Swim Lanes and More

There’s a nice chapter in the book “How to Make Sense of Any Mess” by Abby Covert that lists down different ways of representing information. It’s great if you want to expand your toolset.

Though I can readily make block diagrams, flow diagrams, mind maps, and hierarchy charts, I realized I’m not fully maximizing the use of things like swim lanes and quadrant diagrams to communicate data better.

Ego Bait Headlines

I’ve noticed this type of headline cropping up, which I’ve taken to calling ego baits. The basic template is <some observable habit> is a sign of <some positive attribute>, and I think it works because it appeals to our vanity. The reader goes, “since I have <observable habit>, then I must be <positive attribute>”.

Other examples:
– Science Confirms, Night Owls More Intelligent
– Early Risers Tend to be More Successful

Out of This World Out of Office Message

I was going to write a plain ol’ out of office message but this is what came out instead when I got carried away playing with voice and tone. Feel free to use and modify at your own risk.


Dear cherished customer, light of my financial life, without whom I shall become destitute,

I am going to take a much-needed vacation for a few days from <start> to <end>. You might not reach me because I’m having too much fun even if I’m feeling a little bit guilty about taking a break.

When I get back, I’ll be as fresh as a newly opened kimchi jar and ready to take on an endless river of comments and enhancements. Not that I feel bad about that.

Talk to you on <date>!

Your slightly cooky service provider

Oxford Comma

As much as I like the Oxford comma, I don’t usually insist on people using it. For me, what’s important is consistency rather than a specific rule. However, there are cases where one choice can lead to disaster.

For example, a company in the US could lose millions of dollars in overtime pay because of a single comma.

Note the lack of Oxford comma — also known as the serial comma — in the following state law, which says overtime rules do not apply to:
The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:
(1) Agricultural produce;
(2) Meat and fish products; and
(3) Perishable foods.
Does the law intend to exempt the distribution of the three categories that follow, or does it mean to exempt packing for the shipping or distribution of them?

This just shows the havoc that can be brought about by syntactic ambiguity.

On a lighter note, there’s this funny graphic that shows you why the Oxford comma is important.

Struggling to Write Consistently? Here’s What You Might Have Missed.

If you’re like me, you’ve struggled to produce your own content for, like, forever. Sure, you can write when it’s required, say, for a project or a proposal or a marketing collateral. But for your own self? Pffft.

But you read all the right books about writing, pore over articles about producing content, idolize amazing writers, and bask in great writing, but the one thing that you should be doing — actually writing consistently — remains hopelessly out of reach.

Continue reading my article at Medium.

How to Prepare for a Talk

So you’ve been invited to speak at an event or you have an important business meeting coming up where you need to convince some bigwigs to give you what you want.

Congratulations. You have an opportunity to share your knowledge, make a difference, or change the course of your organization.

But it’s intimidating. You don’t know where to start. You’re busy. Preparing for a talk can easily become overwhelming. Fortunately, there is a process that you can follow to shorten your effort, reduce your stress, and strengthen your message.

I’ve used and refined this process for nearly a decade and it works well for me. Having just given a talk at a local university using this process, I took the opportunity to write down how I do it.

It could be useful to you too. Let me show you how.

Read some more goodness

How to Avoid Using “Very” in Your Writing

It’s easy to use “very”: just tack it on to an any adjective and it’s immediately intensified. It gets stale pretty fast, though. While I try not to subscribe to linguistic prescriptivism, I do want to play with language and make it richer whenever possible. In other words, I don’t want to discourage you from using simple language, but provide options. To that end, I’ve compiled a number of infographics and websites to help you replace “very” with richer adjectives to give more texture to your writing.

Read some more goodness