Statistics and Magician’s Wife Tuesday, Feb 23 2016 

 

Storytelling throughout history was the passing on of the essence of an event. Specific details were not necessary. It was a person’s emotional interpretation of a significant occurrence. The heart of the story was what was important.

These stories would get passed down by word of mouth, so they altered along the way. I recently heard on the science program, Nova, that every time we recall a memory, we edit it. It becomes less and less accurate because our imagination fills in bits and pieces of things that may have happened, and then those imagined additions become part of the memory.

Today, we do more reporting than storytelling. We want specific details—time, dates, and numbers. When I wrote Sunday feature articles for the Chicago Tribune, three things were to be included: real voices, meaningful quotes, and statistics. Stories needed to be about people with real concerns, told in their own words, and backed up with relevant data.

Statics are an important element in substantiating a story. They tell a level of truth in numbers. Although it was my least favorite college class, I do realize its significance from sports and politics to science and demographics. However, in all reality, even those numbers are a matter of interpretation and can be twisted.

WordPress offers a stats page for each of my blogs. It shows the number of views, likes, visitors, and comments for every post and even where those viewers are located. These numbers give me an idea of who is reading my blogs and whether they are of interest to anyone. There is a wide variation of numbers for many reasons including relevancy of content, writing style, and the time and day of posting.

My most viewed post ran back on August 19, 2013. It had 777 views on WordPress plus countless others via Facebook reposting.

For those who might like to re-read it, and those who never saw it, here it is again:Top 10 Ways You Know You Are a Magicians Wife

©2016, Mary K Doyle

Expressing Sympathy Tuesday, Aug 5 2014 

“We have no words to express our sorrow.” Really? There are at least a quarter of a million words in the English language. Did you actually run out of all of them? After a death, we wish to express our sadness and offer a bit of comfort to their close friends and family. We say some silly things because we just don’t know what to say. We don’t know how to make things better. One of the most common sentences in sympathy cards is, “You are in my thoughts and prayers.” If you’ve experienced the death of a loved one, you probably received a stack of notes with this sentence. These, and other common expressions such as, “I’m sorry for your loss” or “I’m sorry for your troubles,” are fine to start with, but you might stop and think for just a moment. Begin by thinking about the person you are writing to and the one who passed away:

  • Can you say something kind about your friend or their deceased loved one?
  • Perhaps you have a fond memory of them that you can share.
  • Can you remark on their outstanding reputation, personality, or generosity?
  • Did the deceased suffer a long illness or die suddenly?
  • Was your friend involved in their care?
  • Can you identify with your friend’s loss?
  • Do you know of a Bible verse, prayer, or poem that is appropriate?

Expressing a thought imperfectly is better than not saying anything at all. Go ahead and use those common phrases if you can’t come up with anything else. But taking one more minute to think before writing or speaking truly can offer a moment of comfort to someone who is grieving.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Why We Write Friday, Jun 20 2014 

My online friend, Terry McDermott, asked me to continue a series on writing that is being passed from one writer to another. There are four basic questions you may find of interest if you are a writer or interested in the writing process.

Here are the questions and my answers:

1. What are you working on?

I have several projects in the works. I write posts for:

I also am working on two different books on the same topic. But it’s too early in the process to talk about them just yet.

 

2. What makes your work different from others’ work in the same genre?

My goal is to write in easy, digestible language on matters relevant to most of us. I try to keep everything positive but realistic and offer options and resolutions where possible.

 

3. Why do you write what you do?

I write on topics I want to know more about and think my readers do to. I search for credible research and offer it to the public in a clear, concise post or book. In the end, it is the post or book that I was hoping to find before I began writing.

 

4. How does your writing process work?

I begin my day in prayer, and one of the things I pray about is for the Holy Spirit to guide my writing.

Then I make notes in a running list of topics. Whether I’m writing a short piece or an entire book, I think of the project as a puzzle. I write out lists and fragments of thought, lay out all the pieces, and then begin fitting them together until I have the full picture.

I read and rewrite everything repeatedly, and I read the piece aloud at least once. We can usually hear if something is unclear or awkward even if we don’t see it.

Once I feel I’m ready to publish, I end in prayer. I ask that the right people get the right information in a way that is meaningful to them.

 

And now I tag two other writers I want to know more about and think you also will find of interest:

Seasonsgirl, on the seasons of life

Interesting Literature, about authors and famous works

(See Terry’s blog, 8 Kids and a Business, which centers on current issues important to Catholics today. )

©2014 Mary K. Doyle

 

http://8kidsandabusiness.wordpress.com/

 

Lost in Interpretation Tuesday, Apr 1 2014 

The first thing I said to my sister when I called was that I couldn’t talk long.

“How long do you have to talk,” Patti asked. And then we both laughed. With the inflection in her voice, it sounded like she was asking, “How long must you talk to me?” rather than, “How much time do you have to talk?” which is what she intended.

Our words are often misunderstood. How many arguments include the words, “That’s not what I meant” and “That’s not what I said”? We don’t speak clearly, in correct language, or express ourselves accurately. We mumble and speak in sound bites. Nor do we censor our own words nearly enough, and once they are out, they cannot be retrieved.

Listeners also have their issues. We don’t listen well, we are distracted, take things out of context, and hear emotionally rather than intellectually. We interpret the meaning of what is said from our perspective rather than take it in literally. We talk at the same time the other person is speaking, which means we aren’t listening.

We talk to such a great an extent that it is impossible to weigh every word. If we say every thought out-loud (or on social media), how can we not get ourselves in trouble?

Peace between family and friends begins with one brief moment of consideration before speaking, texting, or emailing. If what we are saying is important enough to express, let’s vow to take a moment to do it clearly and thoughtfully. And let’s at least attempt to listen like we want to be listened to.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

 

Truth Be Known Friday, Jan 24 2014 

In the presence of young children you hear some interesting stories. I worked in preschool classrooms for a number of years as an assistant and then as the lead teacher. It wasn’t unusual to learn from the little angels what happened at home the previous evening, some of which was best not repeated.

Most often, I informed parents of what their child told me. I felt they should be aware of what little eyes saw, how it was understood, and that I knew. I also assured them that I realized the story was taken out of context and interpreted by a preschooler.

I keep this in mind when interviewing and speaking with adults as well. We can’t help but taint the information we pass on due to our own personal viewpoints, experiences, prejudices, and knowledge. We make judgments and assumptions before we know all the facts. How often do you hear people comment on the actions of celebrities as if they know the whole story from the snippet presented on the news?

The “truth” is often buried in the midst of random comments, observations, and rumors. The saying made famous by Edgar Allen Poe, “Believe only half of what you see and nothing that you hear,” reminds us to take lightly what is offered as fact. Even when an entire community speaks something as truth, it is not necessarily so.

Early in my journalism career a respected editor encouraged me to use credible sources and real voices in telling a story. I continue this practice when verifying facts even for these short blog postings. For example, in some of the past posts written on medical topics I searched sources such as the American Medical Association, Mayo Clinic, American Pediatrics, and Alzheimer’s Association for information. I also look for “experts” in the field, people with first-hand experience.

And whether interviewing sources for an in-depth piece or casually chatting with an individual, I consider the person’s credibility. Are they stable individuals really in a position to know what they are talking about? Are they so close to someone or something that they do not recognize potential problems or flaws? Are they jealous or envious of the person we are speaking about?

Determining the absolute truth may be impossible, but if it is important for us to know, we have to verify the facts to our best ability, assess the credibility of our sources, and make our best unbiased judgment. Anything other than that is pointless.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

LOL, My BFF Monday, Nov 11 2013 

Texting is not a verbal language. My son-in-law Steve says this to the young people whom he works with. But it probably won’t be long before some of it actually is.

Language is never stagnant. If you read a 20 year-old book, you will notice that some of the wording is dated. Words are incorporated into our language from other languages, cultures, and trends. The more we use new words, alter their meaning, or discontinue their use, the more likely they will become a part of our everyday language in their new form. There is a whole area that deals with this. Etymology is the study of the history of words – their origins and how they evolved.

Many of our newer words, or ways in which we use them, are associated with technology. My grandparents would have no idea what email or Internet means, and they used the words domain and reboot quite differently than we do today.

Texting also has created many words and prompted a shorthand young people know very well. As if written in code, those unfamiliar with texting have little to no clue as to the letters’ and symbols’ meanings. The danger is when we no longer know how to spell-out what they represent, such as R (are) and luv (love).

And yes, we will pick up many of these text words in our daily spoken and written language. B4 u know it the general public may simply say LOL (Lots of Laughs or Laughing out Loud) and BFF (Best Friends Forever). 🙂

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

What “I” Says About Me Tuesday, Nov 5 2013 

If I use the word “I” often, is it really all about me?

A recent article by Elizabeth Berstein in the Wall Street Journal said that the amount of times we say the word “I” says more about us than we realize. The common thought was that the more we used the personal pronoun, the more self-centered we are. Traditionally it’s considered rude to begin a letter with the word “I” because it places the focus on the writer rather than the point of the letter or person the letter is addressed to.

It’s also interesting that in the English language we capitalize the personal pronoun whereas in most other languages, it is lower case such as yo in Spanish, je in French, and ja in Polish. Some may say that shows how self-centered we are as a culture.

But in fact, research from the University of Texas indicates that people who say the word “I” often are less powerful or sure of themselves. They believe it is an indication that they feel subordinate to the person they are talking to.

And marriage therapists encourage partners to speak from their point of view and use the word “I” during a confrontation. The practice of saying what “I” feel, did, or said is less accusatory than pointing the finger and saying what “you” do, did, or should be doing. Some research also indicates that it is more difficult to lie when using the word “I.”

At this point I don’t know how I feel about the use of the word “I,” or how often I use it, but I can honestly say, I don’t lie and I didn’t do it.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

Breaking the Myth Monday, May 6 2013 

In a time when our writing is becoming less proper by the moment, we still are hanging on to the old myth that a sentence should never end in a preposition. I know I avoided it for most of my writing career, but I assure you, it is perfectly acceptable to do so.

Prepositions are words used before nouns and pronouns to form phrases that modify verbs, nouns, or adjectives. They deal with time and space. Examples of prepositions include: above, about, around, before, beneath, beyond, near, of, on, outside, under, upon, to, toward, and with.

If you want to sound more sophisticated, go ahead and say, “To whom shall I send this?” But writing or saying, “Who should I send this to?” really is just fine.

After I write something, I read it aloud. I can usually hear if the sentence is awkward even if I don’t see it on the computer.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

Writing Clinic: All Together/Altogether, All Ready/Already, All Right/Alright Thursday, Mar 21 2013 

In the English language, we love to combine our words but then become confused as to how to use them, especially if the meaning changes slightly. We often find this with words that involve all, such as all together and altogether; all ready and already; and all right and alright.

Here are a few tips to help keep them straight:

A good way to remember when to use all together or altogether is that all together is used when the items that are grouped remain separate whereas altogether indicates the blending of the items, such as seen in the words themselves.

All together means “in unison,” “gathered in one place.” Use this pair of words when several things or people are brought into close proximity.

Examples:

  • The workers met all together in the cafeteria.
  • The choir sang all together.

Altogether means “entirely,” “completely.” If you can substitute either of these words, use altogether.

Examples:

  • Mix the ingredients altogether. (Mix the ingredients completely.)
  • This book is altogether different from the first one in the series. (This book is entirely different from the first one in the series.)

* * *

All ready means something is “completely prepared.” If you can use only the word “ready,” then “all ready” is correct.

Examples:

  • Dinner is all ready. (Dinner is completely prepared. Dinner is ready.)
  • My speech is all ready for the convention. (My speech is ready.)

Already has to do with time. This word means “by now,” “before now,” or “prior to a specified time.”

Examples:

  • I arrived at the theater by eight but the play already started.
  • She wanted another cookie but already brushed her teeth.

You can see the difference when used in the same sentence: Jack was all ready for work but his train already came.

***

All right and alright are interchangeable with some restrictions. Alright is generally accepted, but some sources continue to state that the word is a misspelling of all right. You may want to use the full form in academic or more conservative writings.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

Why the Nuns Should Oversee the Internet Monday, Mar 11 2013 

We were warned. Bad behavior would become part of our PERMANENT RECORD. Our shenanigans would be evident to the world and follow us forever.

When I was a kid, the Sisters, more commonly referred to as “The Nuns,” used the ominous threat of our actions being etched in stone to control the large classrooms of more than 50 students. I don’t know if that made any difference to the bad kids, but the Miss Goody Two Shoes, which includes you-know-who, took this message very seriously. I didn’t want anything to get into the way of maintaining an unblemished PERMANENT RECORD.

We laugh at that disciplinary threat today but we also have to admit, the nuns were right. Many of our actions follow us to the grave. Nowhere is that more certain than on the Internet, which is why I think the nuns should oversee it.

We’ve been told a hundred times that nothing is forgotten or forgiven online. Social media owns our rants, ridicules, and inappropriate postings and photos in perpetuity – forever.

If the nuns were running the show, we’d be stopped in our tracks before posting. We quickly would be reminded and reprimanded saving us from another regrettable entry on our PERMANENT RECORD.

Here are a few other ways the nuns would improve our online experience:

  • Respect. The number one rule would be to respect one another and ourselves. Every post, email, or website would respect the rights of every viewer.
  • Posture. The nuns required us to stand tall, so too, online, we would present ourselves strong and true.
  • Homework. No shooting from the hip or blabbing on about topics that we know nothing about. Postings would be researched and substantiated with credible resources.
  • Quiet Time. If we don’t have something of substance to say, no entry would be allowed. This is when we’d be watching, listening, reading, and learning.
  • Service. Much of our online presence would make a difference, it would be an avenue to improve the lives of those less fortunate.
  • Better Dating Services. No touching, no foul or inappropriate language, and no revealing photos allowed. The nuns know who belongs with whom. Everyone would end up partnered, married, and live happily ever after.
  • Editing. At the very least, our spelling and grammar would be impeccable.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

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