Tag Archives: self-improvement

To Develop Confidence In Your Writing, You Must Overcome Self doubt.

With the ongoing explosion in global communications in this age of high technology, writing has become more important than ever before. In January, 2012, in one of my first blogs, I addressed the problem of overcoming self doubt in writing. This is such a an important topic that it deserves a repeat look.

Many people don’t write well because they don’t believe they can. They have no confidence in their writing. “I’m not a good writer!” is an all too often heard personal lament. For those of you who believe they fit into that category, i.e., those who don’t believe they are good writers but want to be, my book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” (available on amazon.com and in print), can help. It provides an organized guide to clear writing fundamentals and sets forth down-to-earth, well-established writing guidelines and techniques that have worked well for others, not hard and fast rules that must be committed to memory and followed at all costs.

As mentioned in the introduction, the underlying proposition of this book is that clear writing is an art form – it can be learned. Anybody can write well – but you need the desire and dedication to do it. If you’re willing to put in the time and learn the skills, the satisfaction and rewards will come. These guidelines and techniques are capable of being learned through application and practice, and should result in a marked improvement in your writing. Even if writing is not your strong suit, you can still improve your writing dramatically by following the guidelines and techniques explained in my book.

Also bear in mind that writing, any writing, is a form of salesmanship, i.e., you are selling yourself. It is a basic sales truism that people will buy from you if they trust you. That truism applies to writing as well. Whatever your purpose in writing may be, whether you’re applying for a job, selling a product or service, writing personal or business letters, writing a company manual, or even preparing something as basic as an interoffice memo, the reader must trust you for your writing to be successful. Achieving this trust will depend on the respect and credibility emanating from your writing. If the reader believes you to be a credible writer and trusts you, you’ve gone a long way toward accomplishing your primary writing goal of selling the reader on whatever you’re writing about. Attracting that trust can be achieved only if you dedicate yourself to improving your writing skills.

Where do you start? Begin with a positive attitude toward what you’re doing, whether writing or speaking. John Adams, one of our Founding Fathers and a prominent lawyer by trade, successfully argued to the jury during the Boston Massacre trial of 1770 that “facts are stubborn things” and cannot be changed no matter how strong are your passions. Adams strongly believed in the rule of law and that the British soldiers he defended (successfully, it should be added), who were accused of murder when they fired their muskets into an angry mob, were innocent.

Thoughts are also things according to Napoleon Hill, author of the influential and best selling personal achievement book, “Think and Grow Rich.” Hill postulated that thoughts can be very powerful things when mixed with definiteness of purpose, persistence, and a burning desire for success.

I’m also reminded of Tim Gallwey’s best seller, “The Inner Game of Tennis”, which is largely about developing the ability to focus your attention on the task at hand. It is more about solving life’s problems by learning the art of relaxed focus and attention to achieve peak mental performance, i.e., getting into a “zone”, than playing tennis.

Clear writing thus 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 obtain confidence you must master what can best be described as the “inner game” of writing, overcoming mental blocks to clear writing. As with other challenges in life, you must develop the right mental attitude. In other words, you can’t write clearly if you are nagged by anxiety and self doubt about your writing. Persistence and determination to write well are omnipotent.

Following the guidelines and techniques set forth in this book is a good start to improving your writing. But it’s also definitely helpful to read self-help books on salesmanship and self esteem in conjunction with your writing development. Good salesmanship depends in large part on having confidence in yourself. Acclaimed lecturer and author Jeffrey Gitomer writes in his “Little Red Book of Selling,” (p.193), that the theme of your success is to believe that you can achieve whatever you set your mind to. His book is an excellent place to start. And keep one of his favorite axioms in mind, “hard work makes luck,” (p.36).

Here’s the bottom line. Whether playing tennis or writing, you must develop confidence in your ability. The best way to gain confidence in your writing ability is by working at it. 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, which should increase your confidence.

Copyright © Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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Learn To Write With Confidence – It’s The Key To clear Writing

Over two years ago, one of the first blogs I published was about the need to write with confidence. This subject is so important to clear writing that it deserves repeating.

Many people complain that they can’t write well. Much of the trouble comes from self doubt about their writing ability. The development of confidence in writing begins with attitude, as with other things in life – if you believe you can write well, then you can. It’s as simple as that.

The secret to developing confidence in your writing is really no secret: you must simply write more. The more you write the better your writing will become and the greater your confidence will grow. Also, increase your reading experience. Read books, articles etc, written by experienced writers, and pay attention to their style of writing, sentence structure, and their selection and use of words.

Reading self-help books on self esteem and salesmanship is also helpful because good salesmanship depends to a large extent on having confidence in yourself, and any writing is a form of salesmanship, i.e., you are selling yourself. It’s a basic truism in selling that people will buy from you if they trust you. That’s true in writing as well. For your writing to be successful people must trust you, and achieving that trust will depend on the respect and credibility stemming from your writing. If the reader believes you to be a credible writer and trusts you, you’ve gone a long way towards accomplishing your goal of selling the reader on whatever you’re writing about.

My book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” (available on amazon.com/kindle books and in print), explains that writing is an art form, which means it can be learned like any other art form. Anybody can write well, but you need the dedication and desire to do it. A now and then approach isn’t going to do it. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, you can improve your writing dramatically. Writing guidelines and techniques can be learned through application and practice, even if writing is not your strong suit. But first you have to decide that you’re going to write well, and then work on your writing on a continuous and ongoing basis.

Start with a positive attitude toward your writing. Clear writing depends 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 obtain that confidence you must master what can best be described as the “inner game” of writing, overcoming mental blocks to clear writing. You can’t write well if you are nagged by self doubts and anxiety about your writing. Persistence and determination to write well are omnipotent. Remember what Napoleon Hill wrote in his classic work, “Think and Grow Rich,” that “thoughts are things.” Application of this principle to your writing can change your destiny by helping you on the road to becoming an accomplished writer if your positive thoughts about writing are mixed with definiteness of purpose, persistence, and a burning desire to get ahead.

I’m also reminded of Tim Gallwey’s best seller, “The Inner Game of Tennis,” which is largely about developing the ability to focus your attention on the task at hand. It is more about solving life’s problems by learning the art of relaxed focus and attention to achieve peak mental performance, i.e., getting into a “zone”, than playing tennis.

Here’s the bottom line: whether playing tennis or writing, you must first develop confidence in your ability. The best way to develop confidence in your writing is by working at it. Practice your writing continuously, and 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 so will your confidence. In this age of global communication, the ability to write clearly will stand you in good stead more than ever before. Because of the explosion of computer technology, the written word has reached new heights of importance. If you can write clearly you will not only enhance your ability to improve your earning potential but will improve the quality of the nation’s work force, which will benefit the country.

So by learning to write clearly, you can help yourself and also help your country. That’s an unbeatable combination!

Copyright©Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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A Weekend Call For Effective Communication

Last weekend I attended a business convention sponsored by ACN, a well established and successful network marketing powerhouse. I received notice of the convention by virtue of the fact that I am an ACN independent business owner. The convention took place in Charlotte, North Carolina, and was well worth the effort, despite residual interference by the massive snowstorm that earlier had swept through the region. The storm kept many from attending and caused great hardship on others to get there despite travel difficulties. I was impressed with Charlotte however, my first trip there, as a clean, upscale city, with quite a bit to offer its residents. ACN’s corporate headquarters is in nearby Concord and convention attendees were provided with the opportunity to tour the premises. I took the tour and found it to be most interesting.

One of the many fine speakers we heard was Larry Raskind, a special guest speaker with a well known, well respected reputation as a motivational speaker and network marketing guru who deservedly enjoys his excellent reputation. Raskind urged that the quality of your life would be determined by your ability to effectively communicate. You must work at your communication skills persistently to make them effective. Persistence defeats resistance. While formal education can make a living for you, self education can make you a fortune. This is a theme that I’ve used as the basis of this entire blog not to mention my book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” available on amazon.com/kindle books as well as in print.

One major step towards effective communication is to improve your vocabulary. This is another topic covered in depth on this blog on more than one occasion. Words are like the colors on a painters palette, argued Raskind, giving you the option to paint effective word pictures as you speak and write. I couldn’t agree more. I have often said that you must find and use the right word to be able to write clearly.

The ability to effectively communicate should be part of your personal development continued Raskind. Building mental toughness should also be part of your regimen, which includes setting a goal of seeing your communication project through to the end. Your personal development journey will not be complete otherwise. Make this part of a three to five year plan in your long term vision towards improving your personal effectiveness.

Raskind also urged listeners to follow the philosophy of Jim Rohn, another well known, widely recognized and respected motivational speaker, and the author of many books, tapes, and video programs. He has helped to train both personal development trainers as well as executives from the country’s top corporations. One of Rohn’s keys to personal development is your attitude towards your business. As applied to clear writing, this means to have confidence in your writing, a subject on which I’ve also expounded. An upbeat attitude towards writing flows from having confidence in it. This in turn means practice, practice, and practice your writing. The more you write, the better and clearer your writing will become. Becoming an accomplished writer should be your goal. Once achieved, you will see huge dividends in terms of your personal development and success.

To tie all this together, effective communication is an integral part of your personal development. This in turn entails development of clear writing techniques. Clear writing is thus the means to an end, a very desirable end, i.e., your success.

Incidentally, for those of you interested in learning more about network marketing, I recommend “Your First Year In Network Marketing,” by Mark and Rene Yarnell, for follow up reading. They acclaim
network marketing as “the greatest opportunity in the history of capitalism.”

Copyright©2014. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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The Importance of Clear Writing

My book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” available on amazon.com/kindle books and in print, contains many guidelines and techniques on clear writing. Here is an excerpt:

In today’s world, language is predominant. It is vital to all communications, and is the key to your personal and business success. The power of the written word is far reaching and depends in turn on the quality of your writing. Writing is therefore of utmost importance.

The ability to write clearly is a requirement for anyone trying to get ahead. Without it, you have little chance to inform or persuade others. Unclear writing wastes both time and money. Your success will largely depend on how well you express yourself.

Whether you are writing for a personal or business purpose, it is the writer’s job to be clear, not the reader’s job to figure out what you’re trying to say. The March Hare’s admonition to Alice, “…you should say what you mean,” also applies perforce to writing. (See: “Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland,” 97, Lewis Carroll, New Ed., MacMillan & Co., 1885). Remember, you are promoting yourself when you write. Poor writing will not only lead to loss of credibility but will stamp you as an amateur and may well cause your reader to stop reading. Good writing sells itself.

Even lawyers, with all their education, are not always good writers. In a profession which devotes extensive time and effort to the written word, it may be surprising to learn that lawyers and judges still strive to improve their writing skills. Bryan Garner, a well known attorney and respected authority in the field of legal writing, has devoted extensive time to lecturing and writing on the subject of legal writing for judges and lawyers. His excellent writing lectures, several of which I attended, have been given across the country. One of his publications, “The Winning Brief,” which I used extensively as a practicing lawyer, contains a wealth of writing tips which should be useful to non-lawyers as well as lawyers. (See: “The Winning Brief,” Bryan A. Garner, Oxford University Press, 1999). This is another lead to pursue for those of you really serious about improving your writing.

Clear writing is easy to say, but what exactly does it mean? The term defies definition, but you know it when you see it. Clear writing means using words effectively. It is evidenced by the orderly and logical presentation of information using everyday language that readers can easily understand. It is well organized, concise and follows other good writing practices as discussed in this book.

A clearly written document should be easy to read and visually attractive so it looks like it’s meant to be read. One practical way of attaining clearness is by fully thinking out what you want to say. Sloppy thinking produces sloppy writing. So, cultivate a habit of accuracy in thinking. Select your words carefully, avoid excess language, and use words economically. This will go a long way toward achieving clarity.

Write as you talk in a natural, conversational tone, one on one, in a way that is not stilted or artificial. More than one writing authority has suggested that it makes good sense to write with a specific person in mind, giving that person the information you would want to receive in return.

A good rule of thumb to follow is to ask the following question at each stage of the writing process: can my thoughts be presented any more clearly?

This book breaks with the traditional approach to teaching English grammar in that it eschews memorization of rules. Memorization of grammar rules is of little use except to pass examinations. It has been my personal experience that as you train yourself to observe and appreciate good writing, you can likewise train yourself to develop and employ good writing habits in constructing sentences. This result cannot be accomplished by memorization of rules, which will have little effect on learning and understanding the context with which words are
used. But, when in doubt, look up the rule.

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. The point was well made many years ago by the late Sherwin Cody, who authored several books and self study courses on writing and learning good English. Learn grammar by “original processes”, he wrote, “not by authorities and rules.” (See: “New Art of Writing and Speaking The English Language,” 59, Sherwin Cody, 1933, 1938).

Increase your own value to others by learning to write clearly. It will pay huge dividends for you.

Copyright©2014. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.


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Income Inequality Is For The Marketplace To Cure

Last Sunday night, January 12, on John Stoessel’s program (Fox News), income inequality was discussed. Bob Beckel, a liberal, was one of the panelists. He wants the minimum wage raised to $15 per hour. Here is my take on the topic.

First, I believe in a free marketplace. Free enterprise is now, always has been, and will remain the growth engine for the American economy. It’s the ticket; the less government intervention the better. There are too many people who look for government to help them get along in life instead of trying to do it themselves.

Income inequality is a byproduct of the free marketplace. The market places a value on your services. It rewards those whose services are deemed to be more valuable, who persevere and have a commitment to improve themselves. There are CEOs of companies who command large salaries in comparison with company workers who command much less. Many people complain that this is not fair. But the shareholders of the companies, who own them, elect the directors who set the salaries of the officers who run the company, and if the company is going in the right direction and is profitable, the directors have the right to compensate those who are responsible. Conversely, if the company is not profitable, the directors have the right to make changes in the company officers. Decisions by the directors are approved or disapproved as the case may be by the shareholders. This is the way it works in a capitalistic, free enterprise economy.

I have attended many business opportunity meetings where people from all backgrounds have provided information as to their successes. People from all races, religions, ethnic backgrounds, and both sexes have testified as to their commitment to success. These folks make huge amounts of income but they got there by perseverance and dogged determination.

Bob Beckel argued that raising the minimum wage is the answer to income inequality. But I suspect that he has never run a business. It has been reported that 92 million people are out of work today, an historic high. How many more people would lose their jobs if the minimum wage was raised? How many employers would decide that cutting payroll is the only answer to rising labor costs, or that part time workers would be less expensive than full time? How many businesses would fail because costs of operation are too high? How many prospective new businesses would be thwarted because of increased labor costs? Increasing the minimum wage when so many people are out of work is not going to put them back to work. Increasing healthcare costs for businesses is not the answer either; this will only add to the current economic woes.

This is not to say that some government intervention in the economy is not necessary. Business can grow too big making some government regulation appropriate. Monopolies in restraint of trade are not in the best interest of economic growth. Neither is abuse of workers. Moderation is the key.

The current economic malaise is the result of an incompetent and inexperienced administration in Washington. A strong and growing economy with a vibrant work force would put more people to work and result of a better living standard for everyone. I think that’s the best answer. There may not be complete elimination of income inequality but I don’t think that’s possible under any system except communism. And if you think those folks living under communism are happy, take a look at conditions in North Korea and Cuba. Ask those folks what they think of their standard of living.

As I have emphasized before, work to improve your writing skills. Clear writing skills will go a long way to increase your earning ability, lessen income inequality, and improve the skill set of the work force. More skilled workers in the workforce will help improve the economy, so improvement of your writing skills will benefit yourself as well as the country. As President Kennedy said at his inauguration in 1961, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

All of the clear writing techniques and guidelines discussed on this blog are available in one place in my book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” available on amazon.com/kindle and in print.

Copyright © 2014. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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Well Constructed Paragraphs Are The Foundation For Clear Writing – Continued

The benefits of strong paragraphing have been previously pointed out in this blog. But the subject is important and deserves repeating.

Paragraphs allow the reader to take a breath while continuing to read. Without them, a reader would face the daunting task of having to read and decide simultaneously when there is a change of thought or subject.

Clear writing flows directly from well composed paragraphing. The effectiveness of any writing will depend directly on how well you have constructed the paragraphs. As further explained below, all paragraphs should be unified in thought, well organized, and coherent.

Paragraphs may be long or short. Moderation and common sense are keys to good paragraphing. If a paragraph is too short, the reader may conclude the writer has given little thought to the writing. If it’s too long, the reader may simply get discouraged.

There are distinct types of writing available for specific purposes, including persuasive, expository, narrative, creative, descriptive, research, and (book) reporting. Paragraphing does not of necessity completely follow the type of writing you are using, but may vary within the main body of the document being written, depending on the context.

Two main groups of paragraphs exist, narrative and descriptive. Other forms of paragraphing may have different identifying labels placed on them, such as chronological, compare and contrast, definition, and others, but it is simpler to place them in one of the two main categories.

For example, a chronological or progressive paragraph is so-called because of its orderly progression from one point to another, often following a time sequence. But it’s still descriptive or narrative in nature. Describing a fishing technique or a golf swing are good examples of the use of such a paragraph. A recipe, which is by nature descriptive, is another example.

As another example, persuasive paragraphing should be used to advocate a position, as follows:

One new law I would like to see enacted this year is one granting equal time for “celebrity puffing,” i.e., an anti- puffing law.

What is “puffing?” It’s a lot of hot air. Like when movie actors such as Robert Redford or Matt Damon try to take advantage of their celebrity status to present their liberal views to the public. A Wall Street Journal article recently reported that Damon and another actor, Ben Affleck, as well as other notables, including Bruce Springsteen and Willie Nelson, have in effect endorsed the philosophy of Howard Zinn, a pro-Leninist historian and one time member of the Communist Party, who died in 2010, by publicly praising him. By law, the public should be allowed to reply to any such public pronouncements by any celebrity. For example, I would say to any celebrity who engages in puffing, “It’s hypocritical of you to use American capitalism to make all your money and acquire celebrity status and then take advantage of that status to foist your liberal (or more radical) views on the public.” An opportunity to speak out in reply should be provided by law. It’s only fair. I for one am not interested in hearing the political views of any celebrity unless there is an opportunity for rebuttal where appropriate. Many media outlets that invite such puffing as news are liberal in their political views and are not interested in allowing any reply. So a one-sided view is presented to the public and it’s often a distortion of the facts.

The foregoing paragraphing guidelines, and more, (with a different example of paragraph advocacy) are contained in my book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” available on amazon.com/kindle books and in print. My book, by the way, contains an excellent recipe for Chicken Tetrazzini from the classic Mary and Vincent Price cookbook, “A Treasury of Great Recipes,” now believed to be out of print.

To all of my readers and followers, let me say best wishes for a happy and successful new year!

Copyright 2014. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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Union Disaster at Chickamauga – Prelude To Its Death Grip on the Confederacy

With the approach of Memorial Day, it seems fitting to devote this week’s blog to one of the Civil War’s most notable, if lesser known battles, Chickamauga Creek.

This blog marks my third venture into writing about significant Civil War battles. The first one dealt with the battles of Antietam and Gettysburg, two pivotal battles that saved the Union. The second one focused on the battle of Shiloh and the rise of U.S. Grant. Both are available as articles on amazon.com/Kindle Books. Here, I continue the thread addressed in the second article, which follows the career of U.S. Grant. In this blog, Grant, as a Major General, is named commander of all Union armies, save for a small area in the southwest, and immediately exercises his authority to relieve beleaguered General William Rosecrans following the disaster at Chickamauga Creek, south of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The counterattack led by General George H. Thomas, who replaced Rosecrans, drove the Rebels back into northern Georgia and opened the gateway to the South for Union follow up and ultimate Confederate collapse.

The year 1863 saw a continuation of the fearful struggle of the Civil War. In early 1863, after the battle at Stones River near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Confederate General Braxton Bragg withdrew his forces southward leaving Union General William Rosecrans (“Old Rosy”) in possession of that town. The spring of 1863 saw U.S. Grant driving down the Mississippi River as part of the renewal of his campaign against Vicksburg, Mississippi, some 200 miles upriver from New Orleans, Louisiana. In northern Virginia, Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s attacks caused withdrawal of Union General Joseph Hooker’s forces north from Chancellorsville, Virginia and across the Rappahannock River. In July, a major Union victory at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where the second attempt by Confederate General Robert E. Lee to invade the north was repulsed by Union forces led by General George Meade. However, there were events shaping up in western Tennessee as well which were also significant.
With the approach of Memorial Day, it seems fitting to devote this week’s blog to one of the Civil War’s most notable, if lesser known, battles, Chickamauga Creek.

President Abraham Lincoln wanted Rosecrans to get moving in Tennessee as well to keep pressure on the Confederates in as many places at one time as possible. In August, 1863, the skillful maneuvering of the Union Army of the Cumberland led by Rosecrans had feinted Confederate General Braxton Bragg into abandoning Chattanooga, a vital railroad junction, and to pull back his army into northern Georgia. This very successful result obtained with relatively few Union casualties caused Rosecrans to be hailed as a hero in his native Ohio. But it was soon followed by Rosecrans overextending his lines as he chased Bragg through mountain gaps below Chattanooga and presaged a Union disaster that was soon to follow at Chickamauga Creek (a Cherokee word meaning “River of Blood,” according to some historians), just south of Chattanooga.

But a heavily reinforced Bragg halted his retreat from Chattanooga and turned on the pursuing Federal army. Engaging Rosecrans along Chickamauga Creek, the collision of the two opposing armies resulted in a bloody two-day battle. When a poorly worded order caused one of Rosecrans’s divisions to pull out to support another unit, a huge, two mile gap was created in the Union line which was exploited by Confederate General James Longstreet as attacking Rebel troops poured through the gap and overran the Federals. Rosecrans ordered General Thomas to take over as Rosecrans was forced to fall back to Chattanooga. For his valiant efforts in shielding Rosecrans’s withdrawal, Thomas became known as the “Rock of Chickamauga.”

The devastating Union loss at Chickamauga Creek on September 19-20, 1863, could have spelled doom for Rosecrans’ Union Army of the Cumberland. But Confederate General Braxton Bragg, appalled at his own losses, hesitated in following up the Rebel triumph by allowing Rosecrans to retreat to Chattanooga and thereby preserve his army while Bragg occupied Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain, mountains south of Chattanooga. Bragg had followed the retreating Rosecrans from Chickamauga and taken possession of Missionary Ridge overlooking Chattanooga and also occupied Lookout Mountain, west of Chattanooga, which Rosecrans had abandoned. Rosecrans also lost control of the Tennessee River and River Road to Bridgeport. Chickamauga became the worst Union loss in the Western Theater. These circumstances in Grant’s view justified Rosecrans’s replacement, effectively ending his military career.

Bragg’s mistakes ultimately led to a Union triumph after Grant, in October, 1863, ordered Rosecrans to be replaced by General Thomas. This order had come about after Grant had received a personally delivered notification from Secretary of War Edwin Stanton naming him as commander of the newly formed Military District of Mississippi. This district combined the departments of Ohio, Cumberland, and Tennessee under Grant’s command and included all of the territory from the Appalachians to the Mississippi River north of the area occupied by Banks forces in the southwest.

Combined Federal forces led by Thomas, Hooker, and General William Tecumseh Sherman, under Grant’s overall command, led their troops in attacks on Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain causing the Rebels to retreat in chaos and ultimately led to the resignation of Bragg. The pell-mell pullback of Rebel troops from Missionary Ridge was particularly galling as the Rebel position had been supposedly impregnable.

The Union victory ultimately opened the way for Sherman’s campaign to Atlanta and subsequent epic march to the sea. Confederate armies would never mount another counterattack and would be reduced to parrying Union blows like an aging, worn out, and overmatched fighter. It marked the beginning of the end for the Confederacy.

In Retrospect

As a long time resident of the Los Angeles vicinity there were many times that I drove south on the I-405 freeway past LAX airport. The first off ramp west past the airport is Rosecrans Blvd. With my continuing interest in the Civil War over the years and in particular my research for this blog, I came to realize and understand General Rosecrans’s contribution to the war effort for the Union cause.

In this era of electronic communications not everyone has the chance to read books on the Civil War. Hopefully this blog will help to fill the gap in knowledge that may be present in those who are interested in this area but do not have the time to read deeply about it.

Copyright © 2013. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.


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Lessons From the Past – Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase, And The Declaration of Independence

My book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” (available on amazon.com at Kindle Books and in print) contains several historical vignettes to illustrate the flexibility of different kinds of paragraphing and the correct use of punctuation.   I’ve focused on Thomas Jefferson in this blog to illustrate two writing lessons:  one to show the use of  different kinds of punctuation, and the other to show how powerful concise writing can be.  Here’s the first:

“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.)”

As to the second lesson, writing with conciseness, my book devotes an entire chapter to avoiding faulty diction.  The choice of correct, clear and effective words is defined as diction.  One of the pitfalls of faulty diction is the use of excess language, or failure to be concise.

Holding your reader’s attention after getting the reader’s attention can be a challenge.  The best way to do this is to avoid the use of an unnecessarily large number of words to expressan idea. Tautology, the needless repetition of an idea in different words, is a fancy word for it, but it’s nothing more than sloppy writing.  Dense, wordy paragraphs and long, rambling, disorganized writing is certain to cause reader discontent and exasperation.  Such writing amounts to pomposity, which will turn your reader off.  Use familiar words.  Write in a conversational and welcoming tone, not stilted or artificial.

Be attentive to every word you write.  Much of the force of your presentation will spring from its conciseness.  Use words judiciously, economically and at a level the reader can understand.  Don’t make the reader grope for a meaning – it may be an unintended meaning.  Less is usually more.  Try to accomplish this result by “squeezing”  your writing until all needless words have been eliminated.  Question the need for everything that appears in your writing.  Due diligence on the issue of wordiness will put you squarely on the road to writing concisely.

Patriotism aside, there is no finer example of the power of  concise, effective writing than the following timeless words from the Declaration of Independence, penned by Thomas Jefferson:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

These memorable words, expressing the maximum in political sentiment in the minimum amount of space, the embodiment of powerful but utter simplicity yet profound in their implication, earned Jefferson a well deserved lasting place in American history.

Copyright © 2013. Arnold G. Regardie.  All rights reserved.



Filed under active voice, clear writing, good diction, history, punctuation, sound sentence structure, tips for good diction, Writing Improvement

Follow These Techniques To Sharpen Your Writing

In today’s world of global communications, the written word is more important than ever before.  Clear writing is your key to success in any endeavor.  Use of clear writing guidelines and techniques will increase job opportunities for you as well as help to advance your career if you are already employed.

Following the tips listed below will put you on the road to writing improvement. As you use these tips, remember that writing is no different than any other undertaking in life – you have to start at the beginning to master it.  All art is created through the exercise of a craft such as painting or sculpting.  Every craft must be taught and learned, including writing.  Clear writing is an art form because it can be learned through the craft of writing.  Almost everyone can write to some degree but to write clearly is a goal worthy of achievement.  The long hours and hard work it may take to get there are tasks eminently worthy of the effort.  Remember that a clearly written document will speak as well of the author as the purpose it seeks to advance.

Know your reader.  If you don’t know who you’re writing for, you may as well not write at all.

Know your subject matter.  Become a maven on the content of your writing.  You need expert knowledge to write with authority on any subject.  If you try to fake it, your reader will see right through you.  Take the time to research your subject matter thoroughly.  The result will be high quality content, a vital ingredient for any successful writer.

Write in a conversational tone.  This doesn’t mean engaging in meaningless chit-chat in a serious letter such as a job application but try to avoid overly stiff, formal writing.  A relaxed, conversational style should be what you are seeking.  This tone of writing will become apparent to you the more you write – and read.

Be concise.  When I was in Toastmasters years ago, we relied on a simple mantra to guide our thinking about speechmaking:  stand up, speak up, shut up.  The same idea applies to writing: say what you have to say in as few words as possible.  Avoid wordiness.

Be consistent.  Use grammar, punctuation, capitalization, etc., in a consistent manner throughout your writing to avoid having the reader believe that you are a careless or sloppy writer.

Use less jargon, i.e., words that are particular to a specific trade or profession.  Use of words that you may know but are unfamiliar to the reader may cause the reader to see you as a pompous writer and to view your writing with suspicion.

Avoid vague or big words.  Be specific.  Write in plain, ordinary English to avoid reader frustration.  The word “cool” is often used in today’s conversation but it’s too vague and abstract to be useful in clear writing.  Use “end” instead of “terminate,” and “use” instead of “utilize.”  Sharpen your word selection by resorting to an unabridged dictionary.  Also, avoid an overly general use of words, which is the product of a lazy mind.  A good writer uses specifics to encourage visualization and the formation of word pictures in the reader’s mind.  Stronger writing will always use definite, specific language because it will be far easier for the reader to understand a concept when the reader’s mind can form images.

Use short sections.  The sight of long, dense, unbroken text is intimidating to a reader.  Break it up into shorter sections with a good topic sentence at the beginning of each section.  Your reader will be very appreciative.  In the same vein, keep your sentences shorter.

Prefer the active voice, i.e., express action directly.  In other words, to borrow a thought from the legendary songwriter Johnny Mercer, you should “Accentuate the positive” in your writing.  More specifically, the active voice makes it clear who is supposed to perform the action in the sentence.  When using the active voice in a sentence, the person who’s acting is the subject of the sentence.  When the passive voice is used, the person who is acted upon is the subject of the sentence.  The active voice eliminates ambiguity about responsibility for action; the passive voice obscures that responsibility.  For example, “You need a special permit to fish in that lake,” is better than “A special permit is needed to fish in that lake.”  More than any other writing technique, use of the active voice will improve the quality of your writing.

Following these techniques will help make your writing clear and persuasive.

Be positive in your approach to writing.  Don’t assume it’s time consuming or unimportant.

All of the writing tips appearing on this blog and on previous blogs on this site may be viewed under one cover in my book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” which is available at amazon.com in print or on Kindle.  The book and my two Civil War articles are featured on my website at http://www.agregardie.com.

Copyright © 2013.  Arnold G. Regardie.  All rights reserved.

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Filed under active voice, clear writing, good diction, punctuation, sound sentence structure, tips for good diction, Writing Improvement

Clear Writing Requires Clear and Consistent Sentences And Use of Personal Pronouns

Clear sentences must have a sound structure.    As has been  pointed out in previous posts,  short, simple
sentences and short, common words, enhance the effectiveness of a paragraph.  Your writing will be streamlined
even further and your writing will be even clearer if you follow the natural word sequence of English speakers – “subject-verb-object -” as closely as possible.   Keep subjects and objects close to their verbs.  Putting modifiers, clauses, or phrases between any of these essential parts of a sentence will make it harder for the reader to understand you.         


Holders of common stock will be entitled to receive, to the extent money is available, a cash payment, as set forth in the accompanying schedules.


Cash distributions will be made to holders of common stock on the payment dates  indicated in the accompanying schedules, if cash is available.

However, sloppy word placement even in a short sentence can cause  ambiguity.  The following sentence makes it appear as if the writer has decided to be disabled:

Ambiguous  –  If you are determined to have a disability, the company will pay you according to the schedule set forth below.

Clearer  –  If the company determines that you  have a disability, it will pay you according to the schedule set forth below.

Also, strive for consistent sentence construction.   Uneven sentence construction will lead to unclear writing.  A common form of mixed sentence construction is use of two negatives in the sentence.  Use of the so-called double negative destroys the orderly construction of the sentence and marks you as an uninformed writer.

For example, a company manual might provide as follows on the subject of extra vacation pay:

No approval of extra vacation pay may be implied in the absence of express approval from the company.

It is clearer to say,

You must obtain express company approval for extra vacation pay.

Other examples:

Wrong:   I haven’t got nothing to say about it.

Right:     I don’t have anything to say about it.

Wrong:   He can’t write no better now than he could then.

Right:     He can’t write any better now than he could then.

Wrong:   He couldn’t hardly run a step.

Right:     He could hardly run a step.

Wrong:   Your invitation cannot at no time be accepted.

Right:     Your invitation cannot be accepted  at any time.               

Introducing yourself to, and using, personal pronouns, will substantially improve the quality of your writing, no matter what the level of sophistication of your reading audience may be.  Pronouns help your readers relate better to your writing by visualizing themselves in the text.

Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th Ed.), defines a pronoun as “any of a small set of words in a language that are used as substitutes for nouns or noun phrases and whose references are named or understood in the context.”  The noun it replaces is called the antecedent.  Thus, in the sentence, gold is not only a rare metal, but it has become a symbol of wealth, gold is the antecedent of it.

As a reminder, the most common types of personal pronouns include I, you, he, she, it, we, and they.  Pronouns can vary in person (first, second, or third) and in number (singular or plural).  Why use them?  Even with a knowledgeable reader, use of personal pronouns will dramatically improve the clarity of your writing.  They will,

–  help keep sentences short and concise

–  provide the information your reader wants to know in a logical order

–  determine who made the statement in question, or who is responsible for the action.

Pronouns also aid the reader in understanding your writing because they eliminate ambiguity and minimize abstract language by encouraging the use of more concrete, everyday words.  They also help to lock in reader interest by allowing you to “speak” directly to your reader and specify exactly who is being addressed.  Remember that you are speaking to the one person who is reading your document, even though it may affect the public at large.  For example,

You should carefully review your ballot before voting,

is clearer and more definite than,

The ballot should be carefully reviewed before voting.

Use of personal pronouns may also avoid the awkwardness of the he/she dilemma.


I saw Ken and Linda at the ballpark today  and bought them each a hotdog,

is better than,

I saw Ken and Linda at the ballpark today and bought him and her a hotdog.

You must provide the requisite information,  including name, address, and telephone number, when replying,

is better than,

The addressee must provide his or her name,  address, and telephone number when replying.

Good teachers should not lose their tempers,

is better than

A good teacher should not lose his or her temper.

Use of the pronoun in the foregoing examples eliminates confusion and allows the sentences to flow more smoothly.

All of the clear writing information posted on this and previous blogs on this site is contained in my book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” which is available at amazon.com/kindle or in print.   Check out my website at www.agregardie.com for further information.

Copyright © 2013.  Arnold G. Regardie.  All rights reserved.

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Filed under active voice, clear writing, good diction, punctuation, sound sentence structure, tips for good diction, Writing Improvement