Phonetikana – Using visual text to teach Japanese

Building phonetic pronunciation into the letter design of a font. Wow!


This is a brilliant way to make a complex character set more manageable to learn. Check it out and see if you can find the Super Hero within:

Thanks to Ian McLean (DJ Epyon) for sharing this creative approach.

More interesting stuff:

Create a Contest

Build Organizational Positivity: Run a Story Contest

Remember in school when you had to write an essay on “What I did this summer?” This was your teacher’s way of teaching you the art of storytelling. Well, who ever said the storytelling should stop just because we’re all grown up? 

Everyone Wins

Soliciting stories from members of your organization is a quadruple win:

  • Storytellers enjoy the chance to highlight a meaningful experience, a proud moment or an appreciated person
  • Leaders learn about positive things happening within the organization
  • Teams enjoy the chance to share important events, moments with each other
  • The organization gains a purposeful archive of the great efforts, triumphs and creativity of its individuals and teams

An effective technique for eliciting stories from the people in your organization or from your customers is to run a story contest with winners and prizes. It’s amazing how excited adults can get over sharing stories. So, how do you create a contest?

Run a Story Contest in 7 Easy Steps

1. Define your contest. What is the purpose? What kind of information do you hope to elicit? Do you want individual stories, workplace stories, or excellent customer service stories? Ask a question that excites your target audience’s imagination. Examples:

  • What do I like best about working here?
  • How has our product or service improved the quality of daily life?
  • What does the future looks like if we succeed?

2. Decide how you’ll use the stories. Will the stories appear in your magazine, your intranet site, your internet site, your management meeting, or maybe on a special wall in the building?

3. Determine the prize(s) you’ll use to incentivize people to participate. Make sure that they are appropriate for your organization, audience, and budget.

4. Establish your timeline and budget. Include the cost of prizes, translations, marketing, and time required. How long will your contest run? Build in time to market the contest, review the entries, and select a winner. Work backwards from your deadline.

5. Draw up the rules. Figure out how you will judge entries in advance – you’ll need to communicate this to participants.

6. Launch your contest. Develop and execute your marketing plan, including the who, what, where and when information on the contest. Monitor submissions, adjusting your marketing efforts as needed.

7. Select and announce your winner(s) and any runner-ups. Notify winners directly in advance before formal announcements are made.  Use winning entries in your communications, as planned.


Your turn: Have you ever participated in a contest? What type of contest would you like to run? Leave a comment here to share your ideas.

Globalize your On Demand Business

Check out these excellent writing tips from IBM on how to “Globalize your On Demand Business” 

Style tips

The following style suggestions can help ensure your information is clear for all types of audiences:

  • Write sentences as short and simple as possible. Try to keep sentences to 25 words or less.
  • Make sure that lists are complete and can stand by themselves.
  • Use a complete sentence to introduce a list.
  • Make list items complete sentences or complete phrases.
  • Make list items parallel in structure.
  • Avoid slang, jargon, humor, sarcasm, colloquialisms, and metaphors. For example, use “estimate” instead of “in the ballpark.”
  • Be succinct. Eliminate unnecessary text and redundancies.
  • Do not use Latin abbreviations.
  • Avoid negative constructions. For example, use “It is like the previous request” rather than “It is not unlike the previous request.” Or, use “Log on again to reconnect” instead of “You cannot reconnect without logging on again.”
  • Avoid ambiguity.
  • Use an appropriate and consistent tone.
  • Choose examples that are appropriate for the intended audience.

Grammar tips

Appropriate grammar enables easier, more accurate translations and enhances audience understanding:

  • Write in active voice whenever possible and use the present tense.
  • Avoid the infinitive (to create), present participle (creating), and past participle (created) forms of verbs in the beginning of sentences. These verbs are less direct, and the subject of the clause is not always obvious. Completing steps could mean “When you complete the steps” or “Because you complete the steps.”
  • Avoid noun strings. Limit compound phrases to no more than three words. When a compound phrase is used, be sure that it has only one meaning and that the phrase is used consistently.
  • Make the subject of a verb phrase clear. Avoid complex sentences where several adverbs or other modifiers are used. If you use complex sentences, it is particularly important to include whatever words are necessary to make the subject clear. Do not omit the word “that” from clauses. The use of the conjunction “that,” while technically optional in some sentences, is never wrong and makes the sentence easier to translate and clearer for users whose primary language is not English. For example, use “Verify that your directory service is working” rather than “Verify your directory service is working.”
  • Avoid using words in multiple grammatical categories (verb, noun, adjective). In English, many words can change their grammatical category. In most other languages, the same word cannot be a verb, a noun, and an adjective. (Use “during the restore operation” instead of “during the restore.”)
  • Avoid ambiguous pronoun references where the pronoun can possibly refer to more than one antecedent. For example, in the statement “If there is prompt text for the completed field, it does not change,” it is not clear if the “prompt text” does not change or the “completed field” does not change.
  • Use simple and clear coordination so the reader can tell what the relationships are between the elements of a sentence. For example, “the file or result field definition” could mean: “The result-field definition or the file,” “The file definition or the result-field definition,” “The file-field definition or the result-field definition,” “The definition of the file or of the result field,” or “The field definition of the file or of the result.”
  • Ensure the elements of a sentence are parallel. Words, phrases, and clauses should be grammatically equal. Use “network management, databases, and application programs” rather than “network management, databases, and writing application programs.”
  • Avoid using too many prepositions in a sentence, but do not omit prepositions or articles that are necessary. The sentence “This is a list of the current status of all event monitors for this process” could be rewritten to “This lists the current status of all event monitors for this process.”
  • Do not use the dash parenthetically (as in “It is at this point – the start point – that designers and writers meet”). Translators, however, accept the dash being used to show an extension of a sentence (as in “The most important people in IBM are the customers – they pay us”).

How to Write a Compelling White Paper

Lately it seems I’m writing white papers left and right. Since I didn’t really know what a white paper was until I’d written my fifth one, I decided it was time to learn.  Enter Google (again).  This Top 10 List by Megan Tsai caught my eye. Thought I’d share it with you, ’cause you just might want to write a white paper soon…

If your marketing content huddled up as a football team, a great white paper would probably be your most valuable player, because it has the same name appeal as a star NFL quarterback. Sure, other players might work just as hard – but it’s the white paper that gets instant recognition.

So how do you create a paper (one that’s more Peyton Manning than Jay Cutler)? Here are the ten best white paper tips for writing white papers that win customers:

1. Think about your audience. Your white paper probably isn’t what you’d be interested in reading: find out what matters to your prospects and create your papers around those topics. Visit forums and ask questions to learn more about what they want to know.

2. Draw them in. The paper’s introduction should present the topic in a compelling way, drawing in the reader and making them eager to learn more.

3. Leave the marketing speak behind. The paper should present useful information in a simple, easy-to-read way. If you want to sell, create a brochure or sales sheet instead.

4. Solve the problem. Don’t just tell your audience about their problems, explain how they can solve them. Don’t be overly afraid of giving away “inside” information: your expert knowledge makes the paper a success.

5. Get the facts. Numbers are no longer a requirement, but good data or survey results will boost your paper’s appeal. Search academic journals and trade group surveys for numbers you can use.

6. Back it up. Don’t use these marketing pieces to make unsubstantiated claims; they breed skepticism and undermine your credibility. If you don’t have numbers, use quotes from objective third-party sources.

7. Make the case. Consider sprinkling in a few relevant business case studies and real-life examples for added value.

8. Tell them how to shop. You can’t use white papers to sell your solution, but you can explain to readers how to shop for a solution in a way that leads them toward your offering.

9. Think visual. Support your paper with strong visual elements like tables, graphs, pull quotes and sidebars.

10. Give it away. When you require a prospect to log in or sign up to receive the finished paper, you limit its effectiveness. Make sure most – if not all – of the content on your website is ungated.

White paper writer Megan Tsai is a seasoned communicator and award-winning writer. As a full-time freelancer, she provides business writing, copywriting and marketing communications – including white papers – for companies and advertising agencies. Visit to learn more and sign up for the Red Wagon Writing monthly e-mail newsletter full of writing and marketing tips.

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