Category Archives: Writing

What we can learn from a Barack Obama speech

Even his fiercest critics admire Barak Obama’s superb skills as a writer and speaker. His eloquence was in full display this week in the speech he gave during the memorial service for the victims of the Dallas police shooting. But what exactly do we mean by eloquence and how does Obama achieve it? The dictionary… Read More »

How much does a writer need to know?

You might think this is an odd question for a writer to be asking, but it isn’t, really. We might assume that the more a writer knows about the subject matter, the better. And by “more”, I mean more facts, more information, more context and ideally, more wisdom and understanding. Generally this is true for… Read More »

Conquer your fear of the empty screen

I work freelance, so I often ask clients to write LinkedIn recommendations for me. Recently I asked a client to do this. He agreed. When nothing appeared after six weeks, I gently reminded him. He apologized and then said something that surprised me. “I have a terrible time with writing,” he said. “I never know… Read More »

Let us now praise William Tyndale

All great writers wield influence, although it may decades or centuries to fully measure the scale and scope of that influence. Hemingway’s short stories and novels took a streamlined journalistic style and made it into a still dominant North American literary style. With Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger invented post-war young adult fiction. James… Read More »

How much is a writer worth?

Writers have an odd and sometimes disturbing relationship with money. I once described to a creative writing friend some ideas I had for novels set in the world of business and money. (Did you know, for example, that every year in Canada there is a least one prosecution of a Madoff-style Ponzi scheme – usually… Read More »

My top 10 grammar pet peeves

I like to tell my writing students that I have exactly 4,345 pet peeves that involve incorrect grammar, sloppy expression and all-round bad writing. Some smile when I say this. Some look quite disheartened, perhaps thinking I am going to list them all on the board. Herewith, my top ten grammar pet peeves: 1 Its… Read More »

Join the conversation – please!

When I taught business writing at Kwantlen University last fall, I was struck by the number of students who struggled with appropriate tone and style in their writing. Business writing has become much more conversational over the past twenty years. Where previously we used archaic words and expressions like “therefore”, “henceforth”, “as required”, “per your… Read More »

Why I like the way Warren Buffett writes

Every year at this time Warren Buffett writes a single-spaced, 31-page “letter” to his shareholders. The document in PDF is plain and unadorned. It has no title page or table of contents. It has no fancy images, no graphs or bar charts. It begins with a one-page table showing the performance of Berkshire Hathaway shares… Read More »

How to write the story

Is there a difference between telling a story and writing a story? I think there is. When we tell a story, we’re usually in a friendly and familiar environment. Imagine, for example, you’re telling a friend at work about something funny that happened on the weekend. You might set up the story with a single… Read More »