Friday, September 30, 2005

The Art of On-the-Job Writing, Part 3

This installment of the WORDS ON THE LINE blog continues featuring excerpts The Art of On-the-Job Writing by writing consultant Philip Vassallo. The book offers practical advice for creating and critiquing work-related documents.

Here’s a brief excerpt from Chapter 3, “Drafting”:

Think for a moment about how you break the ice with someone you meet for the first time. You may smile at that person, nod, bow, or extend your hand, depending on your cultural and personal style. But this isn’t all you do; you also use language. Maybe you’ll say nothing more than “hello” or “how are you?” or talk about the weather. But you start using language to get the communication process going. In short, you start the speaking process by speaking.

This sounds easier than it really is. It may require overcoming internal barriers, such as self-consciousness, personal prejudices, language deficiencies, and subject-matter knowledge, as well as external barriers, such as the other person’s language comprehension and attitude about you and the purpose of your meeting. The truth is we’re so used to conversing with people, that speaking comes naturally.

Writing is different because we’re writing for readers who aren’t necessarily standing in front of us. We have to assume what questions the reader may have about our topic. We may not know the reader’s attitude, interest, or knowledge about our topic. Sometimes we might not even be sure if we’re writing to the correct person. Compound these problems with a general lack of confidence about our writing skills or a lack of knowledge about our topic or any other combination of anxieties that we may have about the writing situation, and we’re bound to hit the wall called writer’s block. Perhaps if the readers were standing beside us, they would ask the right questions to jumpstart the writing process. But they’re not. So we must write alone.

You may purchase your copy of The Art of On-the-Job Writing by clicking here:

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Art of On-the-Job Writing, Part 2

The last and next few installments of the WORDS ON THE LINE blog features excerpts of each of the seven chapters of The Art of On-the-Job Writing by writing consultant Philip Vassallo. The book takes the reader through the writing process and key consideration for each step.

Here’s a brief excerpt from Chapter 2, “Planning”:

Remember the only way to start writing: by writing. This is an important point. You can’t get started by simply sitting there and meditating about your topic. You actually have to move your fingers, either by pushing your pen or pencil across a piece of paper to form words, or by tapping at your keyboard to form them on the screen. Anything else is something other than writing.

How often have you heard someone say, or have you said yourself, “I have a hard time getting started, but once I do start I can’t stop”? Naturally. You needed to connect the brain to the fingers and think through writing. It’s much like the way we speak to one another. When we first meet, some awkward moments may pass. Our speech may be halting, guarded; we may even stumble over a word or two. But once we feel comfortable and connect with each other’s language, minutes fly by and we don’t bother to censor our speech. Words just burst from our brains and pop from our mouths like an endless barrage of firecrackers without our seeming to think about them. Yet we are thinking—thinking through speaking or thinking through listening, depending on which you’re doing at the moment. And if you think about it (no pun intended), as you are now—thinking through reading—you can think about other things while thinking through speaking or thinking through writing. Try it during your next informal conversation with friends about, say, food. As you listen to your friends speak, think about irrelevant matters, such as Neil Armstrong’s moon walk followed by Jennifer Lopez rocking on an electrified stage and see whether you understood what your friends were saying. You probably will. Then as you speak to your friend, think about Jack in The Titanic sacrificing his life to save Rose from drowning in the North Atlantic Sea followed by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. addressing thousands of people at the Lincoln Memorial and see whether your friends understood what you were saying. They probably will. As you read this paragraph, were you thinking about other thoughts and still understanding these words? I’d bet you were.

A problem for people with writer’s block is that they ponder instead of write—which causes their writing minds to go blank. How ironic: They’re stressed out because their minds are blank when they unwittingly caused that very effect! Pondering doesn’t start until we start to meditate, speaking and listening don’t start until we start to speak and listen, reading doesn’t start until we start to read, and writing doesn’t start until we start to write. So all three steps of the PDQ Process—planning, drafting, quality controlling—require us to write.

You may purchase your copy of The Art of On-the-Job Writing by clicking here:

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Art of On-the-Job Writing, Part 1

The next several installments of the WORDS ON THE LINE blog will feature excerpts of each of the seven chapters of The Art of On-the-Job Writing by writing consultant Philip Vassallo.

Reviews of the book have been favorable. Tami Brady of TCM Reviews wrote “These steps (detailed in The Art of On-the-Job Writing) not only take the writer from any writing assignment through to a polished writing product but also help the writer through common pitfalls such as writer’s block, disorganization, and wordiness. Moreover, these methods and steps explained in this book are flexible enough to be used in virtually any writing situation, be that a simple email or memo or a longer more formal report or technical manual.” Martin Levinson of ETC. wrote that The Art of On-the-Job Writing “can be profitably read by writers new to the world of work-related documents, and by experienced professionals, who will also gain from its new approach to clear and purposeful business writing.”

Here’s a brief excerpt from Chapter 1, “Being an On-the-Job Writer”:

Writing is both a process and a product. On-the-job writing success depends on your ability to manage your time (the process) en route to completing a document (the product). Mastering the writing process makes you efficient; mastering the product makes you effective.

The writing process comprises the three PDQ steps: plan, draft, and quality control. When planning, we brainstorm and organize ideas. When drafting, we create a rough copy of those ideas. When quality controlling, we protect our REP: revise the ideas, edit the expression, and proofread a hard copy.

We can assess the writing product by using the 4S Plan: statement, support, structure, and style. The statement is the purpose of the document. The support is the details supporting the purpose. The structure is the organization of the statement and support. The style is the balancing of context and content in delivering the statement and support through the structure.

You may purchase your copy of The Art of On-the-Job Writing by clicking here:

Saturday, September 10, 2005

A Cue from Coleridge

British poet and philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) once wrote, “Works of imagination should be written in very plain language; the more purely imaginative they are the more necessary it is to be plain.”

Remember that wise piece of advice the next time you are struggling for an elaborate word that may not precisely denote the image you are trying to evoke!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Another Helpful Vocabulary Website: Building a Better Vocabulary

Building a Better Vocabulary is actually a page from A Guide to Grammar and Writing, a website created and operated by Charles Darling, a professor of English at Capital Community College in Hartford, Connecticut. At this site you can strengthen your word power by reading tips for developing your word power, playing word games, taking vocabulary quizzes, and obtaining additional print and electronic resources, .

A Guide to Grammar and Writing does much more for the developing writer. It provides extensive entries in the following critical areas:

  • rhetorical theory
  • essay examples
  • the writing process
  • organizing ideas
  • developing paragraphs
  • grammar and diction guidelines

The site is well worth a visit. Be sure to bookmark it! Here is the link: