writing – Opus Magnum
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Career Services, Newsroom, OCB Commentary

Use Simple Language to Make Your Message Spread

A plethora of academics use baroque vernacular to articulate significance. Huh?  Let’s try that again.  A large number of students use big words to try to sound important.  Does it work?  Not really, according to Inc.com.   The reason you should probably ditch your thesaurus? You want your writing to be inclusive and appeal to a large audience.

Using unnecessary big words can often hinder your message from spreading because readers want to read something quickly and easily.  They do not want to pull out their dictionaries to decipher what was said. Continue Reading

Newsroom, OCB Commentary, social media

2012 Challenge: Email on a “Human Scale”

This post originally appeared in The Scroll, a blog for the University of St. Thomas community.  It was written by Dr. Carol Bruess, a professor in the Communication & Journalism department.


My smart colleague Dr. Wendy Wyatt passed along an opinion piece published earlier this fall in the Star Tribune. She knew I would like and applaud it. And indeed, the content was such that I can’t quite shake it from my digital-age brain. In fact, every ding of new email, log-in prompt and face lit up by a smart phone around campus brings my attention back to Chris Anderson’s commentary, “You’ve got mail! (Which means you’ve got demands).”

I mostly share his opinions, and they have come to claim a place in the front of my tech-stretched mind. With the new year nearly upon us, it seems timely to ask if Anderson might have put his finger on not only a profound problem but also a rather brilliant solution – one that can help all of us with an email inbox make sure next year is better than last. Could we be happier and healthier if we become better e-mailers? Sounds easier than losing 15 pounds!E-mail

Anderson’s day begins, like mine and likely yours, with a glance at his inbox: “A sample might include a message from the colleague of a friend about his startup venture. Another is about a staff issue. A third is a discussion, copied to six people, about an upcoming charitable event.”

He goes on, and this is where I started getting giddy and wanted to know more. I can’t stop thinking, “Oh my goodness. He’s pinpointed the problem to which I need a solution … as does, it seems, almost every adult, friend, student, colleague, administrator, staff, parent and pal I know.” He writes:

“These e-mails have nothing in common — except that none of their issues had been on my agenda that morning. I don’t even know one of the senders. But although it took only a few minutes to read these notes, I suddenly feel pressure to develop coherent thoughts on complex questions regarding someone else’s business, office politics and world peace. It’s barely 8 a.m., and I’m already drowning in e-mail. My day’s priorities have been commandeered. And more missives keep pouring in, including tweets, Google Plus notifications, Facebook status updates and instant messages. A fire hose of information all day long.” Continue Reading

Newsroom, OCB Commentary, UST MBC

Only you can conserve pixels!

bayer_pattern_sensor[1]Scary, but true: Because of the inefficient use of electronic media of all kinds over the past two decades, the world will likely face a pixel shortage in the near future.

What, you may be asking, can be done to avoid this minor catastrophe?  Consider yourself called to action – Be more effective in your use of precious pixels by reducing the length of website content, emails, blogs, and even try to shave a character or two off Tweets (Who really needs all 140 characters to make a point?).

How might this be done? According to COPS (Citizens for Optimizing Pixel Strategies), the single habit change that will immediately reduce wasted pixels is… Continue Reading

Career Services, Jargon Genesis, leadership, Newsroom

Is your writing sending the right message?

From Scientific American‘s Mind Matters Blog: Are there hidden messages in your emails? Yes, and in everything you write or say, according to James Pennebaker, chair of the department of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. Pennebaker has been a leader in the computer analysis of texts for their psychological content. And in his new book, “The Secret Life of Pronouns,” he argues that how we use words like “I,” “she,” and “who” reveal secrets of our psychology.

The UST MBA Communication Labs help our students to master this kind of communication skill. Communication lab instructors are professionals who bring their experience coaching corporate leaders into the UST MBA classroom—enhancing your ability to communicate skillfully using effective writing, persuasive speaking and successful media management. Student presentations in core classes are captured on video, then critiqued and evaluated by instructors who provide invaluable feedback to further growth and development of effective business leaders.

Read an interview about Pennebaker’s findings in Scientific American‘s Mind Matters Blog.

Newsroom, OCB Commentary, UST MBC

The Dreaded Blank Page

writers-block[1]Even for the most seasoned writer, there may be nothing more daunting than starting to write… particularly when faced with a looming deadline and absence of an idea from which to begin.

What you are reading now is the result of such an impasse… but that’s not the right word, since these sentences prove I am past the first part of the challenge.  Now, at the moment of writing this, I have no way of knowing whether this sentence or the next will ever make it into the final memo, but I am doing one important thing that I was not doing ten minutes ago…  writing. Continue Reading

EveningMBA, Faculty, FTMBA, leadership, Newsroom, OCB Commentary

Here’s the Memo on Effective Business Writing

business_writing_picture[1]The Wall Street Journal recently featured an interesting article about the communication skills of M.B.A. students, or more accurately, the lack of effective business communication skills.  Many M.B.A. programs are increasing emphasis on these skills in response to the feedback of employers.

Laura French is the writing coach for the Full-time UST MBA program communication labs, part of the curriculum since its inception in 2004.  She agreed that the writing that earns high grades in an academic setting can be very different from what’s required for effective business communication. Continue Reading

Career Services, EveningMBA, FTMBA, Newsroom, UST MBC

A style for communicating on-line…or should that be online

51oAgTuwAiL._SL500_AA300_The Internet really is changing the way we communicate. Or should that be the internet is really changing the way we communicate?

In 2000 I bought my first AP Stylebook and it dedicated an entire 5 pages to terminology related to the Internet. Last week Yahoo! announced that it is publishing its own stylebook for the Internet.

“The Yahoo! Style Guide: The Ultimate Sourcebook for Writing, Editing, And Creating Content For The Digital World” will hit stores on July 6, 2010

And today the AP stylebook made a splash: Continue Reading

Career Services, Newsroom, UST MBC

On writing “how I talk”

Sometimes people say of their personal writing style, “I write how I talk.”  This approach presents inherent problems if the purpose of the writing centers on presentation of business issues or persuasion of audiences that literally don’t know your voice.

First, when we speak, our words become infused with a vast array of inflections and nuances that allow others fluent in our language (and culture) to understand much more about what we are saying.  For instance, on paper “no” may simply and soundly indicate a negative response.  Depending on the inflection in a voice, we might understand it to mean:  not now, but someday; never in a million years; as sarcasm for really meaning “yes;” or something else entirely. No?

Unfortunately, in a world where a significant percentage of social conversations have migrated to casual email and text messages, people begin to forget that in professional settings the reader may not be familiar with the writer’s conversational style and personality.  So what may have been meant jokingly can be taken seriously or otherwise out of context. Continue Reading