Get rid of the writing distractions in your open office

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Is there any worse place to write than a modern office? Open-concept offices may create the illusion of team togetherness, but they're so noisy and distracting that it may be easier to concentrate in a subway station. 

Researchers are finally validating the complaints open-office employees have been making for years. Working without privacy and quiet undercuts productivity by up to 15%, increases physical and emotional stress, and correlates with high rates of absenteeism. (For a startling summ…

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Why I never write killer proposals

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Stand-up comedy is a brutal career choice. Not only do you have to work late nights in seedy venues, but you also have to “kill” your audience, night after night. A successful comedian boasts, “I knocked ‘em dead tonight, man! I totally slayed them.”

Unfortunately, many business writers tend to approach persuasive writing with the same violent mind-set. For example, I was once asked to design a course called “Killer Writing.” The executive championing the project described himself as “a big gam…

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My fool-proof process for taking live training online

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If you’re trying to “convert” live training to online training, let me stop you right there.

With so many amazing technical resources now at our disposal, it’s tempting to think that switching to online delivery is as easy as clicking a button. But you need more than technology to take your training online—you need a fool-proof design process.

Few live training sessions lend themselves to simple “conversion” from speech to text or video. Although the quickest way to produce an online alternati…

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Five signs your messaging isn’t connecting with non-experts

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  1. Your document or presentation generates no questions.

Someone who has genuinely understood the messaging about your innovative product or service should be bursting with questions. 

They should react to your words the way an audience reacts to a David Copperfield show, with amazement and curiosity. You should hear questions like these:

Wow! How did you do this?

Can it really do everything you say it will? How?

Will it truly solve my problem?

If the only reaction is silence, then your …

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If I can overcome my dog phobia, you can overcome your writing apprehension

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As a child, I was terrified of dogs. For me, encountering a beagle on a leash was like meeting a wolf in the wild. 

Big or small, curly-haired or sleek, unicoloured or brindled, dogs of any kind petrified me. Just meeting a dog on the street could take my breath away and give me nightmares for weeks.

I think this fear had something to do with a visit to a relative’s farm when I was nine or 10 years old. I entered the horse barn already nervous around dogs, and I came out feeling lucky to be al…

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Do you have a writing challenge or a knowledge translation challenge?

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Many client conversations start with a complaint about some aspect of the writing process. I hear statements like these:

“I just can’t seem to find the right words.”

“My grammar is terrible.”

“I want to know how to express myself more concisely.”

On the surface, such statements can seem to point to mechanical issues:

  • Fumbling for the right words could indicate a usage issue (problem with accurately using vocabulary).
  • Feeling ashamed about “grammar” could indicate an issue with structurin…

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Three Techniques Anyone Can Use to Think Like a Graphic Designer

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To borrow a theme from the eighteenth-century poet Alexander Pope, a little Canva is a dangerous thing.1

Canva and other web-based applications provide small businesses with affordable tools that are easy to manipulate. But ease of use doesn’t guarantee quality of results. It wasn’t the chisel or the paintbrush that enabled Michelangelo to carve his Slaves or paint the Sistine Chapel. It was his art.

“Art” has become a rather old-fashioned word these days, relegated to museums and galleries co…

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The Number One Thing You Can Do to Improve Your Business Writing is Completely Painless

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Many of the clients I work with struggle with writing because they buy into a common limiting belief: “No pain, no gain.”

That old saying may be true about body building. A muscle grows when it works so hard that it tears. Then it heals in a way that makes is stronger than it was before.

But the proverb doesn’t apply to the writing muscle. Writing abilities develop best when we turn off the notion that hard work must hurt and instead find gentle ways to build confidence in our own writing voic…

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Six lies your brain tells you about your writing

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We’ve all had times when we’ve felt like the cartoon character with the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other. That was my predicament the day after I baked the most recent batch of birthday cupcakes.

In the one ear: “Go ahead, have one more. Vanilla icing doesn’t really count.”

And from the other shoulder: “Don’t give in. Self-control is the queen of virtues and the virtue of queens."

Sadly, my guardian angel lost that day (to the scale’s gain). But, in her defence, I think she …

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If you've written an email today, you're a designer

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This past December, I had the pleasure of facilitating my first design-thinking session for a group of about a dozen project stakeholders. When I first took on this task, I felt intimidated. Who did I think I was to mess with this trendy design-thinking stuff? I don’t have a black belt in user-centered design or any kind of credentials in journey mapping. So what had I let myself in for?

But, to my great delight, as soon as I dove into the facilitation methodology, I found myself able to swim…

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