Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Writing Dialog? Take a gander at this dialect tool

Here's a little secret I don't tell often: I love writing dialog.

Unfortunately, on a "typical" day as freelance commercial writer, writing dialog could be construed as "wasting time." So I was delighted (if you must know, I squealed) when I happened upon this little ditty on US dialects, broken down by state.

I was researching the history of the US furniture industry at the time.

That's right. My life really is a non-stop glam-fest.

Anyway, for you creative writers out there, follow these directions to the dialect survey:


Monday, February 25, 2013

Don't Be Blah, Blog Well

Sure, anyone can blog. And if you're in business, you should. But you don't want to just do it. (Sorry, Nike.) You want to do it well.

A good blog is like a good friend. It calls from time to time, with news, a joke, a timely reminder. Occasionally sends a picture of someone you knew in high school or asks, "what did you think of that Glee episode with all the Whitney Houston songs?" A really good friend (or blog) will sometimes even pop by with a job tip for you.

The thing is, if your friend doesn't call, doesn't answer your emails, or just sort of forgets about you, you'll probably move on.

So will your customers, if your company blog becomes a piece of internet history, or just plain irrelevant. Don't let that happen to your blog.

What should your blog say? Who should say it? and What's the point? 

You should ask these questions before you start blogging. There's more than one right answer to each question, but you have to make sure you have answers, and that your answers make sense for you and your strategic business plan.

What should your blog say?
Well, honestly, only you can answer that. Make sure it's relevant TO YOUR READERS. That's the best advice I can give you. Bonus tip: pay attention to how I formatted that. I very, very rarely type using all caps, and even rarer still are they bold, italicized, and underlined. Hint, hint.

More good advice falls under the heading, "Don't write BS."

Who should say it?
Anyone can blog. But if your company president/CEO wants to put his/her face on the blog, you gotta ask: how often will it be updated? Maybe you should consider a ghost blogger to help keep things fresh. 

What's the point? 
The point of blogging is baiting, at least in the commercial world. Take Marcia Yudkin's advice so your bait doesn't swim away and land on somebody else's hook. Make sure your strategy includes an easy way for your prospect to get something helpful from you (for free - infographics are nice, for example) as long as that something is clearly copyrighted (by you!) and then, follow-up. Check regularly to make sure your bait (white papers, tips and trends articles, whatever you're offering for the price of an email address/contact name) isn't trolling for customers behind someone else's ship.

Last summer, the Social Media Examiner published a fairly detailed look at how to bring more eyeballs to your blog.  More to it than you thought? That's one of the primary reasons why savvy companies hire professionals to manage their blogs

Blogs are so easy to create, it's ridiculous. I wonder how many poor, unwanted blogs are out there, abandoned in the ether? Too many. And worse - at least, I think it's worse - are that many great blogs are horribly neglected. You know, you get all excited reading a few good entries and then...the dust starts to build up. Pretty soon it's just another moldy blog. Please, don't be that guy.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Writing Contests! Somebody has to win...

...and it might as well be YOU, right?

From food and love (is that redundant?) to health, fingernails, and cleaning products, About guide Sandra Graushopf  keeps her list of writing contests current.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Business Professionals Know When to Quit

This is personal. It's about Very Important people who work on Very Important projects and assume that because they're working now, you should be too. Anyone come to mind? Someone who, say, demands a colleague's feedback at 8pm on a Powerpoint presentation that he finished at 5:30pm?

I understand the "rules" of business engagement have changed now that we all carry cell phones and can reach business associates 24/7. My opinion: because we can does not mean that we should.

While employment case law from California to Connecticut is piling up, I suspect it will be several years before the courts arrive at a standard of compensation for FLSA-exempt and non-exempt employees who are expected to make or take calls outside of "regular" business hours. (Although Brazil beat the US to it, chances are one good class-action suit will speed things up here in the states.) In the meantime, I propose a little good old-fashioned common sense.
1. Try to remember that a paycheck rewards an employee for a job. It does not actually buy the employee. In other words, in every 24-hour period, there should be at least 12 hours when the employee is free of work. Including the projects the VP of Self-Importance is working on.

2. Don't underestimate the power of passive-aggressive behavior. If you are demanding and expect colleagues to drop everything for you and your oh-so important project, don't be surprised if their cooperation drops off and business recommendations are not forthcoming.

3. Read the obituaries. Notice that people die daily. If you want your colleagues to attend your funeral and say nice thing about you one day when it's your turn, perhaps you should reconsider the importance of that Powerpoint presentation.
Call me crazy: I like to think we've evolved to the point that a person can have a job, a cell phone, and a life.


What got me started? A demanding customer who called our home phone after leaving a voicemail on the work cell phone, which was turned off. (Hint, hint.) Said customer was not only Very Important, he was obviously Special. In his own estimation. This is why I practice Jedi mind tricks in my spare time. I do hope he calls again. I could use some more practice.

Word Geek Week

The more you read the more your vocabulary grows, or so the saying goes. I believe that, so much so that when I don't feel challenged or stretched by a book vocabularily (no, that really isn't a word - is it?!) frankly, I'm a bit disappointed. In fact, Swimming Home was disappointing to me in that regard - among others.

My disappointment drove me to go back to list I've made (haphazardly) over the years, of words I've learned or re-learned, thanks to some the books I've read.

From Iran Awakening  there was restive and foment (and a dozen others, at least).

How Soccer Explains the World prompted me to look up obeisance, pogrom (a riot-like fight/Russian origin)  picaresque, inveigh (speak of in a hostile way, I think) counter-hegemony, legerdemain, and soi-disant. 

I'm sure I learned a few from the The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,
but - well,  did I mention the list was haphazard? That's about as far as I got. 

What about you? Ever find yourself looking up new words as you read? Tell me about it

Monday, February 18, 2013

G, Are You Promoting Yourself?

If you're not using your Google+ signature to link together all your articles and other written material, it's time to start.

In fact, it's past time. Not quite Google+-literate enough to figure it out?

My friend Audrey provided easy-to-follow instructions in a short and sweet blog post last month. Follow her advice, and soon all of your work will be found all over.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Valentine Rhyme Time?

Written any good poetry lately?   How ‘bout bad poetry?  I love Magpo. It's not likely to help you write the world's most romantic sonnet, but it can help you get some thoughts down on paper. Or at least on your refrigerator.
On a rhyming roll? Visit The Poem Factory for current contests, chapbook opportunities, and more to fuel your creative endeavors. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

7 Signs You're a Word Geek

7. You know that the OED has an appeals process.
6. You know that OED is not an acronym for a health condition or trade association.
5. When someone describes you as "verbose," you know it's not intended as a compliment, but may question whether the user knows that.
4. When you realize you don't know the difference between optimal and optimum, finding out becomes your most urgent task.
3. Admit it. You're miffed that there aren't more headlines like this and hate that more people read articles like this.
2. In a potential mate, no amount of physical attraction can overcome a poor vocabulary.
1. While you read this, you came up with 7 more.


(Bonus for copyeditors: you knew what to do with hashtags WAY before Twitter did.)