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How Writing Fast Tricks Your Inner Critic

These days most composition looks like whatever we write on a computer or touchscreen.
But what if I asked you to think way back. Back to the days when you learned to write by hand in school. What do you remember?
Is it the fat lines with the dotted center? The repetition of letter after letter? Or maybe it's the hand cramps? For me, I think about the callous on my right ring finger and the way I [still] rub it to help me sort left from right. Oh and possibly the way handwriting practice seemed to take forever! 
But then one day I learned cursive—the holy grail of writing fast! In fact, it may have been the undoing of all of my careful handwriting practice. But the speed! The efficiency! 
From print to cursive to eventual paragraphs, then book reports, research projects, essays, and more, our ‘writing’ education developed from the act of putting letters on a page to the activity of making sense out of words. And for almost...
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Transform Boring Information into Clickable Content

“If you build it, they will come.”

While this mantra proved true in the 1989 blockbuster film Field of Dreams, it’s unfortunately not a reliable truth in the world of web readership.

Still, if you run your own business or are tasked with writing content for your company, it's easy to be intimidated by the blank page. It's one thing to be a good communicator but quite another to create a web article or blog that gets read.

The problem is that sometimes helpful—even essential—information your audience needs is rarely sexy or emotional.  

Topics designed to explain a concept are great for textbooks (but are textbooks great?) but they’re not ideal for getting busy readers to click and ingest. 

Because in order to develop a readership, you need to do two important things: 

1) Write the Article 

2) Focus on one of your audience's problems

You might notice I did not say "use SEO language," and it really is super significant in getting...

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The Future is Female

When Gabi started as a camper at App Camp for Girls, or what the organizers call a developer, she was only 13. For the next few years she was a volunteer, but at 16-years-old the staff shook their heads and wondered what on earth they would do with her.

Gabi was too old to remain an intern yet too young to become a project team manager. Some organizations would have just told Gabi to come back when she was older. But the leadership at App Camp for Girls is far too brilliant to let something like established norms interfere with hanging onto young talent. So, they created a new position, the “Lead Developer Intern,” or what they affectionately call “The Gabi Job.” 

Gabi’s experience solving a particularly difficult coding riddle at the camp is the subject of her common application essay. As an award-winning playwright and National Merit Scholar, she has the sort of brain that craves learning, challenges, and the thrill of overcoming obstacles.


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Word to Your Mother: 5 Ways to Grow a Vibrant Vocabulary

Are you hungry? According to Susan Engel, a developmental psychologist and educator, curiosity is an appetite. And yet hunger is likely the most essential ingredient for acquiring and utilizing new words. In my required college writing classes, I routinely asked students about their personal goals. Surprisingly, or perhaps not, college students often listed ‘improving their vocabulary’ as a goal.

From classrooms to cocktail parties, this topic seems to find me. There are the word nerds like myself, who find the discussion of Latin roots titillating, and the word wishers, who regret they cannot recall the plethora of the words they once crammed into their brains for the SAT. And there are even the word alarmists, who fear that emoticons and text vernacular are replacing lucid expression.

What the party goers and college students (sometimes they are one and the same) have in common is that they are hungry for new ways to grow their word bank. But according...

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What really matters at the end of senior year? A top student inventories his activities list

Student council. Check. 

Varsity soccer. Check. 

National Honors Society. Check.

Link crew. Honor guard. Church Finance Elder. Check. Check. Huh? 

It’s true. Eric, a hard-working, high-achieving, heavily committed senior, served as All Student Body Vice President, earned 2nd team all-metro as a soccer player, and helped his church strategize their budget as part of their finance committee.  

It goes without saying that Eric had a very busy high school career, and with multiple acceptances at impressive institutions like Santa Clara University, Pepperdine, University of San Diego, and Loyola Marymount, he offers some surprising advice to future graduates. 

“If I were to do it again I probably would have focused on one or two activities and spent more time just reading,” he says, “colleges want to see your passions. If you can effectively express these in the essay, that is equally if not more valuable than a top test...

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How to Get More Out of What You Read

You’d think a conversation about grammar would be very boring at a dinner party.
Back in my college professor days, I always made sure to stay far away from the topic at gatherings. Not only because I could geek out for hours on the subject but because parties and sentence diagrams are almost never used in the same phrase.
But something strange would happen when attendees asked me about my profession. They would light up about their favorite books or tell me the story of writing a 'novel' as a child or pontificate about texting and the ruin of the English language.
And then, like clockwork, they would narrow in on their true heart's desire: a lesson on commas or maybe even the semi-colon. I would glance back and forth over my shoulder—I wanted to be invited back after all—before diving into the euphoria that emanates from one of my all-time favorite topics. 
I'd explain the imperative of really identifying an independent clause (not...
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The One Thing that Makes Finding the Right College a Little Easier

Will you be having the celebration or the heartache on the menu today?

For students who apply to multiple colleges around the country, the process inevitably means visiting many campuses, writing multiple essays, and submitting long applications. When the acceptance letters come—or the rejection notifications—it can feel like a party or like you're the only one who didn't get an invite.

Gracie, an intelligent, hard-working, altruistic college-bound senior, says it’s easy to get caught up in comparisons. After all, it makes sense to imagine oneself at a particular school—to fall in love before the proposal. Gracie, whose bright eyes and contagious warmth are second nature, was more serious when she contemplated the real feelings seniors face around college acceptance, “No two people have the same path to finding their school, so you shouldn’t compare yourself to others. A myriad of factors go into the decision, and comparing your qualifications to...

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What Sir Ken Robinson Can Teach You about Thinking and Reading Critically

Despite what we know today about multiple intelligences, dominant learning styles, learning disabilities, attention spans, and neurological and developmental differences, much of education expects students to respond and behave the same way.

From standardized testing to uniform assignments and in-class lessons, sameness is our normal. And it’s not just what and how we teach in school, it’s how we expect students to progress during and after school. In fact, the accepted formula for success in America also resembles a straight line: graduate high school, go to college, get a job. And if you're not the exception to this rule of progression, I bet you know someone who is. 

There the well-known stories, remarkable stories of CEOs, like Steve Jobs, who dropped out of college, athletes, like Lebron James who skip college to play professional sports, and even Nobel Peace Prize winners, like Malala, who change the world before they finish high school.

If you’ve...

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How to compete and win a $275,000 college scholarship to a top school

Meet Tori. She’s not your average high school senior. She’s not your average young woman. Let’s face it. Tori isn’t average in anything. 

Tori isn’t just a top student at her public high school—she’s also an award-winning rock climber. As the 8-time regional champion and ranking nationally in the top 10 three times, competing is a regular part of Tori's life.

She's not only sought out higher ground in sports but also high stakes issues, where she’s become a local leader. For the last two years, Tori has led her high school’s SAFER program, to educate her peers about sexual consent and sexual violence.

She’s collaborated with partnerships with Oregon Student Voice and the Oregon Attorney General to bring sexual assault response training to youths. When it comes to social justice, equity, advocacy—or probably anything—Tori is the fighter you want on your side.

Part of Tori's scrappy charm comes from the...

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What Happens When You Treat Prospective Clients like Honored Guests

When clients have never met you, it's tough to really convince them that your business or product is not like everyone else's. 

But what if instead of trying to show them you're different, you showed them you care. 

By being helpful, you're able to show prospective clients that you're here to serve them, not the other way around. 

Check out the following tip to help you transform your homepage copy to anticipate your prospective clients problems and learn one real way to provide solutions before they ever meet or buy from you. 

And the best part? Being helpful doesn't just make you a good person; it's good for your business.

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