The curse of knowledge

Turns out we know too much, and it’s a curse. The trouble is, once we know something we can’t imagine not knowing what we do. So our messages occasionally miss the mark, because they pay no regard to the ‘unknowing’ state of mind of our listeners. Academics are cursed by knowledge. They’ve spent years –…

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Let’s talk pictures

Humans are wired for pictures, but that doesn’t mean we should stop writing. Fifty per cent of the human brain is involved in visual processing, and 70 per cent of our sensory receptors are in our eyes. So why do I bother writing? Because I can’t draw. And clients I work for have lots to…

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George Orwell’s rules of good writing

George Orwell argued that “if thought corrupts language, language can often corrupt thought” and proposed six rules of good writing. • Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print • Never use a long word where a short one will do • If it is…

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Beware the abstract noun

A writer’s job is to make people see. When people see, they understand (that’s why we often say “I see” when we understand). But here’s the problem: Most business writing is clogged with words that obscure rather than clarify. Sometimes the fog is so dense that readers give up. The culprit? Abstract nouns – nouns that…

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Choose how to think

In 2005, award-winning US novelist David Foster Wallace addressed the graduating class at Kenyon College with a remarkable speech about the lifelong importance of choosing how to think. His message – that the real value of education has almost nothing to do with knowledge and everything to do with simple awareness – calls each of…

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Tricks of rhetoric

What do Snoop Dogg, Bruce Forsyth, JFK, Billy Ocean and William Shakespeare have in common? The answer is chiasmus (pronounced ki-AZ-mus). With my mind on my money and my money on my mind. Nice to see you to see you, nice. Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind. When the going gets…

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EB White

Words of wisdom

The kind folks at have complied a reading list of all the famous advice on writing, featuring words of wisdom from such masters of the craft as Kurt Vonnegut, Susan Sontag, Henry Miller, Stephen King, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Susan Orlean, Ernest Hemingway, Zadie Smith, and more. Here’s a taste: Stephen King on adverbs. King hates adverbs. The adverb is not your friend.…

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How to write short

We love this book. America’s most influential writing teacher offers an engaging and practical guide to effective short-form writing. In HOW TO WRITE SHORT, Roy Peter Clark turns his attention to the art of painting a thousand pictures with just a few words. Short forms of writing have always existed-from ship logs and telegrams to…

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Stories marshmellow

The chemistry of connections

In his video, The Future of Storytelling, Paul Zak, director of the Centre for Neuroeconomic Studies, takes us inside his lab, where he studies how people respond to stories. He found that even the simplest narrative could elicit a powerful empathic response, provided it followed a classic dramatic arc. Watch the video.


The shape of stories

Stories take many forms. Kurt Vonnegut talked about story shapes. He said a story’s main character has ups and downs that reveal the story’s shape. It took New York designer Maya Eilam to turn Vonnegut’s story shapes into pictures. View Maya’s Kurt Vonnegut infographic.

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