7 ways to make your copy easier to read… and RAKE in results

Ever thought about making your blog posts, emails, letters, websites, and other materials easier to read?

Why easier-to-read copy makes business sense

Executives are renowned for insisting on brevity and clarity. Brain surgeons and rocket scientists prefer reading that’s below their education level.

Chances are, your readers like easier reading, too.

Besides, the average American adult reads at the 8th- to 9th-grade level. And one in five Americans read at the 5th-grade level or below.

Easier-to-read copy keeps your readers reading.

Studies show that easier-to-read copy:

  • Keeps your reader reading.
  • Boost your reader’s comprehension.
  • Save your reader time.

You do want your readers to read and understand your message, don’t you?

You do want your readers to understand your call to action, right?

You do want to increase the effectiveness of your communications effort, don’t you?

Thought so.

Those are darn good reasons to write easy-to-read copy.

Here’s how to do it.

7 ways to make your copy easier to read

  1. Use shorter sentences more often.
  2. Keep paragraphs short.
  3. Vary sentence length. Too many short sentences can make your copy sound choppy, like rat-a-tat-tat.
  4. Use bullets. As in action phrases starting with verbs. NOT as in “Read this copy or I’ll use a bullet.”
  5. Choose short, familiar words.
  6. Use active verbs (run, zip, climb) instead of passive (has, was, is).
  7. Cut out all the unnecessary, excess words because they don’t add anything to your message.

What’s your top tip, comment or question about reading or writing? Please leave a comment!

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Posted in advice, blogging, Business, Tips, websites, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Publicity tip: 3 ways to start a relationship with a sought-after reporter

Interested in getting more visibility in the media?

Let’s say you’ve got a great idea for a news or feature story. You are confident that your story idea is interesting, important and timely. You’ve identified the right reporter, and checked to see that neither she nor her peers recently covered your topic.

Reporters want relationships, not just great story ideas and stories.

You’re ready to make a story pitch to the reporter, right?

You certainly can. Happens all the time.

The thing is, most reporters prefer to work with people with whom they have a relationship.

It may sound like I’m kidding, but I’m completely serious.

Reporters would rather not merely conduct one-time transactions about a single news story, then never hear from you again.

Reporters prefer to work with people they know. With people they can count on.

The challenge for us is that reporters are notoriously busy, often on deadline. Their attention and influence is so sought after that many reporters receive hundreds of emailed story pitches a day.

How do you a start a relationship with someone who’s so in-demand?

Read on.

3 ways to strike up a relationship with a reporter

Identify the reporter who covers the “beat,” or topics, you are interested in. Start reading the reporter’s articles, stories, columns or blog. If she’s in TV or radio, watch or listen to her show.

Once you’re familiar with her work, you’re ready to move to the next stage.

  1. Comment on “your” reporter’s online news stories or blogs.
  2. Send an email or note complimenting the reporter’s work, but ONLY if you are sincere, authentic and genuine. Be specific, too. You might say, “I enjoyed your story on dyslexia.” Or, “I always look for your byline because I’m interested in news on medical device companies.”
  3. Meet the reporter in person. Business events, such as trade shows or conferences, can be excellent opportunities to meet reporters. Say hello and introduce yourself. Be friendly and genuinely interested in the reporter. You might mention one of her stories that you found helpful or interesting.
    Do NOT pitch your story idea at this stage. Remember, you want to form a relationship first. Think of it this way: Do you like to be “sold” something by a person you’ve only just met? Probably not (unless you’re out shopping).

Don’t think you need a relationship with a reporter just yet? Then you’re in the perfect position to start one today.

What’s your top tip, comment or question about working with news reporters? Please leave a comment!

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Posted in advice, Public relations, publicity, Relationships, reporters, Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The scary thing about 75% of your coworkers

SCARY: The creativity that goes untapped in organizations.

It’s nearly Halloween. Want to be scared?

Here’s a frightening fact about your business.

Seventy-five percent of the people in your organization don’t believe they are living up to their creative potential.

Okay. I’ll fess up. This may not describe your company per se. But that is what a recent global benchmark study by Adobe found of those surveyed.

Seventy-five of people surveyed don’t feel their creativity is flowing freely.

Seventy-five percent believe they have more to give.

This makes me wonder. What opportunities go unseen? How many customer needs go unserved? How much brighter and more fulfilling would our world be if our innate creativity was unleashed?

Nobody, by the way, has a “lock” on creativity. You–ta da!–are creative. So are others in your organization.

2 Q’s to tap your creative superpowers

  • What action can you take now to scare away the ghosts of the mundane and expected?
  • How can you bring in fresh energy and treat yourself—and the world—to your creativity?

My top creativity tip

Smile. 🙂

That’s right. Simply smiling helps me loosen up, enjoy myself, have fun and get creative.

Try it yourself and see what it does for you.

What’s your top creativity tip? Does smiling work for you? I want to hear from you. Please leave a comment!

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Posted in advice, Business, creativity, employees, Humor | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

10 signs you may be a hobbit

Look in the mirror.

Might you be a hobbit without realizing it?

Sure, hobbits are short, but there’s more to being a hobbit than stature. Here are 10 signs that you may indeed be a hobbit, at least at heart.

You could be a hobbit and not even know it!

  1. You are fascinated by elves. Dwarves? Not so much. And…
  2. You enjoy visitors to your home, but you prefer to invite them yourself, darn it! What’s more…
  3. You like good food—lots of it, and often. This explains why…
  4. You just might have these items at home right now: beer, wine, scones, seed cakes, raspberry jam and apple tart, mince pies and cheese, pork pie and salad, cakes, ale, coffee, cold chicken and pickles. By the way…
  5. You get your beer from a barrel, not a bottle. Your fondness for food and drink may explain why…
  6. You tend toward plumpness in your middle. This explains your affinity to the flattering cut of waistcoats (aka vests), especially those with fancy buttons. Hope you don’t lose any buttons should…
  7. You get dragged off on adventures that you really don’t want to go on, especially because…
  8. You relish the comforts of home—er, your hobbit hole. Nothing’s better than a comfortable bed at night, a fire in the hearth, and a well-stocked larder. You always enjoy comfort, and absolutely you ache for it when you are off roughing it, cold and famished, on some dwarvish quest. Besides…
  9. Your neighbors glare suspiciously at you and your unconventional “friends.” Your good name and reputation, after all, are at stake when you take up with that lot. Good thing that…
  10. You have great courage and resourcefulness. This may be not obvious to people around you. You probably don’t even realize this either. But when you are challenged, when you find yourself alone in a deep, dark place and all seems lost, you find courage and strength within to press on… and to become the hero in your very own adventure.

See? Being a hobbit… or simply hobbit-hearted… is good!

Please join me in celebrating Tolkien week and be sure to check out the new Hobbit movie theatrical trailer. Peter Jackson, the director, says the trailer is due out this week!

Are YOU a hobbit at heart? If so, what’s your #1 sign? Leave a comment, please! I want to hear from YOU.

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P.S. As much as I LOVE writing free stuff for you, I also need to earn a living.

That’s right. I, Marie Overfors, run a business! This very freelance writing and public relations/marketing consulting business, as a matter of fact. I appreciate referrals. 🙂

Posted in Humor, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

The Darth Vader in Your Office

Is there a Darth Vader in your office? Here’s how to spot–and deal with–your very own Lord Meanie.

You’ll remember Darth Vader from the original Star Wars movie. The one with Luke, Han Solo and Princess Leia.

What a bad guy, that Darth.

Darth Vader reigns as the über bad guy in Star Wars. Does his office equivalent strangle the joy of out your workplace?

First off, there’s his name. “Darth” melds dark and death. “Vader” is like invader. So a dark/death invader.

Oooh, very bad.

Darth strides around clad in black helmet, mask, cloak, gloves. Black meaning bad guy.

He doesn’t merely enter a room. Darth invades the room. As he does, you hear his  theme music. Dah dah ta dah dah, dee dah dah dee dah.

If someone is foolish enough to make a remark Darth finds disagreeable, or that challenges Darth, Darth uses The Force, an unseen power, to choke that foolish someone without even touching him.

No one cracks a joke with Darth Vader around.

Nobody laughs.

Nobody smiles.

In fact, everyone is scared stiff about p*ssing him off and getting choked (or worse) as a result.

Does Darth wear chinos?

The fact is that Darth Vader doesn’t limit himself to movies set in outer space: He (or she) also appears in many offices!

Why, there’s a big chance that Darth lurks at your place of business, too.

Office Darth–the one you see at work–doesn’t (usually) wear the helmet, mask, cape and gloves. Rather, strides about in business attire.

There’s no audible theme music when Office Darth invades your meetings. (Although it could play in your head. If you were very, very bold, you could hum it softly.)

Office Darth doesn’t physically choke those who resist or challenge him, but he strangles any fun and joy out of the workplace.

Unlike Movie Darth, Office Darth has no trouble breathing and, in fact, may even yell at you and other fine people.

You can be sure no one cracks jokes, laughs or smiles when Office Darth is around.  This is because everybody is either scared stiff or simply wants to keep their jobs.

Dealing with Darth

So what are you to do about the Office Darth at your workplace?

Three suggestions:

  • Keep your sense of humor.
  • Preserve your sense of self worth.
  • Use your resourcefulness.

In other words, you have to figure this out on your own.

I wish I could be of more help, but do I look like the HR Department??? Trust me, I do not!

This is your adventure, your journey, your quest. It’s up to you, as The Hero, to learn how to deal with Darth.

May The Force be with you.

Does Office Darth darken the halls at your workplace? What’s your top tip for dealing with him or her? 

Leave a comment, please! I want to hear from YOU.

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Posted in advice, bosses, Business, Fear, Humor, power, Stress, Work | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Breaking news: Yelling at employees is terribly BAD

Here’s a shocker: If you’re a boss, do not–repeat, DO NOT–yell at your employees.

Why not?

Because yelling is bad.

At least, yelling is bad in work settings.

This is according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. When bosses or customers yell, the article reported, employees tend to:

  • Experience a decrease in working memory
  • Become less competent in performing tasks
  • Quit their jobs at higher rates
  • Bring less creativity to their jobs
  • Avoid resolving conflicts, allowing them to escalate
  • Speed up their work on simple, familiar tasks

A startling finding reported by the Wall Street Journal is that yelling at employees is NOT GOOD for employees.

See how unproductive and just plain bad yelling is? True, employees speed up their work on simple familiar tasks, but that’s only until they quit. And do you really want to see their performance suffer in all those other areas?


Further, do you want your employees to feel stressed, angry, resentful, fearful, and frustrated because they were yelled at?



<pause for long, slow cleansing breath>

Fortunately, today’s managers understand the negative consequences of yelling, according to the Journal.

“The new consensus among managers is that yelling alarms people, drives them away rather than inspiring them, and hurts the quality of their work.”

Yes, the NEW consensus among managers is that yelling is counterproductive!

Wow. What an insight!

I bet these managers also know one of life’s most important lessons:

Treat others like YOU want to be treated.

P.S. Here’s a handy hint for you: If your boss yells at you or your colleagues, tack a print-out of this post next to the office water cooler. Then hide…er… I mean, get back to work.

Were you ever yelled at on the job? Seen a coworker yelled at? Have you ever <gasp> yelled at someone at work?  Leave a comment, please! I want to hear from you.

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Posted in advice, bosses, Business, employees, Humor, Stress, Work, yelling | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Harried and humorless at work? Here’s easy help!

“Humor is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our irritations and resentments slip away and a sunny spirit takes their place.”
— Mark Twain

Hey you! Have you ever worked in a high-stress environment? Felt pressured to relentlessly deliver, deliver, deliver… or else? Or maybe had a boss who berated you and your coworkers?

Then you know first hand the bad effects of excess stress.

Now I want to introduce you my #1 de-stressor: HUMOR.

Not only is humor WONDERFUL to use (and experience) at work, humor can be the secret to your success!

But what if you are not naturally funny? Are you doomed to dwell in the dark and stress-ridden cubicles of corporate America?


If your sense of humor is (a) lacking, (b) rusty, or (c) missing, simply follow this strategy:

Glom on to someone who is funny.

Glom, by the way, means to “seize” or “latch onto.”

That’s right.

Glom on to the funny person in your workplace. In many work environments, there is usually ONE funny person around.

Go… go NOW… and find this person. This person is the equivalent of your CORPORATE LIFE PRESERVER.

Yes, you are floating around in an ocean of scowls, directives, issues, problems, reductions, objectives, nasty-grams, forced changes, and other unpleasantries.

Your funny person is there to SAVE you.

CLING to him or her.

(Important: When I say “cling to him or her,” I do NOT mean for you to actually grab hold of your funny person. Physically clinging to someone at work is a pesky and serious corporate/social/legal taboo. Rather, “cling to him or her” is a mere figure of speech.)

Follow your funny person. Learn from him or her. Emulate him or her.

Use humor as a positive force at work.

Remember, humor is a beacon that lights the cubicles and boardrooms across America, lifts dissolves excess tension, relieves stress and frees creativity.

Best of all, it can help YOU feel more relaxed and joyful…

… which makes me smile!

Do you crack jokes at work? Have you ever felt tension drain from your body after laughing?  Leave a comment, please! I want to hear from you.

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Posted in advice, Business, Humor, Laughter, Relaxation, Stress, Work | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

3 Steps to Persuasive Superpowers = Get More of What You Want

Hey you!

How would you like to TURBOCHARGE your powers of persuasion?

Just think of what you could do and get with waaay more persuasive powers.

(Hey you, keep it clean! We’re not going into THAT here.)

Let’s dig right into my three-step process:

Step #1. Understand your “audience,” the people (or person) you want to persuade.

What are their needs, dreams, wishes, desires, headaches, hurts, concerns and fears? What makes them tick? What turns them off? Where do you audience’s emotions run big and deep?

Put yourself in your audience’s shoes and see things from their perspective. Do research. Ask questions. Get information. What do they want?

Understanding your audience is the essential first step, which is followed by…

Step #2.  Put the people (or person) you want to persuade in a good mood.

This insight hails from Aristotle, one of the greatest thinkers and philosophers of all time. (Besides you, that is!)

“Our judgments when we are pleased and friendly are not the same as when we are pained and hostile,” wrote Aristotle.

No kidding. Seems obvious, doesn’t it?

But even smart people can lose sight of this.

Take the case of Amanda. Amanda is incredibly bright, talented, hard working. She is driven to deliver excellent results for her employer and its customers.

The problem is, Amanda gets completely aggravated when her colleagues, well-intended though they may be, deliver what she sees as subpar work.

Amanda sees the errors, the waste, the damage. She steps in, takes control and turns the project back on course. But in doing so, Amanda stomps on toes of her colleagues.

Naturally, Amanda’s colleagues are <ahem>  p*ssed off.

Aristotle would say her colleagues feel “pained and hostile.” And when they feel pained and hostile, Amanda’s going to have a rough time trying to persuade them to cooperate with her. She may be able to force them, but her colleagues will resent her for it.

This is a classic mistake.

Amanda is trying so hard to do her best work for her employer, to do what she sees as right, that she’s lost sight of the needs of her colleagues, the very people she needs to persuade.

How much better this could be for everyone if Amanda had started with an understanding of her colleagues needs’, then used genuine friendliness and warmth to put her colleagues in a pleased and friendly mood.

When people feel pleased and friendly, they are far more receptive to what you want to say.

This leads us to…

Step #3: Make sure that everything you say or do serves the needs of the people (or person) you want to persuade.

Did you get that?

Their needs.

Not your needs.

Not your company’s.

Not your client’s.

You speak to the needs of your audience.

This part can be tricky. You have your agenda. They have theirs. You want to persuade them to your point of view or to take certain action. How do you do it?

It’s simple. Because you understand your audience and what they need, want, desire and fear, you convey what you want them to do in terms of what’s in it for them. How it benefits them.

Let’s put it all together. Amanda wants to see projects done well. Her agenda is to persuade her colleagues to seek her out before starting projects, so she can use her expertise to ensure the projects get done right.

Amanda takes time to get to know her colleagues. She starts to build friendly, pleasant relationships with them. She finds out what her colleagues need and want, what makes them tick.

One colleague would like to make a presentation at an industry event. Amanda says to her colleague, “If you collaborate with me, I can help you create a compelling speaker proposal and a powerful presentation.”

With a different colleague, the benefit of collaborating with Amanda might be to double the number sales leads generated, cut project costs, or retain more customers. It depends.

In these examples, Amanda’s telling her audience what’s in it for them. She’s persuading them by focusing on what they want, instead of irritating and angering them by pointing out their errors and mistakes, then taking control.

The beauty of this method is that Amanda can get what she wants AND her colleagues get what they want. Plus, in this case, their employer and other stakeholders benefit, too.

Sounds good, doesn’t it!

So try these three steps and turbocharge your powers of persuasion. Just remember that line from Spiderman: “With great power, comes great responsibility.”

Use your persuasive superpowers responsibly!

What are your favorite persuasive techniques?  Leave a comment, please! I want to hear from you.

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Posted in attitude, Business, persuasion, power, success, Tips, Work | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

3 Tips to Amp Up Your Professional Power NOW

Want to be more powerful and effective at work?

Of course you do!

Read on, then, because I’m going to show you how. It all starts with…

… My Tennis Story

I was playing tennis the other night, and I just didn’t “have it.”

My returns were flabby. Lots of my shots landed “out.” And I was never in the right position to hit the ball.

My opponent was baffled. So was I. Usually, I’m a much tougher competitor.

Then–OMG!–I realized what I was doing: I was telling myself—through my thoughts—that I was playing poorly. That I felt weak. That I just didn’t “have it in me.” That I must be having an off night. And so on.

No wonder I was playing like a wimp. I was sooo thinking like a wimp. My attitude stunk.

Right then, I took mental action. I told myself I was strong. I felt my muscles grow more powerful and energized just from “hearing” my thoughts say so.

I told myself I could hit well, and I did.

I told myself that I was tough, darn tough, and I started playing that way.

I wish I could say that I went on to win all the rest of my games.

I didn’t. But I did play much, MUCH better.

And I was reminded of the importance of our attitudes and what we say to ourselves in our heads, our self talk.

Attitude and self talk matter, whether you are playing tennis or facing problems at work.

3 Tips to Whip Your Attitude and Self Talk Into Shape

Here are three tips to help you sharpen your “game” right NOW… whether that’s on a tennis court, on the job, or elsewhere in life.

  1. View problems as challenges, rather than threats. 
    See problems as opportunities to learn.
  2. See your successes as replicable and your failures as surmountable.
    See success as due to your ability and effort. Don’t chalk them up to luck.
  3. Concentrate your self talk on what you CAN control.
    Make a list of what you can control and another of what you can’t. Focus on the first list, what you CAN control.

(Source: Understanding Self Talk, Damon Burton & Bernie Holliday, Vandal Sport Psychology Services, University of Idaho)

There you have it: Three ways to increase your professional power and effectiveness. (These tips work for tennis, too.) Go forth and do great things!

Have YOU ever found yourself with self-talk or an attitude that didn’t serve you? What did you do about it? Leave a comment, please! I want to hear from you.

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Posted in advice, attitude, Business, mind-body-emotions, power, sports psychology, success, Tennis, thinking, Tips, Transformation, Work | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Score FREE publicity with this insider’s tip

Hey you!

Have you ever wanted more visibility for yourself or your business? How about for your product, book or service?

Maybe you’ve seen a news show or read an article and thought YOU could have been the expert they quoted. Or, that your widget would have been PERFECT for that piece.

You may have wondered how the other person got featured in that story.

How did he or she pull it off?

If you ever wondered these things, or if you ever wanted a chance at scoring a bit of media glory for your business, then there’s someone you’ve got to meet.

A BIG player in the world of publicity.

Let me introduce you to HARO.

Okay. “HARO” isn’t a really person. (Though a person created it.)

HARO is a must-have publicity tool and PR insider’s best-kept secret.

Even better, it’s FREE.

“HARO” stands for Help A Reporter Out. It connects reporters with experts (and regular folks) to interview for the news and feature stories reporters are working on NOW.

I just looked at this morning’s edition of HARO.  I see requests from reporters from The New York Times, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Inc. and other outlets.

They are looking, looking, LOOKING for people like you to interview.

Want to learn more? Head over to HelpAReporter.com. Check out the “Basic” (free) option. Sign up and you’ll get email alerts of breaking media opportunities you can respond to.

So YOU can be the one who’s featured in those news stories, who scores the visibility.

Sound good?


I look forward to seeing you in the news. 🙂

Are you interested in getting more visibility for your business, product, book or service?  What would you like to publicize? Leave a comment, please!

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Posted in advice, Business, Public relations, publicity, reporters, Tips | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments