Comprehension: Screen vs. Print Reading

ReadtoChildrenAn April 6 Washington Post article by Michael S. Rosenwald , Serious reading takes a hit from online scanning and skimming, researchers say, raises a question many of us have been wondering about, and asking ourselves: Is, and if so, how is online reading changing our reading habits, and, as a result, our comprehension of what we are reading? And what do we, as business writers, need to know now about today’s most common communication practices?

In her remarkable book, Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, Maryanne Wolf, Tufts University cognitive neuroscientist, and one of the world’s foremost experts on the study of reading, states that the brain was not designed for reading, but has adapted to reading.

Think about how you read online – social media, for one example. We may click on a promising link, look for a juicy tidbit or two, and skim on to the next promising thing. Cognitive neuroscientists project that this process is, in fact, changing the traditional reading process into scanning and skimming for paper reading as well, with eyes skimming until the reader realizes that he or she really did not focus on, and probably does not remember much of what he or she has read, having to go back and read it again to make sense of it. The apparent development of the “digital brain” with new circuits for skimming through torrents of online information is in direct conflict with “traditional deep reading circuitry” developed over several millennia.

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Published in: on May 3, 2014 at 9:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Count to Ten: Unpleasant Communication on the Job

WomanatComputer175Until, or unless completely emotionless robots run our world, unpleasant communication issues will continue to exist on the job. And so, as one popular phrase puts it, we will just have to deal with it.

How?

What do you do when you receive an unpleasant, or even a downright angry email, phone call, or visit? How do you deal with it?

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Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentationsexecutive coaching,consulting, and writing services. To discuss how we can help, call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email gail@gailtycer.com

Published in: on March 31, 2014 at 4:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Business Writing Workarounds

Pen and Paper“Workarounds,” a word borrowed from the techie community, has become an interesting part of our business vocabulary, generally meaning if the way you usually do it, or are supposed to do it, doesn’t work, or if you’re not sure how to do it, here’s how to work around it to get the job done.

Many of us were taught – or at least thought we were taught – that there is only one correct way to write. Certainly when you are talking about a prescribed type of writing, say a thesis or a dissertation, that is true.

But in business writing, workarounds can get that piece of writing done both quickly and correctly, and can be useful when we’re not certain of the grammatical correctness of what we have written. There are many correct ways to get the job done, and in the typical business situation we do not have time to spend figuring out how to fix a particular phrase or sentence exactly as written. Business writing is not, and should not, be an English class exercise. Business writing is a tool – a way to get the job done. And the writing itself should be correctly done to enhance your professionalism and credibility.

So let’s talk about a couple of quick, correct workarounds.

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Published in: on March 24, 2014 at 11:28 am  Leave a Comment  

But Can I Trust You?

Team of climbers on the summit.Sadly, it’s happened to just about all of us in the business situation. That employee you trusted; that company you loved to work with; the co-worker you believed – proved to be untrustworthy.

Do you remember what that felt like? Did you feel the pain, the disbelief, and then the slow realization that I did, when you knew for certain the one you had so trusted was, in fact, not trustworthy? Or how do you feel about the company who “guarantees” their goods or services, when you find out they are actually going to charge you more than the price of a new unit, or a new service, to make good on their guarantee?

At one point, and maybe still, the issue of trust spawned an entire trust-building industry, getting the big bucks for building trust in the workplace with death-defying, partner-dependent “life leaps” into a group co-workers with outstretched arms to catch. Or scaling a cliff, trusting your partner to keep you from plunging into the abyss below.

For many, these activities seemed effective in their organizations. In reality, there’s a bit more involved than a weekend, or even a week of putting yourself through all this trust building – although it may not be as much fun!

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Published in: on March 17, 2014 at 11:54 am  Leave a Comment  

What Do You Call People?

ThinkingWoman170With email what to call your reader is frequently a non-issue, because many email writers just begin with what they have to say, using no greeting at all.

Some participants in my workshops are offended by this practice, and want a friendly word – maybe even just their name will do it for some. Others want a “hi,” or a “good morning.” A very few like a simple pleasantry, asking for the family, the kids, or perhaps the weekend golf game. To avoid giving offense, consider your reader, his or her probable preference, and the tone you want to establish or reinforce with that reader.

At least an equal, and growing number say, “just the facts, Ma’am!” and happily cut their reading time by getting to the meat of the issue immediately.

But what about the more formal emails, like letters? If your company has an established style for this type of correspondence, use it. If not, here are a few guidelines:

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Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentationsexecutive coaching,consulting, and writing services. To discuss how we can help, call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email gail@gailtycer.com

Published in: on March 10, 2014 at 2:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Before You Hit “Send”: Final Email Checkpoints

WomanatComputer175Unless it’s an attachment, odds are that in most cases your email will be fairly short – a screen to a screen-and-a-half maximum. And because we write so many of them, we need to write them quickly. The shorter, the better – and out of here!

Business writing is a tool to get a job done. To make it easier for your email to do its job and avoid snags along the way, here are ten quick things to check before you send it.

  1. First of all, ask yourself, “Should this information be passed along at all?” If not, don’t.

If Yes,

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Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentationsexecutive coaching,consulting, and writing services. To discuss how we can help, call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email gail@gailtycer.com

Published in: on March 3, 2014 at 3:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ten Tested “How To’s” for Clearer Writing

womanTyping250How frustrating! You put a great deal of thought into that last memo or instruction, and your co-worker doesn’t get it. You thought you had a good plan for this piece. So what happened? Let’s take a look at our “how to” checklist – 10 quick and easy things you can do to help your writing communicate clearly; to help your reader “get it” at a glance.

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Published in: on February 24, 2014 at 3:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ten Tested Tactics for Clearer Writing

BusWomanComputer200

Have you ever sat in front of your computer, staring at the blank screen, and wondering what to write? We all have! So what can you do to avoid those awful blank-screen-staring-moments – and why is it they always seem to come up when you’re working against a deadline? How can you get started quickly?

Strangely enough, you can get off to a faster, easier start by taking a just a little more time up front to save a whole lot of time writing the whole piece. Begin tactically.

What is a tactic? A strategy. A good strategy is the essential part we so often leave out before we begin to write. And a clear strategy is the part that lets you start quickly and easily; continue step-by-step; finish with a piece that does the job it was meant to do; and get the results you need.

Here are the ten steps that will get you off to a quick, easy start:

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Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentationsexecutive coaching,consulting, and writing services. To discuss how we can help, call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email gail@gailtycer.com

Published in: on February 17, 2014 at 3:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Is Grammar Dead – Or Deadly?

Is Grammar Dead – Or Deadly?

Gail Tycer wordpress wordleDoes grammar really matter? Well it certainly does to some people.

In a recent New York Times piece decrying the practice, John McWhorter, author, blogger, and contributing editor states, “We cannot help associating ‘bad’ grammar with low intelligence, sloppiness and lack of refinement.”

This criterion, he notes, makes it “…increasingly challenging to find work providing a living wage or upward mobility, much less satisfaction,” for people lacking these skills. While acknowledging that this is the case, McWhorter questions barring someone from a decent job “…because he or she isn’t always clear on the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re.’”

Nor does this seem to be a situation limited to the United States. Commenting on “the debate around grammar,” a French scientist said, “I personally don’t hire people whose resumes and letters are full of…mistakes, for two reasons. First, I know I will need to rewrite everything they do…which is a huge waste of time. Second, I consider that someone who is sloppy enough not to check…before they send a resume…is not to be trusted to do serious, precise scientific work.

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Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentationsexecutive coaching,consulting, and writing services. To discuss how we can help, call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email gail@gailtycer.com

Published in: on February 11, 2014 at 5:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Good Jargon vs. Bad Jargon

Giving a SpeechWe all talk about jargon, but what do we mean by jargon?

 Let’s begin with the Encarta World English Dictionary definition:

Jargon n: 1. Language that is used by a particular group, profession, or culture, especially when the words and phrases are not understood or used by other people. 2. Pretentious or meaningless language (disapproving).

 It’s jargon if, according to the first dictionary definition, it’s “the language used by a particular group, profession, culture, especially when the words and phrases are not understood or used by other people.” This is the “good jargon” – the insider language that cuts to the chase, and provides exact, specific meaning to other insiders so they understand clearly exactly what you’re talking about. The key here is that your readers are insiders. They are people who speak the language of this specific discipline, and understand the terms you are using in the same way you are using them.

The second dictionary definition (“Pretentious or meaningless language [disapproving]”) is how most of us think of, and have come to use the term.  This is the “bad jargon,” and is characterized by (a) taking twice as many words as you need to say it clearly to your specific reader (again, the reader, and the “language” he or she understands, is the key); (b) perhaps – although not usually to anyone except the writer – sounding impressive, but not making sense to your reader (writing to impress, rather than to express“); and  (c) using certain words or phrases that have been used and used and used….

 So here are four easy ways to fix, or avoid altogether “second definition” jargon issues:

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Published in: on February 3, 2014 at 3:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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