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UpWrite Press understands the importance of writing skills in business: We're business people just like you. On this blog you'll find tips to improve your writing, along with topics of interest to our staff.

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    Why I Tweet

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010

    Reprinted by permission from www.jrobertking.com

    Given that I am not a digital native, or even an early adopter, or even a non-NeoLuddite, some of my friends ask me why I tweet.

    To answer that question, I first need to answer a few built-in objections:

    Objection 1: Isn’t Twitter just a bunch of people telling other people about the baloney sandwich they are eating?

    Answer 1: Twitter is sometimes a bunch of people telling other people about the baloney sandwich they are eating. At other times, Twitter is a South African writer phenom telling about the murder of her charr lady’s daughter and inspiring a global network of friends (including me) to help pay for the funeral.

    Objection 2: You can’t say anything worthwhile in 140 characters.

    Answer 2: Ever hear of haiku? Ever hear of veni, vidi, vici? Ever hear “that we here highly resolve…that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”  Those all could have been tweets. In fact, the best writers can say what they want to in very few words. Consider Hemingway’s six-word novel: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

    Objection 3: Isn’t Twitter all about misspelling things and using crippled English?

    Answer 3: No.

    But enough of answering objections. Let me tell you why I tweet:

    Reason 1: My boss made me. I work for a company that develops texts that teach writing and communication in schools and businesses. My boss, who is younger than I and more visionary, said, “This is the way people are writing and communicating now. You have to figure it out.” He was right, and I have.

    Reason 2: My editors said I had to. The amazing Marc Gascoigne and Lee Harris and Phil Athans all basically said that if I didn’t begin engaging in social media, I couldn’t hope to stay relevant. They were, of course, right, and I have engaged.

    Reason 3: It works. I am not an early adopter. I’m a person who insists that new technology be cheap, powerful, and intuitive before I will jump in. Twitter–filtered through Hootsuite–is all those things for me.

    Reason 4: It’s the party I’ve always wanted to attend. Since I learned of the Algonquin Round Table–where luminaries such as Dorothy Parker and James Thurber and Alex Woolcott and Harpo Marx met and quipped and drank–I have longed to be invited to such a meeting of the minds. In fact, after reading about the Inklings–the author’s group formed by J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and their Oxford croneys–I established my own group of writers–the Alliterates. Google us. There are dozens of Alliterates scattered across the U.S., meeting once a month to share a few beers and many stories about our lives with writing.

    And Twitter is the next evolution of that model. I’m already connected to some of the coolest writers on the planet, from the U.S., Canada, the U.K., France, South Africa, and Australia. And every day, I follow new minds. and they follow me. And I am in conversation with some of the greatest new talents rising up the ranks as I did twenty years ago.

    That’s why I tweet. It’s the Algonquin Round Table and the Inklings and the Alliterates all digitized. I can listen to other brilliant minds, can cheer their successes, can commiserate their challenges, can aid them in time of great need–and can show them pictures of me as Juliet on stage.

    Yeah, Twitter is talking about baloney sandwiches. But it’s also talking about life, the universe, and everything. It’s about friendship with some of the coolest people on the planet.

    And, follow me on Twitter @jrobertking.com.

    Also follow my company @UpWritePress @cerickson @LesterSmith @Tims2cents

    And follow the Alliterates @brucecordell @frabjousdave @jamie1km @jrobertking @LesterSmith @monkeyking @mforbeck @MonteJCook @sdsullivan @stannex @TSRThomas

    And follow these Angry Robot authors and editors @MarcGascoigne @LeeAHarris @MauriceBroaddus @mforbeck @Shevdon @mforbeck @jrobertking @KaaronWarren @laurenbeukes @AndyRemic @ColinHarvey @AlietteDB @GuyAdams @lavietidhar

    And follow other cool folks @DavesFandSFW @ghostfinder @HarryMarkov @NextRead @Steve_Ince @ScottvHarrison @CraigWFSmith @Paulskemp @BennyBoo @Hagelrat @ALRutter @LizUK @WombatSam @CharlieHuman @stevemosby @pauljessup @mightymur @crystaljigsaw @historyinanhour @e_cunningham @darylwriterguy @selfavowedgeek @stacylwhitman @JoanDeLaHaye @jimchines @DFReview @YetiStomper @pbdp @LilyOak

    Aw, heck, there are too many great people to follow. Just start tweeting and join my party and throw a party of your own.

    Image courtesy of BUBBLEARMY at http://www.flickr.com/photos/bubblefriends/3658969795/

    First Person, Second, or Third?

    Wednesday, December 16, 2009
    Recently, we received the following question by e-mail.
    My department has had the idea for years that when we write training materials, we have to write in third person. However, I believe we should be writing directly to our audience, in second person. Am I correct? If so, can you point me to some documentation on this?

    Just in case "third person" and "second person" don't immediately make sense to you, let's start by answering…

    What are first, second, and third person?
    In grammar, the form of a verb is determined by whether its subject is first, second, or third person and either singular or plural. Person is best understood by first considering pronoun subjects: First person is "I" (singular) or "we" (plural); second person is "you" (singular or plural); and third person is "he, she, it" (singular) or "they" (plural). Noun subjects are always third person.

    How is person used?
    Novels are sometimes written from a first-person point of view. See the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, for example.

    Business writing has traditionally used third person to convey a formal voice:

    The quarterly reports must be finished by noon on Friday if they are to be included in the investor portfolios.

    When it comes to giving instructions or directions, however, we at UpWrite Press advocate using second person. In Write for Business, our handbook for business writing, the chapter on "Writing Instructions" contains the following advice:

    "Tell the reader what to do by giving numbered, step-by-step instructions that use command verbs, short sentences, and precise terms for materials, tools, and measurements" (page 98).

    In a command, or imperative sentence, like the one just quoted, the implied subject is the second-person pronoun "you." Using second person makes instructional writing direct and clear.

    Consider the alternative.
    Imagine a recipe written in third person…

    The flour should be combined with the butter. The mixture should be turned on a floured cutting board.

    Now consider the recipe written in second person…

    Combine the flour and the butter. Turn the mixture on a floured cutting board.

    What are other reasons for using second person?
    Using second person allows you to address the learner specifically. As the e-mail question points out, second person makes a direct connection with the reader. We agree. If the material isn't for the reader, who is it for?

    So, although each organization has its own style for writing instructional material, we at UpWrite Press not only advocate using second person but also use it ourselves. We reserve third person for reference materials, informational writing, analytical writing, and report writing.

    Thank you for the question. Are there any others?

    - Rob King