Author. Writer. Teacher.

Passionate about Clear Communication.


If Your Boss Is Reading This, I’ve Got Bad News For You: Giving useful negative feedback

Handled skillfully, negative feedback can generate positive outcomes. If you need to give negative feedback, try to make it useful, actionable and helpful.

Before you start, take a minute.

Review the situation, evaluate your response and decide what you want.

1. Focus on facts—the kind you can observe and measure. Know what you want and don’t want. Describe those things without resorting to namecalling or useless generalities.


No Offense: Taking Criticism

It’s easy to offend people—look at social media. Even if you’re not a puppy-kicking troll, chances are good that you will offend someone at least once in your life. 

Perhaps you purposely or accidentally did something wrong, or maybe it’s just a case of different values. In either situation you might receive negative feedback.


Layout Basics: Lines & Tables & Boxes (Oh My)

Effective tables, lists and boxes make documents easier to read and use. You don’t have to be a visual designer—just think about what makes your words and ideas easier to understand.

1. Write and edit your content. Add headings and other text treatments (bold, italics, etc) to guide your reader. Then review your document, looking for places where lists, block quotes, or tables can increase usability. Add those items, then edit again.


Attractive, Easy & Quick: Infographics done well

Infographics are an excellent response to limited reading times and shortened attention spans. Done well, they communicate even complex ideas efficiently. Using less time and space than type, informational graphics save your reader time and energy.  But beware; done wrong, they can frustrate, confuse and alienate your readers. Ideally they’re created by professionals, but if you want to try for yourself and don’t have the time to read Envisioning Information, keep these tips in mind.


5-Second Cheatsheet: Promising Useful Content

No one reads anymore. We scan—glance at a website or document, and decide in about 5 seconds if it merits more attention.

You can help your reader quickly understand if your content is useful to them. Physical clues such as formatting, colors and layout tell readers if your content is what they want and need. Helping your reader to make quick, accurate evaluations supports their productivity and shows respect for their time and energy. Those who stick around will already be engaged with your content, which means less work for you.


Catchy Headings & Dipping Sauce

Good headings describe the contents of your presentation or document; they can also entice your audience. I recently read a post entitled “Human Trafficking and Taco Bell Sauce” solely because of the discordant title.

An intrigued audience is already engaging with your content—voluntarily. Your fascinating content and presentation style will keep them engaged.


The Problem with Problem Words

I retweeted @MariaSpinola’s link to an excellent article (Does Your Website Pass The 5 Second Test?). In my opinion all documents could—and should—be put to the 5 second test. I wanted to add a tip to my retweet; that formatting and good headings help any document pass that test. I worried later, though, that the word “any” could be read as dismissive or sarcastic; a sort of “any fool knows that” intonation. Luckily Maria didn’t read it that way. But it got me to thinking.