July 17, 2019
At my annual Fourth of July Barbecue & Blow Things Up party, my friend Prashant, who originally hails from India, asked, “Why are there three pronunciations for the letter ‘a’ in English?”
July 3, 2019
There are no shortcuts to writing a great novel, a great history book, or a great song. I found yet another example of that truism in the 2013 documentary History of the Eagles.
May 31, 2019
You may have been wondering what happened to me. When I posted my last newsletter, my wife’s health had deteriorated to the point that she needed constant care. That newsletter was posted on Cathy’s 64th birthday, and I fully expected I would care for her for months to come. She passed away six days later.
Jan. 2, 2019
Find the writers who keep you intrigued—the Twains, the McCulloughs, and the Websters. Allow them to increase your vocabulary, improve your structure, and most importantly, to inspire you to stand on their shoulders and to share with you their tools to perfect your writing.
Dec. 12, 2018
I had, of course, heard of a dictionary. But at the time, I just didn’t think it to be particularly important. But I was the odd man out—a phonetic speller in a non-phonetic world. Noah Webster, father of the American English Dictionary, and Benjamin Franklin, father of just about everything else, attempted to create a phonetic American English. They failed, so we’re stuck with what we have.
Dec. 5, 2018
Nov. 27, 2018
I write about topics I know little about but spark my curiosity. I research and write up my research. I become stuck and research some more.
Oct. 31, 2018
Family lore says that when daughter Clare was a wee lass she opened the door to some religious proselytizers and declared: “We’re Druids but we’re reformed.” Asked what that means, she said, “We don’t practice human sacrifice anymore.” She then closed the door forever on their souls. Family lore doesn’t tell us what time of year this occurred, but let’s pretend it was in the fall to make it a solid Halloween story. Because Druids are instrumental in Halloween tradition.
Oct. 25, 2018
Once a speaker has an audience engaged, you must keep them engaged. One of the primary ways to do that is through eye contact. There’s a psychological basis for that. Your eyes, after all, are the windows to your soul. And, you want your soul to be believable, don’t you?
Oct. 17, 2018
Phonetic spelling is something everyone can get behind. Supporters and critics of public education would find phonetic reforms pleasing. Believers in liberal immigration policies would support anything to make it easier for the foreign-born to succeed. And, America First proponents would love a superior American English.
July 21, 2018
Fast-forward 236 years and the correct American pronunciation is the American Northwest—at least as it concerns artificial intelligence (AI). The Washington Post describes a study the paper commissioned on Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home. They found people with even slight foreign accents and Southern drawls frequently could not communicate with the devices.
July 13, 2018
Changing your perspective by moving a few feet in any direction, or up and down, is something drilled into me by John Grzywacz-Gray during my college photo class days. If you don’t like the lighting, wait a few minutes. If you don’t like the outline, move until the photo works.
July 4, 2018
June 26, 2018
May 31, 2018
While it’s stylish to idolize the U.S. Constitution and worship our Founding Fathers as men united in a single purpose, it’s fake news. The Constitution was created by a handful of delegates who compromised until they had a document the majority could endorse. It was not unanimous, however.
April 4, 2018
How can an omnipresent number be lonely? Far from being lonely, three is magical and mystical. From religion to commerce, there is no beating the Power of Three.
March 29. 2018
Is anyone else tired of Stormy Daniels and her weaselly attorney? She may have a legal case. But let it play out in the court of law. It doesn’t belong in the court of public opinion because it has no bearing on public matters.
March 23, 2018
Do you want better health? Laugh. Do you want to defuse tension? Laugh. Do you want to be more successful? Laugh. Do you want more friends? Laugh.
March 14, 2018
If you’re going to publish a blog with a section on proofreading and editing your work, you might wish to proofread it and edit it first. Here’s a few paragraphs from a recent online blog:
March 7, 2018
I spent an hour with several business people discussing the proper use of a semicolon and colon, what punctuation goes inside quotation marks and what punctuation goes outside, and what an ellipse is and how it’s used. Some were overwhelmed. All enjoyed it.
February 28, 2018
February 7, 2018
February 3, 2018
Congress is broken. I fear beyond repair. And it has extreme repercussions for—and possibly portends the end of—our republic.
October 5, 2017
Every communication you post must be professional and be your best effort. Every time.
September 28, 2017
Up to 40% of businesses affected by a disaster never reopen, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Which is disastrous not only for the business, but for the jurisdiction in which it resides.
September 7, 2017
August 31, 2017
Welcome to the life of Maribeth Decker, intuitive animal communicator. Maribeth owns and operates SacredGrove.com, “where people and pets heal and connect.” She connects “telepathically with animals to allow people to have a two-way conversation with them.” This allows animal and human to solve issues between them, such as anxiety or aggression issues. But Maribeth is not a pet trainer or behaviorist. She simply allows humans and animals to communicate.
August 17, 2017
I recently read a press release from a healthcare organization that spelled “healthcare” as a noun, but also spelled it “health care” and “health-care.” All may be acceptable spellings, but to spell it three ways in a 500-word release is distracting, to say the least, and credibility-damaging, to say the most.
July 7, 2017
Today is World Chocolate Day. Chocolate is good for the heart and brain, studies show, so if you have been avoiding it to slim down you just may have a stupid heart attack.
June 30, 2017
There’s a psychology behind graphic design, graphic designer Lauma Wingrove said. Color. Placement. Font choices. Shapes. White space. Photos. They all tell the viewer something on a subconscious level and can make or break your message.
June 23, 2017
After attending two storytelling workshops in recent weeks, I have started a written story file. Retrieving stories from a brain that can’t remember why it directed me to walk into a room is iffy at best. I’ll probably miss the best one to illustrate the point I want to make. Having them stored in written form makes it more likely to hit on the right one.
June 2, 2017
The history of the United States flows through Fairfax County, Virginia. Two of our Founding Fathers called the county home, George Washington and George Mason. Washington and Mason were the brains behind the Fairfax Resolves, the first document to outline the colonies’ grievances against England.
May 25, 2017
Networking is critical to the success of every entrepreneur. Some hunt, others farm, with the farmers more often than not finding long-term success.
May 11, 2017
And the president wonders why the latest Quinnipiac University poll, taken before the latest misstep, shows his disapproval rating at 58%, with 51% strongly disapproving and 56% saying he lacks good leadership skills.
May 4, 2017
Perhaps it does prove our exceptionalism, because the Yankees recognized National Nurses Week first.
April 27, 2017
April 20, 2017
Editor's note: This was first posted on July 7, 2016. It's being republished today in honor of Get to Know Your Customers Day, which is observed annually on the third Thursday of each quarter. It's a day to reach out to your patrons and get to know them better.
April 13, 2017
Is continuing education in your field is crucial to your continued growth? Do you want to be recognized as an authority in your field? Is it worth it to you to invest a couple of hours a week doing both simultaneously?
April 6, 2017
Words do matter. Otherwise, why does a speaker speak? Should we all stand on stage and mime our speeches? Am I the only one who finds mimes annoying?
March 31, 2017
Learning the craft—the workmanship—of communication only takes willingness and commitment. Art—the creativity—comes when you begin to play with the skills you have learned.
March 3, 2017
If you ask 10 marketers to list their top 10 magic words you’ll receive 10 different lists. But, while every marketer’s list is different, some words show up regularly because they are truly magic.
January 19, 2017
Let’s compare the process of preparing a grocery list and writing a speech.
January 13, 2017
As we prepare for the peaceful transition of government in a nation divided by party, creed, economics, geography, religion, and race, it is perhaps instructive to remember this portion of George Washington’s Farewell Address:
January 5, 2017
While the technology since then has made it easier in some respects to prepare and conduct an interview, the basic skills have remained the same.
December 15, 2016
November 11, 2016
Trump broke all the rules of modern-day politics and won. Why? Was Clinton that weak of a candidate? Is the electorate so undisciplined that Trump’s Wild West campaigning from an Ivory Trump Tower appealed to them? Was his seemingly undisciplined campaign weirdly disciplined?
October 25, 2016
During the course of the 2015 season, Jim and I had assigned the Chicago Cubs to my son-in-law, Tony. We did it as a joke. Tony had never followed sports before. It seemed natural to assign him the Cubs, a perennially hopeless team.
October 20, 2016
The majority of the American people do not like Hillary Clinton and do not trust her. But she will win over Donald Trump, and win handily, because hers is the more disciplined campaign.
September 29, 2016
September 9, 2016
I love the English language. It’s got rules, man! It also has so many exceptions to the rules to make the rules virtually useless.
First published June 29, 2011
The difference between batter’s eye and batter’s eye is that in baseball the eye is blue and in cooking it’s yellow, the color of the sun that makes the baseball player squint. Which brings us to sunspots, the chosen, and the true timeline for the end of the world.
August 4, 2016
July 21, 2016
Only .0004% of Americans are authors. Publishing a book puts you in very, very exclusive territory. It makes you stand out among the cat videos.
July 15, 2016
I fear for my country.
July 7, 2016
It doesn’t matter if you’re selling shoes, decks, or graphic design, you must start with knowing your audience’s wants and needs before you can create the message that brings you business. Your imaginary friend is that one person whose wants and needs you know so well you can discuss it with them. Who you can bounce ideas off of to see if they like it or not. Like you did as a child, but this time with a structured purpose. That purpose is to focus your message.
May 1, 2016
I’ve found that much of the world runs in Erin’s circles, not mine. They’ve never met an author before. To many people, I’m unique to their circle.
April 8, 2016
When I published my new e-book on Tuesday, I did not anticipate the number of unforeseen questions and problems that would arise.
March 31, 2016
(Editor's note: This is excerpted from Tom Pfeifer’s book, Write It, Speak It, available on Amazon.com on April 5, 2016.)
In 2015, the attention span of humans fell to eight seconds, according to the Statistic Brain Research Institute. It’s not much time. You don’t want to waste it. Once you lose your audience it’s very difficult to get them back. So you need to begin with a bang and grab their attention right away.
February 18, 2016
(Editor's note: This is excerpted from Tom Pfeifer's upcoming book, Write It, Speak It.)
Think about all the family stories you’ve heard that have been passed down from generation to generation. We relate to stories—and the storyteller—and are much more likely to remember what he or she said, as well as comprehend it.
February 12, 2016
Comma rules are pretty straightforward, although there’s disagreement on just how many rules there are. Jane Straus, who literally wrote a book on punctuation, lists 16 rules with several sub-rules. Purdue University lists a mere 11. Utah Valley University rounds it down to 10. I am not going to recite a comprehensive list. But here are a few I see violated often.
February 4, 2016
(Editor's note: This was first published on Jan. 1, 2013.)
Not incorporating the communications team in a communications plan is a recipe for failure. Communicators take the complex, simplify it accurately, and disseminate it with the greatest
chance of positive impact.
December 31, 2015
The blogosphere is inundated right now with “How to Keep Your Resolutions” tutorials and “10 Easy Goal-setting Tips,” so I won’t bore you with yet another. Instead, let’s celebrate
Jan. 1 as the day of firsts.
December 11, 2015
occupational license tax). Everyone agreesit needs to be eliminated or modified. Getting there, however, has proven elusive.
November 19, 2015
I competed in the Toastmasters International District 27 Humorous Speech Contest finals last week. The audience loved my speech. The judges didn’t.
November 13, 2015
I was going to write about Starbucks cups this week, but it’s not controversial enough. Instead, I bring you another rant
on the Oxford comma.
November 6, 2015