Saturday, July 12, 2008

Further commentary on the decline of reading in the USA ...
> The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) published "To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence" recently, a study on Americans' reading habits.
> According to NEA, the number of Americans who actively read is declining steadily, and the steepest decline can be found amongst young people between the ages of 15 and 24 who, on average, spend seven minutes reading a day for leisure compared to two hours watching television. Another disconcerting statistic: nearly half of all Americans ages 18 to 24 read no books for pleasure.
> The study also reveals that young Americans are testing less well on reading even though more schools are increasing reading instruction in their classrooms. 'Will be interesting to see what implications, if any, the study will have on reading instruction in the future---specifically, how teachers and parents can better teach young people not only to read well enough to pass tests but to fall in love with the act of reading.
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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

by Claude C. Hopkins

To properly understand advertising or to learn even
its rudiments one must start with the right
conception. Advertising is salesmanship. Its
principles are the principles of salesmanship.
Successes and failures in both lines are due to like
causes. Thus every advertising question should be
answered by the salesman's standards.

Let us emphasize that point. The only purpose of
advertising is to make sales. It is profitable or
unprofitable according to its actual sales.

It is not for general effect. It is not to keep your
name before the people. It is not primarily to aid
your other salesmen. Treat it as a salesman. Force
it to justify itself. Compare it with other
salesmen. Figure its cost and result. Accept no
excuses which good salesmen do not make. Then you
will not go far wrong.

The difference is only in degree. Advertising is
multiplied salesmanship. It may appeal to thousands
while the salesman talks to one. It involves a
corresponding cost. Some people spend $10 per word
on an average advertisement. Therefore every ad
should be a super-salesman.

A salesman's mistake may cost little. An advertisers
mistake may cost a thousand times that much. Be more
cautious, more exacting, therefore. A mediocre
salesman may affect a small part of your trade.
Mediocre advertising affects all of your trade.

Many think of advertising as ad writing. Literary
qualifications have no more to do with it than
oratory has with salesmanship. One must be able to
express himself briefly, clearly and convincingly,
just as a salesman must. But fine writing is a
distinct disadvantage. So is unique literary style.
They take attention from the subject. They reveal
the hook. Any studies done that attempt to sell, if
apparent, creates corresponding resistance.

That is so in personal salesmanship as in
salesmanship-in-print. Fine talkers are rarely good
salesmen. They inspire buyers with the fear of over-
influence. They create the suspicion that an effort
is made to sell them on other lines than merit.

Successful salesmen are rarely good speech makers.
They have few oratorical graces. They are plain and
sincere men who know their customers and know their
lines. So it is in ad writing.

Many of the ablest men in advertising are graduate
salesmen. The best we know have been house-to-house
canvassers. They may know little of grammar, nothing
of rhetoric, but they know how to use words that

There is one simple way to answer many advertising
questions. Ask yourself, "Would it help a salesman
sell the goods?" "Would it help me sell them if I
met a buyer in person?" A fair answer to those
questions avoids countless mistakes.

But when one tries to show off, or does things
merely to please himself, he is little likely to
strike a chord which leads people to spend money.
Some argue for slogans, some like clever conceits.

Would you use them in personal salesmanship? Can you
imagine a customer whom such things would impress?
If not, don't rely on them for selling in print.

Some say "Be very brief. People will read for
little." Would you say that to a salesman? With a
prospect standing before him, would you confine him
to any certain number of words?

That would be an unthinkable handicap.

So in advertising. The only readers we get are
people whom our subject interests. No one reads ads
for amusements, long or short. Consider them as
prospects standing before you, seeking for
information. Give them enough to get action.

Some advocate large type and big headlines. Yet they
do not admire salesmen who talk in loud voices.
People read all they care to read in 8-point type.
Our magazines and newspapers are printed in that
type. Folks are accustomed to it. Anything louder is
like loud conversation. It gains no attention
worthwhile. It may not be offensive, but it is
useless and wasteful. It multiplies the cost of your
story. And to many it seems loud and blatant.

Others look for something queer and unusual. They
want ads distinctive in style or illustration. Would
you want that in a salesman? Do not men who act and
dress in normal ways make a far better impression?
Some insist on dressy ads. That is all right to a
certain degree, but is quite important. Some poorly-
dressed men, prove to be excellent salesmen. Over
dress in either is a fault.

So it is with countless questions.

Measure them by salesmen's standards, not by
amusement standards. Ads are not written to
entertain. When they do, those entertainment seekers
are little likely to be the people whom you want.
That is one of the greatest advertising faults. Ad
writers abandon their parts. They forget they are
salesmen and try to be performers. Instead of sales,
they seek applause.

When you plan or prepare an advertisement, keep
before you a typical buyer. Your subject, your
headline has gained his or her attention. Then in
everything be guided by what you would do if you met
the buyer face-to-face. If you are a normal man and
a good salesman you will then do your level best.

Don't think of people in the mass. That gives you a
blurred view. Think of a typical individual, man or
woman, who is likely to want what you sell.

Don't try to be amusing. Money spending is a serious
matter. Don't boast, for all people resent it. Don't
try to show off. Do just what you think a good
salesman should do with a half-sold person before

Some advertising men go out in person and sell to
people before they plan to write an ad. One of the
ablest of them has spent weeks on one article,
selling from house to house. In this way they learn
the reactions from different forms of argument and
approach. They learn what possible buyers want and
the factors which don't appeal. It is quite
customary to interview hundreds of possible
customers. Others send out questionnaires to learn
the attitude of the buyers. In some way all must
learn how to strike responsive chords.

Guesswork is very expensive.

The maker of an advertised article knows the
manufacturing side and probably the dealers side.
But this very knowledge often leads him astray in
respect to customers. His interests are not in their
interests. The advertising man studies the consumer.
He tries to place himself in the position of the
buyer. His success largely depends on doing that to
the exclusion of everything else.

The reason for most of the non-successes in
advertising is trying to sell people what they do
not want. But next to that comes lack of true

Ads are planned and written with some utterly wrong
conception. They are written to please the seller.
The interest of the buyer are forgotten. One can
never sell goods profitably, in person or in print,
when that attitude exists.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Surveys of top executives made by the American Management Association have repeatedly found the most important expectation of memos and reports is -- Why are they written and what result is expected?

It is also the rarest approach. How many times have you received a memo that does not reveal its purpose until the last paragraph, or the last line? Or ever? Nothing is more disconcerting, or irritating, than to read a nasty surprise sprung at the end. It seems a rule of thumb that the more hesitant the writer is to state his/her purpose, the lengthier the document. State your purpose and expectations right up front. Say them first. ["This is to report on the shortage of whatsits in Kelowna, and to request authorization for emergency funding...."]

Don't waste everyone's time by "throat-clearing" before you get to the point. It helps readers to know right off the bat whether the memo is for info only, requests an opinion, or requires some form of action. If you adopt this straight­forward style, people will start noticing memos from you over others', and appreciate your professionalism. Most of all, it says you respect the reader's time.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

by Sidney Allinson.

In your quest to self-publish your novel or short story, you may run into a little trouble with how to design a book cover. There are several ways to make an attractive cover for your book, but most writers fail in this particular area because they can't afford the photo editing software or don't trust their artistic abilities enough to do the work themselves. Making a book cover graphic is a simple process that anyone can do with a little guidance and effort.

You do have an artistic ability as a writer; it's mostly with words, but this artistic ability can also be manipulated toward graphic design. Your goal with self-publishing is to do so in a way that is most cost effective for you and at the same time look professional enough to make the sale. If you learn how to make your own book cover, you will greatly reduce the cost to produce your novel or short story.

Creating a book cover isn't as hard as it seems. The first thing you should do is gather ideas at your local bookstore; look at several new stories in your genre and compare styles, formats, graphics, and layouts. One thing you will find in common with almost every book out there is that they have a title and author's name on the cover. Your main focus will be on the book's title; this is what captures the reader's attention and makes them want to pull your book off the shelf.

The title of a book gives a basic description of what your book is about. It should fascinate your reader to the point they have to pick it up. Your title is a simple word or phrase that represents the primary focus of your book. Overall, what is your book about in five words or less? To choose a proper title, brainstorm the content of your book and create a word or phrase that sums up everything for your reader. Your title is the book's first impression, so this is a crucial stage when you design a book cover.

Once you have a satisfactory title for your book, open your word processing program or photo editing software and type it out along with your byline. Play around with different fonts and font sizes as well as locations on the page. You are looking for a layout that will automatically make your potential readers focus on your title. Don't use plain fonts; try to use a font that fits the era or time frame of your story. Make it a legible font that will give your reader a good feel about your book, but at the same time subconsciously tells them a little bit about your book. When playing around with your font types and sizes, ensure you make the byline smaller than the title as to not distract from your primary focal point.

Now think of a color that corresponds with your book's theme. A books theme is the main picture people get when they read your book. Examples of themes are love equals red and death equals black. Each theme should have a corresponding color. The theme color you choose will be your background color for your cover.

If you have some creativity in you, and I know you do, try to choose a particular scene in your book that has a corresponding picture (a barroom, a mountain, a river...) that you can use to design a book cover background instead of just a plain color. Pictures tend to give your reader an image of a scene within your book so when they do read it, they can get a better picture in their mind about what's going on around them. Don't choose a picture that will distract all attention away from your title.

After you have a title, font, and background, choose a complimentary color for the title and byline font of your book. Making your title and byline stand out from your background is a key ingredient of designing your own book cover. Play around with different color harmonies to see what presents the best mood as you look at it. If it looks good, you're done. Have others look at it as well to give you constructive feedback to make it even better.

Learning how to design a book cover can take a little time and effort on your part, but will ultimately pay off when you present your book to the world. You don't have to be a full-fledged artist to make this work; all you need is a little creativity to effectively create a great book cover.

About the Author

Sidney Allinson is a professional author, with over 30 years' experience as an ad copywriter, and was creative director at Ogilvy & Mather Advertising International. He is author of six published printed books, plus countless magazine articles, advertisements, TV commercials, and direct mail campaigns. Sidney offers free answers to copywriting questions at You can see the result of one of his own book covers at:

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Ever wonder if you're the type who is creative, an idea- producer? If so, than size yourself up by some criteria agreed on by the Chicago Graduate School of Business:
* You have few close friends.
• You are independent, dominant.
* Little interest in interpersonal relationships.
• Conventional morality.
• Preference for things and ideas over people.
• High regard for intellectual interests.
• Get less satisfaction from detail work,
• Skeptical, critical, capacity to be puzzled.
• Stubbornness, originality.
• Open to new experiences; adventurous.
• Enjoy analyzing things, situations.
• Can think "sideways; view problems differently.
• Responsive, emotional, enthusiastic.
• Anxious, complicated as a person.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The heir to the British throne recently wrote the foreword to 'A Decade Of Jargon & Gobbledegook.' Book is published by the Plain English Campaign to emphasize some of the worst examples of officialese during the past ten years.
Prince Charles' contribution was to write in deliberately verbose language that took forever to say that he backs more plain English and less nonsense in bureaucratic writing:
"Due to a frequent regrettable inability to prevent my presence in other locations, I find that I must convey to you my goodwill in a correspondence format", he wrote. "How many of us, I wonder, when faced with pretentious gobbledegook and empty jargon, experience a kick-start into despair mode? My feelings to you all are, attitudinally, those of enormous encouragement...."
Which confirms absolutely that pompous prose really does give a Royal pain.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Surveys of top executives made by the American Management Association have repeatedly found that recipients' most important expectation of e-mails, memos, and reports is -- Why are they written and what result is expected?
It is also the rarest approach. How many times have you received a written message that does not reveal its purpose until the last paragraph, or the last line? Or ever? Nothing is more disconcerting or irritating, than to read a nasty surprise sprung at the end, “out of the blue”. It seems a rule of thumb that the more hesitant the writer is to state his/her purpose, the lengthier the document. State your purpose and expectations right up front. Say them first. ["This is to report on the shortage of widgets in Chicago, and to request authorization for emergency funding...."]
Don't waste everyone's time by "throat-clearing" before you get to the point. It helps readers to know right off the bat whether the memo is for info only, requests an opinion, or requires some form of action. If you adopt this straight¬forward style, people will start noticing memos from you over others', and appreciate your professionalism. Most of all, when you get to the point straight away, it says you respect the reader's time.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008



Often, if you ever feel stuck while trying to complete a short writing project, it is easy to deal with. Just put it on hold temporarily, and start writing another one. Simply writing something – anything – is the most effective way to instantly defeat the mythical state of writer's block! This antidote to inertia works every time, whatever it is -- advertising copy, a sales-letter, web site FAQs, a lengthy research paper, or even a fiction novel. But first, before going on, let me state firmly – there is absolutely no such thing as “writer’s block.”

Now, read that sentence *aloud* to yourself -- There is absolutely no such thing as “writer’s block!”

Have you ever heard of “bricklayer’s block,” “lawyer’s block,” “surgeon’s block,” “truck-driver’s block”? Of course not. So-called writer’s block is at best an artistic affectation, largely based on unattainable perfectionism. It does not exist in reality. At worst, it is a mental attitude that prevents a writer from putting the words down – nothing more. So the solution is simple. Write some words down – any words to start with – and you are by practical demonstration, no longer “blocked.”

It has dramatic and speedy results when you are writing ad copy, which rarely exceeds a few hundred words. But feeling “blocked” can be much more serious when it comes to writing a novel. You may have invested weeks, months, or years in your opus, and giving up on it after coming so far should not be an option. Instead, when you get stuck for ideas, do not know what to write next, or suddenly feel the whole book is a waste of effort, here is what to do:

Get some progress going by creating blank chapter headings for the next few segments. Then add two or three blank scenes to each. Ignore for now how long these are going to be, or whether you need one or four of them per chapter. You're just showing your brain the small incremental steps involved.

Starting at that seemingly “blocked” chapter, jot down one-line descriptions for the blank scenes. You are just filling empty spaces right now, so it does not have to be amazingly exciting. As you progress you might find yourself moving away from your plot. If that turns out to be more interesting - good. (The excuse of “writer's block” is often simply the result of trapping your characters in a dead end without any pre-planning where the story will go next.)

If that is the case with you, more than likely you have not done any preparation in the form of a plot outline of what your novel is going to be about. You would not jump into your car to drive across country without at least looking at a map first to see where you intend to end up. Same with a book project. Writing down even the barest rough outline first will do wonders for your creativity. So, stop trying to write any scenes or chapters at all, until you write an outline.

Only then should you dive back in to writing your novel. Do not agonize over the very first line on the very first page. Start anywhere. It could be at a point that ends up as Chapter Nine, or even the last page of the final book! That is a pretty good ploy, by the way. If you are already able to visualize and write the last page, it can provide you with a marvelous final destination, a creative magnet that can pull you through the manuscript to the end.

Describe an incident or scene that particularly interests you, regardless of where it may end up in the manuscript. Suddenly, you will be able to write down a scene which excites you, interests you. Has some life to it. Some juice in it. You feel in your guts it is a good scene; one that makes your tale come alive!

Don't try to write it fully immediately, though. Just write some more detailed notes for it. Over the next day or two, it will stick in your mind, and you'll be able to refine it, add to it. Still hold yourself back and don't write it yet. If you like, you can stop outlining other scenes now. Just keep replaying this particular vivid scene through your mind. If you are itching to write it down... well, there goes that mythical writer's block! Never forget -- you are writing a novel, not reading one. What happens next is completely in your hands, but this new freedom can sometimes make you freeze like a deer in the headlights. Do you leap left or right? Who cares? Jump in any direction. The important thing is to keep moving the tale along.

After you sit down to write this great scene, it may not come out on paper reading as grand as it was in your imagination. Refuse to have unrealistic expectations of how your words look first time out of the gate. On the contrary, expect some initial disappointment. As Ernest Hemingway said famously, “All first drafts are shit!” So do not worry at this stage. That final literary grandness will come later, after multiple changes and revisions. You will probably rewrite the whole thing several times before your book is complete. The main thing at this stage is to unblock the creative juices, to get the words down, not to expect creating a glittering first draft, instantly the best novel the world has ever seen.

After you've written that pretty-good dramatic scene, you can go back to modify the events and descriptions leading up to it. As you're rewriting these descriptions, your imagination will create other scenes – before or after the current stage. Now you have another segment to develop.

The point is, write scenes which are bursting to get onto the page, and for now skip the ones which seem like a chore at present. (If you yourself feel bored while writing them, imagine how bored your reader is likely going to feel.) Especially important for keeping a sense of swift progression, avoid long, overly-detailed transition scenes. For example, say you have a character in New York City who needs to travel to Calcutta. Unless something dramatic or relevant happens on the plane, you can end the NYC scene by hailing a cab for the airport. Then you can start the next chapter with a quick mention of Calcutta atmosphere, just to orient the reader. Use the same method throughout, to avoid any other discursive, needlessly-descriptive parts, and your novel will speed along – both while writing it and reading it.

Now, one more time: Read this sentence aloud to yourself:

“There is absolutely no such thing as writer’s block!”

Now, buckle down, and start writing some words on paper.

Monday, May 26, 2008




for business, advertisers, and websites

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Now you can hire me to create persuasive advertising or public relations campaigns based on the truth well told; write technical literature that explains things clearly, speeches that reflect your personality and message, direct mail that pulls orders, or collateral brochures that bring out convincing benefits. If you have already prepared web site copy or documentation that requires editing or written a book that could use some editing or frank advice, I can provide that for you as well.

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