This is David Kay's Typepad Profile.
Join Typepad and start following David Kay's activity
Join Now!
Already a member? Sign In
David Kay
Recent Activity
I must be a grouch, too. If I want "friendly," I'll go see a friend. When I deal with service professionals--and remember, most of us would rather not--I want "courteous." At least he didn't mention a picture of your daughter or anything, so you can at least *imagine* he didn't Google you or look you up on Facebook. Creepy.
It's always easier to bat clean-up! My action verb for each bullet format has the disadvantage that I can't do something as wonderful as your "3. Recommend improvements." Of course, clear writing is only as good as the thoughts it is expressing. As someone who is rethinking our offerings, value proposition, and messaging for the first time since 2006 or so, I can tell you that even EWRITE's rewrite of my old website wouldn't be very good -- we just didn't have that stuff figured out then. Ideally, if Blue Jay sees your crisp rewrite, they'll think, "wow, these points aren't nearly as important as these other ones," and the improvement will continue. @Cheryl - I agree 30% is a wonderful place to land. But isn't Leslie's Big Hairy Audacious Goal an exciting place to start?
"If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter." (Attributed to, well, just about everyone: Twain, Proust, Eliot, Jefferson, Pascal...) I appreciate your taking on examples, rather than just giving advice. And isn't it easier to edit someone else's copy than our own? Here's my cut at it. It's not quite half, depending on how you count, but it preserves (exposes?) a little of the music. Some word choices are idiosyncratic--I like "ground truth," but I have an intelligence community background, and that may not resonate with everyone. If I had to cut further, I'd start losing steps. Five points would be better than six, anyhow, in the marketing conventional wisdom. ----- Approach
 We improve our clients’ performance—people and systems alike. Our techniques are proven, our consultants are respected, and our clients gain measurable benefits. Here’s how we do it: 1. Assess. What's not working? what's not making sense? Where are the opportunities? 2. Observe. Dive into day-to-day operations to learn the ground truth. 3. Recommend. Identify specific improvements. 4. Partner. Collaborate with administrators, physicians and front-line staff in problem-solving efforts. 5. Execute. Provide support and manage change during the implementation. 6. Follow up. Keep in ongoing contact to sustain success. Best, David
You know, I wish you were more consistent. Here you are always complaining about writing that doesn't communicate clearly, but this fellow's message couldn't be more clear: "I'm a creepy jerk; fire and/or sue me at once." I hope no one accuses me of political correctness, but I'm so surprised that so many people seem to have missed the memo that we're no longer living in 1956. [Obligatory disclaimer that this is not legal advice] Not only can "Chris" do something about it, in many workplaces she would be obligated by policy to do something about it. Please encourage her to contact HR or a senior partner. The days of the "boom boom room" are over. Best, David
Uh-oh. I use quite of a few of these. May I make a modest defense? 1. "Baked in." Have you ever been disappointed by a cinnamon roll that had a great icing, but tasted like Wonder Bread inside? (Yes, I'm talking about you, Cinnabon.) It's much better when the cinnamon is baked in. Or the cheese in a breadstick. "Baked in" is an evocative way of saying that something is an intrinsic attribute, not just a thin veneer. It's overused, certainly--ought we really say that "compliance with industry best practices" is baked in to a software package? But it's a good phrase anyhow. 2. I know incent is one of these terrible backformations of a verb from a noun...but it's a verb we need, by golly, and I don't know what other one to use. "How shall we incent attrition?" One could use encourage to, or motivate by incentive, or something, but... I expected you'd really hate "disincent." 3. I guess I'd say the same for "scale," in the sense of "grow without non-linear restrictions." This is really an old word: people would build scale models and scale them up. We just apply it to more virtual things. "Selling hummingbird tongues over the Internet is a nice little business, but I don't think it's going to scale." 4. "Federate" is actually technical jargon that is drifting imprecisely into common usage. I'd be happy to explain its precise meaning, but perhaps you'd be happier if I didn't? 5. Re: space, what other word would you use..."market?" "Industry?" Industry is a kind of funny old-school world, now that we don't use machines so much... Of course, I cannot defend "decisioning" under any circumstances. One simply decides.
Toggle Commented Jun 18, 2010 on "Attrit" or Death By Buzzword at Writing Matters
You know how much I love rewriting bad stuff, but I don't think I can improve on your revision. Well done! dbk
Absolutely not appropriate. Well, with one exception: if the organization for which she works, and the interactions that she is likely to have, are explicitly religious in nature. By similar logic, I wouldn't be surprised to get "don't forget to register and vote Republican" from a constituent-facing employee of the RNC. But if she worked for (say) the University of San Diego, which is a Catholic institution but not one with a mission that is explicitly sacred, I'd say it's out of bounds. Signatures should be "just the facts." And while we're at it, lose the 30 line disclaimer from Legal telling me I what I can and can't do with your email, please? You sent it to me -- don't start giving me orders. And please keep the marketing tag line du jour out of it, too. And your non-relegious inspirational or humorous thought of the day. Really, it's work email, not Facebook. And I don't need a 200 x 300 version of your logo. One exception: a nice, one-line link to the customer support portal is perfectly appropriate on a response from a customer support professional. --David ps - still, if you're really seeing red, perhaps that's more about you than about the .sig? dbk
Yikes! I just listened to "Alex" read two pages of my most recent effort. I had enjoyed it before. As I read it, It was erudite, well-researched yet approachable, thoughtfully structured, and satisfying. My only criticism? Perhaps too derivative of Tom Robbins essays, with his trademark playful use of language that, while fun, still evokes the wrenching tragedy of our shared humanity. Instead, Alex made it sound like one of those sessions at an academic conference where an ernest bore wastes an hour of your life reading from single-spaced pages held in quietly shaking hands. He didn't find any errors in grammar or usage, although his pronunciation of "crowdsourcing" made me check the original for typos. But goodness, he made me feel like I'd written Vogon poetry. So, thanks for the advice. But if that's reality, I choose to reject it. Best, David
My complements on a well-written blog post! (snort). Anyhow, as a knowledge management geek, the thing that stands out to me is the distinction they're drawing between the written and spoken word. Replay their response: 1. Taste is subjective, so we won't respond in writing. 2. But call us. We'll give you advice as long as it's off the record. We see this all the time in knowledge management. They'll let someone give wrong answers to customers all day on the phone, but ask that same person to document the response in a KB article, where others can see and correct it? Absolutely not--it might be *wrong!*. On the other hand...brown and blue? I might go undercover with that, too. Unless you're serving a bruise for dinner. Best, dbk
"Seasoned" with bourbon?
Thanks for the good words -- I can't WAIT to read the book. But I do feel Margaret one-upped me. In the clear light of day, I'll try to distill it to Haiku. I'm looking forward to reading all of the rewrites.
Go ahead and be petty -- share the name of the author (who didn't even get a byline...such a pity) and we can look him or her up. Living well is the best revenge, but it sure goes down well with a jigger of schadenfreude. While we're at it, remember Wilson McHenry tanked during the bust; the only plausible Joanne Serling on LinkedIn is doing "freelance PR and writing at consultant." (Perhaps she'd enjoy a writing class? You could give her 10% off.) Malcolm's LinkedIn profile says "unemployed" in much more impressive terms: beware any self-description that starts "serial entrepreneur." Congratulations on 13 successful years, and here's to many more. Your post is a great reminder of the wisdom of "illegitimi non carborundum."
The thing that's most jarring about this poor bit of writing is its whipsaw changes in tone. The first paragraph sounds like she's trying to be fairly formal and almost literary: "Some are preparing Hanukkah gifts and lighting candles, others are putting up Christmas trees in their homes, and all of us are looking forward to a more settled, peaceful and economically stable New Year." That sentence, which you eliminated in your masterful rewrite, makes me think I'm can sit back, slow down, and have a thoughtful read. Wrong. Much of the rest of the letter sounds like it was written on a Blackberry or iPhone and sent without editing. Consider "I wanted to provide access this information in this message" [sic]; even a quick once-over would have caught the missing "to," but the more fundamental issue is "this information." What information? Was she really going to share compensation information for all top managers in a holiday email? Or was she referring to just managers in her district? Or perhaps a link to the information? The bill? Each interpretation is less plausible than the one before. We move quickly back into practiced, polished, political speak: "This legislation would show you one reason why the medical costs in this country are the highest in the world, while our health outcomes are among the lowest among economically advanced countries." That's followed immediately by a casual sentence fragment: "Certainly not the only cost driver, but indicative of some of our health care cost problems." The late Charles Shell, my eighth-grade English teacher, failed his students for that. Fragments have their place, but not in a letter like this. The worst offense is as much political as it is editorial. She writes "Last year one of my bills allowed ordinary citizens to learn..." but later, it's clear that the correct mood was subjunctive, not indicative. She didn't get her bill passed, so it hasn't allowed anyone to do anything. Poor writing, or deliberate weaseling? It's hard to say, although I'm voting for some of each. She should hire you guys next time she wants to send a letter. Best, David
Make that, "...customer-facing staff are the people who capture, improve, and update knowledge that will be shared..." Sheesh.
For most of my clients, customer-facing staff are the people who knowledge that will be shared with other agents/analysts/engineers and directly with customers. Good knowledgebase writing shares much in common with good customer emails: it's clear, understandable, and useable. But many specifics are different. Knowledgebase content should be structured, findable, and extremely crisp. Complete sentences and prose structure can get in the way of clarity. Think "recipe," not "manual." Good symptoms may be noun phrases or simple clauses; good resolutions might be a series of numbered steps in the imperative. Capturing and improving knowledge, especially while working a customer issue, is difficult. But it's a great way to eliminate rework and please customers. Cheers, David
I love this! Here's our book, Collective Wisdom: Transforming Support with Knowledge:
Toggle Commented Oct 28, 2009 on Wordle: My Favorite New Toy at Writing Matters
My proposed revision: Subject: Your question answered: Academic discount eligibility (This is very much in line with what I see Colleen suggests above). I've played with a bunch of lead-ins ("Email inquiry response" isn't bad, but it's a little formal). They take space, but I want the subject line to communicate that this is directly in response to a question you posed. Another fun way to do this is to pretend that this email is literally a response to your question. Subject: Re: I'd like to buy InDesign for my daughter who... Of course, the words aren't as meaningful as "Academic discount eligibility," but they're YOURS. So, coupled with the Re:, they might trigger the right neurons during the email triage process. This is also something that can be autopopulated. Subject lines that have a generic business name like "Academic Superstore" make the mail look like spam. If their ERMS (email response management system) is really so primitive as to only support a generic subject line, at least make it "Email inquiry response from Academic Superstore") This looks spammish, too, but at least it might help one remember the question posed a day or two prior. Cheers, David