The hidden mental models behind the fight over the Oxford comma

A nasty, permanent spat burns in the heart of analysts of the English language. It’s the fight over the need for the Oxford or serial comma — for example, do you really need the final comma in the phrase “passive voice, weasel words, and jargon”? Now that a court in Maine has decided a case based on the … Continued

The Insight Debate: Words vs. Numbers

Moderator: Welcome to the first Insight Debate of 2017. We’ll be hearing from two distinguished purveyors of knowledge, Words and Numbers. I’m Professor Insight, your moderator. Let’s begin. On my left, I’d like to introduce Words. Since the dawn of communication — and certainly since the dawn of written communication over 5000 years ago — words have … Continued

Business books are stories. Here’s how to write one.

Most business books are boring because there are no people — just endless rambling on about strategy. You need people and stories to make them come alive. I wrote my first business book proposal in 2005. It was for a book called “The End of TV as We Know It,” and it reflected my decade … Continued

Preparation is the key to a great research interview (Ask Dr. Wobs)

Preparation is the key to a successful research interview. Deliberate planning makes sure your time isn’t wasted — which is the concern expressed in today’s reader question. Dear Dr. Wobs: Good analysis requires research: analyzing data and interviewing people. I know how to make my research data sing. But how do I prepare for and conduct … Continued

Fat outlines help you write without anxiety (Ask Dr. Wobs)

When you’ve completed most of the research for a writing project, but before writing, you should create a “zeroth draft” — a fat outline. Fat outlines are both easy and helpful, functioning as an onramp to your writing process. But as today’s Ask Dr. Wobs question shows, fat outlines are unfamiliar to people. Dear Dr. Wobs: What … Continued

You should avoid lists of words to avoid

People keep sending me word lists. “Use these words,” they say. “Don’t use these other words.” If you want to be a better writer, these lists are useless, because they don’t change how you think. Words to ban from tech? This list is way too short Robert Dean lists “20 bullsh*t buzzwords that should be banned … Continued