Sunday, January 25, 2015

Repetition Good; Synonyms Bad

One of the worst pieces of writing advice I have ever received was from my high school teachers. I was told that you should never repeat words or phrases, but look for synonyms. Of course, if you have actually ever read anything, you will see the greatest writers repeating words and phrases all the time. That is because repetition creates meaning. And, more, there are really no such things as synonyms, as each word has subtle differences in meaning.

Unfortunately, most people do not read a great deal, nor do they continue on to graduate school to study writing, where you will learn this in a direct manner. I don't know where these high school teachers get this nonsense about synonyms, but if you want to be a bad writer, I strongly recommend you use nothing but synonyms and never repeat words.

One of the things you should do as a writing consultant is to help your client understand what good writing looks like. If they insist that they don't want repetitions, it is your job as a writing consultant to help them understand why this is wrong.

There are several reasons why avoiding repetition is wrong.
  • Repetition Creates Meaning: Repeated words are perceived as meaningful. I am not talking about words like "the" and "a," of course, but rather theme words like "repetition" and "meaning."
  • Repetition Creates Rhythms: There are a variety of ways to create rhythms, from the regular beats of formal poetry to repeated words. The latter are sometimes more complex, but they create patterns all the same. And when you have patterns, your brains pick up those patterns and remember those patterns. If you want people to remember your texts, you need repetition.
  • Search Engines Pick Up Repeated Words: Search engines search for number of precise words used. They do not pick up synonyms. Thus, for any online text, it is particularly important that you have important words repeated.
All of these are important things to consider when dealing with style. At the same time, I am hardly arguing for overuse of repetition. Nor am I arguing for redundancy. There is too much of a good thing, after all. But reasonable repetition is desirable, advantageous, and necessary. Overall, the advice of your high school English teacher has no place in professional writing.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Value of Other Values to Business

Businesses exist in civil society, not just in the market economy. Thus, it is important to understand the values supported by other social orders within that society--orders such as the philanthropic order or the democratic order--if one wants to maximize profits.

A great example of this is reported here that corporations that engage in philanthropy can create goodwill that can overcome negative experiences with the company. That is, customers may ignore bad service if they like things the company is doing in the realm of philanthropy. Companies don't just need to accumulate physical capital and human capital, but moral capital as well.

In fact, the above linked research showed that when customers were given an opportunity to have a portion of their payment for their purchase go to a philanthropy of their choice (say, among three offered), customers were particularly forgiving.
"Offering customers a choice of their favorite good cause is a true win-win-win solution to the inevitable service failure," the authors conclude. "Customers win, firms win, and society as a whole wins."
A company can of course compete on cost and/or quality of their product or service, which is the typical way of doing things, but now they can compete on generosity--or at least aiding customer generosity--as well. Give yourself that extra margin over your competition, and help out your fellow man. Now that's a great way to profit.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year, New Ideas

I am hoping this year to really develop and expand Camplin Creative Consulting. The first thing to note is that I am renaming Camplin Creative Consulting as Camplin Creative Consulting and Education Services. I will of course be providing consultation services, but I have decided that that is not the only service I want to provide. I want to expand my services into my full repertoire of expertise. Thus, I will be developing the following products and services:
  1. Writing Consulting Services
  2. Workshops for Business -- including "Leadership and Values" and "Asperger's, Autism, and Business"
  3. Educational Services -- including poetry writing classes and play writing classes
I have written on the idea of free-lance professors, and I think I ought to take myself seriously in that. I will be providing most of these services in person in the immediate future, with the intention of developing a large, interactive website.

I am very excited to be moving in this direction. I am very excited to provide these services. I think there is a desire for poetry writing, fiction, writing, and play writing classes among those who don't want to sign up for a university class. And I can do it cheaper, cutting out the bureaucracy. Most of this will have to be provided locally at first, but as I accumulate the capital I need, I will get my website up and running and make this a truly international offering. Personally, I cannot wait for that to happen.