When to break my writing rules

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My most popular post ever included ten writing tips and the psychology behind them. On social media, I see people reading these tips with no context and objecting. “Passive voice is perfectly fine,” they say, or, “You wouldn’t get very far if you only used short sentences.” You want to break my rules? I’m here … Continued

Salesforce puts customers on the execution block with jargon assault

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Salesforce is a great program for small business. Each of its customer sites has an administrator, many of whom are non-coders. That’s why a recent “critical update” featuring “block execution” sounded scary — but incomprehensible — to many. The salesforce email: simultaneously opaque and terrifying A correspondent working in a small financial advice firm forwarded … Continued

Arkema issues confused, self-serving statements as its chemical plant explodes

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Yesterday, Rich Rowe, CEO of Arkema, warned that his chemical plant near Houston might explode. Today it exploded. When you know something like this is going to happen, you need to get right to the point. Rich Rowe didn’t. The Arkema plant is in Crosby, Texas, about 25 miles from downtown Houston. Houston, of course, … Continued

With Hurricane Harvey approaching, the Weather Channel wastes copy on weather porn

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Hurricane Harvey looks like a devastating storm. But with the media deploying superlatives so frequently, is there any capacity for alarm left for this actual emergency? I analyze the lead hurricane article from The Weather Channel for precision, clarity, and effectiveness. The lesson here: context is crucial when describing a potential disaster. Start with this: … Continued

As the Marketo screw-up shows, you can’t apologize in the passive voice

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Marketing automation company Marketo had an oopsy last week — they forgot to renew their main domain name. This caused a day’s disruption for their customers. The CEO’s passive apology fails to be direct and honest. Why is this so hard? Let’s take a look at the CEO’s email to customers. In what follows, I’ve … Continued