contentgrrl

I am conTENT. My work is CONtent.

Posts Tagged ‘writeroll’

3 sites for more writerly blogging

Posted by contentgrrl on January 25, 2008

On FreelanceSwitch, I’ve found a new thrill of writerly blogs and advice on improving writing:

In particular, Content Crossroads: Supernatural Success at the Intersection of Ideas is an inspiring model of good writing, even if it is a bit long. The intro reminds me of an homage* in the movie O Brother Where Art Thou?, but the meat of the article is 5 ways to observe differently (learn for life, change perspective, free your mind, travel, and listen).

Another site I’m adding to my blogroll is FigaroSpeech, by Jay Heinrichs, author of Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion. I’ve bought the book, and I’m both captivated and compelled to try some of those rhetorical tools.

*OK, here‘s the homage to blues legend Robert Johnson from the movie:

Tommy Johnson: I had to be up at that there crossroads last midnight, to sell my soul to the devil.
Ulysses Everett McGill: Well, ain’t it a small world, spiritually speaking. Pete and Delmar just been baptized and saved. I guess I’m the only one that remains unaffiliated.
Ulysses Everett McGill: What’d the devil give you for your soul, Tommy?
Tommy Johnson: Well, he taught me to play this here guitar real good.
Delmar O’Donnell: Oh son, for that you sold your everlasting soul?
Tommy Johnson: Well, I wasn’t usin’ it.

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5 Ws and H interview questions for news writing: part 4, discovery

Posted by contentgrrl on January 25, 2008

In the art of news writing, we still use tried-and-true formulas to get started with researching, interviewing, and organizing basic news according to the 5 Ws and the H.

Let’s look at how these questions can play out for news stories about discoveries. The questions below apply to science, technology, medicine, art, music, fashion trends, relationship patterns, polls and statistics, and even religious revelation.

  • Who initially made the discovery or work?
  • Who have confirmed the veracity or value?
  • Who are the critics and detractors?
  • What are the hypothesis, circumstances, conditions, or limitations of the discovery?
  • What authority and experience does the subject have?
  • When did the discovery occur, after what length of time working on it?
  • Where did the discovery take place?
  • Why is the discovery significant?
  • How were obstacles overcome?
  • How do we know it’s true or valuable?
  • How does this change what we’ve assumed before?
  • How can other people best appreciate or take advantage of it?

Previously, we looked examples for stories about policy, events, and aftermath. Thus ends this series. Soon, I’ll share the GOSSEY formula for feature stories.

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5 Ws and H interview questions for news writing: part 3, aftermath

Posted by contentgrrl on January 24, 2008

In the art of news writing, we still use tried-and-true formulas to get started with researching, interviewing, and organizing basic news according to the 5 Ws and the H. We discussed policy examples previously, and event examples last time.

Now, let’s look at how these questions can play out for news stories about aftermath. The questions below apply to analyzing the causes and consequences of conflicts, disasters, losses, and mistakes.

These stories may include war’s battles, terrorist attacks, earthquakes, fires, stormy weather, epidemics, extinctions, sports and other competitions, transportation wrecks, market crashes, crime, utility outages, closings, civil suits, industrial accidents, even product and software defects, illnesses, injuries, and other broken promises and dreams.

  • Who is the injured or affected party?
  • Who witnessed the event or reported the problem?
  • Who is blamed or taking responsibility for the problem?
  • What damages have taken place?
  • What are the symptoms that affected parties suffer?
  • What is the major cause of the problem or failure?
  • What additional mitigating factors contributed to the problem?
  • When did the event, problem, and cause commence?
  • When is a solution expected to be complete?
  • Where did the event, problem, and cause occur?
  • Why is this event or problem significant?
  • How do we know what caused the problem?
  • How is the problem being treated or resolved?
  • How are we proactively preventing this problem in the future?

Next, we’ll look at how these questions can play out for a more positive type of news story: discoveries.

Posted in citizen, community, culture, publishing, writeroll | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

5 Ws and H news writing questions: part 2, events

Posted by contentgrrl on January 23, 2008

In the art of writing is an art, we still use tried-and-true formulas to get started with researching, interviewing, and organizing basic news according to the 5 Ws and the H. We discussed policy examples last time.

Now, let’s look at how these questions can play out for news stories about events. Most of the questions below work for sports and other competitions, fundraisers, awards ceremonies, professional development conferences, training classes, filing deadlines, holidays, anniversaries, religious/commitment/memorial ceremonies, parties, club activities, meetings, and even sales.

  • Who is performing the event?
  • Who is organizing, funding and hosting the event?
  • Who are the guests of honor?
  • Who are the target attendees for the event?
  • What is the purpose or objective of the event?
  • What are the popular traditions of the event?
  • What is the newest focus of the event?
  • When – date and time – is the event scheduled?
  • Where – building/venue, room, city – is the event scheduled?
  • Why is it popular, or beneficial to attend?
  • How will special attendees be rewarded?
  • How many are expected, and/or how many attended? How much has attendance grown?
  • How much does it cost?

Next, we’ll look at how these questions can play out for other types of news stories: accidents and discoveries.

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5 Ws and H news writing questions: part 1, policy

Posted by contentgrrl on January 22, 2008

Writing is an art, but that is not to say there is no science to it. You can use a tried-and-true formula to get started with researching, interviewing, and organizing basic news according to the 5 Ws and the H.

The questions below work for news on policy, including election candidate campaigns, federal/state legislation and regulation, city codes, commercial company acquisitions/launches/divestitures, departmental initiatives, insurance coverage limits, financial transaction agreements, mechanical maintenance requirements, club by-laws, school board requirements, even classroom or household rules.

  • Who is making the policy?
  • Who are the political movers and shakers creating the pressure that drives this policy?
  • Who are the critics and detractors?
  • Whom does the policy affect, or who is accountable for results?
  • What action must be taken?
  • What conditions will trigger the need to act in accordance with the policy?
  • What are the consequences of inaction?
  • What are the consequences of failure?
  • What alternatives were considered?
  • When is the deadline or stages and phases?
  • Where in space or organization is the jurisdiction of this policy?
  • Where might be the boundaries or grey areas?
  • Why is this new?
  • Why was the particular action selected (what pros and cons)
  • How do they know the policy was necessary?
  • How will they know when the policy is successful?

Next, we’ll look at how these questions can play out for other types of news stories: events, accidents, and discoveries.

Posted in citizen, culture, publishing, reading, writeroll | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

writing about policy using ABCDEs of performance objectives

Posted by contentgrrl on December 20, 2007

As part of my rather broad work in writing, I’m often asked for policy statements or alerts. In an effort to communicate completely about a policy, I like to concentrate on the ABCDs of performance objectives (interlaced with the 5Ws and the H from newswriting interviews):

  • A is for Audience: Who is required to perform a task or comply with a new rule?
  • B is for Behavior: What skill, task, or operation is required?
  • C is for Conditions: How are tools involved in performing the task or complying with the rule? Are there prerequisite procedures that must already be completed in advance? Are there certain deliverables, inputs, or variables that need to be given?
  • D is for Degree: Why, Where, and When is it critical? What are the measurable constraints (in time, place, budget) that determine whether the behavior is successful? Is there a minimum and/or recommended criteria? What resulting benefits and consequences may be persuasive motivating factors?

I come from an instructional design background. There, the standard ABCDs of instructional and performance objectives are used to design lessons and identify the criteria for testing whether a student actually learned the new skill. It’s based on the work of Mager, Gagné & Briggs.

The ABCD formula works in everything — from basic math drills to complex software troubleshooting labwork to sales techniques to regulatory compliance training. But it may not be obvious that the performance objective typically comes from an organizational need. The objectives are measured so that the people in one stage (such as a Kindergarten class or a network engineering division or a marketing team or a safety inspector) do their jobs well enough for the rest of the organization to take it from there and fulfill expectations.

But I’d like to take it one step further:

  • E is for Exceptions: Are there exceptions to the rule? How do you know if a rule or issue does not apply to you, or that you are outside its scope? Are there special situations that may apply, and if so, how do you proceed?

Understanding exceptions takes a level of expertise that may not always be available when writing policy or alerts. But if you can nail that down, it’s one way to set your communications apart and be truly helpful to your readers.

Posted in citizen, heroes, learning, performance, persuasion, reading, tools, writeroll | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

10 tips for do-it-yourself public relations

Posted by contentgrrl on November 10, 2007

If you want to make news, do something newsworthy.

I’ll bet you know to stay away from scandal no matter how much press it gets! ;^) But here are some suggestions for positive spins:

  1. Conduct a survey of your clients, and report results of their opinions on a timely topic that’s getting some press lately or chronically in your industry. Oh, do reporters love statistics! And quotable quotes from real people! And expert conclusions! NOTE: Get written permission to use their quotes in your report!
  2. Submit your work for an industry competition (and, well, you have to win or at least have honorable mention).
  3. Write a white paper on the best way to do something, ten tips, ten things to avoid, and so on, where you have extensive expertise.
  4. Partner with a client or another company on a big project, and write a report showing massive ROI (return on investment).
  5. Merge or acquire.
  6. Volunteer to your senator or representative to contribute some research or analysis on a topic that lends itself to current or upcoming legislation.
  7. Scan the U.S. code of federal regulations for your industry, and volunteer to contribute research or analysis on regulatory changes going on in the industry.
  8. Keep an eye out for court cases in your industry, and talk up lawyers on key cases, and confer about serving as an expert witness.
  9. Do something phenomenal for a charity.
  10. If you are a good speaker, consider podcasting on various 5-10 minute topics.

Focus especially on the local news, trade magazines and journals that you like to read, and the organizations where you are a member. But also consider PR Web.

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get published in business, trade, or industry magazines

Posted by contentgrrl on November 6, 2007

Can you can write? Do you have some interests and passions that you can work up into articles of various lengths? If you have something to say worth reading about trends in your industry, you can probably get published.

What trade or industry magazines do you read now? Nestled among their list of editors’ names and advertising sales contacts, each magazine usually has an editorial calendar and an authors’ or writers’ guidelines for submitting article ideas. Some of this information may actually be in the Advertising section of the magazine’s Web site, but as you research your target publication, it will be useful to determine if you can write to fill their needs.

As a former trade rag editor, I know that all editors love useful content that meets their guidelines. Call up the editor of a magazine you’re reading, tell ’em you’re a big fan, and offer to write up something to fill the gaps in their editorial calendar, or contribute a sidebar or viewpoint opposing what they already have slated.

If you can come up with highly readable tips, guidelines, research statistics, book reviews, and analysis of current trends or events (for example, in business, mergers & acquisitions, international investments, and so on), you’re more likely to be paid.

Of course, some business magazines already have interns and editorial advisory board members who provide or review much of the content. But if you can write better than they can, and pass the gatekeepers, you’ll do fine!

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Corpse of Copse

Posted by contentgrrl on October 31, 2007

I’m looking back on a poem I wrote for a corporate contest Halloween 2006:

Homeward bound in hope and reverie and mist
Through twisted grove in twilight hallowed and shadow-tricked
The wood winds blow chill crystals from my breath
My eyes clench against a musty autumn bluster
I amble, stumbling in brambles abruptly clearing
Free to find a faery circle, the crux a primordial specter
Whose ancient shade cast a fruitless barren
But hidden by bushy locks of coal and silver
A face insinuates in petrification, there a sneer, there a brow
Wrinkle-ringed with eons to tell under a thorny crown
Limbs adorned in lichen and webs of refuse
Round a monstrous trunk worn to a pulp
A wind whispers dry admittance of former glory
Then wafts a golden amber resinous essence’s beckoning
Inexorably I am rooted, entangled and climbed
To wield a wand, then plant within my grasp
A thorn, piercing, slivering, bloodthirsty
Wending its poison’s way into atriums dexter and sinister
And I am fallen, leaves clinging with sap-strewn veins
To cloak and bury ‘til melting slushes
Wash the withered shroud from frozen bones

By TereLyn Hepple, Halloween 2006

“Too bad there wasn’t much of a challenge in the race for best poem/story,” I said, on winning the $25 prize for best poem/story. “That was right up there among the absolute worst poetry in the universe, by Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Greenbridge, Essex, England. ;^) But thank all 46 fellow employees who voted!”

The worst poem in the Universe:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Neil_Milne_Johnstone

Posted in culture, grrly, humor, poetry, writeroll | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

learn from mistakes I have made in my resume and job search

Posted by contentgrrl on October 30, 2007

As I was decluttering my desk, I found some of my old resumes and job letters from years ago. A few things actually made me cringe with ew.

Now, it’s not as bad as when I find an old diary from my melodramatic pre-teen days. It was relatively OK for back in the day when you had to go to a printer like Kinko’s to have a stash of resumes printed up to hand out. But I immediately noticed some things that I’ve learned not to do anymore:

  • The “objective” section was so broad it could apply to ten different jobs. Now, I’ve learned to tailor it per job, ideally the intended, individual opening.
  • The skillset and toolset was too long. Again, I’ve learned to tailor it to the requirements of the intended job.
  • The history descriptions are too long. Even while I use great verbs, I did not always identify the real accomplishments. Numbers are more impressive.
  • The cover letter started off self-centered, rather than what’s in it for them. “I was intrigued by your job posting.” So what?

Basically, I was trying to do too much with one tool. OK, so I’ve worked in journalism, software, training, and a weird but happy combination of Web publishing and PR. But I may have come off as too generalist, and certainly over-qualified for most jobs. And I’ve learned more about selling a product since then. I am my own product (Marketing Profs Daily Fix has a great article on this too, Mind Your OWN Business).

With Monster, LinkedIn, and other Web sites to keep the details out there, I can trim it down to a spiffy one-page resume and a short-and-sweet cover letter.

And there are some things that I was glad I had taken the time to do:

  • Response thank-you letter, customizable to highlight specific points of the positive response (or even rejection).
  • Interview thank-you letter, customizable to highlight specific points discussed during the interview.
  • References page (several names, contact information, and a description of our relationships).
  • Chart of experience with various tools and skills (now thankfully available on Monster).

I continue to do resumes for friends and colleagues who like my format. I found a site that has a database of hourly rates for various consulting gigs (hotgigs.com). The average for writing resumes is — surprise! — the same average for every other kind of writing in their database, so the key is scoping the project:

  • 30 min: analyze current resume
  • 60 min: meeting to discuss new job history/training, objectives, measurable achievements, possible edits
  • 60 min: writing and formatting of 1-2 page resume
  • 60 min: writing cover letter and thank-you notes
  • 30 min: meeting to discuss edits, completing revision, proofing

PS: After initially posting this, I also found Ten Tips for Writing a Resume That Will Get The Right Kind of Attention from The Simple Dollar, posted today.

Posted in learning, performance, writeroll | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »