Monthly Archives: July 2012

More Writing “Fitness” Tips

This post  supplements the “fitness” tips posted last Friday.

Last week’s post provided some insights on becoming a “fit” writer.  But there’s more to be said on the subject.

Becoming a successful writer is akin to starting a business in many respects.  Most importantly, it is important to define your writing goals and then set up a schedule to achieve them.   These goals should be frequently reviewed, preferably every week, to be sure you’re still on track.  This discipline will help you achieve the mental toughness which is so necessary to success in any endeavor.  These goals should include development of confidence in your writing, which is of primary importance to your writing success. Other goals should include mastery of clear writing fundamentals such as organization of your thoughts, knowing your reading audience, and knowing your subject matter.

Here are some important tips to follow to achieve your goals:

1. Prepare a schedule, hang it up, and review it every day.

2. Eliminate distractions.  Tune out:

– TV

– Social media – use Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin only once a day, not all day, unless for business.

-Limit family interruptions to the extent possible.  Family considerations are always important in any endeavor, but so is your personal advancement.  You must create time for yourself to take care of business without family interruptions.

– Telephone calls – business calls only during your work time.  No social calls.

3.  An additional goal must include development of writing techniques.  Allow time to study other people’s writing, even if it’s only for an hour. This is an important learning step to help develop vocabulary, learn grammar by observing word association, and observe writing style and word usage of experienced writers.

4.  Most importantly, write every day.  Write something, even if it’s only an entry in your diary or a memo about a project to be undertaken.  Dedicate a set amount of time every day to writing.  This time is your private “workout,” and the goal is to sharpen your writing skills, the same as you would work out to sharpen your golf or tennis game.  Even if you don’t believe you have any talent for writing,  deliberate practice is the key to develop your writing ability, such as it may be, into a skill.

5.  My new eBook, “The Art of Clear Writing,” now available on Kindle, contains many tried and tested approaches to writing improvement, including development of confidence in your writing and organization of your thoughts before you write a word.  It is important to prepare a preliminary plan of what you’re going to write, including a detailed outline, for any major writing project. Also, importantly, you must know who you’re going to write for, your reading audience and, of course, you must know your subject matter.

Here is a brief excerpt from Chapter 3:

“Well organized writing begins with well thought out preparation.  Therefore, reaching your ultimate goal to write clearly begins with a well thought out preliminary plan followed by a detailed outline.  This is the foundation for your writing.  If this foundation is weak, your final document will suffer.

A good outline, the outgrowth of your preliminary plan, is akin to the blueprint for a building.  No self-respecting architect would build anything without a blueprint; likewise, every successful sports coach prepares a game plan, every general a battle plan.  So, preparation of a preliminary plan comes first.

The preliminary plan should be a concise summary of what you intend to write.  This plan is essential to clear writing, which cannot be achieved unless you know what is in your own mind.”

Fundamental writing guidelines and techniques are covered in detail in this eBook.  It is available for purchase on Amazon’s Kindle Store at the modest price of $9.99, but you can preview a sample, including the Table of Contents, without charge.

6.  Get ideas about what to write about from what AWAI calls your “Swipe file.”  AWAI (American Writers and Artists, Inc.) is a copywriting group to which I belong.  This file should contain copies of advertisements, articles, letters, etc. Add to the file frequently.  Refer to it to give you ideas for writing projects and to help you in your efforts to better your writing skills.

7. Remember, persistence and determination are omnipotent.

8.  One last thought.  If you don’t write something to express yourself, the world will be a poorer place.  It is the act of expression which makes a difference.  Expression influences others, and the clearer you write the greater your influence will be.  You may well have something to say which will make a huge difference to someone, only you have to say it first.  It may only be the germ of an idea but, in this economy, even a germ of an idea can become a gem.  And, speaking of the economy, the ability to write clearly will boost your chances to get a job or to advance in your job.  If you run a  business, having your employees write more clearly will improve business dramatically.

My article, “Antietam and Gettysburg – Two Pivotal Civil War Battles That Saved The Union,” is also available in the Kindle Store.

The next post will be on Friday, August 3, 2012.

Copyright © 2012.  Arnold G. Regardie.  All rights reserved.

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Writing “Fitness” Is Essential To The Development Of Clear Writing Skills

Here’s a “fitness” secret to keep in mind – write every day.  It’s like your daily physical exercise, only it’s about writing.  The more you write, the faster you will become a “fit” writer.  Find something to write about, formal or informal.

For example, the other day I saw an article in the Wall Street Journal about one of my “favorite” politicians, who shall remain unnamed here.  I wrote a comment to this article and so far have received 22 recommendations to the comment.  This response was gratifying because it only took me a minute or two to write the comment, and because it apparently had a far reaching impact on other readers.

Writing fitness is like physical fitness in one respect: you should vary your approach to it so you don’t get bored.  Don’t lose focus.  Find  ways to stay motivated about your writing.  Make a commitment to yourself, set a goal, and stick to it.  A good approach that works for me is to write on a topic of interest, save it on Word, and  use it on a later date if I don’t publish it immediately.

Another way to keep fit is to work on your paragraphing.  Effective paragraphing was previously stressed on this site last March,  but the subject bears repeating.   There is more to writing a good paragraph than just stringing a few sentences together.  For one thing, overall appearance of your writing is important, so paragraphs should be uniformly indented.  Also, begin each new paragraph with a new thought.  Beware of too many short paragraphs, which suggest that a writer has not given enough thought to his writing.  Other requirements for tight paragraphs include the following:

1.  Use of a topic sentence will unify the paragraph, start the reader in the right direction, and tell the reader where you are heading.  A concluding sentence will tell the reader what you have said.

2.  Achieve paragraph coherence by clear arrangement of sentences, and connect them by use of reference words, key words, parallel structure, and transitional words and phrases.

Paragraphing can take many forms.  The following example uses narrative paragraphing to tell a story:

The lingering echoes of California’s 1849 gold rush can still be heard today.

It was a watershed event in America’s economic history, starting innocuously enough with the discovery of gold at John Sutter’s sawmill near Sacramento, California.  Pandemonium reigned with the spread of news as the influx of gold seekers into California swelled to a crescendo.  Outsiders from all over the world poured into California; they sailed around South America, crossed Panama, and swarmed in from other parts of the world.  San Francisco mushroomed from a sleepy little village to a boom town virtually overnight.

California became known as the “Golden State.”  The huge supply of gold that was ultimately generated provided riches for the  United States.  The enormous amount of gold now available enabled the U.S. Mint to add two new gold coins, the gold $1 coin and a large, heavy $20 coin (Double Eagle).

So began a new worship of money.  The discovery of gold paved the way for the transformation of pastoral America to manufacturing America and for the institution of the gold standard – paper money backed by gold and free convertibility of currency into gold.  The price of gold was pegged at $20 per ounce.

But the gold standard worked to the disadvantage of indebted farmers, who favored bimetallism (as did Alexander Hamilton), and the minting of silver coins to create cheap money.  Their struggle with depressed crop prices in the late nineteenth century was aggravated by a shortage of money and an escalation of the farmer-banker conflict.

Banker J. Pierpont Morgan was a strong advocate for the gold standard.  But to William Jennings Bryan, the Democratic nominee for president in 1896, Morgan was a Pontius Pilate who nailed starving farmers to a cross of gold.  The agrarian fanatical hatred for the gold standard was reflected in Bryan’s famous speech at the 1896 Democratic convention, when he passionately proclaimed to thunderous applause that “mankind shall not be crucified on a cross of gold.”

America eventually departed from the gold standard in 1933 when President  Franklin D. Roosevelt, responding to the depression, impounded all the country’s gold.    In 1971, because of a serious cash flow crisis, President Richard Nixon permanently closed the gold window by decreeing that the U.S. would not exchange gold for dollars for anyone.

With the departure of the gold standard came the untrammeled printing of money by the U.S. and other nations.  This creation of easy money (fiat money, i.e., money created by government decree) leading to excessive spending and the resulting budget deficits have arguably directly contributed to the sovereign debt crisis plaguing much of the world today.  As a solution, some analysts are now calling for a hardening of currencies and a return to the gold standard.

 One of the simplest teaching vehicles to illustrate the viability of the foregoing paragraphing concepts, believe it or not, is a recipe.  Here’s a recipe for “California Gold Rush Brownies.” My wife has been making them for years.   The recipe is as easy as pie (no pun intended) and makes great brownies!

 Only four ingredients are required.  They are as follows: 30 whole Honey Maid graham crackers, 2 cans of sweetened condensed milk, 1 tablespoon of milk, and 12 ounces of chocolate chips.

Preparation of the ingredients for baking is easy.  Break up the graham crackers and add them, a few at a time, to a food processor, grinding them until very fine.  Place the ground up crackers in a bowl with the sweetened condensed milk and 1 tablespoon of regular milk.  Mix well and blend in the chocolate chips.

Baking is the next step.  Place the mixture into a well buttered 9 by 12 inch baking pan, pressing down evenly.  Bake them in a 350 degree oven about 25 to 30 minutes until the sides start to separate from the pan.  These brownies are best when soft, so don’t overcook them as they will become too dry.

Finally, let the brownies cool and cut them into squares.  The recipe makes 24 to 30 squares, depending on how big they are cut and what size pan is used.  Add chopped nuts if desired.

WARNING: these brownies are habit forming and disappear fast.  They never disappoint.  You’ll have to taste them to believe it!

 I selected this recipe to use  because it’s easy to formulate topic sentences for the paragraphs.  While you don’t have to use topic sentences in this recipe because it’s so short, using them here will help you get in the habit of using them.

Both the narrative paragraph and the brownie recipe will be found in my forthcoming eBook, “The Art of Clear Writing,” soon to be published on Kindle.

My article, “Antietam and Gettysburg – Two Pivotal Civil War Battles That Saved the Union,” is presently available on Kindle.

Copyright © 2012.  Arnold G. Regardie.  All rights reserved.

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Clear Writing Secrets Used By Doris Day’s Ex-lawyer

As promised last Tuesday, today’s post  is a preview of my soon to be published ebook, “The Art of Clear Writing.”  This preview is taken from the introduction to Section I of the ebook.  It explains how I came to represent multi-talented singer/actress  Doris Day’s ex-lawyer, Jerry Rosenthal, back in 1974, and the writing secrets he passed on to me.

Here’s the excerpt:

“Once upon a long time ago, I was the lead defense lawyer when Doris Day won $26 million from her lawyer/business manager, JerryRosenthal.  You may have heard about it.  That was way back in 1974.  What’s the relevance here?  The case enabled me to meet Rosenthal, who,with all of his faults, was nevertheless an accomplished legal writer.

Rosenthal, who died in 2007, believed strongly in the persuasive power of his writing.  He never undertook any writing project without concentrating intensely on it. Valuable writing lessons were there for the taking.

Let me explain.

It all began for me in 1972, when I left the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, and joined the Los Angeles law firm of Kirtland and Packard, which specialized in insurance defense cases.  Shortly after I joined the firm, Bob Packard, the firm’s senior partner, handed me a file and asked me if I wanted to meet Doris Day.  I thought he was joking, but it was a serious question.   Her cross-suit for legal malpractice against Rosenthal was one of many cases then pending in the office.  The question sparked an immediate interest in the case for me.   Doris Day was then, and still is, one of my favorite entertainers.

I had tried many cases as an Assistant United States Attorney, and ultimately, because of that experience, I took over responsibility for the case. There was little appreciation then for the enormous time constraints which would be imposed on me for the next two years.

Before finishing with the case, I was confronted with the need to research, and understand, a huge array of complex legal issues which were enmeshed in the case.  These included aspects of entertainment law, corporate law, partnership law, contracts, income tax law, and oil and gas taxation, just to name a few.

Notwithstanding the huge inroads on my time required by the case, I developed an intense interest in the background of the parties as they related to each other.  The Melchers and Jerry Rosenthal enjoyed a smooth relationship for many years, dating back to around 1951. There was no hint of the bitterness and acrimony which later was to develop.  Rosenthal and Doris Day’s husband and business manager, Marty Melcher, were extremely close, “like brothers,” as Rosenthal once said, holding up an intertwined index and middle finger to emphasize the point.  They had offices down the hall from each other at 250 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, California, and conferred with each other virtually on a daily basis about Day’s business and financial affairs.  Day relied exclusively on Melcher to handle all of her business and financial affairs and Melcher relied exclusively on Rosenthal to handle all of the Melchers’ legal affairs.

All of that changed in 1968 when Marty Melcher died.  According to Rosenthal, Day failed to honor certain contractual obligations involving her investments in hotels and oil wells. So, Rosenthal took the only step which appeared open to him – litigation, suing her for breach of contract. The trouble with Rosenthal’s case was that he had a ten per cent financial interest in those investments, a clear conflict of interest, which was fully disclosed and consented to in writing by the Melchers.  Day sued Rosenthal back for legal malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty based on conflicts of interest, and other theories.

The case went to trial in 1974 in Los Angeles County Superior Court before Judge Lester E. Olson.  At the end of a six month court trial, jury having been waived, (thirteen cases, unluckily for Rosenthal, were consolidated for trial), the judge commented that, “Somebody should write a book about the case.”  Although the judge looked at me when he made that comment, the book has never been written.  Not yet anyway.  It was simply too traumatic to relive the ordeal of that trial, the tension, the long hours, and the continuing crises and deadlines that surrounded it, as well as the prospect of having to deal further with Rosenthal, which would have been another trial unto itself.  But now that I’m retired and with the ameliorating effects of the passage of time, and Rosenthal’s death, I may confront those demons and do it yet, in one form or another.  There would be quite a bit to tell.

Jerry Rosenthal had a genius I.Q., or so he claimed, with an ego to match. That was the cause of many of his problems, but that’s a whole different story, which we’ll leave for another day.  Despite Rosenthal’s detractors – there were a lot of them; many thought him devious, arguably deservedly so – he could also be quite a charmer when the mood struck him. At one time he hosted a whole stable of Hollywood celebrities as clients including actors Kirk Douglas, Hedy LaMarr, and Gordon MacRae, and producer Ross Hunter, among others.

Rosenthal was an experienced litigator who knew his way around the courtroom.  He often tried to use his courtroom wiles as a bludgeon against his adversaries, usually successfully.  One of his enduring traits was tenacity, some called it plain stubbornness, a trait which was overused in Rosenthal’s situation because he usually failed to surrender on any issue, even a trivial one.  Moreover, his negotiating stance, when negotiations were in order, was often unrealistic in view of existing circumstances.   (When it comes to writing, however, tenacity can be a crown jewel, as pointed out … in the section on development of confidence in your writing.)

One of the lingering memories of my relationship with him was his penchant –call it a phobia – for using the right word, whether in writing or speaking.   Rosenthal boasted to me one day that the clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court had advised him that his framing of the issue in a petition he had written was the most clearly worded issue the clerk had ever seen.

I had long held a strong interest in writing even before meeting Rosenthal.  But his fixation on word selection, together with his extensive vocabulary and his flair for writing, piqued my own long standing interest in that subject and caused me to focus on my writing even more readily.  He screened all the documents I prepared during the case with a critical eye, concluding when satisfied, “That’s a good paper.”  If the comment wasn’t forthcoming, the “paper” went back to me for more revisions.

There were probably three singular writing lessons I took away from my relationship with Rosenthal.  First, carefully plan what I am going to write. Second, cultivate a propensity to find and use the right words, the precise words, to fully express my thoughts in writing.  Third, thoroughly review and edit my work before pronouncing it “done.”  These lessons, together with my continued perseverance and research, led to the development of an effective writing style over the years.

Now, I want to pass the fruits of that experience on to you.  Mastery of the guidelines and techniques explained in this ebook will go a long way to improve the clarity of your writing.  The ability to write clearly will greatly enhance your efforts at advancement in whatever undertaking you may choose.”

That concludes the excerpt.  Next Friday, I will pass on another excerpt from my ebook for you.  It will be a “recipe” for clear writing success.

In addition, my article “Antietam and Gettysburg – Two Pivotal Civil War Battles That saved The Union,” is now available on Kindle.

Copyright © 2012.  Arnold G. Regardie.  All rights reserved.

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Preview of “The Art of Clear Writing,” Coming Friday, July 13, 2012

My new ebook, “The Art of Clear Writing” is in the polishing stage.  This Friday’s blog will contain a preview of part of  the ebook’s content.  It will reveal certain special writing tips of multi-talented entertainer Doris Day’s ex-lawyer, Jerry Rosenthal, an acccomplished legal writer, which I learned,  that can help you write more clearly.  The preview is set to be published Friday, July 13, 2012.  Watch for it!

In the meantime here’s another writing tip to bear in mind:  Learning the art of clear writing will help you survive these tough economic times.

Arnold G. Regardie.


Filed under clear writing, good diction, Writing Improvement

Clear Writing Should Conform To Correct Idiom

Use of a faulty idiom is another writing fault that will impede your ability to write clearly.  A faulty idiom is an expression which, although using correct grammar and reflecting a correct meaning,  nevertheless combines words in a manner that is contrary to accepted usage.  “Ann enjoys to shop” is wrong, not because the combination of words offend logic or grammar, but because it is incorrect usage.  “Ann enjoys shopping” is better.  Also in the same category is the statement, “I know Pete for many years;” it is better to say, “I have known Pete for many years.”

Other commonly used idioms include the following examples:

                                      Faulty                                Correct

                                       listen at                                 listen to

                                       different than                       different from

                                       in the year of 2012              in the year 2012

                                       possessed with ability         possessed of ability

                                       independent from                independent of

                                       comply to                               comply with

                                       enamored with                      enamored of

                                       plan on                                   plan to

                                       try and                                    try to

There are no rules to follow for correct idioms; they simply must be learned.  A good approach is to make a list of them and memorize them as you would memorize new words.    Also, training the eye to be alert for the correct use of idioms (as you can train the eye for correct word association in learning good grammar), repeating aloud, writing, and visualization, are also useful for memorizing specific expressions that give you trouble.

In many idioms the meaning is controlled by a preposition.  A verb, adjective, or phrase must be used with the right preposition.  Sometimes, however, even using the right preposition can result in an incorrect idiom.  A very commonly misused phrase is “with regard [not regards] to.”  But “as regards (a matter)” or “with kind regards to (a person)” is correct.

 Another very common mistake is to write (or say) “I’m waiting on (someone or something)” when you should write or say, “I’m waiting for (someone or something).”     If you’re a baseball fan, you will recognize that this particular poor usage of words will, unfortunately, show up repeatedly during a game when an announcer describes a hitter as “waiting on the fastball (or other pitch),” instead of saying he’s “waiting for the (pitch).”  Also, often heard  in baseball parlance is an announcer describing a player’s action as “if he’s catching that ball,” instead of saying, “if he had caught that ball …”   It is regrettable that many people will write this way, because they will assume it is correct usage.

Another commonly heard phrase is “Listen up,” when the correct usage is “Listen here,” or “Listen to me.”  Finally, advertisers often include, “It’s for free,” in their advertising. The correct usage is simply, “It’s free.”

 Here is a short list of correct prepositional idioms:

                 accused of (a crime)                                        charge for (a purchase)

                 accused by (the police)                                   charge with (a violation)

                 agree with (an individual)                               convenient to (a person)

                 agree to (a proposal)                                        convenient for (a purpose)

                 correspond to (things)                                      part from (a person)

                 correspond with (a person)                              part of (a thing)

                 in accordance with                                           the position of

                 accord with                                                       a position as

                 angry at (a condition)

                 angry with (a person)

Another common fault is to mix idioms by using the first half of one idiom and the second half of another.

                   Wrong:  Stalin had no hesitation to use force.

                   Right: Stalin had no hesitation in using force.

                   Also right:  Stalin did not hesitate to use force.

Watch for my ebook,  “The Art of Clear Writing,” coming soon on Kindle.  Also, my article, “Antietam and Gettysburg, Two Pivotal Civil War Battles That Saved the Union,” is now available on Kindle.

The next blog will be posted on Friday, July 13, 2012.

Copyright © 2012.  Arnold G. Regardie.  All rights reserved.


Filed under clear writing, Writing Improvement