Neologisms: Coin a word

Create new terms by merging old ones

I was working on a story today when a writerruption occurred: My brother sent me photos of The Cutest Kid In the World — aka my niece. I got distracted and missed my deadline.

Neologisms: Make your copy more creative by coining words

A whole new word Freshly minted words like portmanteaus get more attention than tired coinages. Image by Charles Deluvio

Not really. But don’t you love the word writerruption?

I made it myself, with a cool word tool Wordoid.… Read the full article

Alphabet scoop

Create acronyms that help readers retain info

First there was FUBAR: F***ed Up Beyond All Recognition. Now, thanks to the Urban Dictionary, we also have PHOBAR: PHOtoshopped Beyond All Recognition. (Like this.)

Alphabet scoop

As easy as ABC Acronyms can help people codify and remember your key ideas. Image by John Jennings

I know; I know: Acronyms can make your copy harder to read. After all, it’s hard for readers to follow your train of thought when they’re drowning in alphabet soup.… Read the full article

Verbify a name

‘My goal in life is to become an adjective’

I was thrilled last month when one of my clients asked me to “Wylie-ize” part of her website. (Thank you, Libby Catalinich!)

Verbify a name

What’s in a name? Depends on how you use it. Image by Flood G.

I’ve always wanted to be a verb!

‘Joycean, Shakespearean, Faulknerian’

That reminded me of this exchange between characters in Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot:

“My goal in life is to become an adjective,” Leonard said.… Read the full article

Neologisms: Find half-and-half words

Gain inspiration for portmanteau from WordSpy

Tracy Ousdahl and Paul Pinney have traveled the globe. But sometimes, instead of venturing out to a cool destination, they use their time off to visit their families.

Neologisms: Find half-and-half words

It’s a vacation, not a famcation Make your copy more creative with with portmanteau. Image by Michael Mims

Don’t call that a vacation, though. To Tracy and Paul, that’s a famcation.

Half-and-half words like famcation — linguists call these portmanteaus — not only grab readers’ attention.… Read the full article

Sensual research: Go to the scene

Gain color and insight through observation

You’ve heard about MBWA, or management by walking around? Try WBHA, or writing by hanging around — going to the scene to observe.

Observational research

Just looking Firsthand observation brings your message to life. Image by Joel Overbeck

Observational research is the most overlooked reporting tool there is. Which is a shame. Because firsthand observation gives your copy color and insight that you can’t get any other way.… Read the full article

Incubate your ideas

Take a walk, take a nap, take a break

Novelist Agatha Christie believed that the best time to write was while washing the dishes.

Incubate your ideas

Give it time to grow Nurture your ideas by not working on your project. Image by Toni Cuenca

Author Harper Lee did much of her creative thinking while golfing. And artist Grant Wood said, “All of the really good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow.”

Welcome to the wonderful world of incubation.… Read the full article

Forage widely

Gather raw material

The first step of the 5-step creative process is to forage, or stuff your brain with information and inspiration.

Forage widely

The right stuff The better the information and inspiration you gather, the more creative the result. Image by Evie Shaffer

The better the information and inspiration, the more creative the result.

1. To be interesting, be interested.

So get out there and learn something.

“Every really good creative person … has always had two noticeable characteristics,” writes James Webb Young, the pre-Mad Men-era ad executive who invented the 5-step creative process and put it down in a book called A Technique for Producing Ideas.… Read the full article

Creative process: Get to Aha!

Write better, easier & faster with this 5-step system

Have you ever come up with a brilliant idea — on the way home from the brainstorming meeting? Developed a creative theme for the annual report while pulling weeds? Written the perfect headline in the shower?

5 step creative process

Brilliant ideas The 5-step creative process helps you work with — not against — your brain to produce dazzling ideas, brighter pieces. Image by Josh Boot

Welcome to the wonderful world of the creative process, where working sometimes doesn’t look like working, and where sticking with it is often the worst thing you can do to move ahead.… Read the full article

Quotes on simplifying stats

What writers & others say

Quotes on simplifying stats


“Numbers, when they’re large enough, simply blow our mental fuses. People often find anything with an ‘-illion’ on the end incomprehensible.”
— Michael Blastland and Andrew Dilnot, authors of The Numbers Game

“Great clots of numbers dropped into a story with a steam shovel create a wall of abstraction.”
— William Blundell, author, The Art and Craft of Feature Writing


“Big numbers fuzz our brains, and that is just as true in business as it is in public policy.”
— Chip Heath and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick

“Speaking in ‘millions’ and ‘billions’ is like your second year of Spanish: You’ve memorized the vocabulary, but it’s hard to think in the language.”
— Chip Heath and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick


“The challenge of communicating the significance of numbers — and acting on them — is to find ways to bring them closer to people’s day-to-day experience.”
— Chip Heath and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick

“Some commentators have tried various ways to put [numbers into] perspective — if you laid those bills end to end, how many times would they circle the earth?
Read the full article

Concise quotes sound better

Why are PR quotes so much longer than media quotes?

Mark Twain once defined a sound bite as “a minimum of sound to a maximum of sense.”

Short sound bites

More sense, less sound If sound bites are, as Mark Twain said, “a minimum of sound to a maximum of sense,” how much sense does a 100+-word PR quote make? Image by Namroud Gorguis

So this quote, from The New York Times’ “Riches to Rags for New York Teenager Who Admits His Story Is a Hoax,” makes a lot of sense.… Read the full article

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