“C” Words are an Effective Way to Judge Writing

Ask people for words starting with “c” that describe good writing, and they will quickly toss out clear and concise, which are the backbone of good writing. But other important qualities also begin with “c.”

Cohesive — When you breeze through a message without pausing, easily absorbing the writer’s ideas, the sentences are cohesive, that is, seamlessly connected. Each one flows logically from the previous thought. To create cohesion, start a sentence with a noun, pronoun, or other words that refer to what you discussed previously, thereby continuing the thematic thread.

Let’s say the reader reads these two sentences in this sequence: We are introducing a new training program. The global fire-safety management team will deliver the training. Because the first sentence ended with a reference to a new training program, the reader’s brain starts the next sentence expecting to see words relating to the training. Instead, she sees The global fire safety management team and wonders how that relates to the training program. In linguistics, this is called the old / new principle. Position “old” information (a reference to something discussed previously) at the front of the sentence, and place a reference to new information at the end.

Build cohesion by starting the second sentence with The training will be delivered by … , and that pulls the reader into the sentence. (Yes, that would be a passive sentence, but it is the preferred structure in this instance. The appropriate time to use passive voice is often not explained correctly in schools.)

Writing is coherent when it is unified around a particular idea or theme. When you discuss one idea and in the middle of that veer off into a different topic, it can disrupt the forward motion of the reader, who suddenly wonders, where are we going? All your information in a section or paragraph needs to relate to the topic you are discussing. When you want to switch topics, insert a sentence that provides a transition, easing the reader into the new subject matter.

Convincing – Writing is convincing when it includes examples, numbers (where appropriate), suggestions, and specific reasons why an action is something is necessary. Providing specifics improves the clarity of your message and strengthens your credibility, which makes the communication more persuasive.

Constructive — All business communication should be helpful to the reader. Even when a manager needs to inform someone that project results did not meet expectations or that certain behavior was not appropriate, the language should be tactful and professional so that it encourages the reader to stay motivated. Having the skill to craft effective messages  builds credibility, which makes you more persuasive.

Conversational – Most business communication today has a conversational tone, although, depending on the nature of the communication, people often try too hard to impress the reader.  Being conversational does not mean writing everything means writing with the tone you would use chatting in person or on the phone.

This blog post would not be complete without emphasizing the importance of being complete in every message. People waste so much time by not including everything the reader will need to know.  In their haste to hit send and get the message off the screen, people do not reread it closely enough, which causes an inconvenience for the reader and the writer. It forces the reader to send a text message or email asking for the missing information, and that request, in turn, interrupts the writer.

So take the time to weave together sentences cohesively, unify information around a central idea, and use specifics to present a clear, convincing message. And express your thoughts constructively in a conversational tone, which sounds more authentic. Using these C words as a guide will raise your profile as a careful writer.


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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

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