The Byrne Blog

John Byrne Communicating About Communications

On a train ride home today, catching up on my Twitter when I should have been doing some research (alas, they are not the same), I learned it was National Punctuation Day.

How could such a momentous day pass without my knowledge of it?  I mean, I’m a huge punctuation geek.  Want proof?  I wrote the following nearly five years ago… about semicolons, no less.  It’s as relevant today as it was in 2009; here it is, with just a touch of editing:

What news of the lowly semicolon?  Of all forms of punctuation, perhaps none is more ignored, and perhaps maligned, than the semicolon.  I would venture to say that more people have used the semicolon for a winking emoticon than have placed it between two independent clauses, thereby creating one cohesive sentence.  I fear that without the creation and propagation of emoticons, the semicolon would be close to being relegated to the scrapheap of grammar niceties, used only by sixth grade teachers and writers attempting to show how smart they are (present company excluded, of course).

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There’s science behind writing?  Who knew?  Did you?  Turns out, I have stumbled upon a way to measure how readable my writing is.  And yours, too.

Actually, there are two tests, and they’re related, and not just by name.  One is called the Flesch Reading Ease test and the other is the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level test.  According to Wikipedia, these tests were developed by the military in the 1970s as a way to determine how easy its technical manuals were to read.  As you can imagine, people with all sorts of educational backgrounds signed up to serve after the draft ended; technical manuals needed to be written in such a way to account for those different reading levels.

In learning more about the tests, I think the reading ease test has more relevance to writers because it assigns a specific score instead of a grade level, which I would find to be more variable over time.  I also have found this really nifty tool that you can use to measure how easy or hard your writing is to understand.

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We all make silly mistakes.  We’re human, so we can be forgiven for them.  But sometimes silly mistakes make us look, well, silly.  And nowhere are little boo-boos more apparent than when it comes to social media.

Some are more egregious than others, obviously.  If you can avoid making them in the first place, though, why wouldn’t you.  Learn from others’ (including my) mistakes!

Here are five silly mistakes to avoid with social media:

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Ah, the weekend.  Away from the office, time for yourself, your family, watching sports on TV, puttering around the house, maybe running an errand or two, getting your weekend warrior on…  An idyllic time that has become iconic in American pop culture, long before LoverBoy’s “Working for the Weekend” was released in (gulp) 1981.

Ah, the weekend, right?  Except, um, no.  This is more like it.

Now there’s a study that shows that about one of every three of us is working ON the weekends, in addition to working for the weekend.  Assuming that less than a third of us are working retail and food service — typically places with weekend workers — that’s a lot of folks putting in time to get stuff done outside the regular work week.  Only one in five Europeans touch work on the weekends, by comparison.  Time to move to France.  Seriously.

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Online Survey Ahead

As I expand my reach of visitors on the blog, I’ve been told that I’ve been mistaken for not polling my readers.  Ostensibly, I should be asking you about who you are, what you do, etc.  And, that’s probably right.

But it’s Friday night, and you’re probably reading this during the weekend.  So, I figured I would test out my new polling/surveying on you to see where you stand on any number of social media-related issues.  It’s not like Scottish independence or anything truly relevant, though.

Try it and have some fun with this, and feel free to leave feedback in the comments.  I’ve left it so you can see the results as they come in.  Go ahead, click away!

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Eye exams suck.  Especially when you have really bad eyesight.  You sit in this tiny room, with the lights dimmed, and then the eye doctor says, “Can you read anything on the chart?”

If I had 20/20 vision, then no problem.  But without my contacts or glasses, I can’t see clearly more than about three inches in front of my nose.  I’m as blind as a bat.  “Are there actually letters on the eye chart for me to read?” I asked the doctor, with more than a hint of suspicion.  “Hmmph,” was his non-committal reply.

“The vision thing,” as George H.W. Bush coined it.  You either have it, or you don’t.  Do you have 20/20 vision (with or without correction), or do you find yourself asking, “Is there anything really there?”  When your bosses or clients or staff ask you what you see, is your response closer to “Hmmph“?

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blog fail excuses

Shhh.  Don’t tell anyone, but I skipped a day on my 30-day content challenge.  Josh Coffey and fellow travelers on the content road — I am truly ashamed.  But really, I had some good excuses.

Well, I think I had some good excuses.  And don’t give me that Yoda crap about there is no try… (just kidding, I say that to my kids all the time just to drive them crazy).

So, to get back in everyone’s good graces, I thought I would share my top excuses for not posting to my blog.  Feel free to use or share these as you feel appropriate.  Hope some work for you next time you miss posting.  (And a half-hearted apology for the somewhat link-bait-ish headline.)

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dislike button

It’s a surprising statistic for 2014:  One-third of the nation’s 100 largest law firms don’t include a way to connect with them via social media on their website homepages.  Not a single follow button for Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn (or anything else social, for that matter).

Sadly, nearly 1 in 5 of the AmLaw 100 firms — 18 to be exact — also refuse to acknowledge any type of social media or follow technology (i.e., RSS feeds) on their homepages.  There’s nothing but pictures, copy and links to pages inside their sites.  Seems a little pathetic, really.

Should we just be happy that all 100 have websites in 2014?  (Even if some of them look like they are holdovers from another century…)

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Computer nerd

In its typical trend-declaring manner, the New York Times today proclaimed “We’re All Nerds Now.”  My first reaction?  Yeah, not most lawyers.

The thought-provoking Sunday Review section article goes on to recount how the Internet and personal technology, among other things, has integrated geek culture into the mainstream.  The writer even goes on to bolster his contention by quoting people like actor Wil Wheaton of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame and the guy who had the hit 1980s song “She Blinded Me With Science” (he is a professor now at Johns Hopkins).

Further proof?  Apple last week announced its version of a wristwatch, looking something right out of “Dick Tracy,” but cooler, I guess.  And did you know that Game of Thrones, complete with fire-breathing dragons, is the most popular program ever on HBO.  Microsoft just bought Minecraft’s maker for $2 billion last week, and Amazon paid $1 billion several days earlier for, where you can watch your favorite video game player hard at work.  Oh, and a Millennial shall lead them.

Well, guess that cements it.  Get out the pocket protectors and call it a day, right?  Instead of technology and entertainment moving us forward, it seems we’ve actually just caught up with the enlightened.  One last quote from the story, from a self-proclaimed nerd, sums it all up: “The world maybe isn’t getting smarter. But it is trying to.”

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The empty backpack

Since it’s the weekend, I thought I might revisit a post from a few years ago, back when I first started the blog.  The original post is about writing, so I thought I would do something like “Mystery Science Theater 3000” or a director’s commentary of a movie on a DVD.  It’s so much more than just a throwback, right?  It’s an opportunity to see how wrong (or right) I was, way back when.  Let’s call it a “talkback.”

Here we go (my commentary is in red italics):

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