Lessons from Amazon: ‘Mock Press Release’ Discipline to Sell an Idea

If you have a brilliant idea at work, the modern workplace demands that you distill your ideas into a killer PowerPoint presentation to enlighten, entertain (with animations and special effects,) and convince your audience.

As I mentioned in my previous blog article, presentations may make ineffective communication tools. They tend to promote “a seductive laziness of thought that is anti-rigor, anti-elegance, and—most damaging—anti-audience.”

'The Everything Store' by Brad Stone (ISBN 0316219266) Amazon’s corporate culture agrees. In Brad Stone’s The Everything Store, former Amazon executive Jeff Holden commented that “PowerPoint is a very imprecise communication mechanism. It is fantastically easy to hide between bullet points. You are never forced to express your thoughts completely.”

Instead of PowerPoint presentations, Amazon uses a narrative format called the ‘Mock Press Release.’ According to this disciplined approach, for every new feature, product, or service that employees intend to pitch within their divisions, they must produce a press release-style document wherein a hypothetical Amazon customer would first learn about the feature.

Amazon contends that if something isn’t interesting enough for a customer and can’t be eloquently expressed in a mock press release format, Amazon probably shouldn’t invest in the idea. Brad Stone’s The Everything Store mentions,

Bezos announced that employees could no longer use such corporate crutches and would have to write their presentations in prose, in what he called narratives. … He wanted people thinking deeply and taking the time to express their thoughts cogently.

Bezos refined the formula even further. Every time a new feature or product was proposed, he decreed that the narrative should take the shape of a mock press release. The goal was to get employees to distill a pitch into its purest essence, to start from something the customer might see—the public announcement—and work backward.

Amazon’s famously customer-oriented culture argues that this disciplined innovation forces all ideas to be rationalized from the customers’ perspective. Therefore, Amazon encourages it’s employees to write these mock press releases in what’s internally called “Oprah-speak” (how the idea would be explained plainly on The Oprah Winfrey Show) rather than in “geek speak.”

Jeff Bezos of Amazon

Rather than have employees present their ideas using PowerPoint decks, attendees receive copies of multi-page narratives (as opposed to the one-page format used at Procter & Gamble) and study the ideas before ensuing debate and decision.

On Quora, former Amazon executive Ian McAllister argued the advantages of this narrative form:

We try to work backwards from the customer, rather than starting with an idea for a product and trying to bolt customers onto it. While working backwards can be applied to any specific product decision, using this approach is especially important when developing new products or features.

McAllister also provided a sample outline for the Amazon mock press release,

  • Heading – Name the product in a way the reader (i.e. your target customers) will understand.
  • Sub-Heading – Describe who the market for the product is and what benefit they get. One sentence only underneath the title.
  • Summary – Give a summary of the product and the benefit. Assume the reader will not read anything else so make this paragraph good.
  • Problem – Describe the problem your product solves.
  • Solution – Describe how your product elegantly solves the problem.
  • Quote from You – A quote from a spokesperson in your company.
  • How to Get Started – Describe how easy it is to get started.
  • Customer Quote – Provide a quote from a hypothetical customer that describes how they experienced the benefit.
  • Closing and Call to Action – Wrap it up and give pointers where the reader should go next.

Also see:

Lessons from Procter & Gamble: ‘One-Page Memo’ to Sell an Idea

In effective communication, less is often more. Brevity can communicate ideas more clearly.

Procter & Gamble (P&G) Logo Based on this idea, Procter & Gamble (P&G)’s corporate culture uses a powerful discipline called the ‘One-Page Memo’ for clear and concise communication.

P&G’s corporate culture requires any idea or proposal to fit onto one side of one piece of paper and must follow a predictable format. According to Charles Decker’s excellent book Winning with the P&G 99, the one-page memo consists of the following narrative elements:

  • Statement of Purpose: An introductory sentence that concisely and succinctly states the reason for the recommendation. Provides a context for the memo as a whole.
  • Background: Factual analysis that connects the purpose of the memo to the strategic objectives of the company or the brand. Also provides facts in relation to the problem the recommendation is supposed to address.
  • Recommendation: The specific proposal on how to solve the problem or exploit the opportunity detailed in the background section.
  • Rationale: The reasons for the recommendation, and the logic by which the recommendation was reached.
  • Discussion: Details of the recommendation, anticipated questions or areas of concern, risk assessment, identification of other alternatives, details of the recommendation.
  • Next Steps: Who will be following through on the recommendation, what target dates they would be working towards, what actions they would be taking to execute the recommendation.
  • Supporting Exhibits: Other supplementary information as applicable.

The last item, the supporting exhibits, provides additional data to validate the rest of the one-page memo.

Charles Decker states, “If you can learn to write a P&G memo, you can learn how to think. The memo becomes a knowledge codification tool, a way to present ideas, arguments, and recommendations in a language and style everyone at P&G understands.”

Winning with the P&G 99 also quotes an advertising agency executive: “P&G seems to have figured out that if you structure information certain ways, people will readily understand it, good ideas will emerge, and bad ideas will be exposed. I really think that is what has made them so successful. They make fewer mistakes because they find mistakes before they happen.”

Additionally, P&G’s renowned salesforce uses a Persuasive Selling Format (PSF) narrative that is structured along similar lines.

Presentations are Corrupting per Edward Tufte’s “The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint”

Presentations are one of the most frequently used methods of communication in the modern workplace. However, Edward Tufte argues that they reduce the analytical timbre of communication. In other words, presentation slides lack the resolution to effectively convey context, “weaken verbal and spatial reasoning, and almost always corrupt statistical analysis.”

Tufte, an American statistician and academic, is renowned for his work The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, a bestselling text on data, statistics, graphics, visualization, and information.

'The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint' by Edward Tufte (ISBN 0961392169) In his cranky pamphlet The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint, Tufte offers a sharp-tongued criticism of presentations as a communication format. He argues that we treat slides more as a medium for self-expression than as a medium to connect with our audiences. His most revealing examples of how presentations corrupt our elegance of expression are his critique of NASA’s slides from the Columbia shuttle disaster and a parody of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address condensed into a PowerPoint deck.

By forcibly condensing our ideas into bullet point-statements, phrases, and slides, Tufte contends that we break up narrative flow and flatten the information we’re trying to convey. In particular, he claims that presentations’ bullet points can’t signify logical relationships well and thus dilute the audiences’ thought process. The resulting message is watered down, lacks proper emphasis, and doesn’t communicate the context very effectively.

Tufte favors well-structured memos that convey ideas comprehensively, clearly, and meaningfully. In agreement, I’ll offer two articles next week about Procter & Gamble and Amazon’s use of these memos as a communication discipline.

Persuade Others to See Things Your Way: Use Aristotle’s Ethos, Logos, Pathos, and Timing

During argumentation—i.e. when putting forward a point of view—your goal is to persuade your audience that your thesis is valid, engage them in your favor, change their opinion, and influence them to act as you’d like them to act.

The American literary theorist Kenneth Burke wrote in his Rhetoric of Motives, “Wherever there is persuasion, there is rhetoric. And wherever there is meaning, there is persuasion.” Learning to make effective arguments is helpful in every facet of decision-making and sharing ideas with others—not only in verbal and written discourses, but also in marketing, sales promotion, crisis-management, storytelling, courtship, social etiquette, and education.

Aristotle's Techniques for Persuasion

Some 2400 years ago, the Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote one of the most important works on argumentation. In his treatise Rhetorica, he explained that arguments are more persuasive when applied in three distinct but inseparable dimensions: ethos (credibility,) logos (reason,) and pathos (emotion.) He wrote,

Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind; the third the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself … The modes of persuasion are the only true constituents of the art: everything else is merely accessory.

There are, then, these three means of effecting persuasion. The man who is to be in command of them must, it is clear, be able (1) to reason logically, (2) to understand human character and goodness in their various forms, and (3) to understand the emotions—that is, to name them and describe them, to know their causes and the way in which they are excited.

Speech by Mahatma Gandhi: Ethos is Aristotle's Techniques for Persuasion #1

Element #1 of Persuasion: Ethos (‘Character’ in Greek)

Aristotle contended that audiences are more likely to be convinced when an argument comes from someone of standing, repute, authority, and legitimacy:

We believe good men more fully and more readily than others: this is generally true whatever the question is, and absolutely true where exact certainty is impossible and opinions are divided … It is not true, as some writers assume in their treatise on rhetoric, that the personal goodness revealed by the speaker contributes nothing to his power of persuasions; on the contrary, his character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion he possesses.

Your ability to persuade depends on demonstrating that you are a credible authority on a subject. Credibility comes from your academic and professional credentials, social standing, integrity of character, and trustworthiness.

Ethos is also about how you express your expertise. Enhance your ethos by projecting confidence and paying attention to your mannerisms, dress, demeanor, tone, style, posture, body language, and crispness of your message. Appeal to ethos because your audience is likely to be persuaded if they believe you’re likeable and worthy of their respect. If you lack credibility, you must determine how to produce credibility, address your lack of it, or involve somebody credible who can vouch for your ideas.

Speech by Martin Luther King, Jr.: Pathos is Aristotle's Techniques for Persuasion #2

Element #2 of Persuasion: Pathos (‘Suffering’ or ‘Experience’ in Greek)

As the saying goes, when the heart pulls, the head tends to follow.

Aristotle contended that persuasion also depends on making an emotional and imaginative impact on the audience by “putting the hearer into a certain frame of mind” (“ton akroaten diatheinai poos”):

Secondly, persuasion may come through the power of the hearers, when the speech stirs their emotions. Our judgments when we are pleased and friendly are not the same as when we are pained and hostile.

To appeal to emotion, you must understand and relate to the needs, values, and desires of your audience. Identify and appeal to what motivates the audience to anger and happiness, what irritates them and leads them to fear, what animates them and arouses their empathy. Defense attorneys often use this technique: they try to appeal to a jury or judge’s emotions by invoking sympathy for the accused and swaying them into thinking that the accused has done little or no wrong.

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney Debate: Logos is Aristotle's Techniques for Persuasion #3

Element #3 of Persuasion: Logos (‘Word’ in Greek)

Logos refers to the argument’s clarity and integrity. Aristotle stressed logic and the appeal to reason:

Thirdly, persuasion is effected by the speech itself when we have proved a truth or an apparent truth by means of the persuasive arguments suitable to the case in question.

Appeal to your audience using logical consistency, analytical reasoning, rationale, and supporting evidence. Don’t just persuade your audience from your vantage point. Instead, construct a viewpoint that can assert your audience’s own objectives and goals.

Element #4 of Persuasion: Timing

Aristotle mentioned that timing of delivery is a fourth dimension of successful argumentation. Therefore, even if ethos, pathos, and logos are in place, efforts to persuade may fail if they are deployed at the wrong time.

These three kinds of rhetoric refer to three different kinds of time. The political orator is concerned with the future: it is about things to be done hereafter that he advises, for or against. The party in a case at law is concerned with the past; one man accuses the other, and the other defends himself, with reference to things already done. The ceremonial orator is, properly speaking, concerned with the present, since all men praise or blame in view of the state of things existing at the time, though they often find it useful also to recall the past and to make guesses at the future.

To persuade your audience, know where to focus the conversation—the past, present, or future. As the Greek didactic poet Hesiod emphasized in Works and Days, “observe due measure, for right timing is in all things the most important factor.”

Persuasive Speech - Ronald Reagan

Use Four Vantage Points to Improve Your Abilities in Argumentation and Negotiation

You can be more persuasive if you understand what truly moves your audience. Some people are swayed by logic, others by appeals to emotion, and still others quickly defer to those who seem to possess authority and expertise.

Aristotle’s ethos, pathos, and logos provide a clear, understandable, and easy-to-apply framework for developing argumentation. Although these three elements can be analyzed separately, they often overlap and work together. Often it may not be possible or useful to completely distinguish them.

Recommended Resources

Round up your persuasive skills by combining Aristotle’s technique with these recommended approaches.

  • Robert Cialdini’s best-selling books, Influence The Psychology of Persuasion and Science and Practice, identify six ways to persuade another person. Watch this and this YouTube videos for excellent summaries of these six principles.
    1. reciprocity, when the other acts in expectation that his/her favors will be returned
    2. commitment and consistency, when the other takes actions consistent with his/her self-image
    3. social proof, when the other replicates the actions of others
    4. authority, when the other acquiesces to authority even if the request is questionable
    5. liking, when the other is persuaded by those whom they know, like, respect, and admire
    6. scarcity, when an object becomes more desirable because it is in short supply
  • Simon Sinek’s Start with Why advocates that when pitching a product, service, idea, or proposal to an audience, you must start with answering why they should they care. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Sinek’s TED talk (this YouTube video) describes his concept of “The Golden Circle”—with the ‘why’ at the core, surrounded by ‘how,’ and the finally the ‘what.’
  • Richard Shell and Mario Moussa’s The Art of Woo recommends that people use relationship-based, emotionally intelligent approaches to persuade others of the value of their ideas to “win them over” rather than to “defeat” them.
  • William Ury’s The Power of a Positive No offers a “yes-no-yes” framework to (1) connect a situation, circumstance or dilemma to your core set of interests and values, (2) communicate your decision assertively and respectfully and yet obtain the most positive outcome for you and for others.
  • Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton’s popular book Getting to Yes offers an step-by-step plan of action for coming to mutually satisfactory agreements to conflict.

Dueling Maxims, Adages, and Proverbs

Dueling Maxims, Adages, and Proverbs

Different Proverbs & Different Situations

The 17th-century Anglo-Welsh writer James Howell once said, “Proverbs may not improperly be called the philosophy of the common people.”

Maxims and proverbs condense humankind’s wisdom through the ages. Applied appropriately, proverbs are persuasive devices to convince others—through wit, humor, zing, irony, or bitterness—of implied wisdom and collective experience.

Proverbs tend to sound convincing—that is, at least until a contradictory proverb is evoked. According to American poet and essayist William Mathews, “All maxims have their antagonist maxims; proverbs should be sold in pairs, a single one being a half truth.” This discrepancy even appears in the Hebrew Bible (The Old Testament), as Proverbs 26:4 counsels, “do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.” In the very next verse, Proverbs 26:5 urges, “answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.”

One of the pleasures of working with maxims, proverbs, and quotations is contemplating confirmations, counterparts, contradictions, and inconsistencies. In other words, it’s fascinating and helpful to examine how words might apply differently in various situations.

When used without qualification, proverbs sometimes cancel one-another out. The following compendium illustrates this phenomenon.

Contradicting Common Proverbs

“All that glitters is not gold.”But, “Clothes make the man.”

“Clothes make the man.”But, “Never judge a book by its cover.”

“Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.”But sometimes, “Leave well enough alone.”

“Wise men think alike.”But, “Fools seldom differ.”

“Haste makes waste.”But sometimes, “Strike while the iron is hot.”

“One man’s meat is another man’s poison.”But sometimes, “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

“Misery loves company.”But, “The more the merrier.”

“The more the merrier.”But sometimes, “Two’s company; three’s a crowd.”

“What will be, will be.”But, “Life is what you make it.”

“Don’t sweat the small stuff.”But, “Every little bit helps.”

“Don’t sweat the small stuff.”But, “The devil is in the details.”

“A penny saved is a penny earned.”But, “Penny wise, pound foolish.”

“Repentance comes too late.”But, “Never too late to mend.”

“All for one and one for all.”But sometimes, “Every man for himself.”

“Blood is thicker than water.”But, “Many kinfolk, few friends.”

“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”But, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp.”

“The pen is mightier than the sword.”But, “Actions speak louder than words.”

“Ask no questions and hear no lies.”But, “Better to ask the way than to go astray.”

“If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”But sometimes, “If you lie down with dogs, you’ll wake up with fleas.”

“Better be alone than in bad company.”But, “There’s safety in numbers.”

“Tomorrow is another day.”But, “Another day might be too late.”

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”But, “Don’t beat a dead horse.”

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”But, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

“A silent man is a wise one.”But, “A man without words is a man without thoughts.”

“There is nothing new under the sun.”But, “There is nothing permanent except change.”

“The bigger the better.”But sometimes, “Good things come in small packages.”

“Look before you leap.”But, “He who hesitates is lost.”

“Don’t talk to strangers.”But, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”

“Variety is the spice of life.”But sometimes, “Don’t change horses in midstream.”

“All good things come to those who wait.”But sometimes, “Time and tide wait for no man.”

“Rome wasn’t built in a day.”But, “Time and tide wait for no man.”

“A miss is as good as a mile.”But sometimes, “Half a loaf is better than none.”

“Don’t speak too soon.”But sometimes, “Speak now or forever hold your peace.”

“Money can’t buy you love.”But, “Romance without finance can be a nuisance.”

“Never do evil, that good may come of it.”But, “The end justifies the means.”

“If you want something done right, do it yourself.”But sometimes, “Two heads are better than one.”

“There’s no fool like an old fool.”But, “An old fox is not easily snared.”

“Divide and rule.”But, “United we stand, divided we fall.”

“It’s never too late.”But, “The early bird catches the worm.”

“The early bird catches the worm.”But, “Good things come to those who wait.”

“To thine own self be true.”But, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

“With age comes wisdom.”But, “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings come all wise sayings.”

“Actions speak louder than words.”But, “It’s the thought that counts.”

“It’s the thought that counts.”But, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

“Curiosity killed the cat.”But, “Ask and you shall receive.”

“Birds of a feather flock together.”But, “Opposites attract.”

“Ask and you shall receive.”But, “Ask no questions and hear no lies.”

“Faith will move mountains.”But, “Doubt is the beginning, not the end, of wisdom.”

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”But, “You’re never too old to learn.”

“Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.”But, “Let sleeping dogs lie.”

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”But, “Take no for an answer.”

“Knowledge is power.”But, “Ignorance is bliss.”

“It never rains, then it pours.”But sometimes, “Lightning never strikes twice in the same place.”

“Better safe than sorry.”But, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

“Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.”But, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”

“Silence is golden.”But sometimes, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”But, “Idle hands do the devil’s work.”

“Practice makes perfect.”But, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

“If one door shuts, another opens.”But, “Opportunity never knocks twice on the same door.”

“Don’t preach to the choir.”But, “Don’t cast pearls before swine.”

“Many hands make light work.”But, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.”

“Too many cooks spoil the broth.”But, “Two heads are better than one.”

“Don’t cross the bridge until you reach it.”But, “Forewarned is forearmed.”

“One size fits all.”But sometimes, “Different strokes for different folks.”

“The best things in life are free.”But, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

“A good beginning makes a good ending.”But, “It’s not over till it’s over.”

“Hold fast to the words of your ancestors.”But, “Wise men make proverbs; fools repeat them.”

Albert Mehrabian’s 7-38-55 Rule of Personal Communication

7-38-55 Rule of Personal Communication

In communication, a speaker’s words are only a fraction of his efforts. The pitch and tone of his voice, the speed and rhythm of the spoken word, and the pauses between those words may express more than what is being communicated by words alone. Further, his gestures, posture, pose and expressions usually convey a variety of subtle signals. These non-verbal elements can present a listener with important clues to the speaker’s thoughts and feelings and thus substantiate or contradict the speaker’s words.

The most commonly and casually cited study on the relative importance of verbal and nonverbal messages in personal communication is one by Prof. Albert Mehrabian of the University of California in Los Angeles. In the 1970s, his studies suggested that we overwhelmingly deduce our feelings, attitudes, and beliefs about what someone says not by the actual words spoken, but by the speaker’s body language and tone of voice.

In fact, Prof. Mehrabian quantified this tendency: words, tone of voice, and body language respectively account for 7%, 38%, and 55% of personal communication.

The non-verbal elements are particularly important for communicating feelings and attitude, especially when they are incongruent: if words and body language disagree, one tends to believe the body language.

Pre-Wiring Presentations: Preventing Surprise Reactions If a speaker’s words and body language differ, listeners are more likely to believe the nonverbal communication of the speaker, not his words. For example, if a person states, “I don’t have a problem with you!” while avoiding eye-contact, looking anxious, and maintaining a closed body language, the listener will probably trust the predominant form of communication, which according to Prof. Mehrabian’s findings is non-verbal (38% + 55%), rather than the literal meaning of the words (7%.)

I have two arguments against the oversimplified interpretation of the “7-38-55 Rule.” In the first place, it is very difficult to quantify the impact of tone of voice and body language on the effectiveness of communication. Secondly, such quantifications are very subjective and cannot be applied as a rule to all contexts. Prof. Mehrabian himself has cautioned,

“Total Liking = 7% Verbal Liking + 38% Vocal Liking + 55% Facial Liking. Please note that this and other equations regarding relative importance of verbal and nonverbal messages were derived from experiments dealing with communications of feelings and attitudes (i.e., like—dislike). Unless a communicator is talking about their feelings or attitudes, these equations are not applicable.”

This study is a convenient—if not accurate—reminder that nonverbal cues can be more valuable and telling than verbal ones. Therefore, to be effective and persuasive in our verbal communication—in presentations, public speaking, or personal communication—it is essential to complement our words with the right tone and voice and the appropriate body language.

Stephen King’s Tips for Writing Better

Stephen King's Tips for Writing Better

Here are tips on writing from the celebrated science-fiction author Stephen King’s popular book “On Writing–A Memoir of the Craft.” The first third of this book is a short memoir of the prolific author and the second section, the namesake “On Writing,” is unadulterated inspiration for serious authors and anybody with an inclination to improve their written communication skills.

  • Get to the point. Do not waste your reader’s time with too much back-story, long intros or longer anecdotes about your life. Reduce the noise.
  • 'On Writing--A Memoir of the Craft' by Stephen King (ISBN 1413818720) Write a draft. Then let it rest. King recommends that you crank out a first draft and then put it in your drawer to let it rest. This enables you to get out of the mindset you had when you wrote the draft and get a more detached and clear perspective on the text.
  • Cut down your text. When you revisit your text, it is time to kill your darlings and remove all the superfluous words and sentences. Removing will de-clutter your text and often get your message through with more clarity and a bigger emotional punch.
  • Be relatable and honest. One of the keys to doing that is to have an honest voice and honest characters with both bad and good sides to them. People we can relate to with all of their faults, passions, fears, weaknesses and good moments. Another key to being honest and relatable is keeping a conversational style.
  • Write a lot. To become a better writer you probably—and not so surprisingly – need to write more.

Communication is all about the audience: it is about directing the audience to identify with your point of view and comprehend the precise message you want to convey. The writing tips in Stephen King’s “On Writing” will help you focus on your message—be it in a speech, a blog post, an essay, or an email.

To echo the ideas summarized above, read my earlier blog article about beginning with the end: the most effective start to the communication process is to begin at the end and enumerate the outcome. List the conclusions the audience should draw from your effort. Setting a goal for your communication helps you collect and present ideas logically.

Written Communication Tips #2: British English or American English?

British English or American English

The popularity of the English language spread with the British Empire. Over four centuries, the English vocabulary expanded by absorbing words and phrases from diverse languages and cultures. Various geographies developed dialects–specific styles and patterns in spelling, grammar and sentence construction.

Two of the predominant dialects of English are the British style (through the expansion of the British Empire) and American style (courtesy of American capitalism.)

Differences in spelling and vocabulary are easily noticeable: colour (in British English) v/s color (in American English), cutlery v/s silverware, petrol v/s gasoline, aeroplane v/s airplane, etc. Purists can also recognise differences in grammar and usage: ‘Indianapolis are the champions‘ (in British English) v/s ‘Indianapolis is the champion’ (in American English.)

Guidelines to Choose between British and American English

When working on a résumé, report or any other form of written communication, here are three general guidelines to choose between the British style and American style.

  • When writing for a predominantly American audience, use the American style. When writing for a predominantly British audience, including audience in the former British-colonies (India, Singapore, etc.,) use the British style. For example, use American spellings and grammar to compose a résumé for an ‘on-site’ job opening in the United States.
  • Use the style that is apt for the subject of your document. For example, if you are writing an article on the Fall-colours you witnessed during your trip to the United States, use the term ‘Fall‘ instead ‘Autumn‘ to refer to the season, even if you are writing for a predominantly British audience. (‘Fall’ in American English is equivalent to ‘Autumn’ in British English.)
  • If you are writing for a broader audience, be consistent–pick a style and stick to it throughout the document.

The Twelve Most Persuasive Words in English


“Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind; the third on the proof, provided by the words of the speech itself.”
– A Rephrasing of Aristotle’s Rhetoric

The choice of words is one of the key components of persuasive communication. In marketing, advertising, grant- or project proposal writing, or in most other interactions, we attempt to influence someone’s mind about an idea or a product.

The Twelve Most Persuasive Words in EnglishBelow is a list (in order) of the twelve most persuasive words that have proven to be most influential on listeners’ or readers’ minds. Often, advertisements consist of crafty constructions of these words. Surprisingly, the word ‘free’ is absent. The Language Log website at the University of Pennsylvania has an interesting thread on the source of this list.

  1. You
  2. Money
  3. Save
  4. New
  5. Results
  6. Health
  7. Easy
  8. Safety
  9. Love
  10. Discovery
  11. Proven
  12. Guarantee

How will we use these words in our verbal and written communications? How will we incorporate these words into our everyday vocabulary?