Monthly Archives: August 2013

Book Review: Adulting By Kelly Williams Brown

snowflake

I am a closested self-help book-lover. I love to read and reread books that promise to help me better myself, even if they never actually come through on that promise. After all, can’t we all stand to become a better person?

Sometimes, a self-help book exceeds my expectations. Sometimes it’s everything that I wanted it to be and so much more. Such is the case for Kelly Williams Brown’s book Adulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 486 Easy-ish Steps. Brown’s book is based off her popular Tumblr blog, found here. If you don’t want to read the book (which you should after reading this review), you should definitely follow her.

Adulting has the potential to improve many aspects of your life, no matter what your age. If you’re a twentysomething who, like me, often feels lost and confused when faced with real-world problems, this book is a must-read. In her book, Williams covers topics such as cooking, cleaning, relationships, work, and hospitality. Her style is entertaining yet educational. It’s like having a sassy, worldly friend give you life-changing advice. And while this book won’t necessarily cause you to have a soul-cleansing epiphany, it should at least make you think twice about your immature attitudes.

If you’re looking for an informative read that’s also enjoyable, look no further than Adulting. While you’re at it, be sure to visit Kelly Williams Brown’s blog, full of even more advice and tips for finally growing up. And if you do read the book, please let me know what you think! I’d love to hear about it.

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More About Email: Some Unwritten Rules

email

I’ve mentioned before how much I love Molly Ford. Her blog is fantastic. It was a pleasant surprise to me to find, in her post for yesterday, that she included a link to an article about some unwritten rules for emails. While I encourage you to check out the link for yourself, I’m including a snippet of it for your benefit. Here’s what The Daily Muse has to say about email:

  1. Your subject line should always be descriptive. “Intro” is not descriptive enough. “Intro: Alex (The Muse) // Jennifer (XYZ Co)” is better.
  2. Keep every email as short as you can; it saves you time and, more importantly, respects the recipient’s time.
  3. The faster you respond, the shorter your response is allowed to be.
  4. Always include one line of context if the recipient isn’t expecting this email. This is as relevant for first-time emails (“This is where we met”) as it is for emails to someone you work with regularly (“This email is about the next phase of that project we’re working on together”).
  5. Put your “ask” or “action items” first in the email, not last, and make them explicit. It should be immediately clear to the recipient what you want.
  6. If there is a deadline, say so. If the request is not urgent, say so.
  7. If you don’t need a response and an email is FYI only, say so.

Some of these tips should be familiar to you by now. After all, I covered some of them in yesterday’s post. But The Daily Muse include several others that I never really thought about. For the full list, click over to the link in the introduction. And check out Molly’s blog, too, while you’re at it. She’s seriously awesome. If you like either of those links, feel free to send the authors an email. Just make sure that you follow these unwritten rules!

How to Write an Email That Gets a Response

phone

No matter how many emails you’ve sent, you have a thing or two to learn about writing an effective one. Email writing is something that everyone needs to learn, regardless of their age. Unfortunately, it’s a skill that few people are teaching. When composing an email, the best way to get a response is to put yourself in the recipient’s shoes. By following some simple guidelines, you can learn to write an email that gets a response.

First of all, is the email necessary? If you have a question, is the answer something that you could easily Google? If the answer is yes, don’t bother writing the email. People are busy. If you insist on demanding a fraction of their valuable time, make it count for something. Time is precious. Any time the person spends on you is something that they can’t get back.

Next, start your email off with a nice salutation. Don’t overthink this part. Use, “Dear ______” for a formal request and “Hi _____” for an informal one. Also, research the person’s title so that you can show them even more respect.

Address the email to a specific person, and make sure that the name is spelled correctly. “Dear Sir or Madam” works, but it won’t endear you to anyone, especially if you’re writing to a person in particular. Once you have a name, be certain that it’s spelled right. Nothing ruins someone’s mood like seeing their name misspelled.

Engage in a little small talk before getting down to business. You want to build a rapport with the recipient so that they feel inclined to respond to your email. Compliment the person, but be honest. You don’t want to come across as fake. Tell the other person how you found out about them, why you respect them, and what you have in common. Once you’ve paved the way with pleasantries, you can tell them why you’re writing.

When in doubt, keep it short and simple. No one likes long emails. No one has the time to read them.

Make your request clear. Don’t beat around the bush. And don’t be vague, either.

Proofread your email and use spellcheck before sending. Please, oh please.

Close with a valediction. Try, “Sincerely, ____.”

Offer something in return. People appreciate quid pro quo.

If you want to follow up, only follow up once. If the other person doesn’t get back to you, take the hint. Move on to better things. They’re either busy or not interested.

Email is a vital method of communication in our busy, modern world. Many people write emails without thinking about them. Of course, that means their emails often get ignored. Armed with these tips, you can craft an email that is sure to get a response. Now, go out there and write an email that would make Hemingway weep.

How to Keep a Journal

journal

Journal writing is one of the easiest and most rewarding methods to improve your writing skill. They’re not just for children anymore. Long gone are the days of “Dear Diary, today I met the boy of my dreams.” In their place is the journal, a simple record of daily life, a snapshot of an individual’s perspective of the world around them.

A journal is much more rewarding than a diary. It can help you track progress, set goals, and remain motivated.

You want to keep a journal, darling? Let me tell you how.

Before you actually record anything, you need to decide which method to use. Will you write down your entries with pen and paper, or will you type your thoughts and concerns into a word processor? Do you want to keep your journal to yourself or share it with the world?

Popular methods of journaling include pen and paper, typing into a word processor, blogging, tweeting, and even letter writing. If you want to write longhand, you can use a composition book, spiral notebook, sticky notes, or specially-made bound book. If you have your heart set on blogging, there are dozens of platforms and hosting websites to choose from. You should select whichever method you’re most comfortable with.

Once you’ve decided on a medium, you should figure out a chunk of time to set aside for writing. This time should be treated as sacred. Make sure you can find a quiet space free of distractions where you won’t be disturbed. Ideally, this time should be daily, though it can be weekly or monthly depending on the type of journal that you want to keep.

There are many different types of journals. You can pick any of these ideas, combine some, or create one of your own. A few different types of journals include dream, career, personal, food, goal, exercise, and task journals. Much like the medium itself, which type of journal you choose to keep should depend on your personal preference.

Daily journal writing is a fantastic exercise. It keeps your mental muscles fit and limber. Additionally, it’s very rewarding to look back through your entries and see how far you’ve come. A journal can serve as a record of your progress and personal growth. So what are you waiting for? Go get a journal!

When to Stop Editing

edit

Ah, the red pen—a staple of exemplary writing.

Fiction writers, nonfiction writers, and poets alike utilize red pens to edit their work. If you don’t use a red pen, you’re certainly familiar with the backspace key and the Track Changes option on your word processor. Editing is a vital part of the writing process. You can’t have good writing without rewriting. As Patricia Fuller said, “Writing without revising is the literary equivalent of waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear.” It’s foolish.

Of course, there is such a thing as too much editing.

When basic revising crosses the line into overanalyzing every single word and piece of punctuation, you know you’re in trouble. Although revising is important, it needs to have a finite end. No piece of writing can be more than nearly perfect. If you go through the same piece over and over again without stopping, you’re sacrificing time and effort better given to new projects.

I am now and have always been a perfectionist. I’m rarely satisfied with my completed pieces. When editing my work, I have a hard time stopping myself. There’s always something that needs to be fixed—in my eyes, at least.

As writers, we can also be our own worst critics. Our standards are different than everyone else’s. Sometimes the prose is not as bad as our minds make it out to be.

Additionally, editing can turn into a vehicle for procrastination. When we’re afraid to start new projects, we waste all our time on polishing pieces that are already excellent. Sometimes we just need to stop. Sometimes we need to give up.

We need to walk away.

If you’re waiting for someone to tell you that your work is perfect, the wait is over. You want someone to tell you that it’s okay to stop? To move on? To start something new?

That’s where I come in.

That thing you’ve been editing to death is fine exactly as it is, I promise.

It’s not a monster. It won’t frighten anybody. Slide it into your desk drawer, close the drawer, and go outside. Take a walk around the neighborhood. Play with your children.

Write something else.

The world doesn’t end just because you stop editing.

What do you think? When do you stop editing?

How to Write a Thank You Note

notes

Imagine getting mail, real physical mail.

You skip down to the mailbox, open the door, and pull out a little envelope addressed specifically to you. Ecstatic, you race back to your living room and tear open the envelope. Inside is a small card with the word “Thanks” on the front. You open the card and read a beautiful thank you note from a potential employee you interviewed earlier that week.

In a busy world, you’re impressed that he took the time to write to you.

Thank you cards are undeniably classy. They say so much without saying a word. By sending a thank you card, you can voice your heartfelt appreciation for a gift, service, or opportunity. While the younger generation might not appear to value thank you cards, they are very important.

If you want to learn to write great thank you notes, follow this simple formula:

formula

Some other points to consider:

  • If someone gives you stationery, write a thank you note to them on a piece of the stationery
  • Always send a thank you note after a job interview
  • A good rule of thumb: send a thank you note unless the gift-giver sees you open the gift in person

Thank you notes are underrated. They can make a bigger difference than you think and often mean the difference between blending in and standing out. The next time someone does something nice for you, why not remind them how much you care?

What do you think? Do you write thank you notes?

Guest Post from Danielle McAnn: The Power of the Pen

power of pen

Or these days it would probably be a typewriter more accurately. Nonetheless, it has the same amount of power. We are all taught to read and write properly as children, in order to be able to communicate with each other better. Here’s why it’s worthwhile improving your writing skills. Writing is communication, and the better we can communicate, the better our friendships and relationships are. Writing is also entertainment, and to be able to entertain (through a play, a novel, a letter, a poem), is a powerful thing. Writing is also persuasion, and the better we can persuade, the more we can influence our lives and surroundings. Moreover, you will never have a job in which you don’t need to read or write even a little, so the better your literacy skills are, the more employable you will be. All of the very most accomplished people in the world (think Barack Obama and Oprah) are also people with great literacy, and excellent reading and writing skills.

Secondly, here’s how. Training companies like GAPS writing offer courses in writing and effective communication, and how to improve your writing skills. Here’s something a little more basic; you improve your writing skills by reading. All great writers read variously and prolifically. Language isn’t something you invent on your own, it’s a system that you adapt to your purposes. The better you understand it, the better you’ll be able to use it.

Danielle McAnn is a copywriter working with GAPS. A team composed of professional writers boasting considerable skill and experience in the media, government, commercial and human resources industries. We help business and organisations take their written communication to the next level by delivering clear and powerful content and making a significant difference in the perception and clarity of key messages. When Danielle’s not writing content she enjoys swimming, shopping and taking her dogs for a walk.