Sara McCord reports:
"Your resume is down to one page. Your cover letter is memorable, yet professional, and explains why you’re a great fit for the position. But, you’re not done yet. You scroll down to the supplemental requirements and see that you’re supposed to submit a writing sample. Now what? Should you submit a research paper you wrote as an undergrad, a persuasive email, a personal blog post, a speech that’s kind of boring (but that you gave at a prestigious event), or maybe a newsletter you co-wrote? Too often, you’re told that writing samples are simply there to demonstrate your writing ability. Certainly, that’s part of it. And if you start with the process of elimination, this discounts anything with typos or run-ons or that’s boring (bye-bye speech). But the trick is what you do next: Conceptualize your application as a complete picture, with your writing sample as a supporting element. Here’s how it works...You know that the objective statement is wasted space on your resume...However, you should come up with a tagline for yourself. Who are you as an applicant? Are you a leader? Are you over-the-moon creative? What do you want the interviewer to remember about you? Get really clear about the impression you want to make—maybe even jot down a few words...Now that you know what you want to demonstrate, re-read your slogan, resume, and cover letter one right after the other. Do your desired attributes shine through? For example, maybe you don’t think it’s clear how thoughtful you are...Look at your writing samples: A paper on presidential succession—no matter how mind-blowingly well[-]written—isn’t going to evidence how you work with people. So, in this case you’d want to choose a persuasive memo, or perhaps part of [a] grant that you’ve written; something that shows you think through how programs influence people. Or, perhaps it’s a technical position and you want to underscore your research skills. Take a pass on the witty blog post, and choose the well-researched paper. You can say that you’re a quick and talented study in your cover letter, but your writing sample is an opportunity to show (rather than only tell)...Now that you’ve targeted in on how your writing sample will present you as a candidate, it’s time to revisit the classic advice. First, never send a writing sample with a typo...Next, you’ve probably heard that a writing sample should be relevant. So, if you’re applying to an environmental think tank, a piece about climate change would be ideal. This is good advice—so long as it fits in with your personal slogan. If you want to emphasize your background in the field, by all means go with the climate change piece. That said, if all of your degrees are environmental and you’re applying for a fundraising role, a letter that you wrote asking major donors to fund cancer research might better demonstrate your ability to raise money. Finally, do consider any consequences. Any documents containing confidential information or that were written with the assistance of others are no-gos. View them like lying on your resume: It might get you an interview, but once the nature of your writing sample is discovered, your candidacy (or job) will be in jeopardy...[A] writing sample should max out at one page (unless you’re specifically asked to send something longer, like a research paper). A hiring manager has a lot to read. If your sample is longer than a page, it’ll be skimmed (or perhaps not even read beyond a certain point). You’ll be more memorable with a document that’s concise and effective. So, if all of your samples are long, consider an excerpt, such as an abstract from a long paper or the conclusion of an exciting speech. As far as tone, refer to the company’s website, blog, and marketing materials. A snarky blog post may catch a reviewer’s eye, but it likely won’t earn you an interview at a conservative firm. On the other hand, a stuffy sample may make the hiring manager at a creative organization wonder whether you’d be a culture fit. If it could go either way, lean formal, as you can always loosen up later...You know why you chose the press release over the academic abstract (or vice[-]versa). But if you’re applying for a job at a fitness startup, the hiring manager may need you to tell her why you submitted it (as opposed to an essay on running). So, give her a roadmap. At the top of your writing sample, write a couple of sentences that state when you wrote the document, why (or if it’s an excerpt, what it’s excerpted from), and what you think it evidences...Finally, don’t see a writing sample as an additional burden. It’s your opportunity to help shape how you’re seen as a candidate—so use it to your full advantage."
Dan Caplinger reports:
"Your last will and testament might be the most important and meaningful document you leave behind after your death...[M]any different companies offer advice on how to write a last will on your own without costly legal fees from specialized estate-planning attorneys, but while some of those services produce adequate documents, they could also land your loved ones in a mess of trouble if you don't do everything right. Let's take a look at five things to watch out for in figuring out how to write a last will and testament that will get the job done for you and your family...Every state has what are known as rules of intestate succession that determine what happens to your property if you don't have a will. That's important not just if you never get around to writing a will but also if there's a problem with the will you do prepare. In the case of an invalid document, these laws will govern your estate. Intestacy laws vary from state to state, but ordinarily, your most closely related family members will receive the assets of your estate...In some limited cases, the intestacy laws will do exactly what you want, in which case a will technically isn't [necessary]. If there's the slightest difference, though, then it's worth it to have a properly executed document...As powerful as a last will is, it doesn't cover all of your assets. If you [and someone else] own property as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, then the co-owner of that property will receive full control of it after your death regardless of what your will says. Similarly, for retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and other financial accounts for which you designate a beneficiary, the person you name on the beneficiary form has the right to those assets irrespective of any provisions in your last will. One common mistake is to change your last will and testament but not make similar changes to beneficiary designations for covered accounts. It's essential to do both at the same time to fully realize your estate-planning goals...Without your input, a court will have to make its own determination of what arrangements are in the best interest of your children [if any], and they might be completely different from your wishes. Admittedly, a court isn't legally required to appoint the person you select as guardian for your children [if any] in your will. Nevertheless, your wishes are an important factor in the court's decision, and in most cases, courts will be reluctant to go against your will's direction without solid evidence of problems. To avoid long, drawn-out proceedings that can turn into nasty battles, naming a guardian is a smart thing for parents to do in their wills...Writing a last will can be a simple and effective way to provide for your loved ones in some cases, but often, you'll need more sophisticated planning techniques to streamline your financial affairs after your death. For instance, while probate proceedings in administering a last will and testament are open to the public, using a revocable trust, also known as a living trust, can allow for your property to pass to your heirs without the need to get a court involved or to have your assets made public. In particular, if you have minor children, providing a trust for them can be a smart move to avoid further complications. It's possible to write testamentary trusts into a will, but the complexity involved makes it prudent to get an estate-planning attorney involved at that stage to ensure that it will work well...Estate planning can get tricky in a hurry, and the default rules generally assume the most common situations...Some of those situations include families with non-U.S. citizens or disabled adult children, as well as those who are in relationships without being legally married. Those who are raising grandchildren or stepchildren also need to take care in their planning, as do those who've been previously married, especially if they have children from a previous marriage. All in all, if you're in doubt, it pays to get a professional involved before it's too late. Writing your will can be daunting, especially when it comes to all the legal obligations involved. With your loved ones counting on you to get the job done right, though, it pays to find out everything you need to know in putting your affairs in order."
Elizabeth from JetPens.com reports:
“In this article, we’ll show you the optimal way to hold and write with a fountain pen, but ultimately it comes down to what works for you…Before beginning to write, you should figure out whether you prefer to have the cap posted (attached to the back of the pen) or not. Typically, fountain pens feel more balanced when the cap is posted, but people with smaller hands may prefer to leave the cap off. To optimize your control over the pen, hold the pen between your thumb and index finger, resting the barrel over or just forward of the bottom knuckle on your middle finger. Your ring finger, pinky finger, and palm should rest gently against the writing surface, providing stability. The pen should make a 40[-] to 55[-]degree angle with your writing surface…This may be lower than what you’re used to, but it’ll help the ink flow out more easily…The sweet spot is the area of the nib's tip that will glide across the paper, leaving a trail of ink behind it. When you push down on the sweet spot, the tines and feed separate slightly, letting the ink flow out more easily. To write continuously and comfortably, you always want to be hitting the sweet spot. When you're not using the sweet spot, the nib feels scratchy, skippy, and altogether unpleasant to write with. People that learned to write with pencils often rotate their writing instrument without thinking, trying to find a sharp edge. This habit doesn’t translate well to fountain pens. If you rotate your fountain pen too much, the sweet spot is lifted off the paper and the nib will skip and scratch…Finger writers keep their hands relatively motionless, and control the pen by flexing and bending their fingers. This tends to be exhausting. It also means that the pen’s elevation and rotation are constantly changing, which makes it impossible for you to stay in the pen’s sweet spot. Arm writers control the fountain pen from the lower arm. With this technique, you keep the hand and wrist rigid, moving the lower arm to move the nib. This way, you’re using the large muscles in your arm instead of the small muscles in your fingers. You’re also keeping the elevation and rotation of the pen constant, so that you can stay on the pen’s sweet spot and produce fluid, consistent handwriting. If you’re accustomed to writing with ballpoint pens, you might be pushing down too hard on your fountain pen nib. With ballpoint pens, you constantly have to push down to write. Fountain pens don’t require any pressure -- simply guide the pen across the writing surface, and ink will come out. Pushing too hard can actually ruin the alignment of the nib, or wear it down over time. Generally, writing with a fountain pen should feel comfortable and easy once you’ve gotten into the habit of finding the sweet spot, writing with your hand, and guiding (rather than pressing down on) the nib.”
Cindy Quarters reports:
"After you’ve been on the job for a while, it’s natural to begin thinking about getting a raise. While in some companies raises are automatic, such as an annual cost of living increase, at many places you may need to ask for a merit raise based on your contributions to the business. A good way to handle this is to present your manager or supervisor with an organized, thoughtful letter that states what you are looking for and clearly lays out your reasoning as to why you deserve more pay...Use a proper business format for your letter. Start with your address, phone number, email if applicable and the date, listed at the top of the page, against the left margin. Skip a line, then put your manager’s name and address directly below your information. Skip another line, and then write a formal salutation, such as 'Dear Mr. Jones.' Skip another line before you begin the body of the letter. Breaking the text into sections makes the letter easier to read...Create the body of the letter by formatting each paragraph as a block of text, with all text flush against the left margin. Skip a line between paragraphs. Keep each paragraph short; no more than a few sentences. Always type a professional letter; never submit a handwritten document. Use a professional font...State the purpose of your letter from the start. Begin by requesting a meeting with your manager, immediately followed by the fact that you want to discuss a raise. Give your basic reason...Start a new paragraph and make a statement about when and why you were hired by the company, and mention the company by name. Clearly state that you feel entitled to a raise because of what you have accomplished, and be very specific as to what it is that you have done. Ideally, put a short, bulleted list here that covers the major benefits you’ve provided, but keep each one very short, no more than a single sentence. Only list two or three things, because going over every single task you’ve completed might annoy more than impress the reader. If you’ve received any commendations, include them in a new paragraph at this point...Mention in the next paragraph that you have a positive view of your future with the company and very briefly state what you hope to accomplish in the future...Thank the reader for her time and state that you are looking forward to meeting with her soon, writing each comment on its own line. Sign it 'Sincerely,' leave a space where you can sign your name, and type your name underneath...Send the letter to the addressee using either regular mail or company mail, whichever is most appropriate. Be sure to address the envelope properly, using the same typeface that you used for the letter...Have an amount in mind when asking for a raise, and be prepared to explain why you deserve it. Take copies of commendations and reviews with you to the meeting...If you come off as bragging or discussing things in terms of what you want, rather than explaining how the company benefits, you may not get your raise. Stay low[-]key and factual when discussing your accomplishments."
Suzannah Windsor Freeman reports:
"Your words are the most important tools you have as a writer...It doesn’t need to be boring. Choose a few of these simple strategies and watch your use of language improve...Sign up for one of these programs, which deliver information on a new word each day. As long as you commit to reading the emails, it’s an easy way to expand your vocabulary...It sounds simple, but keeping your dictionary on hand as you read your novel, magazine, or the daily newspaper, can encourage you to look up words you’d otherwise skim over. My Kindle eReader has a built-in dictionary, so whenever I encounter an unfamiliar word, I just move my cursor over to it and—voila—the definition pops up on the screen...Whether you choose to record your words-of-the-day or just jot down unfamiliar words...as you encounter them, keeping a vocabulary journal will help reinforce new language. The very act of writing things down helps us to remember things, plus you’ll be able to look back through your journal whenever you like. You can even draw pictures or diagrams next to words to help you associate meanings with something more concrete...If you learn a new word per day, but never take the time to actually use them in conversation or in your writing, you’ll soon forget their meanings. Instead, endeavour [sic] to use your new words when you’re chatting with friends or colleagues, and incorporate them into your writing often...What could be more fun (and less work-like) than increasing your word power with games and puzzles? Crosswords, word searches, cryptograms and word trivia games make learning fun. Best of all, you might be able to convince your family to join in with you. A word of warning: [D]on’t waste your time learning words you will certainly never use. Extremely rare or clunky words you’ve never even seen before are likely to be foreign to most of your readers. That doesn’t mean there aren’t unusual words that are interesting and appropriate in certain contexts. Use your best judgement [sic] when deciding where to focus your time and attention."
Francesca Nicasio reports:
"Does this situation sound familiar? You sit in front of the computer with the full intention to write a blog post, paper, or article, but the moment your fingers touch the keyboard, you can’t bring yourself to type up anything decent. Your muse or source of inspiration is nowhere to be found and you’re easily distracted...Before you know it, an hour has passed and you’re still staring at a blank page. Slow writing days aren’t pretty. They kill your productivity and leave you feeling like you just wasted a lot of time. And if you’re trying to make a living doing it, then you know that not being able to write fast enough can also kill your earnings. Fortunately[,] though, slow writing days don’t have to be the norm. As you’ll find out below, developing the right habits when it comes to writing and idea generation will save you lots of time and make the writing process smoother and easier...A lot of writers get stuck at the very beginning. They sit in front of the screen without having a clue as to what to write about, so they end up wasting time racking their brains for something...clever to put on paper. Don’t make the same mistake. Avoid taking on a writing task empty-handed (or should we say 'empty-minded'). It’s a one-way street to Writer’s Block Lane or Distraction Boulevard. Instead, develop the habit of always keeping your eyes and mind open for ideas. If you’re reading a blog post and see something that you can write about in the future, take note of it immediately...By doing so, you’ll always have a trusty [notepad] (or note app) filled with ideas, lines, or notions that you can draw inspiration from. Have your notes with you at all times and whip them out when you need to come up with content. Do this, and you’ll find it easier to begin writing...[P]lan out your post by creating an outline. Jot down a quick line or two about what you need to say at the beginning, write down the main points that you want to discuss in the body, and then move on to the conclusion. Having an outline gives you a plan. It gives your writing some direction, organizes your thoughts, and helps you flesh out your ideas quickly and more effectively. It also keeps you from being distracted. An outline enables you to stay on point and prevents you from wasting time writing things that are irrelevant or unimportant...[D]o your research and look up all the things that you need before you begin writing...Don’t do your research and writing simultaneously–this will only lead to distraction and it will slow you down. Avoid looking up words or synonyms while you’re in the middle of writing...If you think that there’s a better word than the one you just typed, highlight it, then keep writing. You can go back to it later when you’re polishing the piece. The same goes for fact[-]checking or ensuring that you spelled names or took down numbers correctly. One minute you’re looking up stats to make sure that you wrote them down, then, before you know it, you’re clicking through blogs or checking your Twitter feed. Just take note of these little things and deal with them once you’re done with the entire first d[r]aft."
M.T. Wroblewski reports:
"If you’re thinking about writing a letter to promote your business, take your effort the next small but crucial step by offering your customers or prospective customers an incentive to come see you. Perhaps they will drop by right away and make a purchase; perhaps they will come see you next week and spend money. Either way, you can make a simple promotional effort even more effective -- not to mention more cost[-]effective -- by offering your readers something tangible and enticing...Develop a strategy for your letter and a rationale for your promotional offer. This is information that you will not share with the public. Establish the products and services you wish to promote and decide which type of promotion -- a free, discounted or buy-one-get-one-free promotion -- you wish to launch. For example, let’s say you run a health and wellness clinic with myriad products, services and employees to promote. While your letter should mention most or all of them, you should focus on one in particular...With your 'hook' clearly in hand, you are now ready to write...Open your letter in a friendly, engaging style that gets right to the point of your promotional offer. Use dynamic and concrete language that inspires people to act...Steer clear of nebulous offers such as offering '10 percent off,' as it is impossible for your readers to know what they’re saving if they don’t know what the products cost...Segue to the newly hired dietician, explaining what she will add to your business and your customers’ health repertoire by detailing her background, the services she will provide and the hours she will be available for private consultations. Be sure to include a picture of the dietician so that you personalize her for your readers’ benefit...Move beyond your 'hook' to promote other professionals and programs your clinic offers...List and promote your other products and services in bullet-point form to make them easy to read. List the offerings in descending order of their perceived attraction or appeal. Be prepared to pare this list if your letter threatens to spill beyond one page...Provide a brief history of your business and your philosophy. Include a short testimonial from a satisfied customer, being sure to cite the person’s full name, and any other important elements of your business, such as your hours of operation. Exude pride in your business and explain what makes it special and different, but resist hyperbole...Remind your readers of the promotional offer and how you are eager to see them at your place of business...Place the key elements of the offer, such as the time and date, in [boldfaced] type so that they are prominent...Proofread and edit your letter for spelling and grammar before sending it...Track the success of your letter based on the response to your offer. Keep your customer database as current as possible by asking new customers for their full contact information and encouraging existing customers to alert you when they make changes. If you become known for enticing promotional offers, they will likely tell you first. Marketing professionals differ widely as to the proper interval between promotional letters and offers...Time your efforts based on the natural ebb and flow of your business, knowing that it’s far better to be ahead of the curve than to send a letter when you are in the throes of a full-fledged financial slowdown."
Penelope Trunk reports:
"People ask me all the time how they can get a book deal. So I had my agent write a post on how to get a book deal. But really, I’m telling you, you probably don’t need to write a book. Every time I ask someone why they want to write a book, they have a terrible answer...A blog is more immediate, so you'll get better feedback. And getting feedback as you go is much more intellectually rigorous than printing a final compendium of your ideas and getting feedback from the public only when it’s too late to change anything. Many people think they have a ton of ideas and they are brimming with book possibilities when in fact, most of us have very few new ideas. If you have so many ideas, prove it to the world and start blogging. There is nothing like a blog to help you realize you have nothing new to say. And, if you do end up having an amazing blog that focuses on one, big grand idea with great writing to boot, then you can get a book deal from your blog...It’s true that lots of people think that book authors are the people with authority. But anyone can have good ideas, and only some good ideas fit into book format. On top of that, the people who are on the cutting edge of any topic are not waiting the two years it takes to deliver new ideas in a book. Instead, they're reading articles and blogs and discussion online with all the immediacy of the Internet. So if you feel like no one is giving you credit for having good ideas because you don’t have a book, think again: Maybe your ideas just aren't that good. Or maybe you are trying to get credibility with people who don’t know how to assess authority in the information age...[O]ne thing a book really does provide is enough traditional authority to get you speaking gigs. People who schedule speakers are reluctant to give you a slot unless you have a book published by a top-tier publisher. But before you get giddy about those huge speaking fees that take you to Hawaii and Belgium, remember that the life of a public speaker may not be what you expect. You don’t really connect with people and work with them...[T]he constant travel will keep you so tired that you’ll become numb to those chic-chic accommodations. But really, the biggest problem with the life of a public speaker is that it is so tenuous, because you have to speak about what you do, but if all you do is speak, then it’s a Mobius puzzle that ends with you having nothing to say. So most speakers have to eventually figure out what to do after the speaking is over. Which means [you have to ask,] why not just forget the book and figure out your post-speaking career before you even start?...The odds that your book will be a [bestseller] are absolutely terrible. Writing fiction is an impossible life unless you hit the jackpot...Nonfiction books are a better bet for personal survival, but this is not to say books are big [moneymakers]. Most nonfiction books are paperback originals which means they are $50,000 advances, and most of you could earn more than that spending a year in an office. On top of that, a book costs so much in time that it’s a cost center which you have to justify by deciding what you are using the book to sell. And that’s the crux of all of this: [t]hat a book is a marketing tool. You can market your company or yourself or your blog or an idea, but you need to have something you want the book to support...A book will not give you direction in life. A book is something you write in order to get you to where you’re going. If you have nowhere to go, a book will [e]nsure that you stay where you are: [l]ost. People use books like law school. They think if they have some piece of paper — a degree, a contract — then people will respect them and then they’ll respect themselves. But self-respect comes from having some sort of vision for one’s life and heading in that direction...So stop with the idea that you need a book. Most people who think they need a book deal probably need to answer the[se] question[s]: What will I be doing two years after that book? Do you really need the book to get where you want to go? Probably not."
Andrew Follett reports:
"An explainer video has the power to tell a convincing story about your business in [60 seconds]. But before you even think about the cutesy illustration and animation, you need to pour everything you have into developing a killer video script. A well-written, engaging script is the foundation for a successful explainer video. Without the right foundation, the rest of the creation process is in vain. So what can you do to make sure your video is a killer and not merely a nap inducer? It starts with proper preparation...The length of your script will depend on your audience. A captive audience in an auditorium endures about six to eight minutes before beginning to drift. An Internet surfer popping by your website tends to check out after two to four minutes depending on how compelling your material is and whether or not she needs your product...Reduce the message of your entire video to one sentence and get that sentence somewhere in the first 30 seconds of the script. This tells the audience what to pay attention to in the video...The easiest way to speak to an audience is to use personal pronouns like 'you' and 'your'. Another way to engage your audience is to show them things they care deeply about...[W]hat they care about is whether you can help them improve their own bottom line. Don’t waste time telling your audience what they already know. Focus instead on what they need to know about you that will bring them to trust you and to take the action you want them to take...Make friends with them and they will be far more likely to give you a chance to sell them something...Have a mental picture of your customer in mind when selecting the tone of your video. Write a one[-]sentence summary describing why you are making the video and what you want the viewer to do at the end of it. This will suggest a tone for your finished video...If you have story-driven characters, imagine real people as mental place-holders. It’s much easier to write realistic dialogue if you are writing for someone whose habits and mannerisms you know well. The tone you choose for your video will then drive your choice of setting, narrator or cast, tempo, pace and type of dialogue for the script...Most explainer video scripts present a problem...introduce a solution...explain how it works...and drive viewers to action...Dry facts, statistics and definitions are okay in the classroom, but unless your video is for students imprisoned in a classroom, avoid lifeless content whenever possible. Instead, use the power of the screen to show your audience actual people your company has helped, or benefits your services have bestowed on your customers. Human beings create stories about themselves to help them define who they are. The better you tell stories about yourself, the more likely your viewers are going to understand what your company is offering and what it can do for them...Humor is a great tool for [storytelling] so long as the humor supports your message. Make sure your attempts at humor fit seamlessly within the story you’re trying to tell, and keep in mind that misplaced or poorly timed humor can be distracting and may actually put off potential customers. *Tip: You can try to include written humor in your script, but sometimes it’s more effective to introduce humor as part of the on-screen animation...Keep dialogue to between 125 and 150 words a minute...[T]he voiceover needs time to breathe, allowing viewers to absorb what you’re saying (this is especially true if the content is particularly dense or technical in nature). Machine gun fire dialogue quickly overwhelms viewers, causing abandonment, and decreased comprehension. When producing an explainer video, don’t skimp on the script. Take the time necessary to do it right. Get feedback from friends and co-workers, and make sure it’s engaging and easy to understand."
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.