PUBLISH & FLOURISH.

 


How to boost Visibility and Earnings

 through a Publishing Strategy.

 


                                                                                      By: Garry Schaeffer

                                                                                      & Dr. Tony Alessandra


* * * * * * * * * *



INTRODUCTION


YOU WERE NOT BORN KNOWING HOW TO GIVE BUSINESS ADVICE, DELIVER A KEYNOTE SPEECH, OR CONDUCT A

 TRAINING SEMINAR. WRITERS ARE NOT BORN KNOWING

 HOW TO EXPRESS THEMSELVES CLEARLY OR WITH PIZZAZZ.


You have probably achieved the formidable goal of being able to give a damn good presentation, so there is no reason that you cannot learn to write---—unless you let your fears get in the way.


Being a consultant, professional speaker, or trainer gives you a marked advantage. You have already overcome the fear of presenting your thoughts for public consumption or speaking in front of a group . Now you can overcome your fear of writing, but first you have to learn how.


Fear is an emotion of anticipation. You look at the future and imagine a bad scenario. Unfounded fears, especially the general fear of failure, cause you to freeze or give your work only a half-hearted effort.


This common roadblock has several causes. The most obvious is a pessimistic, overactive imagination. Another is a lack of awareness of the steps needed to achieve success. Rather than risk taking the wrong steps, some people do nothing at all—a response that limits growth and perpetuates stagnation . It is better to act and fail than to be passive. Failure provides feedback that can help you succeed in the future; inertia offers no insight and advances nothing.


These generalizations apply to writing articles and books as they do to any other endeavor in life. The most difficult step for new writers is to overcome inertia; it requires the most energy. Again, this is partly due to ignorance. Launching a book project, in particular, carries with it many unknowns. How much work will it take?


Will I have enough time and self-discipline to complete the project? Will I be able to do a credible job? Will it pay off in the long run?


A powerful method for eliminating fears in your life is to complete the sentence: “I am scaring myself by imagining that ..........” Fill in the blank as many times as you can with those self-defeating internal sentences that short-circuit your best determination. Write them down and analyze them. Then treat them as you would any other useless garbage that clutters your life: Discard them.



Finish this book before you worry any more about the frightening details. Your fears will disappear after you have read and applied its lessons.


USE YOUR VERBAL SKILLS

 TO DEVELOP WRITING SKILLS


As a consultant, speaker, or trainer, you are in the enviable position of already being bright and articulate. Writing and speaking are remarkably similar. The only difference is in delivery. The two processes are quite similar—and many people believe writing is easier.


If you can speak to colleagues or an audience, you can learn to speak to readers on paper.


If you are like many people who freeze when confronted with the task of writing, rest assured that this book will drive a stake through the heart of your fear. We will show you how to be more productive and creative—and how to sell what you write.




TAKE THE LONG-TERM VIEW


Certainly there is nothing new or profound about the notion that our minds have ultimate control over our actions. A reminder of this principle, however, will serve to bolster your determination and stimulate positive thoughts about the work that lies ahead of you.


In driver education, high school students are taught to focus their eyes well ahead of the car rather than on the road immediately in front of them. This technique gives them a safer perspective and more reaction time because they see the big picture. Bottleneck up ahead? Change lanes and pass everyone.


Life is the same way. Having a myopic outlook puts you at a disadvantage, whereas planning in advance gives you the ability to steer your own course. Wouldn’t you rather change lanes and pass the slowpokes rather than be stuck in traffic behind them? When you look at life with a long-range point of view, you can appreciate how every step you take now influences events in the long run.


There are two kinds of decisions: passive and active. An active decision takes you out of the status quo. It has movement and energy to it, and its consequences are much more controllable than those of a passive decision. A passive decision—a decision by default—is a resignation to let your life be ruled by external circumstances. You tacitly agree to go where the wind blows you. Therefore, paradoxically, by not making a decision, you are, in effect, making a decision. You have opted for inactivity, which also has its consequences. Recall the familiar adage: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.


Snow skiing instructors have a saying, ~‘You have to move to learn and learn to move.” Life is the same way. It’s better to make mistakes and learn than to be perfectly inactive.


THE FORMULA FOR GROWTH


There is only one formula for growth and success that works:


                              Insight + risk + hard work = Growth.


By “enlightened neurosis,” we do not mean to diagnose everyone as eccentric. On the contrary, we all have some neurotic behaviors; life would be bland without them. We simply mean that most people spin their wheels and live frustrated lives. They gain some insight—perhaps by watching Phil Donahue—but don’t turn those insights into the risks and hard work that culminate in changes. People resist all change. You may be enlightened but caught in the cycle that characterizes neurosis: knowing the solution to your problem but not doing anything about it.


This book will make the task of writing articles and books as easy as possible, but you will have to keep up your half of the deal. You have to make the commitment of time and effort. Look around and determine whom you want to emulate. Do you want to be like the people who have procrastinated for years and still have not written their books? Or would you rather knuckle down and have a sense of accomplishment in six months or a year?


Find a Mentor


When you find positive people to emulate, try to develop mentor relationships with them. A support group is extremely important for writers, consultants, speakers, trainers, and other people who have to sell themselves for a living. The group doesn’t have to be large, but it does need to be encouraging.


The most powerful encouragement comes from someone you respect; no, make that someone you worship. Find a successful writer, consultant, or CEO and ask to adopt him as a mentor. Buy this person lunch periodically, and tap his knowledge of business, marketing, and anything else that will help you get ahead. There is a great deal to be learned from people who are successful. They are an excellent source of inspiration and motivation. After spending time with your mentor, you will be exhilarated with the vision of what you are striving to be.


Visualization



Visualization is a powerful tool for self-improvement and the achievement of goals. The mind’s ability to transfer mental rehearsals into actual behaviors is astounding. Numerous studies on visualization have been conducted in the United States and the Soviet Union. In one of them, Soviet scientists divided their experimental subjects, athletes, into four groups. One group practiced their sport in the usual manner. The second group practiced 75 percent of the time and visualized practicing 25 percent of the time. The third group used a 50-50 ratio of practice and visualization. The fourth group practiced 25 percent and visualized practice 75 percent of the time. The most effective combination for increased athletic performance turned out to be 75 percent visualization and 25 percent practice.


You can use visualization in many ways. If you want to improve your tennis game, practice mentally. Envision yourself doing everything right. If you want to reduce the jitters before giving a presentation, meditate on it. See yourself approaching the podium completely relaxed, delivering a dynamic, informative, very entertaining program, and receiving a standing ovation afterward.


Writers, too, can capitalize on the power of visualization . Imagine yourself easily and joyfully writing page after page of high-quality material. See yourself being productive, with the words flowing effortlessly as you complete one article or chapter after another . If you envision the process of writing a hook as being easy and pleasurable, you increase the chances that it will be.


The process of visualization dovetails well with the concept of self-image. Simply stated, all the things you think about yourself become your multifaceted self-image. After years of living and thinking, you have a repertoire of mental images of yourself. Some people think they are attractive and act accordingly. Others have an image of being poor and end up living that way, no matter how much money they have . For every character trait, we all have images of ourselves and how we fit those descriptions.


You can use this knowledge to expand your self-image to include being someone who is fully capable of writing a book. No doubt you have heard someone say, “Oh, I could never get in front of a group to speak.” Anyone with that attitude can’t; that person’s self-image has to change to include the belief that he can do it. The same principle applies to writing: Instill in yourself the belief that you can write articles and books. That’s not hype; it’s the self-assuring truth that you can do it.


For many people, visualization requires as much self-discipline as writing. If you are among them, use an affirmation to give yourself the additional mental thrust.


Affirmations


Another valuable tool for influencing the unconscious mind, especially the self- image, is the use of affirmations, positive sentences that, when repeated to yourself over time, lead to a desired change in attitude.


Use affirmations in relation to writing to boost your confidence and motivation. Write out what you want to accomplish, and then read or say these sentences to yourself several times a day.


State affirmations positively. For example, if you want to overcome procrastin-ation, write, “1 am working on my writing projects every day.” You should not write , “I am not procrastinating.” Our minds do not recognize negations. If I tell you, “Don’t think of elephants,” you’ll think of elephants.


Affirmations and visualizations don’t have to be true at present but should be written as if they were true. Affirmations are things to which you aspire, so they must be achievable. An affirmation such as, “I am giving 100 speeches per year at $5,000 each” is obviously better than “I am growing younger every day.” The former you can achieve; the latter would take a miracle or a brilliant bio-chemist —and if you come up with either, you will give 100 speeches per year at $25,000 each! Our favorite unrealistic affirmation is one of Garry’s: “I am omniscient and omnipotent, and soon the world will discover I’ve returned.”


Use the following affirmations to improve your writing habits and skills:

          “1 am enjoying my writing every day.”

          “I am making the time to work on my book every weekend.”

          “1 am easily writing three pages per day.”

          “My mind is lucid, and words come quickly to me.”

          “My book is doubling the number of consulting jobs I do each year.


Create your own affirmations to suit your needs and dreams, but don’t limit them to your professional life. Many people swear that affirmations and visualizations will help you achieve virtually anything. Certainly they are worth the effort.



The Self-image and Personal Change


While growing up, we all had thousands of experiences that caused us to make decisions and draw invalid conclusions. For example, imagine a three-year-old child who tries to help her father wash the car. Not knowing any better, she picks up the steel wool intended for the tires and begins rubbing the paint. Her father, outraged, sends her into the house with tears streaming down her face. The little girl has no idea why she has been treated so badly. In an attempt to understand, she unconsciously comes to some conclusions about life. She may decide helping her father is bad or, worse, concludes that she is a bad person who is not worthy of helping her father.


The cumulative effects of life-long experiences, positive and negative, shape our self-esteem and self-image. That is part of what makes everyone different. Confidence, or the lack of it, is a learned characteristic.


When you confront an idea or behavior inconsistent with your self-image (as you’ve defined yourself so far), you reject it and close the door to its’ becoming a new part of you. Unconsciously you compare the new behavior—good or bad—to your standard repertoire and think, “Forget it; that’s not me!”


All this can be undone. With time, experimentation, and practice, you can undo the years of conditioning and add new behaviors to your life. The key is to now introduce new behaviors gradually.


A good example is the thought process of someone who habitually says “um” between sentences. He does this to fill the gaps when speaking to a group; he believes silence implies incompetence or ignorance. His self-image thus unrealistically demands that he appear perfectly lucid and knowledgeable at all times. If he is to overcome saying “um,” he has to realize the audience will not get up and leave if he pauses to think. His self-image expands to accept behavior of occasionally being silent. With the pressure of .perfectionism off, he stops sayking “um” and becomes a better speaker.




AS YOU EMBARK ON YOUR BOOK PROJECT, one of your first tasks is to determine if you have enough meat for the book. There are far too many books that should have been reduced to a series of tight, informative articles . Here we’ll assume you have enough information to fill a book . Now you have to know the best way to present your material. The three keys to imparting your knowledge successfully are to make the information factual, specific, and useful.



Factual Information


Facts and figures are indispensable to any written or verbal presentation. Beginning writers tend to omit hard facts because digging them out can be very time-consuming, and some writers find facts difficult or boring to write about. It is much more fun and creative to wax poetic or craft a brilliant metaphor than to cite statistics. Solid information, however, connects your subject to reality and makes it memorable.


Present information in a way that builds your image as an expert. Anyone can write, “Pesticides are a danger to your health.” It carries more weight, however, to say , “In 1955, approximately 300 million pounds of DDT smothered our growing foods and killed every bug and animal it touched. Since then, the problem has only gotten worse.” That sentence has more impact and shows you did your homework . Experts do a lot of homework. Don’t be lazy.


Opinions


As paradoxical as it may be, nonfiction is not always factual; many works are primarily the opinions of the authors. This book is an example of two authors’ opinions on writing and marketing books and articles. Our opinions are implied, so it is not necessary to preface everything with, “In our opinion .


Some subjects, however, require special handling to preserve accuracy and avoid ambiguity . If you are writing about the financial world, you should either quote experts or, if you are the expert, back up your statements with proof. For example, don’t write, “The economic outlook for the United States is much brighter than most people believe.” Instead write, “The economic outlook for the third and fourth quarters of 1992 is steady, if not bright. Interest rates should hold steady or decline due to the sluggish gross national product, new housing starts will increase this summer, and unemployment figures are down by three-tenths of a percent.”


Specific Information


Experts back up their opinions with proof. It’s fun to philosophize, but complement your brilliance with concrete examples. The speaker who beats around the bush, never hitting the nail on the head, is guilty of overusing fluffy generalizations and clichés. True wisdom lies in giving your audience or readers some-thing worthwhile that will change their lives. This can only be done if you speak

and write prescriptively rather than descriptively.


Specific writing is captivating; it holds the reader’s attention and makes your point more salient. Which of the following sentences would you rather read: “Tony Alessandra’s marketing strategy has helped him publish many articles” or “In the last three years, Tony Alessandra’s marketing strategy helped him publish over 350 articles”?


After you have written the first draft of a chapter, go back and highlight words and paragraphs that seem vague. Ask a friend to read your work and point out areas that need more detail. Then do the research to make your work interesting. In the long run, this extra work will give you a higher-quality book or article.


Useful Information


Think back to the ineffective speaker who doesn’t give you a worthwhile message. Writers can avoid being accused of this sin by offering useful information— information that allows readers to do something after reading your article. For example, after you have read this book, you will be able to motivate yourself, outline articles and chapters, brainstorm, write a book proposal, write a query letter, write books and articles, edit your work, improve your writing style, understand book contracts, find a collaborator, and market your work.


Providing useful information requires effort on your part. It’s easy to write something vague like, “To reduce stress, go home after work and do something nice for yourself.” It takes more thought to write, “After work, go home and take a bath, listen to relaxing music, or do stretching exercises.” The former sentence is descriptive; the latter is prescriptive . The best combination is a sentence that is factual, specific, and useful: “To reduce stress, doctors recommend you do some exercise after work; aerobics, swimming, tennis, running, and bicycling are the most healthful. Research has revealed sedentary men over the age of fifty are 77 percent more likely to have heart attacks than those who exercise for just twenty minutes three times a week.”


HOW TO INFORM AND ENTERTAIN


The best way to present information—in speeches, training programs, books, and articles—is to make it convincing and entertaining. To educate, entertain, and motivate, include anecdotes, statistics, examples, analogies, and quotations.


Anecdotes


A short, colorful anecdote is one of the most compelling ways to begin an article. Humorous, pithy little stories are great reader pleasers and can serve as instructive digressions that illustrate your point. Anecdotes make your material interesting by giving the reader a change of pace. They can sugarcoat messages or drive home a point with understatement. Longer anecdotes are acceptable if the payoff is worth it. An example is the following story—perhaps a rumor—that Garry uses in his writing workshops.


A timid, naive, and not very well-traveled woman went to Los Angeles for a new seminar on assertiveness training. She was nervous about driving to the big city. When she arrived at her hotel, she took every precaution. She parked in a well- lighted area of the parking lot and locked anything that could be stolen in the trunk. Then she checked into the hotel and headed for her room. She was the only person in the elevator . The door began to close and then suddenly opened to allow three black men, two of whom were rather large, to get in. Nervously, she stood in the corner and stared at the floor. As soon as the door closed, one of the men said, “Hit the floor!” Without thinking, she threw herself spread-eagle on the floor! The men burst into laughter. He had meant, hit the button of their floor. She realized what they had meant, got up, brushed herself off, and again stood staring at the floor. When the door opened, she slinked out and walked down the hall to her room. The men kept the elevator door open long enough to see which room was hers . Fifteen minutes later, there was a knock on her door. A delivery boy handed her a beautiful flower arrangement with a note that said, “Thanks for the best laugh I’ve had in years,” signed Eddie Murphy.


Not all anecdotes will fit perfectly into your article or chapter topic. Actual events may need to be tailored to sound good on paper. Sometimes a story should be trimmed, compressed, or exaggerated a little to make it work. Keep in mind that although the specific details of the story can be changed, the overall truth must remain intact. Readers can sense a fabricated story. If your anecdotes fail to ring true, people will lose confidence in you. Besides, we all know truth is stranger than fiction.


For a source of anecdotes, draw on your life and those of people you know well. Try to remember stories you’ve heard other people tell. Get into the habit of writing down anecdotes you hear to use in the future. Borrowing stories from others is acceptable as long as you give credit. For example, Gene Perret, a professional speaker and former writer for Bob Hope, Phyllis Diller, and other comedians, tells a story about going to the airport with Bob Hope to pick up Hope’s wife. They drove onto the end of the runway of the Burbank airport and parked near the chartered jet that had just arrived with Mrs. Hope. Walking down the stairs were a half-dozen priests and then Mrs. Hope. Bob Hope turned to Perret and said, “Why doesn’t she just get flight insurance like everyone else?”


It pays to listen—even eavesdrop—to discover new anecdotes. Go to parties and take notes.


Statistics


Statistics impress readers, but don’t overdo it. Too many statistics will put your readers to sleep, which is acceptable only if your book is about overcoming insomnia.


Your subject matter will dictate the types and frequency of statistics . In this book, statistics play a limited role . Our readers don’t care if 50 percent of all writers experience writer’s block during their careers.


It is essential to know who your readers will be. If your subject is academic, statistics are required. Professors, engineers, scientists, doctors, and other left-brain thinkers thrive on data.



Examples


It comes as no surprise that examples are used to back up statements.

They flesh out ideas and help readers relate to concepts. You’d be surprised how many writers leave them out. Compare the following two sentences: Writers and consultants are like cousins; both are in the family of communicators who use words and ideas as the tools of their trade.” “Writers and speakers are like cousins.”


The first sentence also illustrates one way to give an example without saying for example, which is important when you use a lot of examples. Use finesse and a variety of styles. Avoid the awkward phrase, “ An example of this is.... Don’t overwork for example or for instance. You can include examples without pointing to them; your readers will understand. If you must say for example, try putting it in the middle of a sentence: “One of the many values of editing, for example, will be restructuring sentences so they read smoothly.”


A few punctuation tips regarding for example are in order. When the phrase begins a sentence, it is followed by a comma. When it is in the middle of a sentence, it is surrounded by commas. Substituting such as is acceptable but only in the middle of a sentence. When using for example, do not follow it with a colon if it introduces a complete sentence; use a colon only when preceding a list. Such as does not need a colon before a list: “For example, when you give a speech, you will know your audience is bored if they exhibit behaviors such as snoring, counting ceiling tiles, throwing frisbees, or setting up a volleyball net and choosing sides.”


Analogies


An analogy is a powerful form of an example because it stimulates your readers’ gray matter. Showing the similarity between the unfamiliar and the familiar is an excellent way to make your concepts clear. Analogies get your reader involved and allow you to flex your humor muscles.


Analogies can be geared toward your audience. If you are writing for engineers, use mechanical analogies. For men, sports analogies work well. If you are writing for women, use an analogy that only women can truly relate to, such as, “Writing my first book was as trying as a ten-month pregnancy.”


Quotations


When you say something that can be corroborated by an expert or a celebrity, using quotations will make your case even stronger. Quotations enliven your writing and help its readability. In a sense, they say, “Don’t take my word for this; read what so and so has said.”


A quotation should always add information, not repeat it. In your text, if you say snow is white, don’t follow up with a quotation from a meteorologist saying, “Yes, I’ve observed snow is white.” That’s boring. Your expert’s quotation should elaborate on your information. A good quotation for the snowflake example would mention the crystalline structure, light reflection, or whatever the technical reason is for snow’s being white.


Don’t overuse quotations. Too many make your book or article sound as if you have no ideas of your own. Overuse can cause the reader to ask, “So what! What is your point of view?” Use quotations sparingly, as you do statistics, anecdotes, examples, and salt.


“Live” quotations, that is, ones you obtain directly from the person you are quoting, are best if you can get an interview with someone noteworthy. Celebrities and authorities are usually too busy to grant interviews to unknown writers. If you are writing a book, try to get the big shots. Pull whatever strings you have and use all the chutzpah you can muster to get those telephone or in person interviews. If all else fails, use previously published quotations.


The legal aspect of lifting quotations from books and articles is, not surprisingly, complicated. Distilled to its simplest form, the law allows you to copy quotations without the permission of the copy-right owner (usually the author) if your use of the material is reasonable and not harmful to the rights of the copyright owner.


The word reasonable concerns quantity, not quality. As long as you don’t become greedy, no one will complain. “Not harmful to the rights of the copyright owner” simply means you are not depriving that person of more income. If you copy so many quotations from a book that your own book or article could conceivably hurt the sales of that other person’s book, you are infringing on the author’s copyright.



This explanation is a legal way of saying, Don’t worry about it as long as you do it ethically and in moderation. Simply use quotations to illustrate your own points. The decent thing to do, of course, is to give credit to the source in the text, in a footnote, or at the end of the book in a bibliography.


GRAMMAR


Don’t worry. This is not a lengthy discussion of grammar and word usage . We know whom we are dealing with. One advantage that consultants, speakers, and trainers have over other beginning writers is that most already know how to really communicate well.


Writing is as much an auditory skill as it is a verbal and an intellectual skill. As you write and later read your work, listen to the words. Use your well- trained ear to avoid the most common grammatical foibles. Leave the nitpicking to editors and spouses. Chapter 14 is devoted to improving your style of writing. Style is as important as proper grammar. An effective and pleasant style will help sell your work. Good grammar simply makes it readable.


Knowing the rules of grammar is not merely a matter of book learning . It is not knowing the names for the parts of sentences. It is not remembering the rules you learned in high school. It is simply tuning in to the sound of what you hear and knowing, more or less intuitively, if it is correct. Most of you know when a grammatical mistake has been made because you’ve been brung up right and have listened to English being talked correctly most of your life. For most of us, correct English is deeply ingrained.


This is one way that consultants, speakers, and writers are similar. Writers “listen” to their words and sentences in the same way speakers monitor themselves as they speak. Few writers remember the word ring is one of the 200 irregular verbs that take an odd form in the past tense. But if you were to say, “The phone ringed yesterday,” we would all cringe.


As you read and edit your work, listen to the words and sentence constructions. Your trained ear and the following discussion of common mistakes will take you far in editing your own work.


Common Mistakes in Grammar and Word Usage


Affect/Effect All you need to know is the difference between a noun and a verb. Affect is a verb 99 percent of the time. Effect is a noun 90 percent of the time. Knowing this, you would be correct 94.5 percent of the time. (Are you engineers enjoying this?) The exceptions are these: Affect is a noun when it is used as a psychological term meaning “emotion” or “feeling”; effect can be a verb that means “to cause or bring about.” The following examples should clarify:

          Most common: “The special effects [fireworks] were the highlight

          of the evening.”


          Most common: “A standing ovation affects even the most humble actor.”


          Less common: “Doctor, how is chemotherapy going to effect a

          change [“bring about”] in his thinking and improve his affect

          [“emotions”]?”


If you find affect and effect to be difficult words to master, memorize their definitions and be done with it.


Who/Whom. Here’s a trick that will make the distinction between these two words simple . To check your who/whom usage, substitute he for who and him for whom; then rewrite the phrase in question form to see how it sounds. “John Thompson is the consultant who wrote the best-seller, Postponing Procrastination. With the substitution it becomes, “He wrote the best-seller ..... not “Him wrote the best-seller. “Steve Wright is the author whom they selected to speak.” Rewritten, it is, “They selected him to speak.”


At the beginning of a question, who is always used instead of whom, which is stilted and outdated. “Who are you trying to impress by saying whom?”


There are many other pronouns to become comfortable with—he/him, she/her, we/us, and I/me. Rather than explain them all and risk boring you, we highly recommend that you refer to Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style when you have a question on word usage. You will find it helpful and discover that it is correct to say, “This is a good reference book for you and me.”


Which/That That is a defining pronoun. It specifies something about the subject of your sentence: “The computer that you are looking for is on her desk.” The phrase starting with that leads you in the direction of a specific computer . For the purpose of describing which computer is the one of interest, the phrase cannot be eliminated from the sentence.


Which adds information and begins phrases that are helpful but not essential to the sentence: “The fastest computer, which I love to use, is on her desk.”


Another way to determine whether to use which or that is to listen carefully and determine whether the phrase can be enclosed in parentheses. If it can be, use which; otherwise use that . For example, “You could, if you wanted to break up your writing with digressions (which slow down the reader), enclose your “which” phrases in parentheses. This is, however, a tiresome practice that should be avoided.”


That is commonly overused. If you use a word processor, after you have finished an article or chapter, go back over it with a global search and delete every superfluous that. If you are not sure, ask yourself if the meaning of the sentence will change if that is deleted.


If it will not, take it out. In the following statement, that should be deleted: “I’m sure that you will find your writing will sound more professional if you follow my advice.”


That and who are often confused. That qualifies inanimate objects; who describes people. “The person that ran for Congress had many supporters” may sound correct because of common misusage; however, “the person who is the correct form.


Its/It’s This is an easy one to remember. It’s is a contraction of it is. If you can say “it is” instead of “it’s,” use an apostrophe. Its is a possessive pronoun. Something always belongs to it or is its possession. ‘What is it? It’s a dog that loves to chase its tail.”



TheirThey’r There You may have to memorize the meanings, spellings, and usage of most homonyms. Unfortunately, there are few tricks for differentiating homonyms, so just memorize them . For these three:

                    Their is a possessive pronoun: “Dogs love

                     to chase their tails.”

                    They’re is a conjunctio n of “they are.” “They’re

                     going to get fur in their mouths (the dogs, that is).”

                    There is a location in time or space. “There once

was a time when people put their belongings over

                     there [in that cornerl.”


However However means “nevertheless,” “yet,” or “in spite of that.” It is most often used as a conjunction in the middle of a sentence: “It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there; however, you shouldn’t let the competition discourage you.”


However can be the first word of a sentence, but it will not mean “nevertheless”; it will mean “to whatever extent” or “no matter how (much/far)”—for example, “However discouraging the odds, he never gave up.” “However you plan to do it, I wish you luck.”


Lie/Lay When Bob Dylan sang, “Lay, lady, lay. Lay across my big brass bed,” he was grammatically out of tune. He should have sung, “Lie across’my big brass bed.” Of course, creative license picks up where grammatical fidelity ends.


The word lay require s an object as in, “I’m going to lay you down across my big brass bed” or “I’m going to lay this tray down and give you breakfast in bed.” The past tense would be, “Yesterday you laid across my big brass bed.”


Lie does not take an object. You can say, “I’m going to lie down.” The only time you can use lay in the present tense is when there is an object. Of course, you could create a twist in usage and say, “I’m going to lay myself [the object] down on the bed and get a good night’s rest.”


The past tense is where all the trouble begins—as if you’re not confused enough already. Lay is also the past tense of lie . Bob Dylan would have been correct if he had said, “Yesterday, she lay across my big brass bed.” If she were still there today, Bob might want to go lie with her. The key is that when you use lay without an object, make sure you are talking about the past tense of reclining.


Pronouns That Disagree


Pronouns have to be in the same number—singular or plural—as the nouns to which they refer. The most common mistake is the use of a singular noun with a plural pronoun, as in “The women’s basketball team are having their best season since 1983.” Wrong. Although the team has many members, the entity “team” is singular. The sentence should read, “The women’s basketball team is having its best season since 1983.”


There is a new trend developing in which writers attempt to avoid the gender problem; that is, they need to choose between he and she all the time. You’ve probably heard people say things like, “I had a friend over for dinner last night. They brought a bottle of wine.” It should be, “He [or she] brought a bottle of wine.” Regardless of the motive, it is awkward and confusing to use the words they and their in place of he or she and his or her. For a more detailed discussion, see “The Degenderization of Language” in Chapter 14.


Verbs That Disagree


When you put two nouns together, it often sounds as if the verb should be singular—for example , “Hard work and dedication helps me succeed.” No, ‘they don’t. “Hard work and dedication help you succeed.”


When you run across the conjunction and, check to see if it forms a compound subject—phrases like “You and I’, and “Jack and Jill.” If you find a compound subject, make sure the verb after it is plural. “Bonnie and Clyde are on the run,” not “is on the run.”


There are some exceptions to this rule . Certain clichés arc so inseparable they are considered to be a single entity, as in “bread and butter,” “give and take,” and “salt and pepper.” It’s proper to say, “Bread and butter is what I eat for breakfast, and salt and pepper is what I put on it.”


Misplaced Modifiers


Misplaced modifiers—sounds like a group of behavioral psychologists who are lost. A misplaced modifier is a written optical illusion that confuses the reader. For example, “The record features Dylan singing to a child that is scratched.” We know scratched refers to the record, not the child, but the construction is awkward, misleading, and distracting. The way to avoid these constructions is to keep related words together. Don’t get fancy; instead say, “The scratched record features Dylan singing to a child.”


HOW TO WRITE GOOD


In his book, Fumble-Rules (Doubleday, 1990), William Safire takes a very lighthearted look at grammar and usage. The following partial list of chapter titles from his book will bring a smile to your face. They not only introduce the chapter’s contents but also exemplify the broken rules. If you do not understand the errors illustrated in the following sentences, get his book. On second thought, get it anyway.

                    A writer must not shift your point of view.

                    Don’t use Capital letters without good REASON.

                    If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times; resist hyperbole.

                    Avoid commas, that are not necessary.

                    Verbs has to agree with their subjects.

                    Writing carefully, dangling participles should be avoided.

                    Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.

                    Use parallel structure when you write and in speaking.

                    You should just avoid confusing readers with misplaced modifiers.

                    Don’t verb nouns.

                    “Avoid overuse of ‘quotation “marks.”

                    Never, ever use repetitive redundancies.

                    Last but not least, avoid clichés like the plague.


Strive to write clearly and effectively. Mastering the basics of grammar and usage is like learning the scales of a musical instrument. You don’t have to know them well to play a song, but the more you know, the further you can go as a musician. And the more you know about theory, the greater your freedom of expression will be when you want to jazz around with the scales.


Excellent writing is rarely accomplished in the first draft. Writing is a discipline of rewriting, editing, shaping, sculpting, and perfecting the expression of thoughts on paper. Editing is similar to refining a recipe. After tasting the first batch, you decide what is needed—more of this, less of that. If you’ve ever made spaghetti sauce, you know sugar, in moderation, reduces the bitterness. Too much sugar, however, ruins it. Words are the same way. Adjectives add spice to your nouns, but too many make your writing too sweet and ruin it.


Write Nonjudgmentally


The best way by far to get your literary wheels turning is to write as quickly as possible, making no judgments about what you’ve written. Your mind works much faster than your hands. The challenge is to get as much on paper as possible and as quickly as possible. Don’t stop to search for the perfect word or to correct your spelling errors; that can (and will) be done later.


 NOW IS THE TIME FOR

 STREAM-OF-CONSCIOUSNESS WRITING.


 Follow your outline when you can, but remember you can always cut and paste later. You will be amazed by the speed and productivity that comes from this new method of writing. The velocity of your writing will force unexpected thought associations to occur. This is creativity at work, and it is an exhilarating experience.


While you are speeding along, writing non-judge-mentally, you’ll miss details that you will have to come back to fill in later. Perhaps you forgot how many feet are in a mile or the length of a light-year. To mark the spot, insert the symbol tk, which denotes “in the space provided.” For example, “If a person’s foot is a size 10 and there are tk feet in a mile, how many steps would it take to walk a mile?” The missing data can be researched and filled in another time . In fact, one day, if you find yourself lacking the motivation to sit and write, you can do the research now necessary to fill in the tk’s.


Chew Bite-Sized Pieces


When you begin writing the first draft, follow an extensive outline that breaks the chapter down into small, manageable increments called subsections. If it makes writing easier for you, divide each subsection into increments so small that each one represents a paragraph. This would be an extremely detailed outline but would show you precisely where you are going with your ideas. This is an unusual way to write, but it helps some people organize their thoughts.




IN MANY WAYS, WRITTEN AND VERBAL COMMUNICATIONS ARE LIKE MUSIC. Good speakers and writers make their sentences ebb and flow by choosing their words carefully and controlling the pace, rhythm, and the volume of the delivery. They create excitement by building crescendos, crashing cymbals, and pounding drums. These musical qualities serve to draw in, pump up, relax, and move the listener/reader emotionally. The result is writing or speaking with style and impact.


Bad communicators offend your senses with sour notes and nonsequiturs, or they lull you to sleep with monotony. In the editing and rewriting phase of your writing, read your work with an eye toward cleaning it up and creating a style that works for you rather than against you.


SEVEN SIGNS OF EXCELLENT WRITING


Similar to the many genres of music, writing also has many styles. Regardless of the style, good writing always exhibits at least six of the seven signs of excellence. Always strive to:

                                         1. Use brevity.

                                         2.       Strive for clarity.

                                         3.       Write wilh precision.

                                         4.       Harmonize with yourself.

                                         5.       Write for your reader.

                                         6.       Choose words that convey honesty.

                                         7.       Wax poetic.


Incorporate these principles into your writing and you will improve it significantly.


Use Brevity



When you edit your work,

                     don’t think of what you can add;

                                          think of what you can delete.


In nonfiction, tight writing is the best writing. (This is also true of screen and playwriting, where every word should advance the plot.) Digressions, anecdotes, humorous asides, and philosophical conjectures are informative and entertaining in moderation. Do not be like the speaker who shortchanges his audience by giving more laughs than content. Serve your reader meat and potatoes, not just dessert.


One way to write with brevity is to have a strong focus. Writing without a very specific point of view produces dull material that lacks readability and credibility. If you were to write an article on nutrition, you would have to discuss everything from A to Zinc to cover it fairly . If, however, your title were “The Effects of Sugar on Hyperactive Children,” you would have a manageable subject that could be written with brevity.


Once you have focused on a unique angle, include only information that is relevant. In the introduction of an article, avoid the common mistake of introducing the subject with a long, abstract overview. Book chapters have more leeway, but your introductions must still point in the direction you are headed. If you were writing about nutrition, you wouldn’t begin with a recollection of your adolescent years when you sat in front of the television eating chocolate cake with a snow shovel. Write a short introduction, and then get into the body of the article or chapter. By the end of the first paragraph, you should be addressing your subject directly, not just alluding to it.


Know where yo’u are going with your subject; avoid dancing around. Outline your piece before writing, and remember the principle of having a beginping, a middle, and an end.


Strive for Clarity


A GOOD WRITER MAKES HIS MEANING CRYSTAL CLEAR—AND QUICKLY— by giving specific, useful facts and offering advice in a direct, cookbook style.



Avoid ambiguity by defining pronouns before using them . Refer to “he/she/it/his/her/their” only after telling the reader who or what you are talking about.


When you present a workshop, you repeat important points so your audience will remember. This teaching technique is valid for speaking and leading workshops but not for writing. Writers assume they have their readers’ attention, so it is unnecessary to repeat key ideas as often. It is acceptable to refresh readers’ old memories later or, better still , refer back to the original discussion.


In writing, it is unprofessional to state in advance what you are going to discuss. Speakers do it all the time, but it’s boring to read, “This chapter will deal with styles of writing and include qualifiers, formal versus conversational writing, prescriptive versu s descriptive styles, power and authority, first person versus third person” and so on. Just introduce the subject, and launch into the details.


Write with Precision


PRECISION, CLARITY , AND BREVITY AR E CLOSELY RELATED. Clarity is saying what you mean, precision is saying exactly what you mean, and brevity keeps it all short and to the point. A precise word can often replace a less precise phrase. Always strive to write and edit with an economy of words. A thesaurus or dictionary will help you achieve literary parsimony. Being precise etches a sharper image in your readers’ minds, and it strengthens your credibility; you end up teaching more and confusing less.


Discussing one idea at a time increases your precision. A freight train of phrases in a sentence will only make it awkward and confusing. Instead of writing, “In the event of rain,” write, “If it rains.” Rather than “due to the fact that . . .“ say, “because.” Delete “I believe that . . .“ or “It is my opinion that and simply make your statement. We’ve all heard people say, “so and so is a close persona/ friend of mine.” This is silly and redundant . Since when are people ever “close personal enemies” or “close impersonal friends”?


State statistics directly rather than generalizing about them first. It’s better to say, “85 percent of the runners saw mirages ‘than, “In the desert heat, an overwhelming number of runners—more than expected—saw mirages. In fact, it was 85 percent.”


Don’t beat around the bush. Get right to the information you have uncovered in your research. Instead of saying, “Various ethnic groups have settled in New York,” say, “New York is home to Greeks, Italians, Puerto Ricans, to name a few.”


Harmonize with Yourself


As in a symphony, sudden changes in writing style can be dramatic and startling. Style changes done unintentionally or to excess stress readers and make them squirm. Readers “hear” dissonance when they encounter an inappropriate change in tense or person, a sudden change in point of view, or a grammatical faux pas. Harmony is achieved by maintaining consistency in mood, intellectual level, style, and punctuation.


Write for Your Reader


THE BEST SPEAKERS CUSTOMIZE THEIR PRESENTATIONS TO THEIR AUDIENCES. An important part of reaching a readership is personal-izing your article or book, that is, putting everything in terms that your intended audience will understand. For example, you would bore readers with an abstract discussion about “The Value of Communication in Sales.” That’s an article you would write if you were a college professor. A more personal article would be, “How to Make More Sales ‘by Improving Your Communication Skills.” Write directly to your audience, and you’ll increase the odds that they’ll read your work to the end.


Put humanity into everything you write. Writing about ideas is fine for some subjects, but whenever possible, write about people. Direct your ideas to the reader by occasionally saying “you.”  The practice of putting yourself in your work in terms of “I” or “we” is highly debatable and depends on the type of book or article you are writing . Of course, the preference of your editor, if you have one, is important as well . Our preference is to write in the second person (you/your) or third person (he/she/they) . We will, however, postpone discussing this until a later section, lest we digress and be accused of not following our own advice.


Choose Words That Convey Honesty


THE BEST WAY TO ACHIEVE HONESTY AND SINCERITY IN YOUR WRITING IS TO BE YOURSELF. Don’t fill up your work with esoteric references and twenty-five-cent words for the sake of impressing readers. Honesty is using the thesaurus to find words you already know, not words you’ve never seen. Be true to your natural writing style. Don’t try to sound like Erma Bombeck or Andy Rooney if you don’t think the way they do. Be yourself, and, if your message is worthwhile, readers will enjoy your work.


Being honest may seem like a strange suggestion to make. After all, how will readers know if you are being honest? They cannot see your body language or eye contact on the printed page—or can they? They can. Dishonest writing is soft, unconvincing, tentative, and noncommittal . It is marred by many of the flaws this chapter is teaching you to avoid.


Wax Poetic


After mastering the basics of writing, you can begin to he more creative. Good writing does not have to be good art, but it can be artistic with some extra thought. When reading other writers’ work, jot down creative, poetic, or inspirational phrases that tickle your fancy. Be sure they are not clichés. The only thing worse than using a trite phrase is thinking it is new and clever. When you have a collection of literary gems, you can sprinkle them throughout your work (giving credit to the author, of course). For example, a conversation about a romantic relationship yielded this metaphor: “I’d hate to see you dashed upon the shores of her indifference.” Such poetry! It evokes a powerful image of a ship running aground in a violent storm, the waves pounding her mercilessly, which is precisely how some people feel when they are emotionally ship-wrecked. Compare that to the simple statement , “I’d hate to see you rejected by her.” Big deal; anyone can write that .(and have.)


WORDS AND MUSIC


Now that YOU know your words are supposed to sound like music, a brief course in composition is in order. It is not enough to read this section once. Keep these tips in front of you when you edit your work, and they will improve your style immensely.


Write As If You Were Speaking


You have the advantage of already being a communicative person. You have a well-trained ear for proper English. Now you have to transfer that ability to the written word.


An effective writer pleases readers by creating sentences that sound conversational. Remember to write as if you were composing a letter to a friend. This practice will loosen up your style and give your prose a familiar feeling. Writing conversationally also ensures that you will use everyday words that immediately convey their very meanings. The best style is fluid, unstilted, relaxed, and reader friendly.


There is a paradox to writing conversationally. Inasmuch as you want your writing to sound conversational, it should not duplicate your conversation. Remember precision, brevity, and clarity? They usually do not apply to conversations. Most conversations sound like this: “ I had a great idea yesterday. I was sitting in the Forty-second Street deli, eating a pastrami sandwich; it was terrible, too much fat; I usually ask for lean cuts, but I forgot; anyway, I was looking at the neon sign in the window; you know, the one for Coors, and I noticed how dusty it was; it reminded me of my..... Hold it! That’s too conversational.


Being conversational does not mean you are chatty or overly familiar. This example of a chatty style is appropriate only for used car salesmen: “Wanna buy a good used car? Hey, no problem! I’m the one who can show you how. Just keep reading.” There is a fine line between being humorously loose in your “dialogue” with the reader and being chatty. There are parts of this book where the style becomes a little more loose for the sake of humor, but it never gets out of hand. Feel free to use this book as an example of good writing; then call us when you’re looking for a used car.


The conversational style is appropriate for nonfiction books like this one and, most likely, the one you will write. A formal style that puts more distance,between you and the reader is appropriate for academic pieces and some journal articles. When you begin to write articles for professional journals, be sure to read a few issues to

determine their style.


Vary the Length of Sentences


One way to hold the reader’s attention and sound conversational is to vary the lengths of your sentences. This sentence has five words. Five-word sentences are fine . But too many get dull . You can see for yourself. This is beginning to drone. When you vary the length of your sentences, you create waves of sound that keep readers alert. Short sentences are used for emphasis. Long sentences convey very complex thoughts and often have more than one dependent clause. Used in moderation, both lengths are effective. When overdone, however, they become monotonous. Like this. Believe me. I’ve read them. Often . No joke. So the moral of the story is—use variety as a spice.


Use Different Sentence Constructions


Most sentences have a subject (John), a verb (eats), and an object (quiche), in that order. Like sentence length, this order should be varied. Start some sentences with dependent clauses such as, “Even at the age of thirty-eight, Ron participated in risky sports such as barefoot waterskiing.” Another example of a dependent clause, which adds information in the middle of the sentence, is this sentence.


Experiment with Parallel Construction


Sometimes keeping the sentence construction the same will not bore the reader. It will emphasize the similarity of ideas being expressed or give them a poetic quality. Politicians and professional speakers do this all the time to drive home their points. You’ve heard it a thousand times : “There is sewage in the waters; there is pollution in the air; and there is rhetoric on the podium! Frankly, it is the latter that makes me sick.”


Motivational speakers regularly use parallel construction as a tool: “So get up, get organized, and get writing! Create some excitement in your career!”


Use Complete Sentences


There are times when sentence fragments add impact, but typically they are unnecessary and amateurish . For a long time there has been a trend in popular fiction to disregard grammatical traditions by starting sentences with and or but. The practice is tolerable in moderation, but when overused, it becomes sloppy, lazy, and unprofessional, especially in business writing. And for those who know better, it makes reading the material annoying. But the final decision is yours.



After years of reading, readers expect to see a subject and verb. They listen for them. If they don’t hear them often, they notice the omission as you would dead keys on a piano . Always give your readers complete sentences. They bought your book; the least you could do is give them a simple subject and verb.


Don’t Repeat Uncommon Words


When you use common words like and and the, no one notices the repetition. If you were to write, “The speaker told an outrageous joke that only the outrageous people laughed at, and they did so outrageously,” readers would notice the overuse and become outraged. Use a thesaurus or dictionary to find synonyms for key words, and your writing will stay fresh.


The same principle applies to writing copy for brochures, ads, and, especially. bios. When talking about someone, alternate the use of the person’s name with the pronoun. An excerpt from one of Garry’s bios ‘is a good example. “Garry is a modern-day Renaissance man who brings his quick New York wit and cosmopolitan charm to everything he does, regardless of whether it’s wanted. He attributes his gift for comedic one-liners to the prenatal influence of vaudeville. Garry’s heroes are Nei l Simon and Woody Allen, although the picture he kneels in front of every morning is his own.”




ROYALTIES


The standard royalty rate will be virtually impossible to change for your first book. These will vary somewhat by publisher and will usually be built into the contract. A typical royalty might be 10 percent of the publisher’s receipts; others may offer a percentage of the retail price. You might try to ask for “escalators,” which would bump up the royalty rate at certain sales points—usually 5,000 copies.


Trade paperback royalties are less; they begin at 6 to 7’/2 percent and move up to 9 or 10 percent. There are some variations to these figures. You might be able to lower the first escalator from 5,000 books to 3,500 and the second cutoff from 10,000 to 7,000. This is where a good agent is helpful. After your first book, you will have much more negotiating power regarding royalty rates.



THE COPYRIGHT


UNDER THE 1978 COPYRIGHT LAW, your manuscript is considered to be copyrighted as soon as you write it; therefore, you do not have to register and copy-right it formally . Nevertheless, you should register your work in case you ever have to go to court to prove the work is yours . If you’ve gotten a book contract, don’t worry about a thing. Publishers take care of copyright registration.


The copyright should always be registered in your name, not the publisher’s. If the contract mentions the renewal of the copy-right, it is an old contract, and the renewal clause should be deleted. Under the current copyright law, renewal is no longer necessary.




The Conclusion


Articles and chapters, unlike some speeches, cannot end abruptly with, “Thank you and good night.” A brief paragraph should wrap everything up into a neat, tidy package . A good conclusion gives the reader a feeling of closure and the great satisfaction of having received something of value for the time invested in reading. A book chapter can end with a summary but should also serve as a transition to the

next chapter.


The ending shows readers you have finished what you set out to accomplish. The introduction stated your theme and intentions; the body supported and elaborated your claims. The concluding paragraph demonstrates that your train of thought remained on track and arrived at a logical destination, on schedule.


Clearly relate your conclusion to the body of the article. This is not a time to throw in miscellaneous examples or leftovers that should have been included earlier, nor is it the place to start a new train of thought. There are exceptions, of course—articles that conclude by posing unanswered questions and calling for further research. You will probably not write one of those.


Good Conclusions Strive to write conclusions that accomplish at least one of the following objectives:

                    • Answer the question, “So what?” and drive home the points you            have already made.

                    • Emphasize the important points by restating them briefly.

                    • Raise an important question and answer it. For example, “What

                        does the future hold?” or “Where do we go from here?”

                    • Employ a quotation by a well-known personality to support the

                        theme of the article.

* Illustrate the need for a change in attitude or behavior.


These types of conclusions are more often used in articles than book chapters. Articles have to stand on their own, so they need conclusions to create closure. A book chapter is only a part of the whole and does not have to answer the question, “So what?” The last chapter of the book should answer that question.


Bad Conclusions Follow these admonitions when ending a chapter or article:

                    • Never simply repeat your theme or say, “As you just saw” or “It

                        should be clear to you that. . .“ If the reader has already forgotten

                        what you have written, the body of the article or chapter has

                        failed.

                    • Never give a lifeless summary. You can repeat some points, but

                        don’t list every idea you have covered.

                    • Avoid phrases such as, “In conclusion,” “To summarize,” or “Last

                        but not least.” These are as bad as starting your article with, “I’m

                        going to tell you about

• Don’t preach or bark out orders. Your article should be convincing

                        enough to motivate others. The conclusion can give a subtle push,

                        but avoid heavy-handed statements such as, “Don’t sit back and

let other people run your life.” “Get out there and vote.” “Be a

                        concerned citizen. Conserve water and curb your dog.”

                    • Avoid gushing hyperboles and extravagant claims. Don’t try to

                        end with a bang. (You should have started with a bang.)

                    • Never make a point that does not relate to the article theme unless

                        you are writing a series of articles or providing a transition to the

                        next chapter. In these cases, teasing readers with coming attrac-

                        tions will make them look forward to the next article or chapter.


If all of this sounds difficult, don’t worry. Not only does it sound more difficult than it truly is, but general practice often deviates from the ideal. For proof, consider your daily newspaper or virtually any book you read. Logical construction is a principle practiced in the breach more than compliance. Nevertheless, you should strive to present your ideas in a logical order, at least until you know enough to abandon logic for the sake of art.


CREATING THE VOICE OF AUTHORITY


Regardless of whether you are writing book chapters or articles, your goal is to be perceived as an expert. It’s easy to do if you are willing to research your subject and provide the information in a style that builds confidence . Four kinds of information will increase your credibility: using specific descriptions, properly using industry jargon, giving concrete examples, and stating expert facts.


When experts talk shop, they don’t generalize. Wine stewards do not recommend red or white wine; they recommend a Bordeaux or Chardonnay. Give your readers useful information, and build your credibility by being specific.


Every field has its own vernacular. Sailors refer to ropes as “lines” and “sheets.” Advertising copywriters refer to written words as “copy,” not “text.” Surgeons call that dreaded instrument a “scalpel” instead of a “knife.” If your field has its own vernacular, use it and, if necessary, define it. Don’t worry about sounding pedantic or stilted. There is a difference between using language accurately and using it for show.


Backing up your assertions with actual examples, especially case histories, will make you sound like an authority. The same can be said of expert facts—bits and pieces of extra information that add color and depth to your writing. For example, if you are writing about networking, you could mention, “There is nothing new about the practice, but it was revived and renamed by Jerry Rubin, the former ‘60s political activist . In 1979, he rented Studio 54, a New York City disco, and threw a party for people to make business connections.” This is the type of tangential but interesting information that people remember.


If you are not already an expert in your field, spend some time conducting research before you begin writing. Consult as many sources as possible, and read everything you can. As your knowledge grows, you will form your own opinions and be able to present facts and recommendations as your own, not someone else’s.


There is another benefit to having done your homework: it enables you to read other peoples’ work and judge whether they are writing objectively or with an inordinate amount of self-promotion (placing more emphasis on selling themselves rather than disseminating ideas and facts).


It’s what you say and how you say it


While extensive research will increase the credibility of your work, certain writing styles will help you deliver your message with impact. Take heed of the tips on style discussed in Chapter 14. Here are more tips on writing with authority. 


Cut to the Chase


If your chapter or article solves a problem, simply state the problem and give the answer. Never broadcast your obvious intention with, “In this article I will show you how to.... That’s amateurish. Instead, present ’the problem with the very assumption that everyone has experienced it. Don’t try to cover every possibility by saying, “Some of you may, on occasion, perhaps, experience VDT eye fatigue.” Get to the point : “VDT eye strain is a common problem among office workers.”


Be Logical


Present your ideas in logical or chronological order—whichever applies. Flashbacks, even in the form of anecdotes, do not work well in nonfiction. If your chapter or article contains a description of a complex task, start with the simplest step and move toward the most difficult. If possible, provide photographs or illustrations for clarification.


Use sort commands


The short, direct cookbook style comes off well when giving commands: “Chop six medium onions. Cry. Add garlic, olive oil, and basil.” Use this style in moderation.


Be Assertive


Write as if you were omniscient. Write with confidence and authority, not with qualifiers and conditional phrases. Diluting the impact of commands with, “perhaps you migh t consider,” “I think,” “I suggest,” and other tentative phrases makes you sound like a wimp. Stand behind your assertions. Tell people what to do and where to go. Don’t worry; most people won’t follow your advice . That’s why how-to books are perennial best-sellers.


Help Readers Relate


To drive home a point, make it personal by occasionally referring to the reader as “you’ ‘—either implicitly or explicitly. Writing articles is an excellent way to cut your teeth as a writer. Start with short pieces—two to four pages—and work your way up to feature-length articles and eventually book chapters (fifteen to thirty pages). When you have enough material to write ten to twenty long articles (aka chapters), you’ve got a book (more or less).


SOURCE:

PUBLISH and FLOURISH

Copyright @ 1992. Garry Schaeffer & Dr. Tony Alessandra

Published by : John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

      New York - - Chichester - - Brisbane - - Toronto - - Singapore



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