The 4 questions to ask before you write anything: ROAM

Effective writing creates a change in the reader. Whether you’re writing an email, a blog post, or a strategy document, four elements determine your success: Reader, Objective, Action, and iMpression. I use the (slightly skewed) acronym ROAM to keep all four in mind as I write. Readers: Who is the audience? Before writing anything, visualize your readers. … Continued

Verizon just bought AOL’s “global multiscreen network platform”

Holy cow. A phone company bought the original Internet content company. This has to have some broader significance. Look in the obligatory press release and you find . . . nothing. Except for some indigestible chunks of verbiage (thanks to Barak Kassar for pointing this out): . . . the combination of Verizon and AOL creates a … Continued

How to write boldly when you are afraid

When you’re afraid of how people will react, you distance yourself from what you write. This makes your writing weak, which makes you seem weak. Fearful writers use language to evade blame. They: Bury the lead. Flounder around before getting to the point. Use passive voice. When you say “mistakes were made” you conceal who’s responsible. Use weasel … Continued

What it feels like when a post goes viral

Here’s what I learned when last Monday’s writing tips post went viral: smart people stick to their goals in the middle of a viral storm. I’ll tell you what happened, what it felt like, and what I learned. Let’s start with what I’m trying to do here. When I started this blog, my goals were, in order of importance: … Continued

The truth vs. the story: How not to report an earthquake

Jonathan Katz was a wire reporter in Haiti when the earthquake hit in 2010. In a fascinating piece in the New York Times, he explains how reporters covering a natural disaster — like the recent earthquake in Nepal — follow a script determined by what they have access to, rather than what’s actually happening. This script … Continued

Interview with Ann Handley, author of “Everybody Writes”

Everybody Writes by Ann Handley is a spectacularly useful book about writing, organized into 74 bite-sized chunks. Ann and I look at the world through the same eyes, and we are fighting the same fight — to help you express yourself more clearly. Here’s my interview with her: Why a book on writing now? There are so … Continued

Who sounds like a deflategate liar: Robert Kraft or the NFL’s lawyers?

Two people are arguing in print. Who do you believe? The one who writes more clearly, not necessarily the one that’s right. Which brings us to deflategate. When the Patriots played the Colts in this year’s AFC championship game, officials found some of the balls to be underinflated. The NFL just finished investigating whether the Patriots intentionally let air … Continued

Can we save academia from bullshit?

Based on the 23,000 people who viewed and shared it, you liked my post on writing tips and psychology. But those in academia were displeased. A typical comment: I can only hope that the college students whose papers I have to read do not see this. Academically, this could be titled, “How to Fail a Research Paper”. How … Continued