Err on the side of simplicity.

There are a number of ways you can keep the look of your writing clean, and the most obvious, easy way is to eliminate unnecessary periods.

There are two ways to eliminate periods.

  1. When telling time. It is easier to comprehend, faster to type, and cleaner to use AM/PM when specifying time, as opposed to a.m./p.m. And if 5 AM is lots cleaner to the eye, it’s also so much quicker to comprehend and faster to type than 5 p.m. The advantage of using AM/PM is especially obvious when combined with other punctuation marks: Does the workshop last from 7 to 10 AM?; I need to leave at 10 AM!; rather than Does the workshop last from 7 to 10 a.m.?; I need to leave at 10 a.m.!;  As an editor, I like to keep things simple.

2. Use acronyms without periods. A good example is writing educational degrees, like PhD, MD, MBA, etc. Let’s face it: Ph.D. is heavy; PhD, not as much (though of course there is that up-and-down thing with the letters in PhD…). The advantage of PhD instead of Ph.D. is particularly obvious in the plural form (for example, PhDs and MBAs instead of Ph.D.’s and M.B.A.’s), since the “apostrophe-plus-s-forms-a-plural” structure that comes into play when you use an acronym with periods creates the exact same spelling of a singular possessive. And that, my friends, can cause confusion, so banish those periods with your acronyms!

So, keep it simple. Choose to eliminate extra periods by using AM/PM to designate time and acronyms without periods.

Boo to this “online reputation manager”

Same deal as the previous post about The Washington Post…same exact mistake.

Xxx.com is a reputation management company that is dedicated to using proven strategies to improve their clients’ reputation. They have recently launched their new website on Xxx.com.

Since when is a company a “they”?? A company “improves its clients’ reputations.” “It has recently launched its new website…”

Geez.

Kudos to The Washington Post

I was just reading the first couple of sentences in a Washington Post article by Ben Terris. The first sentence looked like this:

For half a century, the out-of-power party has used their response to the State of the Union address to capitalize on the dregs of audience left over from the president’s speech and mount their own aftershow.

There are two mistakes here. Well, the same mistake made twice. I called The Washington Post, got hold of Mr. Terris, and he readily acknowledged the mistakes, promising speedy correction.

What are the mistakes?

Is “Done better than perfect”?

Is “done” really better than “perfect”?

I was at a conference for professional speakers last weekend. The presenter was an accomplished speaker with serious chops. The kind of man who you really admire, someone who is a real role model. For speakers, at any rate, he’s a household name.

During this day-long event, one thing he kept repeating was that “Done is better than perfect.” Everyone was nodding his or her head in enthusiasm: Done is better than perfect. Sure, sure.

It reminded me of a friend of mine, someone who I respect and like, who told me a couple of weeks ago that he doesn’t worry too much about the last 20% of a project because “no one will really notice.” After all, he said, that last 20% can take as long to do as the first 80% did. And if no one is going to notice, well…

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: God is in the details. We all like to say that “The devil is in the details” for two reasons, I think. First, we enjoy the alliteration: devil, details. It’s fun to say. Then, I believe, those last few details are oftentimes the most difficult, time consuming, and, perhaps, frustrating part of any project. So why not spit on the devil, and not finish up? Why not spit on the devil, and not bother? Why not spit on the devil, and not do your best?

There’s a third factor at work here, with this attitude that perfection is unattainable, that striving is for suckers, and that’s the embrace by a large swath of Americans of the concept that “uneducated” somehow trumps “educated.” There are plenty of people who celebrate their lack of education, like it’s difficult to be illiterate. This rush towards the lowest common denominator—the easy way out, the cheap solution, short-term thinking—fuels sloppiness. Sloppy thinking, sloppy habits, sloppy writing.

The supposed “role model” speaker, even as he extolled the virtues of getting things “done” at the expense of the details, was passing around handouts that were littered with punctuation and grammar mistakes as well as several really, really, really obvious misspelled words.

He could have been a true role model for the highest standards; instead, he was a cheerleader for sloppiness.

Perfection is entirely possible. Shouldn’t we all “do our best”? Shouldn’t we all strive to set ourselves up as the authority in our various fields? Don’t we all want to inspire others to higher standards?

Why can’t we be “done” and “perfect”? Answer: we can!

Quality is obvious. Quality announces itself. Quality is recognizable. People aspire to quality. People emulate quality.

That’s God reaching down to us even as we reach up to Him.

So, when you see or hear someone saying that “done is better than perfect,” stop and reflect. Perfection is attainable. In the case of the man who wears the crown “World Champion of Public Speaking,” “perfection” in his handouts would have taken, oh, about five minutes longer than “done.” Perfection was five minutes away, yet he was too sloppy to keep going. As good as he was, he wasn’t good enough.

Why do anything unless you’re going to do it perfectly?

If not, what the fuck is the point? Really, if you aren’t striving to do your very best, if you aren’t reaching, stretching, yearning for the Almighty, why bother to breathe?

 

Open to suggestions!

Hi everyone!

I was looking at this famous speaker’s website, and on the page about his speaking, there’s a typo. It’s the all-to-common mistake, using everyday for every day.

I’ve talked about this before, but I’m continuing to see so many mistakes!

Everyday (one word) means commonplace, nothing special: This is my everyday dress.

Every day (two words) means, well, every day, like each day: This is happens every day.

If you say those two sentences out loud, you can hear the difference! (Helloooo, all you speakers out there!!)

So, here’s my question: Tell, or not tell? If I tell, how should I tell? I mean, this is a famous guy, a self-described “world-famous” author. Has done a million and one talks for Ted. He’s a Ted Talker.  Sorry, my humor. (Oh, I’m sure that’s not original, but, please remember, I don’t get out much.)

I’d like the outcome to be hired by this guy, and others like him. There are dozens of basic mistakes on his website. (How does this happen?) How can I approach him and not have him come unglued?

I’m open to suggestions.

 

Helloooo, NSA!

Well, what a hot diggity thrill it is to have an article published in Speaker magazine. (Fellow grammar geeks, that’s a lowercase “m” in “magazine”: It’s Speaker magazine, not Speaker Magazine, according to the magazine cover.)

My name is Liz Coursen. I live in Sarasota, Florida. I’m a very new member of the National Speakers Association, and I recommend membership to everyone—especially Toastmasters—who is interested in taking a hard look at the speaking business and wants to understand the level of professionalism necessary to be a professional speaker.

If there’s one truth about the NSA, it’s this: the speaking is thrilling. Thrill-ing. If you think public speaking is a contact sport, then the NSA is for you! I enjoy it so much that I drove three hours to Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday to hear Darren LaCroix, World Champion of Public Speaking, generously share his wisdom with the Florida Speakers Association. In addition to its membership, the chapter had at least a dozen guests witness the high level of presentation skills on display by everyone involved in this exemplary event. Speaking at NSA really sets the bar! So, welcome, NSA!

And, as a culinary aside, the Westin Ft. Lauderdale’s fresh and flavorful (and surprisingly healthy!) lunch buffet was the best meal I’ve had in association with an NSA event. Yum!

Hey, may I ask you a favor? While the speaking at NSA may set the bar, the writing I’ve seen would give an eighth grader pause. So would you please take a moment this week to look over your presentation materials? I bet you do handouts, and PowerPoints, and maybe even self-tests—I do self-tests in my editing classes. I’m going to ask you to recheck the spelling in your documents and double-check your use of punctuation and grammar. I’m seeing too many mistakes on promotional materials at the highest levels.

I’m just going to come out and say it: Don’t look illiterate. Look smart. Look like a smart person. Smart people publish perfect writing. Look like someone who cares about the details. I hope I won’t offend you when I say that God is in the details. I believe it. I’ve written about it. When we create—whether it is writing, speaking, singing, painting, or whatever creative activity you undertake—we reach up to the Divine. We strive for perfection. So there is no excuse for a misspelled word or words, especially at this level. Running your material through a spell-check program is the minimum action you can take on the path to good writing.

There are two requirements of good writing: it’s got to be correct and it’s got to be compelling. Let’s take “correct” first. (It should be first, because how can you “compel” anyone to take your lead, to follow your example, to listen to what you have to say unless you are “correct”?)

As a professional, everything you publish, no matter what the format, must be written to a professional level. That means it’s first and foremost correct. If you aren’t confident about your punctuation prowess, then have a competent person check it out. I’m not talking about your son’s girlfriend, who majored in English in college, I’m talking about an editor.

How much does this “correct” content cost? Well, it depends, of course, but it’s very affordable. I can tell you that I recently read four double-sided handouts from a very exciting speaker, and there were two misspelled words (each word too mangled to be deemed a “typo,” which anyone can (and does!) make), and a myriad of punctuation mistakes. Cost to fix? $45, but, with my hour minimum, $110. (Which means I could have probably reviewed and corrected a PowerPoint, or more marketing materials, or a website in addition to the four pages, for $110.)

If you are paying mega bucks for a speaking coach, then invest in correct written content! Why squander your investment in yourself by publishing incorrect content? Mistakes make you look untrustworthy. Can you afford to look untrustworthy? Because that’s what happens when presenters have handouts that are full of misspelled words and other mistakes.

Okay, so, first thing: correct content.

Second thing: compelling content. Stay tuned for that topic.

 

What editors read.

As it happens, most all of my pleasure reading has to do with the research I’m doing, am going to do, or want to do, so, not surprisingly, these titles are practical while being fun and challenging, if you know what I mean.

Here’s what is on my bedside table:

Race and the Atlanta Cotton States Exposition of 1895, by Theda Perdue

Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace, by Joseph M. Williams

Julius Rosenwald: Repairing the World, by Hasia Diner

Hungering for America: Italian, Irish, & Jewish Foodways in the Age of Migration, also by Hasia Diner

Speaker priorities: Hire an EDITOR before you hire a COACH!

I attended a very well-run meeting for speakers on Saturday. The meeting was well run, there was a ton of energy in the room, and the presenter had a wealth of valuable experience to share.

Over lunch, I heard a lot of buzz about coaching: coaching this and coaching that. Everyone, it seems, has at least one “coach,” and everyone, it seems, with a year’s worth of professional speaking experience is hanging out a shingle as a “coach.”

Okay, that’s all well and good. Lemme ask you a question, though: What’s the good of all this “coaching” if your promotional materials are full of punctuation and grammar mistakes, or—gasp—misspelled words?

I charge $110 an hour, and I can spot a typo at 50 paces. If I reviewed five or six double-sided handouts for you and found 15 punctuation/ grammar mistakes and two misspelled words in an hour-long review, would you feel that $110 was money well spent? Because, from where I’m sitting, when a presenter has multiple editing mistakes in his or her handouts (or PowerPoint, or website, or book, or whatever), it really calls into question that person’s credibility—I don’t care who you are or what you’ve done.

Basic mistakes mean—to me—that the presenter is not paying attention to details. And then, again to me, I wonder: If this person is so cavalier about what is given the audience, is he or she playing fast and loose with any data, details, or other pertinent information? In other words: What else can’t I trust?

I personally feel it’s time to raise the writing bar.  Writing is the flip side of speaking, and it’s all communication. Coaching is all well and good, but—please—pay attention to your marketing materials as well.

Damning with Faint Praise

Damning with Faint Praise: Positive (Not!) Prose

Are any of these phrases on your website? Do any of the feedbacks or testimonials on your site contain any of these phrases? Do you use any when describing your services, your products…yourself?

Most of the phrases below contain not one but two negative words: no, cannot, hesitation, doubt, hesitate, wrong, nothing, etc. It’s like a one-two punch, and, buddy, you’re down for the count.

The last negative phrase, “You can’t go wrong,” I just this second pulled off an internationally known speaker’s website (believe me, if I said her name, you’d know her!).

Be positive, and don’t damn yourself or others with faint praise. Take a look:

I have no hesitation in recommending…

We cannot recommend her more highly…

I have no doubt…

I don’t doubt…

I wouldn’t hesitate to…

I have nothing less than…

I can’t say enough…

You won’t be disappointed…

You can’t go wrong…

Other negative phrases:

No exception

My services aren’t expensive

Never fails

 BETTER:

I heartily endorse

I wholeheartedly support

I enthusiastically recommend

See the difference?

 

 

 

Hello, Word Press???

Hey, before I’d comment on an SEO score, I’d make darn good and sure my sentences were correct! These are all run-on sentences, which is such a juvenile mistakes that it blows my mind.

A friend of mine told me that the “sweet spot” for SEO writing is 8th grade; in other words, we should all be writing to an 8th-grade level.

Ain’t no way that’s gonna happen!

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