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 April 2015
Volume 34 Number 4

IWOC: The Premier Resource for Professional Writers

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Editor's Intro
• Welcome Members
• Podcasts
April Meeting Preview
March Meeting Recap
President's Column
Did You Know?
Super-Charged Words

New Members
Kathryn Bauer
Mathew Powers

podcast logo

This is yet another take on the e-newsletter format going forward. Some people loved last month's front-page "teasers" that then jumped to another page to complete the article. Others did not. With this format, every article appears in its entirety on this page. You can either scroll down and read the contents consecutively or click on the "In This Issue" topic and then use the back arrow button on your browser to jump back to click on another topic. (With any e-newsletter format, you have to either jump or scroll.)

I'm also aiming for a monthly theme. This month's theme is Clear Writing. In that spirit and to brighten your day, here is your April monthly quote:

"I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top." — Author Unknown

Please give me feedback on possible themes, features you'd like to see, etc. And remember: since the newsletter can be any length, I welcome contributions, but please contact me before you submit anything. Submissions are due the week of the 15th of the preceding month. (Search engines will pick up your by-lined articles, so that will give your Internet presence a boost.) red dingbat

The Editor


Mark Goodman Don’t attend the Tuesday, April 14, IWOC program unless you are ready to be challenged as an independent writer to better serve the needs of clients. If you are satisfied with churning out an article, brochure, or video for a client and leaving it at that, the presenter will make you uncomfortable.  

If you want to add YouTube to your social media repertoire for business, then don’t miss this program. The speaker is Mark E. Goodman, CEO/President of e-Conversation Solutions, Inc. Creating Content for YouTube is not a workshop about camera, sound, and lighting. Goodman will address the choices for that, but you might want to leave the shooting and editing to professionals. Instead, you will learn from this program how to integrate YouTube into your marketing and public relations and perhaps in advertising your own business services. Goodman will acquaint you with the unique storytelling strategies and techniques possible through YouTube, Vimeo, and other distribution channels.

Goodman strongly believes that writers need to move beyond thinking of themselves as one-trick ponies. Instead, he sees us as content creators who help clients decide how many different places they can place that content. “You writers are on the frontline to help people think about this,” says Goodman. “You write something for a brochure, or something for a PR announcement, or something for a video. It takes X-amount of time to create that content.  It might take you 2X to take that content and create it in three or four formats.  So why not?”

Why should YouTube be one of the formats for your content? The trends are compelling. Over half of all online traffic is now video. YouTube generates 3 billion views per day and is the second most popular search engine. A video is 53 times more likely to appear on page one of a search than text. More than half of senior executives prefer to watch video instead of reading text, if both are available on the same page. Eighty percent of executives are watching more online video than a year ago.

Goodman is a past workshop chair at SCORE Chicago. Prior to founding e-Conversation, he held numerous positions as a technology executive, including Director of Business Development at Motorola, where he was the first business manager in the cell-phone group. He also was an executive for a Silicon Valley company and a film buyer for General Cinema Theatres. Goodman holds an MBA from Boston University and an MA in radio/TV/film from Northwestern University.

You won’t want to miss this opportunity to learn about the strategies employed in creating business content for YouTube from someone expertly qualified to explain them.  Join us to hear Mark Goodman on Tuesday, April 14, in Room 4F at the Gratz Center, 126 E. Chestnut, just off Michigan Avenue. Networking with snacks and beverages begins at 5:00 p.m., followed by the program at 6:00 p.m. The meeting is free for IWOC members. Nonmembers pay $10 with online preregistration and payment, or pay $15 at the door.

All attendees are invited to join IWOC members at a buy-your-own dinner at Bar Toma restaurant, 110 E. Pearson Street, after the meeting. Park at 900 Michigan (Bloomingdale’s; enter from Walton or Rush) after 5:00 and have your ticket validated (only six bucks!) at the Gratz Center reception desk or arrange a steeply discounted advance parking permit through www.spothero.com. Several buses also run on Michigan Avenue.

Stewart Truelsen


“Build Your Author Platform” co-author Michael McCallister spoke to IWOC about finding and growing your audience online. McCallister is an author, senior document architect at PKWARE, blogger, president of the Wisconsin Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication and a member of the National Writers Union.

McCallister explained that an author platform is a way to establish, persuade and grow your audience. Having an online presence allows you to demonstrate to a broad audience how you learn and maintain your authority on topics you write about. By doing this, you have the potential to increase your sales. More and more editors are expecting writers to generate their own fan base and to market themselves before writing and publishing a book. They may often pick a client who does this over one who does not.

The best way to accomplish this is to have a website and blog that is your online home base. As a writer, you are a communicator. You have control over the content of your website. It should tell people who you are, what you write about, and why you are good. Your website should connect all of your social media back to it. If you are not sure how to do any of these things, and technical things scare you, hire someone to do it for you. It is that important! But most people can manage a decent website and some social media content on their own. He recommended wordpress.com as a great place to begin. He noted that it is important to save content, and some of the free sites do not automatically do that.

After establishing a website, social media is next. Twitter is a very big place and much like an ongoing cocktail party with billions of guests. Twitter is a great way to find interesting things on the web that are relevant to what you do, easy to engage in, and simple to find people (using the twitter discovery tools). On Twitter your job as a contributor is to be informative, smart, entertaining, and human in 140 characters or fewer. Your goal is to gain a following by sharing content and having conversations. If you list another Twitter user first in a conversation or tweet, you will get a notification via e-mail that you have a tweet to respond to so you do not have to live on Twitter and get nothing else done. You can also save time on Twitter by managing followers via lists and by linking your Twitter feed to Facebook so you only have to create one post and it will show on both.

McCallister spoke only briefly about Facebook. He uses it but does realize that it works better when you are paying for it. He said that Facebook is the hardest to use and keep up with as they are changing everything all the time and do not have users at heart.

He recommended that we use LinkedIn if our target audience is professionals. There are many groups on LinkedIn, and as writers we can use LinkedIn’s search tool to find people to interview. One can also get an article published by LinkedIn by going to the news feed and find the pencil icon on top of the feed. If you have that icon, you can publish on LinkedIn. He also recommended that we always check the terms of service for each platform – some platforms own pieces or pictures forever after they are posted.

McCallister’s favorite social media platform is Google+. He said it has had some ups and downs over the past three years. He has found that Google+ communities are where stuff really happens. It is easy to find people who are interested in the same things as you are. There are hundreds of communities and Google+ gives you recommendations for more. And, they have tech support! By contributing content to Google+, you get some search premiums. That is, you are more easily searchable and more easily found.

McCallister closed with blogging. Blogging, he said, is a part of building your platform. You should blog when you have something to say but ideally once a week. You can and should plan and pre-write your posts. Use your other social media platforms to attract people to your blog by notifying when you have a new post. Wordpress will do some of this for you, and it adds “related posts,” another tool to increase your audience. If you do not use Wordpress there are many meet-up groups and other informational groups and sites (such as wordcamp.org) that can help.

Just remember: when you share on social media, you need to actually share useful information. If all you do on your platforms is say, “buy my book” you will fail. Having said that, he remarked that he would appreciate it if we did buy his book.

Cynthia Tomusiak

Click HERE to see a brief PDF synopsis of the March program.


President's Column

David SteinkrausSometime in the last few weeks I skimmed a report out of the Sundance Film Festival in which a woman mused on how to label people who produce programs for the on-demand video industry. Perhaps they’re storytellers, she said, or maybe they’re content creators. Maybe they’re not. Maybe they remain writers, producers, and directors, but now they work in a different medium. Maybe the real problem here is not the need for a new label but a lack of clear thinking that manifests as amorphous language. And there is no lack of amorphous language in the land.

You can probably recall your own moment, but my last milliliter of tolerance for fuzzy language leaked out about a decade ago. It happened when I stopped being a government reporter and started writing about health and science, when I was no longer immersed in the language of government. Every organization generates a certain amount of vagueness, but government produces quite a bit because fuzzy language makes the awful sound palatable and the inexcusable sound not so bad, at least not bad enough to be remembered at the next election. Business has its own list of trendy obfuscations: best practice, move the needle, core competency, reach out, and metrics, among others.

Broader consequences stem from not thinking and writing clearly, for when people realize that vague ideas lie behind the amorphous words, they devalue the words, the ideas, and the people who generated them. More than political inaction earned Congress its poor reputation. It is also the fog of vague words spreading from Foggy Bottom, for everyone knows the disingenuous words veil venial ambition and aggregation of power.

As writers, we owe it to our clients and ourselves to fight vagueness with clear thinking and clear writing. Our clients look better, our position as skilled and valuable people is reinforced, and we can command decent pay. The last of those three may seem disconnected from language, but it is not. Writing is a concrete thing, and writers create it. Pictures and video are concrete items, and photographers and videographers create them. Content is a foggy term. One may need expensive writers or photographers to create words and pictures, but there’s no need to invest much in content. Content is amorphous stuff, stuff that can be rapidly assembled at low cost by people with flexible ethics and a facility for copying and pasting.

Let us all work to end the domination of content and its siblings. Let us send them all back to the damned fiends, disadvantaged victims of poor choices in the sulfurous circle of hell environmentally challenged warm- temperature environment from whence they came. red dingbat

David Steinkraus


phobiasAre you scared? Naw, we ain’t scared. Well, maybe a little. Turns out that certain phobias are not conducive to being a writer. But one can almost always find work-arounds.

If you have papyrophobia, you might be able to write on your computer or laptop exclusively, and badger your spouse or hire an assistant to handle the dead trees (fear of paper).

Those with mythophobia should probably stick to manuals, technical writing, and white papers. Avoid corporate communications at all costs (fear of myths or untrue stories).

Writers with metrophobia need to steer clear of Maya Angelou, Walt Whitman and Shel Silverstein (fear of poetry).

You can still be a writer if you have cathisophobia, but your feet will be dog tired at the end of the work day (fear of sitting down).

If you have hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia you really should avoid academic or medical writing (fear of long words).

Writers with scriptophobia need only shun Starbucks and the local library when working (fear of writing in public).

If you have vestiphobia, hopefully you live alone and you can just write in the nude (fear of clothing).

Those with epistemophobia will just have to rehash the same old topics over and over, never writing about anything new (fear of knowledge).

If you have autophobia, you might be better suited working in an office environment on a large team of other writers (fear of being alone).

Writers with chrematophobia have a serious problem, but they can give away their writing for free (fear of money).

Those with copophobia should probably only work two or three hours and then go take a nap (fear of fatigue or exhaustion).

Writers suffering from panophobia (fear of everything) and logophobia (fear of words) are just doomed. Give it up. red dingbat

Katherine Mikkelson


onion slicerWe live in an era of super-charged words. (You know, the kind that TV pitch-people either utter breathlessly or shriek.) I don’t know about you, but I hear and see the words awesome, amazing, and unique tossed around so frequently to describe something that is none of those things that these words have lost the impact they’re intended to have when we really need them.

You tell me you had an awesome dinner last night? Say what? Did you have an overwhelming feeling of reverence for the meal? (Not likely, unless you were in church and mistook communion for the appetizer.) Maybe your food evoked admiration beyond belief? (You should eat out more.) Was it a terrible fear? (Uh-oh, you saw two rats and a cockroach under the table.) Point is: the dictionary says that awesome refers to an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, or fear. Save it for when you're standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon. Then it will mean something.

Amazing is another word that’s all too often used to jack up something that doesn’t merit a top-of-the-tier adjective. Sure, it might be really nice or even sort of special, but amazing is supposed to be reserved for things that are astounding, dumfounding, stunning, or flabbergasting. How much of the usual use of amazing fits that bill? Here's a rib-tickler that proves my point. I found the onion slicer pictured above when I googled "amazing," and the icing on the cake is that this seemingly ordinary knife and onion-holder is made by a company called Awesome Inventions. (I'll admit that the combination could prevent finger-slices from ending up in the salad, but I'm neither amazed nor awed. It's just a clever idea. Good grief.

And then there’s unique. Unique means one-of-a-kind, people. There’s not another like it anywhere. Period. Unless you’ve searched the world over for comparisons, you won’t have much opportunity to use this word correctly.

You may know that the Hadron Collider built by CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) has smashed particles so small that scientists have finally unraveled the secret of the creation of the universe. Think of it. Where absolutely everything came from! And what did they dub this discovery? The Standard Model. Not the Awesome, Amazing, Unique Theory of the Origin of Absolutely Everything (all of which it is), just The Standard Model. Take your cue from this commendable restraint and curb your use of unjustified super-charged words. Your writing and your conversation will be the better for it. red dingbat

Joen Kinnan

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