Wednesday, November 30, 2005

the shape of things to um...

Ever start speaking and hear the approach of the ums? You, um, try to get your, um, point across to the people who, um, need to hear it...and keep tripping over this two-letter speed bump. And that's just what ums are: You're slowing yourself down so that you can think before you speak. Here are two quick tips to banish the ums: First, plan your remarks ahead and practice them so that you know where you're headed and don't lose your way. Second, come up with some handy fillers-with-fiber to replace the ums -- phrases that make sense in most sentences and are long enough to buy you time until you remember what you wanted to say. As you probably know, the fact of the matter is, in our work we often find that and similar phrases sound more sensible than an um, and will make you feel less embarrassed. Ask Denise Graveline about our speech and presentation training and coaching for groups or individuals at

Monday, November 28, 2005

'off the record' in a crowd?

Not possible, as proven most recently by a Time Warner event last week featuring Justice Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court. At the program's start, the organizers told the audience of 100 executives and journalists that comments made would be "off the record," or not for publication. The New York Daily News and New York Post both followed up with articles quoting Scalia's views as expressed in the meeting, prompting an angry response from the company. Even odder: At least one reporter was told privately that Time Warner expected reporters to write about the meeting, and Scalia was said to have no complaints. We say: Don't speak it in front of a crowd, a microphone or even a single person if you don't want to see it later in a newspaper....and get your ground rules straight before you go marching out in public. For training on handling public and media situations -- and a primer on when you are and are not on the record -- contact Denise Graveline at

Thursday, November 17, 2005

the elements, online

We're big fans of Strunk & White's The Elements of Style, the "little book" used by the best writers. (Our favorite journalism professor, the late Tim Cohane, made his classes memorize and recite it, so important did he consider the book.) While there's much talk about a new illustrated edition, we find most useful the online version, which you can access here on the Bartleby website of language references. At don't get caught, our coaching, training and editorial services can help you to "Omit needless words!" or "be obscure clearly," as Strunk put it. Contact us at to find out more.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Stumbling on your verbal blocks

Today's New York Times business section looks at what happens when CEOs can't speak clearly to public audiences, and we couldn't have said it better: "More than ever, investors are holding chief executives accountable for their public utterances and their ability to articulate a clear and compelling vision....[public speaking mistakes] can not only mar the public profile of a chief executive but also prompt a run on the stock." Today's examples include the CEO-designate of J.P. Morgan Chase, the Legg Mason CEO, and leaders at Enron and Morgan Stanley. A new PR Week survey of CEOs found that 55 percent of them say they spend more time communicating with customers than they did two years ago -- far and away the audience with the greatest increase in CEO time. That's all the more reason to prepare to avoid stumbling in your speeches. At don't get caught, we can coach you based on an existing speech -- making it, and you, more effective -- or help you write and carry out your presentations. We excel at preparing you for extemporaneous speaking, especially anticipating and answering questions from a crowd. Find out more about our speaking coach services by contacting Denise Graveline at

And check out our sister blog, The Eloquent Woman, for more on giving great speeches and presentations and become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook.

Monday, November 07, 2005

printing your document

...could mean digital fingerprinting, unless you know how to disable the metadata tags that are encoded in the simplest Microsoft Word documents emanating from your computer. Today's New York Times article on the topic stems from a Democratic National Committee memorandum, sent to the media "unsigned," or so the authors thought. But bloggers took the Word document and mined the codes to devine the authors' identity, and had a field day. Fortunately for you, the article also tells you how to scrub your own prints from your documents. It's just one reason we encourage our clients to think before releasing material publicly, and why we're called don't get caught. Let us help you prepare by emailing us at

I'll take mine plain...

...language, that is. A smart client from Baltimore sent us this article from today's Sun about the Fifth International Plain Language Conference held this past weekend in Washington, D.C., where advocates of simple words gathered to hone their sentences to make the meanings clear -- a rare art form here in the nation's capital, and in many workplaces. See if you can translate this gem from one presentation (if not, read the article to find out the simpler phrase): "As with the progenitor of the scion, in such similar manner it may occur with the scion." Or as William Strunk wrote, "Be obscure clearly!" We beg you. For information on our workshops about self-editing and our writing coach services, contact us at