Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Around the Word

The celebrification of speechwriting: Speechwriters have traditionally toiled in the ghostly shadows, hiding their identities so that their speakers could shine. But as our friend David Meadvin at Inkwell Strategies points out this week, more and more speechwriters are experiencing a little bit of the limelight -- like President Obama's speechwriter Jon Favreau, a subject of continued media interest. Meadvin, who wrote for Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), attributes the change to to the 24-hour news cycle and the revealing power of the Internet, as well as the fact that most people now expect that speakers work with a writing team. We are curious to hear from our speech pros -- how do you feel about this celebrification trend?

Finding the fun in corporatespeak: When you liase with your clients, can you get them to drink the Kool-Aid? After a failed elevator pitch, did you reverbiagize your proposal? Are you opening the kimono on the lack of deliverables? Corporate-speak can be rife with ridiculous terms, and sitting through a meeting where they're used in earnest would make anyone search for an exit strategy. To help make those conversations a bit more bearable, Laura Hale Brockway over at Impertinent Remarks has created a clever game called Word Quest. The way its played: you and an accomplice compete for who can best incorporate corporate jargon into a sentence during the meeting. Bonus points for getting someone else to use it. So drill down, grab that low-hanging fruit and incentivize some fun! And please share your winning sentences with us.

All about Odyl: A new Facebook app is aiming to engage readers with their favorite authors and publishers like never before. Officially launched in September, Odyl already has some prominent acolytes like Jane Fonda, Katie Couric and Bret Easton Ellis, reports Publishing Perspectives. The app streamlines the Facebook page, allowing authors to easily engage with readers by providing book excerpts, polls, quizzes and virtual gifts. Will you be trying out Odyl?

Twitterese: The influence of Twitter on language has been getting more and more attention lately, as movies scholars and movie stars alike are theorizing about how writing in 140 characters affects the way we think and engage. One side of the spectrum, researchers at Carnegie Mellon are using tweets to build maps of regional language use. On the other side, British actor Ralph Fiennes postulated recently that Twitter has degraded the English language to the point that people no longer use words longer than two syllables or sentences with more than one clause. Curious as this all is, though, the Economist's language blog suggests that Fiennes may be overreacting a twit, noting that tweets aren't very representative of the way we actually speak and write, given the character limits. Do you agree?

'Tis the season. . . . of tired cliches: Though we haven't even hit Thanksgiving yet, Baltimore Sun language guru John E. McIntyre hasn't wasted any time in heading off any possible holiday-themed linguistic tragedies. He provides a list of cheery cliches that should be avoided at all costs, including any "'tising," "'twasing," "white stuff," and Dickens references. Though he might come off as a grammar grinch, he definitely has a point -- it is hard to make a Twelve Days of Christmas parody read as fresh.

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