William Safire's Rules of Great Writing

I love these Great Rules for Writing by William Safire, since they each exemplify the rule itself.  Fun stuff:

Do not put statements in the negative form.

And don't start sentences with a conjunction.

If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.

Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.

Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.

De-accession euphemisms.

If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.

Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.

Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.

-- QuoteGarden


Setting Up EMail Alerts: Try Google Alerts and TweetBeep

Alerts.  They are easy to set up and you want to have a few set up -- but what are they?  Alerts are where software automatically discovers new web content that includes a particular word or phrase and sends you  an email to let you know that something new has appeared. 

It's easy enough to do.  Have your name, your firm name, a topic of interest (e.g., "death penalty" or "american idol"), etc. set up with an alert system and then sit back and wait for the emails to arrive.

Google Alerts will automatically let you know when new stuff appears within its search results.  For details, go here.

TweetBeep searches Twitter and alerts you as you have requested - exclusively within tweets.  To learn more, go here. 


Twitter Tip: 140 Is Less Than You Think -- Leave Room for the Retweet

Once again, I'm chatting with a client who is learning about Twitter and getting comfortable with writing substantive messages that are only 140 characters long.  She's a little frustrated about that number, because she thinks it's a bit deceptive.  And she's right.  There's lots less room to move here than 140 would suggest, since at the outset that number includes the spaces between the words. 

That's right: the blanks are included in the tally. 

So from the start, the 140 character count doesn't leave everything for letters and numbers and commas and whatnot. 

Then you must shorten the links so they will fit.  The urls are often longer than 140 characters from the git-go. 

Now, even less than 140 in the count, right?

Next, you've got to add the hashtags.  This helps people find what you've shared.  Hashtags are important (more on them later).

That number is plummeting, isn't it? No wonder it's R for "are" and U for "you" ....

Now, it's time to remember the retweet.  If you don't, then you're making work for someone who is doing you a favor already by sharing your tweet with their followers. 

Easy way to envision this need is to retweet some tweets for yourself.  Go to Twitter, or whatever third party app that you're using to tweet, it doesn't matter.  Just find a tweet that you want to retweet.  Now, retweet it.  Do it again; heck, do it several times. 

Let's assume you retweeted USA Today.  See how the retweet takes up more space, since you're getting the "RT @USATODAY" in the message, too?  Did you go over 140 with your retweet, so you had to take the time to cut something before Twitter would accept it? 

Know how much your retweeted name uses in the count.

Here's the tip: cut the word count off your tweet before you publish it, to accommodate that character count.  Twelve characters are used in "RT @USATODAY." Fifteen (15) characters/spaces are taken up by "RT @rkennedy" - yours may be more or less.  Remember to accommodate your tally in your tweets.  Helps those who retweet your message to do so fast and easy.

Note: this doesn't appear when you are tweeting directly from the Twitter platform.  The retweet appears as a little green cap over the top left corner of your tweet box.  However, if you go and read your retweet in another venue, you'll see the "RT @USATODAY" at the start of your retweet.


Getting and Holding in Top Three of Google Search Results: More on Same

Just wanted to post quickly on one more example of how I achieve and hold top spots in Google search results - because I like that I can do this and because it's nice to have these examples for clients to have, too. 

Today, I just surfed for "Charlie Sheen Lawsuit" and discovered my week-old post at Backseat Lawyer (where I have no regular posting schedule, as you can see by the archives) remains in the top three search results at Google (everything search) at no. 3 out of 10,300,000. 

My post is 3rd out of 10,300,000.  That's nice.

Here's the screen shot -- which admittedly is hard to see via the blog -- but trust me (or Google it yourself) that the results show my little post ranking higher than ... well, all the media outlets (much less blogs, etc.) except two.  ABA Journal, NY Daily News, Hollywood Reporter fall lower on the first page, let's not even bother with subsequent pages. 

Who are the two that rank higher than Backseat Lawyer?   TMZ and Radar Online. 


TweetDeck Users, Third Party Apps: Did a Twitter War Start Today?

I spend lots of time counseling fellow lawyers on how to effectively and efficiently use Twitter - both for personal use and for professional business development.  Once they get going, they usually decide to flip from going directly to their Twitter page (http://www.twitter.com/)  to tweet, opting instead for more user-friendly sites that are not owned by Twitter ("third party apps"). 

The most popular of these is TweetDeck (at least, that's what I'm hearing). TweetDeck is cool.  TweetDeck also lets you do other things besides tweet -- you can connect with LinkedIn and Facebook from TweetDeck, too.  Handy for lots of folk.

However, there is news for all you TweetDeck lovers.  Appears that TweetDeck has been purchased by UberMedia, and Twitter isn't happy with UberMedia.

Twitter Has Thrown Down the Gauntlet Regarding Third Party Applications

Why?  For one thing, Twitter may not like the latest feature offered by TweetDeck: Deck.ly, which lets you post longer tweets.  Deck.ly gets you around that 140 character limit.  Which, some may argue takes away the very raison d'etre of tweeting - but hey.  It's here. 

You can all the details on today's post by Neal Wiser, "The End of the 140 Character Tweet and Its Repercussions.

Other applications that may be impacted by Twitter's new warning include:  
  1. HootSuite
  2. Klout
  3. Seesmic
  4. SocialFlow
For more information on Twitter's relationship with third party apps, because it's not just TweetDeck we're talking about here, check out these recent articles too:

  1. Wired Magazine,  "Twitter Clamps Down On Third-Party Clients," by Mark Brown.
  2. PC Magazine, Twitter to Devs: No New Third-Party Apps," by Leslie Horn.
  3. PC World, "Twitter to Third Party Clients: Drop Dead," by Harry McCracken, Technologizer.

What's Going On Here?

Personally, one big hitch for me in tweeting from my Twitter home page is its inability to allow me to easily shorten urls.  Time waster that Twitter should have solved long ago.  Maybe I wouldn't mind tweeting from Twitter itself if they made it as easy for me as other developers have done with their free apps. 

Apparently, Twitter is waking up to the competition doing a better job, sniffs some money to be made, and is trying to grab those profits.  Fine, let them duke it out. 

I'm not loyal to any third party app.  I will go with whomever provides me the best service -- which translates into FREE and FAST.  I'm not going to dedicate much time from my day to tweeting, and neither are my clients. 

Bottom line, compete.  Go for it.  However, Twitter better not mess with blocking what's already working for us. 


The Bluebook - Proper Federal Citation

The University of Pennsylvania provides the Bluebook online - you must pay for a membership to access.  Tips, however, are provided for free.  They are organized into five (5) areas (below) and with a bit of background knowledge, you may feel comfortable that you've found your answer after perusing the BlueTips archives for a bit:

What about Texas' Greenbook? 

Gotta buy it - it's offered by the Texas Law Review.


10 Tips for Writing Blog Post Titles: Blawg Titles are Important for Both Google and Your Reader

When you are writing your blog post, it's tempting to let all those creative juices flow that must be contained when writing briefs, memos, motions, and the like. Emotional titles. Catchy titles. Puns. What to title your short blawg article - for all the world to see - can be very, very fun to ponder.

You are Writing for Two Readers: Human and Machine

However, you have to remember that you are writing for two readers: (1) the human (whether it is a client, colleague, a perspective client, or the public at large) and (2) the search engine robots or spiders that crawl the web looking for content.  If you don't satisfy the bots, then there's a strong likelihood that many of those humans will never find what you've written.  (For more on these bots, read my earlier post, "How Search Engines Work - Part 1".)

Incorporate Search Engine Optimization in Your Blog Post Titles

Your goal becomes writing a title that interests the human while simultaneously pleasing Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Here are a few tips to help you accomplish this:
  1. write the title last - after your post is in its final form;
  2. consider the theme of your post and determine the ONE word or phrase that describes what you've written;
  3. place that word or phrase at the beginning of your title;
  4. use vocabulary in your title that can be seen in your first paragraph (second, if you must);
  5. don't make your title too short, have a 5-7 word minimum; 
  6. don't make your title too long, keep it under 20 words (some will argue this is too long, but I have found success with a longer title, 20 word limit);
  7. avoid the "&" sign in your titles for coding reasons (see how the amp was automatically stuck in here by my blogging platform?);
  8. avoid all caps since many veteran social media readers interpret capitalization as YELLING AT THE READER;
  9. search Google and Yahoo for the topic of your blog post and see the top results - don't steal their work, but consider their titles and ponder what they've done that has put their post in the top positions; and
  10. don't italicize or bold-face your title.