Editing brilliant thinkers

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I’ve been working with brilliant thinkers this month. Their brilliance doesn’t make them great writers — in fact, it sometimes gets in the way. The brilliant thinker often falls into what you might call the professor mode. After studying a subject in great deal — and often after accumulating massive amounts of experience — they … Continued

Amazing true facts about women at work

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Based on the number of #MeToo posts in my social media feeds and the news I’m reading from Hollywood and Silicon Valley, some men have a problem. They seem to be grappling with a mystifying phenomenon: what are women doing in my workplace? Since this blog is all about helping you, the reader, I’ll do … Continued

11 key skills of a true analyst

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If you want clear and useful thinking, you need a true analyst, not just somebody who calls themselves an analyst. True analysts pursue thinking as a discipline. Let’s look at the qualities and skills that define that discipline. If you watch TV or read the media, it seems like you’re always hearing from analysts — … Continued

Rewriting the news with stupendous verbiage in place of simple words

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California middle school teacher Leilen Shelton wants her writing students to eschew simple words like “good,” “said,” and “fun,” according to the Wall Street Journal. To demonstrate the problems with this dumb idea, I rewrote a news article about terrorism, replacing all the mundane words with longer ones. Misguided writing teachers are responsible for much of the bullshit … Continued

How to fix weasel words

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Weasel words weaken prose. But how do you fix them? First, what exactly is a weasel word? A weasel word is an adjective, adverb, noun, or verb that indicates quantity or intensity but lacks precision. Think of words like “deeply,” “most,” “backer,” and “tends to.” They express emotion, but mean little. I know why you … Continued

The enduring wisdom of William Zinsser

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When William Zinsser died in May, his obituaries praised his his book On Writing Well, originally published in 1976. It sold 1.5 million copies and, according to the back cover, was “[c]ited by critics as the natural companion of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style” (of course). So I read the copy I found for a … Continued

Lacking confidence at work? Writing is your path forward.

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You might be new at work. You might be shy. Maybe you’re just not at your best in person. Learning to write without bullshit could be the best way to boost your career. We all have an image of the “leaders” at work. They can stand in front of a group and inspire us. They’re … Continued

How to rewrite a book in one day (with sticky notes)

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In 2009, Ted Schadler and I had a problem. The back half of our book Empowered wasn’t working. This is how we fixed it. We were nearing the manuscript deadline for Empowered, Ted’s and my book about strategies to deal with empowered consumers and workers. The front half of the book, about consumers (and marketing), was holding together pretty … Continued