Welcome + Blog

by sue on December 5, 2011

Sue's grinning mugThanks for dropping by my writing site. If you want to improve your writing  – or you want someone else to actually do your writing – you’ve come to the right place.

I’ve been writing professionally for approximately a bazillion years. Good teachers and patient editors provided guidance and inspiration as I developed  my skills. Now, I’m sharing what I learned through articles and blog posts and by hosting writing workshops and coaching groups.

I still do a lot of free lance writing and especially like working with small and very small businesses. So if you’re a nice person with an interesting project, let’s talk.

Flummoxed by the new rules of publishing

by sue on February 27, 2012

I think it may be easier to write a book than to publish one. When you write, you are in charge, you control everything: words, ideas, even characters (if you have them). Once you finish the writing, as I have, the fun begins.

I’m publishing first on Kindle, amazon.com’s eBook platform. If I want my ideas to reach a big audience, I need to be there. But nothing is simple. I am not in the USA, so I have to sort out a slew of taxation issues. “Just make the price $0.00,” I thought. Not an option with Kindle. I have to sell it for at least $0.99.

What’s really fun is that, of the $0.99, Amazon takes $0.64. On the balance of $0.35, there’s US non-resident tax of 40% – let’s call that $0.14. So my balance is $0.21. Amazon doesn’t pay you until the amount owed you is $100, which means I have to sell 477 eBooks before I see any money at all. Then there’s the fee to deposit a US cheque/check and, of course,  Canadian income tax to pay.

There’s a way to make your book free with Kindle but, while you’re doing that, you may not publish in any other eBook format, Kobo, for example, the platform used by most Canadians with eReaders, which is to say, most of the people I know.

I’m not even publishing to make money. I’m publishing to get my ideas out into the world. If we believe Seth Godin (which I sometimes don’t) we should be making all eBooks free because Free is the new Premium or something. Today,  Seth’s blog suggests he’s a bit flummoxed by the Kindle/amazon thing, too.

The publishing industry and the publishing process are changing every minute. It’s all authors, designers and publishers can do to keep up. But the need for fresh ideas remains constant.

So my ideas will be out in the world, one way or another, in March. Right now, the intention is to be on Kindle, Kobo, PDF and anything else my designer can format it in. And, oh yes, there will be a print version.

If you’d like to be notified when it’s available (especially during the free sales period, assuming I can arrange one) please go to talktomebook.com and leave your email address.

And if you’re an author who’s cracked the code on how to make sense of the new publishing – I’d love to hear from you.



Donna + Sue Podcast: Communication Styles

by sue on January 27, 2012

Donna Papacosta is a writer, speaker, podcaster and social media consultant whose focus is on communication. As active participants in our professional association, the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), our paths happily cross from time to time. It was at an IABC event that Donna suggesed doing a podcast about communication styles. Could be fun, I thought. And it was.

We talk about how the styles originated, the characteristics of the four styles and how to spot them, and how you can adjust your style to be better understood by people who don’t share your style. To listen in, click here.

You can learn more about Communication Styles and how knowing your style and others’ can improve understanding in your life. There’s a free and fun assessment and a guide you can download at my consulting site, It’s Understood.



What’s YOUR Communication Style?

by sue on January 9, 2012

Comm Styles ImageHave you ever noticed that not everyone responds to your messages – whether written or spoken – in the same way? What moves me to action might cause my neighbour’s eyes to glaze over. We have different styles.

One of the things I tackle in my book is Communication Styles. It looks at individual differences and similarities in absorbing information and making decisions about what to do with it.

To discover your style, I’ve built a little online assessment a report that explains how to use that information. You can sign up for it, free, at my consulting web site, It’s Understood Communication.


Book Update 1

by sue on January 7, 2012

It’s been five weeks since I started Debbie Weil’s Beta Authors Program in a bid to get Talk To Me published as Kindle eBook in February. Joining a group was the stimulus I needed to get back into action on this project. (Commitments I make to others seem to work better than those I make to myself. Yes, coach friends, I’m working on this.)

Since I already had a first draft, you’d think my task would be simple. But if it were easy, why was the manuscript unfinished since 2006? Back then, author and teacher Barbara Kyle suggested some ways to strengthen the story. It seemed like a lot of work, back then. It seems like a lot of work, now. But I’m doing it. Making the bad guy badder. Raising the stakes for our hero.

I’m resisting the temptation to put a murder on page three and a dramatic chase, perhaps on snowshoes, in chapter eight. That would boost the drama quotient! But this is a business book. Gotta write about what I know. And since I’ve spent most of my life observing and studying how people communicate – my hero’s adventures will see him navigating the tricky terrain of interpersonal relationships and workplace nonsense.




Give them a reason!

by sue on December 15, 2011

Inductive reasoning is a yawner

In my line of work, eavesdropping is research. That may sound like a lame excuse for (rudely?) listening in on other people’s conversations; however, sometimes, they’re simply too loud to ignore. A research opportunity showed up, this week, as I overheard a chat between some people we’ll call Manny and Franny. Franny was telling a long, meandering story and Manny was doing his best to follow.

Franny’s story went something like this:

  • Here’s a bit of background.
  • Here’s another bit.
  • Oh, and there’s this.
  • And while that was happening, this was going on.
  • And here’s some more background.
  • Etc.
  • Etc.
  • Etc.
  • Etc.
  • Etc.
  • And I think maybe we should do this about it.

By the first Etc., I wanted cry, “Spit it out Franny. What’s your point?” Clearly, Manny is a better person than I am.

Slow and steady leaking of clues might work well in a mystery novel. But if you’re trying to be persuasive, it’s rarely effective. If we don’t know the point you’re making, as we try to follow the thread, most of what you say or write will sound like, “Bla, bla, bla, bla, bla.”

Franny uses what’s called “inductive reasoning.” She piles one idea on top of another in hope that the listener or reader will, eventually, get the point. It’s long and slow and painful for the audience. I’ve heard her complain that “people don’t ever listen to me.” I understand why.

She’d have greater success if she would use “deductive reasoning.” It goes something like this:

  • Here’s what I think we should do.
  • Here’s one reason.
  • Here’s some more evidence.
  • And here’s some more.
  • And, finally, there’s this.

Deductive reasoning makes the big point first and, then, presents evidence showing it’s a good idea. It gives the reader or listener’s brain a framework for paying attention. Brains appreciate that. If you want to get and hold people’s attention, make your point early in the story. Your audience will reward you.

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Draft Two – Finish, Focus + Follow Up

by sue on December 12, 2011

Once upon a time, I wrote a book. Talk To Me: An Owner’s Guide to Workplace Conversation is a business novel with a workbook component. I had a great deal of fun writing it. I would have published it sooner, except a talented novelist who read Draft One said it was good. That scared me. It raised the stakes. I never got to Draft Two.

Till now.

My personal theme for 2012 is ‘Focus, Finish and Follow up.’ An unpublished book looks like a pretty good place to start.

So, along with seven other writers, I’ve enlisted in Debbie Weil’s eight-week ‘Beta Authors’ project. My objective? “Publish a kick-ass Kindle eBook” by mid February. As someone who’s never kicked anyone anywhere, this is new. It requires bigger thinking, bolder actions and – yikes! – a commitment to the three Fs.

As I wend my way along the path to publication, I’ll post progress reports here. You’ll be my witnesses and, along with Debbie and the Beta Authors, can keep me on the path – or at least on the map – instead of wandering into Distraction Land. Wow! Permission to nag. How often do you get that?


Worth losing – apostrophe overflow

by sue on December 1, 2011

Is it a human trait to make things more complicated than they need to be? The more I observe people’s behaviour, including my own, the more I’m convinced it’s true.

There’s evidence of it everywhere, including in the way people write. One example is inserting unnecessary apostrophes to make something plural.

For most English words, to make something plural you add ‘s.’ One partridge, some partridges. One turtle dove; two turtle doves. One piper piping; 11 pipers piping. Five golden rings. It’s pretty simple.

Oh, there are exceptions, such as when a word ends in ‘y.’ One lady dancing; nine ladies dancing. And if the word is Latin, Greek or another language, all bets are off.

But, most of the time, simply adding ‘s’ will do the trick.

So WHY do so many people seem to think it’s right to add an apostrophe before the ‘s?’ I see it in tweets and blog posts, emails, ads and signs. Or, as they would write, tweet’s, post’s, email’s, ad’s and sign’s. Yikes! Where did they learn to do that? It’s not just wrong – it’s more work. The very act of creating an apostrophe on your keyboard involves shift keys and using the awkward finger. Double the work if you’re using your phone to type.

Here’s the fix.
If you suspect you might be guilty of adding unnecessary apostrophes (Who, me?) there’s a trick you can try when you’ve finished your writing. In MSWord, use the [ Find ] feature and search for [ ‘s ]. As each incidence is displayed, for example, ‘partridge’s,’ check to see if it should be ‘partridge’s’ – as in belonging to the partridge – or ‘partridges,’ as in more than one partridge. Using the spelling checker may also highlight the errors, but you’ll be more certain you’ve caught mistakes if you check with your own eyeballs.

As an added bonus, that technique will also help you notice if you’ve used ‘it’s’ when you mean ‘its.’ But that’s another post.


What do you think he’s trying to say?

by sue on October 28, 2011

Business Blather












This headline caught my eye, this morning. A lovely, cranky post from Fast Company magazine on some words that are overworked and overused in business communication. Strangely missing are “engage,” “leverage,” “alignment” and our old favourite, “paradigm.” Read the full post at Fast Company.

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