Tag Archives: professional

Singular possessive or plural possessive


Do people still diagram sentences?[1] Is writing still important in business?[2] [3] [4] These thoughts came to mind after a colleague asked about a client’s ad copy. She read a sentence to me, and I listened.

“Does that sound correct?” she asked.

“Depends,” I answered. “Is the word singular possessive or plural possessive?”

She showed me the ad copy on her screen. The sentence went something like this:

The insurer provides health care for the company’s and employee’s best interest.

The conversation went on for a bit on the topic of whether or not the client intended that the word “employee’s” be singular possessive. It made sense to us that a company would be singular. But would a company have a single employee? A quick survey of other colleagues revealed that they didn’t know what we were talking about. In fairness to the other colleagues, it was a very busy day at the office and they may have politely feigned ignorance as to return to their tasks.

The challenge of the ad copy provoked other thoughts on the necessity of good writing skills in a business and professional setting. Think before you write. Write well and your thoughts will effectively communicate your message.

[1] JUANA SUMMERS, “A Picture Of Language: The Fading Art Of Diagramming Sentences,” NPR, August 22, 20147:18 AM, accessed July 28, 2016, http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/08/22/341898975/a-picture-of-language-the-fading-art-of-diagramming-sentences
[2] Carolyn O’Hara, “How to Improve Your Business Writing,” Harvard Business Review, NOVEMBER 20, 2014, accessed July 28, 2016, https://hbr.org/2014/11/how-to-improve-your-business-writing.
[3] Joyce E.A. Russell, “Career Coach: Are writing skills necessary anymore?,” Washington Post, May 22, 2011, accessed July 28, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/career-coach-are-writing-skills-necessary-anymore/2011/05/18/AFJLUF9G_story.html
[4] Susan Adams, “8 Keys To Better Business Writing,” Forbes, JAN 18, 2013 @ 10:08 AM, accessed July 28, 2016, http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2013/01/18/8-keys-to-better-business-writing/#402ba4f415de
[BONUS] Annie Holmquist, “Almost 1 in 3 Americans Didn’t Read a Book Last Year,” Intellectual Takeout, October 19, 2015, accessed July 28, 2016, http://www.intellectualtakeout.org/blog/almost-1-3-americans-didn%E2%80%99t-read-book-last-year

Why share your work in social networks?

One of the book cover designs I promote on the social network Behance.

One of the book cover designs I promote on the social network Behance.

“Why share our work in social networks?” was a question recently asked on a professional forum. My reply: two reasons: 1) promotion and 2) personal brand. It was a Malcolm-Gladwell-Blink response and I clicked the “add comment” button without much thought (which is not my usual practice). My thoughts still linger on that question, “Why…?”

A few months ago I came across a few articles asking the question “Does social media promote or enable narcissism?” [1] [2] The article that impacted me most was from a source I never read. In the post, the author, Dodai Stewart, reflects on piece in The New Yorker and her comments are stinging and self-revelatory.

Just look around: Between Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest, the whole ME ME ME thing has swept the nation. Here are MY thoughts, MY pictures, MY shopping wish lists! We call it sharing, but it’s just egoistic self-indulgence, usually. LET ME TELL YOU WHAT I WANT. But wait: Enough about me… what do you think about me? [3]

Hm, narcissism and self-absorption. Herein rests the lingering thoughts of a week or so ago.

As a professional, promoting my goods, services and whatnot help to grease the gears of capitalism, right? Conventional wisdom (or at least American business wisdom), purports that if consumers are not aware of your product/service, customers will not purchase from ME. So, I am advised by business owners and other professionals to promote MY skills, services, products, etc. And not only that, I need to establish MY personal brand (so that consumers can be more emotionally and psychologically invested in the products/services I provide).

Maybe social networks are not promoting narcissism and self-absorption as much as one might think. There may be a greater systemic issue that only social networks magnify.

NOTE: [1] Tara Parker-Pope, “Does Facebook Turn People Into Narcissists?,” New York Times, May 17, 2012 accessed January 2, 2013 http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/17/does-facebook-turn-people-into-narcissists/ [2] Steve Tobak, “Social networks and the narcissism epidemic,” CBSNEWS Money Watch, August 29, 2012, accessed January 2, 2013 http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505125_162-57502035/social-networks-and-the-narcissism-epidemic/ [3] Dodai Stewart, “Self-Absorbed Is the New Normal,” Jezebel, June 26, 2012, accessed January 2, 2013 http://jezebel.com/5921468/self+absorbed-is-the-new-normal.

How to write a business bio

Or not. Here’s what professional copywriters will tell you. There are two steps to writing your business bio:

  • provide an overview of your skills and experience.
  • include related or interesting facts to punctuate your credentials.

Pretty simple, right. Wrong. Why is it so difficult to write in third-person? About yourself? (And I need send this to the publicist later today.) So, I wrote a first draft. It works. It’s short. Simple. To the point. But something is missing. So, I searched a couple web sites for help. Here’s a few basic principles I gleaned from Terje Johansen:  [1]

  • write in third person
  • list facts, not wishes
  • cite relevant experiences
  • belong somewhere
  • write tight
  • add a hook

Here’s a few things to add to that list:

  • audience
  • storytelling
  • social media

The business bio I’m writing is to be placed on a publishing house’s web site. So that audience will be authors and readers. A dash of storytelling to the bio helps readers remember who you are because of the narrative you share. And be sure to include your LinkedIn info. Here’s what I plan to send to the publicist:

Matthew Mulder began his career in a quiet Wisconsin studio of a calligrapher where he learned a hands-on approach to color, design, typography and the ancient art of Celtic knots. As creative director, he brings more than sixteen years of experience to the art department and provides creative, strategic solutions to the publishing business. After-hours, Matthew is a culture-maker in the literary community of Asheville, North Carolina where he is invited to present his work to audiences at bookstores, cafés, and fine art centers. His published work appears in such literary journals as Crab Creek Review, H_NGM_N, Small Press Review and others. Follow Matthew on Twitter @mxmulder or LinkedIn.

What do you think?

NOTES: [1] Terje Johansen provides the basics of writing a business bio . Here’s a couple other resources: 16 questions to help you write a douche-free bio and A Great Professional Bio.

Gen-Yers changing the workplace

Gen-Yers are using their personal networks and profiles as an extension of their professional personality. Even though they are using Facebook to mostly socialize with family and friends, they are inadvertently blending the two. Sixty-four percent of Gen-Y fails to list their employer on their profiles, yet they add an average of 16 co-workers each to their “friend” group.

Generation Y: The New Kind of Workforce (via thenextweb)