If you’ve ever been to our office, the first thing that jumps out at you is the 28-foot ceiling height. This differs sharply from our last office where the ceilings were a paltry nine feet.
Now, you might say, “Well, come on, does this really matter? You’re staring at a screen.”
Because, as human beings, we’re affected by our space even if we think we’re not. To validate this, we spoke to occupational therapist April Lebovsky.
Us: So, really, can the amount of space in a room affect creativity?
AL: Absolutely. Think about how your heart rate increases when you feel constricted, be it in a small plane, among a crowd of people or in your dreams if you have that “stuck in a coffin” nightmare. That constriction carries over to your active mind; the part that helps you create. Constricted body leads to constricted mind leads to constricted thoughts — which is the enemy of creativity.
Us: And so a large space has the opposite effect?
AL: For sure. When your mind feels like it has more space to breathe, it can take deeper breaths. And a deep-breathing mind is the one that generates the best ideas. It’s free and unencumbered.
Us: That’s all fine and good, but do you have any evidence of this?
AL: I do, actually. Last year, we studied how space affects productivity. We gave 100 test subjects in the same building the same right-brained task to complete, but we put 50 of them in tiny offices with low ceilings and no windows, and the other 50 in a large atrium. Then we got the two groups to share their ideas with the other. The atrium group did their tasks faster. Their ideas were more well-received by the tiny office group than the latter’s ideas were received. We ran the experiment four times and the results were consistent.
Us: So what advice would you give people who actually have to work in small spaces?
AL: Get out of there as much as you can. Give your mind the room it needs to stretch its arms.
Most of the time, we leave our politics at home. But this time isn’t like most times. And because we’re all about words that’s what we’re going to talk about today, specifically the words Mr. Trump used over and over again in his campaign.
Look, his policies are his policies, and to be honest, we don’t know enough about them to comment one way or the other on their efficacy — of if he’s even going to follow through on them.
But we do know what a word can do to legitimize hatred, prejudice and ignorance. And it’s up to all of us, Americans, Canadians, Europeans, everybody, to teach our children that these words are NOT okay.
It’s not okay to mock disabled people.
It’s not okay to insinuate that all people of a certain background are a certain way.
It’s not okay to body shame people.
It’s not okay to draw subtle correlations between hard times and Jewish bankers who are making it so.
It’s not okay.
We say this especially to those of you who have young children because they’re all going to get in trouble one day for saying at least one of these things. And you have to be steadfast in telling them that it’s not okay.
And when they come back and say, “Well, the president says it,” and you feel like you have no apt response because, well, the President DID say those things, you have to tell your children that the president was wrong.
It’s not an easy thing to do because the president is supposed to be the yard stick by which everyone measures their own conduct.
We don’t have that luxury now, so it’s up to us to fill that gap.
Don’t let the words of a buffoon define what is and isn’t acceptable. We’ve seen far too often throughout history where this leads. And we certainly don’t want to see it again.
Dan went apple picking this week with his kid and twelve other kids. It quickly descended into little shits throwing apples at one another and tired parents trying to avoid black eyes. Good times.
And then something lovely happened. Here’s how he tells it.
“I’d had it. Seriously, man. I was ready to leave him there. And as I led him by the arm towards the check-out barn to pay for our apples, I laughed for the first time all afternoon. I saw this fantastic sign on the barn door, and the corners of my mouth went up without me trying really hard to feign happiness. I could’ve kissed the orchard master for that.”
First of all, Dan — well played on “orchard master.” So much better than “owner.” But also, that natural grin you described is a common effect of good writing, because good writing’s easy to read. And easy makes us smile.
That goes for writing in any medium. How many more instruction manuals would get read if they weren’t written with such little consideration for readability? And how many accidents could be avoided because of it?
In the boardroom, how many awkward snoring situations could be avoided if the writing in the presentations wasn’t so dry and verbose?
And don’t even get us started on websites. Or get us started on websites. Maybe your website? We do those, y’know.
BTW, here’s the sign Dan saw:
Maclean’s, one of Canada’s finest magazines, and Dan’s favourite, recently put out a video about the history and etymology of swear words. It’s interesting, but the one line that made us think the most was the explanation for the reason we enjoy saying fuck:
The explosive consonantal opening sound, short vowel in the middle and a hard ending make it extremely satisfying.
Amen to that. The combination has gotten us through many a stubbed toe, lost set of keys and less-than-reasonable client request.
But it got us thinking about the extension of the word fuck: motherfucker.
First of all, if we step back and consider it, it’s really gross (and illegal).
But that aside, we found it so interesting the way different people drop it. Some leave out a few of the consonants so it becomes muha fugga. Some over-emphasize the final “r,” giving it a rather dorky feel. And, not sure if you noticed, but motherfucker is uniquely North American. You don’t hear Europeans dropping it ¾ like you never hear us saying bollux or poxy.
Of course, because it’s 2016, we took to the Internet in search of motherfuckers. And we hit the motherfuckin’ load.
The problem with writing is the immediacy and relative ease by which something can be changed. It doesn’t take a ton of effort to open a copy deck on your computer and do something different.
And so, when some clients want you to make a copy change, they think it’s that easy.
Those are the clients we don’t have. We have the others. The ones who see value in the writing process. The ones who are never in “hurry up and wait” because they were prepared beforehand for any directional changes.
We work with clients who take chances, who want their messages to stand out. And that’s why they pay us.
Sounds like the kind of client you want to work with? We don’t blame you. So send your resume and/or portfolio to email@example.com.
We’re looking for copywriters, technical writers, copy editors, proofreaders and F-E/E-F translators. We’re not married to full-time freelance. But either way, our office is among the best in the city.
We’re not horn-tooters. For the most part, we sit in our little office pounding out words. We get happy when a client gives us the opportunity to make ourselves laugh. We get happier when someone comes back to the office with a shawarma platter from Alexandria’s. And we’re happiest when we’re busy as stink. We thrive on it.
But today we’re gonna toot our horn for a second. And we’re gonna get super jacked about ourselves. And then it’ll be over and it’ll be back to business.
We’re now writing about North American sports for one of the largest sports content providers on the planet.
For those of you who don’t know Dan, he’s a sports junky. He’s the guy who road trips with his buddies to see awesome stadia, the guy who’s repeatedly ignored his children because there was something brewing in the game. So for him to be leading the charge on this stuff is pretty spectacular.
Gina’s a hockey nerd. Shell talk passionately about politics or cooking or what makes writing good. But get her talking about the Maple Leafs — no seriously, we dare you. She wants tickets to games. Lots of them. And she’ll get them in time.
Okay. Back to business.
We’re not fans of overusing exclamation marks. Like swear words, using exclamation marks sparingly enhances their meaning.
Or so we believe.
The upcoming generation doesn’t think so. According to a 2015 CBC article,
The exclamation point was found to make messages seem more sincere, rather than less, as it conveys information about how someone is feeling (enthusiastic, usually, or at least very strongly about something).
While some in recent years have lamented the rise of the exclamation point as the fall of proper grammar, many digital natives now see it as somewhat neutral — especially in an era of cry-face emojis and Instagram hearts.
How ’bout that!
But that’s not all the article said. It also referenced a study that found a change in the period’s reputation.
“The period was always the humblest of punctuation marks. Recently, however, it’s started getting angry,” wrote Ben Crair for the American magazine. “I’ve noticed it in my text messages and online chats, where people use the period not simply to conclude a sentence, but to announce ‘I am not happy about the sentence I just concluded.'”
So let’s get this straight.
To be seen as sincere, you have to come off as overly excited about everything. And to avoid seeming pissed off, you have to ignore the first and most basic rule of grammar.
A: What’s this world coming to?
B: It’s just the way the language is evolving!
A: It’s stupid. And it makes communication more unclear.
B: It’s progressive! And helps convey authenticity!
A: At the expense of clarity.
B: Hey! Can’t make an omelette without breaking a few….!
A: Oh shut up.
Coming across a great use of words is such a treat. Most recently, it happened at a cottage in the Bruce Peninsula when we pulled this bad boy out to try.
First of all, any game that requires a tie to play is our kind of game (we’re classy like that). Then “Game of Words” sold us because, well, y’know….
Turns out, Probe is AWESOME. It’s like hangman meets cribbage meets scrabble.
You think of a word, spell it out in cards and place them face down in front of you. If you go first, you might say “any Rs?” Anyone else who has an R has to reveal it. Players with more than one R in their words can choose which of their Rs to reveal based on their point values. Each card has a point value, which all go to you.
Your turn ends when you guess a letter that no one has. Then the next person goes.
What’s cool about the game is that it’s not a race to guess the word. Instead it’s a race for points. So even if your word is fully revealed, you still get to guess letters and collect points.
There are cool features like blank cards to bluff your opponents and activity cards that let you do things like triple your point value and get opponents to do things like keep score. As you can imagine, we created a few of our own activity cards. We had one dude play a round in a Scottish accent. It was very poor. And very funny.
Probe’s retail price in 1972 was six bucks. Good deal for our hosts.
We don’t have titles at Re:word. We have job descriptions. And they’re really easy. Dan’s a copywriter. So is Alex. Gina’s a copyeditor. Marie-Claude and Martine are translators.
“But wait…how are clients supposed to know who the good ones are?”
If they work for us, they’re good — no title required.
The Quest for Words
One of our graphic design partners once said, “Any job title with more than three words is bullshit.” And it’s so true when you meet people with full sentences under their names on their email signatures. Ask them what they do and they can’t give you a straight answer. “Well…I kinda do this, with a bit of that, but I’m actually supposed to be doing the other.”
And it’s not their fault. It’s the system we all work in that equates quantity with quality when it comes to job titles. If you’re a high-quality professional, you don’t need superlatives. CEO. Centre Fielder. Proofreader. Plumber. Easy.
Judge the logo. Not the title.
What do you call the guy who graduated last in his class from Harvard? A Harvard grad. If he was smart enough to get in and smart enough to get his degree, you know he’s worth a look. When you’re evaluating talent, pay less attention to what they do and more attention to who they do it for. A Google technical analyst is not the same as a Yahoo technical analyst. A BMW car designer is not the same as a Lada car designer. And a Re:word copywriter — well, you get the idea.
Apple’s dashboard comes with a great dictionary/thesaurus. It’s intuitive. It’s easy to access. And for an offline tool, it’s impressively comprehensive.
We use it all the time and, until this week, had nothing negative to say about it.
Then we stumbled upon this while researching a white paper we were writing.
Yes, they’re using the word correctly, but could they not have used another example? You know, one that doesn’t put off their key demographic (the creative class) or flat-out lie about them?
Here’s the deal, Apple: Copywriters aren’t a cog in the big advertising machine. We’re the fuel that makes it work. We’re the ones who take advertising from art to persuasion. And you should know that better than anyone because great copywriters made you what you are. The famous “1984” Superbowl commercial? That was the work of copywriter Steve Hayden. I’m a Mac and I’m a PC? Barton Corley and Jason Sperling.
These are the people who turned your product into a brand and your brand into a juggernaut — and you repay them by insinuating they’re mere cogs?
But because we still love you, Apple, rather than make a big deal out of this, we’re going to help you with three alts for this dictionary entry:
Coffee cup makers have been seen as just a cog in the Starbucks machine.
Position-based coaches (O-Line, D-Line, etc.) have been seen as an important cog in the success of a football team.
Bulldozer operators are just another cog on the job site. But without them, nothing can begin.*
*PS: This example was inspired by a new client. Stay tuned for the announcement.