Friday, June 8, 2018

How to Measure Your Goals as a Writer and Business Professional

If reaching your business and writing goals is a journey, setting them is only the first step. To continue along the path and ultimately reach your destination, you must measure your progress along the way. But how?

Consider for a moment how you might track your advancement along a physical route. You may look for landmarks, count your miles, or keep track of the hours spent on the road.

Though same principles apply to your objectives, you need to choose a method that fits well with your aim. For example, let’s say your goal is to attend a writer’s conference each year.

Here’s a tip:  Grammarly runs on powerful algorithms developed by the world’s leading linguists, and it can save you from misspellings, hundreds of types of grammatical and punctuation mistakes, and words that are spelled right but used in the wrong context. Learn More 

Take Small Steps

Any goal that involves a process, such as attending a conference, can be measured by steps. First, compose a sequential list of the actions that make up your goal—and break up large tasks into smaller lists if necessary. Consult the master list regularly to monitor your progress. (You might explore some supportive apps, such as Clear Todos, if you want to view your list on your smartphone.) Let’s look at our example:

  • Find several conferences that cover my topic of interest.
  • Research the full cost of each conference, including travel, hotels, and registration fees.
  • Eliminate the conferences that conflict with my schedule or fall outside of my budget.
  • Select one conference to attend and download the registration forms.
  • Create a budget for the trip. Plan how much to save in the time leading up to the event, if necessary.
  • Submit a time-off request to my manager.
  • Register for the conference.
  • Arrange for transportation and lodging.
  • Create a packing list.
  • Pack for the conference, and double check.
  • Create a schedule of my preferred panels.
  • Attend the conference.

After the conference, review the above checklist and make any necessary adjustments based on your experience. You can file your list for next year and use it when you need to plan again.

Budget Your Time

Time measurement is the best type of quantification for long-term goals, especially those centered on improvement. For instance, a writer with the intention of writing more regularly may measure his goal of writing more often by setting a timer for 30 minutes each morning. The goal is complete each day when the timer sounds, and when you’ve completed your hourly goal for the week.

Do it Again

Another way to measure an improvement goal is by how frequently you practice. A writer who wants to write more can make an X on the calendar each day she writes with the purpose of accumulating a certain amount of marks per week or month. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld enjoyed so much making a big red X on his calendar each day that he created new material that he began a game with himself: Don’t break the chain. Just seeing your string of past accomplishments may be the push you need to work toward your goal every day.

Do the Math

You can break down goals that have a specific outcome into percentages or milestones. On a road trip, these would be your quarter, half, and three-quarters, and final landmarks. One business goal that suits this type of analysis is to earn $5000 in commission. Your benchmarks would be $1250, $2500, $3750, and $5000. Of course, you can make the percentage targets smaller if you desire. You may find yourself motivated to put in extra effort when you come close to reaching a target, especially if you make a visual display of your advancement. The Way of Life! app uses a color system to identify, monitor, and modify your habits. You can set up reminders to strengthen your positive habits. View trends in charts, chains, and even scoreboards.

Are you Satisfied?

On the other hand, goals without clearly measurable stages may prove more difficult to quantify with the above methods. Let’s say your goal is to improve your assertiveness. You may have a culminating objective (e.g., asking for a raise), but how will you track the development of your goal along the way?

Evaluate your personal satisfaction using a rating system. For example, if you felt as assertive as you could be, assign yourself a ten. Anything less than peak level should receive a lower number with one being passive. Over time, you will be able to see if you are getting more assertive by comparing your numbers for each week. (Remember, only an honest appraisal will generate helpful results!)

When Problems Arise

No journey is entirely free of distractions, detours, and speed bumps. If you feel like you’re deviating from your plan, ask someone distinguished in your field to mentor you or suggest helpful peer literature. Most importantly, don’t give up. It doesn’t matter how many times you run into problems; if you keep moving forward, you will eventually arrive at your goal.

How you measure your goals may vary. The important thing is to monitor your progress, so you feel good when you finally accomplish what you worked for. Which suggestion works best with your current objectives?

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Friday, June 1, 2018

What Is the Singular They, and Why Should I Use It?

In 2015, Grammarly polled our social audiences to see if they supported gender-neutral pronoun usage. The results were a bit surprising: more than half of the audience polled felt that the idea of gender-neutral pronouns was a nonstarter.

With this knowledge, I’d like to appeal to our audience: consider the singular they. Language has changed a lot: the singular they was voted the most important word of the year in 2016, and numerous dictionaries have added gender-neutral usage notes. Merriam-Webster even introduced the gender-neutral honorific Mx. to their unabridged dictionary this year, forever ending the question of what to call someone whose gender is nonbinary (i.e., not male or female).

It’s about time we talked about they in particular and gender-neutral pronouns as a whole, and it’s time we discussed why they’re important to binary and nonbinary folks alike.

First, Some Terminology

Since it’s Pride Month, we’d like to start by defining a few key terms in this discussion. Here are four gender-related terms that you should know:

Gender: A set of cultural identities, expressions, and roles—traditionally categorized as feminine or masculine—that are assigned to people based on the interpretation of their bodies, and more specifically, their sexual and reproductive anatomy. Since gender is a social construction, it is possible for people to reject or modify the assignments given to them and develop something that feels truer and more just to themselves.

Gender binary: A socially constructed system of viewing gender as male or female, in which no other possibilities for gender are believed to exist. The gender binary does not take into account the diversity of gender identities and gender expressions among all people, and is oppressive to anyone who does not conform to dominant societal gender norms. Nonbinary: Adjective describing a person who identifies as neither male nor female.

Of course, these three terms are just the beginning of a discussion about gender, but for the purposes of talking about gender-neutral or third-gender pronouns, they’re a great start. If you have more questions about gender or sexuality, consult GLSEN’s resources on the subject.

Now, to return to pronouns . . .

English Evolves!

One of the great lies about the English language is that it remains static. Grammar pedants and trolls generally operate under a series of assumptions about language, which may or may not reflect current usage and accepted norms. In the linguistics community, there is a term for this view of language: prescriptivism.

Unfortunately for prescriptivists, English is constantly changing—and always has been. Some words that grammar pedants scoff at as obnoxious neologisms were in fact coined as long ago as the nineteenth century. Take “dude” for example. Reviled by grammar trolls the world over, this term has provoked the ire of multiple generations of fuddy-duddies. But did you know that it has its roots in late nineteenth-century British dandyism? Although the term originally described a cultural trend in England, it eventually came to mean “clueless city-dweller” to American cowboys and ranchers (as Mental Floss notes, this is also the origin of the “dude ranch”). However, by WWI, “dude” had flip-flopped again to its current meaning—a cool guy.

Even if we adhere to certain rules to make communication easier for people across regions, dialects, and levels of writing proficiency, the language will eventually evolve. The singular they is simply another way English is changing for the shorter, the more empathetic, and the better. As we’ve mentioned before, the singular they is not even a new phenomenon. Merriam-Webster includes usage examples of the singular they dating back to Shakespeare, with notable additions from the likes of Jane Austen and even the traditionalist W. H. Auden. The singular they is nothing new, but in making our language more inclusive of people of a myriad of genders, this simple word is becoming more and more important.

LGBTQ Harassment and Personal Gender Pronouns

According to a 2015 GLSEN study, more than two-thirds of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer students hear homophobic remarks at school frequently or often. Of these students, 40.5 percent reported hearing harassing remarks specifically targeting transgender students frequently or often. For transgender, genderqueer, genderfluid, and other nonbinary students, this can have extreme consequences, from lower GPAs to missed classes to suicide.

Clearly, language matters, and it’s especially important to people whose gender does not match cultural assumptions. That’s why we support and respect the use of whichever personal gender pronouns a person or group may choose to describe themselves.

What’s a personal gender pronoun, you ask? GLSEN defines personal gender pronouns (PGPs for short) as “The pronoun or set of pronouns that a person would like to be called by when their proper name is not being used.” For people who identify as male or female, this is generally he or she, but trans, nonbinary, or gender non-conforming folks may use a variety of pronouns. They could use the singular gender-neutral “they,” but they could also use one of these options:

1

Although we won’t touch on all the pronoun options listed here, you can see that there are many. So how do you know which one to use? Ask! Asking someone their personal gender pronoun is easy. Just say something like “What pronouns do you use?” or “Is this pronoun right for you?” Most people will be happy to inform or correct you, especially when you ask them early on in your relationship.

Since we’re focusing on the singular gender-neutral they here, it’s important to note that many people at different points of the gender spectrum use “they.” When you’re using it in a sentence, you can say something like this: “They are a talented artist. I really enjoyed their painting of a flower in art class yesterday.”

But Wait, “They” Is Useful for Everyone!

Now that we’ve talked briefly about how to use they for people who have chosen it as their PGP, let’s talk about how it can help people who identify as he or she. Merriam-Webster sums up the situation well in their usage note for they:

They, their, them, themselves: English lacks a common-gender third person singular pronoun that can be used to refer to indefinite pronouns (as everyone, anyone, someone).

Although English has many great qualities, it’s never been great with indefinite pronouns. Traditionally, he was the default pronoun for a person whose gender you didn’t know, as in this quote from Thomas Huxley:

“Suppose the life and fortune of every one of us would depend on his winning or losing a game of chess.”—Thomas Huxley

But, as many have pointed out, gendering all unknown people as male is sexist and inaccurate. That’s why Merriam-Webster, the Oxford English Dictionary, and the American Heritage Dictionary have recently added notes supporting the use of the singular they for a person whose gender you don’t know. “Despite the apparent grammatical disagreement between a singular antecedent like someone and the plural pronoun them, the construction is so widespread both in print and in speech that it often passes unnoticed,”says the American Heritage Dictionary, in their usage note on the subject.

Admittedly, using the singular they in a formal context may still cause some raised eyebrows, so be careful if you’re submitting a paper to a particularly traditional teacher or professor. But the tides are turning, and English will soon be more efficient because of usages like this:

If Sally or George got a cold, I would have sympathy for them.

Note that, if we did not use the singular they, that sentence would read:

If Sally or George got a cold, I would have sympathy for him.

Or, if we tried to make some awkward amalgam of current language norms, we might write:

If Sally or George got a cold, I would have sympathy for him or her.

Furthermore, if Sally or George identified as a gender other than male or female, even the above Frankenstein-ed sentence would be incorrect. After all, your name does not determine your gender or your preferred gender pronouns.

Luckily, using the singular they makes English a more efficient language, and it helps us to avoid awkward sentence constructions. More importantly, it allows you to avoid making assumptions about the gender of a person you don’t know.

Their Pronoun, Themself

Of course, not everyone will agree that it’s time to formally accept the singular gender-neutral they. People who would use they as their preferred gender pronoun have long been the subjects of harassment and discrimination, although things are changing. Grammarly supports the individual choice of pronouns and is using the hashtag #writeproud this month to elevate the visibility of all gender expressions and sexualities.

What do you think about the gender-neutral use of they? Leave a comment below, or tweet your experience with personal gender pronouns.

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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Under the Hood at Grammarly: Transforming Writing Style with AI

When you need to make a good impression on someone you’re writing to, what you say isn’t the only thing you need to think about. How you say it is often just as important. Choosing the right level of formality can be a particular challenge—it’s highly context-dependent, and you often have to make guesses about how your recipient will interpret your tone.

Imagine you’re writing a cover letter. How much of a game-changer would it be if you had a tool that could detect when your writing is too casual (or, sometimes even worse, too formal)? Suddenly your decisions about how to say what you’re trying to say become a lot less murky. You’re not just relying on guesswork about how your recipient will perceive your message—you’ve got an algorithm that’s drawing on lots of data that you don’t personally have. Taking it a step further, what if this tool could not only tell you when something’s off, but actually offer you alternative phrasing that your recipient would like better?

The process of getting a computer to automatically transform a piece of writing from one style to another is called style transfer, and it’s the subject of a forthcoming paper I wrote with my colleague Sudha Rao. It’s an area of particular interest for us here at Grammarly because we know how important it is to communicate the right way.

If you’ve ever wondered how the research engineers at Grammarly build the systems that provide writing suggestions to you, read on.

An Informal Background on Formality

Before diving into the details of our algorithms, let’s take a look at an example of informal vs. formal language.

Informal: Gotta see both sides of the story

Formal: You have to see both sides of the story.

There are a couple of obvious differences between these sentences. The use of slang (“Gotta”) and the lack of punctuation at the end of the first sentence signal informality. There’s a time and a place for this kind of sentence—a text message exchange between friends, for example.

When we looked at how humans rewrote informal sentences in a more formal style, we found that the most frequent changes they made involved capitalization, punctuation, and colloquialisms. We also noticed that humans sometimes have to make more drastic rewrites of a sentence to improve the formality:

Informal: When’re you comin to the meeting?

Formal: Please let me know when you will be attending the meeting.

But how do we teach computers to make edits like the ones above? There are several ways of approaching the problem.

The one we use acknowledges that teaching a computer to translate between writing styles is similar to teaching it to translate languages. This approach is called machine translation, where a computer automatically translates from one language (like French) to another (German). So when tackling the problem of style transfer, it makes sense to start with a translation model—or in our case, multiple models.

What’s a Translation Model?

One of the recent breakthroughs in AI is the use of deep learning, or neural network, techniques for building machine translation models.

Neural machine translation (NMT) models can learn representations of the underlying meaning of sentences. This helps the model learn complex sentence patterns so that the translation is fluent and its meaning is faithful to the original sentence.

Older approaches to machine translation, such as rule-based or phrase-based models (PBMT), break sentences into smaller units, such as words or phrases, and translate them independently. This can lead to grammatical errors or nonsensical results in the translation. However, these models are easier to tweak and tend to be more conservative—which can be an advantage. For example, we can easily incorporate rules that change slang into standard words.

We looked at several different approaches to machine translation to see which is best at style transfer.

Building a Model

NMT and PBMT are full of challenges, not the least of which is finding a good dataset with which to train your models. In this case, we estimated we would need a dataset of hundreds of thousands of informal and formal sentence pairs. Ideally, you’d train your model with millions of sentence pairs, but since style transfer is a fairly new area in the field of Natural Language Processing, there really wasn’t an existing dataset we could use. So, we created one.

We started by collecting informal sentences. We sourced our sentences from questions and responses posted publicly on Yahoo! Answers. We automatically selected over one hundred thousand informal sentences from this set and had a team rewrite each one with formal language, again using predefined criteria. (Check out our paper for details about this process.)

Once you have a dataset, you can start training your model. Training the model means giving it a lot of “source” sentences—in our case, informal sentences—along with a lot of “target” sentences—for us, these are the formal rewrites. The model’s algorithm then looks for patterns to figure out how to get from the source to the target. The more data it has, the better it learns.

In our case, the model has one hundred thousand informal source sentences and their formal rewrites to learn from. We also experimented with different ways of creating artificial formal data to increase the size of our training dataset, since NMT and PBMT models often require a lot more data to perform well.

But you also need a way to evaluate how well your model is accomplishing its task. Did the meaning of the sentence change? Is the new sentence grammatically correct? Is it actually more formal? There are classifiers out there—programs that can automatically evaluate sentences for tone and writing style—and we tested some of the ones most commonly used in academia. However, none of them are very accurate. So, we ended up having humans compare the outputs of the various models we tested and rank them by formality, accuracy, and fluency.

We showed our team the original informal sentence, outputs from several different models, and the human rewrite. We didn’t tell them who—or what—generated each sentence. Then, they ranked the rewrites, allowing ties. Ideally, the best model would be tied with or even better than the human rewrites. In all, the team scored the rewrites of 500 informal sentences.

What We Found

All told, we tested dozens of models, but we’ll focus on the top ones: rule-based, phrase-based (PBMT), neural network-based (NMT), and a couple that combined various approaches.

The human rewrites scored the highest overall, but the PBMT and NMT models were not that far behind. In fact, there were several cases where the humans preferred the model outputs to the human ones. These two models made more extensive rewrites, but they tended to change the meaning of the original sentence.

The rule-based models, on the other hand, made smaller changes. This meant they were better at preserving meaning, but the sentences they produced were less formal. All of the models had an easier time handling shorter sentences than longer ones.

The following is an example of an informal sentence with its human and model rewrites. In this particular case, it was the last model (NMT with PBMT translation) that struck the best balance between formality, meaning, and natural-sounding phrasing.

Original informal: i hardly everrr see him in school either usually i see hima t my brothers basketball games.

Human rewrite: I hardly ever see him in school. I usually see him with my brothers playing basketball.

Rule-based model: I hardly everrr see him in school either usually I see hima t my brothers basketball games.

PBMT model: I hardly see him in school as well, but my brothers basketball games.

NMT model: I rarely see him in school, either I see him at my brother ’s basketball games.

NMT (trained on additional PBMT-generated data): I rarely see him in school either usually I see him at my brothers basketball games.

Style transfer is an exciting new area of natural language processing, with the potential for widespread applications. That tool I hypothesized in the beginning—the one that helps you figure out how to say what you need to say? There’s still plenty of work to be done, but that tool is possible, and it will be invaluable for job seekers, language learners, and anyone who needs to make a good impression on someone through their writing. We hope that by making our data public, we and others in the field will have a way to benchmark each other and move this area of research forward.

As for Grammarly, this work is yet another step toward our vision of creating a comprehensive communication assistant that helps your message be understood just as intended.

Joel Tetreault is Director of Research at Grammarly. Sudha Rao is a PhD student at the University of Maryland and was a research intern at Grammarly. Joel and Sudha will be presenting this research at the 16th Annual Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies in New Orleans, June 1-6, 2018. The accompanying research paper, entitled “Dear Sir or Madam, May I Introduce the GYAFC Dataset: Corpus, Benchmarks and Metrics for Formality Style Transfer,” will be published in the Proceedings of the NAACL.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

This is How to Start a Morning Writing Routine

Establishing a morning writing routine is one of the most important tools in your arsenal when it comes to increasing both the quality and the output of your writing. What are your writing goals? If you want to write a book, start a blog, or be able to consistently conjure up 500, 750, or even 1,000 words a day, you’re going to want to start a morning writing routine.

I recently spoke with numerous writers about their morning writing routines to understand their daily writing practices, and to ask them for advice on how to keep it going.

Here’s a tip:  Grammarly runs on powerful algorithms developed by the world’s leading linguists, and it can save you from misspellings, hundreds of types of grammatical and punctuation mistakes, and words that are spelled right but used in the wrong context. Learn More 

1 Reduce physical and online distractions

If there’s one thing writers are prone to above all else, it’s procrastination. It’s often said that writers enjoy “having written” above the thrill of the writing process itself, but that’s too simplistic of an overview.

When you reduce physical and online distractions from your workspace it will instantly become much easier to stick to a morning writing routine. When I caught up with author and special correspondent for Vanity Fair, Nick Bilton, he noted that: “In the morning, alone in my office without interruption, I can write more in the first couple hours of the day than I can throughout the entire next twelve hours.”

This means everything from keeping a clean desk (more on that below), to closing social media and other distracting websites, to even setting up content blockers on your computer to block these websites so you won’t be tempted to check in on them while you’re writing.

2 Write early (it’s all extra from there)

What is your most important task when you wake up in the morning? If it’s not already writing, then it should be. Economist and author Tyler Cowen, whose main writing period spans from nine o’clock in the morning to midday every day, told me that “Too many people waste some of their most productive morning time showering.” I couldn’t agree more.

Don’t waste your mornings with frivolous tasks that can be just as easily taken care of later in the day. When you begin writing the moment you wake up, you get your most important work out of the way first thing. Or, as author Ryan Holiday notes of his mornings: “I shower, get ready, and head downstairs to my office/library to sit and write. The way I see it, after a productive morning in which I accomplish my big things, the rest of the day can be played by ear. It’s all extra from there.”

With this said, keep in mind that while “early” is subjective, writing the moment you wake up may not work for you. Instead, choose to write when you’re feeling your best, as doing so will naturally improve the quality of what you produce.

3 Choose to embrace the mess—or to tidy it

Are you one of those writers who considers a messy desk the sign of a creative mind? If so, embrace this fact. When I spoke with author and New Yorker columnist Maria Konnikova she described her writing style to me as so: “My desk is a mess, my writing is a mess. When people ask me, ‘What’s your approach to writing?’ my answer is nearly always, ‘Throw up on the screen and see what happens.’”

Of course, many writers are only able to write if they have a tidy desk and tidy home in general (don’t forget the kitchen!). If you fall into this category, don’t change! Your writing routine should be personal to you; if you do your best work when you have a tidy desk, tidy mind, then you should tidy up before you sit down to write. If you write from home, ideally tidy up these areas before going to bed each night.

4 Get some sleep

Having a morning writing routine won’t count for much if you sleep so little that you’re unable to concentrate on your work. If you’re tired and stressed out in the morning, this is going to reflect poorly on your writing (though Grammarly can help with this!).

Senior editor of Fortune magazine, Geoff Colvin, told me that he is a huge advocate of abundant sleep, with him aiming for at least nine hours a night. When I caught up with Arianna Huffington she wanted to drive home the importance of getting enough sleep: “Ninety-five percent of the time I get eight hours of sleep a night, and as a result, 95 percent of the time I don’t need an alarm to wake up. And waking up naturally is, for me, a great way to start the day.”

Of course, convincing ourselves to go to bed at night is harder than it’s ever been—even when we have our morning writing routine to look forward to. If this is a struggle for you, consider this tactic by behavioral designer Nir Eyal, who programmed his router to shut off his internet connection every night at 10:00 p.m.

5 Remember: you’re writing even when you’re not writing

You don’t have to be sat in front of your computer screen to actually write. Much of writing—the organization, the outlining, and all forms of idea creation—can take place in your head as you go about your day.

When I spoke with author and artist Austin Kleon he told me the following about the power of his daily walks: “Almost every single morning, rain or shine, my wife and I load our two sons into a red double stroller (we call it the War Rig) and we take a three-mile walk around our neighborhood. It’s often painful, sometimes sublime, but it’s always essential to our day. It’s when ideas are born, when we make plans, when we spot suburban wildlife, when we rant about politics, when we exorcise our demons.”

An added benefit of writing even when you’re not writing is it frees up your morning writing routine to focus exclusively on the actual pen to paper, fingertips to keyboard act of getting words down when you first wake up.

Benjamin Spall is the co-author of My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day Inspired, and the founding editor of mymorningroutine.com.

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Friday, May 25, 2018

8 Things to Do on the First Day of a New Job

The first day of a new job presents a chance to make a good impression on the people you’ll (hopefully) be working with for years to come. Of course, you’ll want to ask smart questions, meet your colleagues, learn the office layout, and get your desk organized, but there are some more subtle ways you can set yourself apart as an exciting addition to the team from the moment you walk into a new work environment.

Here’s the best advice HR pros, executive coaches, and career counselors have on nailing day one at your new gig.

1 Define success in your new role.

The key to doing an amazing job? Knowing exactly what’s expected of you. There’s no better time to find out just what that is than on your very first day. “Ask your boss how your success will be measured and over what time frame,” advises Roy Cohen, a career counselor and executive coach. “Without context and expectations, you will have no clue as to deliverables, the time required to come up to speed, and the resources you will need to deploy to achieve success productively and efficiently.”

Here’s a tip:  Grammarly runs on powerful algorithms developed by the world’s leading linguists, and it can save you from misspellings, hundreds of types of grammatical and punctuation mistakes, and words that are spelled right but used in the wrong context. Learn More 

2 Focus on people, not issues.

You’ll most likely be meeting a lot of new people on your first day, so give them your full attention. This advice is especially relevant if you’re in a management position and will be meeting your brand new direct reports. “Your job is to work on the strategy and execution of the issues, but it is not possible to make an impact or create change without connecting with the people and having them trust and value you,” explains Shefali Raina, an NYC-based executive coach. “Many new managers make the mistake of rushing on day one to talk about the issues without first understanding the players, from a misplaced belief that this will show credibility.” Instead, focus on making connections, making a good first impression, and showing interest in what your new colleagues think and need.

3 Seek out the right reading materials.

“Immerse yourself in reading all that you can about the company’s culture and norms: old newsletters, articles, decks, org charts, etc.,” says Amy Zimmerman, Head of Global People Operations at Kabbage. These types of documents can give you a decent primer on what’s important to your new organization. “If done effectively, you will have far more context and information, which will help you understand the company, your role, and what success looks like.”

4 Shift the focus to your new colleagues.

It can be tempting to tell your life story to new co-workers, but try to spend more time learning about them than you do talking about yourself. “To start gaining respect of colleagues and superiors on the first day, make it about them, not about you,” says Jason Sackett, an executive coach and author of Compassion@Work: Creating Workplaces that Engage the Human Spirit. “A common first-day trap is to talk up your own past accomplishments and future ambitions, which makes people nervous or annoyed because they don’t know you. Instead, get curious and inquire about the roles, talents, and achievements of your colleagues to establish a persona as a listener, learner, and collaborator.” Expressing a real desire to learn from others will also put people at ease and start the work of establishing trust, he says.

5 Confirm how your manager likes to communicate.

“One question you should ask very early on is how your manager likes to communicate,” says Alexander Lowry, a professor of finance and advisor and board of directors member for fintech and financial services companies. Do they prefer that you drop by and talk about things in person? Send them emails or messages via Slack? Text them on their work phone? “Do not wait for the manager to tell you, and do not assume he or she communicates like other managers you’ve had before.”

6 Don’t wait to be introduced.

Your manager will probably introduce you to the rest of your department, but it’s a good idea to branch out beyond that, even if you’re not prompted by a superior to do so. “Reach out your hand and initiate a greeting, especially focusing on those who work near you, on the same team as you, or that you might interact with frequently in the future,” suggests Katie Rasoul, Chief Awesome Officer at Team Awesome Coaching. “This may be a little uncomfortable for some people, but it is temporary, and you will have started relationships from day one to ease that discomfort later on.”

7 Listen for language cues.

“All organizations have their way of talking, and if you can catch some of the lingo and patterns early, you’ll sound like you belong faster,” explains Colin T. McLetchie, HR pro and president of Five Ways Forward. “Ask when you don’t know a term or acronym (every organization has its alphabet soup) and make a list of those. If they don’t have a list for you, create one and share it with HR and new people when they join.”

8 Offer to help during downtime.

The first day—and the ones that follow—are often slow-moving as you get up to speed. “There may be some downtime during your first few days on the job as your boss and team adjust to having you there,” Lowry says. “But don’t sit around waiting for others to figure out tasks for you—volunteer to help your new teammates on a project. You’ll show initiative, build rapport with your boss and co-workers, and learn about expectations, procedures, and how things are done.”

A version of this post originally appeared on Glassdoor’s blog.

More from Glassdoor:

5 Apps That’ll Transform Your Career

8 Expert-Approved Tips for How to Find a Job Today

How to Become an Irresistible Hire

The post 8 Things to Do on the First Day of a New Job appeared first on Grammarly Blog.


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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

9 Must-see Tips for Long-form Writers

Long-form writing is tough. But longer pieces can be enjoyable and rewarding for many readers, giving them a glimpse of an unfamiliar world or insight into new ideas.

You could be producing narrative journalism, an in-depth essay, creative nonfiction, or fiction. Maybe it’s for fun or maybe it’s part of your job. No matter the reason, these tips will help you find ideas and see them through—and to do it all with style and accuracy.

1 Know your audience

Some readers love long-form writing; others need convincing. To make sure your target readers make it to the end, have a specific idea of who they are and write directly to them.

Some writers recommend having a single person in mind to write for—a child, best friend, teacher, ex-boyfriend, you name it. Imagining your audience’s responses can help you write something they’ll want to read.

2 Entertain your audience

Knowing your audience is one thing, but producing content they like is another. If you work for a newspaper or online publication, dig around to see what past articles have high reads, shares, and comments, and model your new content on that.

Here’s a tip:  Grammarly runs on powerful algorithms developed by the world’s leading linguists, and it can save you from misspellings, hundreds of types of grammatical and punctuation mistakes, and words that are spelled right but used in the wrong context. Learn More 

3 Get inspired

Many writers say that reading other writers is the best way to learn new stories, discover interesting or innovative writing styles, and find inspiration in general. Reading similar pieces to what you write will also give you a handle on what’s already out there and help ensure you aren’t retreading covered territory.

But there’s more to it than staying aware of the top newspapers, best-selling books, or most-clicked stories on your favorite blogs. Look outside your genre for new concepts, styles, and worlds of creativity. Something that might seem irrelevant could end up sparking your next big idea.

To get a sample of great long-form storytelling across genres, check out Longreads. It shares published fiction and nonfiction longer than 1500 words, so there’s a ton of variety.

4 Try a few ideas

You don’t have to go with the first concept that jumps in your head. It’s always a good idea to outline a few ideas and see which one resonates the most. If you find yourself more passionate about one concept over another, there’s a good chance that you’ll invest the necessary time to bring the tale to life—and you’ll enjoy doing it.

5 Stick to your story arc

“Beginning, middle, and end” may seem like kids’ stuff, but knowing the direction your story is going is important in narrative journalism, fiction, and creative nonfiction alike. If you’re writing an essay, thesis, or dissertation, the argumentative arc is similar to the narrative arc. Both are key to the structure of your writing.

No matter what you’re writing, be aware of how you’re constructing the arc. You want to start strong, keep readers surprised with twists and turns, add new details where necessary, build to a critical moment or climax, and conclude in a way that’s satisfying for the reader, but also leaves them curious to learn more or with a call to action to follow up on.

A strong narrative arc and satisfying conclusion can make the difference between an average story and a story that sticks in readers’ heads for a long time.

6 Get caught up in the details

The story arc is the skeleton of your piece; the details are the muscles, skin, hair, and nails.

If your writing is character-based—whether fictional characters or people you interview for an article you’re reporting—the details that matter are the character traits that make these folks come alive on paper. Get to know the basics, the psychological profile, and the nitty-gritty of a typical day (and an atypical day). Bad habits, tea or coffee, tics, quirks, and more.

Finding the right details to make your readers feel like they’re part of the story you’re in can also apply to a place, time, or idea. It’s all about creating an environment that will lure the reader in.

7 Keep organized

The right tools can help you gather your material, structure your ideas, and finalize your story. Pocket lets you save articles, videos, and more to all your devices. Evernote provides a platform for capturing and curating resources and ideas in searchable notebooks. There’s also Google Keep, Google Docs, bookmarks on your browser, or good old-fashioned sticky notes. Whatever it takes to keep your content organized so that you can find what you need when you need it and focus on writing.

8 Write well

Whether it’s finding the right style, checking whether you need a comma, or hearing what authors before you have done for inspiration, sometimes we all need more resources to do our best writing.

Check out our list of resources to find books, websites, podcasts, and more that will help you perfect the mechanics of writing.

9 Check your P’s and Q’s

No matter how carefully you’ve crafted your story arc, a few punctuation mistakes or the wrong “affect” and you might start losing readers. So, once you’re finished with the bulk of your content—or better yet, throughout the process—watch out for pesky mistakes.

If you need help weeding out these errors, Grammarly provides you with a second set of eyes to catch the grammar, style, punctuation, spelling, and word choice mistakes. It even recommends fixes based on context. Millions of writers worldwide use it—including journalists, authors, and professional writers who specialize in long-form content.

Yes, sometimes unabashed self-promotion is an important part of the writing process, too. But if it helps you avoid mistakes that could bring your writing down, it’s worth it.

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Editing Is Now Easier with the New Grammarly Editor

Are you ready to write something brilliant? If you’ve opened a new document in Grammarly’s desktop editor recently, you may have noticed that all the features you love, plus a few new ones, are wrapped up in a fresh new look. The new UI is part of a foundational update that will enable us to introduce additional types of feedback to our users, including more suggestions on how to improve the clarity and effectiveness of your writing. Here’s how to use the new Grammarly Editor.

Getting Started

You can start working on a new document by clicking the New button. If you want to check an existing document on your computer, click Upload. You can also upload another document for checking after you’ve started editing. Simply use these options:

Another option for importing existing text is to create a blank document, then paste in text from your clipboard. If you use this option, your document’s original formatting will be lost.

Your Personal Writing Assistant

Grammarly automatically checks everything you type, making it easy to spot and fix errors quickly. While your document is being checked, the Assistant icon moves in a circle to indicate that checking is in progress. You can keep typing, and Grammarly will continue checking.

Grammarly’s checks are indicated by red or yellow underlines. Click on any underlined word to see our suggestions. To accept a correction, simply click on it:

If you’d like to ignore a suggestion, click the trash can icon to dismiss it. If a suggestion is incorrect or you’d like to report it for any reason, click the flag icon and choose your preferred option to proceed. If you’d like Grammarly to stop flagging a particular spelling as incorrect, you can add the word to your personal dictionary by clicking the book icon. To see a detailed explanation of a suggestion, click the three dots at the bottom of the alert. You can also ignore all suggestions in a certain category. For example, if you’d like to ignore all spelling alerts in your text, click the trash can next to “Spelling” to dismiss all spelling suggestions at once:

Goals and Document Type

If you want to achieve a specific goal with your text, Grammarly’s here to help! Simply select your preferred goals in the menu indicated below:

Note: The Domain feature is available only to Grammarly Premium subscribers.

Downloading Your Documents

Once you’ve finished editing, you can copy the text to your clipboard or download the document.

If you started by uploading a document file, Grammarly will export your document in the same file format that you began with (for example, if you started by uploading a .doc file, your Grammarly document will be available to download as a .doc file).

Document Statistics

You can view your document statistics by clicking Correct with Assistant and selecting the Insights option. This section offers useful information about your text, including word count and the number of characters it contains. If you’d like to download a PDF report of your document statistics, go to Insights and select Download PDF Report in the pop-up menu:

If you’d like to download a PDF report of your document statistics, go to Insights and select Download PDF Report in the pop-up menu that will open:

We hope you enjoy the new Editor! We want to continue making the Editor the best it possibly can be, and we want your input. Share your feedback in the comments, or tweet us @Grammarly.

The post Editing Is Now Easier with the New Grammarly Editor appeared first on Grammarly Blog.


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