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November 01, 2013


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Penny Lau

Dear Lynn,
I agree with you that such lines are not only witty, but eye-catching, which will certainly hook readers' interest instantly. I love witty and funny (the ha-ha funny) expressions, and in my English lessons/workshops, I sometimes come out with my own, which sometimes tickle the students/fellow teachers. Once in one of my writing workshops, I put the title as 'Bring Back The Fun Into Writing' with the byline as 'Getting Started: From S ---> C, and no one guessed what S ---> C meant. One thought it was From Singapore to China. (Is there any reader who would like to guess? )
And for my Grammar topics, instead of telling them it's PREPOSITIONS, I gave it a title ( a game which I played before the lesson)'Is It Up or Is It Down? and for the Conditional Tenses (the 2nd Conditional), I gave it another title 'Would You Really?' I have lots of such examples, which I find make the audience sit up and pay attention. Once they are hooked, they will listen. And for Sentence Writing, instead of telling them to make sentences, I'd call my Writing lessons "Building Blocks' and with titles like '1 + 1', students actually are so immersed in
'adding' that they don't know they are actually creating sentences. The key here is to make them learn in a fun and interactive way, and this is when they will remember the activity.
Oh Lynn, I am trying to express, not to impress! Now Go For It, and Tell Me More. It's Back To You, Baby!

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Penny. Thanks for the hearty laugh! I love the close of your comment.

Speaking of close, my guess for "from S to C" (your challenge) is from Subject to Close. How did I do?

I can tell from your examples that you are a wonderfully creative English teacher. I am honored that I am occasionally of help to you.

Warm wishes,


Christina Cary

That kind of wordplay strikes me as overly cutesy and "clever." I find it annoying. A sophisticated audience doesn't need information to be presented in such a silly way. In contrast, a lighthearted approach probably works really well in a teaching environment. Penny's word games sound entertaining and likely to engage her students. But if I'm a working professional with a staff to develop, I'd prefer a straightforward approach

Penny Lau

The examples are from my Grammar and Writing classes, to high school students,and even pre-U students, whose mother tongue is NOT English, and who are still struggling with the basics of the language. Yes, I do agree with you that a more 'sophisticated' approach will please a more professional audience. In my Business Communication class, where the audience are college students, I have a different approach. The key is to have different approaches to suit different audiences. To inject some humor ( not too much, in case the audience think they are at a circus)really helps to liven up the atmosphere and put learners at ease. Create a more inducive atmosphere to make the learning process a pleasant and enjoyable one.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Christina. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. As a practical, fast-moving reader, I don't like things that are cutesy either. But I found the phrases I quoted apt and engaging. To me, none of the cleverness was gratuitous. It all contributed to the meaning. Maybe "Grow for it" is a bit of a stretch; but as the title of the conclusion, it seemed to work.


Alfredo Deambrosi

Compelling expressions like these seem to reward readers by touching on meanings that readers are already familiar with. In a way, such constructions thank readers for taking the time to read. I finished The Elements of Expression by Arthur Plotnik this past weekend and was reminded that indirect and even poetic writing brings success sometimes, just as simple and brief writing often does.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hello, Alfredo. Thank you for alerting us to Plotnik's book. I read comments about it online, and it sounds like an excellent resource. I especially like the idea of side-by-side columns comparing lifeless language with expressive versions, including famous quotations.


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