the whole-y grail

the whole-y grail

the whole-y grail

Official blog of the warden ettinger group, a full-service, Phila., PA-based PR firm serving a diverse consumer, lifestyle + nonprofit clientele. Our culinary division, The Whole Enchilada PR, caters to restaurateurs, chefs + other food-related businesses, while "the word exchange" is aimed at clients seeking à la carte copywriting services.

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#writingwednesday: keep it short + sweet

November 6, 2013

how to write short     

In the better late than never category, we are finally in sync with a twitter trend we’ve so far ignored (unintentionally, however): sending out writing tips on Wednesdays. Today’s tips come from Huffington Post, which @eatDEWwrite constantly gushes over for one reason or another, and How To Write Short author,  Roy Peter Clark. As tempted as we are to add to this line of conversation, we’re sticking to the theme and uh, skipping the excess verbiage. We’d love to hear from YOU though, on the tips that you agree or disagree with, how you’ve implemented them, and which one is your favorite. Come back every Wednesday for more, and send us some writing tips of your own.

punctuation = better communication

October 1, 2013

→Last week I was so focused on National Pancake Day, that I missed the memo about National Punctuation Day on 9/26 (I just saw that DEW did get a post up on our Facebook page; she’s good). Could this be because on a scale from 1-10, my love for pancakes stacks (way) higher? Yes. But, since punctuation is pretty darn important—and too often gets ignored—l’m going to give some belated love to the subject.

After all, using punctuation correctly not only tells your readers what you are saying, but how you are saying it. Things like tone and clarity are all affected by punctuation. If you know what you’re doing, “.,-_;’: can bring life and personality to your words. On the other hand, if you toss punctuation out the window, not only will your sentences be confusing to readers, your credibility will instantaneously drop. (For a laugh, check out these funny misuses of punctuation.)

Since there are too many rules to hit in one blog post, I thought we could focus on three of the mistakes that I’ve recently noticed people making most—especially on social media:

 
1) Putting apostrophes on acronyms:

According to PSU’s “Style for Students Online,” in technical writing, acronyms and numbers are frequently pluralized with the addition of an “s,” but there is typically no need to put an apostrophe in front of the “s.” Therefore, “SSTs” (sea surface temperatures) is more acceptable than “SST’s” when your intention is simply to pluralize. Ideally, use the apostrophe before the “s” with an acronym or a number only to show possession (i.e., “an 1860’s law”; “DEP’s testing”) or when confusion would otherwise result (“mind your p’s and q’s”).

2) Not hyphenating two-word adjectives: A single adjective made up of two or more words is called a compound adjective. The words in a compound adjective can be linked together by a hyphen (or hyphens) to show they are part of the same adjective. Choosing to (or not to) use a hyphen between two words can alter the meaning of your sentence. For instance, writing “a heavy-metal detector” implies a device that detects heavy metals, while “a heavy metal detector” describes something that detects metal and is heavy. (Thanks, grammer-monster.com.)

3) Using commas instead of semi-colons: A semicolon is most commonly used to link (in a single sentence) two independent clauses (a sentence that includes a subject and a verb) that are closely related in thought. When a semicolon is used to join two or more ideas (parts) in a sentence, those ideas are then given equal position or rank. Correct example: “She was a fabulous dancer; she danced at Juilliard.” Incorrect example: “She was a fabulous dancer, she danced at Juilliard.” This one gets a bit tricky, so for further clarification and a plethora of examples, visit UW-Madison’s handbook (go Badgers!).

If your head is starting to spin (mine is!) and you think you ought to purchase a go-to resource that will have the answers to all your punctuation questions in one place, hop over to Amazon and pick up Grammar Girl’s Punctuation 911: Your Guide to Writing it Right for. It’ll be $0.99 well spent.

@kimettinger    

words to live by: 10 rules of writing

August 23, 2013

→This past week has been a busy one around here, which left us short on time to properly acknowledge the death of Elmore Leonard. A novelist (best known as a crime writer) and screenwriter (Get Shorty, 3:10 to Yuma, The Big Bounce and a whole lot more…), Leonard valued the art of the word, and even more importantly, the art of NOT using the word. Though we live in an era of soundbites, texts and 140-character commentary, too many of us (myself included) haven’t fully realized the “less is more” power of writing, and equally so, the lasting impression of a well-timed word.
Much has been written about Leonard this week, and I hope that if you have not yet done so, that you’ll cozy up with one of your devices and take the time to catch up on and honor one of America’s greatest writers. In the meantime, next time you have a writing assignment, regardless of genre or format, Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing will leave you—and your readers—better off.
“Write the book the way it should be written, then give it to somebody to put in the commas and shit.” 
 
“The writer has to have patience, the perseverance to just sit there alone and grind It out. And if it’s not worth doing that, then he doesn’t want to write.” 
  • Never open a book with weather.
  • Avoid prologues.
  • Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
  • Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely.
  • Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
  • Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
  • Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  • Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  • Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
  • Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.
Thanks for keeping us in line, Mr. Leonard. And more so, for the inspiration.  —@eatDEWwrite

12 writing mistakes to avoid

July 11, 2013

It’s no coincidence that the first sentence of this post was going to be something very similar to the one used in this PR Newswire query on grammar and writing pet peeves; my own Google search pulled up a bevy of related links. Which, is why we’ve decided to build our own list here, so that we can all become more efficient, succinct, articulate and spelling-conscious when churning out copy, whether it’s 140 characters or 10,000 words. Of course, this means that WE’ll be under even more scrutiny than usual, but that’s only fair. And, it’s also fair for us to dole out some of our grievances as well. However, we want to hear from you, so our short ‘n’ sweet list is intentional. Feel free to comment here or on our Facebook page.

1. Careless mistakes: typos, poor punctuation, grammar, misuse of words.

2. Overuse of jargon: It’s OK to quote a few clever catch phrases or buzzwords, Bushisms and Urban Dictionary lingo, but overuse of corporate speak makes you sound pretentious. Here’s a primer on which to avoid.

3. Failure to think about the reader: What do you want them to take away? Are you writing in a way that helps them understand your subject or are you assuming their baseline knowledge?

4. SAT word show-offs: Demonstrating a wide-ranging vocabulary is important, but excessive use of less familiar words can dissuade your readers from finishing what you wrote.

5. Burying the message: By the time someone gets their eyes on what you’ve written, he or she have likely read several other documents and online content, and have had a couple of meetings and calls… keeping sentences concise and on-point doesn’t make you look one-dimensional; it shows that you care about your readers’ time.

6. Failure to weed out unnecessary sentences/information: If even one word doesn’t move your content along, strike it.

7. Poor text to white space and graphics ratio: When people look at a page covered in text, they get overwhelmed and are more likely to push it away into the “read later” pile. We all know what happens with that pile.

8. Incomplete thoughts, facts or concepts; Don’t leave the reader with questions or create room for misinterpretation. Be specific in descriptions and give examples of why something is (add adjective). If your subject is an “impressive leader,” show why she earned that qualification.

9. Unfamiliarity with writing standards: If you don’t own the Chicago Manual of Style, or AP Stylebook, Merriam-Webster (.com) is the next go-to. However, if you write often, style should be a strong suit.

10. Not knowing how to use ‘n’: Both apostrophes should lean in the same direction, as a comma would.

11. Overzealous use of exclamation points: Unless you’re trying to shout at someone through your writing, there are few times when you need to use them.

12. No clue how to use the word myriad: Even though Grammar Girl excuses the addition “of” after myriad, I still abide by my journalism teacher’s unforgiving position.

If you’re guilty of the above writing missteps, take heart; I’m notoriously compulsive in my use of the emdash and ellipsis, and @kimettinger is renown for her fanatical use of exclamation points.

@eatDEWwrite

the countdown is on

May 15, 2013

Below is the copywriting promotion we’re currently running for those of you who missed our posts on social media last night. If you’ve been waiting to pull the trigger on revamping your businesses’ written materials, there’s no time like the present. Not sure where to begin? Just give us a call. We’re happy to help evaluate and prioritize your needs.

To learn more about the word exchange (our copywriting division), please visit http://www.wardenettingergroup.com/what-we-do

FINALcopypromo

copy editing tips you can’t live without

March 13, 2013

→To help you write with greater confidence, we’ve dipped into our stockpile of grammar, punctuation and spelling tips (aka dos and don’ts). On the blackboard today is this lesson on capitalization, which I classify as “things you should not have to tell people,” on par with “Don’t spit in the water fountain,” and “Don’t flush feminine products down the toilet.” (Questioning my comma placement? We’ll get to that in an upcoming post.) This is a pet peeve for me, because in my former food editor position, I was constantly having to un-capitalize menu items and ingredients sent to me by chefs, restaurateurs and yes, PR reps. We adhered to a specific policy at the magazine, but I still lean minimalist. (As opposed to my overuse of elipsis and emdashes, both habits for which I deserve to be flogged.) If you’re interested in how to style food and cocktail names, here are two posts to stash on Instapaper, the first by @grammargirl and the other by Mark Nichol of the Daily Writing Tips blog. Aren’t you going to have fun at the next time you’re reading a menu or dining column?!

For those looking to lose the jargon (please!), this well-penned post should set you straight. Take my suggestion and read AFTER a cup of coffee. You’ll see why. You’ll also find added value buried in the comments, so don’t cut out early.

To round out today’s copy editing class, we’re hopping over to this list of 27 expendable phrases to slash from your copy. Cash in this info now, and you will instantly improve your writing. There are a few others listed in the comments section, so again, don’t skip them.

There’s more to come, but feel free to add a few of your own resources for improving all of the above. And when you see me make a mistake, have at it; I deserve it. —@eatDEWwrite

“pay to play” not OK when quality of writing suffers

February 11, 2013

→The other day we received an email from the editor of a local publication, curtly letting us know that our PR clients would no longer be considered for their publication because they hadn’t spent any advertising dollars. If said editor had taken the time to share her perspective in a thoughtful manner, I might have been empathetic to her point of view. But as it happened, she laid her words out in a way that made us feel like we had failed at our job. Which, if we were in ad sales, would be a legitimate complaint.

However, as PR professionals, we aren’t responsible for an editorial publication’s bottom line. Though we often do make recommendations for media buys, and create both copy and graphics, our primary function is to obtain EARNED, third-party editorial for our clients.

As a former editor/reporter, I’ve been involved in many rounds of sales vs. editorial tug of war. Sometimes we won; sometimes they won. Through it all, the quality of writing/coverage didn’t suffer because we all understood the value of providing first-rate content. Which at the end of the day, is really what we journalists get up in arms about.

Any time someone pays for a story or mention about their business, they’re going to request to see copy before its printed/published. I am all for fact-checking; it would be impossible to retain that “first-rate” status without it. But when changes are requested that turn good writing into bad, it’s a lose-lose for everyone, including readers.

Obviously, I’m having a couple different conversations here, but my point remains the same: good writing is not getting the respect—or time—it deserves. Case and point,  Why Good Writing Matters, Even (and Especially) Online, which offers perspective on the impact of high content demand on the written word. There are plenty of bloggers out there who surely have an opinion, so please feel free to start a chat here by commenting.

And for the rest of you editorial flag waivers, Jeff Sonderman‘s How news organizations can sell sponsored content without lowering their standards will restore your faith in journalism, as well as provide a few pointers for providing quality over quantity.

@eatDEWwrite

all the write tools

January 25, 2013

→Have writer’s block? Or, maybe the words are flowing, but you have nowhere to share your work?

Are all your writing projects simply not as organized as you’d like them to be?

If you answered “(heck) yea” to any of the above questions, this list of 10 online tools for writers that we found on ragan.com will get you as excited as a brand new pack of your favorite pens (please don’t tell us we’re the only with a Gelly Roll/Precise V fetish).

Here are a few “tools” we’re planning to check out:

ThinkFree Office Write

This application, which you can use online, has all the features of Google Docs, plus a few others. Its feel and simplicity make some people uncomfortable; others feel it offers greater freedom than most.

PicoWrite

This is good for writers wishing to engage in wordplay, and for creative writers or people who may simply be looking for inspiration.

Movable Type

This writing tool works well as a business blogging platform. It has a management system for multiple users, and it offers enhanced customization.

TypePad

This blogging tool helps you to write blog posts and put your information into those blog posts, so you can advertise revenue sharing and the like.

the most annoying + hated word/phrases of 2012

January 4, 2013

→In what will go down as one of my biggest copouts of 2013, I am lazily, yet happily, sharing a post by one of my leading go-to resources, PR Daily and skimping on a thought-provoking, educational, how-to writerly post.

(Yes, I used writerly. I was inspired by a graphic artist’s use of designerly on a phone call earlier today. Technically, “writerly” is accurate. “Designerly,” I’m not so sure.)

Either way, as a lover (and loather) of words, I couldn’t resist reposting this list of the most annoying and hated word/phrases of the year. Reading this was far more fun than writing my own post, and after an on again-off again holiday work schedule that left my brain duller than I anticipated, it just felt like the right thing to do for me, and likely for you. I do hope you’ll circle back; now that the cobwebs have cleared, I’ll be aiming for more meaningful content next week. For now, enjoy the list and feel free to leave a comment if the spirit (or caffeine/libation) moves you. And, if anyone has dared use the acronym, YOLO, live or in a text, I need to hear about that.

For the record, I love the Huxtable reference, “twitterverse” and “just sayin’.” “Double down” makes me cringe. —DEW

creating the perfect fontasy

December 10, 2012 1 Comment

→You don’t have to be font-obsessed to appreciate this fairly lighthearted take on taboo lettering for brands. After all, how your brand presents itself to the outside world should be a reflection of the brand, not you.

Having just had an internal debate on whether or not it was OK to use “pinkie swear” in a witty way, finding this week-old article in my inbox hit a nerve.

It’s tough to find a balance between showing a bit of “yeah, we know this isn’t brain surgery,” and “we’re not corporate, but we are 110% pro.” What it boils down to, is how seriously do you want to be taken, and by whom. Which, as you’re setting your 2013 goals, is just one of many questions that should be going around the conference table.

But along with being taken seriously, today’s brands need to stand out and demonstrate their relevance to an audience that’s being bombarded with an endless stream of stylized messages and images. Plain Jane is no longer a viable way to arrive at the party.

Of course, you don’t want to look like you’re trying too hard either, a faux pas that will doom you professionally and personally every time. As with pretty much everything else, finding the middle ground is the best plan of action. This means that if what you’re sending out into the world has a solid thread of integrity that mirrors your personality and your tie to the company you represent, you will be well-received. This may be a longshot, but I suspect that Steve Jobs understood this. Lots of people do what you do. The difference is that only YOU do it the way you do. It’s up to you then, to make that experience memorable and impressive. Every time you view something on TV, YouTube or elsewhere, and you utter the words, “That was brilliant,” you’ve expressed exactly what we’re suggesting you aspire to. Fonts may be one microcosm of that goal, but in the digital age, it’s one of the first things people will be exposed to when they encounter you and your brand.

On that note, here’s 20+ Examples of Beautiful and Inspiring Fonts to peruse… and use.

 

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