Write Like You Talk Only Better. Six-part ULEARN Series

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Get results and respect by leveraging the best of talking and thinking

Write Like You Talk Only Better

Apply talking, your first and favorite way to communicate, to all the writing you do at work. Even better, add the planning and other thinking that comes with writing. Learn how in this fun book. Preview

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Archive for the ‘Funny’ Category

Friday, July 5, 2013 @ 07:07 AM
posted by Barbsawyers

Dear Chloe

I wanted to reply so you’d stop pestering me with emails, but I realize that might only confirm my email and lead to more spam.

Plus I’d like to talk back to the rest of the pretend-SEO (Search Engine Optimization) spammers, not only you who sneak through my email filters, but also the thousands caught in my site’s spam trap.

How do I know that you’re not the real thing, the guru who will make my dreams come true?

Of course I would like to rank higher on Google, “do well” on most social media sites (whatever you mean by that) and be friendlier with mobile devices. That’s like saying I want to earn more money, lose that belly fat or find my soul mate. These are universal truisms, Chloe.

The biggest giveaways of your true identity? You tell me you are not a spammer and state that you have studied my site. Almost all the spammers say that.

If you had read it at all, you would have made a specific comment, probably about other ways to say awesome, my all-time most popular post.

Or you would have alluded to the theme of my blog, which is business writing and communication, just so you know.

It was kind of you to offer a free audit, I respond politely, but I’ve fallen for this before, though only with a guy I had actually met so he had a sliver of credibility. He audited the wrong site, www.barbsawyers.ca, which at that time was an almost-empty shell.

I let him pontificate for a few minutes before I told him. I tried to stifle my giggles while he chuckled nervously.

The fact that you put that offer in ALL CAPS made me wonder if you were angry because I had not responded to your previous, identical emails.

I hope that is as angry as you will get. Because, you see Chloe, I will not call you at the 315 phone number (which explains why your English is better than the Chinese spammers’), provide you with mine (which you would have already if you had really studied my site), let alone invite you over for a visit (can’t imagine why you’d offer to drive to Toronto from upstate New York to pitch my itty bitty company).

To end things on a positive note, Chloe, let me compliment your deft use of the English language. Most SEO spammers clearly don’t speak English as their first language or have failed to pass the most basic literacy tests. My colleagues and I sometimes post funny examples on Facebook.

Although the editor in me would cross out misleading terms such as “integrated marketing,” I found no typos or grammar errors and very little awkward construction. Well done.

Come to think of it, maybe you were one of those low-literacy spammers who actually studied my site, improved their business writing and moved up the food chain from spamming sites to email. Maybe you have read my book or taken my online course, Write Like You Talk Only Better. Or not.

Still, it was easy to tell you are spamming. So piss off, Chloe.

Yours (tongue in cheek) truly, Barb

Thanks for the cartoon.

Monday, April 22, 2013 @ 08:04 AM
posted by Barbsawyers

To keep the focus here on effective online business writing and communication, I’ve set up another blog, where I’ll post my personal or funny stuff. Check out wwww.barbsawyers.ca

Sometimes an experience moves me so deeply that I have to get it down on the page, Like the post on Viola, which was languishing on my hard drive. Or I feel an urge to share my back fat solution, which I’d posted on Blogher, where it was lost amid thousands of posts on fashion, food and phermones. Now they have a home I can share them from.

If you’re interested in this side of my life–if you’re a boomer broad you’ll likely relate–you can subscribe to the blog or “like” my Facebook page, which I update with posts from here too.

Or you can stay here, relieved to know I will keep the focus on business writing and communication, though I’ll still throw in some personal or funny bits22482_10151117201832544_194504128_n.

Thursday, August 23, 2012 @ 12:08 PM
posted by Barbsawyers

I’ve posted my blog/podstory about my quest to vanquish back fat at BlogHer.com. Not everyone’s cup of tea. But many women’s cup of bra.

Thanks for the photo.


Monday, March 12, 2012 @ 08:03 PM
posted by Barbsawyers

I laughed when my friend Rosemary recently called me an expert in social media. I am not. I’m simply more comfortable with social media than many people our age.

gray hair does not belong on social media Rosemary and many of my friends spend thousands hiding the gray and smoothing the wrinkles. So here are my tips for them, on how to hide their social media gray:

1. Don’t insist that Twitter is about people telling you what they had for lunch. It’s not.

It’s mostly people sharing links to articles about stuff I’m interested in too. If you don’t want to tweet, that’s fine, but stop repeating an excuse that dates you.

2. While you don’t want to tell your followers or others what you had for lunch, you can tell them what you’re planning to make for dinner, assuming some are also into cooking. Respect the fine line between no-cial and social.

3. If it’s private, don’t share it in social media, email or anywhere else on the net or near any cameras.

But do phone me or, better still, drop over if your news is too steamy to share with the rest of the world. I haven’t been wire-tapped in years. The security cameras are just for show. Really.

4. Reply on the same social media platform. I’ve had new-to-Facebook friends send me emails to comment on my updates. This adds wrinkles to their profile photos.

5. Keep sending those crazy pet videos via email. I don’t want my cool social media friends to know just how many I get. I share only the funniest on Facebook.

6. Stop talking about meeting in “cyber space,” as if it’s some exotic destination. The web is routine; Sulawesi is exotic. Do not think you compensate by calling everything “awesome.”

7. When you’re having a temper tantrum, be aware that your kids may be secretly videotaping you and posting it to YouTube and beyond.

One of my Facebook friends, the offspring of old friends who think shunning social media will prevent identify theft and financial ruin, did that just recently. His Dad threatened to smother him with his foreskin–and worse. To make sure nobody missed any nasty words, he plastered the text over the video.

I’m not going to tell his parents, though this could put me in an awkward position, but I am going to disarm my kids of phones and other recording devices before my next tirade. So should you.

The cameras to record you, and the social media to distribute it, are everywhere.

Sneaky kids, and store security cameras that catch me at a bad angle on a bad day, scare me way more than a lack of privacy protection. What I reveal on social media I control.

So keep the gray hair, red-hot gossip, blue news and black moods between us. But please join me on social media. I need more friends my own age.

Thanks for the photo, Rae Z.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011 @ 08:12 PM
posted by Barbsawyers

What would make you open an email a few days before Christmas?  I’m sick of the Christmas deals those hyped-up marketers are still cramming into my inbox. I’m winding down from work too.

But like most people I’ve talked to, I crave advice on dealing with one or more touchy family situations.

Marketers, you can fool me into reading those pitches once you’ve calmed me down. As my last-minute Christmas gift back at ya, here are 11 email subject lines that woul entice my friends and I to open your email:

  1. Smile politely while spitting that inedible Christmas cake into your napkin: 3 tips
  2. What if everyone brings jello?
  3. An Alzheimer Christmas. What to do when Granny won’t stop yelling
  4. Uncle Sid has passed out in the mashed potatoes again: help or ignore?
  5. How to get the in-laws to go home, without risking war
  6. Silent night, no more: how to start a conversation with cousins you haven’t seen in years and never liked
  7. Whining kids-how to make them sleep, in the spirit of the season but without spirits
  8. Survive carols with the tone deaf: how to sing LOUD
  9. When cats, dogs and other species mix: a furniture survival guide
  10. Do you mention food spilled on the face — or other places?
  11. 11 foolproof excuses to leave early

I’ve survived most of these situations by laughing. That way, they don’t spoil all the wonderful ones.

Thanks for the photo.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011 @ 03:11 PM
posted by Barbsawyers

In your office, people spend lots of time and money on initiatives to boost productivity, satisfaction and engagement. Unfortunately, they’re too busy to see the three elephants who are blocking their path.

elephants in your office But these elephants–Confused, Too Much Time and Stay Away–could once again destroy the village and crops.

This happened in 2008, when Confused made highly educated people pretend to understand “collateralized debt obligations” and “credit default swaps,” triggering the financial collapse. The recovery was delayed, because Too Much Time gave the politicians stimulus legislation that took too long to read. By showing more concern for the big bad banks than the grocery-buying voters, Stay Away pissed off the people, driving many to the Occupy protests or the Tea Party movement.

Think about what could happen with the current European crisis, even if we pretend everyone speaks English. What if one nations writes “I except your proposal” instead of “I accept?” What if the communiques take so long to read that an agreement is never signed? Or what if the hot Greeks and Italians feel alienated by the cold tone of the Germans and French?

Blame the elephants. If they keep growing, the disasters will multiply, not only in the corridors of power, but in your office too.

By following orders only from Spellcheck, Confused leaves employees wondering every time they read about “it’s results.” The IT department’s? Or maybe “It is results” is the hot new slogan they’re supposed to know?

Too Much Time, who is already wasting many hours every day with emails that don’t get to the point, is growing fatter off SharePoint, Twitter and social tools.

Despite all the emphasis on “friends” and “like,” Stay Away is waxing on about “authority endorsements,” extending “best regards” and spraying other gross stuff out of her trunk to keep people at a safe distance.

Everyone seems too preoccupied with new apps to notice how fat and mighty these elephants are growing. But before anyone else gets hurts, they need to learn a lesson from Busy Bee Inc, where one of the drones was smooshed by the weight of email messages from Too Much Time.

Something had to be done to tame the beasts, Queen Bee decided.

She focused on training Confused to think and stop blocking the path to understanding. She put Too Much Time on a diet that hinged on careful portion control. She became an elephant whisperer, appealing to Stay Away in a friendly tone with words that mean something to her.

She averted another smooshing. Better still, the elephants are eating out of her hand. Busy Bee’s productivity, satisfaction and engagement scores have soared. Business is hiving, I mean thriving.

Another happy ending made possible by people writing precisely, concisely and nicely. Will your office’s story end happily too?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011 @ 07:10 PM
posted by Barbsawyers

When I want to impress people, I tell them to google “awesome” and they will find me.

Actually, they have to google “alternatives to awesome” or “other ways to say awesome” to find me quickly. Still, it’s close.

Almost every day my top post is 55+ ways to say awesome. Every month, the top phrase searched to find my site includes the word “awesome.”

barb sawyers is awesomeWhen I wrote that post, which I’ve updated  a few times with longer lists, my intention was not to rank high on “awesome.” No, my lofty objective was to discourage its overuse among people ranging from air heads who can’t think of a more original word to middle-aged people who delude themselves into thinking it makes them sound younger.

Awesome seekers

Let me stress, “awesome” alternative seekers, that I am not judging. I too have word weaknesses. Often I lose words, usually nouns, which an expert on Oprah said was a fleeting perimenopausal symptom.  Plus, I am  convinced that wearing my Converse sneakers wipes years off my age.

I am encouraged that people are searching for alternatives to “awesome,” though I hear it just as often and have seen no studies to confirm elevated levels of articulate discourse.

While I am pleased more people  are finding my site, they are not becoming my clients. Too few are buying Write Like You Talk–Only Better. I don’t know if it’s possible to “convert” them, as the SEO guys blithefully advise.

“Me, me, me”

Though far more modest, my success with “write like you talk” has been intentional. I rank high because I’ve used it in as many posts, blog comments, guest submissions, Twitter and other social media  as much as I can, without sounding like a three-year-old who missed her nap screaming “Me, me, me.”

Of course, with long-tail keywords like this, I have to brain wash people into actually searching for “write like you talk.” Any tips, guys, for mass keyword hypnotics?

My Snooki

The same goes for my name, Barb Sawyers, which also ranks me high simply because of the unusual extra “s” spelling. Recently, I discovered a Barbara Sawyers on Twitter, who describes herself as an Arab princess who wears designer fashions to clubs in New Jersey. For a vicarious thrill, I am following her.

I keep reading advice to jam keywords into every title and first paragraph. But that would piss off my readers and get on Google’s nerves.

I am a white table cloth writer, as opposed to those McWriters who crank out keyword-crammed  posts for content farms. I may not be too proud to admit temporary noun or footware deficiencies, but I am certainly above this kind of fast and cheap but low-nutrient, unappealing algorithmic food.

No thanks

To show you how ridiculous keyword-inspired titles can be, let me share with you the most recent title suggestions I have received from Ezinearticles.com,  based on the keywords people have used to find the articles I post there:

Tips For Using Alliteration in Prose
Silly, eh? I can’t imagine filling an entire article.  “Using words that start with the same letter helps readers remember,”  just about sums it up.

How the Way We Speak Reflects the Way We Write
Why, when “write like  you talk,” which I am busy plugging, is so much snappier?

Poetry – Emotions in Writing
I would never dream of advising gourmet poets, though emotions in writing are what I would expect to hear from teen girls, romance novelists and other literary wannabes.

The keyword challenge

In addition to my vulnerability in nouns and fashion, let me confess that I don’t entirely get all the fuss about keywords. I used to eat the crusts on my toast because my dad kept saying they would turn my hair curly. But  I am not a child any more, so I’m not going to fall for every oft-repeated mantra.

I really can’t quite figure out how these keywords are going to sell my book or fuel my writing business. Though I am tickled pink that you can google “awesome” and find me.

Care to share, you self-styled SEO experts who keep spamming my site or anyone who has actually figured this out?

Thanks, Joudry288, for the awesome photo.

Friday, June 10, 2011 @ 05:06 PM
posted by Barbsawyers

We all know that laughter reduces stress, increases energy, motivates and makes people feel better about themselves and others. Yet many offices are serious spaces, with people worrying that a joke could offend, inspire ridicule or make them look unworthy of promotion.

Yes, humour can bring risks. But, handled the right way, the risks are outweighed by the rewards of happier people. And don’t forget that funny people attract attention and hotties.

communicate funny

By 2493™ Gavin

After too many years of serious corporate writing, I’ve tried to be funny in some of my blog posts. As some of my readers might agree, often I’m a comedian only in my own mind. In case you didn’t catch on, this is an example of self-deprecating humour. No belly laughs, but maybe you smiled.

From much of the tedious communication that crosses my desk, I know that many others need help to rediscover their inner comedian.

I asked for advice from one of the funniest people I know, Kathleen McAulay, therapeutic clown, stand-up comedian and workplace humour consultant.

That last title is not a joke. She’s worked with many organizations that recognize the benefits of laughter.

Kathleen offered three tips for revving up humour: be yourself, tell stories and interact.

1. Be yourself
Kathleen urges would-be office comics to think about the kind of humour that works for them. “Some people just can not tell a joke, but they’re quick with the one-liners. Other people may want to illustrate their point with a funny story about what their kid did the other day.” Observational humour, satire, exaggeration, fantasy or silliness may also work.

To make my humour work for me, I might leverage the fact that I’m a speed talker. When I get going too fast, I will often pause briefly, telling people I need to breathe and let them catch up. It’s good for a chuckle.

The point is to cultivate your personal brand of humor. As Jerry Seinfeld said: “The whole object of comedy is to be yourself and the closer you get to that, the funnier you will be.”

2. Tell stories
Pick the physical details that will help your audience visualize your story. Share feelings they can identify with. Although the stories should be based on the truth, feel free to exaggerate.

For example, I’ve written about my frustration with my 83-year-old mother who insists on smoking outside of her nursing home in raging blizzards. I point out that she permits me to wheel in her snow-crusted body before hypothermia strikes. I could tear up at how sad my mother’s life is or how pathetic I am to let her control me. I prefer to laugh about her love for cigarettes and my struggle to act like the adult when she’s around. Don’t get me started about my bicycle-riding blind father.

3. Interact
With live humour, you must interact with the audience. Kathleen advises people who want to inject more fun into their presentations or meetings to take courses in improv comedy. “It’s the best way to learn how to read your audience and learn how to communicate through body language, tone and rhythm.”

For written humour, Kathleen recommends writing in a conversational tone, as if you were performing, building in phrases and styles that suggest body language, pauses and other live elements.

Now you’re probably rolling your eyes and making that “tsk” sound between your teeth, while muttering “How can I convey body language and interact?” Hint: I just did.

Kathleen encourages people to test out their comedy, especially if they’re in doubt, with someone who will be brutally honest.

Stay away from the sarcasm and humour that could take a nasty turn. Kathleen promotes humour that builds up, not tears down.

Often it’s tempting to build us-against-them cohesion, and laughs, by lampooning politicians and other public figures. But  remember this works only if you have the comedic instincts of a Jon Stewart or Roseanne Barr.

Because office humour is risky, you need to be careful. But don’t avoid it. Stick to the humour that works for you with your family and friends. If you’re never funny in your personal life,  you can still play the straight man to the guy or gal who grew up as the classroom clown.

Why do we need more laughter at work?
We spend more time with the people at work than we do with our families so there are plenty of reasons to laugh more. Here are a few.
• The bottom line will be served by decreasing stress and increasing motivation, energy and creativity.
• Customer service will be lifted up to a level of personal expression that warms customers, suppliers and prospects. Bosses, project leaders, customer service reps and sales people will connect with their teams and customers.
• People are far more likely to remember what you’ve said. “It’s like a highlighter,” Kathleen says.
• Humour makes us less likely to want to shoot one another.

Friday, June 3, 2011 @ 03:06 PM
posted by Barbsawyers

Lately I keep hearing how we need to turn communication into a fun game.

At the Mesh11 conference,Gabe Zichermann talked about how marketing is becoming “gamified,” with badges, rescue missions and other techniques adapted from video games. As Gabe said, “The future is fun.”

This week the New York Times featured an article about how Groupon is using fun writing in its email marketing to become this year’s online success darling.

girls just wanna have funSure, most workplaces encourage fun on  special occasions. But usually there’s a thick black marker line between work and fun. Even in pro-fun offices, you hear: “We work hard. We play hard.”

But maybe that line is fading. Hooray!

The anti-fun campaign began in grade school when the teachers told us to stop horsing around. Yet the teachers I remember, and learned the most from, knew how to make learning fun.

At work, I’ve often gotten into trouble for having too much fun: for laughing too loudly, for not taking this week’s flavor seriously enough.

Yet, because I enjoy what I do, work is usually fun. What’s more, I frequently build in fun for others. For example, with the software engineer I’m about to interview, I’ll probably chat briefly, maybe say something funny, to put him at ease before I start asking questions.

I don’t know how I would have survived the treacherous passages in my life had I not been able to laugh. Even when I’m too grim to see the humour in my predicament, I can always find a funny TV show or other fun diversion to lift my spirits.

Like a game, I also give myself rewards when I complete a task, especially the ones I loathe. For example, when I finished my tax preparation, I let myself buy red jeans.  Now I smile every time I put them on.

I love how blogging has allowed me to tap into my fun side. I would never have written about the relationship between laughter and peeing in the corporate world. But maybe I should have gone for more amusing anecdotes or wry comments, my personal brand of humour, though nothing sarcastic or mean.

In my writing training, I advise people how to use humour in workplace communication. Don’t you always remember the presenter who started with a good joke? Don’t you want to do business, and pleasure, with fun people?

I’m going to further explore this notion of gamification, which I had earlier written off because of my total lack of interest in video games and such. I see how mesmerized my teens get.  I’ve always enjoyed board and card games. And, despite the best efforts of teachers and bosses, I never stopped  wanting to have fun.

As Cyndi Lauper sang: “Girls just wanna have fun.”

Lucky for me,  fun is becoming serious business.

Thursday, May 19, 2011 @ 08:05 PM
posted by Barbsawyers

As much as I enjoyed Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-seller Eat, Pray, Love, I could not relate to her love-trumps-all modus operandi. You see, I’m in my fifties, divorced and way past expecting a man to “complete” me.

As a sandwicher, with kids still at home and needy aging parents, the last thing I need is someone else to take care of. If someone were to show interest, he would have to present a good health seal of approval and chef’s papers or other proof of domestic self-sufficiency. Since no one is asking, as fewer do after 40, this is academic.

It’s not that I’ve given up on love. But ever since the estrogen well began to dry up, I’ve realized that true love is the compassion I try to feel for everyone around me.

Unfortunately, I can stay on this Buddha path only when I’m not dashing off to the washroom. The constant yearning for romantic love has been replaced by the incessant urge to pee.

As long as a woman can reproduce, she is driven by this love-conquers-all belief, shared by Elizabeth as well as the very funny thirty-something women in the movie I saw last weekend Bridesmaids.

I had to go so bad. Even worse than after morning coffees or gym water. But I could not risk missng a funny bit. From the long line for the loo after, I knew I was not alone.

Perhaps the laughter trigger is behind Whoopi Goldberg’s new commercial for Poise. Although I plan to adopt her word ” spritzing,” I cannot relate to her Cleopatra, Statue of Liberty and other impressions.

Neither am I drawn in by the Tena commercials about the fashion model peeling off  period costumes like a Russian doll. They should have stuck with the older commercial, where the woman my age  at her front door digs frantically for the keys  while a fantasizing a washroom drop onto her lawn. Now that’s funny.

That could be me, as could the food-poisoned movie bride-to-be Lillian crouched in the middle of a busy street. You can’t see, but you know she is pooping under the designer gown.

That’s what women want. A story we can relate to. Reaction without yucky details. A good laugh.

Are you listening, companies that are advertising to women?

Not that I’m ready for this kind of protection–yet. Though I could probably unleash more of that compassion I now call true love  if my moments of enlightened bliss were not shattered by my subconscious scrambling for the code for my yoga building’s washroom lock.

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