Category Archives: Writing

Show don’t tell

The concept of “storytelling” is all the rage in this rambunctious and volatile century, particularly in marketing and communications. TV commercials are not product pitches – they’re “narratives”. CEOs don’t give speeches – they “tell stories”. Everyone is busy telling stories – to themselves, to their employees and to the world – whether they’re worth… Read More »

The empathetic writer

I’d like to present a case for empathy as the most important word in a writer’s vocabulary. Empathy comes from the Greek en, which means “in”, and pathos, which means “suffering” or “experience.” When we have empathy, we enter another person’s experience. Charles Siebert, writing in a recent New York Times Magazine article about the… Read More »

Dreamers and sculptors

I once went to a reading by the American writer Joan Didion in a bookstore on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. She’d just published a collection of political essays, not terribly popular, and the turnout was small, perhaps two dozen people. This was a few years before she published The Year of Magical Thinking,… Read More »

Diet tips for overweight prose

Like chubby kids fed a steady diet of junk food, our first-draft sentences are often overweight, bloated, padded, curvy instead of straight, mushy instead of muscular. So what do we about this plague of overweight prose? We slim it down. How do we do this? We cut ruthlessly. If you’re mystified by this process, stay… Read More »

Make a plan, Stan

“Make a plan” sounds like advice from our mothers (and probably was) but it`s crucially important for any writing project, business or creative. When I taught business writing to first-year students at Kwantlen Polytechnic University last fall I was reminded by the very excellent textbook (Business Communications Essentials, Fourth Edition, Pearson Canada) just how important… Read More »

Writing in circles

The circle is a very powerful shape. Nature loves it and so do humans (think about how you got to work this morning). Circles work in writing, too. In narrative there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a return to the starting point. Western narrative does this all the time – think of Odysseus and his… Read More »

Writers got rhythm

Human beings love rhythm. We can’t not move when we hear the catchy beat of a pop song. In part that’s because popular music (pop, rock, jazz and blues) loves syncopation – the singer moves on and off the drummer’s beat and so do the guitarist, keyboardist and bass player. Most classical music, though, isn’t… Read More »

Principles to write by

A few years ago, when I was teaching an intro class in technical writing to students at George Brown College in Toronto, I wanted to come up with a list of key writing principles that would be useful, relevant and short enough to fit on a single PowerPoint slide. With a little help from George… Read More »

The power of three

I’m not sure why, but there’s something about the number three that works very well in writing. A list of three items – “I love apples, oranges, and pears” – has an effective, easy rhythm that helps us remember the list. The standard Hollywood screenplay has three acts – Act 1 introduces the hero and sets… Read More »