*$%&*@#(%&! Say What?

Profanity is the refuge of the ignorant.

It’s not that people who feel the need to constantly spout profanity are unintelligent; it’s that they display an extremely limited vocabulary.

Maybe I’m old fashioned. Maybe it is the taste of Ivory soap that lingers in my memory.

My mother didn’t tolerate bad language. (She even had a crusade against “ain’t.”) It wasn’t that she was immune to the need for explosive expressions upon occasion. “Sugar” was something she would yell out when needed. “Asinine creatures!” often flew out of her lips while driving.

In her mind, bad language was a poor reflection upon the speaker and did more harm than good. She was right. I had first-hand experience when I worked for a vice president of a major corporation.

I had only started a week before and this gentleman had arrive in a tornado of activity. He planted himself in his office with the door between our work spaces open and proceeded to get on the phone. Every other word out of his mouth was the f-bomb. I was shocked and uncomfortable having to listen to that kind of language. His volume level made it hard to avoid hearing.

The next day, on the advice of my husband, I shut the door when he started in. After he concluded his phone call. He came out and asked me why I had closed the door. I was fully expecting a colorful dressing down. I told him that I didn’t feel I needed to be exposed to that kind of language. From then on, he shut the door – but he didn’t clean up his language.

The problem was, his direct reports started using the same language in their dealings with others. Now, I never really knew who they were talking to, but I can’t help thinking that speaking that way to anyone was a poor way to communicate.

I’m no angel, and there are times when words come out of my mouth that would put many a teenager to shame. (Sorry, Mom!) It is usually when I’m alone driving in traffic with the windows rolled up.

In business writing, there is absolutely no situation in which profanity is appropriate. Fiction is another story, but profanity should be used with a purpose, not to just throw shocking words at people.

People point to Lenny Bruce and George Carlin who helped demystify curse words. They think people like these two comedians gave everyone permission to curse with abandon. People ignore that they used such words in their routines with a purpose.

By using profanity as a vocabulary crutch, people miss out on the satisfaction of dressing someone down with words they may not quite understand. Try calling someone an asinine creature sometime; they might not be sure if it’s an insult.


Oh, the Verbal Agony of It All!

I stare at the vast emptiness of my computer screen. I can feel the panic hovering somewhere in the pit of my stomach just waiting for the slightest excuse to pounce.

I have something to write; I have a topic and the information; I have a deadline. The words dance just outside my reach, taunting me. My internal cry of frustration manifests as a physical grunt.

Even with decades of writing experience under my belt, I still face panic, avoidance, and angst when writing. Writing well may not be rocket science, but it is difficult. Why?

I’ve been asking myself that for a long time. Here are some answers I’ve come up with.

The ‘Bleeding’ Essay Paper

I think I was traumatized by all those English assignments my teachers marked up in red. My errors were out there, highlighted like neon signs for all to see. No one likes to have her mistakes broadcast to the world. (Well, that was the way I saw it when I was in school!)

It took me years to understand those marks helped me avoid making the same mistakes in the future. They were feedback. Yet I still suffer the vestiges of shame and disappointment.

Logic in an Artistic Brain

I don’t pretend to be overly logical. I have to work hard – very hard – at being organized. Writing, even creative writing, requires organization. Unless we’re talking about stream-of-consciousness writing (which is a tough read), writing needs to be organized so other people can understand it.

Luckily, years of practice have made the organization process easier, but it is still an effort.

The Do-over – and Over

I detest having to re-do things because they weren’t done right the first time. I tell myself I dislike inefficiency, but the truth is that I’m lazy that way. It could be why I don’t like housework.

This attitude carries over into my writing. Yes, I know revision is a vital part of the writing process, but that doesn’t stop me from expecting my writing to come out perfect first time, every time. It ain’t gonna happen!

I’ve half convinced myself to look at revision as if I were working on a bonsai tree: a little snip here, a trim there, a tie-down back there, and lots of patience resulting in a thing of beauty. Okay, so this doesn’t always work, and I have to force myself to slog through multiple revisions. Such is life!

Word Amputation

We’re back to that idea of initial perfection. I like to think that my work is always the most beautiful it can be, but I’m smart enough to know that I tend toward verbal diarrhea. (Most writers do; they just don’t want to admit it.) So, during revisions, I brutally cut the flabby, dead, idle words from my writing. Since I’m already in a sour mood because I have to revise, this isn’t as painful as it could be. In fact, the “slice and dice” phase can be perversely satisfying.

Being Persnickety

For the most part I think I’m fairly easygoing, but I am immovably fussy in certain areas. The biggest is one is in my writing. Attention to detail, especially when it comes to punctuation and grammar, is paramount. (That could be why I’m a better editor than writer.)

It is hard for me to just “chill.” I have to purposely relax and not go running to one of several writing handbooks to make sure I’m doing it “right.” Sometimes I have to break the rules to make things clearer.

My Babies

No matter what I write, it all comes from inside me. I can be writing a news release or a lesson plan, but I have pulled the phrasing together and organized it. Every piece I write is my “baby.”

I just can’t leave it bundled up in its crib. I have to send it out, exposed to the public. Like real children, the things I write have my DNA in them. I still have to let them go out into the world to make their way.

Will they succeed? Will they make me proud? Will they crash and burn? Like any parent, I have to force myself to let go. This can be the most difficult part of writing.

Understanding why the writing process is hard helps me avoid panic and move forward. I don’t think these hurdles will ever go away, and they certainly aren’t unique. The word bleeding pops up often in quotes by famous authors discussing the writing process. I don’t really want writing to be too easy; the difficulties help keep me grounded and honest.

Then again, it would be nice if it was a little less painful.

Nine Ways to Make Customers Run Away

I recently had a poor experience as a customer that left me upset and vowing never to use that business again or refer anyone there. That business lost at least one customer and potentially many more.

When I calmed down, I got to thinking what exactly had gone wrong. At the heart was poor communication. I thought some more and realized that most of my dissatisfaction as a customer has arisen because of poor communication skills.

So here are some tips on how you, too, can drive away customers using poor communication skills.

  1. Treat the customer as if you are doing them a favor. Why try to be helpful? They can take your product or service, or leave it. It’s all the same to you.
  2. Ignore what it is the customer wants. They don’t know anything. You know better. Tell them so!
  3. Having a bad day? Take it out on the customer. This is really easy if you are on the phone or sending an e-mail. You’re probably never going to see them again anyway.
  4. Don’t give the customer your full attention. Hey! Watching Game of Thrones on your tablet or phone is much more important than any customer.
  5. Assume that the customer knows everything you know. Explaining things to ignorant people wastes valuable time you could be using catching up on Game of Thrones.
  6. Forget to tell the customer important steps he needs to take and then blame him for not holding up his end of the deal. (This is especially effective when providing a service.)
  7. Make things as inconvenient for the customer as possible. The effort to save the customer time is just too much for you to handle.
  8. Make promises and, when you break them, blame it on the customer.
  9. Never, ever let the customer know what is going on, especially if there are problems. Make the customer call you for updates and act like everything is just fine, especially if it isn’t.

Follow these steps and you are guaranteed to see your customers run away screaming in frustration.

If you want to be successful like Dave Thomas, founder of the Wendy’s restaurant chain, and Mary Kay Ash of cosmetics fame, follow Ms. Ash’s advice when dealing with customers:

“Everyone has an invisible sign hanging from their neck saying, ‘Make me feel important.’ Never forget this message when working with people.”