Thursday, May 8, 2008

Ann Wylie's Writing Tips

Wylie's Writing Tips

May 7, 2008
Publisher: Ann Wylie,
Copyright Ann Wylie, 2008


"You can taste a word."

-- Pearl Bailey,
popular American singer,
quoted in Newsweek

In this issue

* Quick tips: Create a new word; use the 'voice of the reader'; and change media, vehicles
* Make it meaningful with metaphor: Communicate complex concepts through metaphor
* Make your message more believable: People find stories more credible than statistics
* Increase your rate of return on information: Move up the Data-Information-Knowledge-Understanding-Wisdom scale
* How to make readers fall in love with your publication: Saint Luke's patient magazine jumps nearly 20 points in popularity
* Check out Ann's touring schedule: Polish your skills when you catch Ann on the road
* Keep up with Ann's calendar: Find out when Ann's coming to your neighborhood


"I'm a doctor -- I can add 'ectomy' to any word I choose."

-- Doctor talking to a patient
in a Paul Noth cartoon
for The New Yorker

Quick tips
Play with your words

Create a new word, use the 'voice of the reader,' and change media and vehicles with these three tips from Rev Up Readership, Ann's premium toolbox for communicators:

Create a new word

Freshly minted words get more attention than tired coinages. Tap that truth to "brand" your next product, study or idea.

One way to do so: Create a new word by gluing two familiar words together.

* That's what Weber Shandwick did in its study on advocacy. The PR firm combined two words -- "bad" and "advocate" -- to create a new one: "badvocate."

* The newspaper industry has used the same approach to define its USA Today-inspired graphic stories: "Chart" plus "article" equals "charticle."

* And designer Richard Owens has coined a term for his upscale rock-and-roll look: "Grunge" plus "glamour" equals "glunge."

Rev Up Readership Gold and Silver members, get more tips for developing wordplay that goes beyond twist of phrase:

Gold members, get more than 40 tipsheets on how to surprise and delight your readers with wordplay:

Not yet a Rev Up Readership member? Join now:

Use the 'voice of the reader'

Readers like to hear from other people like them.

Letters to the editor, reader feedback and other first-person, reader-generated copy -- the "voice of the reader" -- attracts readers more than the "voice of the paper," according to The Poynter Institute's Eyetrack07 study.

"Voice of the paper" content includes editorials, op-ed columnists and other copy by the publication's own staff members.

Among readers of broadsheets, or papers formatted like The New York Times:

* "Voice of the reader" pieces drew 68 percent more attention than expected based on the number of those elements available to be seen.

* "Voice of the paper" elements received 38 percent less attention than expected.

To get more "voice of the people" content into your publication, let the reader speak through:

* Letters from customers
* Drawings, poetry and essays from customers and clients
* E-mail missives from a global team
* Diaries and journals from people like the reader

Rev Up Readership Gold members, find more than 60 articles about how to come up with fresh angles for tired topics:

Change media, vehicles

Having trouble getting your message approved? Try switching media or vehicles.

Approval-process pros have learned that some media and vehicles are easier to get approved than others.

For instance, conventional wisdom in big PR firms is that press releases require rigorous approval, while pitches require … well, sometimes, no approval at all. PR pros in these firms put their most creative material in the pitch, then share it informally by phone or e-mail -- thus end-running the formal review process that releases go through.

Communicators also find that face-to-face and online communications require fewer approvals than print.

So make the switch. If your approvers won't sign off on your piece, see whether you can get the word out via a pitch, a meeting or a Web page instead.

Rev Up Readership Gold members, get more than 60 tipsheets on how to improve approvals:


"Words are the hummingbirds of the imagination."

-- Elbert Hubbard,
American writer, editor and printer

Make it meaningful with metaphor
Communicate complex concepts through metaphor _____________________________________________

Communicators too often think of metaphor as a poetic doodah that has no place in serious nonfiction writing.


Metaphor is a workhorse of all meaningful writing. Metaphors help audience members understand new, complex information by means of something they already understand. Specifically, metaphor can help you:

* Take the numb out of numbers
* Replace clich├ęs
* Communicate complicated information
* Bring a tired topic to life

Now you can get more than 60 articles packed with tools, tips and formulas to help you write better metaphors -- all on Plus, as a Gold member, you'll have access to more than 1,300 articles in total, all exhaustively indexed and easy to find.

Whether you're looking for metaphor do's and don'ts, questions to ask to find analogies in interviews or step-by-step tips for crafting compelling comparisons, you'll find it on

Learn more:


"[] is the best industry resource for taking academic theories and proposing models of application. No need to understand balance theory when you have the model of writing about benefits and not features!"

-- Kristi Jones
Raleigh, N.C.

Make your message more believable
People find stories more credible than statistics _____________________________________________

It's counterintuitive but true: People believe information more readily if it's delivered in a story rather than through statistics, according to Peg C. Neuhauser's Corporate Legends and Lore.


* Readers connect with the people in stories. It's the Peer Principle of Persuasion: People believe that if something worked for someone else, it will work for them, too.

* Readers are cynical about numbers. Audience members know that organizations can twist numbers to say whatever the organization wants them to say.

Add narrative to numbers

But that doesn't mean it never makes sense to use statistics. In fact, one very credible combination is to:

* Lead with an anecdote that illustrates your point.
* Follow up with a statistic that demonstrates the scope of the issue.

Add a story to your statistic, and you'll make both more powerful.

Master the Art of the Storyteller

In fact, storytelling is "the most powerful form of human communication," according to Peg Neuhauser, author of Corporate Legends and Lore.

Find out how to you can put this power tool to work in your very next piece at the Public Relations Society of America's May 22 teleseminar, "Master the Art of the Storyteller."

You'll learn:

* Five places to look for stories
* How to get people to bring you their stories
* The key question to ask during an interview to elicit juicy anecdotes
* How "WBHA" can help you find anecdotes in the making
* A quick, easy-to-remember template for building an anecdote
* The best place to start an anecdote -- and the worst place

Sign up or get more details:

Learn about Ann's other upcoming teleseminars:


"We're supposed to be tellers of tales as well as purveyors of facts. When we don't live up to that responsibility, we don't get read."

-- William Blundell,
author of The Art and Craft of Feature Writing

Increase your rate of return on information
Move up the Data-Information-Knowledge-Understanding-Wisdom scale _____________________________________________

In 1989, systems scientist Russell Ackoff created a hierarchy of information, from least valuable to most:

* Data
* Information
* Knowledge
* Understanding
* Wisdom

Despite this, most organizations still invest the bulk of their resources on accumulating and moving data, the least on wisdom.

That's expensive.

To increase your rate of return on information, consider Ackoff's hierarchy before you press "send." Is your copy just adding to the pile of facts -- data -- in your organization? Or is your message likely to help your audience members find knowledge and understanding?

As the data deluge threatens to engulf your workplace, your company needs communicators who add value to information instead of just repackaging it, who translate instead of regurgitate, who inform instead of disseminate.

Do that, and you can serve as an organizational alchemist who transforms a flood of facts into a stream of knowledge. Wisdom, even.

And that's the gold standard of the Information Age.

Learn more ways to overcome information overload:


Sources: Ann Wylie, Overcome Information Overload, Wylie Communications Inc., 2005:; "The Too-Much Information Age," Seed Magazine, January/February 2008

How to make readers fall in love with your publication
Saint Luke's patient magazine jumps nearly 20 points in popularity _____________________________________________

When Saint Luke's Health System recently asked readers what they thought of Health magazine, 95.5 percent gave it top scores.

That contrasts with 78.5 percent in the 2002 survey.

What happened in the interim?

Saint Luke's brilliant marketing executives brought in Wylie Communications to revamp the magazine, changing everything from the name to the design to the editorial lineup to the writing quality.

Since then, Saint Luke's has invited Wylie Communications to create, revamp, write and produce other newsletters, magazines and reports as well.

At Wylie Communications, we love publications. And we'd love to help you with yours. So drop me a line if you need help:

* Writing any or all of your publication copy
* Improving readability
* Finding your creative direction
* Launching a new publication
* Revitalizing a tired one
* Identifying opportunities for improvement
* Creating an anniversary publication or other special edition

Check out how we've helped others:

Or let me know how we can help you:

Nothing but the truth
What people say about Ann's writing workshops _____________________________________________

"Great step-by-step instructions on how to do it right."

-- Stacy Mayo,
assistant account executive,
Rhea + Kaiser

Where in the world is Ann?
Cut your training costs when you piggyback your program _____________________________________________

Save money when you piggyback your workshop by scheduling it when Ann is already "in the neighborhood." Book your program the day before or after another organization's and split Ann's airfare and ground transportation with the other group.

Ask about piggybacking on Ann's upcoming engagements in:

* Chicago: May 8-9, Oct. 3
* Denver: May 28
* Kansas City, Mo.: June 9
* Philadelphia: May 16
* Phoenix: June 4
* Port Washington, N.Y.: June 23
* Portland, Ore.: July 21-Aug. 22
* Quad Cities: Sept. 10
* Saratoga Springs, N.Y.: June 21
* Taunton, Mass.: June 12
* Washington, D.C.: May 19

Save even more: Ask about Ann's communication association discounts and second-day fee reductions.

Contact Ann to discuss piggybacking:

Ann's touring schedule
Polish your skills at one of these events _____________________________________________

Alas, I can't invite you to the in-house seminars I present for private organizations. But everyone's invited to these upcoming public seminars in:

* Chicago on May 9. "Beyond the Inverted Pyramid" and "Think Like a Reader," two sessions for Ragan's Corporate Communicators Conference:

* Chicago on Oct. 3. "Rev Up Readership," a keynote for the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Business Writing Conference:

* Philadelphia on May 16. "Rev Up Readership," a keynote for the IABC Business Writing Conference:

* Portland, Ore., on Aug. 7. "Think Like a Reader," a half-day workshop for the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)/Portland:

* Saratoga Springs, N.Y. on June 21. "Make Your Copy More Creative," a one-day workshop for the American Horse Publications annual conference:

* Washington, D.C., on May 19: "Writing That Sells," a one-day workshop for PRSA:

Would you like to attend? Please contact meeting planners directly for details.

Can't make these events? If you'd like to bring an Ann Wylie workshop to your organization, contact her at

Keep up with Ann's calendar

Want to find out when Ann's coming to your neighborhood, learn when you can sign up for one of her programs and otherwise keep up with her calendar? Check out:

What are we up to?

The folks at Wylie Communications have been enjoying:

* Writing magazine, newsletter and report copy for Northern Trust and Saint Luke's/Kansas City:

* Serving as creative consultants for marketing magazines and newsletters for Northern Trust and Saint Luke's/Kansas City:

* Presenting writing workshops for Verizon Wireless and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA):

* Presenting teleseminars for the Cooperative Communicators of America and PRSA:

For more info --

--- about Ann Wylie's seminars, publication consulting or writing and editing services, please contact Ann at:

Or visit:

Please forward this issue --

-- to two of your colleagues. They'll thank you -- and so will Ann!

About This E-zine

Ann Wylie's Writing Tips is a whenever-Ann-sends-it e-zine for clients, colleagues and other friends who want to reach more readers or produce better publications and Websites.

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Ann Wylie's Writing Tips is copyright 2008 by Ann Wylie. All rights reserved.

Ann Wylie, Wylie Communications Inc., 4618 Warwick, Ste. 7A, Kansas City, MO, 64112

Connie Gotsch Host Write On Four Corners KSJE FM, Farmington NM Author two award winning novels Snap Me a Future and A Mouthful of Shell available

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