The Most Overused Words of 2012

What’s that? 2012 is over, you say? Move on, you demand?

Okay, okay, we will. But first these important, um, words:


by Mark Nichol (DailyWritingTips.Com)

Words are sometimes randomly reincarnated to serve new purposes, and usually, the new usage is anything but offensive, and its connection may even be obscure: Does anyone object to the use of the word plane (meaning, basically, “surface”) to describe aircraft? Often, however, the extension of a term to a new connotation invites contempt. Here’s a rundown of some of the online commentary about new senses of words that have worn out their welcome.

The business blog Quartz published an article about “the most misused word in 2012”: disrupt, which in the commercial world is used in the context of companies that suddenly and dramatically alter their focus or product(s); other tiresome Wall Street jargon includes the similar pivot as well as innovation, which almost invariably refers to strategies that are anything but innovative — but the word, presumably, still catches the eye of investors and customers.

LinkedIn recently listed the top ten words and phrases people use on the networking site to describe themselves to potential employers and clients:Creativeorganizational, and effective have remained in the top three positions for two years in a row, followed this year by motivated, “extensive experience,” “track record,” innovativeresponsibleanalytical, and “problem solving.” (How, then, does one market oneself without resorting to such overused terms? Describe how you are creative, organizational, and effective rather than simply typing the words.)

Similarly, the Shift Communications PR Agency published a graphic displaying the supposedly substantive words most prevalent in press releases. Trailing global, the clear leader, were forwardleadinginternationalgrowth, and “well positioned.”

Every year, Lake Superior State University invites nominations for inclusion on its Banished Words List: This year’s roster includes amazingblowback(“resistance or usually negative reaction to an action or a proposal”), andginormous (a portmanteau word derived from gigantic and enormous). Among the phrases on the list are “baby bump” (“visual evidence of pregnancy”), “man cave” (a female-free — except for the bikini babes on the beer posters — refuge for the man of the house, especially when he’s in the doghouse), and “thank(ing) you in advance,” widely considered a discourteous courtesy in a business email or letter.

The Atlantic Monthly’s online version, Atlantic Wire, offers “An A-to-Z Guide to 2012’s Worst Words”, which includes disrupt and “baby bump” but also derides the use in technological contexts of curate (which is just a fancy way to say “link”) and ecosystem (referring collectively to similar digital devices or formats). Meanwhile, epic, used as an adjective to describe a supposedly remarkable experience or phenomenon, is among a slew of pop-culture terms singled out for retirement.

And then, of course, there’s fail — used as a noun to describe a botched effort — which is itself now frequently deemed a failure.

The People’s Pilot & Spec Scriptacular Contests are Now Open


Time Remaining

It’s that time again. New Year’s Day, of course. And, more importantly – to us here at TVWriter™ anyway – it’s the opening day for submissions in our two contests.

Winners, Finalists, or Semi-Finalists of the  SPEC SCRIPTACULAR and its sister contest the PEOPLE’S PILOT are currently on the staffs of CHICAGO FIRE, PERSON OF INTEREST, THE WALKING DEAD, and GREY’S ANATOMY. We’d love to see you join them!

In a nutshell, ourcontest situation is this:

The People’s Pilot is our yearly pilot writing contest for scripted television and New Media/interweb series. Prizes are awarded to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers in 2 categories – 1-hour series and 1/2-hour series. All genres are fair game, and it’s up to the entrant to choose the appropriate length for the material.

We’re looking for the best material anyone can come up with. The kind that attracts and holds attention. That shows its writer is a force to be reckoned with, somebody who can do the job better than it has ever been done before. Somebody with the kind of talent both the business and the viewing audience need. For 2 reasons:

  1. Everyone involved with TVWriter™ loves TV, whether we watch it on our bigscreens or our tablets, via cable, satellite, broadcast network, or website. And we want to see not just good but great material on those media. Material that makes us think and feel and laugh and cry and get all involved so that we’re completely lost in a reality every bit as vibrant as real life. This, believe it or not, is the 22nd running of the PP, and every time our judges sit down to read the entries they’re hoping to find a series that can go on the air and be appreciated as, well, as the best series in the history of TV.
  2. We know how important it is for new writers to have the kind of sample scripts that make agents and producers and executives sit up and take notice. That make those who control viewer access go all squirmy inside so they think, “Wow! This is the best writer ever. We’ve gotta work with him/her. Gotta have her/him as a client/on our staff. A terrific pilot script is absolutely the best way to get this attention and propel you through the door. (Or at least into the damn doorway, where you need to be.)

Does this sound like you? And what you want? Then click here and find out more…oh, and don’t forget to enter.

Speaking of entering, the cost of both TVWriter™ writing contests is $40/entry. But from now till 11:59 PM (Pacific Time) March 1, 2013, the Early Bird Discount is solidly in place, reducing the price by 25%, to $30. And, yes, we’re all for entrants taking advantage of the discount by paying now even if their teleplays aren’t ready. The final due date, after all, is June 1.

Those of you who have visited or entered the contest before will notice some changes this time around. Part of our ongoing attempts to make the best-known and, we think, just plain best pilot contest even better. This year’s changes include:

  1. More prizes. Over $5000 worth of services and in-your-hand dinero, including free admission to the TVWriter™ Advanced Online Workshop.
  2. More potential winners. Our new category system means twice as many entrants can take home prizes as last time around.
  3. Free feedback. After the Winners are announced, each entrant will receive an e-mail giving him/her their score and explaining what it means.

The Spec Scriptacular is our yearly contest for spec scripts written for current and recent television and New Media/interweb series and original spec television movies and specials, regardless of what country those series are in (as long as they’re written in English so the judges can read them). And, yes, when we say “television movies” we also mean screenplays because – especially these days – there’s absolutely no difference between the writing of a good film for television and a good film for the big screen.

Prizes are awarded to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers in 3 categories – sitcoms, dramas (which also include action and dramedy shows), and original movies and specials of all genres.

As with the People’s Pilot, we’re looking for the best material anyone can come up with. The kind that attracts and holds attention, demonstrating that its writer is somebody who can do the job better than it has ever been done before. Somebody the business and the viewing audience need. Because, as we said earlier, we love television and want to find the best writers we can to help make it become the best it can possibly be. And because the competition within the biz is so keen that those who want writing careers have to roar off the line by showing not merely that they can write as well as, but better than, those who are already working in the industry.

Is this sounds like who you are and what you want, then click here and find out more…oh, and don’t forget to enter.

Again, as we said earlier, the cost of each TVWriter™ writing contests is $40/entry. But from now till 11:59 PM (Pacific Time) March 1, 2013, the Early Bird Discount is solidly in place, reducing the price by 25%, to $30. And, yes, we’re all for entrants taking advantage of the discount by paying now even if their teleplays aren’t ready. The final due date, after all, is June 1.

We’ve made some changes in the Spec Scriptacular this year as part of our ongoing efforts to make it the definitive spec TV & film writing contest on the web, including:

  1. More prizes. Over $6000 worth of services and in-your-hand dinero, including free admission to the TVWriter™ Advanced Online Workshop.
  2. Free feedback. After the Winners are announced, each entrant will receive an e-mail giving him/her their score and explaining what it means.

That’s it for now, but you know us; we’ll be bugging you about entering the 22nd People’s Pilot and 19th Spec Scriptacular for the next 6 months. But we really mean it when we say we believe wholeheartedly that you’ll be glad you did.

LB: Happy New Year!!!

1944 New YearYes, it’s true. This is a greeting from the year in which I was born. But I only came in at the end of the year, I swear. 4 years later, in 1948, we got our first TV set and I discovered my favorite show:

howdy-doody-show-1That’s HOWDY DOODY, of course. With Buffalo Bob Smith on the left, Clarabell the Clown, AKA Bob Keeshan (Captain Kangaroo, later) on the right, and marionette Howdy in the middle.

That show meant everything to me. I remember watching it one day when I was 4 years old and praying that I’d never get any older…because I knew that when I did get older I wouldn’t love it anymore.

In a way, I did stay pretty much a 4-year-old. At least in terms of some eating habits Howdy helped create. Especially these two lifelong faves:

howdy doody rice krispies 220

howdy doody wonder bread 220

Yep, HOWDY DOODY is proof positive that television advertising works. Although, just between us, the Wonder Bread fixation has pretty much worn off. Rice Krispies, on the other hand…ah, the best bedtime snack, even today.

Oh, and here’s something else my love of all things Howdy led to – my discovery of MAD, back when it was a comic book:

Mad Howdy Doody b and wAnd this sequence of panels, which I still believe to be the absolute best of all time:

Mad 018 Bill Elder 003

Have a wonderful, TV-influenced, product-filled 2013, y’all!



How to Edit Your Own Writing


red pencil edit

by Caroline McMillan (Lifehacker.Com)

Like most newspaper reporters, I got into the biz because a) I love writing and b) I’m pretty good at it. But it’s a sobering profession. You file your masterpiece, only to find your editor thinks it’s two dozen “tinks” shy of publishable. Repeat this scenario a couple hundred times, and you’ll find you’ve grown some thick skin. You’ve also gotten pretty darn good at self-editing. So, I’m here to impart some wisdom on the art of quickly perfecting your own work—how to hone, trim, and morph clumsy words and phrases into a clear, concise message that will wow your audience.

It could be a company memo, a PowerPoint presentation, an email, or a report—but no matter the medium, these quick editing skills will always come in handy. Some other bonuses of good self-editing skills: People are less likely to misunderstand you, and bosses and peers will pay more attention to the meat of your message.

So here we go. Let’s say you’re working on a personal assessment for your annual performance review. You’ve written the first draft, but you want to make sure it’s in perfect condition before you submit it. Here’s your game plan:

Print Out Your Work

Always do this. Always. It’s a pain, but when you’re talking performance reviews, that 20-yard hassle of a walk to the printer could mean the difference between a 4% or a 5% raise.

Here’s why: As any writer or editor will tell you, critiquing someone else’s work is much easier than deconstructing your own, because outside eyes bring a fresh perspective. To approach your own work critically, you need to simulate this “outsider” perspective by viewing it in a form other than the one you wrote it in.

If you typed it, print it out. Give it a quick read-through, then wield your red pen and start slashing. (Ruthlessly. More on that below.) If you hand-wrote the first draft of your evaluation, type it up, print it, and analyze. That’s right—either way, you should still be heading over to the printer.

Take a Break

If you’re on deadline and this step isn’t a luxury, proceed to No. 3. But if you do have a few minutes to spare, putting a literal distance between you and your work creates an emotional distance as well. When you come back to it with fresh eyes, you’re more likely to spot awkward wording, unnecessary phrasing, and plain ol’ mistakes. So take a stroll, go to the bathroom, chat with a co-worker. If you can let it simmer overnight, that’s best of all. Then you can be more ruthless with your edits.

Read it Out Loud

The best writing sounds smooth—almost like you’re speaking, without getting colloquial. So actually listening to your written syntax is one of the best ways you can catch areas with jangling phrasing. Read your work out loud and change anything that doesn’t make sense or that you stumble over. And don’t be afraid to use contractions-that’s how us non-robots talk, isn’t it? (Imagine that last sentence without contractions. Now you see what I mean.)

Pretend You’re the Intended Audience

Now that you’ve read and re-read your document, it’s time for some editing role play. Keeping with the performance review example, read the document again, this time as if you’re the boss. Is it so verbose that you’re getting bored by page two? Or does it flow easily and leave you with a “Wow, she deserves a raise!” impression? What stands out to you most? Jot down your thoughts, make changes, and move on to the last step.

Be Ruthless

The final step is to edit your work down. Yes, chop some of those words, sentences, and paragraphs. Like crazy. But this will help make sure that the true meat of your piece is what shines.

If you need a little help with this, here are some tips:

Keep paragraphs short: Three to four sentences is more than enough to get to the point quickly and succinctly.

Reduce each sentence to its essential parts: A well-defined subject, strong verb, and object.

Avoid the overuse of subordinate clauses: Quick little grammar refresher: A subordinate clause (also known as a dependent clause) has a subject and verb but can’t stand alone as a sentence. So let’s take this sentence that might appear in your personal assessment:

“When staff fatigue was high during the fourth quarter because of lower earnings than projected, I led an initiative to improve morale.”

Let’s rework it a bit, make it more straightforward.

“I led an initiative to tackle staff fatigue and improve morale in the wake of disappointing fourth-quarter earnings.”

Nix adverbs and adjectives as often as possible: On your printout, mark through every adjective and adverb you see, and then add back the ones that you think are absolutely necessary. When in doubt, find a verb that says it better.

Infuse opinionated language with authority: During my freshman year of college, I got a B on a kick-ass paper. Upset, I asked my professor to explain his (obviously flawed) grading system. He said I was downgraded because I repeatedly used phrases like “seems to be” and “it appears.” When you make a point, he said, throw yourself behind it. Don’t give the impression that you’re not sure you fully support your own argument.

That advice stuck with me, and you should pay attention to it, too, especially when your career is in play. Don’t weaken your argument with wishy-washy sentences that start with “I believe,” “In my opinion,” and “You may disagree, but… ” You’ll see the difference it makes.

Self-editing is a tough skill to develop, but it’s one that can only help your career. It ensures your writing puts your best foot forward, even when your charming self isn’t there to do the talking.

The Perfect Last-Minute Christmas Gift for your TV Writer – And It’s Almost Free!

$4.99, to be precise. Not bad, eh? Especially since it’s one helluva book.

TVW Kindle Cover 625 x 1000 sm

Written by TVWriter™’s boss – Larry Brody, a writer-producer with 40 years of experience in every aspect of television – Television Writing from the Inside Out is a true Insider’s Guide that offers his unique expertise and an outlook that’s the direct result of having written and produced almost 1000 hours of television of all types, from daytime serials to animated children’s series to syndicated, cable, and U.S. and European network primetime series, pilots, and Movies of the Week.

This book examines the entire procedure not only creatively but in terms of how television actually operates. TV as a medium is both creative and commercial, but this really isn’t a fact to be bemoaned. Instead, Television Writing from the Inside Out shows how to make the situation work for you by using creative elements for commercial ends–and commercial elements for creative ones. In fact, it’s so practical that it tells you what neighborhoods to live in when you move to L.A., how to dress, even what kind of car to drive.

Script Magazine has given Television Writing from the Inside Out an unqualified rave review. And it’s the official textbook for the TVWriter™ Basic Online Workshop!

Buy the Kindle Book at Amazon.Com for only $6.99 $4.99 

Oh, and you don’t need a Kindle to read a Kindle book. You can also read it on your PC via Kindle’s Cloud Reader, as well as on your iPhone, iPad, and other readers as well.

And, if you simply must have a “real” book that you can hold in your hand:

Get the trade paperback at Amazon.Com for $19.99