Talking Chairs
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Write it out — 41 ways to express frustr...

I’ve had a rough time at work over the past couple of weeks: roadblocks, stonewalling, purposeful lack of communication, siloed behavior. It makes me long for the days when my job just involved writing and editing. Let me correct some serial commas—please. I thought I would try a little writing therapy. Below are idioms and words that describe the frustration I’ve felt lately. I’ve been “at my wit’s end” and “in a stew,” but I’ve also felt bewildered, incensed and riled. How many of these can you relate to? At your wit’s end At the end of your...
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8 resources for finding that perfect wor...

I once worked with someone who used the word “secure” continually. He would write: • “We need to secure advertisers.” • “Have you secured a printer for the annual report yet?” • “I’m not feeling secure about our chances of securing this contract.” I often found myself correcting his writing and replacing “secure” with alternatives such as “obtain,” “get,” “acquire” and “find,” but he was set on the word “secure” and would often change it back. The importance of varying our words to keep readers interested cannot be...
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49 unbeatable words for the game “...

Anyone who spends time with kids knows their patience is truly a virtue. Whether it’s standing in line at the grocery store or waiting for food at a restaurant, kids complain about being bored within milliseconds. Mine are no exception. Rather than reflexively pulling out my phone to keep them entertained, though, we often play an old-fashioned game of “hangman.” In case you don’t remember, the game goes like this: One player chooses a word and the other players try to guess it by asking which letters it contains. Every wrong guess brings the guessing players a...
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6 ways communicators can say “no&#...

Between staffing constraints, workloads and outlandish demands from clients and executives, communications pros are universally overworked. We’re increasingly being asked to do more with less, but sometimes we have to say “no” to a project or offer that cannot be accomplished. Here are six ways you can decline politely, but firmly: 1. Just say “no.” This is easier said than done. I once worked in a department where the director told her staff that they couldn’t say “no” to anything. Many of her employees organized parties and ordered refreshments along...
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Why use “utilize” when ̶...

Most corporate writing is full of weak, meaningless verbs. Consider “implement,” “leverage,” “disseminate,” “promulgate” and the most impotent verb of them all, “utilize.” Like many PR Daily readers, I’ve spent much of my career translating corporate-speak into clear, comprehensible English. I’ve changed “utilize” to “use” more times than I can count. No matter how many times I explain that “use” is preferred—that it’s simpler and less pretentious—someone insists on using “utilize” because it “sounds better.” The “bigger...
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10 writing quotations from “I Capt...

Last summer I had a “where have you been all my life” experience with Dodie Smith’s 1948 novel, “I Capture the Castle.” The book details the story of 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain and her outlandish family, who live in a broken-down castle in the English countryside. In addition to telling her story, Mortmain is also working to perfect her writing skills. The reader is captivated by her narrative, quips, and insights as she chronicles her struggles to properly pen her thoughts. Below are a few quotations from the book to which most writers can relate: 1. “I...
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How to write clearer copy

There are several techniques used capture the attention of your readers, who will likely give your message 10 seconds before they leave your website or delete your email. In previous posts I’ve written about the importance of “starting with the why” and “not burying the lede”—two important techniques that writers should employ. “Burying the lede” refers to the failure to mention the most important or actionable items at the beginning of your message. “Starting with the why” means that you state the reason up front, so everyone understands the purpose of...
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Just say “no” to double nega...

Writers and editors know to avoid double negatives in formal writing. You would probably scramble to correct a sentence like this on your company website: “The facility will not allow no more visitors after 10 p.m.” However, double negatives still exist. The sentence below came from a press release sent by a federal agency: “It is not uncommon for a firm, based on its own appropriate evaluation of potential suppliers and raw material, to change the source of a raw material after the device has been cleared by the FDA . . .” This sentence could be improved...