Katie L. Burke reports:
"It’s no secret that science has a PR problem. Scientists, it seems, are generally viewed as cold and competent but not warm and trustworthy. According to social psychologist Susan Fiske of Princeton University, a person’s perceived warmth strongly influences how much they are trusted...Leave your impression early. Many academics start with something more like a broader impacts statement or an obvious foundational concept in their field, as they would in a journal article. But if you tell readers something they already know in the first sentence, they are likely to think you have nothing to say that they don't already know...Your reader is busy and has lots of other things to read. They will not read your article unless you immediately let them know why they should, and fine prose is one of the quickest ways to focus your reader’s attention...Each paragraph should introduce an interesting new idea with a topic sentence. Also, unlike in academic writing, paragraphs are shorter, to help readers hop on board with each new idea. National Geographic is a great resource for examples of this technique...[I]n narrative nonfiction, posing questions instead of stating the topic outright risks leaving out crucial information, such as who is asking the question, why that individual cares about it, and how it was first raised. Introducing how the line of inquiry arose in the first place is usually an important part of a science story...As a section concludes it should signal why the next section follows...A first draft rarely has good transitions to start with, so this read-through and revamping is an important part of the polishing process...Try...to figure out the narrative tying the pieces of a list together...[T]alk about how the objects of the list are connected to one another. It might take an extra sentence or two, but the reader will grasp the concepts more readily and remember them better. If a list includes more than three items, consider that a red flag for further scrutiny. If a sentence has lists and follows another sentence with lists, it’s likely that the paragraph containing them needs to be revised...Even though the desire to avoid the first person often comes from a sense of humility, text that is essentially autobiographical but avoids first person doesn't necessarily sound humble. It just sounds impersonal. Readers will stop reading pretty quickly if they don't feel connected with the people or places in the story. When done well, first person does not sound arrogant or immature; rather, it lets readers in on the personal side of research...It also helps scientists establish credibility with the reader by being open about their relationship to the work...When scientists rattle off statistics but do not talk about how they connect to people’s lives, they risk coming off as cold and distant. Anecdotes may not have a place in science writing, but they are absolutely essential to journalistic and literary nonfiction...Introduce only the terms essential to your story and no more...Look for alternatives that are more direct. At the same time, avoid talking down to your audience...An article needs a conclusion, but one very different from the kind you might write for a typical journal article...The conclusion is not just a repetitive summary of everything the article has just said. Try to find some forward-looking insights that show greater context for your work...Although passive voice is not uncommon in scientific journal articles, it sounds distant, abstract, and stuffy. Today's readers have very little patience for slogging through wordy writing...[A] scientist’s colleagues will be a minority of the readership of a magazine article. Try to step back, review your own assumptions, and broaden your view of who your audience really is...[S]cience is all about challenging existing ideas—learning a new writing style presents the opportunity to broaden your viewpoint as well as that of your audience. In the end, the experience could have an influence on how you approach your research as well as your communication."
David Deleon Baker reports:
"Hitting Publish to push your post out to wherever it lives on the Internet is far from the final act of blogging...Tweet the link to your post. Share it with your Facebook friends...Go where you socialize online, and tell those people. Don’t just throw the link to your new blog post at them and consider your effort a success, though. Here’s an important word: relevance. Ingrain it into your objectives for blogging. Why is clicking on the link to your post important to the people you’re sharing it with? Give them a reason to click...[A]lways ask for feedback. If you give this some thought before you start the effort, it should take you only about 10 to 15 minutes to accomplish...[M]aximize the room you have to lay out the premise for your blog post by running it through a URL shortener. Not only does it economize character usage, [but] it also serves as a way for you to track clicks and shares of the post’s link...Select the top keyword phrase matching the topic of your blog post, and make sure that this chain of words has been integrated into your title, URL, meta description, and tags...[T]he post will be easier to find in search engine results. WordPress users, I highly recommend the free WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast, which makes it painless to find a focus keyword. That’s probably enough. But if you really want to drill down, you’ll want to spend some time on keyword research...If you don’t actively use sites such as Digg and StumbleUpon, forget about them. Unless you are a frequent participant on those sites and have a track record of sharing content other than your own, posting your own blog URL will just get you ignored...You’ll probably have older, related posts on your blog that add relevance to the new post. Find them. If you’ve used tags and keywords appropriately, this is as easy as doing a search of your blog...[P]rimarily, this exercise provides an easy way for your readers to find other posts related to what they’re reading...Do a quick online search for the top results on your post’s keyword phrase. Go to the highest ranked two or three blogs and leave a comment on the post. Warning: Fake reciprocity runs afoul of the objective of this exercise. Don’t waste your time if you’re not going to add relevance. The reason you’re doing this is to offer a new angle or insight not seen in the post, which your new blog post does cover. Readers of that blog will visit yours by following the link. More important[ly], the author of that blog might just become a reader and in turn add more reciprocal links to your blog...[T]he payoff is worth the time invested...Look through your contacts and identify at least one person you believe would truly find the subject of your new blog post helpful and interesting. Send that person a personal message. Don’t forget to include the link. If it does actually help the reader, he or she will likely share the link."
"Drafting an effective demand letter is critical to almost any civil case. It introduces you and your client to the other party and their representative, who may be an attorney, an insurance adjuster, or risk management. This first impression will speak volumes about how they should evaluate you, your client, and your client's case. The letter also sets the tone for settlement negotiations...It is...important to place your client in a position of bargaining strength. Having a well-written, effective demand letter will help you do just that. Finally, the demand letter helps the adjuster set their reserves...Gather all pertinent documents relevant to your client's case at the outset of the case...The nature of the case will dictate what documentation is needed. It will be impossible to write an effective demand letter without all of the information, so obtaining copies of documents as soon as possible is key. It is preferable to send a complete demand letter with all of the documentation, rather than sending items piecemeal. Overworked adjusters may not get everything if it comes in at different times; papers get lost or misplaced. This can lead to a delay in the handling of the case or an incorrect evaluation of the case, if key information is missing. The caveat to that general rule is where treatment is protracted for some reason in a personal injury case. In that case, it may be necessary to provide the adjuster with periodic updates, and advise that additional information will be provided as treatment progresses. However, even in that scenario, providing as much updated information at once is advisable, so that the adjuster can set reserves...[I]t is critical to send the demand letter in a timely manner, i.e., as soon as possible. It will convey that you are on top of the case, and it will assist the adjuster in setting reserves. If for some reason your letter is being held up because you are waiting on documentation, communicate that to the adjuster, so they can note their file accordingly...[I]f your case involves protracted treatment, provide periodic updates, and advise that additional information will be provided when it becomes available...On all your communication, include in the reference section at the beginning of your letter the following: your client's name, their client's name, the date of the incident, the claim number[,] and the policy number, as appropriate. If a lawsuit has already been filed, also include the name of the case, the county in which the matter was filed[,] and the court case number. Attorneys, adjusters, and insurance companies deal with many cases, and you want to make it as easy as possible for them to easily route your correspondence to the appropriate person...[A]ppropriate professional language and tone should be used. Overly emotional or threatening language should be avoided...Within the body of the demand letter, using subheadings will help the reader easily navigate through each topic...Subheading titles can be adjusted depending on the type of case and the type of damages incurred...Including very specific facts, particularly with regard to the summary of facts, medical treatment, and general damages, is advised. Having specific facts will assist the adjuster in properly evaluating the case. Refer to the record in which the fact can be found, which should be attached as an exhibit and the exhibit number or letter...[D]escribing specific difficulties that your client faced will make the amorphous concept of pain and suffering more tangible...Include a section for 'Itemization of Damages' at the end of the letter that sets forth each category of damages, the amount, and then shows the total amount. Restate the final demand in bold in the final paragraph so that it is very clear...Language such as 'this offer will remain open for 30 days' should be included at the end of the letter, so that the other side has a clear deadline...All of the records to which you refer in your demand letter should be attached as exhibits, and should be organized chronologically. Use colored paper and tabs to separate exhibits to make it as easy as possible to find a document...Some people advise sending a demand letter by registered mail. As an attorney, this is probably not generally necessary since you keep copies of everything sent in your files, unless the demand letter also includes a demand for arbitration pursuant to an insurance policy or contract, in which case sending by registered mail may be required. However, in this digital age, it may be beneficial to send the demand letter by email as well as mail. More and more companies are scanning in correspondence and then routing it to their adjusters anyway, so it may make their job easier to receive a scanned copy directly from you...The process of drafting the demand letter will also be beneficial to you as the attorney. It is an opportunity to become well-versed in every detail of the case...If the case does not settle, preparing discovery and/or an arbitration or mediation brief will also be a far easier task."
Carol Tice reports:
"Reporters are in the business of getting noticed – if their stories don’t make a splash, they’ve essentially failed. That’s why they are completely focused on delivering information their readers want to know – and they use a variety of newsgathering techniques to dig it up. Fortunately, these methods aren’t hard to adopt – you can totally do this. In fact, it’s a wide-open opportunity for any blogger who wants to raise the bar for their content...[M]ost blog posts don’t tell us anything we haven’t seen a hundred times before. So if you want mad traffic to your blog, break a big story...
[S]coops happen all the time. You just need to know how to find them. One excellent way is to interview interesting people. Do a bunch of interviews on one topic, and you can even write an expose – readers always love to get a peek behind the scenes, or find out if a company’s promises are really true. And be creative about where you look for information. If you’re profiling a popular person or company, check for lawsuits on Lexis-Nexis or Justia, ask around your network, and [search] Google...to see what you find. Dig up some fresh dirt, and you’re sure to have a popular post...Reporters always have scads of ideas up their sleeves because they usually need to write several stories every week – and they never know if their editor will like their top choices. So they’ve always got backups. I call this newsgathering process 'collecting string.' Each factoid you find may not be a story in itself, but as you collect news items, you’ll start to see how your pieces might connect into an interesting, coherent set of information – a ball of string, or a trend story, instead of unrelated scraps...Create idea lists as you turn up news so that when post time rolls around, you’ve got dozens of possibilities, and you can choose the strongest topic...In addition to reading within your sector, look beyond it for ideas that might be old hat in one industry or community, but fresh to your readers...Interviewing means talking to a live human being, either in person, or on the phone, or [on] Skype. Talking to people live also allows you to build relationships, and find out personal details or tips nobody else has published. Journalists are always cultivating their sources, building trust so that they get the news first. That unique content is worth its weight in gold. A quick interview on an interesting topic can get you a ton of traffic...Tons of book authors, academics, researchers, business owners, and other experts are dying for any scrap of exposure they can get. Ask them for 10 or 15 minutes...Make a habit of ending your interviews with a future-focused question that gleans you more ideas, like, 'What’s next for you?' That way, you can hear what’s coming up that you might not know to ask about. Bonus question: Ask if you can have an exclusive on the information they’ve just given you...Journalists...nail down every fact and tell readers where they found it. You can do this too – and give your blog instant legitimacy. Find relevant research that sheds light on your topic...It’s not hard to find new surveys with a little online research – so do it. Once you get your hands on the data, see what fresh conclusions you could draw from it, aside from the headline that research house is pushing in their press release...Finally, double-check and make sure you’re citing that data accurately. It’s easy to look at the wrong line on a big chart...Here’s a final, easy trick journalists use to ensure they have a steady stream of great stories: When they hit on an interesting topic that gets a strong response, they set up a reminder that they want to revisit it again later. Reporters create 'future' files and drop a note in for six months or a year after that big conference, earthquake, bankruptcy, or interview with a fascinating rising star. Then, when that date arrives, they write a follow-up about what’s happened since...Follow-up posts have built-in popularity because they reference something readers are already familiar with and curious about. Few bloggers take the time to follow stories down the road this way, and readers will love you for giving them the update. Too many blogs raise an issue or make a claim of what they’ll do, and then the topic vanishes, leaving readers hanging. If you vowed to lose 50 pounds on your blog, be sure to come back a year later and post about it again – even if it’s to discuss why you failed to reach your goal...Think of yourself as a beat reporter covering your blog’s topic instead of 'just a blogger,' and your readers will see your blog as a high-quality online magazine. And they won’t want to miss a single issue."
Butch Ward reports:
"Instead of just lugging your writer clubs to Poynter, let’s start with a smarter warm-up and a hint of what you could learn from your time here. There are thousands of swings – and thousands for stories – out there. Throughout your career, we hope you’ll tell a lot of them. Just not all at once. So here are a few essentials to focus on...Movies pull us through stories with strong scenes, compelling characters and revelatory details. Written stories can do the same thing. Help readers see. Zoom in tight[ly] on details or images that have the most meaning; be descriptive and specific...Pull back or pan more quickly through contextual information that is necessary for understanding. Compress those sections lest they drag the story down. Pace the story aggressively. Build the entire piece out of tightly focused sections or scenes. Set the story up with a strong nut section or elegant foreshadow, then develop key scenes or information sections one at a time; use [subheads] if it helps you determine the purpose of each section or scene...Reinforce the central theme through repetition...Most writers I know have been praised at one time or another for their beginnings...[and many] for their endings...[but] few if any have been praised for their middles...[S]ave something special for the middle...Such a story element, as described by Don Fry, serves as a gold coin on the path of the story, a reward for the reader, an incentive to continue reading. Without such a reward, readers will be tempted to jump off the trail, never getting to that special ending that you have planned for them...Interviewing is an essential part of reporting, obviously. But when we learn to report with silence and stillness...powerful things begin to happen...We see detail and nuance that reflect how our subjects truly live their lives, not just what they tell us in their carefully tailored responses to our questions. When we learn to shut our mouths and open our eyes and our ears and our minds, we discover things that the most skilled interviewer on [E]arth would never have uncovered...Our notebooks overflow with the wonderful, terrible, sprawling mess of our subjects’ days and nights. Later, we can ask them what it all means and why it matters...How will I frame this story?...'The tighter the frame,' New York Times reporter David Barstow says, 'the deeper I can go.' And the earlier in the reporting and writing process he identifies the frame, the more it can guide his work...What’s my story really about? No question is more important to your ability to organize the material you’ve gathered and to the final piece you produce...Taking time to think is the best way I know to transform the blur of the day into a bit of [slow motion]. Your pause might be brief, but the payback can last."
Ruth Mayhew reports:
"The manner in which you handle verbal and written communication is likely to be an integral part of the job, so demonstrate proper etiquette in all your communications with the company, especially in the early stages of the selection process. Take the opportunity to make a good impression by being professional and considerate when you confirm interview appointments...As soon as you get a call or email from a recruiter or hiring manager about scheduling an interview, respond immediately, even if it's only to acknowledge the request and tell her you'll call once you have a chance to look at your calendar...Express your appreciation for being selected for an interview...The fact that you were selected from such a large pool of applicants says something about your qualifications. But it also means that the recruiter extended you a courtesy in inviting you to interview with the company, so a thank you is in order...Check your email frequently, and answer all requests as soon as possible...To make sure the recruiter knows you're responding remotely, you can add a signature line saying the message was sent from a mobile phone...If you receive a telephone call asking you to confirm your interview appointment, try to answer the call personally when it comes through. In a pleasant voice, thank the recruiter for the interview request and tell her you are available at the scheduled time...Use the recruiter's name when you call and pick a time when you won't be interrupted or have noise in the background...If the day and time the recruiter offers for your interview isn't convenient for you, consider rearranging your schedule to accommodate the recruiter's. Tell the interviewer that you appreciate the invitation and you're looking forward to meeting with her, but that you have a scheduling conflict...Always try to make it easy for the recruiter since you're the one looking for a job."
Jeff Franco reports:
"Writing a special power of attorney letter allows you to legally assign your authority to make personal and financial decisions to another person or organization, commonly referred to as your agent...[It] limits your agent’s authority to the specific transactions you include in the document...Draft a list of each special power you want to assign. Since a special power is very precise, you must separately state the transactions, accounts and property over which your agent has authority...Make a notation next to each power you want to be 'springing.' A springing power is contingent, meaning your agent cannot act on your behalf until an event or other condition you specify occurs. There is no requirement that your special power of attorney letter needs to include a springing clause, but if it doesn’t, your power of attorney is legally enforceable immediately after you sign it...Note the power of attorney’s expiration date on your list. Unless you indicate a specific date on which the special power of attorney expires, your agent may continue acting on your behalf...[Y]ou always retain the power to revoke or terminate the power of attorney at any time...Write the name of a successor agent...[which] is beneficial in the event the original agent dies or is otherwise unable to competently handle your affairs...Draft the final special power of attorney document using your list. Your list contains the essential components that your power of attorney document must include. Draft the document using clear and unambiguous language to outline the details of each special power; include your full name, the full names of your agents and the date you create the document...Sign the power of attorney. For the special power of attorney to be legally enforceable, all states require, at a minimum, that you sign it in the presence of a notary...[Y]ou should consider including the signatures of two witnesses, regardless of whether your state requires it or not. This will [e]nsure that your agent can act on your behalf in any state...[R]ather than researching the laws of each state, your special power of attorney should clearly indicate whether it’s durable or not. Durability allows your agent to continue acting on your behalf beyond the document’s expiration date in the event you’re physically or mentally incompetent at the time your agent’s authority lapses."
Martin Shapiro reports:
"A comic book script is a set of instructions for the artist and the letterer. It’s intended to present the mechanics of your story with the greatest possible clarity...Any basic word processor, such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs, will suffice. In many ways, writing a script for a comic book is more difficult than writing for film. With a screenplay, the writer leaves a lot of the detail to the director, the actors, and the crew. It’s a very lean form of writing. Less is more, some pundits say. Film is a very collaborative form of art. Lots of people’s fingerprints end up on the final product the audience sees. This is not the case in comic books where it’s only the writer and the artist who see the script. The writer tells the artist what to draw, usually with a lot more detail than a screenplay...You have to think in pictures as well as words...[R]ead several popular comic books with a critical eye, thinking about the visual choices made by writers and artists – what’s shown and not shown, and how it’s depicted. Try to imagine how the writer described each image in his or her script before it was given to the artist. As a practice exercise, writing your own descriptions of the characters and scenes you see in a published comic book will help too. To think like a comic book artist and communicate your vision of the story, you have to break your scenes down into panels, which are a series of sequential camera shots. You tell the artist what to draw in each panel and you decide in which shot your character is going to say a certain line of dialogue or [voiceover]. This, in essence, makes you the director of the movie, and you might think of the artist as the cinematographer who brings your vision to life. The amount of detail and scene description on the page varies tremendously from writer to writer. Some creators...write long paragraphs of novel-style description where they describe the clothing each character is wearing, the vehicles, the set design, and even the camera angles because they want more control over the end result regardless of what artist gets hired to draw it. Other writers write very sparsely, not much more than what could fit in a text message, because they don’t know exactly what they want or don’t care. They let the artist fill in the details and interpret the scene how he envisions it. Both methods, and everything in between, can work depending on the relationship you have with the artist. The amount of detail and scene description on the page varies tremendously from writer to writer...Keep in mind some artists...don’t like to be [micromanaged] by a writer, particularly a rookie writer who[m] they’ve never heard of before. Any pro artist worth working with will know the art of sequential storytelling and will have an artistic vision that could be better than something you come up with. So, you might want to let your colleague work his magic...[T]he trick is to get the artist to like it. Woo them with your words and personality. Inspire them to do their best work. A bored or uninspired artist will deliver pages that look like turds. Is that your fault or the artist’s fault? Food for thought."
The American College of Physicians reports:
"Case reports represent the oldest and most familiar form of medical communication. Far from a 'second-class' publication, many original observations are first presented as case reports. Like scientific abstracts, the case report abstract is governed by rules that dictate its format and length...Scientific forums have specific rules regarding how the abstract should appear...Organizers of scientific meetings set explicit limits on the length of abstracts. The most difficult decision to make is whether your case report is worth submitting as an abstract. Of course, rarity of a condition almost always meets the criterion of worthiness, but few of us have the opportunity to describe something that is completely new. Another reason to report a case is the lesson that it teaches. With this in mind, consider presenting a case if it increases awareness of a condition, suggests the proper diagnostic strategy, or demonstrates a more cost-effective approach to management. Alternatively, a case can be presented because it represents an unusual presentation of a relatively common condition. Other twists include an unusual complication of a disease and its management...Before you begin writing the abstract, present a quick summary of your case to colleagues or mentors to determine if they agree that the case is worthy of presentation. It is important to contribute something unique, but not if it depends on some trivial variation from previously presented cases...Once you have decided to submit a case report abstract, describe it in such a way as to make it interesting, yet conform to the accepted format...The title is a summary of the abstract itself and should convince the reader that the topic is important, relevant, and innovative. However, don't tell everything about the case in the title, [or] otherwise the reader's interest might lag. Make the title short, descriptive, and interesting. Some organizations require a special format for the title, such as all uppercase letters. Be sure to check the instructions. Following the title, include the names of authors followed by their institutional affiliations. Deciding upon the authorship of a case report can be tricky. In the past, it was acceptable to include as authors those contributing to the management of the patient, but this is no longer true. Currently, it is expected that the authors contribute significantly to the intellectual content of the case report. It is assumed that the first author will present the work if the abstract is accepted...Most case report abstracts begin with a short introduction. This typically describes the context of the case and explains its relevance and importance. However, it is perfectly acceptable to begin directly with the description of the case...[F]ollow the basic rules of medical communication; describe in sequence the history, physical examination, investigative studies, and the patient's progress and outcome. The trick is to be complete without obscuring the essence of the case with irrelevant details...The main purpose of the discussion is to review why decisions were made and extract the lesson from the case. Not uncommonly, reports from the literature, or their absence, are cited that either directly support or contradict the findings of the case. Be wary of boasting that your case is the 'first' to describe a particular phenomenon, since even the most thorough searches often fail to reveal all instances of similar cases. Keep in mind that the best case report abstracts are those that make a small number of teaching points (even just one) in clear and succinct language...[A]void the use of medical jargon and excessive reliance on abbreviations. Limit abbreviations to no more than three, and favor commonly used abbreviations. Always spell out the abbreviations the first time they are mentioned unless they are commonly recognized...Get help from a mentor who is not familiar with the case; such mentors can quickly point out areas that are unclear or demand more detail. Make revisions based upon the feedback. Finally, have others read your draft in order to check for technical errors, such as spelling and grammar mistakes. Reading the abstract out loud is another good way to catch awkward phrasing and word omissions."
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.