Tag Archives: Doris Day

Finding the Right Word Is Critical to Correct Diction

Last week’s blog emphasized the need to have correct diction, the choice of correct, clear, and effective words, as a step towards clear writing.  There are several pitfalls to avoid. Being concise in your writing and eliminating excess language is part of this process.  Having a powerful vocabulary is also necessary to achieve this goal.  But a strong vocabulary will also help to avoid another pitfall on the road to correct diction – failure to use the exact word.

Searching for, finding, and using, the right word is a process I’ve learned to focus on as part of my ongoing writing experience.  Many years ago I was head of the legal defense team responsible for defending Doris Day’s lawyer, Jerry Rosenthal, against legal malpractice charges.   I came away from that case impressed with Rosenthal’s writing skills, and in particular with his penchant to find and use the exact word he needed to precisely express his thinking, whether in writing or speaking.  He had a fixation on word selection, and an extensive vocabulary to go with it.  He 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.  My involvement in this case and the writing tips I picked up are discussed in more detail in my eBook, “The Art of Clear Writing,” available at amazon.com/kindlebooks, soon to be available in print as well.

The lesson I’ve learned is not to settle for approximations of my thoughts.  Imprecise words and expressions detract from clarity and may cause your reader to question all the other  statements you make.  Generalities will roll off a reader like water off a duck’s back.  Accuracy of word usage is what you are after. The U.S. Government has attempted to encourage the development of better writing in the Plain Writing Act of 2009, which inspired some of the ideas used in my eBook.  This legislation is an attempt by Congress to enhance citizen access to government information by mandating that government documents issued to the public must be written in plain English.  But as pointed out in the Acknowledgements for my eBook, the government’s use of the term “plain writing” is not as accurate as the use of “clear writing” would be, because the former is somewhat ambiguous.   What is “plain” writing?  Is it “plain” because it is not fancy, because it is not written in some esoteric script, or for some other unknown reason?  The mental discipline of searching for and finding the right word will pay huge dividends for you in developing a clear writing style.

The use of the word “cool,” greatly overused in today’s society, is a good example of a word which has no precise meaning.  It has little place in formal writing.  Use of precise words to describe exactly what you see in a certain locale is one example of where specificity is greatly needed.  Generalization here will fall flat. For example, if you were to write that Murphys, California is a “cool” place to visit, the reader would have little understanding of what you mean and would have no incentive to go there.  But if you wrote that it’s nestled in the farmland of the upper San Joaquin Valley, that you must drive through rolling pastoral countryside to get there, that it’s a living remnant of the Old West, and that it’s a shopper’s delight complete with casual dining and a nearby winery, the added specificity will make a visit sound much more inviting.

If you were writing a review of a machine and you simply wrote that it is a “bad” product, this description is far too general.  “Bad” is an overworked word and not very specific in this context.  But if you wrote that the machine requires far too many repairs to meet acceptable consumer standards, this is an obvious gain in specificity.

An overly general choice of words is frequently the mark of a lazy mind. Sharpen your word selection by resorting to an unabridged dictionary and a thesaurus.  A general word will usually have many definitions to choose from to make your meaning definite.  When a shorter synonym for a word is available, use it.  Often you will find that the use of a shorter synonym for the word you are using is the best option. Use common words such as “end” instead of terminate”, “explain” rather than “elucidate,” and “use” instead of “utilize.”

Write every day to sharpen your writing skills and to gain confidence in your writing.  Also, read extensively to broaden your vocabulary and to learn how experienced writers put words and sentences together.

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

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The Economy Needs You To Join The Skilled Work Force

Everybody needs to make a contribution to improving the economy.  You can do your part by learning to write more clearly.  This may seem like a small contribution, but it’s an important one, and every little bit helps.

Learning to write more clearly will help make the work force more effective.  Making the work force more effective will help the economy grow.  That’s the bottom line.

Last week’s blog alluded to the need to have a skilled work force to help move the economy ahead, a topic touched on in the presidential debate on October 3.  One of the 5 points urged by Mitt Romney was to have a skilled work force to encourage the growth of small business.

This is a crucial point because the growth of small business is badly needed as a means of reducing the country’s unemployment burden.   Small business employs a huge number of workers and creates two thirds of the jobs but without lower taxes and less regulation, growth in small business is stifled.

Education is a vital key to reach the goal of increasing employment. Without doubt, education includes learning to write clearly.  To put it differently, clear writing is a goal unto itself, but education in the form of learning how to write clearly, is a means to that end.  To continue that thought, small business needs a skilled work force to succeed, and without the ability to communicate clearly, any work force is at a disadvantage. I’ve said it before on this blog site, but it bears repeating:  the power of the written word is more important today than ever before.  It’s your key to the future.

My eBook, “The Art of Clear Writing,” is all about writing clearly.  It is designed to improve the clarity of writing for all those who feel their writing needs improvement.  The eBook opens with a story about Doris Day’s lawsuit against her former lawyer, Jerry Rosenthal.  I was head of the defense team in that case.  The court found that Rosenthal had his faults so far as his representation of Doris Day was concerned, but he nevertheless was an experienced and effective legal writer.  He had a 3-step routine that he followed for any writing project: he always carefully planned what he was going to write, made it a point to find and use the right words to fully express his thoughts, and thoroughly reviewed and edited his writing before pronouncing it “done.”  The eBook is available at amazon.com/kindlebooks and can be previewed free of charge.

These are key lessons to learn for anyone who believes their writing is substandard.  They are important steps to take on the road to developing confidence in your writing.  The underlying proposition of my eBook is that because writing is an art form, it can be learned.  But you need the desire and dedication to do it.  If you’re willing to put in the time, the rewards will come.  Even if writing is not your strong suit, you can still learn and significantly improve your writing ability by starting with the three lessons mentioned above.

Another important writing feature extolled in my eBook is that good grammar can be learned by word association.  It’s not necessary to memorize grammar rules to learn to write clearly, although memorization may still be necessary to pass examinations.  Memorization has little effect on understanding the context with which words are used.  The best expression of thoughts through good grammar can be learned by observing the association of the right word with the appropriate context in a sentence.  The emphasis should be on training your eye to carefully observe how grammar is used in putting sentences together and to constantly practice what you have learned in your writing.  This approach requires training the eye to recognize correct word association through extensive reading, and regular practicing of your writing.  I have had personal experience with this approach.  It has worked for me; it can work for you as well.

The ability to communicate clearly is vital for job placement, career advancement, earnings potential, and business success.  There is no better time to undertake the task of improving your writing. Start today. The economy needs your help.

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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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