What Bird is the State Bird in Seven Different U.S. States?

Answer: the cardinal. This red or brown pointy-headed bird is the state bird in Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Illinois.

Each of these states are probably not concerned with their individuality being compromised, because the cardinal is said to have an “accent” when it sings. It sounds strange and incredible, but it’s a commonly observed phenomenon among birds. Bird songs tend to vary from region to region among the same species of bird.

Some birdwatchers have a cult-like following to this bird. Think about it. The songs of these little fellas have probably permeated every outdoor event in sections of the United States for as long as you’ve been alive. I bet this video below sounds familiar to you.

Compare it to the blue jay to get a small picture about why so many birders despise blue jays. (It really doesn’t help that they eat paint off of houses).

Personally, I think they are hilarious. They remind me of crows, which many think of distastefully. The reason why they are such big bullies in the backyard is because they really are big brainiacs and know how to get what they want.

Cardinals may be birdbrained, but they have a sweet, inoffensive tweet, and the males are breathtakingly beautiful in the snow. I truly believe their winter beauty is why they are such a popular state bird. Observe in the next snow.

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Neat Little Online Writing Tools

There are all kinds of online tools designed to help you write at your expert disposal. Here are three of ones that I personally recommend. (Note: author gets no revenue from this 🙂 )

Calmly Writer Online

With this, you can eliminate a few steps of opening a Word document or going to your email to open Google Docs. It’s a completely blank webpage where you can type away if something suddenly enters your mind. A small lotus icon fades in and out when you mouse over. Click it and there will be options to download, add a picture and do a grammar check. It even readily displays your word count. It has a link to a typewriter sound extension, but it appears to be glitchy and does not work on some computers.

calmlywriter.com

(It is very easy to get sucked into the Chrome Web Store, but there are plenty of fun things to explore that, who knows, may turn out to be handy. And if you’re dying to make your theme feature colorful hummingbirds, you have come to the right place.)

2016-06-26

TitleCap

This tool does the rule research for you. Select from three different options and then type your title in the bar, and it will fix the capitalization for you. Click on the text below to be re-briefed on the capitalization rules.

This is actually a webpage I use almost daily. I hope everyone is as thrilled with this as I have been!

titlecapitalization.com

WordPress

Aside from featuring your creative, personal blog, WordPress just happens to be a shared favorite writing site among writers and employers alike because of its friendly layout and ease of use. Of course, the paid features are amazing, but consider all of your unpaid options as well. WordPress actually does a lot in the way of SEO for the novice user.

Many people are not familiar with this, but the main reason I advocate it is because you can use it as a free portfolio site.

Type “/wp-admin” after your blog’s URL to arrive at your dashboard. Go to settings > writing, and then check the enable box for “portfolio projects”. Have fun!

If you would like added instruction: https://en.support.wordpress.com/portfolios/

“It was a Dark and Stormy Night…” Part II

Part I for those who missed it

Maybe you have decided that if people just want cheap thrills in their reading, you are going to cater to that. The following points are something you should consider before stringing cliches like beads to create a new story.

It Has Probably Been Done Before

You won’t be the first person to create a thrilling murder mystery, a forbidden romance, commentary on a political situation or a summary of interesting content. For every thrilling idea that occurs to you, there are probably thousands of books and articles already using it.

However, readers seem to greatly enjoy reading several books or articles with the same plots of premises. I know I do. I can read a hundred articles online about certain types of birds because I have owned them as pets. But I’m not going to read the same set of facts over and over. I like it when writers bring in their individual stories to help explain points or add a dash of humor.

Don’t underestimate how a focus on details can make a reader want to be carried along through what is essentially the same hill he’s gone over many times before only with different scenery.

Look at the News

There is a reason why journalistic writing is plain; the pure, newsworthy plot moves everything along and keeps readers engrossed. Despite this, most journalists are still taught to avoid cliches, because people also appreciate a touch of creativity. If a piece with an exciting plot that has the added benefit of being real avoids cliches, that should tell you something.

You Can’t Go Too Crazy

In the pursuit of creating something no one has ever seen, you may get very wild with your story. There are two major points to recognize before trying this.  This mainly applies to fictional works.

Readers Will Lose Interest in a Totally Wild Idea

In a world where anything can happen at any moment, people are not as invested in wondering about what happens next. Additionally, people want to relate to what they read to immerse themselves. That’s why fantasy is a difficult genre for a lot of people to be successful with. If you write a story where a talking eagle rides on the backs of dolphins searching for a sacred pine cone disco ball floating out in sea, you better be one hell of a writer.

eagle

It’s Probably One of the Same Recycled Ideas Anyway

Chances are, no matter how wild your plot gets, you can put it in one of many boxes filled with others of its kind. That eagle story is just a jazzed up version of a classic adventure story in pursuit of an artifact.

These points are why writing skill matters!

The Pursuit of Technical Writing

“If you want to become a technical writer, get an engineering degree.”

I believe there is much truth to this statement. Technical writing does not rely on writing skills so much as an understanding of material. While a technical education may not necessarily be a job requirement for technical writing, it would almost certainly be more valued by employers than creative writing. However, if you choose this route, keep in mind that any writing opportunity is going to pay less than other options in your field.

This advice is mostly applicable to recent graduates or those just starting out. Once you’re in a field, it really doesn’t matter if you majored in music, happy baby birds or only have a high school education. If you can slap 5 years of experience on the table in, say, pharmaceutical technical wtiting, you are pretty much golden.

nest

I am not one to put down a creative writing degree, for as long as you are resourceful and determined, you can find something to suit your needs. Many journalistic opportunities, for example, prefer a journalism/mass communication background, but they will gladly accept a talented creative writer.

Technical writers, feel free to comment and share your career path!

“It was a Dark and Stormy Night…”

Yuck.

bush

Human beings employ cliches such as the one in the title as a quick, easy way to communicate. There’s nothing artsy about it, but if you’re telling a scary story when you’re out camping, you are going for quick communication of ideas. In that case, you want to have all the focus on the plot and nothing else.

That is sort of the way us humans work in our day to day lives. If you have a huge event that you want to get straight to and convey, you will probably use several cliches while explaining it. The burglar didn’t enter the house with a knife strapped on his leg, ammo in his pocket, holding a revolver in one hand and a semi-automatic in the other; he was armed to the teeth. If you just want to explain that your sister just had a traumatic experience, you probably don’t even know what the burglar was carrying anyway.

So, if this is true, why do people find too many cliches in their leisure reading so off-putting? Obviously, there are many people who like exciting plots and like to get straight to it. But cliches cannot truly immerse someone in an individual event. By their nature, they hide specific details. People most read leisure for…leisure. There’s something to be said for cheap thrills, but value also has it’s appeal.

Would you rather pay $15 for a great plot and rehashed phrases and themes or an entirely new adventure?

Also, try to avoid ironic uses of cliches and parts of cliches as titles, for example, “A Bird in the Hand. It’s been done. I promise. Cliches don’t describe your book or article very well. “It was a Dark and Stormy Night” is also just awful. 🙂

Satire, You’re My Best Friend

When you’re good, that is.

Bad satire is one of the most painful things to read. At least when fiction writing or informative writing is kind of poor, you can still enjoy it. There are certain things that have to be true about a satire piece for readers to enjoy it, however.

The Target Market Has to Side With You

If most Americans think hummingbirds are cute, and you write an article poking fun at how ugly hummingbirds are, it is not going to be received well. It doesn’t matter if your article is hilarious to 5% of the population because they don’t like that type of bird. The other 95% will not be receptive to your clever writing.

hummingbird

If you write for a Republican blog and you satirize lawmakers who enforce cocaine regulation, it will not be well received. You can make great points, but people really just want to laugh or smirk at satire, and having views challenged just makes anyone salty.

Racism, sexism and other -isms are really obvious in satire. Some people can pull off being funny by pointing out a possible connection between a real job ad looking for a marketer for a Synagogue and a low hourly wage, if they get the context right. Very few people find you funny by implying Jewish people are straight up bad people, but there are plenty who will go out of their way to avoid your writing in the future.

Writing About Hummingbirds Won’t Cut It

People are just not as invested about most topics as they are about political and social commentary. Most people just plain don’t have a strong opinion on hummingbirds or most topics, actually. Why do you think The Onion does so well?

Yet, even The Onion has bad days, which goes to show there are other, more delicate factors to consider.

There are many other things that make great satire. But it’s very difficult to explain what makes things funny. That’s why in the professional world of satire writing, you either have it or you don’t. And if you don’t, you’re very lucky to get further criticism other than “it’s boring” or “no one cares about hummingbirds that much”. So if your satire is bad, it’s just best to let it die.

The Bane of Website Writing

Everyone can write online, but not everyone can write it well. Some employers seem to be completely blind to glaring errors on their website. More likely than not, they did it themselves, hired someone for “experience and portfolio expansion” (slave labor), or hired someone for very cheap (slave labor with benefits). Due to their small company or greed, they have terrible writing that they are blind to. But customers and clients have a very fine-tuned detector for sloppy content.

Goose

Abundant errors that slip past your spell checker are one big factor make work look cheap. I have a few tricks that I use to help me edit my own work. But first, take a look at this passage which passes the red squiggle test:

“welcome to  nicks web site !  if you are looking fer clothe, shoos,, purse or moor, you have com too the the rite place!  are prices are low er then any other distributor on line!  we Cary all the Big Brands AS Well As lots s off smaller ones.”

Copy and paste that onto a WordPress editor and see that it passes. That’s why you don’t want to rely too heavily on your spell check tool. Below are my suggestions for supplementing your spell check.

Ctrl + F

Pressing these two buttons together brings up a search bar at the top right area of your screen. Type something into the bar and it will search the entire document for it. I like to search for two spaces in a row. This is handy because you should only be using one space during typing, including after punctuation. Additionally, it can be really hard to spot extra spaces with just your eyes. After you identify the offenders, you can go back and take one space away.

Don’t Guess on Capitalization

If you don’t know which words to capitalize, Google the phrase or rules. If there is any doubt in your mind, there’s a chance you are wrong, and your content will look odd to people who know better. You can eliminate this possibility with one of the greatest gifts of technology, given us by Alan Emtage–the search engine. This goes for spellings as well, but capitalization abuse is rampant.

Read Aloud

This rule is old but gold. Reading aloud causes you to go slower and pay more attention to the text. This especially helps with accidental repetition of small words like “the”.

Apply these tips to your latest document and see how it works. If you’re not already doing the third tip for your work, I’m shaking my head. Don’t underestimate its efficacy!