Search for a “deeper meaning”?

I can’t tell you how many times I heard this in school. The instructor would ask us to read a quote or a story, then ask “What do you think is the author’s hidden meaning?”

I admit that I’m actually quite shallow. And in school, when I was younger, I was shallower than a mouse’s wading pool. I just wanted to understand what point the author wanted to make…and I hoped he or she made it so simple I grasped it right away.

Deeper meanings are great. But for most of what I read, I simply want to be served the main point on a nice paper plate without a fancy display. Just tell me want you want me to know…don’t make me guess.

What do you think most readers prefer? An eloquent set-up, or just the main food for thought?

Take a look at Rix’s new book: How to Sell Ideas With the Minute Message

One quick way to summarize…

Are you ever asked to summarize an article or a book? That happens to me a lot.

Here’s one way I’ve found that works most of the time. It doesn’t work ALL the time. So, give it a try and tell me what you think.

When you examine the essay or story, underline the first sentence of each paragraph. Then, underline the entire last paragraph.

Move the sentences underlined onto a different page, which will yield a much-condensed article. Compare it with the original article, and judge if it pretty much captures the longer theme’s primary idea.

Take a look at Rix’s new book: How to Sell Ideas With the Minute Message

Favorite teacher I never met

How many teachers made a lasting impact on you? Who’s helped you understand the world’s influential literature?

Cliff Hillegass was a person who helped me greatly. Maybe he helped you, too. Ever heard of Cliff’s Notes?

His books offered plot summaries, and helped high school and college students better comprehend the classics. And they also reminded students that “A thorough appreciation of literature allows no shortcuts.” That’s why I always tried to read the original book first.

For me, Cliff’s Notes offered me an added dimension. They let me examine a book through different eyes. They made me appreciate what I’d read even more, by listening to the perspective of others.

Today, whenever I’m asked to write a report, I try to present it two ways. First, I offer a detailed viewpoint. But at the end, I include a brief summation to make sure the reader grasps the most important points.

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Biography as a resume’?

Sure, I think a three or four-sentence biography can work as an addition to a regular resume’. It’s one more way to introduce yourself, or briefly discuss your expertise.

When I’m asked to write for a newspaper or magazine, I often include a very brief bio at the end of the article. But in that case, I don’t include details of my entire professional life.

Instead, I simply detail what qualifies me to write about the particular subject discussed in the article. And if it is for a professional magazine, I often include my e-mail if a reader would like more information on the technical subject I discussed.

PLEASE E-MAIL ME if you’ve got other ideas for an ultra-short biography. Then, with your permission, I’ll include it in this blog. My e-mail is

One single specialty?

My Dad, a newspaper and magazine editor, often told the story of standing at a graveside funeral service when a tombstone caught his eye. The stone listed the person’s birth and death dates, then these three words below that: “He grew peaches.”

Dad said it made him realize that many people get recognized for a single skill or accomplishment. When I mention the names Christopher Columbus or George Washington or Charles Lindbergh, what accomplishments immediately come to mind?

Before I write an essay or column, I write a word or phrase that I want that column to emphasize. With that as my goal, I can then determine the writing pathway I want to take to reach it.

Take a look at Rix’s new book: How to Sell Ideas With the Minute Message

Write your Minute Bio today!

A friend whose parents recently died told me she wished she’d ask them more questions about their early lives.

“They grew up during the Depression,” she said, “and struggled hard just to give their children a better life. I do wish they’d written something down, so we kids would know more about the schools they attended, and the early jobs they had.”

No matter what your age, you can begin writing a “mini-biography,” a 200 to 500-word story of your life thus far. It’s something you can gift to children, grandchildren, and friends who’ve helped you along the way.

Don’t worry getting off to the perfect start. Just start writing down what you remember. You can move paragraphs around later.

Answer these questions to help you get started: What’s the greatest day of your life? What’s the first memory you have? What do you remember about elementary school? What do you like most about your career?

Take a look at Rix’s new book: How to Sell Ideas With the Minute Message

Readers want secrets to better lives

When I was a boy, we lived near a magic store in a shopping center. Nearly every Saturday, a bunch of us would show up there to see magic tricks.

One of the employees would demonstrate the latest inventory. We marveled at the illusions…but we didn’t find out the secret until we bought the trick.

Over the years, I’ve read hundreds of articles to find out about the secrets to staying healthy, attracting more friends, or dressing nicer. My reward, of course, is that I’ll hopefully become a better or more impressive person.

When you write articles, can you provide shortcuts or tricks to make your readers’ lives better?

Take a look at Rix’s new book: How to Sell Ideas With the Minute Message

What makes a great first line?

Some people say that the first line of a book, movie, play, essay or e-mail is the most important one.

It sets the tone for the rest of a story. But most important, it magically compels the reader to read the next sentence. And then the next. And then…

I am a “setting” writer. I try to begin every story by describing a scene or a mood. That’s sometimes hard to do, but I believe it’s critical. Let’s look at a few classic first sentences from famous books.

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” — 1984 by George Orwell

“I am an invisible man.” — Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Each sentence offers few words, but those words immediately create a picture in our minds. We want that picture to come into better focus, and that’s what makes us continue to read.

Take a look at Rix’s new book: How to Sell Ideas With the Minute Message

Repeat performance

Imagine yourself in an elevator. As you step aboard, you hear some old song. When the door opens again, and you walk out singing it.

Why is this? Maybe because (1) it’s simple, (2) the chorus repeats, and (3) it either surprises you, or tells you a memorable story.

Now, think back to some of humankind’s “greatest hits”…the timeless messages people repeat to one another. Want examples?

Edgar Allan Poe’s enthralling poem “The Raven” ends several stanzas with the line “Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore.'” Or listen to some radio commercials, and hear how many repeat a phone number or web site.

Repetition can build memorability. But…I’m repeating myself, right?

Got a question for Rix? E-mail him at

What are thumbnail biographies?

  • As a trade magazine editor for about 20 years, I wrote “thumbnail” biographies.
  • Most of the thumbnails I wrote were about 200-250 words, and usually discussed a person who had either invented a new product or been named to leadership of a company. Here’s the format I followed:
  • = Primary information — I began with a sentence highlighting the individual’s name, plus his/her discovery or new position. Example: “David Author created the Paragraph Link System to help students write better, and the concept has now been purchased by a national organization.”
  • = Background — This offers reasons the inventor created a product, or details the jobs a person held prior to the position described in this story.
  • = Future — How has the inventor changed the industry, or what are the new executive’s plans?
  • = Contact info — Provides whom the reader can call or e-mail for more information on the subject.
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