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How to edit your own writing

Here’s a good reference book, described as “the essential guide to prose revision” …

Line by Line: How to Edit Your Own Writing

The front cover reads: “The one book that shows you how to make what you say as good as what you mean” – all written with one-syllable words.

It’s an excellent learning tool for any writer who wants to get better.

Author: Claire Kehrwald Cook

Copyright: Modern Language Association of America

Joan’s tech tips: Communicate their way

Good communication is not about what you want to say.

Good communication is about what the other person wants/needs to hear. More important, it’s how the other person wants/needs to hear from you.

You’ll be more successful when your communication styles match.

Examples:

If someone emails you to request information, email the information. Don’t waste their time by interrupting their day with a phone call. They don’t want a call. They want an email with the necessary info.

If someone phones and asks you to call back, call back … unless you want to send a clear signal that you wish to limit the interaction.  Quite often, limiting interaction is the wise communication choice. If that’s the case, reply with a short courteous email (it will save your time – and theirs). Or, when necessary, simply don’t respond. They’ll get the message.

If someone texts you and requires an immediate response, then text back prompty. Absolutely do not bother them with a phone call.

Summary: Do not bother people with unrequested, or unnecessary, or unwanted phone calls. There’s a reason people choose to text or email you. Pretty much, that reason is: “I don’t want to waste time. Let’s keep this short.”

It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It by Joan Detz

“Fresh advice … keen insights … short, memorable lessons. A pithy manual … an excellent tool.” (Publishers Weekly)

Joan’s Tech Tips: An occasional series of quirky tips for anyone who has to communicate

Writers write

Quote from poet Donna Hilbert:

“One of the most annoying questions I field from non-writers is ‘Are you still writing?’ Might as well ask if I’m still breathing.”

Writers write. That’s what we do. And many of us pretty much want to do it forever.

It’s who we are.

Do not bother people on Mondays

Joan’s Tech Tips: an occasional series of quirky tips for anyone who has to communicate

Mondays are not a good day to bother people. Monday mornings are the worst. People feel overwhelmed with the tasks already in front of them. Many wonder how they’ll manage the week’s deadlines. Some wonder how they’ll make it through the day.

It doesn’t  matter what technology you use to communicate – the “Avoid-Monday-hassles” principle stays the same. Before you reach out to colleagues with a text, an email, a tweet, a request, a demand, a long report, a phone call, an impromptu “drop by”, or a paper airplane with coded messaging, think. Ask yourself, “Does this person want/need this message [read: “intrusion”] right now? Could it wait a few hours? Would I get a better response if I waited until tomorrow?” The answer is probably yes.

Whatever you do, don’t initiate networking suggestions on a rushed Monday morning. (“Hi, I’m looking for a job in your field, and I thought it might be great to get together for coffee an hour  this week.”) Bad timing. Don’t initiate philanthropy requests on Monday morning. Bad timing. Don’t ask someone to make a two-year commitment to chair a big committee on a Monday morning. Bad timing.

What works best on a Monday? A short bit of one-way communication (text, email, vmail) that gives the recipient some good news and doesn’t require a lengthy reply.  Acceptable examples: Your proposal  was accepted … Your grant has been approved … Your new desk will arrive on Thursday … Your department will get a summer Friday schedule, with work ending at 1pm.

Communication works better when you think about the other person’s needs/wants. Timing matters.

Joan’s tech tips: Don’t introduce a speaker by reading from your phone

Perhaps you’ve seen people introduce speakers by reading from their phones. Perhaps you think it might be okay for you to do, as well.

It isn’t okay. It isn’t okay at all.

I’ve seen phone-readers lose their place, scroll nervously, mispronounce names, fumble with phrasing, bend their head down to see the screen, squint to read the small type, forfeit all eye contact, miss what’s going on in the room.

Audiences don’t like any of this.

Phone-reading might be easy, it might be fast. But it isn’t okay.

Your audiences deserve better. So does your speaker.

An occasional series of quirky tech tips for writers, speakers, teachers, entrepreneurs, execs … and pretty much anybody who has to communicate for a living (which is to say, almost all of us)

Can You Say a Few Words? by Joan Detz

Includes: How to introduce a speaker

Joan’s tech tips

An occasional series of quirky tech tips for writers, speakers, teachers, entrepreneurs, execs … and pretty much anybody who has to communicate for a living (which is to say, almost all of us)

This, from author Anne Lamott:

“Almost anything will work better if you unplug it for a few moments … including you.”

Consider this a reminder to unplug yourself sometime today. Even a few minutes without sitting in front of a screen or squinting down at your cell will refresh you. (Honestly, do you have any idea how much a bent neck can hurt posture?)

PS … Anne Lamott is one of my favorite writers. I buy all her books. Read one sometime.

The best communication advice anyone ever gave me

More than a decade ago, I did a presentation on public speaking for Columbia Women in Business – a club for graduate students at Columbia Business School. With more than 400 members, CWiB is one of the largest organizations on Columbia’s campus.

My presentation went well.

Afterwards, an attendee came up to thank me for the communication tips I offered. Then she added: “I’d like to return the favor by giving you a tip of my own.”

Here’s a summary of the insights she shared with me:

Women who change their opinions on a topic often face a unique blow back. Whether in business or politics or medicine or education, women are likely to get public criticism when they change their views.

Maybe they supported something 5 years ago, but they don’t support it now. They get labeled “flip-flop” or “indecisive” or “wishy-washy”. And what do they do? They often respond with apologies. “I’m sorry. I regret that choice” or “I’m sorry. I wish I’d made another decision.”

Apologies have their place – absolutely. But many women apologize way too often.

Better?

If criticized for changing your position, consider this simple honest statement: “New information presented itself.”

When new information presents itself, wise people listen. Wise people keep learning.

When new data shows a better way forward, wise people make fresh decisions.

“New information presented itself.” Memorize this short statement. You’ll convey truth and confidence – in just four words.

Gratitude to the wise audience member who shared  this with me…

Reading a lot over the holidays? Do some meaningful networking

If you’re reading a terrific article or book, why not follow that writer on Twitter, or connect with that author via LinkedIn?

It’s a great way to let writers know you appreciate their work. And it’s a great way to build your own writing network.

Remember: Creative networking on social media isn’t about getting loads of followers or scoring high numbers of connections. Creative networking thrives when you build meaningful bonds.

Think “meeting talented writers” … not “getting my numbers up”.

I’ve met terrific writers this way. Try it.

My LinkedIn profile has never included the word “resilience.” I plan to add it now.

On June 22, my condo was destroyed by a building fire. My salvageable belongings were boxed into storage, and I moved into temporary housing. I remain in temporary housing.

That’s the short story.

The long story is that it’s been an eye-opener – and not a good eye-opener, I might add.

The disaster was started by a kitchen fire on a floor above me. Word went out, a cardboard pizza box had been placed on a stovetop. The rest is history.

A long, expensive, stressful, time-consuming, and frustrating history.

Resilience gets me through. Resilience – and a fair bit of stubbornness, I think.

I stood on the sidewalk, taking videos as I watched the smoke pour out. I thought my heart might break as I watched the scene unfold, but that did not stop me from documenting the scene.

As soon as firefighters let me back into my condo, I took videos of water streaming down the walls … photographed the buckled ceilings … recorded the sound of water raining from vents into buckets (honestly, when I closed my eyes, it sounded like a bucolic waterfall in some pleasant woods somewhere – except it wasn’t).

Disaster crews put an abatement process in place, knocking down walls to dry out the space. Much of my office was dumped into black garbage bags.

I’m monitoring the rebuild process. Smooth, it is not.

If you know me well (and many of you do), then you already know how the writer in me would research every stinking detail of the building fire that made my condo unlivable and turned my whole life upside down.

In the months since I was displaced from my home, I’ve researched residential fires. I’ve talked with insurance agents, real estate agents, fire fighters, safety professionals, public adjusters, physicians, and – most enlightening – other victims of residential fires.

Here’s what I’ve learned: Fires happen a lot. They happen far more than you might imagine.

Also, they’re pretty much needless. They never should have happened at all.

True, you’ll hear the occasional dramatic story about a lightning strike, but the culprits are more often mundane: smoking in bed, toasters gone awry, driers gone haywire. And, yes, insurance adjusters know all about pizza box stove fires.

Here’s what I want you to know about fires: They happen fast and move even faster. If you value your life, your family, your pets, your financial records, your medical records [go ahead, just try reconstructing your whole medical history!], your college memorabilia, your books, your grandmother’s portrait, the latest draft of your great American novel … you need a plan.

If you’re self-employed, you REALLY need to think about the consequences of a fire. Your livelihood depends on it.

  • Review your insurance and see if you need to upgrade your coverage.
  • Get referrals from friends/neighbors/relatives who needed to use their fire insurance. What advice can they give you?
  • Keep important documents in a safe. Buy multiple safes.
  • Organize client files. Keep them handy in case of a quick exit.
  • Backup. Backup.
  • And ask yourself, “If I lost my home to fire tomorrow, where EXACTLY would I go to live/work?” The time to identify options for good temporary housing is now – not when you’re forced to. It took me several tries until I could find a solution that worked.

Final thought:

My previous blog post talked about the injuries I sustained from a hit/run driver back in November 2017. At the time, many of you wrote to express your concern and to send good wishes. Thank you so much. Your caring words meant a lot. I am making a recovery, but the hit/run injuries were serious and still present complications.

Combine the November 2017 hit/run crash with the June 2018 building fire, and it’s accurate to say: Within the past year, I’ve paid a terrible price for actions that were entirely outside my control.

Resilience keeps me moving forward.

Writers must write, and speakers must speak. I’m taking a lot of notes, and I intend to do both.

How to train your boss about communications

Mentoring Up: Training Your Boss About Communications Without Alienating Him or Her

NAGC President,  Kathryn Stokes November 15, 2017, 1:00-2:00 p.m. Eastern

Government agencies are rife with political appointees who are put in their positions for a lot of reasons, none of which include their ability to communicate. Often, they have no idea what their new agency does or why. It is up to us as the professional government communicators in our organizations to remedy this situation.

In “Mentoring Up,” NAGC President Kathryn Stokes uses her thirty-plus years of experience, most in the private sector, to show government communicators her tips for “handling” new appointees (without seeming to handle them).

Over her ten years in government service, she has used these techniques to move projects from idea to fruition, gaining the respect and trust of her agency leadership along the way. Kathryn will share discreet ways to not only educate a new leader but to gain her or his confidence. She’ll give us ideas for dealing with folks who feel they do not need help and pass on her own best practices for moving mountains—a little at a time.

Register Now for “Mentoring Up,” Wednesday, November 15.

If you have a question about an upcoming webinar, contact NAGC Headquarters at (703) 538-1787 or info@nagc.com.

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