SEVEN WAYS TO SHARPEN A SENTENCE

By Nancy Lovell

“Be bold.  Be brief.  Be concise.”  E.B. White

Use your sentence’s two strongest places:  at the end (primary emphasis) and the beginning (secondary).  Softer ideas go in the middle.

Note: Think three times before wasting your beginning with  “It is” or “There are.”

Correct:  Although there are various reasons for paralysis such as injury, virus, or stroke, the message the body is giving is much the same.
Better:  Paralysis has multiple causes—paralysis, virus, or injury, for example— but in every case the body’s message is the same.

Correct:  There is no list on the page other than who brings coffee.
Better:  Beyond who brought the coffee, the page has no lists.

Lose the qualifiers . . .   really, very, pretty, quite, hugely.  The right word needs no gilding.  (From “How to Speak, How to Listen”: harness the power of understatement.  When you overstate, gush, exaggerate, hyperbolize . . . people mentally discredit your claims.)  Also, specifics lend credibility.  (“Specificity is the soul of credibility.” Peggy Noonan)

Correct:  We drove by this really big house.
Better:   We passed a two-story Georgian McMansion.

. . . and be concrete.  (“The surest way to arouse and hold the reader’s attention is to be specific, definite, and concrete.” E.B. White)
Correct:  I can’t do my work very well because my husband got sick and I can’t concentrate.
Better:  Since my husband’s heart attack last week, the computer keyboard blurs and the screen is a blank wall.

Avoid passive voice.
(E.B. White:  “The habitual use of the active voice makes for forceful writing.”)

Correct:     Their first visit to Boston will always be remembered by them.
Better:     They’ll always remember their first trip to Boston.
(A guideline about contractions: use them.)

Correct:    At dawn the crowing of a rooster could be heard.
Better:    The cock’s crow came at dawn.

Correct:    The reason he left college is that his health was failing.
Better:    Failing health forced him to leave college.

Use strong verbs.  Collect good verbs and keep them handy.  Shoot for single-syllable and go from there:  skip (pass right by), bolt (leave in a hurry), spike (shoot up quickly), unravel, diffuse, stir.  As you review and edit, look for “buried” verbs, especially those ending in -tion.  When you find one, uncover the root verb.  Examples:

Correct:      Mary Smith had obtained the school’s authorization to dance with the stars.
Better:        The school had cleared Mary Smith to dance with the stars.

Correct:    Anna felt she had an obligation friend Sue on Face Book.
Better:        Anna felt obliged to friend Sue on Face Book.

Correct:    Luciano was told by Clara that he had given a beautiful performance.
Better:        Clara told Luciano he had performed beautifully.

State the negative as a positive:
(E.B. White:  “Consciously or unconsciously the reader is dissatisfied with being told only what is not; the reader wishes to be told what is.”)

I don’t have any:  I have no . . . I’m missing . . .
She didn’t ski very often: She seldom skied
He didn’t have any idea where to go next:  He had no idea . . .he was lost

In every case, aim for short, strong words.  One-syllable words have punch.  In the same vein, avoid jargon, pretense, business-ese—any show-off words that alienate your reader.

Correct:  “I believe this book is unique in its content,” Getz said. “The 1,500 principles are situated in a life-affirming presentation, adjacent to the ideas that were their inspiration, each featuring a question designed in a way to help the reader apply them wherever they are in life or location. Then, each principle may be transitioned by QR code to online resources to take the application even deeper.”

Better:  “This book is one-of-a-kind,” Getz said. “Each of its 1,500 principles appears next to the text that inspired it.  Next to that, a question helps the reader apply that idea to his or her own life. After that, the real treat: each principle links by QR code to an online video lecture—taking that life principle that much deeper.”

Life Relation Each principle is stated such that readers can relate to their lives and understand how the principles should be applied.

User Friendly Each principle helps readers relate it to their lives and understand how to apply it.

Practical Each principle clearly relates to real people and applies to real lives.

Paula LaRoque challenges journalists to rewrite their lead paragraphs using only one-syllable words.

TEN STYLE TIPS

1.    Words in transition.
Impact – only two things legitimately are “impacted”:  teeth and bowels.
Hopefully – means “in a hopeful manner.”  it is hoped.  Let’s hope.
Awesome – if you use it to describe a salad, what do you have left for God?  (Avoid word inflation.)

2.    Words often confused and misused:
Anxious/Eager – right words are a pleasure
Infer/Imply
Hardly/not hardly
Bad/Badly
Use/Utilize
Less/Fewer

3.    Who and Whom
Mike is who we hope will win.  (We hope HE will win.)
Mike is whom we’re voting for. (We’re voting for HIM.)

4.    That and Which:  Which always follows a comma; that does not.

5.    Salutations and commas:
Hello, Dolly.   Hi, Mary.   Hey, Sam.   Thanks, Dad.   No, Frank, I missed it.
Go, team!

6.    Show confidence:
No need to preface a statement with: “I believe” and “I think.”   If you’re writing it, you think it. Lose insecure, irresolute use of words such as would, might, may.

7.    Including, for example, for instance – and etc., and others.  “Includes” means the list is NOT exhaustive, that it IS a sample.  So to say, the list includes A, B, C, etc., is redundant.

8.    NONE is singular.  None of us IS perfect.  None of the horses was there.

9.    However. “However” should not start a sentence; plant it inside.  “She sat on the front row.  The rule, however, was for girls to move back.”

10.    Because.  No comma before the word “because.”  Commander Perry failed to reach the Antarctic in by May because the ship was frozen in port.

About Nancy Lovell

Nancy Lovell is a partner in Lovell-Fairchild Communications, a PR and marketing firm.  For 12 years she was on her own, a freelancer writing “anything I could follow up with an invoice”–brochures, scripts, editorials, article.  And before that with Tracy-Locke, a Dallas-based ad agency.  In college she majored in advertising/PR and got a minor in English because one of the courses was on “Jane Eyre,” which she’d already read six times.

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How to copyright your work

From Legalzoom.com:
How to copyright your work

When you write a blog post, you instantly create a copyrighted work. According to the U.S. Copyright Office, your original work receives copyright protection “the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.” In other words—you wrote it, you own it. This also applies to photographs and images—once a photograph that you took or image you created is fixed in a tangible medium, the copyright is yours instantly—no registration necessary, and no little © required.

However, there is one big “but”—if you want to sue someone in federal court for copyright infringement, your work must first be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.

So you want to do a trade show?

By Anna Brindley

It has been suggested to me over and over to do a trade show. I just couldn’t justify all the costs involved, long days of working the booth, and the time I would need to put into preparations – until now.  My head is still spinning as I sift through information overload from last week’s four-day Home and Gift Market show in Dallas.
I did a lot of things wrong—and a few things right but I feel: like having children–you just can’t  know what is like until you do it for yourself. I am sure there are even more insights to come, but for now here are some tidbits from my experience.
In November, in the sort of creative rush that you can’t ignore, I had an idea for a beautiful line of baby blankets. Anxious to get it to market, I rushed the process.  The good news is that now I know I can bring a quality product from conception to reality in two months flat, a shorter development cycle than I had ever before experienced. The not-so-great news, yet valuable lesson, is that now I realize there are other critical parts of brand development that cannot be rushed.  Here are a few things of the things that I’ve learned:
-The cost of the trade show booth may have been worth the leads I gained and networking from the show, I wasn’t able to recoup it immediately on sales as I had hoped.  It turns out that retailers want to see you there for three seasons before they trust that your company will be around long enough to fill their orders. This is not true in all cases but the sluggish economy is making this more of a constant.
-Prices of booths can be negotiable. I might have paid less for the space I got had I known to bargain.
-There are such things as dead zones. Look at a floor layout plan and try to determine where the high traffic areas will be. Is there a Starbucks close, for example?
-Walk the market that you hope to show in. I had represented a line before in apparel, so I thought I had enough experience – but this show was entirely different.
-When you do get visitors in your booth, get their business card. Follow up is a big part of the process of selling.
-A contact list of buyers is part of the package you purchase. If you allow enough lead time (in other words–don’t rush) you can actually call or write to invite prospects to come see what is new!
-Talk to reps. Talking to reps ahead of time is a good way to see what is available in the market place and at what price point. Even though the internet is good for that, seeing first hand at the market is invaluable.
-Simple, cost effective booth designs can still make an impact. Spending more money doesn’t mean it is somehow better. A really simple design for a booth that I saw won the award for best booth design.
Should you have any tips to share…please do.

What’s purpose got to do with it?

By Anna M Clark

Interesting factoid in publishing: one of the best-selling non-fiction books ever written is  Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. It has sold 30 million copies since it came out in 2002.   Success of any given book is contingent upon many variables, but one of the most important is whether the book addresses a “felt need.”  If Warren’s book is any indicator, purpose is a need that people are absolutely responding to – even more than the need to make money.  Case in point: Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grown Rich has also sold 30 million copies – since 1937.  “Purpose” has attracted as many people in 8 YEARS as “get rich” has in almost 80.

This little bit of trivia landed on my radar about 8 months ago while gearing up for the launch of my book Green, American Style.  Searching for the secret to turning out a bestseller (what else can I say?), I bought  Purpose Driven Life. I can’t believe how simple the message is (though admittedly not easy).  While Warren’s book communicates a sound message, I’m not crazy about his churchy, goody-goody style.

On the other hand we have Think and Grow Rich.  This is a great book. I love how it uses real-world/historical examples as well as insights into the psychology of motivation. My only issue with this book is that its main objective is to teach the reader how to make money.  Certainly not a bad thing in itself.  But from my experience, chasing monetary reward can sap my energy and push me away from activities that fuel my sense of fulfillment.

So what about a book that mixes the best of both worlds?  I don’t mean a preachy book about why God wants us to grow rich.  I mean a smart, insightful, and practical book about how to gain richness in life by achieving our God-given purpose.  If you are still with me here, then you now know the topic of my new project.

I started my company EarthPeople because I believe that when you change the way people think, they can become capable, enthusiastic catalysts for a fairer, more just society.  I believe that people are a renewable resource. Empowering others is my personal way of unleashing a source of clean, abundant energy to feed the world’s needs.  In pursuit of said goal, I work in renewable energy both literally (brand consulting for clean energy companies) and figuratively (motivating people to contribute their gifts for a better world). I uncovered this dual PURPOSE, unique only to me, five years ago.  I set out to pursue both the branding and training part of the work, but somehow the branding stuff took over (because people actually wanted to pay me to do it).  As a result, for the past several years I’ve spent more time wordsmithing than world-changing. You might say I’ve been so busy protecting the trees that I’ve lost sight of the forest.

When we lose sight of our purpose (or even half of it), work becomes stale.  When work becomes stale, we stop being good at it.  When we stop being good at what we do, we stop wanting to do it altogether.  (For this reason, I’ll be focusing more on training again).  This is something that all entrepreneurs face. Naturally optimistic and passionate, we may have an easier time of pursuing our purpose than some other personality types. Then again, being ambitious, driven, and capitalistic, we also have an easier time of losing our purpose if it isn’t directly tied to our immediate income. As we manipulate our businesses to maximize dollars, the reason for which we start the can get pushed aside.

Of course, losing sight of the higher purpose also happens with doctors and lawyers, as well as frustrated teachers and clergy.  Nobody is immune.  The thing to do when you feel it happening is to correct the course as soon as you discover the problem.   I’ve got my own ideas for how to do this but until I solidify them, I’m keeping the experiment open. (Amazingly, only a week after I made this decision, I signed a new client for a project focused exclusively on training and behavioral change!)

Ironically, for all my initial judgments about it, Rick Warren’s book really does have a lot of great material to say on the subject of purpose.  Who knew?  Some of us just have to learn things the hard way!

It’s all about you

By Anna Brindley
Well, sort of.

Recently, Victoria of Ladies Who Launch wrote a post “Telling Your Story”.  After reading it, I remembered how I always had the most success selling my products when I was face-to-face, telling my story.

So when my friend Anna (co-founder of Think Tank Society) asked me to help her prep for a speaking engagement on her book Green, American Style, she presented me with her talking points. About half way through the conversation, I stopped her.  “I think you just need to tell your story,” I told her.  She paused and said, “Really?” “Yes,” I said, really!”

Since she hadn’t told it in awhile, she wasn’t even sure which part was the most interesting.  “Just be yourself,” I told her.  We worked on weaving her story into her outline, making sure to include the “who, what, why and how” while emphasizing her key points. When the day came, she opened up and let her story speak for her product. And wouldn’t you know it, after the presentation, the group lined up to buy her book.  “It works!” she told me on the phone afterwards.

For tips on how to tell your story, read Victoria’s post http://www.ladieswholaunch.com/magazine/victorias-launchtip-34/12109

Lessons from TLC’s “Millionaire Mom”

By Anna Brindley

Shows about entrepreneurs always catch my attention. Since I have a friend and mentor on an upcoming episode of “Millionaire Mom” on TLC, coming up, I’m especially interested in this season’s episodes.

Thanks to DVR technology, I am actually able to watch this show – once the children are snug in their beds, of course. The first episode covered women who have products in the beauty category. It was nerve-racking to watch because I truly want all of the gals to win.   I get nervous for each of them as they participate in their contests.

In the premiere episode, each one of the contestants had excellent products. I suspect that was the “price of admission” – a basic requirement in the casting. But when it came down to the final two women, who were competing for the chance to partner with HSN, I could tell they earned the opportunity in large part to their ultra-refined pitches. When everything else is equal, and the judges are impressed with all products, it’s how well you articulate your purpose that makes the difference. In the end, Presentation is Everything.

So how did it end?  Out of all the contestants, down to the last contest between the final two, the best presenter is the one who won.  Amongst all the sellable products emerged a single individual who was able to sell herself.  This is a lesson I have had to learn over and over.

Even when I was in the food and beverage industry (granted, as a a waitress and a bartender, but a very experienced one!) I remember that concept being drilled in repeatedly. A customer will eat or drink with his or her eyes first. If you served a drink where the whipped cream was perfectly swirled and the cherry perfectly placed on top in a sparkling glass, the customer would “like” the drink even if the taste was unexceptional.  Why? Presentation is Everything.

It is a good lesson to practice, practice and practice your pitch some more. Even though the show makes me want to squirm, the lessons are there for the taking.  Tune in on TLC Friday nights. http://tlc.discovery.com/tv/homemade-millionaire/

When “No” means opportunity

by Anna Brindley

Hearing no or seeing no in an e-mail can feel like a kick in the gut. Not only can it cause physical pain, it makes you want to crawl in a hole and stay there. Doesn’t this person see how special I am? Don’t they know how hard I’ve worked?  Don’t they have a clue that I’m doing all this on a shoestring with some extreme limitations? Can’t they appreciate how creative I am?

It takes everything I have to pull myself up by my boot straps and ask for an opportunity.  And nothing makes me want to quit quite like hearing no. It is humbling to ask for feedback, but I’ve found that learning why something didn’t work can be a key step in moving forward.

Recently when I approached a big retailer and got a no, I gulped and called the buyer back. “Can I have a few minutes of your time?”  I found out was that their buying requirements limit them to vendors that offer complete collections. In other words, I needed to show them more products that would merchandise well together on the floor. Asking the question gave me some great information about this retailer.  It also leaves the door open to try again in the future. “If it’s okay with you,” I told her, “next season I may be coming back with a full line.” The buyer said, “Sure, pitch again.”  Just like that, the “no” turned into a “maybe.”  Not a bad use of 10 minutes on the phone.

Bouncing back from a “no” can be difficult, but learning to pick myself up quickly has helped me develop the mettle I need to persevere.  If you happen to be licking wounds of your own as you read this, I’ll leave you with this: quit b*tching and start pitching.  Start by calling anyone who has told you “No” lately.  You may not close the deal, but at the very least you could open the door to a relationship.