Need to improve your writing?

Let Susan help

never place a period

You need to train your employees to write if

  • They write such poor reports that you rewrite every sentence before forwarding.
  • They produce documents that reflect poorly on you and the company.
  • It costs money and time to scrutinize every manuscript.
  • You wish your staff would agree on writing styles for your department or organization.
  • They have great ideas for writing projects but cannot implement them.
  • They have brilliant ideas but only a passing relationship with grammar.
  • They write professionally and are eager to move to the next level.

People in any position benefit from writing training

  • Chief executive officers
  • Directors of nonprofit organizations
  • Leadership teams
  • Top- and mid-level managers
  • High-potential individuals
  • Individual contributors
  • Administrative assistants and other support staff
  • People in any field benefit from writing training
  • Architects, engineers and designers
  • Human-resource specialists
  • Lawyers and judges
  • MBAs
  • Physicians, healthcare administrators and patient-care specialists
  • Public relations specialists, staff writers, editors
  • Technical specialists who communicate with non-tech staff
  • Support staff

Call me for customized workshops that help your staff gain skill and confidence as writers.

My workshops are both useful and entertaining, since people need to be engaged in order to learn. Each session includes instructive presentations and discussions at the basic, intermediate and advanced levels.

Make your computer work for you, Part 2


More tips for using Microsoft Word 2010 to your advantage.

  • Organize your files.
    • You can save every file in your Word software without organization, just as you keep masking tape, scissors, bottle openers, loose keys, birthday candles, expired coupons and random corks in the junk drawer in the kitchen. Or you can organize. I recommend organizing Word files. Find someone else for your junk drawer.
  • Establish and use directories. 
    • Find organizing principles for your docs. Memos, meetings and management is too vague. Human resources, finance and software might work – as long as you don’t work in human resources, finance or software. If you freelance or consult, consider organizing by client name, service provided and your own office management. 
    • By default, Word organizes your files in alphabetical order. 
      • If you want often-used files to appear at the top of the alphabet, type an exclamation point (!) or a digit at the beginning of the file name, with or without a space following. Be consistent on using or skipping that space. 
      • If you want rarely used files to appear at the bottom of the alphabet, type z at the beginning of the file name.
    • When searching for particular files, you can switch to sorting files by date – ascending (from oldest to newest) or descending (from newest to oldest) – or by file type or size.
      • Click Control O to open all documents. 
      • On the top right, mouse over the third icon from the right, called “change your view.” Click the drop-down arrow. Scroll down to “details.” Choose “ascending” or “descending.”
      • Change it back at your convenience. 
  • Notice the tools on your tool bar that you have never used. 
    • Strike-through on the tool bar. Highlight the letters or words you might want to cross out. Then hit Strike-through. 
    • Shrink to fit.
      • To shrink the document to one page, click on File, then Print Preview.
      • On the Print Preview screen, click on the seventh icon from the left: three tiny pages, the left one darker than the others, with an arrow point from left to right.
      • That function prevent a document from printing  an additional page.
      • Note: To shrink the document, Microsoft Word decreases the size of each font used in the document.
    • To add the Shrink-to-fit icon to the toolbar
      • Right click on an empty space in the toolbar.
      • From the drop-down list, choose the last item, Customize.
      • From the list of Categories, choose Tools.
      • Scroll down the list of Commands until you find the icon (called here) Shrink one page.
      • Drag the icon to the toolbar.

Read more tips

 

Write great beginnings

north-of-here-seattle
Journalists call story openings “ledes.”

Whether you call them beginnings, openings or ledes, you need to agonize over them – because you have about 250 words to grab your readers.

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, gravely, “and go on ’till you come to the end. Then stop.” Lewis Carroll.

Up top, identify the message of the e-mail, web page or article. Learn new ways to begin a piece of writing. “A lead ought to shine like a flashlight, down into the whole piece, if possible,” says John McPhee.

Avoid these bland, trite leads

  • An apology or complaint: As you probably know….
  • A panorama or vague overview: Urban sprawl is a problem each of us faces every day.
  • A truism, a cliché, the obvious or platitudes: We are dedicated to being the world’s best at bringing people together – giving them easy access to each other and to the information and services they want and need – anytime, anywhere.
  • The Adam-and-Eve approach: Back when the company was founded….
  • There’s good news and there’s bad news….
  • A dictionary definition.
  • To whom it may concern.
  • Dear Sir or Madam.
  • Enclosed (or attached) please find.
  • It has come to my attention.

What Ed Snider taught me about writing nonfiction

Flyers

In 1966, Ed Snider, the billionaire entrepreneur who died recently at 83, co-founded the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team. He also developed and acquired 10 additional businesses, including SMG, an early sports-arena management company; WIP, an early all-sports radio station; and SpectaGuard, a security company. Oh, yes, and the Spectrum, the late, great indoor sporting arena in South Philly.

Snider bundled his companies into an entity called Spectacor, which occupied a mansion on the south side of Rittenhouse Square. It was there that I met Snider, whom I was to profile in Spectacor’s employee newsletter.

Snider’s office, the top level in his elevator-free building, was as impressive as his business empire. His reputation was even greater: He was a towering figure in the world of sports, well known for the emotional support he gave to his players, the presidents of his companies and his friends and colleagues in the city and country.

I was literally and figuratively breathless when I arrived at the fourth floor. But Snider put me at ease, and he spoke with ease. Across the world’s largest wooden desk, he talked about his love for his family and players. He interspersed comments and memories with gestures to photos of his favorite people. And he chatted at length about the wonder of having a child and a grandchild of the same age, a feat he accomplished by marrying multiple times.

The lesson he taught was that, if I just kept quiet and allowed his mind to wander, I’d get a good story. I knew that already, but he, or at least his behavior, reminded me. I didn’t interrupt with questions from my prepared list. Sometimes I smiled or laughed or said, “Oh!” – an inducement for him to keep on keepin’ on. And he did.

Well, the story wrote itself, as they say. It was easy to punctuate his musings, to turn phrases into sentences, to insert paragraph marks. Before deadline, I submitted the profile to the p.r. man who hired me. He loved the article.

I wish that were the end of the story. But when Ed Snider, later honored for his charity work by the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association, read the piece, he had second thoughts. According to the p.r. man, Snider regretted opening up as much as he did. He didn’t take back any of the details, all of which I cited accurately. He merely dismissed the entire article, which never saw publication.

RIP, Ed Snider: You taught me to keep still when I interview, even if the result did not thrill you.

Yes, grammar matters.

you're right

A man I don’t know sends an e-mail. According to his signature, he handles website development, digital marketing strategy, SEO, social media, paid search management, and content marketing. So, while he probably is not a writer himself, he might hire or consult with writers. He says:

“I am not trying to connect with you for any particular reason. I am trying to do a better job of connecting with people I have met so that I don’t have to go to a million places to find people when opportunities or potential introductions arise.

“For example, if someone came to me with a need for a writer who was crazy fanatic about grammar. I would likely send them your way but might give up if I have to search all over for your contact information.”

Wow, I think. He thinks I am crazy-fanatic-about-grammar. I am, and proudly so. It’s not for nothing I have co-opted my friend’s nickname of Comma Momma. I swear, though, I never corrected this guy in public, perhaps because we have never met. Then I wonder: Who wants a writer who is not crazy-fanatic-about-grammar (CFaG). Do people call and ask him to recommend writers who are or are not CFaG?

Similarly, who wants a tailor to alter a jacket without being crazy-fanatic about making the sleeves the same length? Who wants to eat a restaurant meal where the chef is not crazy-fanatic about a clean kitchen? Who wants a website designer who is not crazy-fanatic about checking broken links?

But this is not the only dude who asks if grammar matters. In fact, I teach a course at Temple University Center City called “Does grammar still matter?” The answer, if you care, is that grammar does matter.

The fact that teachers don’t teach grammar at any grade level doesn’t mean it’s not essential to clear communication. It is. The fact that parents don’t or can’t correct their children’s oral or written grammatical errors likewise does not diminish the value of good grammar.

I teach grammar to adults because they didn’t learn it in school or they have forgotten it since. They come to class for refreshers, hoping to recall first-, second- and third-person voice; active and passive verbs; and the difference between affect and effect.

I am not alone in believing that grammar matters.

Andrew Hindes lists credibility, professionalism and clarity among the 6 top reasons why grammar matters.

Richard Nordquist says that people associate grammar with correctness. “Knowing about grammar helps us understand what makes sentences and paragraphs clear and interesting and precise.”

And Steve Tobak writes about creating content for social media: “If what you’re writing will be public and has your name attached to it, assume that anyone who works with you or might be interested in hiring you will see it. As such, whatever it is can be conversational, and a typo isn’t the end of the world, but it should still be reasonably grammatically correct…. Business writing is about clarity in communication….”

I remain, sincerely yours, CFaG. Consider signing up for my grammar class at Temple.