Talking Chairs
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13 inspiring quotes from Westworld

The winter months are a great time to catch up on TV series and movies that you never had time to watch. During my recent break, I discovered “Westworld .” “Westworld” is a western/science fiction series based on Michael Crichton’s original 1973 screenplay. The show is a writer’s dream. It features well-written, quick-witted, pithy dialogue. Literary allusions are everywhere as characters routinely quote Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll and Mary Shelley. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the series: 1. “These violent delights have violent ends.” —...
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21 hilariously mangled metaphors

Let’s look at a figure of speech that—when used incorrectly—can leave your readers dazed and confused. A metaphor is a figure of speech that describes an object by comparing it to another unrelated object. Our workplace had become “Westworld,” but with sloppy programming. When used correctly, metaphors help us paint pictures with words, adding depth to our writing. When used incorrectly, the result is quite the opposite. Here are examples of mangled metaphors: That’s a kettle of fish of a different color. You’ve buttered your bread, now lie in it. Never...
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5 signs you’re a bad listener

Ask anyone if he or she is good listener, and that person will invariably say yes. However, research shows that most people overestimate their skills in this area. How do you know if you’re a good listener? I assess listening skills when I interview candidates for employment by asking this question. Ideal answers include, “I turn off my inner voice and focus on the person I’m listening to,” or, “I focus on that person’s words only.” Someone who does this probably has the traits of a good listener. Many of us don’t do turn off our inner voices or focus on...
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6 tips for new writers

Writing is not an easy task. I’ve been writing and editing professionally for more than 15 years, and I still struggle. At least once a week, someone will catch me in a writer’s stare, focused intently on a blank screen, unable to call up the right words. I’m always looking for ways to improve my skills, so I often jump at the chance to help others with their writing. In helping my kids with their English homework or my sister with her fellowship admission essay, I hone my knowledge by offering advice that I haven’t tapped into for years. In the interest of helping...
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How busy should writers and editors be?

As the December holidays approach, it’s now even easier to fall into a trap of being too busy. It’s the trap in which “busy” is the default response whenever you ask someone how they’re doing, even if it’s a result of self-imposed deadlines and activities. Author Tim Kreider most adeptly described this trap in a New York Times opinion piece from 2012: “Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety,...
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15 language and literary facts to liven ...

You made it through Thanksgiving without having an awkward conversation about politics or witnessing your in-laws have a meltdown over pumpkin pie. But now it’s December . . . all those holiday office parties, neighborhood get-togethers, soccer team potlucks to navigate. What — if anything — is it “safe” to talk about? How about language? Below are 15 little-known facts about the English language that can liven up a dull conversation or steer a volatile exchange into calm waters. The English language has 1,100 different ways to spell its 44 distinct sounds,...
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Punctuation — making it up as we go

The world of style and usage can feel like the Wild West. Nouns becoming verbs and literally not meaning literally add to writers’ confusion—along with cooked-up punctuation marks such as the interrobang. The interrobang, The Guardian reports, is a non-standard punctuation mark—?! or !?—used at the end of a sentence that asks a question in an excited manner; expresses excitement or disbelief in the form of a question; or asks a rhetorical question. Here are a few examples: You’ve written a hot bestseller and quit your day job?! The IT department said “no”...
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8 ways PR pros can remember names

Would you rather write your next article on a typewriter — or go to a networking function and try to remember the names of everyone you meet? Pass me the bond paper. I’m horrible with names. I shake hands with someone, the person says his or her name and within 10 seconds I’ve forgotten the moniker. It doesn’t matter if I’m meeting a new neighbor or my counterpart at one of our competitors—the name does not stick. As PR and communications professionals, we know the importance of building rapport and maintaining relationships with clients. It’s not always easy...