Monthly Archives: August 2012

The American Dream – You Can Still Build It

One of the best copywriters on the scene today is Bob Bly.  He’s been a  full-time freelance writer since 1982 and has written over 75 books.  I learned about him through my membership in American Writers and Artists, Inc., which I joined several years ago.  I receive emails from him daily.

The latest email, received  on August 27, deals with  eliminating failure from your life.  It’s very well done and deserves to be repeated in essence here.

Bob’s email tells the story of one of his followers who bought books and created a huge how-to file for five long years.    But fear of failure kept him from implementing any of the ideas he read about.  He was never able to get started in any kind of business.  He was in a rut. The bottom line of Bob’s email is that you can only do so much preparatory reading, studying, and listening.   Then it’s time for action.   It’s like reading about hitting a gold ball or tennis ball.  You can only read about it for so long.   Then, you just have to go out and do it.  I agree with Bob’s call to action, but you have to be able to communicate clearly to succeed.

The point I have emphasized in these blogs is that everybody has something to sell.  Whether it’s a product,  service, or information, you stand behind it.  It’s the confidence you have in whatever you’re selling that will shine through to the buyer.  But, no matter what it is, if you can’t communicate the benefits clearly, chances are you won’t sell it. Now is as good a time as any to start making your own destiny.  Work on your writing.  Begin by developing confidence in it by writing everyday.  This is a very timely topic, one I’ve urged on this blogsite many times for the last several months, as well as in my new eBook, “The Art of Clear Writing.”   My last blog urged readers to prepare for opportunity by learning to write more clearly, because clear writing is a basic requirement for success.

This is consistent with Bob’s main point that you have to take action and get out of the comfort zone of reading and studying.  His email advocates entrepreneurship, i.e., starting your own business.  Don’t avoid taking action because of fear of failure.  This was a legitimate concern in pre-internet days because of the large financial investment often required.  He points out that the arrival of the internet makes starting a business financially so much easier than before.  While it used to cost several  thousand dollars to begin a business, it can now be accomplished  on the internet for much, much less.  Bob urges you to begin by starting your own website.  He even specifies a website you can visit for this purpose by buying a domain name to get you started.(www.bobsbestdomains.com).  All of that is well and good.  But if you can’t communicate clearly, you’re going to be swimming upstream.  Bear in mind what I have written previously, i.e., that writing is an art form, meaning it can be learned.   And it’s never too late to start.

My interest in writing led me recently to create my own website, http://www.agregardie.com.  It features my new eBook, “The Art of Clear Writing,” as well as my Civil War article, “Antietam and Gettysburg – Two Pivotal Civil War Battles That Saved The Union.”  It also references this blogsite.  The eBook is replete with basic, reliable writing insights that will help you write more clearly.  It is only available at this time on amazon.com/kindle books.  It sells for $9.99, but can be previewed free of charge.

Among other things, my eBook urges the development of confidence in your writing by reading extensively, studying other experienced writers, then practicing what you have learned by writing on a daily basis.  This is all part of creating self-initiative, vital in today’s economy.    Learning to write clearly can be the pathway out of your rut.  You can learn to write well but you need the desire and dedication to do it.  That little business on the corner is still within reach, but you still have to take action to get there.  Remember: you can still build it – the American dream!    Start by learning to write clearly.

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

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Prepare Now For Opportunity

When Opportunity Knocks, Will You Be Ready?

I’ve been a history buff for many years.   I have taken advantage of this interest to sprinkle several historical vignettes throughout my new eBook, “The Art of Clear Writing,” to illustrate various points.  One of my favorites concerns Thomas Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase.  I think it’s worth repeating here.

                   “Engineering the Louisiana Purchase – A Look Back

It was the hallmark of President Thomas Jefferson’s political philosophy that the Chief Executive should not have excessive power.  Yet, in 1803, when faced with the opportunity to purchase from France the vast, unexplored, Louisiana Territory that  bordered on the western side of America, he cast that belief aside and signed the agreement to buy the territory for $15 million.

Jefferson’s visionary act removed a potential threat to America’s national security.  One option was to take no action at all, thus leaving Napoleon, builder of empires, in possession of the territory.  But Jefferson, taking the advice of American Commissioners abroad, decided on the purchase.  Paving the way for this historical event was the work of Jefferson’s predecessor, John Adams, in securing peace with France during the so-called “Quasi War,” which ended in 1800.

There was considerable doubt as to the constitutional power to make such a purchase. But when the identical issue came before the Supreme Court in 1828 in a different case, Chief Justice John Marshall, speaking for the Court, ruled that “the Constitution confers absolutely on the government…, the powers of making war, and of making treaties; consequently, that government possesses the power of acquiring territory, either by conquest or by treaty.” (See:  John Marshall, Definer of a Nation, 335, Jean Edward Smith, Henry Holt & Company, 1996, quoting from American Insurance Co. v.         Canter, 1 Peters 511, (1828), a case involving the purchase of Florida, but where the issue was the same as that involving the Louisiana Purchase.)”

The Louisiana Purchase was all about Jefferson’s taking advantage of an existing opportunity to increase America’s security when the opportunity presented itself.  Jefferson, an experienced politician and statesman, recognized the opportunity and was ready when it presented itself.

Opportunities also exist in today’s world, but if you can’t write clearly you will not be in a position to take advantage of them.  This is a world of global communications.  The power of the written word is more important today than ever before.  I believe much of the flatness in today’s economy exists because individual initiative has taken a back seat to waiting for government largesse to happen.  This is wrong and goes contra to the  free enterprise economic background of this country.  Your own individual initiative can help turn things around and you can start by fixing your grammar.

To be more precise, clear writing necessitates use of correct grammar.    Recent blogs have pointed out that poor grammar plagues American businesses today.  You can put yourself in a position to take advantage of job opportunities by reading and writing extensively and on a daily basis.  This discipline will increase your ability to write clearly, sharpen your intellect, and will teach you to learn correct grammar by word association.  This approach, also promoted in my eBook, means you don’t have to rely on memorization of grammar rules to learn and use good grammar.  Memorization of such rules is acceptable, even necessary when you are a student, but once you enter the working world it is likely that you have forgotten them.  Moreover, memorization of rules and definitions will have little effect on learning and understanding the context with which words are used.  Training your eye through extensive reading and writing to carefully observe how how grammar is used in putting sentences together and to constantly practice what has been learned will improve your ability to write clearly.  This approach has worked for me.  It can also work for you.  But it requires hard work and dedication.  A now and then approach won’t work.

It is important to remember that writing is a form of salesmanship – you are selling yourself.  Developing trust in your reader depends  on the credibility emanating from your writing.  Attracting that trust can be achieved only if you dedicate yourself to improving your writing skills.  Employers are more selective in this economy, with jobs at a premium.  Clear writing skills will help to make you stand out from the crowd.

Check out my new website, www.agregardie.com.

The next blog will be posted on Friday, August 31, 2012.

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

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Emphasize Letter Writing As Part Of Your Writing Repertoire

My blogs over the last several months have stressed different aspects of writing that need to be addressed to develop skills in clear writing.  If you are fortunate enough to have a job right now, improvement of your business letter writing skills will go a long way toward solidifying your position.  If you’re still looking for work, improving those skills will help you find employment.  Let me be more specific.

Many people don’t believe good letter writing is essential to their economic well being.  Whether it’s disinterest, lack of confidence, lack of training,  or a belief that letter writing is unimportant, time consuming,  unpleasant, or all of the above,  many folks just give letter writing a thumbs down, dismissing the entire subject, with predictable poor letter writing results.  This is not the right attitude.

This blogsite has previously stressed good letter writing as an integral part of your writing ability, but the subject is important enough to deserve repeat attention.  There are many instances where a properly worded letter can make a difference. For example, a properly worded letter of inquiry about a job may open a door of opportunity for you.  A thank you letter for an interview may make a difference to the interviewer because it shows you care.   Similarly, a simple thank you letter to a customer or client may pay huge dividends down the road in the form of repeat business.   Also, a cover letter to accompany a resume is an absolute must.  This letter should introduce you, explain why you are qualified for the position,  explain how your services will benefit the company, and refer to the “enclosed resume” to support your position.  Close the letter by requesting an interview and state when you will be available.  Even if you are not hired, this type of approach will mark you as an accomplished letter writer, which is always welcome in any business.  Merely sending out a resume without a cover letter will get you nowhere.

Letters should also be used to confirm all important conversations, meetings, dates, events, decisions, etc.  In the introduction to the second part of my eBook, “The Art of Clear Writing,” I discuss the paper trail left by Doris Day’s ex-lawyer, the late Jerry Rosenthal, whom I once represented many years ago.   While the sea of paperwork created by this attorney was found to be excessive in the eyes of the judge who tried his case against Doris Day, nevertheless it’s a good idea to develop the habit of leaving a paper trail for future reference.  It will go a long way to avoid potential misunderstandings and is always good business practice.  Adoption of this practice will help make you a hero in the eyes of your employer.   Even if you’re not employed, it’s a good habit to follow for personal purposes.  Needless to say, all of the foregoing admonitions also apply to the use of emails.

Memo writing as a corollary to letter writing should not be overlooked.  Memo writing is good business practice, whether you are sending the memo to another individual in the company or just preparing it for your own future reference.  A memo can be a valuable source of information when you are trying to recall the details of a conference, meeting, or other event, or merely memorializing an important conversation. Memos should not be written in a sloppy or haphazard fashion, but in anticipation that someone other than you may be reading them later.   Once again, even if you’re not employed, memo writing for personal purposes is a good idea.

One last point, although not directly related to letter writing, deserves comment.  Recently  I  blogged about how businesses were complaining that grammar deficiencies were reaching epidemic proportions.  Today, (August 12), one of the announcers in the ball game I was watching complained that, “A complete game today don’t mean as much as it used to.”  I’m sure the announcer didn’t realize that using “don’t” in that sentence instead of “doesn’t” was grammatically incorrect.  The problem is that he would probably write that sentence the same way. And others who heard him will also probably speak and write that sentence the same way.  And so it goes.  The announcer who made the statement is a good announcer, but he’s setting a very poor example so far as use of good grammar in speaking and writing is concerned.

Maybe what we need is a National Clear Speaking and Writing Day to increase public awareness of the need to use good grammar.

Please visit my new website at www.agregardie.com, which features both my eBook, “The Art of Clear Writing,” and my Civil War article, “Antietam and Gettysburg – Two Civil War Battles That Saved The Union.”

The next blog will be published on Friday, August 24, 2012.

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

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Now Is The Time To Learn To Write Clearly; The Economy Needs It

Last week’s blog addressed the perceived epidemic in grammar deficiencies that is plaguing American business today.  It pointed out that the foundation of the American economy is capitalism, i.e., free enterprise and entrepreneurship.  The blog further emphasized that individual initiative has been the driving force behind the economic growth in America.

The blog was intended as a call to action.  You can do your part to move the economy along by becoming a better writer.  The written word is more important now than ever before. In today’s world of global communications, you cannot hope to secure a place unless you can write clearly.  Prepare yourself to meet opportunity.  Begin by learning to write clearly.  It will pay huge dividends for you.

I practiced law in California for over 40 years before retiring.  I saw the writing failures of innumerable attorneys who, despite all their education, still made mistakes in writing.  I attended several writing lectures presented by Bryan Garner, an attorney and a very well respected name in the legal writing community.  His lectures are given nationally.  Each lecture was attended by both lawyers and judges, and each was a sell-out!  In a profession which devotes as much time to the written word as the legal profession does, it was surprising for me to see so many lawyers and judges that still strive to improve their writing skills.

In case the message was lost, let me repeat it now:  it’s never too late to learn!  If you have any doubts about your ability to write clearly, now is the time to get started to erase those doubts.

Begin by developing confidence in your writing.  Clear writing depends to a large extent on the power of belief, belief that comes from having confidence in your writing.  When you have that confidence, it will show – the reader can see it. To develop that confidence you must master what I would call the “inner game” of writing, the mental game.  Overcome the mental blocks to clear writing and you will have travelled a measureable distance down the road to becoming an accomplished writer.

The best way to gain confidence in your writing is to work at it.  Dedicate yourself to it.  Dedicated writing – writing with a purpose – not just writing by rote, will work wonders for your writing confidence.  A good golfer may spend hundreds, even thousands of hours working on his swing, his short game, his putting, all of which are integral parts of the game.  Practice your writing continuously.  Refine it as you go.  Study the style and technique of other writers.  The more you read and write, the more your writing will improve, and the more your confidence will grow.

As an integral part of the confidence-building process, you must also learn how to use words effectively.  This rule applies to speaking as well as writing.  It is the orderly and logical presentation of information that listeners can easily understand that makes a speaker interesting.  A good speaker always uses words effectively.  If you can train yourself to speak clearly, you can also learn to write clearly.  The discipline involved in clear thinking and the organization of materials for the presentation of a speech or talk will also apply to any writing project – mastering this discipline will make your writing stand out.  It will mark you as an accomplished writer.  The March Hare’s admonition to Alice, “…you should say what you mean,” applies perforce to writing.

Even more importantly, clear thinking not only fosters clear writing, it fosters creativity, and creativity in turn fosters job creation.  By organizing your mind so you think logically and in an orderly fashion you will also learn to think freely, to look “outside the box” for solutions to problems.  This kind of initiative, this kind of ability, is what the economy sorely needs.

Check out my new website at www.agregardie.com.   It features my new ebook, “The Art of Clear Writing,” now available at Amazon.com/Kindle books, and my article, “Antietam and Gettysburg – Two Pivotal Civil War Battles That Saved the Union,” also available on Kindle.

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

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Improve Your Grammar To Make A Living; Help Better The Economy In The Process.

There have been recent reports that the grammar skills of people hired by American businesses are deficient.  There appear to be widespread errors in preparation of company memos, emails, brochures, and letters, as well as  in use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin for business purposes.  This is an unfortunate situation which may be reaching the epidemic stage, and is a sad reflection on the writing skills of people who have jobs and are in a position to influence others through their writing.  It is particularly disturbing  in situations involving the distribution of marketing and promotional materials where grammar mistakes may well spell loss of business for  a company or loss of important sales to a salesman trying to meet a quota.  Poor grammar will give you away every time.   You must write with clear and effective English to sell your “product” –  which is you!

Is there an easy fix?  Probably not, but there’s a start.  Many people bemoan the fact that they can’t write.   But I strongly believe that if you write well you can do well, and you can write well if you believe that you can.  That’s the bottom line.  Even if  you think that you have no “gift” for writing, deliberate effort will overcome that belief – practice can turn your inability to write well  into a writing skill.

Much of the poor writing extant in today’s world stems from a lack of confidence in a person’s ability to write well.  But confidence can be obtained through dedicated study and practice.  And that effort is definitely worthwhile!   Clear writing will help you make a living, whether you are employed, self-employed, looking for a job, or looking for your niche.

Some say that  the slow economy has tarnished capitalism’s image.  But, I don’t believe this is true at all.   I believe that free enterprise still flourishes and individual initiative  still beckons.  Capitalism was built on entreprenurism and entrepreneurism is fostered by creativity.  Creativity requires clear thinking, and if you can think clearly you will also be able to write clearly.  You can do your part to invigorate the economy by learning to write more clearly.  Learn to think clearly and you will be on your way to the development of clear writing skills, which will bring you a step closer to the ability to solve problems and master concepts, skills you will need to master no matter what field you are in.  Dedicate yourself to the goal of clear writing, which depends on clear thinking.  There is a clear and ongoing need for creative thinking in the global marketplace, and if you can’t write clearly you will not be able to compete.  Creative thinking will serve you well  whether you are in business for yourself or working for another; that skill will give you an edge over others.

You can begin by developing confidence in your writing.  Clear writing is an art form.  It can be attained like any other art form through dedicated and persistent study and practice.  Take your writing seriously.  Avoid a now and then approach.  Read and write regularly.  Read books, magazines, periodicals,  and articles.  Read authors you like to learn new words, style, and  usage.  Write to practice using what you have learned from reading.  The two go hand in glove.  Remember, if you write well you can do well.  That’s the bottom l.ine.

Put yourself in a position where opportunity can see you and you can see opportunity.  Be prepared to take advantage of situations that will develop if you are ready.  The lack of ability to write clearly will hold you back and impact your ability to get hired or, if working, to advance in your job.   You can make a difference in this economy but you have to be ready.

To write clearly, I have learned that two cardinal writing lessons are paramount:  preparation and organization.  Many people who don’t write well ignore these basic precepts.  Well organized writing begins with well thought out preparation.   This means that to reach the ultimate goal of clear writing you must begin with a thoroughly prepared preliminary plan followed by a detailed outline.  To be sure, you must employ sound writing techniques as well, but if the fundamentals are flawed your writng will suffer.

These fundamental writing lessons are covered in detail in my new eBook, “The Art of Clear Writing,” now available on Kindle.  Its goal is to help those who want to write better to do so.

Also available on Kindle is my article, “Antietam and Gettysburg – Two Pivotal Civil War Battles That Saved The Union.”

The next blog will be posted on Friday, August 10, 2012.

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

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