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

Offer positive thoughts

This series of questions can all be answered with the same two words. Here come the questions:

What helps us remember great childhood stories? Why do we recall radio and television advertising? What do most of Aesop’s fables teach us? Why do we buy a certain brand of shampoo, or soap, or shirt, or shoes?

The answer? Each offer positive solutions. At the end of the story or advertisement, we’re given a solution that makes us happy, or solves a problem, or enhances our lives in some way.

If you must propose a problem in a story you write, can you tell the reader how to solve that problem, or where to search for an answer…or at least leave the reader with a happy thought or teach them something?

Goldilocks encountered several problems in the three bears’ house. But on the plus side, she learned not to enter homes where she wasn’t invited.

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.
  • Look to your left…subscribe to the Quinn Minute blog today.

Turn on your radio…

Question: Where can you find examples of captivating, brief writing?

The best place to hear powerful writing is on radio. Sure, music, talk, and interview shows abound. But next time you listen, pay special attention to the advertisements.

Here’s the reason. To be effective, a radio message must make strong, instant impressions. It can reach only your sense of hearing. It cannot be reinforced by a vivid photo, an inviting smell, or by touch or taste.

Good radio writing engages you immediately. Even if you don’t write for radio, we encourage you to pretend that you do. The best wordsmiths don’t fear their words being spoken. Accomplished writers in pre-radio times knew the power of sound. Says Abraham Lincoln scholar Charles Strozier, “Lincoln wrote to be read aloud.”

Rix Quinn’s new e-book:

10 ways to make a point in 1 minute

If you believe – as I do – that a one minute (or shorter) message is the wave of the future, how can you send an effective one? Here are ten brief thoughts:

1. SINGLE THEME – Stick to one main point, and reveal it at the first of the message. If you’ve got two or three points to make, stress the most important first…and use the others as supporting points.

2. AGE – There’s some research that claims the younger the audience, the shorter message it wants. Reason? Folks under 35 are used to receiving information in brief form.

3. MINI-PARAGRAPHS – Because people on-the-go want briefer messages, they likely want short sentences and short paragraphs too. Consider paragraphs of three sentences or less.

4. NEED IDEAS? – I think the best messages are radio commercials. Listen to how well they create images — and motivate listeners — in one minute or less.

5. EXPERT ADVICE – Most folks want – and pay attention to -advice from experts.

6. CURRENT EVENTS – Can you link your feature with a current event or popular trend?

7. PROGNOSTICATOR – Does your story predict the future of an event or industry?

8. FAMOUS QUOTE – Does a famous quote – or quote by a famous person — add emphasis to your story?

9. HEADLINE HINT – Don’t write your headline until you’ve finished writing your story. It’s easier to make the headline summarize the story than it is to write a headline, then write the story to fit it.

10. POPULAR HEADLINES – In our experience, the two most popular headlines are those that (a) ask a question or (b) present a list…like the story you’re reading now.

Rix Quinn’s new e-book:

Best samples of 1 minute writing?

During each day, you’re likely to hear dozens of 200-word writing examples. Where might those ideas come from?

Radio and TV commercials are generally under 200 words, yet they tell a complete story. Single panel cartoons are only a few words. Cartoons strips are also very short.

Jokes are often brief. Sometimes they are just a set-up sentence and a punch line. Others tell a brief story that offers a surprise ending.

How about e-mailings? Each day I receive at least one very good, brief e-mail message!

What’s the best one-minute writing you’ve seen? If you’ll e-mail it to me I’ll print it in this blog, and give you credit by name! Good writing is a community process. We can all help each other. Send your ideas to me at

See Rix’s new e-book “How to Sell Ideas with the Minute Message.”