Talking Chairs
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21 unusual phobias

It’s been said that in English, there is a word for everything. Terms exist to describe groups of animals and other words, and there are even words formed by the combination of two separate words. Having recently unearthed a new phobia—“aerophobia,” or fear of air travel—I’ve taken an interest in words that describe and pinpoint fears. How many of these phobias do you recognize? (Terms from Oxford Dictionaries, Phobialist.com and Fearof.net.) 1. Asthenophobia: fear of weakness 2. Astrapophobia: fear of lightning 3. Ataxaphobia: fear of disorder or untidiness 4....
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Don’t bury the lede: Put crucial i...

“Burying the lede” is the failure to mention the most important, interesting or attention-grabbing elements of a story in the first few paragraphs. In corporate communications, “burying the lede” means you’ve failed to highlight the most important or actionable items at the beginning of your message. Let’s say you are writing an email to all employees about a change to your organization’s health care plan. You wouldn’t begin the email with facts and statistics about the rising costs of health care or about the current turmoil in the health care industry....
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Words we almost misspell

Writers and editors with long and varied experience, it’s safe to say that we are all exceptionally strong spellers. We can recite English spelling rules and their exceptions. We’re the ones who challenge words in Scrabble. Even the written words that appear in our dreams are spelled correctly. There are very few words that give us trouble—except for those that we almost misspell. Last week I used the word “piecemeal” in a text, and for a brief second I asked myself whether it was “peacemeal” or “piecemeal.” Below are a few of these problematic words,...
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Test your ice cream vocabulary

We have entered the dog days of summer. Here in Texas, we fully expect it to be toasty this time of year, but this summer has been torrid. I walked outside after work yesterday, and even my eyes felt hot. So begins our obsession with ways to keep cool: spring-fed swimming pools, cold saunas, smartphone fan attachments and ice cream—pounds upon pounds of ice cream. The average American eats more than 23 pounds of ice cream each year. June is the highest production month, though production stays strong through August to meet the summer demand. Along with demand comes...
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9 misunderstood words and how to use the...

How often do you spot words that are used improperly? Maybe it’s “can” instead of “may” or “less” when “fewer” would be correct. Usage mistakes are common and can damage the credibility of your message and your organization. That’s why it’s important to know your definitions. Below are nine words with misunderstood and misused meanings. How many have you been using correctly? (Definitions and usage guidance came from Oxford Dictionaries, Dictionary.com and Merriam-Webster.) 1. Complement Complement means to add to or complete. It can also mean the...
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3 improv exercises to improve communicat...

Inspiration comes to those who seek it. My most recent “ah-ha” moment came during an educational seminar my organization hosted for our physician clients. The topic was how to use improvisation techniques—spontaneity, collaboration and flexibility—to improve communication with patients and staff members (in my case, with co-workers and loved ones). In the same way that word games can improve your writing, improvisation techniques can improve your conversational and listening skills. Practice the techniques below with a partner and then try them at home or...
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21 alternatives to “opportunity...

Do you ever feel that you’re so acculturated in marketing and PR-speak that you use it in your non-work life? I recently attended a wedding in which the couple wrote their own vows. The groom began his recitation with this sentence: “I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to marry you today.” To put this in perspective, the groom is an entrepreneur who lives and breathes marketing and client relations. So although that statement not surprising, it does speak to the pervasiveness of phrases such as, “I appreciate the opportunity to meet with you,” and,...
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11 ways to say it politely

As an unabashed word nerd visiting the United Kingdom, I was instantaneously struck by the differences between British English and American English (“luggage enquiries” versus “luggage inquiries” at the airport), but also by the general politeness of the country’s public signs. Whether by poetry, pun, or understated word play, these communicators know how to get their message across firmly and politely. Below are a few examples: “Please queue here.” “I’m a bin. Drop your liter in.” “Be a mate. Don’t block the gate.” “We have a selection of...