Effective titles and summaries: You had me at ‘Hello.’

Every email, document, or post you write now competes with hundreds of other items for your reader’s attention. Two strategies will get them to read it: fascinate and summarize. In this post I explain how to balance these two concepts to create titles, subject lines, openers, and tweets that win over readers quickly. (A complete guide organized by … Continued

My cord cutting experience (and the bullshit that came with it)

Last week I was a TV subscriber with a landline phone. Now I stream my TV and have much faster Internet. This transition was a lot harder than it sounded because service providers deceived me. Streaming your TV sounds like a simple idea. Our viewing is nearly all broadcast channels like Fox, premium channels like HBO, … Continued

No more than 1000 words

Teachers should reward brevity, not bullshit. (This is a follow-on to yesterday’s post about teaching writing.) Writing assignments today look like this: Turn in 4- to 6-page paper on themes and symbolism is Raisin in the Sun by Monday morning. Everything is wrong with this. The page length trains students to focus on print rather than online, which … Continued

How we really should teach writing

Here’s a radical idea. Let’s teach high school and college students to write stuff that they’ll actually need to write in life or in an office: emails, blog posts, social media posts, marketing copy, research reports, and presentations. Take time from analyzing Plato, Great Expectations and Catcher in the Rye and spend it instead analyzing great non-fiction writers like Mary Roach, Malcolm Gladwell, Michael … Continued

All customer service failures have one cause: broken promises

All brands and businesses make promises. They promise low prices, fast service, or no hassles. Sometimes they fail to deliver on those promises. Customer service failure is about broken promises. When people get upset, it’s not because products or services are objectively bad. They get upset because of broken promises. Parents who buy their kids a $3.99 … Continued

The ongoing benefits from a viral blog post

Responding to several requests, here’s a follow-up: one viral post on writing tips has made my blog more popular, improved my search rankings, and given me the confidence to take the next step in my journey. Here’s what I learned. Viral blog posts taper slowly. Here’s a chart of the traffic on my blog for the last … Continued

The only way to become a better writer

For all my talk about writing, I’ve found that there’s only one way to get better. Practice. Write. Get feedback. Rewrite. Then write something else. Repeat as frequently as possible.

Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report spawns predictable cliches

Mary Meeker’s latest 197-slide Internet Trends report is not bullshit. While some of the stats on the slides are questionable, overall it’s a pretty interesting, international grab-bag of facts. My issue is with what comes next — media and analyst cliché predictions based on those facts. In the tech world, predictions are predictable. There’s a cliché for each stage of technology … Continued