Sunday, April 3, 2011


Words and pictures can really get the point across.

I’ve been thinking about persuasion lately. Not the plaid-jacketed, fender-pounding used car salesman variety, but writing as if you mean it.

As we get busier and time becomes more precious, I continue to realize that everything we write should be clear, to the point, and purposeful.

Otherwise we are wasting our time writing and wasting the time of our readers as well.

There is so much bad writing out there - good for us, I suppose because it keeps us in business - but everywhere you look you will find passive voice, unnecessary words, confused organization, and ignorance of the basics of memorable, persuasive writing.

Bad writing makes us want to read less, and that’s too bad.

So, in this post, I’ve included three good books on writing memorably and persuasively.

Check them out or talk to us - because good writing is good for everyone.

Everything you write should have some element of persuasion - to believe facts, to take action, etc. If not, why are you writing in the first place?

Over the years, I’ve assembled ideas from several people on how to write more persuasively. After all - that should be one of your purposes every time you start to write - whether its a memo, a report, a brochure, a letter - everything you write.

Ever wonder why jokes and urban myths are so easy to remember? Because they are sticky.

Stickiness is when your writing is memorable and Chip and Dan Heath recommend six powerful techniques to help make that happen:

1. Simple

2. Unexpected

3. Concrete

4. Credible

5. Emotional

6. Storied

With lots of examples and some good solid reasoning, all of us can learn to write more memorably.

The North American guru of persuasion is Dr. Robert Cialdini.

Once you get by the tackiness of his book covers, you will find some incredibly useful information.

For example, the one persuasive technique we all try to use - logic- is absolutely the weakest of the ten identified persuasive methods and is probably a waste of time unless you are writing a scientific paper.

Cialdini talks about seven persuasive techniques:

1. Gratitude

2. Because

3. Imitation

4. Likability

5. Authority

6. Shortage

7. Repetition

and I add three more:

8. Logic

9. Reason

10. Credibility.

All can be used to to make your writing more powerful.

Finally, the power of stories to mobilize, excite, and persuade has been recognized by many different authors, foremost among them is Steve Denning.

In this one book, Denning describes how to use stories to meet the most important leadership challenges of today, including motivating others to action, building trust, transmitting values, getting others working together, and sharing knowledge.

If you want your writing to have more impact, buy these books and follow their advice, or check out our workshop on Writing Irresistibly.

We would be glad to work with you.

Contact us at if you have any questions.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Writing Numbers

Most writers chose this profession because our word skills were greater than our mathematical abilities. Nevertheless, numbers in our business are important.

Here are some of the conventional guidelines:

1) Numbers nine and below are written in words: seven

2) Numbers 10 and above are written in figures: 17

3) The above two rules hold for cardinal (seven, 17), ordinal (seventh, 17th), and centuries (seventh century, 17th century).

4) The simplest way to express large numbers is best. Round numbers are usually spelled out. Be careful to be consistent within a sentence.

You can earn from one million to five million dollars.

You can earn from five hundred to five million dollars.

5) Money is preceded by a dollar sign even though it is read in a different order:

$17 million (17 million dollars)

You can earn from $5 hundred to $5 million.

6) Be consistent within a category. For example, if you choose numerals because one of the numbers you must deal with is greater than ten, you should use numerals for everything in that category.

Given the budget constraints, if all 30 history students attend the four plays, then the 7 math students will be able to attend only two plays.

(Students are represented with figures; plays are represented with words.)

My 10 cats fought with their 2 cats.

My ten cats fought with their two cats.

7) Always spell out simple fractions and use hyphens with them.

One-half of the pies have been eaten.

A two-thirds majority is required for amendments to the club constitution.

8) A mixed fraction can be expressed in figures unless it is the first word of a sentence.

We expect a 5 ½ per cent wage increase.

Five and one-half per cent was the maximum allowable interest.

9) With numbers of four or more digits, use commas. Commas are to the right of the thousands and millions places, continue placing commas after every three places.


10)Use noon and midnight rather than 12:00 P.M. and 12:00 A.M., no one knows what they mean.

11) Write out a number if it begins a sentence.

Seventeen blue jays baked in a cake.

Twenty-nine people won an award for helping their communities.

You can express decades in complete numerals and you don’t need an apostrophe between the year and the s.

The Canadian economy grew during the 1980s and 1990s.

Contact us at if you have any questions.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Crazy Names for Bottles of Wine

Adapted from Michael Quinion, World Wide Words

You may have heard those odd names for big bottles of wine such as Magnum, Jeroboam, Rehoboam, and Methuselah.

What do they mean and where do they come from? How long does wine have to age for it to be called a Methuselah?

I'm glad to be able to report that the age of the wine has no connection with these curious names, otherwise a methuselah would have age for 969 years.

Those crazy names refer to the sizes of the bottle, but it's now illegal to put any of them except one on a bottle and they've become curiosities that mainly come up in pub quizzes.

The only term of the set that's still allowed is "magnum", which refers to a bottle containing two standard bottles or 1.5 litres. It's also the oldest of all the terms, having appeared in English in one of the prose works of the Scots poet Robert Burns, back in 1788.

It's an abbreviation of Latin "magnum bonum", a large good thing. It was in Scotland that it acquired the sense of a size of wine bottle and became abbreviated to "magnum". It has also been given to a variety of potato, various varieties of cooking plums, a gun, and even a large-barrelled steel pen.

The remainder of the set, as usually quoted in reference books, are jeroboam (4 bottles/3 litres), rehoboam (6/4.5), methuselah (8/6), salmanazar (12/9), balthazar (16/12), nebuchadnezzar (20/15), melchior (24/18), solomon (28/21), sovereign (33.3/25), and primat (36/27).

Some lists even include a melchizedek, holding 40 standard bottles or 30 litres.

For more, go to Moore Partners Scribbles

The Art of Being Clear

The Art of Being Clear

We planned to construct a dumbwaiter in the new house we are building. The idea of getting coffee, tea, and snacks up to our second floor office with-out spilling all over ourselves on the stairs was appealing.

But it took a lot of room and interfered with the ductwork, and the only good place for it was the wrong sanity returned and we ditched the whole idea.

In the meantime, we were laughing with the stone mason about how he could be a dumbwaiter specialist. The conversation quickly deteriorated to "dumb waiterspecialist" and the whole burlesque act reminded me of the importance of syntax.

Since syntax (the arrangement of words in a sentence) is one of the major ways we decipher meaning in English, proper syntax should govern the placement of modifiers so the right words are grouped in a sentence the way we intend.

The basic idea is simple: adjectives and adverbs go as close to the words they are supposed to modify as possible. This way we will connect those modifiers with the right words.

Of course, there is a little more to it than that, and below we go into the mechanics in more detail. As you will see, there are ways even a simple idea can go comically wrong.

For more, go to Moore Partners Scribbles

People Learning Together

I've been called on lately to lead several workshops and I'm always struck by how much fun it is when people learn together.

And it is always a collaborative effort among all the participants in a workshop.

I usually ask my audience, "What are your hopes for the day?" Typically their first thought is (since they have to spend the whole day with me) that I'm not a real dud. I feel the same way. As I start my opening re-marks, I'm very aware that I will have to spend the day with this group and I hope they aren't a bunch of duds.

They never are.

Happily, nearly everyone, if given half a chance, wants to learn something useful in a positive atmosphere. That's the joy of giving workshops.

We must admit that we have somewhat neglected the workshop segment of our services over the last year, so we would like to concentrate on creating and giving useful and enjoyable workshops.

To that end, I sat down, took the best from my teaching experience at Queen's, Loyalist, Laurentian, St. Lawrence, and U of T, and created eight workshops listed here and also on the Workshops section of our website.

If you or your organization are interested in these topics-or would like a workshop created specifically for you...go to Moore Partners Workshops

Being Concrete

Concrete begins as careless, slovenly, and entirely feckless. It is promiscuous and easygoing, willing to flow this way and that, open to being shaped, doing what anyone wants if that person is strong enough to hold it. Once it is committed, though, concrete becomes fanatically adamant.

You may know people like that.

Concrete writing is not heavy, stubborn, and dull. It is sensible, relating to our senses of touch, sight, smell, taste, and hearing. It binds us to the everyday world, to the practical, the familiar.

Writers should always try to pour concrete, to produce concrete writing unless, of course, they are trying to hide or obscure their meaning. In fact, a recent study by Daniel Oppenheimer showed that lack of specificity and concreteness is a sign of an intention to deceive.

Concrete writing sticks to your audience like the real thing to a shovel - and that's the whole point of good communication.

For more on Being Concrete, go to Moore Partners Scribbles

Notes from the Underground

We are building an earth-sheltered house, hoping to be more sustainable, on the wooded banks of the fastest-flowing part of the Salmon River north of Kingston, Ontario, where we will live nearly maintenance-free, listening to the roar of the rapids.

Our earth-sheltered house will have a Trombe wall on the south side for light and passive solar heating. This part of the house will contain an open-concept living/dining area snuggled around a woodstove, plus a kitchen and pantry with a three-season room on the river side. Our office overlooking the rapids and a sitting and napping area will be on the second floor.

The rest of the house, including study, bedrooms, guest room, workshop, laundry, systems room, and garage will be sheltered under native groundcovers and two to three feet of soil. Since the earth is 18 degrees C at most times, our heating and air conditioning will be free. In fact, we may have to heat slightly year-around with in-floor heating provided by solar hot water.

For more go to Notes from the Underground

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Free Download - Where the Stories Live

Where the Stories Live is a novel I wrote that you can download for free in PDF format. The file size is 772 mb, that should take you less than a minute even at dial-up speed.

For more information and a brief synopsis of Where the Stories Live, click the book cover or title below. I hope you enjoy it.

Where The Stories Live

Friday, June 27, 2008

Writing for Fun: 33 Names of Things

Do up your aglets, snug your keeper, and watch out for spraints. It’s time to learn 33 Names of Things You Never Knew Had Names.

Here's the first 14...

The plain or ornamental covering on the end of a shoelace.

The armhole in clothing.

Spat-out food, such as rinds or pits.

The bottom part of the nose between the nostrils.

Small beadlike pieces of candy, usually silver-coloured, used for decorating cookies, cakes and sundaes.

A dangling curl of hair.

The metal band on a pencil that holds the eraser in place.

The small metal hoop that supports a lampshade.

A 64th note. (A 32nd is a demisemiquaver, and a 16th note is a semiquaver.)

Various squiggles used to denote cussing in comic books.

The loop on a belt that keeps the end in place after it has passed through the buckle.

For more, go to 33 Names on the Writing Tips page of Moore Partners

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Writing for Grammar: Grammar and Glamour

As of 30 November 2005, the Oxford English Dictionary contained aboutGrandma 301,100 main entries. The dictionary's latest, complete print edition (Second Edition, 1989) was printed in 20 volumes, comprising 291,500 entries in 21,730 pages.

The OED could be called one of the first "Wicki" projects, since much of it is compiled by volunteers.

One of the most famous of the OED's volunteer word explorers was J.R.R. Tolkien, the great medieval scholar and author of "Lord of the Rings." In a song that appears in the Ring Trilogy, Tolkien wrote "Of glamoury he tidings heard" (He heard news of magic).

In a study of Tolkien's language, "Ring of Words," the authors reveal the influence of OED learning upon all of Tolkien's scholarly and imaginative writing:"Glamoury (occult knowledge, magic, necromancy) ... is a relatively modern word (the first example in the OED files is from a Scots poem of 1811), adapted from glamour ... which the OED suggests may be due to the influence of a related word, gramarye. The connection between magic and grammar is perhaps not instantly obvious to the modern reader."

For more, go to Grammar and Glamour on the Writing Tips page of Moore Partners.