Nifty New Tool: Headline Analyzer

Whenever I hear about a fun writing tool, I have to try it out. Most recently I learned about a nifty headline analyzer from SpeakerNet News (a highly recommended weekly resource for professional speakers and trainers www.speakernetnews.com).

For a recent Word Tripper of the Week, I played with various subject lines. After starting with the too-familiar Random Acts of Kindness, the analyzer scored these various ideas and helped me choose one (noted in bold). Which one of these would you have selected? A better idea yet?

1) The Kinder Side of Life (score of 65)

2) No Act of Kindness Is Too Small (score of 60)

3) The Gift of Kindness (score of 62)

4) Cool To Be Kind (score of 66)

5) Speak the Language of Kindness (score of 53)

Feel free to experiment with your own headings at http://coschedule.com/headline-analyzer

Share your experience here.

Random Acts of Kindness – Word Tripper

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation is a non-profit organization that inspires a culture of kindness in schools, homes, and communities. It encourages acts of kindness by providing resources to people who are both benevolent and beneficent.

This week’s Word Tripper clarifies the difference between these similar words.

beneficient-benevolentImage Source: http://wordinfo.info/unit/293/page:2 & http://mightymag.org/category/daily-devotional/page/18/

 

Use Planner to Put Authors and Editors on Same Page

by Barbara McNichol (full article here

Through a blog post, I recently asked what worries nonfiction authors about the editing process. The insights gained can be helpful to any editor as well as the authors they work with.

I received the following array of answers from 40 authors who responded. Specifically, they want:

  • more than a clean up; they want a major step up in clarity.
  • support in thinking through the book’s organization before nitty-gritty editing begins.
  • their book editor to be tuned in to their objectives for the book, keeping them top-of-mind throughout the process.
  • their points made more succinctly and artistically and their stories told well.

As one author said, “An unedited piece can make my point but in a less elegant way than one that’s been edited.”

How Book Editors Can Learn More About What Authors Want

From the first contact with a client, I open a dialog through what I call a Planner—a questionnaire that focuses on the long-term goals for the book itself. Questions not only address the mechanics of editing but emphasize the author’s big-picture dreams. A few are:

  1. What successful books would be good models for yours?
  2. After people in your target audience have read this book, what do you want them to say about it? How would you like a testimonial to read?
  3. What actions do you want readers to take as a result of reading your book—both for their own benefit and for yours?
  4. What changes do you want to create in your life/business as a result of putting this book out into the world?
  5. Which results do you seek most in working with an editor (followed by a list for ranking)?

Request Planner to Start the Dialogue

Delivering on an Author’s Desires!

Whether you’re an author or an editor, don’t short-change the editing process and its value to you. Use a tool like my Planner to articulate exactly what you want from your editor.

To see how Barbara’s Planner can help you, go here.

Active-ate Your Verbs and Improve Your Writing

by Barbara McNichol

Before detecting the “passive” voice and addressing how to change it to “active,” consider why you should care.

Active verbs will improve your writing (most of the time) because:

  • Active verbs declare who or what is (or should be) performing the action; you avoid confusion, guesswork, or dodging responsibility.
  • Active verbs make your writing flow more easily; readers will more quickly get the ideas you want to convey.
  • Sentences constructed in the active voice usually require fewer words; you constantly want to aim to write concisely!

How to Identify “Passive”
As a reader, if you can’t identify the doer of the action—the subject—the sentence has likely been constructed in the passive voice. Even when the subject is clear, two clues help you identify “passive” use: 1) the word “by” and 2) variations of the verb “to be.”

Juicy!

Juicy!

Consider these sentences:
Passive—“The juicy watermelon was eaten by the boy.”
Active—“The boy chomped into the watermelon’s juicy belly.”

Passive—“Employees are seen by their managers as responsive and enthusiastic.”
Active—“Managers see their employees as responsive and enthusiastic.”

In addition, passive verbs can foster weasel-like communication. They might be used to hide who’s responsible for an action, thus evading accountability rather than declaring it. For example, if a contract states “the rules for the homeowners will be enforced” but doesn’t note who will enforce those rules, what’s the result? Ambiguity. Confusion. Inaction.

How to Identify “Active”
The pattern for an active sentence is typically “subject + verb + direct object.” The direct object is the recipient of the action—that is, what or whom the verb affects. Example: The employees (subject) implement (verb) the new strategy (object). Who’s doing the action of implementing the new strategy? The employees. Thus, it’s clear the employees are accountable for the action.

Your Turn
Notice the passive construction in the following sentence and rewrite it, making sure to use an active verb. (Hint: You’ll need to make up a subject.)

Passive: This policy is being implemented in an effort to streamline our process.
Active: ___________________________________

Use the clues I’ve provided to identify passive sentences you’ve written and revise them. Not sure if you rewrote one or more of them correctly? Share them with me via email, and I’ll provide feedback.

7 Writing Mistakes Editors are Constantly Fixing

By Barbara McNichol

What can editors tell writers about improving their writing before they even begin the editing process? I shared my ideas and examples on a recent teleclass hosted by Janice Campbell of NAIWE.

You can listen to the full hour of “fixes” I presented by dialing dial 1-218-844-3182 and enter Recording ID: 90075555

In the meantime, here’s a summary:

Mistake #1.      Being so self-absorbed as a writer that you’re unaware of the reader’s experience. The fix? Know your core message and write to that message, leaving out the experience of writing.

Mistake #2.      Addressing readers as readers rather than a single key person whose interest you want to capture with your message. The fix? Keep a single interested person in your target audience top of mind as you write.

Mistake #3.      Skimming the surface, not going deep enough. The fix? When describing an experience, explain what you felt, what the other person felt as best you can, and what exact words were spoken. Go deeper with the details.

Mistake #4.      Having no rhyme or reason to the order of the paragraphs. The fix? Make a conscious decision about the order based on logic and facilitating your readers’ comprehension.

Mistake #5.      Overusing weak verbs and throwing in extraneous phrases and wobbly words. The fix? Rewrite using active verbs; question use of every adjective and adverb; throw out wobbly words: really, very, much, some that.  “I Really Think That We Should Not Use Some Words Very Much.”

Mistake #6.      Using multiword noun phrases when one active verb will do. The fix? Whenever possible, get an active verb to do the “work.”

Mistake #7.      Writing sentences that ramble (on and on and on and on). The fix? Limit sentences to 15-21 words max but vary sentence length.

Bonus mistake: Mixing metaphors and flat-out choosing the wrong word. The fix? Use a word choice guide like Word Trippers to help you select the perfect word when it really matters.

About Barbara McNichol

Authors and experts depend on Barbara for her expert editing of nonfiction books, articles, and marketing materials. On her website, she proudly lists close to 200 books she’s edited. Her mission is to teach writers techniques that will improve their writing—and make the final editing process go smoother and faster. As part of this mission, Barbara sends out a monthly ezine called Add Power to Your Pen. When you sign up for it, you’ll receive “10 Top Techniques for Improving Your Writing.” She’s also written Word Trippers: The Ultimate Source for Using the Perfect Word When It Really Matters, available at amazon.com as a Kindle and a print book.