[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

[We, Me, Them & It]
I went for a very interesting course today.

Although the trainer was interesting and the title of the course was interesting, what struck me most was particularly his style of delivery.

Titled "A word in your ear...", it was conducted by this ang moh guy, John Simmons, who has written several books on business writing or writing for business.

He used several 'in your face' examples.

I quote one:
What does this sign at a traffic junction mean:
Pedestrian Casualty Reduction Signal Timings Experiment

I guess it is pretty difficult to decipher the meaning. But simply put in not so cheem English it just means this:
We changed the timing of the lights to avoid accidents.

Now, this was one of the several examples Mr Simmons used to illustrate the use of English in our daily work.

Now consider this example in a lift:
Warning. If the marked capacity on this lift is exceeded, there is a specific danger it may fall down the lift shaft.

What a mouthful. The person who last steps into the lift and causes it to fall down the lift shaft may not evn know the reason till he finishes reading the whole sign. By then, it would be too late.

Mr Simmons, who is also a writer of several poems also showed how opposites, charged with meanings, grab the attention of the reader. In the phrase 'forceps and stone', he shows how it describes the passage of life from cradel to grave in a short and sweet manner.

Another memorable example to illustrate brevity is when he read a poem of the song "Yesterday" written in a different form. It turned out to be hilarious and difficult to comprehend.

The strategy or the presentation of his ideas (which I liked) followed a BBC program, Desert Island Discs. Guests on the program choose eight compact discs they would bring onto a desert island and they have to explain why they like a particular song in the disc.

So in between talking, Mr Simmons pauses and plays a song. And he explains why he chooses that song and relates it to his pointers.

And so, in short, his eight pointers on how to a write a good piece are:
1. Be curious. Be a traveller not a tourist. Be open to possibilities.
2. Listen to your own words as you write. And try to make others listen to your words as if to a wonderful new language.
3. Set and accept constraints. Welcome them particularly when constraints are the brief.
4. Put yourself in your reader's place. Imagine the lives of your consumers. Show compassion to them.
5. Words appear in a context of sound, vision and memory. Make deliberate use of these associations.
6. Edit, edit edit. But know you have to stop.
7. Transform the most unpromising materials. Not even lists need to be boring.
8. Bring your personality to work. Put it positively in your writing.

He also explains how to use humour in writing. One such example was illustrated by the text on a fruit smoothie bottle. First, a shock tactic was used, then in small text it says that it was just a little joke. Smile. Another example was how email writing could be lively conversations.

For his parting shot, he says he ends with not a word in your ear, (like in the title of the talkie) but many, many words of wisdom.

And, yes, I was definitely inspired. Bring it on. This would probably inspire me to write a nice poem using one of his styles.


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