So you’ve stumbled across an online writing competition / contest, or perhaps your favourite brand of cereal is offering you a chance to win a holiday around the world. All you have to do is tell them in 25 words or less why you want it. And you want to win, right?
Well believe it or not there are a small number of easy steps you can take to dramatically increase the odds in your favor. And here they are, free of charge just because I’m such a nice guy…
No Sob Stories!
This tip goes first on the list, because it is the most important. For some reason the first thing that seems to come to people’s minds with these contests and competitions is “how can I get them to pity me?” It sounds like a great plan as an entrant, but speaking from personal experience as a judge in these contests, I can tell you that it’s a complete turnoff.
Nonetheless people will try ever trick in the book…
We can’t pay the rent… our house burnt down… everybody in my family has cancer… I need 16 operations so that my dog stops being depressed and I can have my leg re-attached then pay the rent and burn the house down… well you get the point.
Let me make it very clear – this tactic does not work, even if you are telling the truth, because:
1. Judges can’t verify your claims, so anyone can make up any story they like.
2. After a while these entries become so numerous and laborious that they don’t stand out.
All that you will do is send the judge into a depression spiral. More to the point, you will end up highlighting your competitors’ entries because theirs are more enjoyable to read.
Be Creative and Make it Fun to Read
Depending on the number of entrants, judges can often have a lot of text to read. As their head slumps closer and closer to the desk and the coffee starts to wear off, your entry is going to need to have something special about it to get noticed. The best thing you can do is get creative. And I mean really thinking outside of the box (if you are thinking poetry right now, you are not thinking hard enough).
My advice to you here is simple. If you come up with something different and make it really stand out, and MAKE IT FUNNY, you will win. When I hear a fellow judge burst out into laughter at his or her desk, 9 times out of 10 he or she is reading the winner. I can usually even tell which entry they are reading because I had the same reaction when I first read it.
If you can manufacture a reaction like this, chances are you are on a winner. I suggest using your friends and family as test dummies here. If they end up in a ball rolling around the floor you’ve done your job. If the best you get is “not bad”, “(chuckle) very good” or even “looks good to me”, then you need to go back to the drawing board.
Now that’s not to say every winner will be comical or humorous, but your entry needs to stand out as somehow being impressive or interesting.
Stick to the Rules and Stay on Topic
If I had a penny for every time a “words or less” entry broke the rules, I would currently be Bahamas and you would be on your own with this one. Take the time to read the rules, terms and conditions before entering. And if you are provided with a quick-start guide to entering a competition, read it over at least 3 times and make sure you take the advice onboard.
In general, you should always:
· Stay within the word limit
· Write in direct response to the competition’s question or topic (really important!)
· Avoid coarse language
· Submit your entry in the language requested
Short, Sharp, Shiny
Just because you are allowed to use 25 words doesn’t mean you should. If your entry says what you want it to say, don’t fill up the rest of your word limit by repeating yourself or adding useless details. All you end up doing is diluting your message.
So it took you 5 minutes (or maybe 2 days) to create your entry. Would another 5 minutes of proofreading kill you? No, of course not, but it will definitely help you win. Check your grammar, check your punctuation, check your capitalization and check your spelling. Presentation makes your entry easier to read, and will greatly improve your chances.
It sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But how many times have you seen a competition you would like to enter, only to let the due date slip by? As the saying goes, you’ve got to be in it to win it. And if you use the advice I’ve just given you, your chances of coming out on top will greatly improve.
"Three apples fell from heaven, one for the teller, one for the listener and one for the one who heads the tale." Armenian Proverb
Everyone loves a good story, whether from a book, a spoken tale, or a movie. However, most people, children and adult alike, would say, "I can not tell stories." The truth is, everyone can tell a story, they just need to know how. Telling stories is reliably easy because you do not repeat the story word-for-word. When memorizing a poem or scripture each word must be correct. A story requires two abilities: memory and imagination. Both are skills children have in abundance. Why not hatred that talent to teach your children writing?
If you want to see your children's writing soar, teach them to be storytellers. Like reading or cooking or working cooperatively with others, storytelling is a life skill. When your child gets the knack of storytelling in everyday circumstances he will have a lasting nationality and write more expressively, be attuned to the beauty of language, give a listening ear to others telling a good story, recognize good writing, and think more imaginatively.
Using storytelling in your homeschool brings a great deal more than the enjoyment of stories. You are giving your children a foundation in orality . Just as literacy is the ability to read and write, orality is the ability to speak and listen. All four modes-reading, writing, speaking, and listening-make up human communication. Orality supports literacy. Storytelling is the highest form of orality.
Typically to help a child read better and write better we make him do more of both, usually with some resistance. The most effective way to improve literacy is to increase oral language experiences, like narration, recitation, play-acting, to name a few. Storytelling is the best form of oral language experience because the teller internalizes a set of relationships and structures that they can then map back onto experience. Think of a fairy tale you love. What does it show you? The value of being kind, the lowest often makes it to the top, the need for merit and honesty, are just a few.
Orality takes the form of stories, rhymes, sayings, conversation, and songs. Using oral language experiences with preschool children is easy, since they are preliterate and in love with words. It is sheer fun to giggle with a toddler and say a nonsense rhyme.
Once children master reading, however, the focus tends to be on the printed word and sadly, speaking and listening beginning to lag behind. To achieve their best in reading and writing, elementary students must continue to develop their oral skills of speaking and listening.
How can I bring a great orality to my homeschool?
Here are a few simple, easy to do activities that require little or no preparation:
1. Read aloud to your children every day. Pick stories and books that have a strong plot and rich use of language. Avoid adaptations of well-known stories or books.
2. Use narration every day. Narration is the art of telling back in your own words a passage that is read.
3. Do simple nursery rhymes and finger-plays with your children. If you have older children, teach them so they can do finger-plays with the younger ones. You can find books of finger-plays and nursery rhymes at your library. A few well-know rhymes are: "Jack and Jill", "Hey, Diddle Diddle, the Cat and Fiddle", "Little Miss Muffet", and "The Itsy Bitsy Spider"
4. Make storytelling a special time during the day or week. Use folktale collections or picture books that are retellings of folktales and ask your elementary age children to learn to tell them.
Tell stories about your own life. All children love to hear about when their parents were little.
6. Tell simple, well-known stories such as "Goldilocks and the Three Bears," "Ten Little Monkeys." See if your children can tell all or part of the story themselves.
What does all this have to do with writing?
If you want to help children improve their writing you have them write? Right? Wrong. When children are asked to do writing, they often struggle because they are asked to perform two very different developmental tasks-write and think spontaneously. One task at a time is usually no problem; but, both at once require a certain amount of maturity. Begin from a different point — try having your child tell rather than write the sentence, paragraph or story.
Here's the process: compose orally, revise orally, then-and only then-write it down. At another time ask your child to check for accuracy in grammar and punctuation but certainly not when they are composing (orally or in writing). That's it. It sounds simple and it is. However, to see results requires consistency and a light touch. Your child needs to become accustomed to thinking out loud. Be patient and praise all efforts. Be sure to offer guidelines at the start but do not prompt with answers. There are no wrong answers with this approach, only good, better and best. Let your child sometimes play turn-about and have you try the process.
If you're ready to give the process a try, set aside the writing workbooks for a time (you can always come back to them later). The results will amaze you.
To Learn More
To learn more about how to tell stories, check your library for the following books:
The Storyteller's Start-Up Book: Finding, Learning, Performing, and Using Folktales: Including Twelve Tellable Tales, Margaret Read MacDonald
This is an easy-to-understand handbook that gets you started telling.
The Way of the Storyteller, Ruth Sawyer
This is a classic of storytelling literature and one of my favorites that I go to for inspiration
The story of Eminem is similar to that of his songs, it needs a little censoring. Some may not be appropriate for those viewed as too young, but here I feel it’s important to look at why his music, and consequently Eminem himself, appears so angry. Everywhere you look in his life from his hard child hood with an unstable cruel mother, to his well-publicized and rocky relationship with wife Kim, you see that Eminem raps about what he knows. His life is the subject of his music and he makes no excuses. But a hard upbringing only propelled him into superstardom as you can read in magazines like The Source and XXL. Eminem took his humble beginnings and built a career.
Eminem (Marshall Bruce Mathers) was born on October 17, 1972, in Kansas City, Missouri where he lived for twelve years until he moved to Detroit. He never had much of a chance to make friends moving every other month because his mother continued to get evicted for the lack of pay. Eminem went to school up to the 9th grade where he failed three times before dropping out. He then continued to strive for that record deal to make him famous. While trying to achieve his goal he little Haile Jade Scott was born on December 25, 1995 with long time girlfriend Kim Scott. (Eminem homepage) Eminem continued to rap after the birth of his daughter entering into 97 Rap Olympics in Las Angeles that produced 1,500 to the 1st place winner. Eminem furiously came in 2nd desperately needing the money not knowing that a few producers had seen him from Interscope. Finally he had the opportunity to show what he is made of with Dr. Dre, Dr. Dre was so impressed after hearing Eminem free styling on a Los Angeles radio station that he put out a manhunt for the Michigan rhymer. (Eminem homepage) a famous rap producer that wanted to open the doors for Eminem. The two instantly hit it off, recording four songs in the there first six hours of working – three that made it to his first LP. (Eminem Bio.) Now officially making it, Marshall and Dre set to make his second LP. The album became the Marshall Mathers LP and won 3 Grammies and was the first rap album ever to be nominated ‘Album of the Year’, selling more than 8 million records in the United States alone. (Eminem Bio.) Eminem continues to succeed with the his partners who started his career for him although he continues to face many difficult times between the media, his mother and the long conflicting relationship between him and his girlfriend. After they had broken up they had obviously still talked, either about there relationship of for the sake of their daughter Hailie who means more to Eminem then anyone in the world at this point of his life. I wanted to be a family to Kim and Hailie and raise my daughter the right way and not cut on her like my father did to me. My family is all I have ever fought for and all I’ve ever tried to protect. The only thing I’m scared of is being taken away from my little girl. (Chuck Weiner) Eminem was also scared to raise a family and wasn’t sure if he would have sufficient funds or know how too. When my daughter was born I was so scared I wouldn’t be able to raise her and support her, as a father should. Her first two Christmases we had nothing, but this last Christmas, when she turned three she had so many f*ckin’ presents under the tree, she kept opening them saying, ‘this one’s for me too?’ My daughter wasn’t born with a silver spoon in her mouth. But she’s got one now! (Chuck Weiner) Eminem can’t help but to spoil his little girl being that he feels it was degrading that way his mother treated him. If my mother is f*ckin’ cruel enough, knowing she didn’t help me get where I’m at, try to take food out of my mouth and out of my daughter’s mouth, try to take me for everything that I have, then I’m not holding back on this album. She’s always been out to get me, and now she knows I have money so she won’t leave be alone. I know that’s not a nice thing to say about your mother, but unfortunately it’s true. (Chuck Weiner) Eminem has so much hate toward his mother that has built up in all the recent years in his life that he will do anything to keep Hailie happy and keep a healthy relationship between the two of them. His mom on the other he can’t seem to forgive because of all of the grief and trouble that she has put him threw.
Eminem has psychologically turned 360 degrees throughout his life. From the fighting and confusion with his mother, never meeting his father to being one the biggest success stories in rap history. The best example is an experiment of Eminems anger management, after he had started to rise he would get opinions from people saying “Your white, why are you rapping” & “Go play Rock and Role” and he said that drove him angrier and angrier and he emphasized it throughout his lyrics. Eminem was probably born as a kid with no chemical imbalances, but after his mother put him threw so much hell after he has grown up he may have a chemical imbalance and not be able to control some of his emotions that he feels when people disrespect him. When he is presented on T.V. he looks as if he is always sad of something is always bothering him that he can’t be proud of his achievements of happy to be where he is and it’s got everything to do with his childhood and recent terrible interactions he’s had with friends, family and rivals.
In January 2013, the USPS will be increasing their rates for First Class International Mail for packages dramatically. In many cases, the rates to ship a package internationally will double. Although this may seem like very bad news to many Amazon and eBay sellers, there is some good news. The USPS is officially launching a new International Service called Commercial ePacket in the United States.
Commercial ePacket is a USPS product offered via the services of a USPS approved Pre-Qualified Wholesaler (PQW). This service seems to be very beneficial to many shippers sending lightweight low value items overseas. Amazon & eBay sellers can now take comfort in the fact that they will no longer have to prepare the documentation and required labels for exporting from the USA. The USPS PQW that you select, will take care of all the necessary documentation. In addition, all eRetailers can now track these packages on USPS.com to the 14 participating countries.
Some key features of the Commercial ePacket Service are as follows:
Economical eCommerce postal product with tracking and delivery confirmation
Lightweight low value merchandise, < 2 Kilos & < $400 value
Dispatched as commercial Letter-Post Packets and utilizes overseas foreign prime post network.
Transit time is 4-7 days
Postal Customs Clearance (Duties & Taxes paid by recipient)
Free returns on undeliverable items
Tracking is performed right on USPS.com
14 Participating countries: Canada, Australia, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, New Zealand, Sweden, Spain. Ireland, Finland, France, Portugal, and UK.
Delivery scan rates of 90% on average for all countries
Pricing provided by a USPS approved PQW
Induction sites are New York, Chicago, & Los Angeles
Acceptance scan by USPS and delivery scan by foreign post
Unique Label and Barcode ID – LX item prefix
Electronic manifesting, labeling done by Pre-Qualified Wholesaler, & dropped off in sacks ONLY
How does ePacket work?
Customers would contact a USPS PQW in their region and speak with someone regarding how they can get started. Ideally you would want to select a PQW who has mailing capabilities in all three acceptance cities. This becomes extremely important during inclement weather and natural disasters. Using a PQW with multiple facilities located in all 3 acceptance facilities ensures that your mail can be re-routed to another acceptance center if one becomes closed or has no flights departing as we saw during Hurricane Sandy.
The PQW will walk you throught the process of setting up your labels and data capture features. Once you have all of the data capture features running, you will either send your shipments or the PQW will dispatch a vehicle to your location. Each day you will need to provide the mail you are dispatching and send a manifest electronically outlining all the customs information for each package.
Once your packages arrive at the PQW, the PQW will confirm that they have received your electronic manifest for that particulars days shipment. If the PQW does not receive your manifest they can not process your mail through the Commercial ePacket service. After receipt of your manifest the electronic information will be uploaded into the USPS system and all the labels and necessary customs documentation will be generated. The packages will then have the proper labeling and will be sacked by country of destination and delivered to the USPS designated International Service Center (ISC).
Once accepted at the USPS ISC, the sacks will be opened and every package scanned as evidence of posting and placed on the next available outbound flight for that destination country. After flight arrival, the packages will clear through customs via the Postal Customs Clearance mechanism. This ensures that your packages move quickly through the clearance process and will not be impacted by typical delays incured by the normal airfreight clearance system.
After Clearance, packages will then be entered into the PRIME network and will receive priority processing within the destination country. Customers that are waiting to receive their packages, can have confidence that they will see the tracking information directly on the USPS website. This one feature should eliminate many customer service calls that many Amazon & eBay sellers receive daily from their customers.
Once the packages make it through the postal system of the destination country, the package will be scanned as delivered by the mail carrier once it is delivered.This scanning event will then be uploaded into the USPS site and available to all who wish to monitor the progress of each shipment.
Based on my initial findings, this service seems to be an excellent offering for companies shipping 100 or more packages daily. However, some customers that are shipping less than 100 packages per day, may also be able to benefit from this service if they decide to consolidate one or two days worth of orders before dispatching. Obviously, each customer has their own idiosyncracies that may factor into when a service like Commercial ePacket becomes beneficial. However, depending upon how far you are from JFK Airport, O’hare International Airport, or Los Angeles International Airport it may become feasible to use the service daily even if you have less than 100 packages daily. For specifics regarding the service, I would contact a USPS approved PQW today.
In traditional intelligence theories when one is asked the question “What makes a person intelligent?” the most common responses will often note a person’s ability to solve problems, utilize logic, and think critically. These typical traits of intelligence are sometimes grouped together under the heading “raw intelligence”. A person’s intelligence, traditionally speaking, is contained in their intellect. In other words, how we each understand, evaluate or respond to external stimuli, regardless as to whether it is a mathematical problem or anticipation of an opponent’s next move in a game, is our collective intelligence. Our intelligence therefore, is our individual, collective ability to act or react in a continually changing environment.
The principal problem in traditional intelligence theories is that they promote “fractured learning”. Many educational reformers have clearly stated that “taking tests merely shows that a student is skilled at taking tests”. At best, traditional tests focus on only about one tenth of an individual’s intellect. Note that Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison, two of history’s most famous examples of brilliant minds, were terrible at taking traditional tests, therefore terrible at “school” in general. Multiple Intelligences theory then, demonstrates that the ability to take traditional tests is almost entirely in the realm of the Logical – Mathematical
intelligence. This intelligence will be detailed later along with the Interpersonal intelligence, which imparts in some students the ability to second guess a teacher’s structuring of a test. Traditional IQ tests predict school performance with considerable accuracy, but they are only an indifferent predictor of performance in a profession after formal schooling.
In an interesting but controversial study conducted during the 1960’s by Biologist Marion Diamond, of the University of California at Berkeley, two sets of rats were raised in different environments; One set had toys to play with, playmates to romp with and a roomy box that was kept clean and fresh. The second set was put in solitary confinement; all alone in a much smaller cage with no toys to enjoy. After several weeks, Diamond measured the size of each rat’s cerebral cortex, the brain area which is responsible for higher nerve functions. The rats in the sociable, clean and stimulating environment grew brains bigger than the rats with the impoverished surroundings. “Does the enriched environment increase the dimensions of the brain, and does the impoverished environment decrease the dimensions of the brain?”, asked Diamond. “The answer, very clearly, is YES.” Similar results were replicated with cats, monkeys and later with humans. So a stimulating, enriched learning environment is crucial to mental development. If we likewise incorporate the varying student intelligences in our teaching activities, our success as well as our students success, will be markedly improved. That each of us possess all the intelligences, that they can each be developed further, that these multiple intelligences work together in a complex manner, and that there are, in fact, many different ways to be “intelligent” are inclusive in a study by Armstrong. Here briefly, in retrospect, are eight of the major intelligences of Howard Gardener’s theory and their relative traits:
The capacity to use words effectively, either orally or in writing. It is highly developed in story-tellers, orators, politicians, poets, playwrights, editors, language teachers and journalists. Students with a high degree of this intelligence think in words; learn by listening, reading, and verbalizing. They enjoy writing, like books, records, and tapes, and have a good memory for verse, lyrics, or trivia. Getting into discussions, telling jokes and debating are also characteristics of this intelligence. Maya Angelou is strong in this intelligence.
The ability to perceive the world accurately and to perform transformations upon one’s perceptions. This is highly developed in guides, interior designers, architects, artists, fashion designers and inventors. Students with a high degree of spatial intelligence think in images and pictures, like mazes and jigsaw puzzles. They like to draw and design things, and enjoy films, slides, videos, diagrams, maps, charts. The daydreamers and those who may have strong opinions about such things as colors that go together, textures that are appropriate and pleasing and decorating are included in this intelligence. Pablo Picasso was strong in this intelligence.
Musical – Rhythmic Intelligence: The capacity to perceive, discriminate, transform, and express musical forms is most highly developed in musical performers, music aficionados, and music critics. Students with a high degree of musical intelligence learn through rhythm and melody, play a musical instrument, or May need music to study. They notice nonverbal sounds in the environment: the chirp of a cricket, rain on the roof, varying traffic patterns, and usually learn things more easily if sung, tapped out, or whistled. These people love music and rhythmic patterns and can often reproduce a melody or rhythmic pattern after hearing it only once. Various sounds, tones, and rhythms may have a visible effect on them (that is, you can see a change in facial expressions, body movement, or emotional responses). They enjoy singing and listening to a wide variety of music, and are often quite skilled at mimicking sounds, language accents, and others’ speech patterns, and recognizing different musical instruments in a composition. Paul McCartney is strong in this intelligence.
The capacity to use numbers effectively and to reason well. This intelligence is highly developed in mathematicians, tax accountants, statisticians, scientists, computer programmers, and logicians. Students with a high degree of this intelligence often reason things out logically and clearly; look for abstract patterns and relationships; frequently like brain teasers, logical puzzles, and strategy games. They also like to use computers and to classify and categorize. These people think conceptually and abstractly and are able to see patterns and relationships that others often miss. They like to experiment, solve puzzles and other problems, ask cosmic questions and think. They love the challenge of complex problems to solve and always have a logical rationale or argument for what they are doing or thinking. Albert Einstein was strong in this intelligence.
Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence: Consists of expertise in using one’s whole body to express ideas and feelings, and facility in using ones hands to produce or transform things. A highly developed intelligence in actors, mimes, athletes, dancers, sculptors, mechanics, and surgeons. Students with a high degree of bodily-kinesthetic intelligence process knowledge through bodily sensations; move, twitch, tap, or fidget while sitting in a chair or at a desk and learn by touching, manipulating, and moving. They typically like role playing and creative movement and generally like physical games of all kinds and demonstrating how to do something. They communicate well through body language and other physical gestures. They can often perform a task only after seeing someone else do it. They find it difficult to sit still for a long time and are easily bored if they are not actively involved in what is going on around them. Michael Jordan is strong in this intelligence.
The ability to perceive and make distinctions in the moods, intentions, motivations, and feelings of other people. This Intelligence can include sensitivity to facial expressions, voice, and gestures, as well as the ability to respond effectively to such cues. Students with a high degree of interpersonal intelligence understand and care about people; like to socialize; learn more easily by relating and cooperating and are good at teaching other students. These people learn through person-to-person interaction. They generally have lots of friends; show a great deal of empathy for other people and understanding of different points of view. They are skilled at drawing others out in a discussion, conflict resolution and mediation when people are in radical
opposition to each other. Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi were strong in this intelligence.
Self-knowledge and the ability to act adaptively on the basis of that knowledge define this group. This is an intelligence which can include having an accurate picture of one’s strengths and limitations, awareness of one’s moods and motivations, and the capacity for self-discipline. Students with a high degree of this intelligence seem to be self-motivating; need their own quiet space; may march to the beat of a different drummer and tend to learn more easily with independent study, self-paced instruction, individualized projects and games.
These people like to work alone and sometimes shy away from others. They are self-reflective and self-aware and thus tend to be in tune with their inner feelings, values, beliefs, and thinking processes. They are frequently bearers of creative wisdom and insight, are highly intuitive, and are inwardly motivated rather than needing external rewards to keep them going. They are often strong-willed, self-confident, and definite, well-thought-out opinions on almost any issue (although they are sometimes off-the-wall). Other people will often come to them for advice and counsel, but others will sometimes view them as distant or weird. Emily Dickinson and Stephen King are examples of this intelligence.
Environmental knowledge and the ability to identify and categorize plants, animals and nature on the basis of that knowledge. The Naturalist Intelligence can include having an accurate picture of the ambient environment, awareness of the interrelationship of natural elements, and the capacity for self-analysis of these elements. It is found most highly developed in archeologists, animal handlers, animal trainers, veterinarians, biologists, racehorse jockeys, zoologists, environmentalists, wilderness guides and naturalists. Students who have a high degree of the naturalist intelligence seem to be nature-oriented, seek to be outdoors or in the elements and learn more easily with nature-related study and environmental projects and activities. They like to collect items from nature, study them, and group them. They tend to be aware of subtleties in appearance, texture, and sounds that those weaker in this intelligence may not grasp. Charles Darwin, Jacques Cousteau, and John James Audubon were strong in this intelligence.
One of the great promises of Multiple Intelligences theory in education is that it will help us to find individual pathways into and out of our students’ minds. Recent advances in educational psychology and research in applied MI theory offer educators a real possibility of developing the potential of all students. Both educators and students should derive from Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence theory that all people are different and learn differently, and that we should respect, value, and nurture that diversity.
Reference website for multiple intelligences links and activities:
Exploring Multiple Intelligences: New Dimensions of Learning
Ever wished you could write the kind of posts that people want to read and talk about?
As it happens, you are not alone. Many beginning bloggers face the same problems. They take to the advice that if you want to be good at something, you have to do it everyday. So they make it a point of duty to write everyday.
Even when they are busy and have a lot of issues, they still squeeze out time to write at least 100 words. 100 words still counts for something, right? At least they are writing something.
The whole point of doing this is so that writing will become second nature to them. They will find it a lot easier and it will make them become more confident with using words.
And it does.
But that is not the problem, is it? No it is not. The problem is when they sit down to write a blog post the end product does not come out the way they want it to. They feel it within them that that they have written is not good enough.
So to solve the problem I decided to write this article showing you the secrets to writing brilliant blog posts. To be able to do this though I would like to introduce you to a popular country music artist with an attractive voice.
You and I both know who Taylor Swift is.
She is smart, beautiful and she sings well. What you may not know is how she became the rockstar we all rave about today.
Taylor did not become popular by contesting for the American Idol or any music talent hunt show for that matter on TV. No she did it by performing at the famous Bluebird Cafe 'in Nashville, USA.
Unknown to her Scott Borchetta (a music genius now formerly with Dreamworks Records) was at the cafe that day. He was just about to launch his brand new label and he was so thrilled with Taylor's performance that he had no choice but to sign her up.
He could not allow such a bright talent to remain under a shade. The world had to see what she was made of.
The same can be said about most beginning bloggers. They leave the reader with no choice but to click away from their blogs because their writing is so full of fluff, it makes the reader's head spin. Seriously. You read some people's work and you think: "Each sentence in this paragraph makes exactly the same point, said in a slightly different way.
But it does not have to be that way. Taylor Swift was able to become a rockstar and so can you. You do not even need Scott Borchetta to be at a cafe 'before you can do it.
How to Write Brilliant Blog Posts
So how do you do it? How do you write brilliant posts that people want to read and talk about?
Well let's take a look at a few quotes from you know who.
1. Let Your First Draft Suck
No matter what happens in life, be good to people. Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind. ~ Taylor Swift
Okay, pay attention to this:
I got this tip from Deborah Blum the author of the book called The Poisoner's Handbook and Ghost Hunters. When asked about how writers can make their writing more awesome, she advised we should let the first draft suck.
No she does not mean we should make our writing bad on purpose when writing the first draft. What she means is we should put our editor side away and just write as it comes to us without stopping or checking to see if what we have written sounds right.
To her the first draft is just an attempt to start unfolding the logic and flow of the story. She advises that if you ever get stuck you should just put xxx in the draft (for figure this out later).
And you know what? She is right.
Most beginning bloggers think that their first draft is their final draft. They work hard to write it well and once they are done with it, they are done with it.
Because you see, when it comes to writing something brilliant your first draft can never be your final draft. You have to write the second draft and then write until you are sure to the depths of your soul that what you have written will win a preliminary competition.
So the next time you sit down to write a post, let your first draft suck. Yes I know it is going to take some getting used to but no matter what happens do not stop.
Do not stop to check if what you have written sounds right. Just let your creative juices flow. When you are done you can make corrections.
Because here's the thing: your writing is the legacy you leave behind for the world. Are you going to make it wonderful or a badly bad one?
2. Give The Reader A Reasonable Explanation
The lesson I've learned the most often in life is that you're always going to know more in the future than you know now. ~ Taylor Swift
Imagine this scenario:
You have a daughter who is like 16 years old. You guys have not gotten into a fight for quite a while. One day though, she walks up to you and says: "Mom (or dad as the case may be), I hate you. I wish you were never my parent." And then she runs away.
What would you think? Would not you keep asking yourself: "But why? Have I Done wrong?"
I know I might be taking this too far, but that is exactly how your readers feel when you say something in your writing and you do not tell them why you have said it. They get confused, frustrated and they keep asking themselves: "But why?"
You see, the thing is people will believe you more or do what you want them to do faster when they know the reason behind their actions. You can not just tell someone to visit your website or agree with your point of view just because you have said it.
You have to make a case for yourself. You have to explain to them the reason they should do what you want them to do or see things from your perspective.
Because the truth is when it comes to putting words on to a page, people do not like it when they are left hanging in a gallow of obscurity. I know I do not.
They want to understand it now, not later and certainly not in the future.
So always tell your readers the why in your writing. Use the word "because" to help them make sense of your piece. Do not ever let someone read your work and then think: "What is all this really about?"
3. Shoot For Greatness, Not Commerce
I have an excellent father, his strength is making me stronger. ~ Taylor Swift
Can you say the same about your writing?
If there is one thing I hate about most beginning bloggers it is that they put up blog posts in a hurry with the sole aim of making quick bucks from products and services they represent. (I am talking about most especially affiliate offers). They do not give a damn about the people reading it and they do not want to give a damn. All they are after is money and that is it. Nothing else.
Well that is simply bad business practice.
Because you see, your writing is much more than just a tool for commerce. It is much more than just a way for you to sell your products and services and make money.
According to Jon Morrow (my writing mentor) your writing is a medium through which you accomplish change.
Every blog post you write should be aimed at one thing and one thing only: change your reader's life. If any of your posts does not do that then you do not publish.
Because the thing is your real strength as a blogger comes from the number of lives you are able to change. It comes from the number of lives you are able to affect positively. It comes from the number of lives you are able to make happy.
It sure does not come from the number of products and services you are able to sell. Or ow much money you are able to make.
So stop publishing posts you write in 20 minutes. If you need 20 hours to come up with something really worth reading, go for it. Do not mind that you are using up so much time because you deserve it. You deserve to write something and then people email you telling you how their thinking has changed because of you.
That is the effect of excellent writing. And that is the kind we all want to read.
In my article Dump Those Helping Verbs from Your Ads and Promotion Copy (Even if your teacher made you memorize all 23) I told you to not use helping verbs or passive verbs in your ads or promotion copy. They weaken your copy. Few will respond to what you say.
Those “few” are potential or new customers. Is that what you want?
No! You want lots of potential and new customers.
Probably the most powerful word which was included on this list is FREE. Nothing is cheaper than free.
Here are some other suggested words. I’ll bet you can squeeze in a few more:
With today’s rapidly crowding global market, your product or service will need more publicity and marketing so that your unique voice can be heard. With the thousands of advertisements on television, the thousands of posters plastered on both city and town walls, and the thousands of sales people all jostling each other to catch a prospective customer’s attention, is there still an alternative marketing method that could ensure your commercial success?
Believe it or not, the crowded global market can work both to your advantage and disadvantage. With more products and services like yours on the market, you will have to contend with competition, not to mention often hard sell marketing tactics from your more financially equipped rivals. Customers, however, are already saturated with hard sell marketing tactics – such strategies tend to make companies appear impersonal, and customers may feel alienated. More than ever, you will need a marketing strategy that will show customers that you care for their needs and wants.
A good sales letter is a viable strategy that you may want to try out. Whether you will send the sales letter through snail mail or email, a sales letter can outline the outstanding characteristics of your company, the products or services that you are offering, and incentives that may come with purchasing your products or services. A sales letter, moreover, is addressed to individual prospective customers. This personalized form of marketing can make customers feel special; if done properly, a good sales letter can earn you customers and widen your market base.
Before you set to work writing your sales letter, take note of these characteristics of a good sales letter.
o A good sales letter should catch attention even before it is opened. Catchphrases such as “Know how to get great discounts when you buy your PC” or “Save hundreds of dollars on your grocery shopping now!” can attract customers. Remember, your envelope has to be opened before you can make any prospective sale, so make sure that your letter is attractive enough not to be placed in the trash bin before it is even read.
o Some sales letters will contain jokes, puns, or clever language. Although this may make you appear playful, it will also undermine your credibility before customers who know nothing about you. The simpler your language is, the easier your letter is to read.
o A good sales letter should be personal. Address your letter directly to the recipient, and address the person by name throughout the letter. Avoid “Dear Sir or Madame” or “To whom it might concern.” Customers need to know that you care before they care about what you know.
o Email is not necessarily the best way to send a sales letter. Some sales letters are often placed automatically in the spam folder, where they can be ignored, and then disposed of without even being read. Because snail mail is becoming rare, an attractive sales letter can catch a prospective customer’s eye.
o A good sales letter should establish a company’s credibility. Do not be afraid to use testimonials from your satisfied customers, or quotes from famous people who may have used your product or service. However, do not overdo it: one or two quotes will be enough, three will be hard sell, four will be annoying, and anything more than that will make you appear either desperate or lying.
o A good sales letter cannot stand on its own – you should have not only good products and services, but incentives as well. If you offer incentives for buying your product or service, state them explicitly. Studies show that discounts as low as ten percent, and all kinds of free things appeal to customers, and make them want to buy a product or take advantage of a service.
o A good sales letter should not only sound good but look good as well. Use large fonts, and append your company banner or a picture of your company headquarters if you can. If you feel that this is not appropriate, then add pictures of your products, along with captions. Print your sales letter on high quality paper, and make sure that your pictures come out clear and crisp. A sales letter on rough paper, with low quality ink, will not speak well of your company no matter how good your products and services are.
o Provide contact information, especially phone numbers and emails. Be ready, moreover, to respond to each question your prospective customers will put forth.
o Avoid jargon and acronyms. Remember, you have to make your prospective customers understand you. If they do not understand any part of your letter, they will simply throw it away.
o Enclose brochures with your sales letter, along with tips that the customer might be able to use. For instance, if you are selling luxury cars, you can include the top ten tips when choosing car upholstery. Make customers feel that you care for them, and they will flock to you.
A good sales letter is challenging to write, but if written well, the rewards can be numerous. As long as you keep your language simple and maintain the credibility of your company, you will have the wider market base that you need, and the profits that you want.
It’s unbelievable how dependent we’ve become as a society on electronic communication devices! E-mail, text messaging, PDA’s, cell phones, video conferencing, blackberries, blueberries, rasberries, and more…have taken the place of good old fashioned, face-to-face communication leading to many interpersonal difficulties and miscommunications in today’s workplace.
You may be thinking…Why improve my interpersonal skills when most businesses do 99% of communication by telephone, teleconferencing, videoconferencing, e-mail, and on rare occasions, snail mail. A popular way of thinking today…but, is it really the correct way? “Face-to-face communication remains the most powerful human interaction,” says Kathleen Begley, Ed.D., author of Face-to-Face Communication, Making Human Connections in a Technology-Driven World. “As wonderful as electronic devices are, they can never fully replace the intimacy and immediacy of people conversing in the same room and it has worked for millions of years.”
In business, we talk about “B2B” (business to business) and “B2C” (business to consumer) methods. I try to buck the trend (in a positive way!) to stress the importance of face-to-face communication. You’ll hear me talk a lot about the “P2P” (people-to-people) connections and how important it is to get beyond technology and talk face-to-face with friends, family, colleagues, customers, vendors, and the like. You may think that’s a bit old-fashioned, but in my opinion, there is no substitution for the human, up-close and personal contact. Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for the terrific technology tools we have today and I use it regularly, but it’s not always my first or best choice.
Several decades ago, John Naisbitt, in his mega 1960’s best-seller, Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives, brought a new concept to the forefront called “high tech, high touch.” His idea was that “as human beings became capable of anonymous electronic communication, they would concurrently need more close-up personal interaction.” Seems to me that he was right on target!
We live in a society when flocking to the local coffee shop or diner for coffee chats with business associates or friends is a testimony to our need for human togetherness, especially when most coffee lovers can make a latte or cappuccino right in their homes. Think about the fortunes coffee establishments are making on our need for face-to-face communication! The people-to-people connections…
We hear of the many children (and adults) who spend countless hours alone playing video games. However, The Game Manufacturing Association reported in 2003 that family board game sales (like Monopoly and Scrabble) are booming and growing at 20% per year. Cranium has recently come out with a whole new line of board games for our “little people” (ages 3+). The people-to-people connections start at an early age – if you haven’t heard it, ask me to tell you my “Papa Zitto” story!
Even when disaster strikes and the news media bring these events into our homes and workplaces via TV, radio and the Internet, we seek out opportunities to share grief. I personally waited in line for almost three hours with hundreds of others to visit Ground Zero in New York when it opened to the public in December 2001. Many people also left makeshift shrines nearby to honor the victims of that tragedy. The people-to-people connections…
We lead hectic, multi-tasking lives both at home and in the workplace these days and we find the need for balance even more critical than in days gone by. We understand that technology can be impersonal, but it’s quick! We know we need to make time for more people-to-people connections but, the reality of the hectic pace doesn’t leave us much time for this more intimate form of communication. You may be thinking, isn’t it much faster to make a quick phone call, send a brief e-mail, or hook up via video-conferencing to have a meeting of the minds? Yes and no. It’s a communications paradox…faster is not always better.
So the better question may be, how can we make the best of both worlds – technology and face-to-face, people-to-people connections?
Just as fashions are redesigned and come back with a variation on a style from days-gone- by, I believe it is time for redesigning and revitalizing face-to-face (P2P) communication skills.
We need to get the balance right! People-to-people (P2P) communication skills remain one of the primary success factors in business, even in this age of technology. There are many situations – often those involving conflict, hurt feelings, high priority, or a large sum of money – that demand business people take the time and trouble to get in the same room to share information. Video-conferencing has become a good simulation and cost-effective method when individuals are in remote locations, but there is still no substitute for good, old-fashioned, face-to-face communication.
Don’t take my word for it…Let’s take a look at what some of the experts are saying.
Tom Peters, internationally known business guru, says without reservation that you should constantly attend to your face-to-face communication. Not to do so, will lead to career disaster. “We believe in high tech, high touch,” Peters writes. “No question, technology is the Great Enabler. But, paradoxically, now the human bit is more, not less, important than ever before.”
Sheila Hodge, author of Global Smarts: The Art of Communicating and Deal Making Anywhere in the World, says “The modern office is full of gadgets – computers and the Internet, uplinks and downlinks, videoconferencing, and online databases. Many people think they should let the fancy technology handle the messy task of interfacing with people.”
Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, in her book Reading People, talks about how young, technically oriented employees tend to communicate mostly in computer chat rooms. “If you want to become a better communicator, you must make a conscious effort to engage other people (in person),” she writes. “Even the most entrenched Internet junkie can learn the true meaning of ‘chat’ if the desire is there, but you have to get off the couch and make it happen.”
Gary McClain and Deborah Romaine in their book, The Everything Managing People Book, put it this way…”Consistent, daily face-to-face communication promotes more than just good feelings; it also promotes effective and collaborative teamwork.”
“One of the most critical areas of communication to get right in business is the one-on-one situations – especially offering advice, constructive feedback, and annual performance appraisals,” says Chris Roebuck in Effective Communication.
One of my favorite quotes stated very simply by Margaret Wheatley, Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope for the Future, says “I can believe we can change the world if we start talking to one another again.”
Sounds like we’re on to something here…So, what can you do? Start out by taking an honest look at your communication methods and your attitude about technology vs. (P2P) face-to-face interaction. Are you e-mailing more and meeting less for financial reasons? Are you avoiding human contact mostly because of a lack of interpersonal skills? If the latter is true, you need to take action before it’s too late.
The next time you are tempted to send an e-mail, text message or make a phone call for other than routine purposes, stop! Get back to basics. Go out of your comfort zone and, instead, send the e-mail, text message or make the call to set up a face-to-face, in person meeting with the person behind the technology! Why? Because it works!
Make the people-to-people connections… You and your business will be glad you did!
An interesting discussion on LinkedIn is swirling around the topic of when a writer can call themselves a writer .. As I've watched the discussion unfold, some interesting ideas have cropped up. They are worth considering.
A writer is someone who has been published offline.
Considering that a large segment of the writing work available is almost exclusively online today, this definition just can not hold true. While it is almost guaranteed that someone who has broken into hard print is a very good writer, it does not preclude someone who has never had their work published in traditional media from being considered a writer.
A writer is someone who knows their grammar, punctuation rules and how to spell things correctly.
I'm not prepared to say this is true because I know that publishers, magazines and newspapers all hire copy editors for one very good reason. Not every writer on the team has good spelling skills. No writer's punctuation skills are perfect. And everyone has certain words they almost always type incorrectly. I've been a copy editor. It's always easier to see others mistakes.
For me, I have to watch dropping the "r" on your, adding a "d" in college and several other persistent misspellings. There are words I consistently add extra letters to and others I drop letters from almost every time I type them. And most of the time, they are words, so spell check does not catch them.
At the same time, if a writer can not tell the difference between when to use your and you're or its and it's, it will be an obstacle to achieving a higher pays scale. Excellence in every aspect of writing is essential if you want to be taken seriously.
A writer is a professional who makes a consistent income from writing.
This can be true. The definition of consistent may vary. I know that I began by approaching only a few hundred dollars a month from writing work. I had some months where I had no income from that source. At the same time, I was consistently seeking work. As a writing professional I took action.
I actively built my portfolio.
I built a free website on Office Live.
I focused on bridging the gap from when I studied journalism to what the market demands of writers today.
I applied every piece of knowledge I gained into strengthening my ability to write compelling materials.
To put the title "writer" on a resume, suggest you need to be more than someone who has started their own blog. Despite the fact that I have a ghostwriting tips blog, it is not this blog that makes me a writer. It's the fact that people read this blog and actually benefit from it that supports my claim that I am a writer.
A writer is someone who can explain different topics in language that the average person can understand.
This truly is a skill that not everyone possesses. In some ways, every writer needs to have a teacher's heart, the ability to break things down into understandable packages. Some writers are gifted with the ability to reach very young minds. That's why there are writers of children's books. Other writers just can not get down to that level, yet remain effective writers for a different audience.
A writer is more than someone who starts their own blog.
There are good blogs and so-so blogs. To truly claim to be a writer, the blog can not be riddled with grammar errors. A few spelling and punctuation errors are forgivable, especially as most blog writers can not afford a separate set of eyes to edit their work.
A writer is someone who crafts words to influence others.
It's the power to dig into the meaning of words and craft them as you have done that signifies a writer. The fact that you can express your arguments succinctly using words in their written form defines that you are a writer. Maybe that is the definition we should be holding to here. "A writer is someone who can write with words so effectively they can influence others whether they do it for pay or not."
It's not whether your work appears on the eviscerated remnants of a tree or on the electronic representation of a page that makes you a writer. It's whether your words move and / or motivate. A novelist may move through the creation of characters and plots. A web writer may motivate to action by carefully chosen words.
Both are writers. Both use their power over words to create an experience in the mind. That experience would not be there without the writer's ability to craft words.
What makes a writer a writer? We'll probably never be able to agree on a single definition. Too may people would disagree with the writer's version of the artist's definition, "A writer is a writer because he / she writes."