Should You Care About Readability Tests?

Do you use WordPress for blogging?  Then you may recognize the “Flesch-Kincaid Readability Score” in its critique of your content.   

The platform gives both a percentage and a critique.  Sometimes, it may find  your content is “hard to read.”   There may be suggestions, too: things like too much use of passive voice, for instance. 

Word Press Readability Critique

So, does your post content need more work?  Maybe yes; maybe, no. 

The WordPress critique also gives two thumbs up if your post is a mere 300 words long.  For many blogs (especially those focusing on legal topics) 300 words is not enough to get the job done. 

So my first point is to take the WordPress editor with a big fat grain of salt.  It’s not all one size fits all out there. 

The goal is to do what’s right for your reader.   Be smart.  Be savvy. 

How Readability Tests Work

This is not to say that I don’t like the idea of a readability test.  After all, its purpose is to help you connect with your readers by insuring your writing corresponds to their reading level.   

How?  Like a magician, the readability test throws several things into its top hat before pulling out its white rabbit: things like how often you use passive voice, the complexity of your sentences, the length of your paragraphs, and if you use adverbs. 

Cut and paste your content into their tool (which automatically happens in WordPress), and voila! You have a readability score. 

The Writer discusses readability tests and reports that 65 is a good score on Flesch-Kincaid for “business writing.”  And it points out that the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test is one tool; there are others, as well. 

In fact, RavenTools has compiled a list on its blog described as the “ultimate list of online content readability tests.”  If you’re curious, then go check out their collection. 

It’s All about Your Reader

Here’s my second point.  It’s not about the readability score as much as it is about the writer understanding his or her reader. 

If you are writing a legal blog discussing new SCOTUS opinions, where your readers are fellow lawyers and legal scholars, then your writing will score differently than if you are writing a blog explaining a new SCOTUS opinion to the general public.   (Wow, look at that long sentence!)

You aren’t writing for yourself.  You’re writing to convey a message.  If a readability test helps you to visualize and understand your reader better, then that is the best reason to use it.  IMHO.

Have Some Fun with It

Oh, and one last thing.  Have some fun with these readability tests. Go grab some of your favorite writing and plug it into the thing. 

Say, throw some David Foster Wallace into your WordPress blog platform.  What pops up in the critique?  

Or try Ernest Hemingway, Nora Ephron, Truman Capote, or James Baldwin.   See how they score (and think about their intended readers).   


Disc Binding for NaNoWriMo (and Lots More Stuff)

I am writing a very (VERY) bad thriller for National Novel Writing Month this year.  It's horrible.  It's terrible.  It's a hoot, so much fun!  I do not worry about intended readers, niches, clients, or editors because it's just for me.  

I'm also excited to report I will succeed in meeting my NaNoWriMo goal this year.  Which feels great.

Part of the fun has been handwriting parts of the book.  Most of the early word count is in cursive, words in black ink as I tested out various pens.  And paper.  It's amazing how varied paper quality can be!  

I've also dictated sections of this tome as well as running to my keyboard for a good chunk of the word count.  

Which means I've got a mess.  Chapters all over the place, on all sorts of stuff.  Add to that my maps, diagrams, flow charts -- things I want to keep with this thing when I go back to edit it.  

(Or at least read the whole thing from start to finish.  I'm telling you, it's BAD.  There's a tsunami, for one thing.  It seemed like a good idea at the time. ) 

Organizing My NaNoWriMo Draft and Resources

I've got chapters in spiral notebooks; in cheap DollarTree composition books; on college ruled loose leaf paper.  I've also got chunks of the book in printed pages from times I opted to dictate or sit there and type at the keyboard.

Then there are all the research things.  Maps, diagrams, flow charts, and more that I created to help me keep my various violent sub-plots organized.  As well as pretty images stored in Padlet and Pinterest and Evernote.

Where to keep all this stuff?  How to compile all my papers into a final first draft, in proper page order?  

My solution will not be an old-school three-ring binder.  Thought about it, but nope.

5 Reasons to Use Disc Binders

I will be using a disc binding process.  First, this be much more fun, especially creating my "book covers" and my fake accolades on the back (I'm imagining them now:  Mark Twain couldn't put my book down, Ian Fleming reports that my thriller is so real, it's scary, ...).

Bigger reason:  I can insert and remove pages as easily, and probably faster, than a metal ring binder. 

Best reason:  with a disc binding system, all sorts of papers can be held together and if you choose to do so, you can flip them together like a spiral notebook, and lay the whole thing flat down on its side, there on the table.  This cannot be done with a ring binder, as you know.

Maybe it's because I am left-handed, but it's a great advantage to me, the ability to have the draft lay flat on the table, and the ease with which I can flip it around.  

Another plus, as SeaLemon points out in her great instructional video below, I can choose to put those discs at the top or on the side.  My decision.

Uses for Disc Binders: More Than NaNoWriMo Drafts

I'm sharing this not only because other NaNoWriMo folk might like the idea, but because I think disc binding has lots more uses. 

I'm already thinking of all my recipe stuff that I've shoved into backs of cookbooks, index card boxes, etc.  And then there are all those notes-to-self I make and need to gather:  quotes and cool vocabulary in books that I'm reading, ideas for things, you know what I mean.

Am I the only one who finds stuff they have to KEEP in every Alexander McCall Smith book they read?  I just finished the latest in the Precious Ramotse series (the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency) and there's so much wisdom in there.  Wow.  

You may find this a fun alternative to a ring binder, too. 

SeaLemon's Instructional Video on Disc Binding


NaNoWriMo: Getting Ready Tip No. 4

It's getting closer.  National Novel Writing Month starts in 16 days.  Yikes, yikes, yikes.

There's more and more stuff online to help you NOW.  Right now, as you get ready for NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo Preparation

Today's tip:  you are not an island.  Go out there and surf around for stuff that will help you get the deal done.

Here's a few places to hit:

1.  The Official National Novel Writing Month Resource Collection

NaNoWriMo has 35 links on its resources page as of today.  Things like "3 Steps to Rev Up Your Writing Momentum," and "Slaying Your First Draft Dragons."

2.  Writers' Digest

Here are 30 tips in one long article.  You don't have to buy their "prep kit."  No, you don't.  Some of this stuff is something that you might want to read if you are getting skeered about NaNoWriMo, as opposed to planning your outline or debating the color of your heroine's hair.

3.  Storist

This is another long article.  It's more about the task at hand than the psychological aspect of NaNoWriMo.  Read this for things like "Finding Your Key Scenes" and "Write a Two Page Outline," as well as "Pack for Your Expedition."

4.  Bustle

Here are your "10 Last-Minute NaNoWriMo Prep Tips."  Because you know that you want to read them, even if you are organized and prepared.

5.  Surly Muse

What if you haven't even begun to get ready?  Is it too late?  No, no, no.  Surly Muse is ready to help:  go read "The Hailstorm Approach: Prep for NaNoWriMo in Seven Days or Less."


Passive Voice and the Zombie Rule

For lawyers, writers, and researchers, passive voice can be the right choice.  Or not.

Edits of my work do come back with notations that I've used the passive voice here and there.  

I am not ashamed.  

Sometimes, it's okay.  That's right, folks.  Sometimes, passive voice gets to stay.  

Finding The Passive Voice

Before deciding when and if passive voice is acceptable, you need to find it.  There's a fun grammar hack for ferreting out passive voice in your writing.  

It's called the "zombie rule."

I'm not sure who invented this -- maybe rjohnson, USMC professor --- but it's fun and it's fast.  All you do is stick the phrase "by zombies" after the verb.  If it works, then it's passive voice.

The Zombie Rule: Examples

If the sentence makes sense with zombies, then YIKES you've got passive voice.  Examples:
  • Those dishes have already been washed [by zombies].  (Yep.)
  • The court ruled the statute was [by zombies] unconstitutional.  (Nope.)
  • The rumor didn't spread by itself - it was leaked [by zombies] in social media. (Yep.)
  • SCOTUS released [by zombies] its opinion today.  (Nope.)
For more on the Zombie Rule, check out Snarky Grammar Guide and Grammarly.

Passive Voice Has Its Place

There are times to use passive voice.  I'm not going to discuss them here.  Suffice to say, it's acceptable if it's adding value to your writing.  You know this.  

The University of Wisconsin finds passive voice works when you are:
  • creating an authoritative tone; or
  • emphasizing the action rather than the actor.
Purdue allows passive voice when it is "rhetorically effective." 

The American Bar Association has an article discussing passive voice in legal writing.

(Go to the above sites to read more detail and get more examples.)


Free Public Domain Images: The New York Public Library

Looking for free public domain images for your blog or ebook?  I have a series of posts dedicated to that treasure hunt (check here).

How to Find Free Public Domain Images at NYPL Site

Today, I'm sharing the resource provided by the New York Public Library at their website.  Here's what you do:

1.  go to their site;
2.  enter your search into the white search box in the top right-hand corner -- but don't click it;
3.  click that little tab and you will get the option to search "only public domain."
4.  if you don't choose that option, never fear.  You can also narrow your search to public domain images by clicking in the left sidebar of your search results.

Not For Everyone - But Great for Some

Now, caveat:  these images aren't for everyone and every subject.  If you're a lawyer writing a blog dedicated to death penalty issues (like I co-author with Terry Lenamon), then this isn't a great find.

However, other niche blogs may find some great stuff.

And ebook covers?  There's some really interesting images here to consider.  For those who might want to find public domain images for uploading into Canva, for instance.  (See my post on using Canva for your covers here.)

I found the above image in just a few seconds at the NYPL site.  I like it.  Thurston was amazing, right? 


Templates For Writers

I found something interesting as I prepare for National Novel Writing Month. Something that I think will help me in my work, writing all sorts of non-fiction things.  It may help me in my research work, as well.

I am collecting templates for thrillers.  Formulas, outlines, what have you.

Someone suggested these were wacky -- maybe not to be trusted or used.  Thrillers aren't romance novels!  Thrillers are complex; they don't follow a set pattern!

Well, sorry.  I like them.  They help as I draft my outline.  (Yes, I'm working with an outline this year for NaNoWriMo.  No seat-of-the-pants approach this year. Nope.)

Here's the thing:  I'm pondering how formulas and templates apply to writing in all sorts of ways.  From blog posts to speeches. From white papers to in-depth articles and internal company memoranda.

They're everywhere.  This is a good thing.

Formulas and Patterns in Writing: Legal Briefs

I realize writing templates or formulas are not new to me. Lawyers recognize them. They are very much respected in the World of Law.

For instance, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit shares 295 pages of sample briefs online as well as its three page checklist.

The court's checklist includes:
1) CONTENTS OF BRIEFS (5TH CIR. R. 28.3 reproduced below gives the required contents of a brief.)a) Certificate of interested persons required by 5TH CIR. R. 28.2.1;b) Statement regarding oral argument required by 5TH CIR. R. 28.2.3 (see also FED. R. APP. P. 34(a)(1);c) A table of contents, with page references (see FED. R. APP. P. 28 (a)(2));d) A table of authorities (see FED. R. APP. P. 28(a)(3));e) A jurisdictional statement as required by FED. R. APP. P. 28(a)(4)(A) through (D);f) A statement of issues presented for review (see FED. R. APP. P. 28(a)(5));g) A statement of the case (see FED. R. APP. P. 28(a)(6));h) A summary of the argument (see FED. R. APP. P. 28(a)(7));i) The argument, including the applicable standards of review (see FED. R. APP. P. 28(a)(8));j) A short conclusion stating the precise relief sought (see FED. R. APP. P. 28(a)(9);k) A signature of counsel or a party as required by FED. R. APP. P. 32(d);l) A certificate of service in the form required by FED. R. APP. P. 25;m) A certificate of compliance if required by FED. R. APP. P. 32(a)(7) and 5TH CIR. R. 32.3.
The Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure are filed with all sorts of requirements.  The Clerk for the Fifth Circuit explains what is needed to meet FED. R. APP. P. 28(a)(8), the "argument" section of the brief:

This must contain the party’s contentions with respect to the issues presented, and the reasons therefor, and must include citations to relevant authorities, statutes, and page numbers in the record on appeal. Although FED. R. APP. P. 28(a)(8)(B) allows discretion on where to place the standard of review in your brief, this court greatly prefers that your standard of review be “clearly identified in a separate heading before discussion of the issues.” If the issue is failure to admit or exclude evidence, refusal to give a particular jury instruction, or any other ruling for which a party must record an objection to preserve the right of appeal, your brief should identify where in the record on appeal counsel made proper objection and where it was ruled upon. (NOTE: an appellee does not need to state the standard of review unless he or she disagrees with the appellant’s standard);
I have no idea how many briefs, motions, memoranda, etc. I have written as a lawyer.  Hundreds? Thousands?  Dunno.  It's what I did.  Research, write, repeat.  

You?  Where have you found formulas or templates for writing?  

Templates for Thrillers

I've think the following thriller templates are interesting.  Helpful.  Maybe you will, too:

.... And this one is just fun -- The Crime Thriller Plot Generator.  

P.S. NaNoWriMo:  

Need some outlining encouragement?   Go read this Wall Street Journal interview of Jeffrey Deaver, who starts out by explaining that he uses a detailed outline for his thrillers.  Takes him months to build them.  Not that I've got months.  It's NaNoWriMo.  I've got days.  Yikes!


NaNoWriMo 2016: Getting Ready Tip No. 3

It's October 1, 2016 -- thirty days until the beginning of National Novel Writing Month.  This year, I'm going to try and write the first draft of a 50,000 word thriller in 30 days.  Zowie.

It's not like the world stops for NaNoWriMo each year.  Work still has to be done.  The trash still has to be taken out.  Plus, the holiday season is in full swing by mid-November. With it, one of my two favorite holidays of the year:  Thanksgiving!

To meet this deadline, 1666.67 words have to be on paper (or screen) each day.  Every day.  If you don't want to write on Thanksgiving Day, then you need to add those 1666.67 words to another day in the month.

To help keep me on track, I'm working with an outline this year.  I like it. I'm having fun with the planning and after all, fun is the point.

NaNoWriMo Tip No. 3: You Are Going to Make a Big Mistake

Thing I need to remember:  I'm going to make mistakes.  Maybe some big mistakes.  And that cannot stop me because I'm under the gun here.  

If you are taking part in National Novel Writing Month, you are going to make mistakes, too.  We've all got to remember that this is okay.  We're aiming at a first draft.

I love this quote from Teddy Roosevelt (see the image below).  I have this attached to my outline to remind me not to feel like I have to stop if I realize mid-way through the process that I've forgotten my victim was already married back in Omaha or that the one-armed man was left-handed.

And something that really helps me?

Watching The Big Sleep with Bogie and Bacall, in a screenplay by William Faulkner, and reminding myself that no one knows who killed the chauffeur.  Mistakes are made.


I created the above image using Canva's free service and I release it into the public domain.

This file is in public domain, not copyrighted, no rights reserved, free for any use. You can use this picture for any use including commercial purposes without the prior written permission and without fee or obligation.


NaNoWriMo 2016: Getting Ready Tip No. 2

There are 38 days left before the launch of National Novel Writing Month 2016.  Once again, I'm gearing up for the challenge.

Can I write a 50,000 novel in 30 days?  Probably.  Will I?  The better question.

This year, I'm trying my hand at a thriller.  Even if I don't make the deadline, I'm going to have a lot of fun in November!

There's no rule against planning in advance for NaNoWriMo.  You just cannot start writing the content before 12:01 on the morning of November 1st.

NaNoWriMo Tip No. 2: Have Your Outline Ready to Go

Sure, you can write by the seat of your pants without a plan.  Many authors prefer it.  However, I want to complete 50,000 words in a four week period that includes the Thanksgiving holiday.

I know from past years that the "seat of the pants" approach is more exciting for me -- but it has also caused me to buckle around two weeks into the campaign.  I get distracted as it is, and there are more distractions now.  The holidays are coming!  The holidays are here!

This year, I'm going to have a map to follow. An outline for my thriller.

Having made this decision, I have to remind myself not to take this outline too seriously.
  • Its purpose is to help me get back to work.  
  • It will not be set in stone.  It will be written in pencil, not waterproof ink.  I don't want to feel controlled by the outline,  (This can be very hard for me not to do.)
  • Things change as your story comes out of your head.  Characters change, or maybe you just get to know them better as things progress.  The outline has to be subservient to this evolution.  
Just making the decision to work with an outline is a confidence booster. I feel braver when I think of 30 days divided by 50,000 words is 1666.67 words per day.  Every day.  Even Thanksgiving Day.  

References for Outlining a Thriller

Here are a few reference materials I'm using as I build my thriller outline:

  1. James Scott Bell's suggestions in his Writer's Digest article, "The 5 C’s of Writing a Great Thriller Novel."
  2. Another Writer's Digest article, "How to Write A Great Thriller: 5 Pieces of Advice," written by David Ellis
  3. Every interview and article I can find dealing with Thrillerfest Grandmaster Nelson DeMille.  I love this guy.  

and I'm re-reading some of my favorites, including:

  • James M. Cain, The Postman Always Rings Twice;
  • Frederick Forsyth, The Day of the Jackal;
  • Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca; 
  • Vera Caspary's Laura; and
  • Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None.

And, of course, this is an excuse to watch or re-watch lots of great movies that have been made out of great thrillers.  Fun, fun, fun.  

Maybe all this will help you too, Dear Reader. 


I created the above image using Canva's free service and I release it into the public domain. This file is in public domain, not copyrighted, no rights reserved, free for any use. You can use this picture for any use including commercial purposes without the prior written permission and without fee or obligation.


Google Keep Review: I'll Stick With Evernote, Scrivener, and Padlet But You Might Like It

I'm a sucker for new productivity apps.  Aren't you?  Especially if they're free? Here's my Google Keep experience.  It started a few weeks ago.


DottoTech Questions Switching From Evernote to Google Keep

First, the backstory.

I subscribe to DottoTech's YouTube Channel.  Over lunch, I like to watch stuff like Steve Dotto's channel on my ROKU-powered TV, having cut the cable several years back.  (Read more on that here.)

So, last month I was chomping away on a deli salad, drinking iced Rooibos tea, and watching YouTube.

Sure enough, I learned something new.  Steve Dotto was comparing Google Keep with Evernote.

Maybe I had heard of Google Keep before, but it didn't stick with me. His question: should I switch to Google Keep?  Whattha?

My Evernote Loyalty

Now, I'm a huge Evernote fan.  I'm not abandoning Evernote.  No way, no how.

Still, I was interested to see what Google Keep could do, since it's got Google's awesome search function capability.  And that's a big, big deal for me.

Why?  Evernote is my research database.  I store stuff there.  My stuff; my clients' stuff; stuff I find online.

Evernote's search function is critical to me finding all that stuff after I've tossed it in there.

The ability to search all around Evernote is one of the big reasons I prefer it to OneNote.  But that's another story for another day.  Back to Google Keep.

How Could Google Keep Help Me?

So, I decided to check out Google Keep.  Give it a test run, see how it could help me be more efficient in my day.

Since I'm getting ready for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I decided to use Google Keep as part of that preparation.

That way, it wouldn't interfere with my standard procedures in my real work.  The stuff that makes me money and pays for my dog's liver treats.

I used Google Keep as a tool to help me prepare for writing an outline to my projected 50,000 word thriller.  This afternoon, I've got some findings to report.

Google Keep Reminds Me of Scrivener's Corkboard and Padlet

In using Google Keep, I wasn't reminded of Evernote as much as Scrivener and Padlet.

If you use Scrivener, then you know it has this nifty corkboard feature, where you can move your chapters (or files) around as you like.

Sorta like index cards on a tabletop.  Except Scrivener is allowing me to do this with a huge amount of word count following along behind it.  

No way that Google Keep compares to Scrivener in this function.

And, if I want to do this rearranging outside of Scrivener, I'll use Padlet.  It's easier.  And I can keep all my stuff together on one topic there in a separate "padlet" for reference.

I like Padlet.  I use it.  It's fun.

Check out the Padlet Gallery for examples of how much fun this tool can be (lots of teachers use it).

I like Padlet better than Google Keep for brain dumps and brain storming.  

Bottom Line:  Meh.

I didn't NOT like Google Keep.  It was nice. It just doesn't serve me as well as the tools I already have in my tool belt.  So, for me Keep is not a Keeper.

Maybe it is for you, Dear Reader.  It's fun to test drive, anyway ....


Yelp Ordered to Take Down Negative Online Review After Law Firm Wins Defamation Case: Yelp Fighting Back (with Lotsa Big Gun Help)

A negative online review is posted by unhappy client on Yelp.com.  The negative Yelp review discusses services provided by a lawyer and law firm. So the law firm files a lawsuit, arguing that the online review is derogatory and has hurt business. Sound familiar?

It should.  It happened two years ago here in Texas.  

For details, read "Texas Law Firm Sues Client Over Negative Online Review at Yelp.Com." It includes a link to their original petition, as filed in the Travis County District Court.  

California Court Orders Yelp to Remove Negative Review Held to be Defamatory

Different twist out on the West Coast, one that's getting lots of media coverage.  There, a California personal injury law firm filed suit seeking damages allegedly resulting from a negative online review. 

Difference here between the two suits?  The California case includes Yelp being ordered to take down the review.  

Spearheaded by plaintiffs' lawyer Dawn Hassell, the California law firm won at both the trial and appellate levels (admittedly easily done as the author of the online reviews failed to show up and "defaulted.")  

Hassell's victory?  That's big news right there.  But there's more.

California Appeals Court Agrees With Court Order  to Remove Negative Review

The California judge ordered Yelp to remove the defamatory online review from its site.  And the California appeals court affirmed his decision.  

Their reasoning?  Read the appellate opinion: Hassell v. Bird, No. A143233 (Cal. Ct. App. June 7, 2016).

Yelp was not ordered to pay monetary damages to the law firm.  (Doing so would arguably violate the California Communications Decency Act.)  

Big deal here:  Yelp was NOT a defendant in the California case.  The law firm didn't sue Yelp.  It came into the case after it was ordered to remove the review.  Anyone else thinking about a possible due process problem?  

California Supreme Court Reviewing Case; Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft Write to the Court

Bigger news.  The "friends of the court" that are entering the arena.  

It's reported that powerhouses including Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft have written to the California Supreme Court.  This is fine; it's called acting as a "friend of the court," or "amicus curaie." 

Their letter warns Hassell's victory, if not reversed, will endanger free speech and otherwise do bad things.  

Among others filing before the California Supreme Court wanting a reversal:

Docket Information on Hassell v. Bird


NaNoWriMo 2016: Getting Ready Tip No. 1

National Novel Writing Month begins in 45 days.  I'm going to participate again this year.

One of the hurdles I have failed to jump in past NaNoWriMo years has been the requirement that you cut and paste your writing into their platform.

This is how they track your progress, and how you confirm to their Powers That Be that you have written 50,000 words in 30 days' time.

Scares me.  I've had my online published work stolen on more than one occasion.  Am I paranoid? Gun-shy?  Whatever I am, it's been enough for me to keep track of my own word count and forego inserting my work into the NaNoWriMo web site.

And even if I get over that fear, there's another problem.  I like to write with a pen and paper as much or more as with a keyboard.  More on that on my blog Everyday Simplicity, "Cursive Handwriting vs Typing Your Words."

So, how am I to insert handwritten content into their platform?  Scan and OCR it?  Re-type it? No way, Jose.  

Well, I have discovered how to get around that obstacle.  As for my trepidation of putting 50,000 words into the NaNoWriMo site -- I'm working on that one.  Fingers crossed.

NaNoWriMo Tip No. 1: Converting Handwritten Content for Daily Word Count

There is a wonderful site called Lorem Ipsum which is a godsend for NaNoWriMo as far as I'm concerned.  It provides a way to insert typed words that correspond to your handwritten word count.

Now, you have to know your handwritten word count, that's a given.  You must overcome any temptation to just stick stuff into the platform willy-nilly.  (Lorem Ipsum is kinda fascinating with what it conjures up as text.)

Using the Lorem Ipsum site will allow my handwritten content to be counted in NaNoWriMo.  I think this will work.  It's making me more excited about November.  And I feel less vulnerable to losing my stuff by uploading it onto their site.

Maybe this will help you, too, Dear Reader.

I created the above image using Canva's free service and I release it into the public domain.

This file is in public domain, not copyrighted, no rights reserved, free for any use. You can use this picture for any use including commercial purposes without the prior written permission and without fee or obligation.


Benjamin Franklin's Daily Routine: What Good Will You Do Today?

There's much to be discovered in how to live a productive life, making the most of your day, in Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography.  

You can read it here at Gutenberg.org (or download it in several different formats, including Kindle).

It's in the public domain.

1.  Benjamin Franklin's Morning Prayer

First off, Ben Franklin prayed.  Franklin wrote (p. 148):

And conceiving God to be the fountain of wisdom, I thought it right and necessary to solicit his assistance for obtaining it; to this end I formed the following little prayer, which was prefix'd to my tables of examination, for daily use.

"O powerful Goodness! bountiful Father! merciful Guide! increase in me that wisdom which discovers my truest interest! strengthen my resolutions to perform what that wisdom dictates. Accept my kind offices to thy other children as the only return in my power for thy continual favors to me."

I used also sometimes a little prayer which I took from Thomson's
Poems, viz.:

          "Father of light and life, thou Good Supreme!
          O teach me what is good; teach me Thyself!
          Save me from folly, vanity, and vice,
          From every low pursuit; and fill my soul
          With knowledge, conscious peace, and virtue pure;
          Sacred, substantial, never-fading bliss!"

2. Benjamin Franklin's Daily Routine or "Scheme"

You can find the daily routine he created for himself on page 148 as well.  Here it is (click on the image once to see a larger and easier-to-read version):

I love this "scheme."  I like how he wrote his own prayer to start the day, and how his question to himself is "what good shall I do this day?"

What good shall I do today?  What good are you going to accomplish today?


Telling a Story to Boost SEO? Trend for 2016 Promotes Storytelling in Web Content

One of the new marketing trends, according to people who should know like IBM’s Sandy Carter (watch her in the video, below), is story-telling in your web content. Writing a blog post? Tell a story. Have something to report on Facebook or in Google Plus? Don’t just give facts; tell a story that explains your data.

Storytelling in Your Web Content

Why? Not only is a story more approachable for most folk, storytelling has been shown scientifically to be a better way of conveying a message. The human brain likes it. For details on all that science stuff, read the article over at SEOPressor. (They’ve even got a video with brain scans that uses terminology like “neurochemistry.”)

Who is Your Intended Reader? That’s Your First Question 

Of course, one of the keys here is understanding your INTENDED READER.

Envision that person, or that group: to whom are you telling this story? If you don’t know who that is, then get busy.

It’s important not only for things like writing at the proper reading level and with an accurate understanding of their wants and needs, it’s also respectful of who your readers are and why they should spend any of their valuable time on you.

Respect your reader enough to know who they are — if you’re writing to engage someone. Unless you’re writing an online diary, this is critical. (Sorry if I’m sounding a little frustrated here: it’s because I am. Disrespecting the reader really, really bugs me and it happens way too often, IMHO.) 

Example of Good Storytelling in a Marketing Effort: Angie’s List Story on Indiana Explosion Aftermath 

What the heck is this storytelling approach, anyway? Got an example for you.

Read “Finding Normal After the Disaster: Richmond Hill Family Refuses to Let Blast Drive Them Away,” by Lisa Renze-Rhodes, published on October 1, 2013 on Angieslist.com.

You know Angie’s List, right? It’s a membership site which vets service companies for its members. 

This article reports on a huge tragedy that happened in the Richmond Hill community of Indianapolis, Indiana. It’s a compassionate and informative article that manages to include links to vetted contractors on Angie’s List.

Reading it, I don’t get the feel that I’m being manipulated at all here to become a member of Angie’s List. As I read, I’m getting detailed information on how these people rallied after this huge explosion and fire hit their neighborhood, killing several people and injuring dozens more.

It’s good story-telling.

And it’s good marketing, because even now, when I think about house fires or explosions, or read about a new arson case, I think back to this story from Angie’s List. And I recall that it originated at the Angie’s List website.

Which means that one day, maybe I will become an active member of that site. So, good job, Angie’s List.

Tips and Tricks for Storytelling in Your Web Content 

For more on storytelling and other search engine optimization (SEO) marketing trends for 2016, watch this video of IBM’s General Manager and “Social Business Evangelist,” Sandy Carter. There’s also a list of good tips to follow at SEORoadMap. 



Productivity Tip: Have a Monkey Week

Two months ago, I started a new way of handling my monthly calendar that worked well over the holidays and I thought I'd share it with you, Dear Reader.

(That link reveals my Franklin Covey planner, I've used one of their planners for years.  Along with my online calendar. I like having stuff online, but I can't give up the paper and pen.  It's too much fun.)

Monthly Scheduling Time Tip

The tip?  It's my Monkey Week.

I schedule things that I have to do during the month for the first three weeks, leaving that last week of the month blank.

Everything that has to be done gets stuck somewhere.  This can can be anything, from a work project (e.g., revised outline to client) to getting an oil change for the car.

But nothing gets stuck into that last week.  Nothing.  It's pure.  That block on the calendar has nothing entered into it.  Zip. De Nada.

Then, when that last week hits -- whammo!  I have a week to get all the month's tasks finished before month end.

If I am swinging around from tree to tree like a monkey because I've procrastinated during the first three weeks (or I was sick, or I got bogged down in client emergencies, or I fell behind binge-watching Major Crimes) then so be it.

And I did.  Monkey-crazy in both in November and in December.  (Though it got better.)

Fresh Start in the New Month Feels Great

Here's the thing, though:  this means that I have hit two months without that burden of knowing I've got stuff on my plate from the prior month that still has to be done.

In my little Reba World, that has been an amazing feeling.  I like it.

So, I'm going to keep having my Monkey Week each month in 2016.  And I'm looking forward to discovering what the heck I will do with myself if I hit that last week, and I don't have a bunch of stuff to do because I already got it done.  Wowzer, that's gonna be great.

Maybe this will work for you too, if you tend to procrastinate like me.


Publish Your Book: Self-Publishing or Using a Publishing Service

Today, you can publish your own book. Opting out of the traditional publishing route, you become your own publishing company. Or maybe you hire a publishing service to help you. Here’s some information that I’ve collected which you may find helpful if you’re ready to share your writing with the world.

(Oh, and congratulations to you if you are ready to publish! I think it’s a big (HUGE) accomplishment to write and finalize a book, any kind of book. Getting tens of thousands of words down on paper (well, on the screen) and then editing, organizing, and finalizing that work product is a big deal. No one appreciates that more than those of us who have done it. Kudos to you! I wish you much success!)

1. Self-Publishing 

Once you have your content ready to go, it is possible to take that Word document (or Scrivener file) and turn it into a book on paper or in an electronic format. E-books, of course, are sold in several different formats that depend upon the e-reader that will be used.

Kindles will not read e-books sold on Barnes & Noble, for instance, because Amazon sells the Kindle e-readers and Amazon wants you to buy e-books from Amazon, not its competitor. Of course, Amazon also offers a free downloadable software program so you can read their e-books on other devices.

All this because Amazon e-books are published in one kind of proprietary format. For Barnes & Noble, another format is used. Apple, ditto.

A. The Four Major E-Book Sellers in the United States 

(1) There are four major e-book sellers right now. These are the websites where you want to place your e-book for sale. They are:

(2) Each of these online e-book sellers offers their products in a different format. So you have to provide your book to them in the electronic format they require. Yes, this means that your book will have to be formatted several times, in different ways, if you want to cover all the major selling sites. 

Fortunately, these sellers will guide you through this process for free. Kobo will take your Word document, for example, and convert it to its preferred sales format as part of the steps you take to upload your book to their site for sale. Kindle Direct Publishing guides you through the process as well, converting your document into an .AZW3 format for placement on Amazon.com. Apple really holds your hand, helping you to add images and graphics as you build your e-book for their sales site.

B.  The Four Big e-Book Formats 

1. .AZW3 

This is the format required by Amazon.com (Kindle Format 8 aka .AZW3). It is used on all Kindle e-readers, and with the new reading apps provided by Amazon, these .AZW3 formatted e-books can also be read on smartphones, tablets, PCs, etc., via the free software provided by Amazon.

2. .iBook 

This is the format used with the free iBooks Author software. It’s based upon the .ePub format but it’s proprietary to Apple Inc. You agree to sell books in the .iBooks format through Apple exclusively.

3. .ePub 

This is an open software format. E-books formatted as ePub works can be read in e-readers like Kobo Readers and Barnes and Noble’s Nook as well as on iPhones and on PCs with things like the Firefox add-on, “ePub Reader.” Sony has changed its e-reader formatting from its proprietary BBeB format to .ePub. Barnes & Noble sells e-books via NookPress in an .ePub format. Kobo will take your content and publish it in an .ePub format, too.

4.  .PDF

This doesn’t mean that you cannot offer your ebook in a published, professional way that is outside these sales formats. Portable Document Format (.PDF) is a popular format for e-books that many people use because PDFs are so easy to view on so many different devices and platforms. Most e-readers, smartphones, and tablets can display .pdf formatted e-books. You might choose to offer your e-book as a .pdf on your website, for instance, and invite your readers to upload it to the e-reader, smartphone, or tablet of their choice.

C. Print on Demand for Paperbacks and Hardbound Books 

Some of your readers will want to read your books in print, not on a screen. You can do this without printing an inventory of books (and incur that expense) like traditional publishers do by choosing to “print on demand.”

Amazon.com provides this service with CreateSpace. You can also choose to print your work as a paperback or hardback through Barnes & Noble’s NookPress or through third-party services like BookBaby, IngramSpark, Lulu, or Blurb.

These are not necessarily services where a buyer requests a printed product and then the book is printed for them so much as avenues for you to print your work as a hardbound or paperback book which is then sold on the various web sites. Read the fine print on each site to learn more — and compare the costs! These services aren’t cheap!

2. Publishing Services 

If this seems complicated or overwhelming to you, there are businesses out there ready to help. They will take your raw word count in its Word format (or Open Office, or Scrivener, whatever) and they’ll do everything necessary to convert it into a finished product.  They will also help with marketing your work to readers in various ways.

Some will also submit your work to all the different sales sites (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.) as a distribution service. Some stop before distribution, but still offer help on things besides publishing the book, like marketing your work.

For instance, Lulu.com offers support for things like helping you market your book, including things like press releases and business cards.  Popular publishing services that include distribution, etc., include Smashwords, BookBaby, IngramSpark, and Draft-2-Digital.  

3. Royalties: How Much Profit for You? 

Different places offer different royalties to you. If you are writing these books for profit, then you need to analyze how each seller takes their cut and how much profit you can make at each site. Royalties are the buzz word here.

Compare royalties that are offered both for e-book sales through Amazon.com (and other sales sites) to you directly as well as royalties offered via these publishing service companies.

Remember, if they are helping you with marketing tasks or distribution jobs, then they will need to be paid for their work and you’re choosing less profit here for not doing these things yourself as an indie publisher. So, it’s important in your analysis to keep track of the costs you may have incurred in hiring an editor, paying a designer for the book cover, and other costs you’ve incurred in getting your product ready for sale.

These costs need to be tallied alongside any publishing expenses as well as marketing costs and monies paid to get the book into the marketplace. The hard thing about writing books for sale is that you start at that keyboard as a creative artist, but at the end of the process, you evolved into a business owner dealing with a bottom line.

That’s the choice you’ve made by going the independent route: being both (1) a writer and (2) an independent publisher of books.


Legal Stuff

This is boring legal stuff that applies both to my RebaKennedy.com web site as well as this blog.  Just so you know ….

It’s All Me.

I own both this web site and blog and I am the only person who contributes to them.  If you visit or shop here (should I ever sell anything here, haven't so far), then you accept the following terms and conditions.  Please read this information.


I am in Texas.  The laws of the State of Texas apply to all that I do here, and by visiting my site or my blog, you agree that the laws of the Lone Star State apply, as well, should any controversy arise between us.  


I am providing information here that I think may help you because it’s helped me.  Information regarding writing, especially writing that is published on the web, and related legal issues with all that entails.

Everything provided on my web site and blog is provided on an “as is” basis, and I’m not making any representations or warranties, expressed or implied, about the operation of the site or blog or any of the information, content, or products included or referenced here.   

If you use my site or blog, then I hope you enjoy it and find it helpful to you as you simplify your life.  However, I’m not giving you any guarantees here.  By reading my site or blog, you are expressly agreeing that your use of the blog or site is in your wheelhouse and at your own risk.  I’m not your doctor, your lawyer, your therapist, your editor, or your grandma.

Insofar as all applicable law allows, I disclaim all warranties, express or implied, that this site, or its servers, or any email sent by me, is free from viruses or other evil and harmful things.  I will not be liable for any damages of any kind arising from the use of the site or the blog.

Now, as for as the substance of the stuff found on my site or blog, I research things and try to be as accurate as possible.  Still, we’re all only human and so here’s my legal lingo on this issue:
I do not represent nor do I endorse the accuracy of any of the information found on my site or blog, and this includes the information that can be found on any site or blog that is linked in my content.  
The information contained in or accessed from any hyperlinked location is out of my control and I am in no way warranting what those site owners or bloggers are doing or may have done with their stuff.  Anyone reading my site or blog acknowledges that if they rely on the stuff that they find on third party sites as hyperlinked in my content is at their sole risk. 

Privacy Policy

I do not collect information here like some other sites or bloggers choose to do, using services like FeedBlitz, for instance.  I do not provide newsletters.  I do not collect personal information and I do not have any kind of mailing list database.   If you send a comment that may have too much personal information from my perspective, then I may edit that personal stuff out of the comment before it’s published to protect your privacy. 

Using Content Found on my Site or Blog


1.      Copyright

All the content placed on either the website or the blog – and this means the written content as well as the graphics, images, data compilations, you get the idea, is my property.  I own it. 

It is protected by the copyright laws of the United States as well as those copyright laws established in other countries.  It’s exciting to think I have readers in other countries and therefore need to mention international copyright laws.  Love that. 

If I have released something into the public domain, then this will be clearly stated and explained in the blog post, or on the web site page. 

2.     Licensure

I’m fine with your personal use of the content on my web site and blog and I officially grant you the limited license to access my site and blog and read the stuff and maybe even save some of it for your own self.  That’s cool, I like the idea that some of this stuff will help you and you want to save it!

However, I have been the victim of thieves taking my stuff and then selling it as their own stuff and that’s not right.  Even worse, I’ve had scoundrels take my content and then put it into pdfs and send those puppies out to try and entice people to download those things, which are traps for their malware or other evil plans. 

So, here is the official legal lingo that points to that sort of evildoing:  I do not grant a license to anyone to take my stuff and modify it, even a part of it, unless they have my written consent on a paper document and my official pen and ink okey dokey to do so.

I do not license anyone to reproduce, copy, duplicate, sell, resell, or in any other way use or exploit for their for-profit or commercial purpose anything on either my web site or blog.  I do not license any downloading or copying of anything found on the site or blog for your own commercial use, period. 

Comment Policy

Comments are great.  Love them.  However, I hate spam and trolls, too.  So I have things set up so I have to approve comments before they appear on the web site or blog.  Anyone is welcome to comment, submit suggestions, reviews, ideas, new info, etc. and questions are always great. 

However, I reserve the right to edit the stuff that appears on my web site and blog.  This means that I reserve the right to omit and not publish anything submitted that is illegal, vile, obscene, threatening,  hateful, or objectionable, and this includes submissions that are or may be defamatory, invasive of someone’s privacy, possibly infringing on someone else’s copyright or trademark, or in some other way potentially harmful to third parties.

This reservation of my rights also includes the right not to publish on my site any submissions that have or may include software viruses, political stuff, advertising aka commercial solicitation, mass mailing, or other things that you might consider to be “spam.”

If I think you are using a phony email address, then I reserve my right not to publish your submission.  In fact, if I think that your submission is in misleading in any way as to your real identity and purpose, then I reserve the right not to publish it. 

As for comments that do get published, by submitting your stuff you are allowing me an irrevocable, non-exclusive, free, and perpetual, right to use that submission on my site and blog, which includes my ability to publish it, modify or change it (for instance, to remove personal information and protect your privacy), translate it, distribute it, and display the content throughout the world in any media. 

This includes the right to use your name as you submitted it with your comment.  You are warranting that the stuff you submit is your stuff, and that you own the rights to that comment’s content.  If you have been sneaky and it’s not really yours, then you will indemnify me for any and all claims that might result from your bad acts here. 

Bottom line, I cannot and do not take responsibility and I assume no legal liability for any comments or other submissions that are posted and published here that come from any third party.

Same goes for trying out any products (software, keyboards, etc.). that you read about on my site or blog.  Try this stuff and use it at your own discretion and after you’ve done your own research.  I will not be legally liable for any harm or injury suffered by someone using a product recommended or discussed on my site or blog, whatever the cause. 


If you have any questions on any of these things – or about anything else related to my web site or blog, then please feel free to get in touch with me and ask!  The current contact information will be located in the Contact information sections of the web site and blog.  (Same stuff in two places.)

Changing Stuff

I reserve the right to change my mind.  I may change anything on the site or blog and that includes this Legal Stuff from time to time.  (Legally, I’m reserving my right to modification.)

And if anything here (including the Legal Stuff) is found to be invalid, void, or otherwise not legally enforceable for some reason, then that specific part of the site or blog, will be severed and removed but everything else on the site and blog will not be affected and will still be cool, i.e., it remains valid and enforceable.