Talking Chairs
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Quiz: Can you identify these first lines...

Most experienced, professional writers, have agonized over opening sentences. After all, opening lines set the tone, establish style, and are often the deciding factor in your reader’s decision to keep reading. No pressure. When I find myself struggling with a writing project, I read fiction to find inspiration. And recently, I’ve found inspiration in reading famous opening lines from the great works of literature. In the spirit of finding that creative spark and broadening our knowledge, I offer the following list of the famous first lines. Can you match these with...
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27 tricky homophones

Last weekend, I was browsing in the Cajun food section at the grocery store. Near the shelf with all the mixes was a handwritten sign that said, “You’ll roux the day you don’t use our instant roux mix.” I love clever wordplay, especially when it’s found in unexpected places. This sign was a play on two homophones. Roux is a mixture of flour and fat that is used to make sauces. Rue means to feel regret or remorse. Homophones are words that are pronounced the same, but have different meanings and are spelled differently. The English language is littered with...
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Do you recognize these 6 types of trolls

Many organizations have a troll problem. Whether they lurk on external websites or intranets, trolls create conflict in online communities by starting arguments and posting inflammatory or off-topic messages, largely aimed at upsetting people. Trolls deliberately stir up drama and try to provoke readers into an emotional response or disrupt normal on-topic discussion. They are modern digital bullies. At my company, where our trolls mostly skulk on the intranet, we’ve discovered that we have a number of various kinds of trolls commenting on our site. They may all have...
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Nouns have gender; people have sex

Our language is full of confusing word pairs. Have you ever tried to explain the difference between “comprise” and “compose”? One particularly troublesome pair is “gender” and “sex.” Fortunately, there’s an easy way to remember that those two words cannot be used interchangeably. Just remember that nouns have gender. People have sex. According to the American Medical Association Manual of Style, sex is the “classification of living things as male or female, according to their reproductive organs and functions assigned by...
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10 tips for more compelling writing

My youngest sister is in graduate school, earning her Ph.D. in biology. Suddenly immersed in the “publish or perish” culture, she’s been struggling with the tiresome task of co-authoring research papers. She once sent me a text at 2:30 a.m. that said, “I don’t know how you can write as your career. I want to set my laptop on fire right now.” Whether it’s academic, corporate, or technical text, or you’re simply trying to think of what to scribble on a colleague’s birthday card, writing can be bewildering, tedious work. To make it less so, I pulled...
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Acronyms: Avoiding the alphabet soup

I work for a hospital system where TLAs (three-letter acronyms) are ubiquitous. Not only do we use health care acronyms, but also acronyms related to our system, and acronyms related to each facility. I was recently at a training seminar with co-workers from different departments. Our first exercise was to set the ground rules and expectations for the class. One ground rule that was quickly established: No acronyms were to be used in the class unless they were first defined. By the end of the seminar, we were discussing plans to create a group called the EAA: Employees...
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What’s your headline style?

PR Daily readers have strong opinions when it comes to style. On this site, we’ve debated topics such as the use of the serial comma, the overuse of the exclamation point, and the capitalization of titles. And who can forget the lively conversations over spacing after punctuation and the use of nouns as verbs. One issue I would like ask PR Daily readers to debate is headline style. At my company, we recently changed our headline style to down style. With down style, only the first word, the first word after a colon or em dash, and proper nouns are capitalized in the...
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Vitalize your writing with anagrams

Like many other PR Daily readers, I’m always looking for ways to keep my writing fresh. Over the past several weeks, I’ve been playing around with rhetorical devices, such as alliteration, metaphors, and euphemisms. I’ve been having the most fun with anagrams. Anagrams are words or phrases that are formed by rearranging the letters of another word or phrase, using the original letters only once (dictionary: indicatory). There are several online anagram servers for novices (Internet Anagram Server, Word Explorer, and Online Anagram Solver), but as I’ve discovered,...