Sunday, April 27, 2008

New AMA Course: How to Write Fast When It’s Due Yesterday

I am having a great time designing the course How to Write Fast When It’s Due Yesterday for the American Management Association (AMA). This one-day course focuses on creative techniques to break through writer’s block in the face of multiple writing projects for diverse audiences under tight deadlines. It will launch on October 24 in New York, followed by classes on November 14 in San Francisco and December 19 in Chicago.

To read more about the course, visit the AMA site by clicking here:

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Go CUNY! A Useful Writer’s Website

The City University of New York (CUNY) offers a helpful website for student and business writers( The Grammar and Style link is especially useful for developing writers looking for definitions and explanations of common grammatical errors. Check it out!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Start from the Middle!

Question: Why do so many writers at work often say, “I have a hard time getting started, but once I get going, I’m OK”?

Answer: Because the hardest part is setting the tone in the beginning of the document. That opening establishes how you will come across to your reader: deferential or arrogant, formal or informal, technical or general—not always an easy choice to make and even harder to render.

Then just skip the opening and start your draft with the second paragraph, which is the stuff of your job. You’ll likely have no trouble in that area if you know what you’re reporting about or proposing. Once you get on a roll, you can always see how your message closes, which usually will give you an insight into how you should begin.

Trying this technique has solved writer’s block for many participants in my writing workshops—so it’s worth a try the next time you’re just sitting there pulling the hairs out of your head. Get those fingers moving!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Staff Is or Staff Are?

Welcome to the 200th posting on this blog! Since the first was on January 4, 2005, I should thank all of you who continue tuning in 39 months later.

Here’s a question from Angel L. Rom├ín, Deputy Director, Out-of-School Youth Initiatives, of the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development:

What’s preferred: “staff is” or “staff are”?

Angel is certainly not the first to ask that question, but I’m glad he did when I was in the middle of updating this blog. Here’s my answer, which may upset the grammar police: Staff can be used in a singular or a plural sense.

No doubt, staff is a collective noun and therefore singular, just like board of directors, committee, company, department, family, jury, organization, and team. For example:

My staff is the best in the business.
The bank’s staff works best under pressure.

However, we can use staff in a plural context as well, when staff members are implied. Cases in point:

Please give this data to the staff who are writing the report.
If you give this project to my staff, they would know how to manage it.