The Animal Legal Defense Fund reports:
"Phone calls, emails and postcards are all good communication tools, but most professionals agree that there is no substitute for the most effective way of communicating: letters. Faxed or mailed, letters go directly to the desk of the addressee and leave a paper trail...Use proper titles and salutations in your letters. For example, when addressing judges, use 'The Honorable Judge John Smith' in the address and 'Dear Judge Smith' as a salutation. For prosecutors, use their full name, followed by their title; for example, 'Mary Black, Assistant County Attorney,' with a salutation of 'Dear Ms. Black.' Other law enforcement, such as chiefs of police, should be addressed as 'Chief John Doe, Office of Chief of Police,' with the salutation 'Dear Chief Doe.'...In the first paragraph, state who you are and the issue you are writing about. If writing about a court case, include the case number (if available), the defendant’s name(s), what the charges are and a very brief description of the crime. Make sure your information is factually correct...[K]eep letters to one page. Choose several strong points and don’t let yourself get sidetracked from them. Develop the points to support your argument, but be concise — too much information will be distracting and may weaken your credibility...Tell the official exactly what you want to happen. For example, in
a neglect case where animals were found in terrible condition, ask the judge to ban the hoarder from owning, harboring or having any future contact with animals, with periodic checks by animal control, and mandatory psychiatric treatment. If an offender has proven to be violent and is ordered to community service at an animal shelter, ask the judge to rescind the order and find a more appropriate venue for the service, citing the danger to both animals and shelter staff...Tell them why the issue matters to you. For example, mention how a particular case or issue affects you or your community (which, of course, includes animal members), or how you have donated time or money to a humane society, or how an experience with an animal made a lasting impression on you or initiated your activism. If you live in the area of the crime, let the official know that the way the crime is dealt with may affect your future voting preferences. If you live outside the area, consider voicing your reluctance to visit that city or county, should the outcome be negative or inappropriate...[W]rite with confidence. If we want to be heard, we must come across as rational, educated and concerned, rather than enraged, naïve or upset. Angry letters work against what we are trying to accomplish with our communication and often put others on the defensive. Never write in all capital letters...Thank them for taking the time to read your letter and ask for a reply. Be sure to include your name and address on the letter (and the
envelope, if mailed)...Check your spelling and always [proofread] for grammatical and
punctuation errors...When judges come through with meaningful sentences, write to them and thank them for their actions. If other law enforcement go beyond the call of duty, be sure to thank them for their efforts too."
"Capture the attention of your audience by making the ad relevant to them at the beginning of the announcement. Ask questions or make brief points that will help the audience identify with the cause of your organization or event...List the essential information listeners or viewers need to know. Think about who should attend or get involved, what it's about, where it's happening or where the business is located, when and why. Give directions or a point of reference for an event location...[E]ncourage the audience to get involved. Choose words that describe how the audience, or those benefiting from the charitable event, will feel as a result of their participation...Call the audience to action...Make it clear what you expect the audience to do after listening to your message...Include contact information, such as a name and phone number, or a website address where people can get more information. Repeat information that's difficult to remember, such as the phone number or website address...Read your script out loud and have someone time you. Some stations air only 10-second public service announcements, while others will air 30- or 60-second messages. Adjust your script accordingly."
Five Plot Writing Devices to Avoid
Jon Gingerich reports:
"A lot of beginning writers abide by this strange belief that confusion is somehow complex, that by purposefully withholding essential information from a story we can make our work sound more 'literary' by default. It doesn't work that way...A lot of us cut our teeth on writers like Raymond Carver, who often wrote stories that revolved around some unspoken, ostensibly 'missing' element. It deserves mentioning that it’s very clear what these stories are 'about.' The narrative, language and actions carefully orbit around a specific idea that, while missing from the page, can be found by tracing the characters’ actions to a central meaning that isn’t accessed through mere exposition. I think a lot of us took this lesson and somehow confused it to mean 'good' storytelling is a process of deliberately making the plot fundamentals abstract. Obviously, this is a completely different concept, and a nutty one at that...We get to a point in our stories where we hit a snag, and the easy solution is to have our character perform a saving action that's completely divorced from his/her established characterizations, just because doing so will keep the plot moving. When this fallacy occurs in fantasy/sci-fi stories, it can have a more extreme effect: [T]he character performs some supernatural impossibility that was never broached earlier in the story simply for the sake of getting him/her out of the bind at hand. It might get us to the next scene, but unfortunately it’s the literary equivalent of dumping the baby with the bathwater...Deus ex machina is one of the most common fallacies out there...There’s so much pressure to tie up loose ends and catch the reader off guard, the temptation to throw in a glibly contrived solution or an implausible twist becomes palpable. The problem, of course, is that doing either denigrates the story. Stories should conclude in ways that are unexpected yet inevitable. That is, they should surprise the reader, but should be wholly consistent with the preceding storyline and its characters' machinations...A lot of us...have a compulsion to swing for the fences with our endings, and we introduce either a climax that makes the work’s thematic connections seem heavy-handed, or...drop something so utterly implausible it may as well have come from outer space...If you’re going to throw in a surprise twist — and by all means, do — make sure it’s something that could reasonably happen in the story, make sure it’s something your character would reasonably do, and make sure it enhances the central meaning of the piece...Writing that relies on simply teasing the presumed mores of its audience requires an axis of prudishness on which it can revolve. In other words, the writer has taken a clichéd view of the world and its scores of vanilla squares...This isn’t challenging anyone; these writers are simply taking a trope, sticking their tongues out at it, and hoping this corny dog-and-pony-show somehow allots for depth...Want to shock us? Write something good...Fiction critiques should never resemble a legal deposition, but if there’s one rebuttal writers will hear in workshops at one point or another, it’s this: 'But it really happened that way!' It’s common for writers to borrow from their personal lives, but some confuse this to mean it somehow makes every related detail germane to the story being told, or simply because something actually occurred it lends the event a sort of storytelling immunity card. It doesn’t...[T]he world of fiction and the 'real world' are vastly different places. Our world is a chaotic place; there are plenty of governing physical rules, but if real life was a story it'd be the worst ever written. At any given moment, events are occurring in the 'real world' without purpose, without meaning, without context. The world of fiction, however, is a place where everything that happens does so necessarily; everything that occurs, no matter how seemingly desultory, is an ordered, intentional, emphatic cog meant to serve the larger movement of the piece. In fact, one of the great paradoxes of fiction is that it investigates a character so deeply we’ll eventually know more about that person than we’ll know about our co-workers or neighbors, maybe even our own family. There’s nothing wrong with lifting events, dialogue and characters from your day-to-day, but there’s a translation process of necessity and meaning and purpose these elements must undergo if they’re going to fit within the milieu of fiction...The more critical you can become of your own work — the sooner you can ask yourself why you employed a particular strategy and how it will help you achieve a desired outcome — the [more easily] you can identify potential weak points and stop bad habits before they poison the well. This is what revision is all about. By all means, if you know something isn't working but can't figure out how to 'fix' it, put the story down...and come back to it weeks or months later when the eyes refresh. The writer's best friend is time. Learning how to identify weak points in your writing and developing a strategy to tackle them is a sure sign that you're getting better, and in the process of producing quality work."
Yohana Desta reports:
"It's time to put pen to paper. Our tech-dependent society has put keyboards at the tips of our fingers at all times, from our smartphones to our laptops. But when was the last time you wrote by hand? Science shows that handwriting can benefit our minds in a number of ways...Writing a calming sentence is a form of graphotherapy, [Dr. Marc] Seifer says. Jotting down a sentence like, 'I will be more peaceful' at least 20 times per day can actually have an impact, especially on those with attention deficit disorder.
'This actually calms the person down and retrains the brain,' Seifer says...Writing something in cursive, that beautiful archaic form, can coordinate the left brain and right brain. How deeply you use each part of the brain varies from person to person (though, we all use both parts)...For young children, writing by hand is an imperative tool in improving cognitive skills...Taking pen to paper inspires more creative thought, because it is a slower process than just typing something on a keyboard, Seifer says...Writing by hand is a great tool for baby boomers who want to keep their minds sharp as they get older...Many psychologists believe that writing something by hand has a longer-lasting effect on memory. This works for both adults and kids.
'There have been a number of studies which show that as children develop, those who [handwrite] have better memory retention,' Seifer says...One of the main reasons handwriting benefits your brain in so many ways is the fact that you're using more of it. The linked regions of the brain for reading are activated while writing by hand, but not while typing or texting."
Karen Curinga reports:
"Business terms and conditions set the contract foundation between you and your customer...[A] terms-and-conditions document is essential. It protects your business, defines your procedures, limits your liability and explains what you have agreed to do. Special provisions may be appropriate to include in your terms and conditions depending on your business, but in many instances simply including a few basic sections creates an effective, but simple document that is easy for the customer to understand and meets your business needs...Write a terms-and-conditions section addressing price. State clearly what the price does or doesn't include, such as duties or taxes...Provide a paragraph defining terms or words used that might cause customer confusion. For example, use of the word 'goods' may refer to both product and services in your business. Make it clear what you are selling, and keep terminology simple and familiar...Offer a privacy statement indicating you are committed to protecting the customer’s privacy. Let him know that his information is considered confidential and will not be sold, shared or rented to any third party...Describe what quality means to your company...Establish specific directions on acceptable methods of payment. Include information clearly stating when payment is due in full...Indicate any information on late payments, interest charged and returned checks, if appropriate. Fully cover all aspects of shipping, such as cost, insurance, freight charges and returns...Set in writing circumstances under which price changes may occur and how the customer receives the information. For a repeat service business, provide information regarding periodic price increases and how clients are notified...Provide a warranty in writing and describe how it is handled...Indicate whether repair or replacement free of charge is included during the warranty period. Be specific on the limit of your liability...Establish the method used to resolve problems, such as mediation. It is far less costly, time[-]consuming and stressful than litigation."
Anne Dolce reports:
"One of the beauties of cooking is sharing secrets, ideas[,] and, of course, recipes...but it can all go south if you’re not passing along the correct information. Recipes are exact and meticulous for a reason; they’ve been tested and relied upon...The next time your friend asks for that pasta salad recipe, use these tips to write your own recipe before passing it along. The results are well worth it...Make sure you list all of the ingredients needed for the recipe. This includes everything from olive oil to salt and pepper. The more details you provide, the more accurate your recipe will be...Ingredients should be listed in the order that they are going to be used in the recipe. This lets the user formulate a plan while reading over what they need, and helps them get familiar with the recipe...The size of ingredients, especially produce, can vary tremendously, so measure everything you possibly can...All of the ingredients of a recipe should be prepped and ready to go when the user begins to cook, so if you need something chopped, say so in the ingredients...Consider two scenarios: [T]he first would be taking a bunch of cilantro, measuring a cup of it and chopping it up; the second would be taking a bunch of cilantro, chopping it, and then measuring a cup. In other words, a cup of cilantro, chopped, is a lot less cilantro than a cup of chopped cilantro, so make sure you’re calling for certain amounts literally...Consider all of the steps for the recipe and organize them in a timely manner — many chefs in professional kitchens do this day in and day out to make sure they’re getting their food out on time, but it’s extremely applicable for the home cook as well. Does the oven need to be preheated? Put it in the instructions first. Making pasta? Consider the time it takes to boil the water...[I]t’s important to give the user a ballpark idea of at what heat and for how long something should cook...[B]e as descriptive as possible when explaining something. Golden-brown, translucent, and sweating are examples of visual cues that will help the user follow the recipe...If something is particularly tricky or dangerous, it’s always nice to tell the user to heed with caution...If you tell the user that they need one cup of low-fat chicken broth in the ingredients, [there's] no need to tell them to add one cup of low-fat chicken broth to the soup, [so] just tell them to add the broth. On the other hand, if you’re using more than one broth, specify that it’s chicken, of course...This is your recipe, so please, write it in your own words and make the user feel comfortable (and get them to like you). That being said, make sure you are as consistent as possible when using terms or phrases. You’ll confuse your reader if you call it a baking sheet in the first paragraph and a sheet pan in the second. This should be applied to your ingredients as well; write out tablespoon or abbreviate it (Tbsp.), but don’t do both...As is always the case with writing, read over everything and make sure that the recipe makes sense and there are no grammatical errors. Along with the usual writing errors, another common mistake to watch out for is listing an ingredient and forgetting to put it in the instructions...Follow these tips, and you’re sure to become a pro at recipe writing — and you’ll avoid disappointing fellow cooks when sharing your recipes. Happy writing!"
Mikey Brooks reports:
"Ever wonder why there are so many different versions of the same story? Take the classical tale of Cinderella. There are more than 15[,]000 versions of this story spread from Asia to Europe. All of the stories are similar but also have strong variations. This is attributed to the ancient ways these stories were told—[f]olklore...All folklore was passed down from person to person through oral sharing...Folklore can be a terrific writing tool. So many wonderful stories have been adaptations of folklore...Folklore has shown that people love stories and they will willingly take them in many forms. There are specific structures that make folklore what it is...The first is that all folklore has narrative. There is a sequence to the telling. Mostly it’s chronological, sharing what happens in a series of actions or events. There is also plot. All folklore has a beginning, middle, and end. The stories start with a conflict and give a resolution in the end. A common element is that something has to be at stake. Also[,] the characters are very two[-]dimensional...There are also three specific genres in the folklore narrative: [m]yth (superstition vs. folk belief), legends (these challenge the reader[']s belief, plays out in real time with real people), and folktale (a story that takes place outside of reality, like a magical land)...Try using folklore in your own writing. Take a fairytale, [a] folktale, or an urban legend you heard as a child— maybe even a family legend[,] and try [to] spin them in your own way. Try to think about the situations you are in right now. Perhaps you want to share the story of Cinderella, but you want a new spin on the classic folktale. What can you add to the story to make it different? A great way to do this would be to orally share the story with someone, maybe a child. Later[,] after you’ve shared the story[,] ask them to share it with someone else. The version you told and the one they give will be different. Perhaps Cinderella is now a dragon and she is not helped by a fairy godmother but a dragon slayer. Who knows? There are so many ways in which stories can be bent and shared[,] especially by using folklore."
Riding the Wave of the Music Industry to Increase Your Royalties as a Songwriter
Matthew Johnson reports:
"As the music industry continues to evolve and the methods for creating and distributing content changes, the role of songwriters and artists in determining how much income they earn is growing. Songwriters and artists can be increasingly proactive in finding more revenue streams for themselves...Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) have your back. Become a member of ASCAP, BMI, SESAC or one of the PROs in your country, register your songs and wait for the money to roll in. If you’re also a recording artist, register with SoundExchange to collect royalties...PROs are collection societies for public performance royalties, so they will keep track of the money you’re owed, chase it down and send you checks on a regular basis. In fact, most songwriters are owed more money than they’re aware of. You can become a member of a PRO by applying through its website...Sure, sharing is caring, but when it comes to songwriting royalties, sharing is not your friend. Write your own songs as much [and] as often as possible and try to avoid covering songs. You can easily multiply your royalties by having 100% of the credit, as opposed to sharing them with other songwriters...Recording and performing your own songs is great, but sometimes getting other performers to sing your songs works better. Plus, it’s an extra way of earning royalties...Get other artists to sing your songs and you’ll be earning royalties forever. Try songwriter classifieds like The Muse’s Muse and referral services like Taxi’s Musicians Junction to meet performers looking for songs...A great way to earn good money quickly is to license a song (or several) to be used in commercials, or in TV, film or video games. You’ll often get paid an up-front 'sync license' fee directly by whoever is using your music as well as public performance royalties whenever it’s broadcast. And not only will you get money, [but] you’ll also get bragging rights. Not to mention, it’s a great way to get more people to pay attention to your music. Apple’s iPod and Mac commercials have been [known to] make some careers, as have inclusions on soundtracks to movies like Juno and Twilight. Signing up for Songtrust makes it much easier to attract the attention of music supervisors...and to execute a good deal once they’re interested. So better get to a-licensin’...[T]raditional radio is pretty much dominated by your Drakes, your Rihannas, your GaGas, your Katy Perrys. Online streaming services and Internet radio, however, are far more democratic. In fact, according to Pandora co-founder Tim Westergren, 90% of Pandora artists have received airplay on the service in the past month. And to make things even better, Internet radio companies are paying millions of dollars to songwriters for their work. One of the surest way[s to] get your songs included in some of these services’ catalogs is to work with a digital distributor like Tunecore. Another way is to submit your music yourself."
Henneke Duistermaat reports:
"Imagine no traffic rules existed. No traffic lights, and no roundabouts. How would you get around your [hometown]? Would traffic move faster or slower? Traffic rules help us drive (or cycle or walk) both safer and faster. We can anticipate what others will do. We know when it’s our turn to cross safely. We avoid chaos on the road. Writing rules are similar. They exist to avoid confusion, so readers can grasp your ideas without stumbling around. Without having to guess what you tried to say. For instance, rules exist about spelling you’re vs[.] your and their vs[.] there. These are strict rules because a misspelling wrong-foots your readers. Rules exist for concise writing, too. These rules are less strict, but important because unwieldy writing slows your readers down. That’s why we need to be careful with adverbs, eliminate the future tense, and avoid weak words. But a small selection of rules is cosmetic. These rules are dreamed up by high school teachers who like telling us we’ve made mistakes...[S]horter sentences are easier to read. They add energy to your writing. And by starting with a word like And you stress a specific point in your writing.
Apple[']s copywriters, for instance, love starting a sentence with But or And...Listen to the rhythm of your writing. Which version sounds better? Your writing requires a mix of long and snappy sentences...Broken sentences don’t befuddle our readers. Instead, we add clarity. By stressing words. (Like that.) That’s why you should feel confident to use fragments instead of full sentences. Free yourself from the rule of broken sentences...Broken sentences add stress to specific phrases. They change the tone of your writing, making it snappier. And more energetic...When each paragraph has the same number of sentences, your writing looks boring. Good writing is well[-]designed. A one-sentence paragraph stands out, attracting your reader’s attention. It also breaks up a pattern of monotone blocks of text...Your job as a writer is to communicate your ideas. To allow readers to visualize your story and feel your words. So your number one rule is to write for your readers. When your readers get irritated by grammar mistakes, you’re wrong. When your readers stumble over your sentences, you’ve made a mistake. When readers don’t get your ideas, your communication isn’t clear enough. Writing is not about sticking to grammar rules. Writing is about communicating ideas with clarity. Let your ideas shine. And inspire your readers."
Erik Deckers reports:
"New writers struggle with writing, not because they don’t have a command of language. They do. Rather, they use a lot of needless words...There are two kinds of thats — ones that you need, and ones that you don’t. When you delete a that, re-read the sentence and see if it still makes sense. If it does, you didn’t need it; if it doesn’t, you did...[A]dverbs weaken writing because they detract from what’s being said. It’s one more unnecessary word that bogs down the narrative, and when it’s overused, can jolt a reader out of their reverie. You don’t want that. You want your reader to stay immersed in your work. An adverb modifies a verb, but why would you need to? Never describe a verb, [but] use a descriptive verb instead...A lot of new writers who learn how to write dialogue like to show off their newfound skills by using a lot of different conversational indicators. They think it makes them sound like they have a command of dialogue. It doesn’t. It makes them sound like they have a thesaurus. There are two words you should use for dialogue, said and asked. And you should use the latter sparingly. Also, if you say 'asked,' you don’t need to respond with answered...It’s because the word 'said' is a non-distracting word. We’re so used to seeing it, we don’t notice it. The only thing better than a well-turned phrase is one that’s never noticed. It’s like a good bass line to a song: [Y]ou don’t notice it when it’s there, but you definitely notice when it’s wrong or missing. Stick with said, and make that part of your writing go unnoticed so people can notice the brilliance of the rest of your dialogue...If you want to be more authoritative and credible, remove all references to your opinion, unless it’s absolutely necessary to mention it. For example, if you’re writing a news article, but you have to add something you’re not sure of, then drop in a qualifier to...avoid confusing the reader who might mistake your opinion for a statement of fact. Otherwise, make it sound like your every utterance from the mountaintops should be heeded by all the land...Start excising these words from your writing and make it a regular habit. Whether you’re writing a blog post, an article, or even just a series of emails, drop these words, and focus on avoiding them whenever you can."
Writing and editing can be pretty rigorous processes if you want to do them well, but that's what this page is here for. Check out the latest tips here.