by Jennifer Calonia


As you develop your writing skills, it’s easy to adopt a few habits along the way. Some of these habits are helpful, like having go-to jargon when composing business emails or using a stream-of-consciousness approach when writing a rough draft quickly.

But not all learned habits are helpful in all contexts. Some can derail your message or leave your reader confused and even frustrated.

Your writing, at its best
Be the best writer in the office.
To take your writing skills to the next level, read our list of seven common writing habits to stop stat—and advice on what to do instead.

1 Procrastinating (instead, use time blocks)
Procrastinating on your writing might have served you well during undergrad all-nighters, but it’s not sustainable in a professional setting.

A handout by The Writing Center at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill delves into all aspects of procrastination, namely how making it a habit can leave you feeling deflated and stressed about the writing process. “Procrastination and perfectionism often go hand in hand,” the handout explains. It also attributes the procrastination to fear.

Let’s say you’re dreading writing an analysis, for example. In worrying about how your leadership team will receive your report, you might avoid working on it until the last minute. But procrastinating means you have less time to fix mistakes—making your initial fears that your writing won’t be up to snuff all the more prophetic.

Instead: Dedicate time in your calendar to think about your writing project and nothing else. Do this long before the deadline. This doesn’t have to be a long block of time—it could be twenty to thirty minutes. Keep these time blocks short. This manageable approach moves your writing forward and allows for self-editing, without the pressure to write perfectly in one sitting.

2 Overusing vague adverbs (instead, find synonyms)
Adverbs like “really,” and “very” add emphasis. It’s understandable why using them is a common habit. Especially if you sprinkle these adverbs into your everyday conversations, it’s natural for them to pop up in your formal writing, too.

However, overusing “very” and “really” is counterproductive and risks reducing the impact of your statement. Your aim in writing is to communicate clearly; descriptions like “very nice” or “really great” don’t convey that much. It can also lead to confusion: If five points on a memo are “really important,” then they all have the same value and therefore neither is more important than the other.

Instead: Play around with word choice. When you discover too many adverbs in your writing, turn to a thesaurus. Consider the noun’s true significance and choose a word that accurately describes it to keep “very” and “really” to a minimum. Grammarly can help you by suggesting more concise, powerful language.

3 Relying on turns of phrase (instead, get descriptive)
Familiar language can feel like an easy way to explain or describe a thought. Turns of phrase like “break a leg” or “go the distance” help your reader quickly get an idea of your meaning. But they aren’t useful for keeping a reader’s attention.

Relying on idioms and cliche phrases doesn’t help you hone your unique writing voice. Hackneyed sayings can also disengage your audience, leaving them disinterested.

Instead: Avoid overused language by using rich details and words to describe the subject. Adding more information and deepening descriptions leads to more engaging writing.

4 Writing run-on sentences (instead, embrace punctuation)
Crafting too many run-on sentences is a popular habit. A stream of consciousness might feel natural as you’re writing, but readers generally appreciate the chance to catch a breath (or two).

Not only can a run-on sentence be overwhelming, but it also risks confusing your reader. Lengthy, meandering sentences invite more misunderstandings about the point you’re making.

Instead: Look at your sentences and spot areas that lend a natural pause. Don’t be afraid of punctuation: Use a comma or semicolon, or create a full stop with a period. It may feel choppy to you, but tighter constructions make it easier for readers to absorb your message.

5 Overusing exclamation points (instead, refine your tone)
It can feel natural to want to use exclamation points in your writing. They’re nearly ubiquitous in casual writing like texting and social media. And, they’re useful for conveying enthusiasm, importance, or alarm. After all, what better way to express how you feel than an exorbitant number of exclamation points!!?!!?

In more formal writing, exclamation points are rarer. Sprinkling too many exclamation points throughout a piece or typing many in a row risks coming off as comical. They also take away from your message. Sometimes, there’s an argument for them. But in these situations, one exclamation point is enough.

Instead: Think about the tone or attitude you want to convey. Tone is a combination of word choice, punctuation, and syntax, all of which can effectively do the work of ten exclamation points.

6 Employing too much jargon (instead, write simply)
Unless you’re an experienced fishmonger writing a book specifically for other experienced fishmongers, avoid jargon in your writing. This goes for all writers of any subject—fishmongers et al.

Some jargon, when clearly explained, can be informational. However, too much jargon forces your audience to reread the text multiple times to understand its meaning. Not only does this lead to readers spending more time making sense of your writing, it results in frustration and bewilderment.

Instead: Keep your writing simple by using plain language and paraphrasing ideas into descriptions that a reader at any level can grasp.

7 Hedging (instead, write with confidence)
Hedging occurs when you insert qualifiers into a statement to avoid coming off too strong. Some examples of hedging include using words and phrases, like “I think,” “it looks like,” “somewhat,” or “this seems to . . .”

In an academic paper, there are practical applications for hedging. But in the workplace and everyday writing, it resonates as too uncertain and cautious. It can even undermine your credibility from the start.

Instead: Keep your business writing strong by removing hedging phrases and words. You can write assertively while maintaining a polite and professional tone without hedging.

Outgrowing these common writing habits takes ongoing practice. That’s where Grammarly can come in. The Grammarly Editor provides suggestions to help strengthen your writing, from catching common mistakes with sentence structure to offering clarity rewrites.


A psychology-based approach to conflict
By Michael Easter

About five years ago my significant other and I were in a dumb argument. I wasn’t backing down. She wasn’t backing down.

Stalemate, I vented to a friend. I explained to him in agonizing detail why I was right, why my significant other was wrong, how the world would be better off if I could just get her to understand this — and did this guy have any advice for convincing her that I was right? His response: “Do you want to be right or happy?”

This question has since saved me a lot of headaches and led me to discover something important about the human mind.

Psychologists theorize that our capacity to reason didn’t develop so we could find better beliefs and make better decisions. Reason likely evolved so we could win arguments. Convincing others we were right helped us gain status and influence. In a debate our brain acts like our puff person, using reason as a weapon to protect us and make us look good.

Our brains always default to picking the evidence that helps us and ignoring the information that doesn’t. For example, here’s a fun game: Ask someone if they think they’re always right. Unless the person is some sort of egomaniac, they’ll usually laugh and say, “of course not.” Yet ask that same person if they think they are right during any one specific argument or debate and they will assume they are correct. And so, by default, we think we’re always right.

This mechanism probably made sense during the crucible of human evolution. It oftentimes still benefits us today. But in our safe, comfortable world the majority of our everyday disagreements — in relationships and at work — are astoundingly inconsequential in the grand scheme of our lives. When we ask ourselves, “do I want to be right or happy?” we insert perspective into the equation. Choosing the latter option can be uncomfortable in the immediate short term (we’re fighting against our pit bull brain). But over time it has a way of dissolving the bullshit that causes our everyday suffering. And when bullshit dissolves it becomes fertilizer, bringing growth.

“Do I want to be right or happy?” can even give us perspective and clarity to see another important fact: We probably aren’t right in most arguments. And neither is the other side. Time changes our worldviews. Most of us can look back on past arguments and realize that there are very few where we were totally, undeniably, universally right. We overreact more than we underreact. And who we are and what we know and hold true is a moving goalpost. A hill we’ll die on today is one we’ll happily cede tomorrow. Yet we all suck at seeing this in the moment. Even facts humanity holds universally true — like gravity — will likely be overturned in the near future, according to physicists.

So “Do I want to be right or happy?” is now a question that I try to ask myself any time another person and I face a discrepancy in perspectives. I am not perfect at asking this question. Wouldn’t even say I’m good at it. But when I do find myself in moments of tension with others, remembering to ask myself if I want to be right or happy buys me some emotional space and perspective and cuts down on my daily suffering. And that feels like happiness.

P.s. If you’re interested in how evolution has shaped our brain and influences our modern behaviors (both good, bad, and ugly) and how you can outsmart your evolutionary impulses for better physical and mental health, you might enjoy my book, The Comfort Crisis. It’s out May 11th. You can pre-order it wherever books are sold — but I’d love it if you order it here from an independent bookstore that conducts non-profit writing workshops for disadvantages kids and teens.

7 Little Things That Can Tell You A Lot About Someone

Potent habits that can reveal a person’s character

by Anthony J. Yeung

Without a doubt, one of the best life skills there are is the ability to gauge a person’s character and personality accurately. It’ll help you find stronger relationships and avoid a lot of pain and frustration.
Of all the many different methods, I’ve learned seven over the years that have helped me tremendously—either they were the sign that led to a long, fulfilling friendship or they were the warning before things fell apart.

Note: Please don’t use these to condemn or judge people. Everyone has bad days and our personalities can change. (If anything, we should look at our own character before evaluating others.)
Also, keep in mind each thing on its own might not say much; but together, they can reveal a lot. From there, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to be friends, clients, or lovers with them—or not.

  1. How they keep their commitments
    They’re not always big — like swearing under oath or wedding vows—but we actually make a lot of commitments in life like:
    • “I’ll let you know about the meeting by Friday.”
    • “I’ll be there in 5 minutes.”
    • “I’ll call you at 6 pm.”
    Yet we don’t always keep them. Now, life happens and it’s important to give some leeway, especially for things outside of our control. But if you notice a pattern where someone fails to follow through with any of their commitments—or regularly changes them—it can reveal someone who isn’t reliable, doesn’t hold themselves accountable for the things they say, or doesn’t value you all that much.
  2. How they treat people below them
    “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”
    — Malcolm S. Forbes
    A common test is how people treat service staff at restaurants, cafes, etc. It’s a decent one, but to me, I think the bigger picture is how people treat those who can do absolutely nothing for them or to them. (Waiters, on the other hand, can definitely do something to you if you’re a jerk so it pays to be nice.)
    Strangers on the street. People selling flowers on the sidewalk. Janitors. People “below” their position at work. How does someone treat those people or talk about them? It can tell you a lot.
    I remember being at a cafe on a Friday night that was packed with people going to bars and clubs. A homeless man walked in selling flowers and people started rolling their eyes and laughing at him. Sure, they laughed, but what did their actions say about them?
  3. How their car looks
    Years ago, I had a client who was a surgeon at a leading hospital and who used to interview new residents. I never forgot what he told me.
    “It’s not allowed,” he would say with a chuckle, “but I’d love to just go to the parking lot and see inside their car.”
    It wasn’t to judge the kind of car they drove or how fancy it was. It was to look inside and see if it was clean, organized, and tidy, or if there were food wrappers and empty soda cans everywhere.
    He had a point. In Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell shared a study where the personality of 80 students was assessed by those students’ closest friends versus complete strangers who only spent 15 minutes visiting their bedrooms.
    The complete strangers, it turned out, were more accurate.
    “What this suggests is that it is quite possible for people who have never met us and who have spent only twenty minutes thinking about us to come to a better understanding of who we are than people who have known us for years… If you want to get a good idea of whether I’d make a good employee, drop by my house one day and take a look around.”
    —Malcolm Gladwell
    Obviously, if you can visit someone’s home, even better. But anytime you get a ride from someone, it might tell you quite a bit about a person, their identity, behaviors, and how they think and feel. How you do one thing is how you do everything.
  4. How they act when they make a mistake
    We all make mistakes. But when you address it in a respectful, kind, and fair way, how do they respond?
    • Do they apologize and commit to avoiding it?
    • Do they make excuses, get defensive, or go silent?
    • Do they blame you, accuse you of making it a big deal, or go back in time and list your transgressions (that they never mentioned before and have been saving just for this occasion)?
    Sadly, I’ve had to let friends go because of this, but it was the right decision. I believe the true mark of a person isn’t how they act when things are going well; it’s how they act when things are not going well. There’s always going to be some conflict and disagreements in any relationship, but how they respond in those moments can reveal a lot about their character and ego.
  5. How they act when you make a mistake
    On the other hand, if you make an honest mistake and apologize, how do they respond?
    • Do they respect you and share how they feel? Do they take it in stride?
    • Do they make things personal and say, “You always ” or “You never _?”
    • Do they belittle you, hold a grudge, or insult your character, intelligence, etc.?
    If it’s the last one, it doesn’t always mean they’re “bad” people. (Maybe they had a tough upbringing and it’s how they were raised.) But it definitely reveals a bit about their “true colors” and how they’ll act when times get tough.
  6. How they act with people they want something from
    I’ve noticed some people have a “split personality.” For example, when some guys see women they’re attracted to, they suddenly act friendly and happy; once those women leave, they’re back to their old selves. I knew guys like that and, if we went out on a Saturday night, their eyes would dart all over the room searching for women as they half-listened to their own friends.
    The thing about people like this is they don’t really have an established sense of self—who they are changes completely depending on who they talk to. And they only put on their “A-Game” when they’re around a person they like, they admire, or they want something from.
    Do they put on a special show around certain people? Do they “kiss up” to people above them while ignoring people below them? Do they “friend hop” to climb their way up the social ladder? Take notice.
  7. How their real-life compares to social media life
    I once knew a guy who was obsessed with how he was portrayed on social media—his posts, profiles, and stories were designed to present him in the best light possible. Yet in reality, he was just a relatively average guy who was good at his job.
    We eventually had a falling out, but looking back, this was one of the biggest warning signs. Because, like on social media, he was overly concerned with how people thought of him, he made his friendships calculated, and he chased validation and approval.
    Check how someone acts on social media versus reality? Do they always need to put on a show, humblebrag, or showcase every “amazing” detail of their day—even though their life is ordinary? It can say a lot about how a person thinks, how they feel, and what motivates them.
    Again, the point of these checks isn’t to judge someone. (After all, my ex-friend wasn’t a “bad” guy; we just had different personalities.) It’s simply to gauge someone’s personality—in that moment—and see if it aligns with your values, your goals, and what’s important to you.
    Because once you surround yourself with people who match those important things to you, you’ll find awesome relationships that will grow and grow over time.

I hope it helps…..


Life Hack #1: Have incredible conversations and connections with this hack

by Anthony J. Yeung via

One of the best ways to change your life is to have deep, meaningful connections with great people — whether networking, dating, or just making awesome friends.

Well, in the past decade, I’ve had conversations with over 2,000 different strangers while out and about. (Not bad for a shy, introverted kid who couldn’t ask for the time.)

Along the way, I’ve learned how to have great conversations and overcome a lot of, uh, EMBARRASSING STUMBLING BLOCKS.

Virtually every article on the Internet tells you to ask questions. But relying on them is actually a poor tactic:

It creates “question trains,” where you ask question after question until it becomes an interrogation. “What do you do? How long have you been doing that? What do you like about it? Why did you choose it?”
Questions take value. Rather than sharing anything unique about yourself, you just ask questions to perpetuate the conversation.
It forces conversations. Often, people ask questions to try to hook someone into talking to them.
Instead, make more statements.

Statements let you share something about yourself, your personality, and your perspective and creates a natural way for the conversation to continue — and explains WHY you want it to continue — without outright asking them to do so.

Bad Example:
You: “Where did you go?”
Them: “I went to Europe.”
You: “How long were you there?”
Them: “2 weeks.”
You: “What’s your favorite thing about Europe?”
Them: “Uh, I don’t know.”

Here, you’re making them do all the work without sharing anything about yourself or even hinting at why you’re asking. (You also asked three straight questions; the last one a really big one that takes a lot of work to answer.)

Good Example:
You: “Where did you go?”
Them: “I went to Europe.”
You: “That’s awesome! I love Europe. I’ve only been to Spain, but I felt like I was home.”
Them: “Yeah, I loved Spain too.”
You: “I’d love to go again… just to eat.”
Them: “Actually, I went on a tapas tour when I was there.”
You: “Wow! What was that like??”
Them: [tells a story]

Here, you shared about yourself, your experiences, and your perspective. You only asked one question and even that question was just a natural followup. You never forced them to talk to you; instead, your statements invited them to respond.

That, ultimately, is the goal: Getting people to feel comfortable opening up about themselves. And the only way to do that is for you to open up first.

Now, I’m not saying you should never ask a question.

Here’s a tip from Wayne Elise who coaches thousands of top performers on conversation and co-authored a #1 New York Times bestseller:

Think of questions like bullets in a revolver; you only get six.

If you do feel like asking a question, make sure it’s an interesting one — that way, you get out of the typical, boring questions and actually encourage them to show a bit of their personality and uniqueness:

“What was your favorite thing about Europe?” vs “Where could you see yourself living in Europe?”

I hope this helps you have better, deeper, and richer conversations with people you just met.

And if you want a detailed guide that breaks down my priceless tips for extraordinary conversations, then click this link to learn more.

Stay tune for tomorrow’s hack! It’s a doozy.

Best – Anthony


Misinformation abounds in the writing world, so be on guard
by Dawn Bevier

I make my living on words. Reading them and writing them. I’ve been an English and writing teacher for over twenty years and a part-time writer for the last two. And this is why I have a hard time digesting the “this is how to be a great writer” articles, especially those with simplified lists or numbers.

Throughout history, great writers’ extremely diverse styles are proof that no such cut and dry recipes are accurate. Shakespeare, one of the greatest writers ever to have lived, rarely spoke in direct language. His power is metaphor. Ernest Hemingway’s straightforward style, which most likely came from his job as a reporter for The Kansas City Star, is just as revered.
So don’t believe the hard and fast rules people try to tell you about what you can and can’t do to achieve writing success. Here are three of the cut and dry statements that I urge you to ignore.

You can’t be a successful writer if you have multiple responsibilities

I was fuming yesterday. I read an article saying if writers have a lot of responsibilities or a full-time job, they should choose one or the other because it’s impossible to do both. I am a soft-spoken mother of two, but some very unladylike words wanted to spew out of my mouth.

My fellow writers, if you haven’t learned this yet, only you define your limitations. A full time job doesn’t. Being a parent doesn’t. Having a full-time college course load doesn’t. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

It may involve planning and organization. You may have to get up earlier or stay up later. You may have to forego a few hours sitting in front of the television after work or enlist the help of friends from time to time. But never doubt you can succeed.

The New York Public Library reports that Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes’s creator, worked as a surgeon while he was writing. Kurt Vonnegut, the author of Slaughterhouse 5, was a car salesman. Margaret Atwood, the famed author of The Handmaid’s Tale, worked as a barista. I’d say they managed to juggle their responsibilities successfully, wouldn’t you? They are, after all, some of the most famous writers in all of literature.

So if writing is what you genuinely want to do, you can do it successfully alongside other things. You just have to make the most of the time you have.

All you have to do is write more to succeed

In my personal opinion, this is the biggest lie told to all writers. And I should know because I’ve taught writing for over two decades. I’ve also written over three hundred articles, and recently I had the chance to look over my old ones. This activity made me both extraordinarily embarrassed and extremely happy at the same time.

At the beginning of my career, I had paragraphs that took up a third of the page. I capitalized subtitles just as if they were headlines. The flowery metaphors I thought were so beautiful clouded the clarity of my writing. There were words that were repetitive, sentences that were repetitive, little to no formatting, and tons of long, long sentences that I now realize would weary any reader. And though I mentally scolded myself for these errors, I was extremely pleased with how much my writing had improved over the years.

And it didn’t get better by writing. It got better by learning. I read books on writing. I watched interviews with successful writers. I discussed my craft with others in my field. Because of this, I learned the power of a headline and a subtitle. I learned ways to engage my reader with compelling introductions and ways to provide value to my readers with actionable advice.
And the more I learned about the art of writing, the more my mind threw up mental alerts when I caught myself reverting to my old bad habits. Some examples of those alerts?

That’s repetitive. Delete it. That word is unnecessary. Leave it out. That paragraph is too long. Break it up. That’s passive voice. Make it active. Without these mental alerts, not only does your writing not get better, it cements the bad habits you already have.

Now, this is not to say you shouldn’t write a lot. Just make as much time as you can to do some reading or research on the art of good writing. Then, focus on one of those skills and practice it in your next article.

When I teach writing, I instruct my students on one thing and then have them focus solely on developing that skill. For example, if they are learning to write a good introduction, we practice ten introductions, not ten essays. So, you may find it helpful to write and edit with one particular skill or weakness in the forefront of your mind or make a list of do’s and don’ts from your learning and check your writing for these things paragraph by paragraph after your first draft.

The road to improvement should not look like write, write, write and write. It should look like learn, write, learn, write, learn and write.

Good writing is all about creativity

You’ve probably heard Nobel Prize winner Robert W. Sperry’s theory relating to the differences between the brain’s two different hemispheres. This theory centers around the idea that one hemisphere of the brain is more dominant than the other. For example, people’s brains dominated by the left hemisphere are more adept at logic, analysis, and reasoning. People who are “right-brained” are stronger at creative thought, emotional expressiveness, and imagination.

Many writers describe themselves as right-brained because writing is an exercise in emotion and creativity. However, writers who only focus on channeling their imaginative powers do themselves and their work a great disservice. The best writers use both right and left brain “skill sets” to produce great work.

Great writers often choose to invoke the right brain when they are composing their first drafts. Then, using left-brain skills, they critically analyze their writing to make it more coherent and accessible to all readers. Others prefer to start with the left brain skills, creating a template or outline of main ideas, filling in the already formatted structure, and harnessing their creativity to make the sentences and images more emotionally compelling.

Regardless of the strategy, the critical thing is writers use both hemispheres of the brain in the writing process. For example, here’s how the different hemispheres work together to produce a great headline and sub-heading.

• The Title: (Left Brain) Use logic to create a straightforward headline to let your reader know the specific topic you are writing on.

• The Subtitle: (Right Brain) Use imagination to arouse curiosity about what exactly you will specifically say in the article itself.

Spanish painter Joan Miró explains the importance of embracing both creativity and logic in artistic endeavors best by stating that “works must be conceived with fire in the soul but executed with clinical coolness.”

The bottom line:

Author Kurt Vonnegut expresses an excellent metaphor on how to be successful in writing (and life): “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”
In other words, a writer must work hard, believe in himself, and have a lot of practice runs under his belt to take to the skies successfully. However, without learning how to use his wings to their max potential, the landing may not be a pretty one.

Many writers will try to tell you which cliff to jump off and how to best use your wings. Listen politely, but don’t automatically take their words to heart. Your wings are unique, and so is your writing journey.

And my sincerest hope for you? A gorgeous flight and a safe landing.