Friday, November 27, 2009

Three Primers on Dialogue Theory

I am recommending three books on Dialogue theory because writers can draw many useful conclusions about clear communication by reading them. While they are not specifically about writing, their focus on honest and open interaction without an agenda can inspire writers to fulfill their ethical obligations whether reporting a story or arguing a position. Here they are:

Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together by William Isaacs. This is an important book for understanding dialogue theory. Here is an excerpt of what I wrote in a book review for ETC: A Review of General Semantics: (The author) reaches into his seemingly endless reserve of rich illustrations from history, popular culture, other cultures, literature, music, philosophy, management, and organized labor to sharpen his readers' focus on the clear distinction between Dialogue and other forms of human communication. … To Isaacs’s credit, he never shies from admitting that attempts at Dialogue can lead to painfully protracted and frustrating impasses. However, he depicts the rewards of communication breakthroughs as virtual miracles. … (Isaacs’s) exhaustive associations between theory and technique render Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together the ultimate handbook on the subject.

The Magic of Dialogue: Transforming Conflict into Cooperation by Daniel Yankelovich. Among the highlights of this highly readable volume are sections which form the core a cogent instruction manual for Dialogue: The 15 strategies of successful dialogues, which include tips for gaining and maintaining trust and for clarifying communication barriers, and the 10 potholes of the mind, which identify egocentric, prejudicial, or unfocused behaviors that negatively impact on Dialogue.

Dialogue: Rediscover the Transforming Power of Conversation by Linda Ellinor, Glenna Gerard. Most valuable are the authors’ strategies for bringing value to Dialogue. Most enjoyable is the enthusiasm that the authors infuse in their personal encounters with people in Dialogue. And most appreciated is the timeless advice they provide for those stifled in their attempts at Dialogue.

Friday, November 20, 2009

"How to Write Fast Under Pressure" Goes on the Air

I will be doing a 30-minute interview on Book Bites for Kids (, hosted by author and radio personality Suzanne Lieurance on Thursday, December 3, at 4:00 p.m. Eastern time. The topic will be my latest book, How to Write Fast Under Pressure. We’ll be talking about the can-do attitude necessary to write efficiently with consistency and confidence. It should be of interest for adults as well as children, so be sure to tune in!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Counting on Nouns: An ESL Guide

Some English words, especially uncountable nouns, don't translate well into other languages. Here is a partial list of uncountable nouns, in bold, which we should use singularly:

  1. My accountant gave me much good advice.
  2. The air is better today.
  3. Her art never fails to impress us.
  4. The coffee from Brazil and Colombia is famous.
  5. The price of electricity fluctuates by area.
  6. Some of the equipment has not arrived.
  7. We will need a lot of furniture.
  8. I threw out the garbage on both floors.
  9. You will need all the information you can get.
  10. She has vast knowledge of her field.
  11. The airline misplaced our luggage.
  12. They wrote music for many years.
  13. Where do you get your news?
  14. There is no easy solution to pollution.
  15. He expected to make more progress.
  16. The research from the labs is inconclusive.
  17. The train, bus, and ferry transportation was delayed.
  18. The traffic is endless in Mexico City.
  19. The water in my town and yours tastes great.
  20. Their work is exceptional.

Other uncountable nouns exist. The only way to master them is memorization. Start studying!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Core Standards a Practical Business Guide

I was reviewing the National Governors Association’s common core standards, in particular their English Language Arts Standards for college and career readiness ( The association lists a broad range of competencies in reading, writing, listening, and speaking for adults. The competencies seem practical for managers who need to establish benchmarks for their staff's language skills.

Having traveled the country as a writing consultant for numerous businesses, government agencies, and academic institutions, I see great value in this website. I would suggest that corporate directors of human resources and training administrators study these standards. The site can inform business managers and department supervisors in assessing staff, planning training, and setting expectations.