Talking Chairs
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13 annoying verbs

Maybe you overhear someone use them on the train or while you’re waiting in line to buy coffee. Or you see them in a pop-up ad that you can’t close fast enough. Or perhaps your kids use them to purposefully annoy you. No matter how you try to avoid them, they’re out there . . . annoying verbs. Here are a few of most crazy-making verbs that corporate communications has to offer. 1. Conversate — I have no idea where “conversate”came from, but I have seen it in a few corporate emails. Is there something wrong with “talk” or...
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Quiz: How many of these colorful terms d...

Writers can find inspiration for their prose everywhere. Lately I’ve been paying close attention to adjectives—particularly words used to describe color. These words are all over the place: clothing catalogs, travel ads and drink menus, to name a few. Though not used heavily in corporate communications, they can come in handy when you want to paint a clear picture in the mind of your reader. The trick to success is to familiarize yourself with a few of these colorful terms. How many of these colors can you match with the commonly used hues below? (Answers can be used...
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Who are your favorite fictional authors

Fiction is full of interesting characters. For writers, often the most interesting characters are other wordsmiths. After all, who but a writer would best understand another writer? Below are a few of my favorite fictional characters who write—as a vocation or an avocation. They can inspire you with their talent, insights and sense of adventure.   1. Bilbo Baggins from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” Baggins—the hero from “The Hobbit” and a character in “The Lord of the Rings”—is a hobbit from The Shire. Hobbits are known for their love of peace,...
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Bring life to your writing with anagrams

Metaphors, rhyme, and alliteration can help you paint pictures with words and add sparkle to your copy. In looking for ways to keep my writing clever and engaging, I’ve been playing around with rhetorical devices and figures of speech. I’ve been having the most fun with anagrams. An anagram is a word or phrase that is formed by rearranging the letters of another word or phrase, using each letter only once (dictionary: indicatory). There are several online anagram resources for novices, including Internet Anagram Server, Word Explorer and Online Anagram Solver....
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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...