Friday, April 15, 2005

April News & Info

"Don't get small units caught in between the forces of history."
—Gen. John Vessey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after the death of 237 troops in a Beirut terrorist bombing

Finding the right words, part one. If you describe all your organization's new initiatives as "major" and all your research as "ground-breaking" or "breakthroughs," it's time for a major, ground-breaking breakthrough in your vocabulary. When we need to choose a new word, we go to Named after the humble copyist in Herman Melville's short story, Bartleby the Scrivener, the site is perhaps the Web's most comprehensive reference library, and free. You can search classic literature from Shakespeare to modern novelists, or search reference tools from dictionaries and encyclopedias to thesauri and quotations. Put the word you are overusing in the search box and choose "all reference" as your search. It's also where we get our "catchphrase" quotations using the word "caught" in creative ways, BTW.

You can catch me, after all, if you're attending the annual meeting of the National Association of Cancer Center Development Officers and NCI Public Affairs and Marketing Network, which takes place in mid-April in Chicago. I'll be speaking Sunday, April 17, on "The Write Stuff: How to Write About Basic Science," helping public affairs directors working at cancer centers learn how to build skills in technical translation, tackling new topics in science, and write clearly without having to "dumb down" the subject for public consumption. We'll also talk about how to gauge the eventual success of a science story headed for media coverage; rule number one is "the dinosaurs always win." Just ask me.

Finding the right words, part two. Many of you know my goal to return to writing books and magazine articles for publication, and here's a chance for you to participate in such a project with me. I'm exploring writing a book on What to Say When You Don't Know What to Say, using what I've learned as a national spokesperson about handling tough questions and awkard situations on your feet and in public, with an eye to helping folks in everyday conversations to manage them better and more comfortably. I'm looking for your experiences in situations where you didn't know what to say, and want to know with whom you were speaking, why it felt awkward, what you wanted to say, and what you ended up saying. You'll help me shape the advice in the book and give examples that come from real experiences. Just email them to me at And thanks for your help!

...and don't get caught without this month's preferred referral: We get the energy to manage issues and answers for you by working with trainer Maggie McLain at the Washington, D.C., gym City Fitness ( It's a great community and network, with friendly clients and a superb staff -- and because it's a neighborhood gym, not a chain, you get much more personal attention and encouragement. When she's not helping me get strong, Maggie's working on a new Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby class on prenatal fitness starting April 15 (click here for more info).

For more information, email us at