Friday, January 26, 2018

Starting with What Matters, Part 6: Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein is renowned for his scientific genius, but he does not get enough credit for his rhetorical power. In an article on education in The New York Times (October 5, 1952), he wrote:
It is not enough to teach man a specialty. Through it he may become a kind of useful machine but not a harmoniously developed personality. It is essential that the student acquire an understanding of and a lively feeling for values. He must acquire a vivid sense of the beautiful and the morally good.
With plain language and brief yet fluent sentences, Einstein argues gracefully against the culture of efficiency that advocates for a vocational schooling, a system which merely prepares people for a technical skill, one which may become obsolete, rendering the preparatory education useless.

Expressing ideas directly with simple words and short sentences equates to a powerful style.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Starting with What Matters, Part 5: Helen Keller

In "The Simplest Way to Be Happy," a 1933 article appearing in Home, Helen Keller wrote:
My theme is that happiness is not the work of magic. Happiness is the final and perfect fruit of obedience to the laws of life.
In that 25-word, 2-sentence opening to her descriptive essay Keller uses three hallmarks of getting to the point: simple language (magic, fruit, life), repetition (happiness twice), and contrast (is not and is). Such is the stuff of an engaging style.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Starting with What Matters, Part 4: David Carr

Think about the emotional climate of America in early December 2001, around the time when the January 2002 issue of The Atlantic hit the newsstands. That issue included David Carr's article, "The Futility of 'Homeland Defense,'" which began with these words:
Get over thinking that America can be made safe. Defending a country as big and commercially robust as the United States raises profound, and probably insurmountable, issues of scale.  
Americans were anxious about preventing another 9/11, yet Carr was there to boldly remind us that the USA must defend 3.8 million square miles in which 300 million people live, 350 million non-citizens visit annually, 700 million pieces of mail and 2 billion tons of cargo arrive daily from overseas (remember Anthrax?), 86 stadiums seat over 60,000 people, and 50 of the tallest 100 buildings in the world are situtated. 

With a straightforward, colloquial style, the writer starts his essay by getting to the point like few other authors do. The times called for such delusion-shattering prose, and Carr delivered it with a finesse that garnered him the admiration of fellow journalists and readers who will long remember him.  

Friday, January 05, 2018

13th Anniversary of WORDS ON THE LINE

On January 5, 2005, I began WORDS ON THE LINE with limited expectations: perhaps post a writing tip here, a wise quote there, and a useful book review somewhere in between. I had been managing my full-time consulting business for nearly 9 years, so the blog was an attempt to keep me engaged as a writer, editor, trainer, and coach.

After 13 years and 770 posts, with at least 1 post in every week, WORDS ON THE LINE has provided key insights into writing at work, school, and home. Numerous rhetorical strategies, formatting devices, diction suggestions, and grammar tips appear here to make your writing more purposeful, powerful, organized, clear, concise, and correct. The many mini book reviews offer guidance for continued professional development. 

Regardless of your communication level, you will surely find useful content in this blog. Just scroll through the topics list down the right side of your screen to get what you're looking for. Also, feel free to reach me at if you need writing  help. Thanks for reading.