Words to write by…

Recently, I “googled” (ooops – see my “Banished Words post) some writing quotations. I have to post them here… they are just too good! You may be familiar with some, hopefully there are a few new ones to ponder.

Granted, commercial writing isn’t always that glamorous – but it is writing that demands a unique kind of creativity. Besides, I still would like to author the great American novel someday!

Do not put statements in the negative form.

And don’t start sentences with a conjunction.

If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a
great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.

Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.

Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.

De-accession euphemisms.

If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.

Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.

Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.

~William Safire, “Great Rules of Writing”

Proofread carefully to see if you any words out. ~Author Unknown (one of my favorites!)

There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. ~Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith

Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. ~Gene Fowler

What no wife of a writer can ever understand is that a writer is working when he’s staring out of the window. ~Burton Rascoe

The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say. ~Anaïs Nin

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. ~Sylvia Plath

I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all. ~Richard Wright, American Hunger, 1977

I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter. ~James Michener

The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible. ~Vladimir Nabakov

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Anton Chekhov


Banished Words 2011

Every year the folks at Lake Superior State University post their famous list of banished words. I always look forward to this list as I want to be sure to watch my writing. Here is the list from LSSU.


“Often used to describe the spreading of items on the Internet i.e. ‘The video went viral.’ It is overused. I have no objection to this word’s use as a way to differentiate a (viral) illness from bacterial.” Jim Cance, Plainwell, Mich.

“This linguistic disease of a term must be quarantined.” Kuahmel Allah, Los Angeles, Calif.

“Events, photographs, written pieces and even occasional videos that attracted a great deal of attention once were simply highly publicized, repeated in news broadcasts, and talked about for a few days. Now, however, it is no longer enough to give such offerings their 15 minutes of fame, but they must be declared to ‘go viral.’ As a result, any mindless stunt or vapid bit of writing is sent by its creators whirling around the Internet and, once whirled, its creators declare it (trumpets here) ‘viral!’ Enough already! If anything is to be declared worthy enough to ‘go viral,’ clearly it should be the LSSU Banished Words list for 2011!” Lawrence Mickel, Coventry, Conn.

“I knew it was time when the 2010 list of banished words appeared in Time magazine’s, ‘That Viral Thing’ column.” Dave Schaefer, Glenview, Ill.

“I didn’t mind much when ‘viral’ came to mean an under-handed tactic by advertising companies to make their ads look like pop culture. However, now anything that becomes popular on YouTube is suddenly ‘viral.’ I just don’t get it.” Kevin Wood, Wallacetown, Ont.

“Every time I see a viral video on CNN or am asked to ‘Let’s go viral with this’ in another lame e-mail forwarded message, it makes me sick.” Lian Schmidt, Bandon, Ore.


More than one nominator says the use of ‘epic’ has become an epic annoyance.

“Cecil B. DeMille movies are epic. Internet fallouts and opinions delivered in caps-lock are not. ‘Epic fail,’ ‘epic win’, ‘epic (noun)’ — it doesn’t matter; it needs to be banished until people recognize that echoing trite, hyperbolic Internet phrases in an effort to look witty or intelligent actually achieves the opposite.” Kim U., Des Moines, Iowa.

“Over-use of the word ‘epic’ has reached epic proportions. Tim Blaney, Snoqualmie, Wash.

“Anything that this word describes in popular over-usage is rarely ever ‘epic’ in the traditional sense of being heroic, majestic, or just plain awe-inspiring.” Mel F., Dallas, Tex.

“Standards for using ‘epic’ are so low, even ‘awesome’ is embarrassed.” Mike of Kettering, Ohio.

“I’m sure that when the history books are written or updated and stories have been passed through the generations, the epic powder on the slopes during your last ski trip or your participation in last night’s epic flash mob will probably not be included. This may be the root of this epic problem, but it seems as if during the past two years, any idea that was not successful was considered an ‘epic-fail.’ This includes the PowerPoint presentation you tried to give during this morning’s meeting, but couldn’t because of technical problems. Also, the ice storm of ‘epic proportions’ that is blanketing the east coast this winter sure looks a lot like the storm that happened last winter.” DV, Seattle, Wash.


One nominator says, “what originally may have been a term for a stockbroker’s default is now abused by today’s youth as virtually any kind of ‘failure.’ Whether it is someone tripping, a car accident, a costumed character scaring the living daylights out a kid, or just a poor choice in fashion, these people drive me crazy thinking that anything that is a mistake is a ‘fail.’ They fail proper language!”

“Fail is not a noun. It is not an adjective. It is a verb. If this word is not banned, then this entire word banishment system is full of FAIL. (Now doesn’t that just sound silly?)” Daniel of Carrollton, Georgia.

“When FAILblog.org went up, it was a funny way to view videos of unfortunate people in unfortunate situations. The word fail is now used by people, very often just to tease others, when they ‘FAIL.’ Any time you screw up in life — a trip up the stairs, a bump into a wall, or a Freudian slip, you get that word thrown in your face.” Tyler Lynch, Washington, Iowa.

“Mis-used. Over-used. Used with complete disregard to the ‘epic’ weight of the word. Silence obnoxious reality TV personalities and sullen, anti-establishment teenagers everywhere by banishing this word.” Natalie of Burlington, Ont.

“It has taken over blogs, photo captions, ‘status’ comments. Anytime someone does something less than perfect, we have to read ‘FAIL!’ The word has failed us all.” Aaron Yunker, Ishpeming, Mich.


“This buzzword is served up with a heaping of cliché factor and a side order of irritation. But the lemmings from cable-TV cooking, whatever design and fashion shows keep dishing it out. I miss the old days when ‘factor’ was only on the math-and-science menu.” Dan Muldoon, Omaha, Neb.

“Done-to-death phrase to point out something with a somewhat significantly appealing appearance.” Ann Pepper, Knoxville, Tenn.

“All this means is a point at which you understand something or something becomes clearer. Why can’t you just say that?” Audrey Mayo, Killeen, Tex.


“This should be on the list of words that don’t need to exist because a perfectly good word has been used for years. In this case, the word is ‘history,’ or, for those who must be weaned, ‘story.'” Jeff Williams, Sherwood, Ariz.

“These chicks call each other BFF (Best Friends Forever) and it lasts about 10 minutes. Now there’s BFFA (Best Friends For Awhile), which makes more sense.” Kate Rabe Forgach, Ft. Collins, Colo.


“A stupid phrase when directed at men. Even more stupid when directed at a woman, as in ‘Alexis, you need to man up and join that Pilates class!'” Sherry Edwards, Clarkston, Mich.

“Another case of ‘verbing’ a noun and ending with a preposition that goes nowhere. Not only that, the phrase is insulting, especially when voiced by a female, who’d never think to say, ‘Woman up!'” Aunt Shecky, East Greenbush, NY.

“Can a woman ‘man-up,’ or would she be expected to ‘woman-up?'” Jay Leslie, Portland, Maine.

“Not just overused (a 2010 top word according to the Global Language Monitor) but bullying and sexist.” Christopher K. Philippo, Glenmont, NY.

“We had to put up with ‘lawyer up.’ Now ‘man up,’ too? A chest-thumping cultural regression fit for frat boys stacking beer glasses.” Craig Chalquist Ph.D., Walnut Creek, Calif.


“Adding this word to the English language simply because a part-time politician lacks a spell checker on her cell phone is an action that needs to be repudiated.” Dale Humphreys, Muskegon, Mich.

Kuahmel Allah of Los Angeles, Calif. wants to banish what he called ‘Sarah Palin-isms’: “Let’s ‘refudiate’ them on the double!”


“Unless you are referring to a scientific study of Ursus arctos horribilis , this analogy of right-wing female politicians should rest in peace.” Mark Carlson, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.


“These politicians in Congress say ‘the American People’ as part of what seems like every statement they make! I see that others have noticed it, too, as various websites abound, including an entry on Wikipedia.” Paul M. Girouard, St. Louis, Mo.

“No one in Washington can pontificate for more than two sentences without using it. Beyond overuse, these people imply that ‘the American people’ want/expect/demand all the same things. They don’t.” Dick Hilker, Loveland, Colo.

“Aren’t all Americans people? Every political speech refers to the ‘American’ people as if simply saying ‘Americans’ (or ‘people’) is not enough.” Deb Faust, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.


“‘A phrase used to diffuse any ill feelings caused by a preceded remark,’ according to the Urban Dictionary. Do we really need a qualifier at the end of every sentence? People feel uncomfortable with a comment that was made and then ‘just sayin” comes rolling off the tongue? It really doesn’t change what was said, I’m just sayin’.” Becky of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

“I’m just sayin’…’I’m not sayin”’…Actually, you ARE saying…A watered-down version of what I just said or intended to say….SAY what you are saying. DON’T SAY what you aren’t saying.” Julio Appling, Vancouver, Wash.

“Obviously you are saying it…you just said it!” Catherine Wilson, Granger, Ind.

“And we would never have known if you hadn’t told us.” Bob Forrest, Tempe, Ariz.

“When a 24-hour news network had the misguided notion to brand this phrase as a commentary segment called, ‘Just sayin’, I thought I was going to retch.” Casey Conroy, Pleasant Hill, Calif.


“Facebook is a great, addicting website. Google is a great search engine. However, their use as verbs causes some deep problems. As bad as they are, the trend can only get worse, i.e. ‘I’m going to Twitter a few people, then Yahoo the movie listings and maybe Amazon a book or two.” Jordan of Waterloo, Ont.


“It’s an absurdity followed by a redundancy. First, things are full or they’re not; there is no fullest. Second, ‘live life’ is redundant. Finally, the expression is nauseatingly overused. What’s wrong with enjoying life fully or completely? The phrase makes me gag. I’m surprised it hasn’t appeared on the list before.” Sylvia Hall, Williamsport, Penn.

Different Networking Events Require Different Styles

Recently after BNI meeting, a colleague and I were discussing networking styles and elevator speeches. BNI, as with any networking group or event, has its own style. We were commenting on the different ways we position ourselves at events, depending on where we are. This is particularly true if you are asked to give an “elevator speech.”

When I teach seminars on elevator speeches, I share a few gimmicks that work when you are attending a BNI meeting or Chamber mixer. For example, if I were a pilot I might say, “Hello, I’m Randy Sly and I help people change their altitude.” As an OB/GYN I might start out, “Good afternoon, I’m Randy Sly and my job is bringing a little life into the world.”

Others have come up with equally unique ways of presenting their businesses.

Sometimes I want to go all-out for clever. Once I used a limerick style:

There once was a writer named Sly
Who belonged to the group BNI.
He writes content for scripts, for websites, for lips,
And for all things that words fortify.

Now agencies doing PR
And marketing mavens by far,
Are the people that he
Really hopes he can see,
And prays that you know who they are.

And then there was the time I took my cues from Dr. Seuss and shared:

WriteView Hears a Who

(with apologies to Dr. Seuss)

On a Thursday in June at a local hotel,
In a room full of business folks eager to sell,
He was chatting, enjoying all networking joys,
When Randy the writer then heard a small noise.

So Randy stopped chatting and looked toward the sound,
A visitor talked of his needs that abound,
A website, a newsletter, brochure, and blog,
Were the things that he wanted, his head in a fog.

“I can help!” cried out Randy, as he lept to his feet,
“With words for all marketing projects you meet.
“Be it web words or blog words or print words galore,
“Or for videos, PowerPoints, speeches that soar.”

“And if others you know need some content for print,
“For the internet, podcasts, or speakers that sprint,
“Please send them to WriteView, for content that works
“To help people maximize marketing perks.”

I’m Randy Sly, a commercial writer with WriteView, LLC – the Pen of a Ready Writer.

If I’m attending a special networking event at a place like the Tower Club, which is a fairly upscale place here in Northern Virginia, I don’t try being that clever. At gatherings like that, I am much more straight forward.

Networking is a fascinating and wondrous world for freelancers. As writers, people are able to sample our craft as they learn about our work.

I’d be interested to know how other people approach this. Do you have a standard way you approach different venues? Do you have two or three options at your disposal? Let us know what works for you!

Field Guide for Networking Birdwatchers

create_birdNetworking events are strange places for those who are new at it. It often takes awhile to identify the different types of people that are gathered together. To aid the newly initiated, here is a Field Guild to help you identify the different types of networking birds you will encounter. Some are malicious, others are quite harmless. Most of them, however, are very good birds and can help you in developing your business.

The pursuit of bird watching at a networking event is not a worthwhile hobby in and of itself. However, the serious networker should be aware of the various birds that are flying around, in order to avoid contact with certain species while engaging in good business networking with others.

Red Winged Me-Warbler – This Networking bird is easy to spot by its special call – “I-Me-My…I-Me-My.” Normally, this bird is found circling the outer edges of a networking event sporting business-formal plumage extending its large hands filled with business cards. The species does not care to know its prey by name and rarely listens. It prefers to keep calling out, listing its capabilities, services, and opportunities.

Low Flying Nut Muncher – This bird is normally located near the food area of any event. They are normally quiet birds except for the sound of munching from the large plate of food they carry constantly. Networking specialists are not sure how these birds seem to know which events have the best snack trays. No one has actually seen this species network; they merely eat and run.

Bar Bellied Slush – A distant cousin of the Nut Muncher, the Slush lives close to the bar, particularly at catered events. This species is able to consume large amounts of liquid without inhibiting its ability to fly and maneuver. Normally a colorful and interesting bird to encounter at networking events, it cares deeply about the work another networking bird does and is sincerely interested in following up at a later time. The Slush, unfortunately, has chronic short-term memory that causes it to forget any contacts made at an event within 12 hours of the meeting.

Gold Crested Highlighter – Both the male and the female of this species have unquestionably beautiful plumage. When entering an event, they immediately become the focal point of the gathering. Their calls are sweet and enticing, drawing other birds quickly around them.

There are actually two different classes of this species; one is poisonous while the other is not. The non-poisonous variety is very helpful to an event and can make networking a pleasurable experience. Beware the lure of the poisonous Highlighter as you can end up in trouble later.

Tufted Guest-Helper – This networking bird is a benefit to the environment. It is constantly hovering around a crowd, looking for opportunities to turn strangers into friends. This bird will not allow guests to be alone at an event and works hard to connect them to others. Networking planners are thrilled when one of these birds arrives.

Silver Throated Networker – This is the most common bird found at many networking events. This bird can be approached without concern as it only wants the best for others. Normally, this species listens to other calls before it calls out itself. It is good for the environment and gives back more than it gets.

Winged Hoster – A necessary bird at every gathering, the Winged Hoster can be mistaken for its cousin, the Green Billed Hoster. While the Green Billed Hoster is the one actually sponsoring a networking event, the Winged Hoster is a friendly bird that flies feverishly around the room, making sure everyone is connecting. The species is easily identified by the business card holder that is carried everywhere for the purpose of giving leads and referrals to everyone in site.

Wingless Hoster – Similar to the Winged Hoster, this bird stays in one place and never flies. The smile of this species is especially dazzling, luring many to come and talk. Like the winged variety, this bird is very helpful in making connections.

Slow Footed Hesitator – Normally, this networking bird stays close to an event entrance and rarely makes a move on its own. A naturally shy species, the Hesitator will not survive an event unless protected and encouraged by a Tufted Guest-helper or a variety of Hoster. Often, this bird is a friendly and very interesting bird when placed in a safe environment.

Empty Pledging Crowd Pleaser – Other birds are made to feel good whenever this bird cries out to them and you can pick out this networker by its distinctive call – “Your exactly what I’ve been looking for; so, let’s get together very soon!” More experienced network watchers can easily spot this bird. Further study has shown that the call of the Crowd Pleaser is actually a different language that means, “I really have no interest in doing business with you, but you may be able to help me.”

These are just a few birds that you can encounter while networking. Others are in the process of still being identified. You may also recognize many of these species from their appearances at conferences and other gatherings. Most are not limited to networking climates alone.