Talking Chairs
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5 signs of “legalese”

Fred Rodell, the former dean of Yale Law School, said, “There are two things wrong with most legal writing. One is its style. The other is its content.” No matter what industry they work in, corporate communicators have had dealings with “legalese.” It’s everywhere: in the employee handbook, in corporate policies, on website disclaimers, in contracts with clients. No matter how many times a non-attorney reads legalese, the true meaning remains elusive. Tired of writing clear, fluid text? Want to gum it up with legalese? Drop in a few of these...
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57 words you may not have known you coul...

Like many PR Daily readers, I enjoy a friendly game of Scrabble now and then. Well, maybe “friendly” isn’t the best way to describe it. I’m actually a merciless Scrabble player. It goes back to when I was 10 and playing Scrabble with my older sister. She wouldn’t let me put “zit” on the triple word score because she insisted “zit” wasn’t a word. Furious, I quit the game, flipped over the board, and swore I would never again play Scrabble with my sister. For those who’ve had similar experiences playing Scrabble, here is a list of high scoring,...
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13 clever and inspiring quotes about wri...

Writers often pride themselves on their limitless creativity, but even they occasionally need an inspirational push. Luckily, other writers and creative people can help. If you need a little inspiration this week, here are 13 witty and insightful quotes about writing. “A sentence should never be cruel and unusual.” — William C. Burton, attorney “If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” — Albert Einstein, physicist “I have made this letter longer that usual because I lack the time to make it shorter.” —...
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14 of Shakespeare’s most captivati...

Opening lines can torment writers. The lead sentence can make or break what we’ve written. They are often the deciding factor in whether readers keep reading. To find inspiration for my own writing projects, I often study the first lines of great literary works.Recently, I’ve been interested in the first lines of Shakespeare’s plays. Some of his most famous works open simply (“Who’s there?” in Hamlet.), while others immediately draw readers in with a mystery. Here are a few of my favorites: “When shall we three meet again In thunder, lightning, or in...
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How do you persuade a correspondent to t...

When I’m puzzled by someone’s behavior, I think about the aphorism, “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” Or perhaps a version that is a little less harsh: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by inexperience.” That is the only explanation I have for a series of emails that I received last week. The person sending them seemed to be inexperienced and not know he was being appallingly rude. In keeping with my previous posts on bad email manners, here’s what happened. Like so many other PR Daily...
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Should these terms be one word or two?

Corporate communicators can become easily distracted by style and usage issues. For example, when someone asks a usage question, I can’t let it go until I find out the answer. This week’s distraction was the term “cyber security.” A co-worker was insisting that the term was now one word, “cybersecurity.” And indeed, I confirmed this with several dictionaries and in the AP Stylebook. “Cyber” is now considered an accepted prefix. So “cybersecurity” — like “cyberspace” or “cyberbullying” — is one word. I don’t agree with the designation of...
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10 corporate writing crimes

Corporate communicators with years in the trenches are all too familiar with seeing writing transgressions every day. Some we commit; some we correct. Here’s a sampling of the worst crimes:   1. Writing for your boss rather than your audience. In corporate communications, “writing for your audience” often takes a back seat to politics and the whims of executives. Be honest: Is that ad copy for prospects or for your CEO? Is that press release for reporters or for your board of directors? In a corporate environment, it can be tough to remember that the...
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8 more tips for better proofreading

A few weeks ago, I wrote about ways to improve your proofreading skills. Tips included checking your work on the screen and on paper, reading your text aloud, and chewing gum or tapping your foot to stay focused. PR Daily readers also offered their proofreading advice, and had some excellent tips to share. Here are eight of the best: 1. Read your copy backwards. 2. Use an app with a speech option and have it the copy to you. “Sometimes this will uncover things that you might miss even when reading it out loud to yourself.” 3. Have a “read aloud” session. Get two...