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 rix@rixquinn.com.

Question-Answer features

These fillers have been around print products almost as long as publications have existed. Why?

Some experts speculate that it’s hard for a reader to see any group of words that ends in a question mark without looking at the next sentence. And as you know, advice columns have long been popular in newspapers and magazines.

Of course, you could write an advice feature, or a series of them. If you’re an interior decorator, many people may already be asking you for advice. So creating a regular column in your local media could be a great way to attract even more clients.

Or — for a stand-alone story — you might begin your feature with an intriguing headline. Example: “What is today’s most popular lamp style?”

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

A paragraph’s last sentence?

Seriously, how many articles have you read about the LAST SENTENCE in any paragraph? What’s so important about that?

Everything! That’s because readers won’t read the following paragraph if they’re not given a compelling reason.

So, think about it this way. To get folks interested in the next paragraph, create curiosity in that last sentence. Here are a couple of last-sentence examples:

“Where was that strange music coming from?”

“When I saw my report card I was absolutely astounded.”

If the last sentence is powerful enough — and creates a question in the reader’s mind — the reader should be excited to find out what happens in the next sentence.

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

One-minute idea presentation

If a person lives to be 90, that person has lived about 47,304,000 minutes. What can somebody accomplish in a single minute?

A fast sprinter can run a quarter-mile. An announcer can deliver a 60-second radio commercial, which is plenty of time to describe a product. A comedian can tell a reasonably-complicated joke…and we hope it’s a funny one.

I’ve written stories for about 40 years. If each story is 200-300 words long, it would take an average reader about one minute to reach each.

Whenever I write, I attempt to present one complete thought in 200 words or less. I feel that writing longer to stress a single point might (1) bore the reader or (2) waste his/her time.

That doesn’t mean that all my stories last only one minute, because I might want to make several points. But to make only one point…I try to do that in 60 seconds.

Look at Rix’s new book: How to Sell Ideas With the Minute Message

“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 rix@rixquinn.com