Archive for December, 2009

Happy Holidays

I look forward to writing to you soon after the new year.
Merry Christmas all!

Tips and Tricks Tuesday: Your Story

Fellow bloggers agree: blogging about writing is great. We put into words of all the ideas that rattle around in our heads and meet and learn from successful people in the writing profession, all while practicing the craft. But as valuable as this experience is now, in a 100 years when things have changed dramatically, there will probably be little value to the things we are discussing here.

On the other hand, any kind of a record of everyday life, however mundane it may seam, may prove invaluable to posterity and future historians. So while you’re feverishly working away at your profession, don’t forget to leave a little something about yourself behind.

Three ways to keep a journal:

  • The time-honored tradition of pen and paper. For some, this is the ideal way to compose anything, and certainly the portability and convenience cannot be beat by even the smallest of laptops. A planner, a palm, or even your slightly-used pizza napkin will do in a pinch.
  • Blog. There are tons of user-friendly, free services out there now. (,, These services, especially Blogger, are great for allowing you to insert pictures, videos, and all kinds of stuff. Plus your mom and those that love you will love having access to you. Of course these services also allow you to control who can view your blog.
  • If you need writing prompts than you might try This service was started with members of the LDS faith in mind (journaling and record-keeping are a big deal to them). No worries though, this service could be beneficial for anyone, and an LDS membership isn’t required.

    This site offers a question of the day to get you going, and they also have a great “all about me” section with questions about your childhood, education, vacations, and other personal history prompts.

    The down-side (or maybe the upside, depending on your view) is that security is tight, and casual, viewing-only access is not allowed. Also I have yet to figure out how to include photos and videos.

However you do it… do it! Get going and earn your immortality today.

Tips and Tricks Tuesday: Demo Skills Without Upsetting Clients

Linnea Dodson addressed this problem among tech writers. Trevor Dolby touched on this problem in the editing world. I’m sure it wouldn’t take much digging to find a dozen more people wondering the same thing: As writing and editing professionals we all need a portfolio, right? So how on earth do you fill a portfolio without imposing on the confidentiality of your clients?

You can stuff books full of tributes, accolades, and honors, but how much does that really say about your ability to do a job? As mechanics of English, we need to show our prospective employers the tools in our drawers and not just the papers hanging on the walls.

Luckily Dodson and I have some decent ideas.

For tech writers she suggests the best place to go for help is home:

  • Rewrite the warning labels on your medicines or the legal fine print at the bottom of your sweepstakes ads. Put a before and after in your portfolio to show that you can decrease word-count and increase readability.
  • Write how-to’s for your appliances.
  • Include a training guide for something you do everyday. Note: while you should have a little fun with this activity, Dodson warns, “‘Juggling in 10 Easy Steps’ may not fit every company to which you apply.”

Dodson makes a point easily aimed at editors too. Why can’t they do the same thing? Perhaps their clients don’t really want their befores and afters shown off. No problem:

  • We all edit constantly. If you see something that’s already been published but could use some touching up, go for it. Just be sure to give appropriate credit where due.
  • Help out your friends and family, and with their permission, change any personal information and include befores and afters of their projects.
  • Pull out a dusty piece of your own work and give it a good re-hashing.

Get creative. Identify what you want to display, and then figure out how to do it. Unfortunately this is work you probably won’t be paid for, and it needs to be your best, but with some imagination it doesn’t have to be painful.