Choose Your Words Carefully

Nov 10


Unnecessary Words

We often read that blog posts should be brief and that readers like to read posts quickly. When writing your post, make sure that you’re not filling it with words that don’t need to be there.

You might want to omit phrases like I think, kind of, sort of, in my opinion, and needless to say.

Some of these words and phrases are fine if your tone is casual rather than businesslike. Think about your audience and the purpose of your blog to decide what style is appropriate. However, even personal blogs written like diary entries can benefit from a clean, uncluttered writing style.

Words to avoid: frankly, actually, honestly, truthfully, really, quite, so, very, somewhat, seems, utterly, practically, basically, probably, appears, very, definitely, extremely and rather.

Redundant Phrases

In addition to using unnecessary words, bloggers often use two words that say the same thing. The following list of substitutions from Editing and Writing Services shows that one word is often better than two.

  • Absolutely essential  (essential)
  • Added bonus  (bonus)
  • Both of them  (both)
  • Crystal clear  (clear)
  • End result  (result)
  • Exact same  (exact or same)
  • Fewer in number  (fewer)
  • Final outcome  (outcome)
  • Free giveaway or free gift  (giveaway or gift)
  • Inasmuch as  (since, because)
  • Past history (history)
  • Point in time  (point, time or then)
  • There is no doubt that  (clearly)
  • Until such time as  (until)
  • 12 midnight  (midnight)
  • 12 noon  (noon)

Words with Emotional Meaning

Now that we’ve gone over the words you can do without, it’s time to think about the emotional associations or connotations of your words. Words can have positive, neutral or negative connotations.

Which word says what you really mean: ambitious or greedy, confident or arrogant, smiled or smirked, thrifty or cheap?

These words all refer to a young person, but have very different emotional associations: youngster, baby, child, tot, kid, little one, small fry, brat, juvenile, minor

Bertrand Russell gave the following examples of different connotative meanings:


I am sparkling.

You are unusually talkative.

He is a drunk.


I am a creative writer.

You have a journalistic flair.

He is a prosperous hack.


I daydream.

You are an escapist.

He ought to see a psychiatrist.


In Conclusion

Bertrand Russell once said, “Anything you’re good at contributes to happiness.” As your writing gets more precise, you’ll feel more confidence that you’re saying what you mean to say. Your readers will also get more pleasure and value from your blog posts when you take the time to choose your words carefully.




University of North Carolina: The Writing Center.

The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language by David Crystal

The Copywriter’s Cheat Sheet Is Free Thursday and Friday!

Oct 02

Break through writer’s block! 

The Copywriter’s Cheat Sheet is available FREE on Thursday, October 3rd and Friday, October 4th in the Kindle Store, and you don’t even need a Kindle to read it.

How a Camera-Shy Writer Can Make a Cool Video

Jan 07

camera-shy writer

Hello and Happy New Year to everyone!

This morning my kids went back to school, so in a way it feels like the New Year is starting now and I’m ready to get back to business. I wanted to share my new favorite tool with you.

Last week I saw a really impressive animated video from Danny Iny of, who very kindly ran my guest post last October. The post was inspired by a really strange comment my daughter made about a clown when she was little. You can read the post HERE.

Danny told me that the video was made with Sparkol/VideoScribe. I clicked onto their site and I’ve been amazed ever since. You can make videos with the hand-drawn scribble/doodle/whiteboard look, and you can customize them with their clipart, your own art or photos, and a big variety of music. You can even add your own voiceover.


I signed up for the free trial and I made this video to put on the author page of my Kindle books. This one is for my ebook The Copywriter’s Cheat Sheet. I’m planning to make more videos–one for each of my books. My head is spinning with ideas for other ways to use this service. I think any blogger, writer, life coach, entrepreneur or marketer could make a nice impact with this type of video.

Marketers are always being told to add video to their websites. If you’re a little camera-shy like I am, this is a really fun, creative way to get your words on the screen without an awkward webcam video from home! (Not that your webcam video would be awkward, but I’m pretty sure mine would be!)

In case you’re wondering, yes, Sparkol/VideoScribe has an affiliate program, and you can join it even if you’re on the free trial period. Today is the last day of a special price if you want to get the Pro version (which seems to be the only option after the free trial). You don’t have to keep their logo on the videos if you get the Pro version.

Please let me know if you have any ideas to share or if you have questions for me. I’ll be experimenting with more of these videos, and I’ll let you know how it goes!


How To Create Your Own Personal Writing Retreat

Dec 30



Would you like to finally spend time on your writing this year?

Have you ever thought about packing a suitcase and a laptop and going away to a writer’s retreat? Probably not. Who has time and money to walk away from your home, kids, job, dog, guinea pigs, etc.?

Big blank wooden arrow directional sign isolated on white.

So how does a busy person get the time to work on that novel, blog, journal or how-to manual?


You have to make the time to work on your writing, and it’s easier than you think.


It’s Downright Revolutionary


It has never been easier to get your own writing published. You don’t need an agent or a book contract or even a single rejection letter to become a published author.


The hard part is making time to get the writing done.


All you need is structure and a plan to get it all done. What better time than the new year to accomplish this goal.


Your Creative Spirit


You have the urge to create something. An idea (or fifteen) have been rolling around in your head for quite a while. We’re going to use your imagination and some structure to get you started, and help you to keep writing until you have finally accomplished your writing goals.


Step One

Imagine your ultimate writing retreat.

Start visualizing your imaginary writing retreat. Make some notes about your ideal hideaway spot. You could make a vision board with magazine pictures of a cozy cabin in the snow, or a beachfront cottage.


Pinterest is a great way to browse pictures of scenery that inspires you.


Speaking of Pinterest, we all love a good inspirational quotation. But do yourself a big favor–don’t kid yourself. Browsing for the perfectly instagramed quotation from a great writer does not get your novel written.


Warning: Do not get obsessed with this part. It’s fun, and the mindframe is important, but you can’t get caught up in perfection. Visualizing the writing spot is not writing. It’s like lacing up your running shoes and stretching. You’re not going to burn any calories or get ready for a marathon by choosing the cutest running shorts  available.


However, if hot chocolate or a glass of cold lemonade helps you set the stage for your personal writing retreat, so be it.


Step Two

Create boundaries.

You might live alone or you might live with a house full of distractors who want you to feed them, walk them or want you to play pirates and princesses with them.


Your writing time might have to be broken into small segments of time, during naptime, after kids are in bed, or while they’re watching a loooong movie that you just put in for them.


Even if you don’t have others tugging at you for attention 24/7, you might be your own worst  enemy. Are you find it too hard to concentrate on one thing long enough to make progress? You’ll want to close out as many distractions as possible, including Facebook, email and maybe even turn off your cell phone for a little while so you can really focus on your writing.

Step Three

Capture your ideas.

During your designated writing time, you can start brainstorming. Just write down your ideas, your rough chapter outline, titles for your next thirty blog posts.  Don’t rely on your memory–be sure to capture your good ideas. Even the lame ideas are worth writing down because they can inspire an even better solution.


Step Four

Start writing.

It’s time to create. No one has to see it, so you don’t have to hold back. Don’t edit while you’re writing. Did you know that writing and editing use different hemispheres of the brain? If you keep going back and forth between writing and revising, you’ll just slow yourself down and inhibit your creativity.


Step Five


Imagine how much you could get done if you allowed yourself time to write at least a few times a week. Where would you be in a couple of months? What would it feel like to have your book completely finished? How would it feel to know that you could become a published author this year?


Once your book is written, the publishing part is easy. (If you don’t know how, I can help you.) All you need is proper formatting of the document, and then you can publish your ebook for free on Kindle.


The number of ebook readers is growing, but people don’t need a Kindle to read your published work.


There are options for print on demand, which means that self-published authors can produce a real printed book instead of (or along with) an ebook. The book gets printed only when someone orders it. It’s not like the old days when self-published authors had to order hundreds of their own books, and were tripping over boxes of their masterpieces in their own garages for decades.


Why now?

Because we’re experiencing a writing revolution. It’s the best time in history to be a writer. Your work could entertain and enlighten the world. There are no guarantees of success, but at least the playing field is level. There are no barriers to getting your work out into the public eye.


So if you’ve got an idea, an outline, or a draft of something you’d like to make progress on, create your own writing retreat. You can put up signs in your house when it’s writing time, or you can keep your plan as your little secret. The point is to get yourself quickly into the mental place that will allow you to stop procrastinating and start creating.

A Writer’s Manifesto

Dec 11







1. You have the right to write.

2. You have a right to write badly.

3. You have a right to share your progress.

4. You have a right to keep your project to yourself.

5. You have a right to use any person, place or thing for inspiration.

6. You have a right to write down the idea you’ve had since the summer before high school.

7. You have a right to publish your own work.

8. You have a right to have your work ignored because it’s not good enough yet.

9. You have a right to put your work and yourself out there for the world’s approval, because you know you’ll regret it if you don’t.

10. You have a right to tell your point of view.

11. You have a right to be paid for your writing.

12. You have a right to finally find an outlet for all of your creative ideas.

13. You have a right to close the door and focus on this project.

14. You have a right to work through your feelings with a journal.

15. You have a right to use your expertise to help other people.

16. You have a right to entertain.

17. You have a right to make people laugh, cry and think.

18. You have a right to reach deep down inside you and find the courage to not put up with an unfulfilled wish to be a published author.

19. You have a right to write things that no one wants to read.

20. You have a right to choose your weapon: journal, instruction manual, blog, novel, how-to advice, short story, memoir, travel book.

21. You have a right to do more than watch TV in your spare time.

22. You have a right to ignore the people who don’t think you’ll succeed.

23. You have a right to find people who support your desire to write.

24. You have a right to stop writing.

25. You have a right to keep writing.

Infographic: Start Writing Your Novel

Nov 19

I’m packing up and moving to Writing Revolution!

Jun 15


Hey, old friends! I’m on my way to

Please “Like” my brand new Facebook page at

Lots of good stuff coming very soon!

Rest in Peace, Maurice

May 08

Penn State Reporter Sara Ganim Is My New Role Model

Apr 17


This morning I picked up our local newspaper (yes, the old-fashioned kind on paper that gets ink on your fingers and can be ruined by a rain shower) at the end of the driveway. I used to read it first thing in the morning, but that was before the internet. I still look at the paper most days, but often there’s just more fresh, colorful stuff to be found online. Not to mention checking email, stats and Facebook.

On page two I saw a headline that says, “24-Year-Old Who Broke Penn State Story Wins Pulitzer.” Sara Ganim worked at the Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania as a police and courts reporter. She was cited by the Pulitzer judges for, “courageously revealing and adeptly covering the explosive Penn State scandal” involving coach Jerry Sandusky’s alleged child molestation.

As a former journalism major who started out wanting to be a scrappy girl reporter, I give Sara Ganim a standing ovation, fist pump and a big old Facebook “Like.” To see that a reporter who works at a “real” local newspaper could break a big story like the Jerry Sandusky molestation case and apparent cover-up, practically brings a tear to my eye.

I don’t know anything about Sara Gamin except what I read in that single article. I have not Googled her, or tried to find out any extra scoops. But I’m guessing that when she was hired at the Patriot-News in Harrisburg, she might have wondered if this position in courts and police reporting would be a snooze-fest, with nothing interesting to report week after week after week. I very much doubt that she could have predicted her role in a huge scandal that could bring some much-needed soul searching in the collegiate football world, and eventually a form of healing and closure to the victims.

Since I was a kid, I got a kick out of the old movies featuring smoky newsrooms and snappy banter between reporters. I was in junior high when my parents followed the developments in the Watergate scandal, and Woodward and Bernstein became celebrities. As a teenager, I was inspired by a character on the Lou Grant TV show that came after The Mary Tyler Moore Show had ended (anyone remember the redheaded Billie?).

So many people have given up daily newspaper delivery and don’t even keep a home phone line any more. In the faster, more glamorous digital world, it’s somehow gratifying to see that a real reporter on a real newspaper can still make an enormous impact on revealing disturbing truths that have been swept under the rug by a system of denial and more denial.

I often hear that young college grads don’t want to pay their dues any more. They expect to do great things right out of college, and see no need to stick around in a less-than exciting job that might not lead to anything. It appears to me that Sara Ganim has managed to do great things while paying her dues. She’s my new role model.

233 Ways to Say Something Nice

Dec 16

At a Loss for Words?

Do you ever worry that you’re overusing certain words, like maybe great or amazing?Author E.B. White famously said,

Avoid the elaborate, the pretentious, the coy and the cute. Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy, ready and able.

That’s good advice, but as he also showed us in Charlotte’s Web, sometimes you have to do a little searching to find new ways to say something positive. Charlotte had to send her friends to search through a garbage dump for magazine scraps just to get some ideas. This list should make it a little easier for you to mix up your language a bit.


233 Positive Words

absolutely, abundant, acclaimed, abundant, acclaimed, accomplished, admirable, agreeable, amazing, ample, appreciable, arresting, awesome
beautiful, best, big-name, big-time, boundless, bounteous, bountiful, bright, brilliant
capital, celebrated, champion, choice, choicest, colossal, commendable, comprehensive, considerable, consummate, cool, crack, crazy,
dandy, decidedly, delightful, deluxe, deserving, desirable, distinctive, distinguished, dreamy, dynamic, dynamite
elevated, eminent, enormous, esteemed, estimable, exalted, excellent, exceptional, exemplary, exquisite, extensively, extraordinary, extremely
fab, fabulous, famed, fantastic, favorable, fine, first-class, first-rate, foremost,
gentle, glorious, good, gorgeous, grand, great
heavenly, hefty, high-powered, honorable, honored, huge, humongous, hunky-dory
illustrious, immeasurable, immensely, important, incalculable, incomparable, inexhaustible, infinite, inordinately, intense, invaluable
jake, jaunty, jocular, joker, joy, joyful, joyous
keen, kind, kindly, kosher
large, large-scale, lavish, limitless, lofty
magnificent, majestic, major-league, marked, marvelous, masterful, masterly, memorable, mighty, monumental, much
neat, nifty, noble, not bad, not too shabby, notable, noted, noteworthy, noticeable, noticeably, number one
out of this world, outstanding, overwhelming
paragon, peachy, peerless, perfect, pleasant, plenteous, plentiful, positive, powerful, precious, preeminent, premium, priceless, prime, prime, proficient, profuse, prominent
quality, quintessential
radiant, reasonable, remarkable, renowned, reputable, respectable, respected, resplendent, righteous,
satisfying, select, seriously, singular, sizable, smashing, solid, special, splendid, strong, substantial, super, superb, superior, superlative, surpassing, surprising, surprisingly superstar, supreme, stupendous, swell
terrific, tiptop, top, top-notch, transcendent tremendous
unbelievable, unending, unforgettable, unlimited, unmitigated, unqualified, unreal, untold, utterly,
valuable, vast, vastly, venerable, vigorous, visionary, voluminous
well-known, wicked, wonderful, world-class, worthy
xenial (means hospitable toward guests, friendly to strangers)
yahoo, yippee, youthful, yummy
zealous, zesty



Image credit: Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, illustration by Garth Williams.


Peeping Tom and Nervous Nellie: Ten Famous Names and Where They Came From

Nov 07

1. Peeping Tom

Lady Godiva was a noblewoman who lived in England in the eleventh century, who began campaigning for a tax reduction. She made an agreement with her husband that he would reduce taxes when she rode naked through the market square.

Legend has it that Godiva sent word to the people of the town, asking them to avert their eyes as she rode naked through the market. Everyone honored her wishes except one tailor named Tom, who snuck a peek as she rode by. Immediately after viewing her, Tom was struck blind. Although parts of this story are thought to be true, the Peeping Tom portion was added somewhat later to embellish the story.

2. Typhoid Mary

“Typhoid Mary” Mallon had no idea that she was infected with the disease yet her work as a cook infected many.  She was the first person in the United States identified as an asymptomatic carrier. After being detained for spreading the disease to families that she had cooked for, she continued to work as a cook even knowing that she was a typhoid carrier. Later, when a doctor made the connection that all the families that she had worked for had gotten sick with typhoid, he interviewed Mary. When he asked her for a stool sample, she threatened him with a meat cleaver. She was not known to be a pleasant person.

3. Nervous Nellie

To call a man a “Nellie” was somewhat like calling him a “Nancy” today.

The  term “Nervous Nellie” originated in the U.S. around 1926. It was first aimed at Secretary of State Frank Kellogg, who was known to have non-aggression policies that weren’t always popular.

4. Doubting Thomas

The expression refers to the disciple Thomas, who doubted Jesus’ resurrection until he had first-hand evidence of it. It now describes a person who is habitually doubtful. 

5. For Pete’s Sake 

“Pete” refers to St. Peter in this expression of annoyance that dates to the late 19th century.

Another version of the exclamation is “for the love of Pete,” or “for the love of Mike,” both used as euphemisms for the phrase “for the love of God.” Around 1918, Pete joined Mike as the person to invoke when you were impatient, annoyed or frustrated. Both names served as stand-ins for the God that it would be blasphemous to mention.(  

6.  Johnny Come Lately

Refers to a newcomer or novice. In the British Army, a new recruit was known as “Johnny Raw.” In the Napoleonic wars, experienced officers referred to newly-arrived young officers as “Johnny Newcome.” The name “Johnny Come Lately” also implies that the novice is a bit late at jumping on a trend.

7. Johnny on the Spot

“Johnny” is used as a generic male name, meaning fellow or chap. “Johnny-on-the-Spot” refers to a man who is available and ready to act when needed.

8. Teddy Bear

The name Teddy Bear comes from President Theodore Roosevelt, whose nickname was “Teddy.”  The name originated from an incident on a bear-hunting trip in Mississippi in 1902. A group of Roosevelt’s fellow hunters cornered, clubbed, and tied an American Black Bear to a tree after a long chase with hounds. They called Roosevelt to the site and suggested that he should shoot it. He refused to shoot the bear himself, but instructed that the bear be killed to put it out of its misery, and it became the topic of a political cartoon by Clifford Berryman.

9. Great Scott!

The exclamation “Great Scott!” has two possible origins, dating back to the Civil War.  It may refer to Army General Winfield Scott. The general, known to his troops as “Old Fuss and Feathers,” weighed 300 pounds in his later years and was too heavy to ride a horse.  In 1861 the New York Times referred to him as the Great Scott. An 1871 issue quotes someone exclaiming “Great—Scott!” to use the name of the Army’s commander in chief as an oath, as officers sometimes did.

The expression is also likely to be a mild substitute for invoking the name of God; very possibly derived from the phrase “[by the] grace of God.” 

10. Gloomy Gus

The name “Gloomy Gus” is based on a cartoon character created by Frederick Burr Opper in 1904. The main character “Happy Hooligan” was an optimist, compared to his brother, Gloomy Gus, whose name is still used as a term for a negative person.




Start Writing Even When You Don’t Want To

Sep 01

Any writer can have a slump once in a while. If it happens to you, you can always just walk away from the computer and get back to it tomorrow, right? But if you’d rather get your blogging mojo back and actually make some progress, take a look at the following tips.


Have a purpose

Have a purpose beyond just getting another post out. Don’t worry that it’s been a little too long since your last post. If you’ll write a better post by spending more time planning and writing, that extra time will pay off.

Set a timer

Set the timer for 10, 20 or 30 minutes and just start writing. You might come up with parts of a few good posts, or you may come up with a list of random thoughts. If you complete an entire post, that’s great. If you just vent to yourself and get some ideas flowing, that’s worthwhile too.

Fix up an old rough draft

If you have an old draft that you got stuck on, take another look at it. You had enough ideas for it at one point, maybe doing some editing will bring back those ideas. It might be a quick way to finish a quality post until you think of your next great topic.

Offer a solution

If you can entertain your readers with great writing, you can give them even more motivation to come back and linger on your blog if you can help them solve their problems. Even personal blogs that don’t try to sell anything can be useful to readers who relate to you. They may come for a fun distraction from their day, but they’ll stick around longer and come back if your post also help them in their daily struggles.

Make it timeless

If you’re looking at current events to find a potential topic, keep one thing in mind. It’s fun to read other people’s opinions on current events, TV shows, political debates, trials, reality shows, talent contest finales and celebrity gossip. It’s especially fun the day after the event. But if you want your post to get emailed, tweeted or Facebooked for longer than a day or two, keep in mind that your post might have a limited shelf life.

Treat it like a job

Blogging really is a job and you’re fortunate to have found a way to be your own boss. Plan to work  for a certain number of hours each day, and you can use that “on the clock” mentality to just sit down and start making things happen.  You’ve already done so much work to set up your blog and find your own voice and audience–put in your time and you’ll get paid back in one way or another.

Change your environment

One way to change your environment is to move your laptop (or good old pen and paper) to another location. It could be a coffee shop, the library, a park bench or your patio. At home, if you can turn off the TV or music, the silence might allow more creative ideas to come forth and be heard. Getting rid of piles of papers, books and post-it notes filled with miscellaneous notes and usernames can clear your head and make you feel ready to dig back in to your writing.

Don’t wait until you’re in the mood

If you wait until all the chores are done, the emails are read,  appointments are made AND you are in the mood, you might not post for several months. Sometimes just sitting down and starting to write will get you into a creative zone, even if you thought you had no good ideas for a post.

Finally, if the mood to do some creative writing does strike, don’t turn on the TV or go get a snack before starting. That bowl of ice cream will taste even better after you hit “Publish.”