Empathy = persuasion.

For those whose only persuasive style is bombast, let me paraphrase Otis Redding: Try a little empathy. For example, note how the good folks at Jack Daniels reacted when someone published a book with a cover emulating the Jack Daniels label. Instead of threats, the letter-writer aimed for persuasion through empathy, with the goal of persuading the other side rather than trying to beat them over the head. The result: everybody won.

Hat tip to Doug in Wisconsin.


p.s. Perhaps Otis’s last performance of “Try a Little Tenderness”:

For courageous writers: Writer’s Diet

Are your prose lean or flabby? If you really want to know, put them on the Writer’s Diet, an on-line test cooked up by Helen Sword. Just copy and paste some of your writing into the little box, run the test, and get back the kind of information about your writing that your doctor gives you about yourself when you get your annual physical.

Speaking of Helen, check out her article in the NYT about nominalizations.

Lose your superstitions about sentence starters

Do you think that there’s some grammatical rule against starting a sentence with a particular word or part of speech? If so, you are misinformed. Any word, any part of speech, can be at the front end of a sentence. Lynn at Business Writing has a little reminder about this, but if you doubt her, let me know and I’ll whack you over the head with Fowler and the King James Bible.

Why learn the difference between real rules and mere superstitions

John McIntyre has posted some worthwhile thoughts on grammar-and-usage superstitions. The whole post is worth reading, but my favorite part is why these superstitions should not be passed on:

In the first place, they don’t teach you in school how to dress or what booze to drink, but they are supposed to teach you how to write. And if they are wasting their time and yours with a load of codswallop, they are inhibiting your ability to use the language with facility and grace.