Sunday, July 31, 2016

Try Mind Mapping

I recommend mind mapping not because I often use this planning technique. In fact, when generating content for my drafts, I tend to just create vertical lists on my computer by first brainstorming ideas quickly and then organizing them into manageable groups, which eventually become my paragraphs or headings. But when I introduce mind mapping to my students, many of them get playful with process, inventing their adaptations, feverishly capturing thoughts bursting from their fertile brains, and rapidly jumping into their drafts with gusto.

Many videos describing and illustrating mind mapping are available on YouTube. (Click on the image to view one.) See if this method works for you the next time you find yourself stuck on an important writing assignment.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Reading Scripts to Achieve Clarity

Reading plays is an excellent way to get a feel for the dialogue of life in general, and the questions of businesspeople  in particular. Few people read plays, yet we write at work based on imagined dialogues with our readers.

Imagine opening an internal proposal to your manager with this sentence: 
Splitting the Northeast Region into two sales territories will double our coverage, leading to 25% additional revenue after the first year.
You are assuming the following dialogue:
Manager: What do you want?
You: We should split the Northeast Region into two sales territories.
Manager: Why?
Writer: It would double our coverage. 
Manager: What would that do?
Writer: We would increase revenue by 25 percent after the first year.
Reading dramatic pieces not only entertains, it also gives insight into how people react, reply, retract, and repeat. Read some plays with this thought in mind and see how your ear for your audience improves.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The To and the Do, or the Do and the To?

A helpful tip I give to people in my writing classes is to start proposals or time-sensitive requests with a sentence that includes a to and a do. The to is the reader benefit; the do is the writer expectation.

Here are some examples of the to and the do:

  1. To improve our chances of winning the account (to), please include an analysis of options in the proposal (do).
  2. We can reduce rental costs, increase our labor pool, and facilitate the production process (to) by relocating the plant to Memphis (do).
  3. I recommend including an analysis of options in the proposal (do) to improve our chances of winning the account (to). 
  4. Relocating the plant to Memphis (do) will reduce rental costs, increase our labor pool, and facilitate the production process (to).

Examples 1 and 2 appear in the order of to and do, a more deferential style; Examples 3 and 4 are in the order of do and to, a more assertive style. Choosing the right approach depends on the situation and your relationship with the readers.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Template for Meeting Summaries

In an earlier Words on the Line post, I noted why meeting summaries are so challenging to many employees who need to write them. For this reason, I provide a template to jumpstart the composition process. Keep in mind that this template works well for the results-driven business world better than it does for the process-driven government style, which uses the Robert's Rules of Order.  

Sunday, July 03, 2016

BOOK BRIEF: "Dialogue: Rediscover the Transforming Power of Conversation" by Linda Ellinor and Glenna Gerard

Linda Ellinor and Glenna Gerard dedicate much of their book to the applications of Dialogue. As consultants on Dialogue theory, they begin with an actual transcript of a dialogue among several experts on the subject, which they arranged not only to ground the reader on the principles of Dialogue, but also to model how an actual dialogue might unfold. The authors’ in-depth focus on the necessity of appreciating silence and releasing certainty for a successful dialogue offers revelatory potential to these ideas.

Those searching for literary relationships to Dialogue need look no further than Dialogue: Rediscover the Transforming Power of Conversation. Poetry is generously scattered throughout the pages, and apt quotes abound from philosophers like Buber, poets like Rilke, and painters like Matisse.

Most valuable are the authors’ strategies for bringing value to Dialogue, complementing Daniel Yankelovich’s strategies for successful 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: "When you get stuck and frustrated, there are three keys to learning and moving beyond: 1. the willingness to stick around; 2. suspending judgment; and 3. refocusing attention to engage at a different level."