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

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

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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“Meet and greet” opening words

I’ve been told that the “most natural” way to start a feature, e-mail, or essay is to pretend you just met your reader at a party. If that happened, how would your conversation begin?

  1. Ask a question — “What do you think this hotel will look like when it’s sold to the new owner?”
  2. Flashback — “As we drove up to the hotel today, I suddenly remembered the first time I was here…when my cousin got married five years ago.”
  3. Start with dialog — “As I walked into the party, the host greeted me with a puzzled look, then asked ‘Didn’t we go to high school together?'”
  4. Who, what, where, when, why, how — Just answer one of these words about your future story to get the writing to flow. Example: “I asked myself how I’d been selected to receive this award, and then I remembered the wonderful high school instructor who taught me so much.”
  5. Take a look at Rix’s new book: How to Sell Ideas With the Minute Message

Persuasive words

It’s reported that a major university conducted a study to find the English language’s 12 most persuasive words. They were:

(1) you, (2) money, (3) save, (4) new, (5) results, (6) easy, (7) health, (8) safety, (9) love, (10) discovery, (11) proven, and (12) guarantee.

I’ve also been told that the strongest word in a headline is the verb. And many claim the more active the verb, the better! Would these action words enhance school paper and theme headings, too? Probably.

 Which heading would make you read more? “John Player wins game with touchdown” or “John Player’s diving catch clinches playoffs.”

Please send me the strongest headline you’ve ever written for a story or essay. My e-mail is