Super Bowl ads show the axes of content effectiveness

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Maybe you saw the football game last night. You probably noticed the commercials. Some were funny and sharable. Some were effective for the brand. But not that many were both. If you talk about your product, you’re probably being boring. If you try to be funny or cool, you risk wasting effort, leaving the viewer mystified about … Continued

The 2016 candidates as sound bites

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The 2016 candidates for president have babbled on so extensively and gotten so much media coverage that it all just blends together. So I asked myself: if I let my brain get tired and stupid, what sound bite remains? Here’s what stuck to my brain (sorted by their results in Iowa). Regrettably, when many people … Continued

“How to Write Short” by Roy Peter Clark

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You should write shorter. You should read Roy Peter Clark‘s book “How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times” to learn how. The biggest problem with how people write now is that they are out of touch with how people read now. People read online, and the average article gets 20 seconds of attention. … Continued

Pepsi’s Kola House “experiential lounge” (a bar with extra adjectives)

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The press release for Pepsi’s new bar (oops, I mean “experiential lounge”) shows how you can pump up almost anything with extra fizz. This is fashion. Fashion can’t just use simple words like “blue” and “polyester”; similarly, a fashionable bar talking about drinks would sound boring. So we get “experiences.” Let’s look at some fabulous excerpts. I’ve … Continued

Iowa polls, “expectations” were a pale shadow of the truth

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For months, the political media have had nothing to talk about but polls and expectations. Yesterday reality crashed the party in Iowa, revealing the vacuity of the polls and the “expectations game.” Let’s examine how poll/expectations-based “analysis” differs from reality-based analysis. The polls were totally off Let’s compare two recent Iowa polls, the Quinnipiac poll done Sunday and … Continued

The sublime joy of making a book index

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I love to index books, because it requires intense thinking that’s like writing in reverse. To make an index you must ask, for every passage in a book, “If I were looking for this, what words would describe what I was looking for?” Writing means thinking of an idea and creating content for it. Indexing is the reverse: reviewing … Continued

My inspirations and aspirations

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The people who inspire me share one quality: a commitment to expressing the truth clearly and without fear — and with a smile. Perhaps that explains my current quest. Here are a few in whose footsteps I hope to follow. Isaac Asimov. Asimov’s plain, direct, clever, and idea-filled prose captivated me in adolescence — and I mean his nonfiction, … Continued

Make an Idea Map to visualize your book’s idea flow

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Some nonfiction books just seem to flow naturally from idea to idea. Others seem repetitive — as if the author is just hitting the same idea again and again. An Idea Map can help you visualize your concepts and organize them to avoid repetition. I’m nearing completion on my manuscript for Writing Without Bullshit, and I wanted … Continued