Urban written slang: an update on grunting

urban slang,writing,insults,meh,whatever,humor,jokes,funny,hilarious

Your new idea is about as exciting as watching paint dry
… MEH me something new, for a change

A while back, on another platform I wrote about some gloriously featureless words that had crept into every day speech and still, Heaven preserve us, hang around today.

The first, was “meh.”

Much as I think it has as much charm as a pile of dog sh*t, the phonetic value of the word does express what it purports to mean, quite well. Especially if accompanied by shrugging of the shoulders and rolling of the eyes. [Read more…]

Presenting made simple (I wish I had written this)

Have you ever bought a book or clicked on something that told you presenting and making speeches are as easy as pie, only to find that – when you read on – they aren’t? Well, here is the exception that proves some rule or other: presenting isn’t a walk in the park, but with the right approach and guidance it can be a simple exercise that will help anyone in business get heard as well as read. Thanks to this glorious new eBook by my good friend Dr Simon Raybould.

Presentation coach/guru Simon and I have contributed to each other’s books over the last ten years or so and broadly we agree on most topics where we cross over … mainly on how to put your material together and script it, if you’re going to.

But damn that Simon, he has managed to capture so much more wisdom about presenting than I know, and not only that – also to whittle it all down into a highly digestible eBook that not only makes it look easy, but shows you how to do it easily. I could kill him; I’ve been trying to achieve a book like that for years and have failed, miserably.

It’s an art, darling … yeah, right

Simon shares my overly-developed sense of the ridiculous (which could be why we’re such good friends) and in the book thumbs his nose at many of the pretensions associated with presenting. Although “It’s an art, darling” is the title of one of his preliminary chapters, he soon takes the p*ss out of that notion and reassures us that presenting may be an art, but it can be learned and perfected – provided that you follow his simple, golden rules.

Rather than bore you with my interpretation of the book, I thought you’d like to see the video Simon has made for the book’s website, so without further ado, here he is….

A tantalizing taste of the menu

These excerpts from Presenting Made Simple’s table of contents will give you an idea of what’s to come – everything laid out in a logical, agreeable order to take you through the process painlessly:

  • What does my audience already know?
  • What do I need them to know by the end of my presentation?
  • What’s the best way to tell them it?
  • A quick (real world!) example
  • Turn off the tech
  • The three levels of communication
  • Tell me a story!
  • Using backstories
  • A cautionary tale!
  • Credibility
  • Wisdom from Hollywood
  • Listen to Mary Poppins
  • KISS – Keep it Short and Simple
  • Rehearse, don’t (just) practice
  • When you rehearse, do so out loud
  • Not all mistakes are created equal
  • Hardware and software tricks
  • Black slides
  • Dealing with questions
  • The planned questions approach
  • The un-planned questions approach
  • Knowing when to take questions

Buy this eBook and use it whenever you need to make a good presentation: it’s worth every penny. (And I am not getting affiliate fees for this!) Click here for more information.

Now, get your presentations simply perfect – every time:

“Presenting Made Simple”…details above ^^^ !

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

Top 10 tips to create a stunning speech or presentation

Top 10 tips to create a stunning speech or presentation1. The worst part of giving a speech is thinking about it beforehand.
In fact, if you prepare properly, once you get started the jitters disappear. Many people say that it’s good to get slightly nervous before you start because the rise in your adrenaline levels puts you in peak form to perform.  (But not if you’re so hyped you’re chewing the furniture. So prepare …. and relax.)

2. Never use language you wouldn’t use in normal conversation.
That’s because it makes you sound stilted, artificial, and boring. People often try to give themselves a personality transplant before they speak in public and talk as they think a public speaker “should” talk.  This doesn’t work, especially if you’re a beginner. ALWAYS be yourself.

3. The best speakers always talk to audiences as if they were talking to a friend over a cup of coffee.
This means in a natural, friendly, personal style. They make it look and sound easy, but usually that’s because of the work that’s gone into it beforehand. No matter how pompous or snobbish they may be in real life (think politicians) their speeches are usually natural and friendly because they know that works best.

4. So how do you achieve this smooth, seamless, natural style?
Start by writing yourself a list of points – a structure that includes a beginning, a middle and an end. Strengthen that structure with a few short, relevant and above all true stories from your own experience.  Audiences appreciate honesty and, being naturally voyeuristic (in the nicest possible way…) enjoy sharing your innermost experiences.

5. Then talk through the structure into an audio recorder. 
Don’t worry about style or grammar at this stage, just chat it through as if you were talking to that friend over the cup of coffee.  Finally rewind the tape and then transcribe it. It’s a terrible job. I hate transcribing, but the benefits make all the tedium worthwhile. Talk nicely to your PA or secretary if you have one….

6. Now, get to work editing that transcript.
Assuming it has been transcribed directly into your PC the process should be easy. (And make a copy before you start, in case things go wrong.) Above all else, don’t take out the natural pauses or less-than-grammatically-perfect-but-totally-“you”-content. Be sure, however, to clean up any sections that sound lumpy and awkward.  Give the rest a gentle tidy-up.

7. Depending on the occasion, it helps to add in some humor to illustrate the points you make.
But be careful with humor, because if it’s even a little bit inappropriate for the occasion it can spoil the whole presentation. Bad or tasteless jokes take a lot of recovering from. Also avoid humor if it isn’t something you use or sympathize with normally. There’s nothing worse than a joke told by someone who doesn’t think it’s funny.

8. Writing your speech, as opposed to working only from notes, stops you running under or over your allotted time slot.
This can be embarrassing.  By all means develop bullet points to work from, but write up in full what you’re going to say before you get out there. That helps to lodge the content firmly in your mind.  Well worth it.

9. To calculate how many words fit into a given time slot, here’s the formula:
People speak at 120 – 150 words per minute. Multiply your speed (make a judgment on whether you speak slowly or quickly) by the number of minutes, and that’s how many words you need. If you want to be particularly scientific about gauging your own speed, time a section of your taped material, mark that section on your written transcript, run a word count on it via your word processing software and then do the calculation.

10. Most important of all is to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.
Not too early, or you’ll be fed up with the speech, but not the night before either. Never be ashamed of rehearsing. I know it’s hard when your partner is waiting impatiently for you to mow the lawn, cook dinner or anything else for that matter – or your kids scream with laughter when they hear your performance from behind the bathroom door. I’ve been there. But tell them all to get lost, nicely, rehearse until you feel comfortable with your presentation, then go out there on the day and knock ’em dead.  And enjoy!

All the answers you need about speeches and presentations:

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“English to English: the A to Z of British-American translations”…more than 2,000 business and social terms from the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand

Infinitives: to boldly split, or not?

In theory you shouldn’t add an adverb between the “to” and the verb in an infinitive, e.g. “to seriously consider,” instead sticking the adverb either before the infinitive (“seriously to consider”) or after (“to consider seriously.) Did it all start with Star Trek and “to boldly go?

Apparently not; English speakers have been arguing about it for hundreds of years.

Wikipedia sits on the fence: As the split infinitive became more common in the 19th century, some grammatical authorities sought to introduce a prescriptive rule against it. The construction is still the subject of disagreement among native English speakers as to whether it is grammatically correct or good style: “No other grammatical issue has so divided English speakers since the split infinitive was declared to be a solecism in the 19c [19th century]: raise the subject of English usage in any conversation today and it is sure to be mentioned.” However, most modern English usage guides have dropped the objection to the split infinitive.’

Have they really? Not necessarily. The University of Bristol Faculty of Arts warns“Split infinitives have, traditionally, been regarded by some commentators as anathema, something to be avoided at all costs. There is no rational basis for this rule; splitting infinitives is commonplace in spoken language, and even in written English it may be clearer or more elegant to do so. In general, however, split infinitives should be avoided in the formal register of an essay or other piece of academic writing, unless the alternative seems excessively awkward or clumsy. Usually it is sufficient to move the offending word so that it comes either before or after the infinitive.”

The US-based GetItWriteOnline.com explains why splitting infinitives can make your writing unclear, or at least clumsy: Because an infinitive expresses a single idea, a unit of thought, we try to keep its two parts–the marker to and the root verb that follows it–together if we can. After all, our job as writers is to make our reader’s job as easy as possible, and keeping logical units of thought intact generally promotes that effort. Most writers would agree that the following sentences containing split infinitives are awkward–or at least not as readable and clear as the “improved” sentences that follow (the infinitives are underlined):

  • She agreed to quickly and quietly leave the room. 
  • She agreed to leave the room quickly and quietly.
  • We should try to whenever possible avoid splitting infinitives. 
  • We should try to avoid splitting infinitives whenever possible.”

And my own view? Having read numerous blogposts and website entries on this topic I now can safely say that for anyone to complain about split infinitives is outdated and stuffy. What the majority are saying, as these examples here show, is that the most important objective is to make what you write as clear and as easy to understand as possible. Thank Heavens for that … isn’t it nice to see a bit of sanity creeping quietly into the English language?

Never split an infinitive again (unless you want to):

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

Startrek image borrowed with many thanks from TopazPartners.

6 key differences between spoken and written grammar goofs

grammar,spoken speech,written,writing,bloggingMost of us native English speakers have had English grammar shoved down our throats ever since we started school; and non-native speakers have experienced a similar thing ever since they first started learning English as a second (or third, fourth, etc.,) language.

As we all know (or soon discover) English is an utterly lunatic language with so many “irregulars” and inconsistencies it’s not in the least bit funny. But once you’re speaking (and writing) English with reasonable ease, there are still a few common pitfalls to watch out for. Here are a few that I come across most frequently, and how to get them right… [Read more…]

How to (not) write a great presentation script, part two

By Dr Simon Raybould of Curved Vision

In this second part of Dr Simon Raybould’s article, he shares his tried-and-tested techniques for rehearsing and refining your presentation after you’ve compiled its content…

If you missed last week’s part one of Dr Simon Raybould’s article, you can catch up with it here

Once you’ve done all you can this way, stand up, clear the room and physically deliver your presentation out loud. Present to the cat if you must, but present it out loud. I’ll say that again for impact… physically deliver your script out loud, as though you were delivering it. That way you do two things.

Firstly you discover more and more things about your script that don’t work orally. Change them.

Secondly you become more and more familiar with the material and as such you’re in a better position to start a bit of paraphrasing. Let it happen.  Don’t force it, just let it happen naturally.

(Note from Suze: it’s also helpful to run an audio recording of your out-loud presentation practice and play it back … helps pick up any stray goofs!)

Caution! You’ll need to deliver over and over to the empty room so be careful that you take lots of breaks to keep yourself fresh. There’s a risk as you do this that you become familiar with the sound of your own voice as it says certain things and begin to think they actually sound natural – when to anyone else they are about as organic as rusty tin.

The old adage of ‘practice makes perfect’ is rubbish. What practice actually makes is permanent!

If you can face it, use a highlighter on your script to pick out the key words that you are now beginning to improvise around. Use some common sense and take out more and more of the script so that you’re left relying only on the key words and the amount of time you spend reading your script reduces gradually until you’re simply glancing down at the highlighted keywords. Cross out the rest.

Seriously, cross it out. Otherwise you’ll be tempted to read it. Force yourself to move from the words on the page to the keywords only. If you don’t believe me, ask any actor how hard it is not to read a script in rehearsal when they’re rehearsing with the script in their hands ‘just in case’…

Now comes the scary part… put the key words you’ve got left onto index cards and ditch the script. If you’ve got a script in your hand you’ll fall back on it because you can.  Don’t. Shred it if you dare and then you’ve got no choice but to use the index cards when it comes to The Big Day.

Personally I use cards which are five inches by three inches because they sit nicely into my hand with my fingers barely curled, so that I can move and gesticulate as normal – your hands will be a different size to mine, so test it, test it test it!

One last word of advice… when your keywords are on index cards, practice with them until you’re familiar with the feel of them and (very importantly!) put a hole in the top left hand corner with a treasury tag through it.

Believe me, if you’ve ever dropped your index cards you’ll thank me for that last tip!  😀

I know this feels like a clumsy movement away from the written word (and it is, compared to starting with the spoken word) but trust me, you’ll thank me for it when you’re live!

If you missed last week’s part one of Dr Simon Raybould’s article, you can catch up with it here. In the meantime, many thanks once again to Simon for his great advice.

Dr Simon Raybould’s career started in research (into the cause of childhood cancer). He’s now one of the UK’s leading presentation skills trainers. He’s also in demand as a conference speaker, specializing in personal resilience, stress and confidence.

More help with writing about yourself:

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English