. OR Our sales increased by 14 percent last quarter.
- It was a great day for our team. OR We signed three new contracts today!
Which one gets you to “see” the action? Of course the second sentence.
How to Plant Word Pictures
Meetings get bogged down in minutia: a “quick” meeting can sometimes lag into hours. Make your meetings and presentations memorable with points that are worthy of everyone’s time. What seeds of information are you cultivating for them to reap personal and professional benefits?
What do you remember from last week’s meetings? What do you remember from a sales call? What do you remember from any training? When you want listeners to remember your points, plant word pictures in their minds.
How? Rid your writing of vague expressions such as these:
What pictures do you conjure up in your mind when you read those words? Can you “see” the concept of better? Understand? Soon? No. Information needs to show “color” like your garden, so nourish and feed it so you can “see” the knowledge blossom.
Consider These Variations
1) Instead of “better” use a statistic. “Your production escalates by x percent within a year when you use these tools.”
2) Your sales numbers were “satisfactory.” Instead: “Your sales numbers exceeded our goal by 65 widgets; let’s get to 100 by fourth quarter.”
3) “Understand?” Everyone understands differently. Instead: “You will recognize/identify your new time management skills by the extra hour in your day.”
4) “Improves.” By how much? By how many? By when? Instead: “Accomplish your goals in six fewer steps with this process.”
5) “Soon.” What date? What time? What quarter? Instead: “Get your initial draft to me by the end of the week. We expect to see our new product on the shelves in 45 days.”
Strive to plant a picture in your readers’ minds, then nourish your points with review and repetition. Your ideas, knowledge, products or services, and how-to’s will grow more fruit.
Here’s to your great harvest seasons of information.
Dee Dukehart is a marketing communications trainer who can be reached at 303-549-0045 or Dee@DeeDukehart.com
by Barbara McNichol
Have you heard that gestures, tone of voice, and facial expressions carry significantly more weight in communication than words? Being a wordsmith, I never bought into this belief, and I’m grateful and relieved it’s been busted. Words matter!
This video demonstrates why the oft-referenced Mehrabian study needs to be examined more accurately. A fun production to watch!
Conclusion: Of course, words matter–a lot. Learning how to use them effectively should never stop!
Share your thoughts about what makes communication successful below.
by Barbara McNichol
Ever wonder how to make your sentences less verbose and more direct?
Here’s a trick that works like magic: Change long nouns to short verbs.
Consider the differences in these three examples from a nonfiction manuscript I edited:
- “They remain in contradiction with themselves” vs. “They contradict themselves.”
- “He made an acknowledgment of her success” vs. “He acknowledged her success.”
- “We get closer to the implementation of leadership practices” vs. “We get closer to implementing leadership practices.”
Study these examples. They show how you can increase readability by turning a long-winded “heavy” phrase into an active “lively” verb. What clues do you look for? Nouns ending in “ion” and “ment.”
Whatever I’m editing, I’m using this “magic” trick dozens of times a day. What a difference this one technique can make! Try it for yourself.
Action: Identify “ion” and “ment” words in your writing, then rewrite them using a lively verb.
What techniques do you use to whack wordiness? Share them here.
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 Barbara McNichol
Did you celebrate National Grammar Day on March 4th? I think it needs to be celebrated all year ’round especially when it comes to business writing.
Here’s why using proper grammar is important:
“Grammar is credibility. If you’re not taking care of the small things, people assume you’re not taking care of the big things.” — Amanda Sturgill, associate professor of communications at Elon University
What’s the best way to recognize Grammar Day? Spend extra effort to make sure your sentences, whether spoken or written, are grammatically correct.
How do you know what’s correct? Let me direct you to my colleague Kathleen Watson’s new reference book, Grammar For People Who Hate Rules: Killer Tips From The Ruthless Editor.
This week only, Kathleen is offering it in ebook form for only 99 cents, downloadable on Amazon. This special offer expires at midnight on March 8, so act now!
You can order the paperback version at any time. It’s available at:
This is one resource I use often and highly recommend!
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.