“God made man because He loves stories.”
— Elie Wiesel, author and Nobel Peace Prize winner

Take a tip from Norm MacDonald

#RIPRobinWilliams tweets show how to serialize your story

What can you learn from Norm MacDonald’s Twitter tribute (would that be twibute?) to Robin Williams? What can’t you learn?! MacDonald shows us how to serialize our stories, how to get the word out in 144 characters or less — and when to stop typing.

Serialize your story

Serial killer Norm MacDonald’s serialized Twitter tribute to Robin Williams kills. What can you steal from his approach?

Here are six tips to take from MacDonald’s tribute:

1. Tell a story.

Heck, tell two stories. Why not make it three?

MacDonald’s 19 tweets compose three stories: the Jewish tailor story, the Chinese order-taker story and overarching the “Funniest man in the world walks into a dressing room” story.

2. Serialize your story.

Newspapers have been publishing serial narratives since a young reporter named Charles Dickens write the first one for London’s Morning Chronicle in 1836.

Suddenly, Twitter is the place to go for serial narratives: The FBI Press Office serializes stories. So does NPR. The Boston Globe’s Kevin Cullen covered Whitey Bulger’s murder trial via a serial Twitter narrative.

Serializing your story is a great way to make your tweets go further. But do it right:

  • Break it up. MacDonald sees his story as a series of scenes. That makes it easy for him to break it up into tweets.
  • Keep it together. You can repeat the main headline, add Part I and Part II or use words like “therefore,” “continued” and “update” to signal that these tweets have something in common. MacDonald uses the hashtag #RIPRobinWilliams to organize individual tweets into a complete story.
  • Post in reverse order so readers see the “first” tweet first in your stream. MacDonald tweeted in order, which means followers must read this Twitter tale backward.

3. Start strong.

The most compelling stories have one strong summary sentence close to the beginning, Catherine Burns, artistic director of the Moth, a New York City-based organization dedicated to storytelling, tells Real Simple.

“‘I fell into the pool in my wedding dress,’ say, or ‘A violent stomachache ruined our first date.’”

MacDonald’s lead strikes the same chord: “It was my first stand-up appearance on Letterman, and I had to follow the funniest man in the world.”

Notice that MacDonald saves the background section for after he gets your attention: “I was a punk kid from rural Ontario and I was in my dressing room, terrified.”

4. Keep it short.

All three of MacDonald’s stories together weigh in at less than 350 words, give or take a few hashtags.

5. But don’t compress the life out of it.

Notice that MacDonald didn’t lose details when he tightened his tale into tweets. Regardless of how tight the space, MacDonald keeps our attention with concrete details like:

  • He was a Jewish tailor, taking my measurements.
  • He went down on his knees, asked which way I dressed.
  • The place was out of Moo Shoo Pork …
  • … he ended with a Windsor knot.
  • He spoke mostly Yiddish …

6. Know when to quit.

Endings are as important as openings. MacDonald finished his story, though, a tweet before he stopped typing.

Notice the many ways that the final tweet does not work with the rest of this piece:

It adds emotion to observation. Tell the story you’ve observed, then let readers have the emotional response. This rule is also known as, “Make the reader cry; don’t tell the reader you cried.”

“Have you ever noticed,” asks a character in Richard Yates’ Young Hearts Crying, “how your sympathy for someone’s story — anyone’s story — tends to evaporate when they get to the part about how long and hard they cried?”

That’s what happened to me when I read MacDonald’s last tweet.

It’s long. Most of the words in MacDonald’s tweets are one — maybe two — syllables long. Other than Ontario, though, “unacceptable” is the only word in this Twitter tale that’s four syllables long.

It’s abstract. As William Carlos Williams counseled, “Turn ideas into things.” MacDonald’s ending does the reverse: In a series of concrete words, this is the rare abstract one.

The true ending of this story is “Until now.”

When you finish your story, stop typing.

Take a tip from Norm Macdonald

When you finish your story, stop typing: MacDonald’s story ended one tweet before he stopped.


Source: “A Good Story,” Real Simple, September 2005

Master the Art of the Storyteller

Storytelling is “the most powerful form of human communication,” according to Peg Neuhauser, author of Corporate Legends and Lore.

Catch your readers New York writing workshopIndeed, stories can help you:

  • Get and keep attention
  • Enhance credibility
  • Make your message more memorable
  • Communicate better
  • Create a “buzz” for your ideas

In Catch Your Readers, my two-day Master Class in New York on Oct. 28-29, you'll learn to identify, develop and tell stories that will illustrate your points, communicate your messages and sell your products, services and ideas. Specifically, you'll learn:

  • The key question to ask during an interview to elicit juicy anecdotes
  • A seven-second rule to apply to determine whether your material is really an anecdote
  • The secret to organizing your material into a powerful story
  • The best place to start an anecdote — and the worst place
  • A quick, easy-to-use template for building an anecdote

Would you like to hold an in-house Art of the Storyteller workshop? Contact me directly.

Learn more about the Master Class.

Register for Writing Workshop in New York.

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“There's a mad dash for attention in the email box.”
— Mike Sigal, CEO of Guidewire

Skimm this!

Make your e-zine interesting, relevant, easy

What’s the secret to a successful e-zine? Make ’em laugh; make ’em think; make ’em Skimm.

Express mail

Express mail Readers can skim a digest of the day’s events — in 1,000 words or less — with the Skimm.

In other words, make it interesting, relevant and easy.

That’s the formula e-zine the Skimm uses. You can steal a trick from the Skimm and produce an e-zine that’s:


The Skimm makes the news fun to read, from the subject line to the final column:

  • Subject line: “Seize the Hump” for a Wednesday release
  • Quote of the day: “The only other time I spent seven years in one place was high school.” — Chelsea Handler saying goodbye to E! last night
  • Headlines: “CR-ISIS,” “Repeat after me …,” “Things to know”
  • Voice: It’s cheeky, inside-y, fun.


The Skimm offers news you can use to live your life better. That is, it delivers as much news as you need — and no more! — to be able to keep up with the conversation over lunch or cocktails.

The Skimm best realizes this promise in “Repeat after me …,” a series of newsy talking points for different occasions, like:

  • “What to say when you can't decide on Labor Day plans …”
  • “What to say when someone steals your cab …”
  • “What to say when you want the flight to be over …”

“Thing to know” also gives that inside-y, news-you-can-use-to-look-and-feel-smart tone.


My favorite thing about the Skimm, though, is how easy it is to read. You see that ease in the newsletter’s:

1. Positioning statement. Check out the e-zine’s No. 1 selling point (the boldface is mine):

“theSkimm is the daily e-mail newsletter that gives you everything you need to start your day. We do the reading for you — across subject lines and party lines — and break it down with fresh editorial content.”

2. Readability. The Skimm is easy to read because of its:

  • Length. You get a day’s news in about 900 words, or less than a 5-minute read.
  • Sentence length. At 12.5 words per sentence, it’s easy to understand.
  • Word length. The Skimm is also easy to process, with words averaging 4.6 characters.
  • Reading ease. It’s easy to read, too, with a reading ease of 67.3 on a scale of 1 to 100.
  • Reading grade level. Weighing in at less than the 7th grade level, this e-zine is accessible to most folks.

Hey, Skimm, hit Return more often, and I’ll love you even more!

3. Skim-ability. The Skimm is named for its skim-ability, after all! I especially like the way the e-zine breaks down the lead story.

How can you make your e-zine interesting, relevant and easy like the Skimm?

skimm this - Make your ezine fun helpful easy

Fun, helpful, easy: The Skimm “gives you everything you need to start your day.”

Get the Word Out On the Web

When reading on the screen, your audience members suffer physical ailments ranging from double vision to nausea to difficulty thinking.

In Catch Your Readers, my two-day Master Class in New York on Oct. 28-29, you'll learn a six-step process for writing Web copy that overcomes the obstacles of online reading. Specifically, you'll learn how to:
Catch your readers New York writing workshop

  • Increase usability by 124% with three simple copywriting steps
  • Put your most important messages where you'll get 17 times the attention
  • Run a quick test to make sure your copy gets to the point fast enough
  • Divide and conquer to create Web pages that are easier to understand, more memorable, faster to read, more satisfying and that make it easier to find relevant information
  • Engage readers by increasing your fact-to-fluff ratio
  • Determine how long your Web page should be. (Beware: Many page-length recommendations are based on outdated research)
  • Chunk your copy instead of irritating the reader by chopping it
  • Write paragraphs that are short enough to get read on the Web

Would you like to hold an in-house Get the Word Out On the Web workshop? Contact me directly.

Learn more about the Master Class.

Register for Writing Workshop in New York.

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“A lead should lead — into the point of the story. If the CEO’s point isn’t the weather, why do we so often start his messages with the changing of the seasons?”
— Ann Wylie, writing coach, Wylie Communications

Don’t say ‘when’

Date leads date your story

In a “West Wing” episode, President Jed Bartlet is in the Oval Office, where a technician prepares to record his Saturday morning radio address.

Don't say when

Remember when? Your readers are more interested in what happened than when. Avoid date leads.

TECHNICIAN: “Here we go. In three, two …”

He holds up his index finger on “one,” then points to Bartlet.

BARTLET: “Good morning. This month, as autumn is in full bloom in much of the nation, the weekends will be devoted by many of you to leaf peeping and football … watch … ing …”

He starts to laugh.

TECHNICIAN: “Cut tape.”

BARTLET [still laughing]: “I’m sorry. Leaf peeping? Is that something we do now?”

Why do we do this to our executives?

Can we think of no other way for them to get into their executive messages other than to announce the changing of the seasons? Are we afraid we’ll lose credibility if the Big Guy himself doesn’t proclaim that a new month, season or year has arrived?

And how can we do this without laughing?

Let’s stop leading with “when.”

Avoid date leads.

I once found all these date leads in a month’s worth of a client’s employee communications:

  • Beginning this year …
  • (The company’s) agreement on June 29 …
  • Following the June 15 Board meeting …
  • Under a new plan that took effect Oct. 31, …
  • Last year …
  • On Dec. 15, 1998 …
  • Back in the early ’50s …

Mesmerized yet? Probably not. That’s because date leads are boring. Why else should you avoid date leads?

‘When’ is the least interesting of the five W’s.

What’s more interesting, “Twelve seconds ago,” or what happened 12 seconds ago? The latter, I hope, if you’re writing about it.

Leading with the date pushes the action — what’s really important — to the back of the sentence.

Date leads are ‘duh’ leads.

“2012 is coming to an end,” writes one of my favorite bloggers, “and once it does, 2013 will be coming down the tracks.”


Just as spring follows winter, February trails January, and Tuesday comes after Monday, 2013 comes down the tracks after 2012.

But do we really need to alert our readers to this fact?

Date leads date your story.

Here’s a stack of when leads from another client:

“April was Records and Information Management Month …”

“Back in the May issue, we learned that our co-worker — despite his endless sneezing and coughing — probably isn’t carrying the next pandemic flu. …”

“Last year, the Underwriting group met with employer groups across all industries to gather feedback on the experience rating program …”

“A few years ago, the Secretary & General Counsel Division adopted Conscience Speaks as its motto …”

“Over 16 years ago, we said goodbye to our paper based- model and officially entered the world of technology. Now we’re turning the next page in our advancement …”

Over 16 years ago?! Honey, that is an old lead! (However, not quite as old as my other client’s “Back in the early ’50s …”)

Date leads are a habit.

Communicators (and departments) that use date leads tend to rely on them all the time. Witness my client’s list of leads.

Habitual writing is thoughtless writing. If you don’t think while you’re writing, you won’t make your readers think when they’re reading.

The Wall Street Journal drops the date.

When Brian Kilgore became managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, he decreed that The Journal would no longer use “today” and “yesterday” in story leads.

“It doesn’t have to have happened today to be news,” Kilgore said.

In doing so, he stripped the time element from most leads in the business publication of record in the United States. (Read it. It’s true.) And if it’s good enough for The Journal, it’s good enough for me.

When did Kilgore do that? In 1941.

But then, the date hardly matters.

Go Beyond the Inverted Pyramid

Our old friend the inverted pyramid hasn't fared well in recent research.

According to new studies by such think tanks as The Readership Institute and The Poynter Institute, inverted pyramids:

  1. Reduce readership and understanding
  2. Fail to engage readers
  3. Don't draw readers across the jump

In short, researchers say, inverted pyramids “do not work well with readers.”

In Catch Your Readers, my two-day Master Class in New York on Oct. 28-29, you'll learn a structure that can increase reader satisfaction, boost the amount of time readers spend with your message and help readers understand information more easily. Specifically, you'll learn:

Catch your readers New York writing workshop

  • How to organize your message to grab readers’ attention, keep it for the long haul and leave a lasting impression
  • Three elements of a great lead — and five leads to avoid
  • How to stop bewildering your readers by leaving out an essential paragraph. (Many communicators forget it.)
  • Five ways to avoid the “muddle in the middle’
  • A three-step test for ending with a bang

Learn more about the Master Class.

Register for Writing Workshop in New York.

Would you like to hold an in-house Go Beyond the Inverted Pyramid workshop? Contact me directly.

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“Brevity is the sister of talent.”
— Anton Chekhov, Russian playwright

How small is small?

Mini narratives can be as brief as a paragraph

In The Emperor of All Maladies, Siddhartha Mukherjee shares this tiny tale:

“In 2005, a man diagnosed with multiple myeloma asked me if he would be alive to watch his daughter graduate from high school in a few months. In 2009, bound to a wheelchair, he watched his daughter graduate from college. The wheelchair had nothing to do with his cancer. The man had fallen down while coaching his youngest son’s baseball team.”

How small is small

Tiny but mighty A story need not be enormous to be amazing. Image by Rob Sheridan

In just 61 words, Mukherjee gives us:

  • The motivation. The subject wants to live to see his daughter graduate from high school. The motivation is what gets the story started.
  • The obstacle. The subject has multiple myeloma, a cancer that starts in the plasma cells in bone marrow. That’s what gives the story its tension: the conflict between the motivation and obstacle.
  • The result. He lives to see her graduate, not only from high school, but from college! But, making this success bittersweet, he’s bound to a wheelchair.
  • The punch line. Surprise! He’s in a wheelchair because he was in a baseball-coaching accident.

Can you do as much with so little?

Stories in miniature

The world is filled with beautiful, tiny stories. Gain inspiration for your own tiny but mighty tales from mini narratives like these:

1. “A Flower for the Graves by Gene Patterson. This 1963 column tells a story and sprays a great big bottle of whoop-ass all over Patterson’s fellow Southerners, all in just 551 words:

“A Negro mother wept in the street Sunday morning in front of a Baptist Church in Birmingham. In her hand she held a shoe, one shoe, from the foot of her dead child.

“We hold that shoe with her.

“Every one of us in the white South holds that small shoe in his hand.”

Patterson, the legendary Atlanta Constitution editor who won the 1967 Pulitzer Prize, pounded out gorgeous short pieces like this day after day after day. We should all be so talented — and work so hard.

2. W.C. Heinz’s “Death of a Racehorse (PDF).” This 1949 piece covers less than an hour of action at a horse race. It leaves me breathless and — at 963 words — wanting more. It is so cohesive, I couldn’t pull out a single scene to share with you.

Simply put, writes Paige Williams for Nieman Storyboard, “it is one of the most glorious short narratives ever written.”

What can you steal from Heinz’s classic piece?

3. Ernie Pyle’s “The Story of Captain Waskow.” In 1944, the famous World War II correspondent wrote this 800-word account of how U.S. soldiers on the battlefield reacted to the death of Henry T. Waskow.

“Decades before anybody was talking about making journalism stories read like short fiction,” writes Walt Harrington, former staff writer for The Washington Post Magazine, “Pyle crafted an article that had the unmistakable feel of an Ernest Hemingway story.”

Here’s the lead:

“I was at the foot of the mule trail the night they brought Captain Waskow down. The moon was nearly full, and you could see far up the trail, and even partway across the valley below.

“Dead men had been coming down the mountain all evening, lashed onto the backs of mules. They came lying belly-down across the wooden pack-saddles, their heads hanging down on one side, their stiffened legs sticking out awkwardly from the other, bobbing up and down as the mules walked.”

And here’s the ending:

“The rest of us went back into the cowshed leaving the five dead men lying in a line end to end in the shadow of the low stone wall. We lay down on the straw in the cowshed, and pretty soon we were all asleep.”

Hemingway, indeed.

4. The New Yorker’s “Talk of the Town” columns. This week’s column, “Only You” by Ian Frazer, is a summer afternoon on a page. Here’s a bit about Smokey the Bear at 70:

“Smokey stood bare-chested (aside from his fur) and unshod (ditto); his ranger hat and a pair of Wrangler bluejeans constituted his only clothing. His head fit onto his shoulders so well that the seam could hardly be seen. In true bear fashion, his full-length profile increased substantially at the middle. A man came up to him and asked, ‘Hey, Smokey—what size are your jeans?’

“Smokey fixed the man with a long, level, heart-stopping gaze. The man seemed to shrivel slightly. The bear crossed his forelegs across his chest twice, and then held them in a three-o'clock position: ‘X X L.’ His expression didn't change.”

Can you manage to compress a beginning, a middle and end into just about 600 words?

5. The New York Times Portraits of Grief series. These pieces tell the stories of every single person who died in the 9/11 attacks. Here’s the life of Eddie D’Atri, stitched together from just 157 words:

“Lynda Mari was painting her porch last fall when she was approached by a construction worker with an extension cord.

“‘Hello, I’m Eddie,’ he said. ‘You mind if I borrow your power?’

“Eddie D’Atri was a handsome, muscular fellow. ‘I told him, “You can borrow anything you want,”‘ Ms. Mari said the other day.

“She asked him if he was a fireman. ‘I just felt it,’ she said. ‘Something just told me.’ He told her no, he was just a working man, but she didn’t believe it. Her brother is a fireman, and something deep inside her made her fearful of falling in love with a guy like that.

“But she did. They were engaged June 30.

“Mr. D’Atri was 38. He studied nursing and was a lieutenant at Squad 1 in Park Slope, Brooklyn. He was crowned Mr. Staten Island in 1987.

“Sadly, steel is stronger than muscle, and Mr. D’Atri leaves behind a broken heart.”

How do reporters pull off these tiny profiles? Times editors write:

“The portraits were never meant to be obituaries in any traditional sense. They were brief, informal and impressionistic, often centered on a single story or idiosyncratic detail. They were not intended to recount a person’s résumé, but rather to give a snapshot of each victim’s personality, of a life lived.”

Not bad for mini portraits that weigh in at roughly 200 words each.

Cut a long story short.

Cutting a long story short is often a matter of selection, not compression. So start by focusing your story angle as tightly as possible.

Bottom line: The narrative form is no excuse for long, sloppy writing.

Sources: Paige Williams, “Building your canon: Small-scale narrative,” Nieman Storyboard, March 1, 2013

Walt Harrington, “The Journalist’s Haiku,” A Journal of Media Coverage, Summer 2003

Cut Through the Clutter

Is your copy easy to read? According to communication experts, that's one of the two key questions people ask to determine whether to read a piece — or toss it.

Fortunately, academics have tested and quantified what makes copy easy to read. Unfortunately, that research virtually never makes it out of the ivory tower and into the hands of writers who could actually apply it.

But you'll leave Catch Your Readers, my two-day Master Class in New York on Oct. 28-29, with “the numbers” you need to measurably improve your copy's readability. Specifically, you'll learn:

Catch your readers New York writing workshop

  • How long is too long: For your paragraphs? Your sentences? Your words?
  • Three ways to shorten your copy — and which is the most effective way
  • How to cut your copy before you've even written the first word
  • How to get readers to read your paragraphs (How many of your paragraphs are your readers now skipping?)
  • A tool you can use (you probably already have it, but you might not know it) to quantifiably improve your copy's readability
  • A seven-step system for making your copy clearer and more concise

Learn more about the Master Class.

Register for Writing Workshop in New York.

Would you like to hold an in-house Cut Through the Clutter workshop? Contact me directly.

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“A worthwhile experience for all profession communicators — rich in tools and strategies.”
— Matt Smederovac, executive communication strategist, State Farm

Don’t miss your chance …

… to learn to Catch Your Readers in New York, Oct. 28-29

Consider the issues:

  • The secret to writing to get read is to position your messages in your reader's best interest. Yet most writers position their messages in their organization's best interest. Which approach do you use?
  • Our old friend the inverted pyramid has been proven in the lab to reduce readership, understanding and engagement, according to the The Poynter Institute and The Readership Institute, among others. Are you still using this news structure that, researchers say, does “not work well with readers”?
  • Sixty percent of your audience members aren't reading your messages, according to two professors at the University of Missouri. Are you crafting your messages to communicate key ideas to people who won’t read your paragraphs?

Too many professional communicators still rely on outdated Writing 101 techniques that, frankly, don’t work. But you’re a Wylie’s Writing Tips subscriber. You’re one of the handful of communicators who works hard to master the latest, proven-in-the-lab best practices for Catching Your Readers.

If you’d like to stand out from the Writing 101 crowd, please join me at “Catch Your Readers,” a two-day writer’s Master Class on Oct. 28 and 29 in New York.


Win with your pen Your job isn’t to press Send. It’s to get people to 1) pay attention to your message, 2) understand it, 3) remember it and 4) act on it. At the Catch Your Readers Master Class, we’ll look at techniques for achieving those goals.

Fill your toolbox with tricks.

In two days, you'll have time to cram your writer's tool bag with tricks — hard-to-find but easy-to-implement techniques that will help you:

  • Think Like a Reader: Learn to move people to act
  • Go Beyond the Inverted Pyramid: Master a structure that’s been proven in the lab to reach more readers
  • Make Your Copy More Creative: Engage your readers with storytelling, analogy and wordplay
  • Get the Word Out On the Web: Overcome the obstacles of reading on the screen
  • Reach Readers via Social Media: Write copy that gets clicked, read, shared and liked
  • Cut Through the Clutter: Make every piece you write measurably easier to read and understand
  • Lift Your Ideas Off the Page Or Screen: Reach flippers and skimmers, increase readership

If you're a good writer, this Master Class will quickly equip you with a bigger, better bag of writing tricks. If you're struggling, the program can give you the tools you need to get up to speed almost immediately.

Wherever you are in your writing journey, in this workshop, you will:

  • Learn the latest, proven-in-the-lab approaches for getting readers to pay attention to your message, understand it, remember it and act on it.
  • Find out how to ditch outdated writing practices that actually annoy, rather than attract, readers.
  • Get the information you need to have a successful conversation with management about what works in writing and why.
  • Leave with fresh techniques based on relevant research that you can use to reach and sway your audiences.

Register for Writing Workshop in New York.

Meet me in New York.

New York has long been the center of the American literary universe. It’s the city of Walt Whitman, Edith Wharton, Henry Miller, Philip Roth. It’s home to The New York Times, Reader’s Digest and The Huffington Post.

The city is teeming with good writing juju — so much so that you can virtually feel your writing muscles grow while you’re sitting in a Greenwich Village bar or sipping champagne at The Algonquin. (Now that’s my idea of a writing workout!)


Give my regards to Broadway Why not stay for the weekend and hit some of the best art museums, plays, restaurants and shops in the world? Photo by Vikram Vetrivel

Why not make a long weekend of it? I, for one, will be staying after the workshop to walk the High Line, shop Madison Avenue consignment shops, have lunch at Bouley, see “This Is Our Youth” on Broadway and catch the Henri Matisse Cut-Outs show at the Museum of Modern Art.

Maybe we’ll run into each other!

Register for Writing Workshop in New York.

Save $100 or more, earn a bonus.

I have no doubt that the Master Class will be the best money you invest this year on your professional development. But here’s how to save money or boost your return on investment:

  • Save when you bring a friend with our group discounts. Get $50 off both tickets when you bring one friend. Save $100 each when you bring two or more friends.
  • Get a free, four-month subscription to Rev Up Readership — a $100 value — if you're one of the first 20 to register. (Already a member? If you're among the first 20, you'll get a free, three-month extension to your membership.)
  • Can’t make it to the workshop yourself? Get a free, four-month subscription to Rev Up Readership — a $100 value — when you refer your friends to the workshop. When your friends register, have them choose “Friend/colleague” from the “How did you hear about us?” drop-down menu, then put your name in the box below. That's it! Your free membership will begin the day after the workshop.

Interested? Contact me directly or register now.

Register for Writing Workshop in New York.

Time is running out …

At this point, most of the seats for this workshop have been taken.

Would you like to snag one of the remaining seats? Contact me directly or register now. But do it soon: We expect the workshop to sell out entirely before registration closes at 8 a.m. on Oct 28.

At the workshop, you’ll find out why Amy Kappler, communications specialist, Burgess and Niple, said of my Master Class: You’ll get “a semester's worth of knowledge in a few hours.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Register for Writing Workshop in New York.

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“Current, hard-hitting truth about best ways to catch readers in a busy, media-loaded world.”
— Laura Thierolf, communication specialist, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Lift Your Ideas Off the Screen

Learn to reach flippers and skimmers at the
PRSA International conference in Washington, D.C.

Most “readers” don’t read — they scan. The fact is, 60 percent of your audience members aren’t reading your copy, according to estimates by professors at the University of Missouri. So how can you craft communications to reach nonreaders?

In my Lift Your Ideas Off the Screen breakout session at the PRSA 2014 International Conference, you’ll learn how to use your display copy — headlines, decks and subheads — to pull readers into your copy, make your piece more inviting, and even communicate to flippers and skimmers.

PRSA international conference banner

You’ll learn how to:

  • Reach “readers” who spend only three minutes — or even just 30 seconds — with your piece.
  • Run a simple test on your copy to ensure that you lift your ideas off the page for flippers and skimmers.
  • Make your copy 47 percent more usable by adding a few simple elements


11:45 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 13
Room: Washington 3/4
Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel
Washington, D.C.

Pre-conference session

You can also learn to Catch Your Readers at my pre-conference workshop. (Separate registration required.)


8 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 11
Room: Virginia A/B
Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel
Washington, D.C.

Expert Express

Get quick tips for improving your writing, presentations and measurement from Mike Neumeier, Shonali Burke and me at our Expert Express chat.


3:15 p.m. on Oct. 13.
Room: Exhibit Hall B South
Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel
Washington, D.C.

Hope to see you there!

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Ann’s workshop “makes me want to go back and revise everything I’ve done in the past three years.”
— Blythe Campbell, director, Communications & Marketing, NANA Development Corp.

Ann’s touring schedule

Polish your skills at one of these events

Alas, I can’t invite you to the in-house seminars I present for private organizations.

Come along for the ride Catch Ann at one of her upcoming workshops.

But everyone’s invited to these upcoming public seminars in:

  • Lincoln on May 16: Make Your Copy More Creative, a full-day workshop for PRSA Nebraska
  • New York City on Oct. 28-29: Catch Your Readers, a two-day writing Master Class open to the public
  • New York City on Dec. 8: Catch Your Readers, a one-day workshop for PRSA
  • Tacoma on Aug. 19: Template Your Story, a half-day workshop for PRSA Puget Sound
  • Washington, D.C., on Oct. 12: Catch Your Readers, a half-day pre-conference session at the PRSA 2014 International Conference.
  • Washington, D.C., on Oct. 13: Lift Your ideas Off the Screen, a breakout session at the PRSA 2014 International Conference
  • Washington, D.C., on Oct. 13: Meet Ann and get more writing tips at Expert Express, a 20-minute learning session in the exhibit hall at the PRSA 2014 International Conference
  • Your own home or office on Nov. 6, Nov. 13, Dec. 4 and Dec. 11: Catch Your Readers, a four session course over Webex for IABC.
  • Your own home or office on Jan. 29: Make Your Copy More Creative, a one-hour webinar for PRSA

Would you like to attend? Please contact meeting planners directly for details.

Can’t make these events? If you’d like to bring me in for a workshop at your organization, contact me.

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Where in the world is Ann?

Cut your training costs when you piggyback your program

Save money when you piggyback your workshop by scheduling it when I’m already “in the neighborhood.” Book your program the day before or after another organization’s and split my airfare and ground transportation with the other group.

Ask about piggybacking on my upcoming engagements in:

  • Dallas: Nov. 19-20
  • Kansas City: Oct. 1 & Nov. 11
  • Lincoln: May 16
  • Minneapolis: Oct. 23
  • New York City: Oct. 28-29 & Dec. 8
  • Philadelphia: Dec. 18
  • Portland: Nov. 5
  • San Francisco: Dec. 2
  • Tacoma: Aug. 19
  • Washington, D.C.: Oct. 12-13

Save even more: Ask about my communication-association discounts and second-day fee reductions.

Contact me to discuss piggybacking.

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What are we up to?

I could lie and say I was working hard in many cities, juggling priorities and inspiring clients. But in September, the only lying I did was by the pool at a Tuscan villa while James Beard Award-winning chefs fed me. (I know: Why exactly did I stop doing that?)

It was fun, but now it’s October, and I’m back at work. Call me!

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Keep up with my calendar

Find out when I’m coming to your neighborhood, learn when you can sign up for one of my programs and otherwise keep up with my calendar.

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Let’s connect

Keep in touch via:

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Please share this issue

… with two of your colleagues by directing them to our current issue. Better yet, invite them to subscribe to Wylie’s Writing Tips. They’ll thank you — and so will I!

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For more info …

… about my seminars, publication consulting or writing and editing services, please contact me or visit my website.

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