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Useful Grammar and Punctuation Points

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In another installment of “Let’s Help Others To Take Seriously What We Write,” I’d like to offer a link to Solveig Haugland’s “ Training, Tips, and Ideas” blog:

The key thing about many of these items, and useful grammar and punctuation in general, is they’re not just fancy-schmancy rules. They are important rules that affect the meaning of what you say. I think most people would agree is an important component of communication–controlling the meaning of what you’re writing.

Some of them don’t affect meaning, but do make it easier and more pleasant for your readers. That means they’re more likely to read your email, spec, or marketing blurb, and thus get the information you’re trying to convey.

Here are the high points. She goes on to explain them (and beautifully, I might add) in the body of the article.

  1. Use the word that is correct (the correct word, which helps your readers understand you, is always a good choice)
  2. Wherever possible without sounding dorky, put only in front of the thing it applies to.
  3. Keep your intransitive verbs off my body
  4. Lay off using lie incorrectly
  5. Dangling participles are as bad as you’ve heard.
  6. Few and less and more (but is less more?)
  7. Remember the comma.
  8. Cut down on the parenthetical phrases
  9. Forget you ever encountered ellipsis….unless you’re quoting a movie review…and leaving out the…bad parts…
  10. Hyphenation is important.

(For what it’s worth, I disagree with her about the serial comma. I think it’s important to use it. There are times when it matters a great deal for sake of clarity, and in those times when it doesn’t matter, it does no harm. Good habits are good habits.)

Go read — and learn well! — the rest: Top Ten Useful Grammar and Punctuation Points I Learned as a Techwriter and in Life in General (and Three to Ignore)

Written by Michael DeBusk

July 10th, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Free Name Tags

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OK, so it isn’t NLP-related, but I know there are those of us who run trainings and who manage practice groups and such, and there are times when it’s useful to have professional-looking name tags for the folks in the room. So I’d like to draw your attention to They have more than 60 ready-to-use printable name tags that you can download and print for free. (They take Avery 5395 or compatible adhesive labels, or plain paper.)

The Employee name tags might be great for associate trainers or other helpers you’ve got, and the Hello tags for your participants. Unless you’ve got an interesting sense of humor, of course.

Incidentally, the folks who run that site have lots of other free printable stuff for your business, too.

(Thanks, Lifehacker!)

Written by Michael DeBusk

January 16th, 2010 at 10:06 pm

How to Keep a Job

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Yesterday, someone I know was relating how she well had done on her 90-day evaluation at her new job. It turns out that not only was her immediate supervisor fighting her own boss to give her double the raise they tend to give new folks, the CEO was brought in to mediate/settle the dispute and he gave her 33% more than that. And they intend to evaluate her again in another 90 days — something they typically don’t do — to see if they can give her even more.

In this economy. Think about that. She not only got a new job easily, she created an environment in which they are, relatively speaking, throwing money at her.

As synchronicity would have it, Seth Godin wrote a short article today which explains how she’s doing it:

You will never be out of work if you can demonstrably offer one of the following:

  • Sales
  • Additive effort
  • Initiation

She’s an absolute star at the latter two, and makes up for her current lack of sales skills with wit, charm, and physical attractiveness. Who knows what will happen when she decides to learn to sell.

Anyway, for an explanation of what those three terms mean in real-world terms, go read The three elements of full employment at Seth’s Blog. How you learn to apply them to yourself is up to you.

Written by Michael DeBusk

October 9th, 2009 at 3:23 pm

Posted in Articles,Business

Negotiation and the Art of War

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I’ve long loved Sun Tzu’s book, The Art of War. It’s a book on conflict resolution, not specific to war, and I’ve learned and used a great deal of its wisdom in my work.

Today I read an article by blogger Anil Polat at the foXnoMad blog, a blog about travel. Apparently, dealing with difficult airline ticket agents is an art form, and Mr. Polat has used Sun Tzu’s work to increse his own success:

Sun Tzu’s book, The Art of War, written more than 2,000 years ago is one of the world’s most famous books on strategy. While Tzu was writing for generals in the army, the fundamentals of his wisdom can help you overcome even the most stubborn airline representative.

I enjoyed the article tremendously, recognizing my approach with angry customers in it.

Read the full article, Use Sun Tzu’s The Art of War To Win Battles At The Ticket Counter, at the foXnoMad blog.

Here’s Lionel Giles’ translation of The Art of War at the Internet Classics Archive. (Free, but not prettily formatted.)

Here’s Thomas Cleary’s translation at (If you want to buy it, though, I encourage you to get it by way of the link in Mr. Polat’s article, so as to thank him for writing it.)

Written by Michael DeBusk

August 26th, 2009 at 8:08 pm

Put More Water in the Soup

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Many years ago, I went into (high-interest) debt to help a friend keep her home. She was battling a Worker’s Compensation insurance company for the settlement to which she was clearly entitled, and they were jerking her around, making her sue them in court every time they owed her something. Anyway, it was my first taste of living with massive debt.

When they finally paid her what they owed her, she paid me back. Instead of blowing that big check, I paid off my massive debt.

It felt so amazingly good to be free of it that I haven’t had any long-term debt since. (Long-term debt is a contract for more than a year. I bought a new vehicle in 2002 and financed it for twelve months.) And I’ve been saving a large portion of my paycheck for years, too.

So the $4-a-gallon gasoline didn’t bother me. The current “credit crunch” can’t really touch me. I didn’t buy a poorly-built, overpriced McMansion with a subprime mortgage, either.

All around me, though, are people who make two to five times my annual salary and who don’t have a pot in which to urinate. And people who are absolutely flat broke who trade their food stamps for snacks and sodas and spend their government stipend on expensive skin care products and cell phone contracts.

The only thing I can think of that separates me from them is that I’ve been where they are, I’ve been where they aren’t, and I know which one works better. They’ve just been where they are.

In times like these, get-rich-quick schemes really do well… for the grifters who purvey them, that is. And I’ve been active in online NLP forums for ages, so I’ve seen hundreds of “How can I use NLP to get rich?” messages. I just recently responded to one about that so-called “Law of Attraction” nonsense, and since I didn’t get a response I’m guessing I wrote something the poster didn’t want to read. I wish they’d include a disclaimer that said “Only reinforce my delusions, please. No reality checks welcome.”

The funny thing is, even if it all worked, even if all this “huge income with little effort” stuff actually paid off, it wouldn’t help. If you make a million dollars a year and you spend a million dollars and fifty cents, you’re still broke. No matter how big your bucket or how cool and sweet the water with which you fill it, if there are big holes in it you’re going to be thirsty all the time.

So for a little while, let’s put aside our money-making strategies and work on some money-keeping strategies.

There’s a blog called No Credit Needed and I encourage you to read it all. The author started from debt-plus-no-savings and worked his way to financial stability, and he chronicled his journey. Excellent stuff. First-class exemplar of the skill. In a post today, he offers up the10 basic steps he followed to escape the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.

There are good books, too, like The Millionaire Next Door and The Millionaire Mind by Thomas Stanley and The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. (FYI: those are links.)

Shop around at local or regional banks, too, for your banking services. They’re less likely to have been caught with their scruples down and are doing a bit better right now.

If we’re going to fix this economy, we have to do it the way we do everything else: go first.

Oh, by the way: stay safe at work. Being screwed by Worker’s Comp is no way to live!

Written by Michael DeBusk

December 4th, 2008 at 1:52 pm

Small Business Owner’s Resources

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If you own a small business, as many NLPers do, you might find The Ultimate Small Business Owner’s Resource Guide to be quite a useful tool.

How much time does it take you to find a virtual phone company, a web designer, or another business or service professional to help you with your small business?

No doubt you spend precious hours trying to find just the right person, which are hours that would much better be spent growing your business.

The Ultimate Small Business Owner’s Resource Guide lists over 100 businesses that can help you be more successful in running your web-based small business.

The result is that you will be saving tremendous amounts of both time & money!

You can order the print version from the link above, or download a PDF of the book for free, with many thanks to!

Written by Michael DeBusk

September 24th, 2008 at 6:47 pm

Lessons from the front line

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The Customer is Not Always Right is a blog written by people on the front lines of business: those responsible for interacting with the customer. It’s one of my favorite reads for a variety of reasons. Today there are a couple of good, quick NLP lessons:

There’s nothing more useful than a good story.

Written by Michael DeBusk

September 21st, 2008 at 3:22 pm

Posted in Business,Persuasion

Overcoming E-mail Overload

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Stever Robbins has recently finished a great new project:

You open your inbox first thing in the morning and are cheerily greeted by 400 new emails, all demanding your time and attention. Janice needs the numbers, now Frank wants your opinion And your mom has sent you a picture of a kitten wearing a hat. Adorable. But, Mom? I’m busy over here. You had grand plans to work on that report, but now its lunchtime and you’ve been dealing with things your inbox has thrown at you all morning. Wasn’t email supposed to make us more productive?

No matter what Stever does, you can believe it’ll be first class. Go get his new audio program, You Are Not Your Inbox, now!

Written by Michael DeBusk

August 5th, 2008 at 11:21 pm

Posted in Business,CDs,MP3

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In Soviet Russia, ROOM works YOU

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And pretty much everywhere else, too. If you’re looking for a room for a training or conference, not just any old four walls and tables will do. Seth Godin suggests that you think about your audience’s existing anchors:

“What does this remind me of?”

That’s the subliminal question that people ask themselves as soon as they walk into a room. If it reminds us of a high school cafeteria, we know how to act. If it’s a bunch of round tables set for a chicken dinner, we know how to act. And if there are row upon row of hotel-type chairs in straight lines, we know how to sit and act glazed.

He goes on to suggest the size and shape of your ideal room (which may be smaller and narrower than you think it is!) and how to make it work well.

Read the rest at Seth’s Blog: How to organize the room.

Written by Michael DeBusk

June 28th, 2008 at 3:16 pm

The customer is always right, except when they’re not

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I’ve been doing some customer service training for my employer, so I’ve been reading a lot of stuff that other folks have to say on the subject. Today I found, on, a wonderful article on the nonsensical attitude that “the customer is always right”:

Here are the top five reasons why “The customer is always right” is wrong.

  1. It makes employees unhappy
  2. It gives abrasive customers an unfair advantage
  3. Some customers are bad for business
  4. It results in worse customer service
  5. Some customers are just plain wrong

I think my customers are always right about one thing: they have a problem that they want solved. That’s pretty much it.

Now, for those who fall into categories #2 and #3 above, I’d say that their problem is that they need someone to abuse. I’m smart enough to realize that I may not be the one to solve that particular problem, and I’m willing to concede that perhaps someone else can better serve that customer.

Though I am in full agreement with the above five ideas, I’d like to suggest a sixth: It’s simply too much to ask of our customers that they always be right.

My thought is this: our jobs are becoming more and more specialized, and we, the providers of service, are therefore expected to know a great deal about very few things. To place on every customer the expectation that he or she will know, even better than we do, what “good” means in the context of the service we’re providing is too heavy a burden for them.

My favorite example of this (I think I read it in a book by Tom Hopkins, but I’m not certain) is about a car salesman. He sold high-testosterone cars, something along the lines of Ferrari, the commission on the sale of one being a year’s salary for just plain folk. A traveling salesman came in and asked to be shown one of their top models. The salesman found out that the guy put about five years’ worth of miles on a car every year and sent the customer down the street to a Mercedes dealership instead. His rationale was that the Mercedes, having a diesel engine, was a much better choice for someone on the road that much.

There was no way that particular customer would have known that. Cars weren’t what he knew. If the salesman had chanted, “The customer is always right,” he would have created one very unhappy customer… and that customer would have been telling everyone who asked him about his car that he was really unhappy with it. If I’m recalling the story correctly, the customer instead had sent several friends and acquaintences to that salesman, more than making up for the “loss” of commission.

Of course, working in a hospital, I see a lot of customers who are “just plain wrong.” Consider, for example, the suicidal patient. If we would consider him to be right, we’d hand him a razor blade and a set of instructions. We don’t do that because, even though he’s our customer, he’s wrong. He doesn’t know what we know. That has to be OK.

I have a story of my own that had to do with a customer who was a great combination of numbers 2, 3, and 5. Nasty human being she was. I can’t mention any of the particulars, but I’ll say this: in the process of helping her with what was apparently a medical emergency, I left a bruise, and she had the audacity to file a formal complaint against me for it. She took it all the way to our CEO and demanded that I apologize to her. The CEO refused to either compel or allow me to apologize to her because she was wrong and he knew it. Now… would you care to ask me how I feel about working for him? Or do you already know?

So I think putting employees head of customers is a great idea as long as the employees are putting the customers first. We on the front lines have to know that our managers trust us to do the right thing.

I did say that I wasn’t going to make this blog into a customer service blog, but this one was too good to pass up. Thanks for indulging me.

Written by Michael DeBusk

May 31st, 2008 at 7:13 pm

Posted in Articles,Business