Consumers Corner # 38


 It really can!

By Jim Murphy

If you’ve never read “the little book” – more commonly called the “Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White – it’s time you did.

Because no matter how good (or bad) a writer you are, it will make you better. I guarantee it.

That’s why I frequently send gift copies of this book via Amazon to friends, colleagues and their kids. I know it will help marketing execs, students working on their college application letters, and anyone else who simply wants to say exactly what they mean in writing.

The book says:

  • “Omit needless words”
  • Make “every word tell”
  • “Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs”

Here’s a tip: If you only read the second chapter of this short 85-page book – you will write better immediately.

And writing well today is critical. Yet I’m amazed at how many high-level, supposedly educated people from top universities can’t write an understandable sentence.

My advice: buy his book. It will pay you enormous dividends day after day and year after year. Mine is the third edition from 1979, costing $2.75. The latest version I saw at Amazon was the fourth edition. It now sells for $8.95.

I don’t even remember when I first bought my copy of this book – probably in college. But it has helped me greatly over the years.

Good marketers recognize it right away

Several years ago, when I advised marketers at a seminar I was giving to get “the little book,” I instantly struck a nerve. People came up afterwards, some with the book in hand, to tell me how much it had helped improve their writing.

That help was sorely needed in a local college President’s Message I read just last week. That message was filled with big words that said little. Out of charity, I will keep the President’s name and the school anonymous.

2 brief examples of this
President’s horrible copy:


“To this restatement, we have added the adoption of four core values that animate our mission statement …”  Say what?


I encourage you to consider these new articulations of the mission and values of (nameless college).” I have no idea what that sentence means. Nor do I get a word picture. There’s no strong action word, no precise language in a 49-word-long sentence.

Contrast that with Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address that conveyed a compete and memorable message in total of just 272 words.

Or look at this powerful passage from a speech Martin Luther King delivered in Montgomery, Ala. during the 1956 bus boycott there. It’s quoted in “A People’s History of the United States”:

“We have known humiliation, we have known abusive language, we have been plunged into abyss of oppression. And we decided to raise up only with the weapon of protest. It is one of the greatest glories of America that we have the right of protest.

“If we are arrested every day, if we are exploited every day, if we are trampled over every day, don’t ever let anyone pull you so low as to hate them. We must use the weapon of love. We must have compassion and understanding for those who hate us. We must realize so many people are taught to hate us that they are not totally responsible for their hate. But we stand in life at midnight, we are always on the threshold of a new dawn.”

There you have it. Clear, concise writing that communicates a powerful message.

So do yourself a favor. Get the “Little Book” for yourself and read it. Become a better writer and communicator.

Then give it as gifts to people in your life who need to communicate their thoughts and ideas.

You both will benefit.

And the world will enjoy reading more clear writing … and less of the poorly worded drivel most of us see daily at work and at home.




Microsoft has quietly surged to become the world’s third most valuable publicly traded company – behind just Apple and Amazon. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is now in fourth position.

Source: cnbc.com



The percent of all Lyme disease cases in the U.S. that occurred in Pennsylvania in 2016. (That’s not a record any state wants.)

Source: phillymag.com



The “magic” number of passes the Golden State Warriors aim to make per game. And that’s great for fans who enjoy team ball. When Golden State reached that total this postseason, they won 8 and lost 0. (I couldn’t find their stats for the final game, which they won, sweeping the Cavaliers.)

Before current coach Steve Kerr was appointed in 204, their average number of passes per game, was “stuck in the 240s,” says the New York Times – a figure then-last in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Now that number is way up, and Golden State has won three NBA championships over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the past four years. Good for them. Great for basketball-lovers, too.

Source: NY Times



Vitamins and supplements may be a waste of money

 What cost U.S. consumers $36.7 billion dollars a year, are used by 52% of the population and appear to do little good?

Answer: vitamin and health care supplements.

Results from five years of studies confirm that the use of supplemental vitamins and minerals does little to prevent cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke or death from any cause. In some cases, they may do more harm than good.

The best advice: consult with your doctors about what you should take or not take.

Sources: philly.com and New York Times


Deaths by opioids worse than numbers in Vietnam War’s bloodiest year

One in five deaths of young Americans, ages 25 to 34, is now attributed to opioids. This new research indicates 1.5 percent of all American deaths in 2016 was caused by the opioid epidemic, says Tara Gomes of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, who led the research. The death toll during the Vietnam War in 1968 was under 1 percent.

Even so, the Washington Post says “Gomes’s research relied on Center for Disease Control and Prevention data, which is known to underestimate opioid overdoses by 20 to 30 percent. So the problem may even be worse.

Sources: FiveThirtyEight.com and the Washington Post


New advice: use quarters instead of a pennies to check tire tread

For years, tire experts suggested using a Lincoln penny as a quick and easy way to check tire tread depth. The idea: turn a penny upside down and put it into your tire tread. If you could see all of Lincoln’s head, your tires were under 2/32″ in tread depth and needed to be replaced.

The new thinking: use a quarter. If the tread doesn’t touch Washington’s head, you have less than 4/32″tread left.

Why the switch? During tests, The Tire Rack found that vehicles riding on tires that passed the penny test took an average of 499.5 feet to stop from 7o miles per hour on wet pavement. Using the quarter test, the vehicles stopped  122 full feet  – or 24 percent shorter. That better stopping distance could save your life or someone else’s. So check your tires regularly – with a quarter.

Source: caranddriver.com

PHILLY  FUN FACT: Society Hill – Part 1

How did Society Hill get its name?

William Penn gave the Society of Free Traders – a marketing development company – a long, narrow strip of land near Pine Street running from the Delaware Rover to the Schuylkill River. The company flew its flag on the ground high above Dock Creek, and the surrounding area became known as “the Society’s Hill.” Learn more at the Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia, a wonderful resource.


Photo Credits

“Elements of Style” flickr photo by cdrummbks https://flickr.com/photos/cdrummbks/4326405630 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license


Jim Murphy is a direct marketing copywriter who has run his own consulting business since 2004. For nine years, he wrote and edited “Choices,” an award-winning credit union magazine with a circulation of 80,000. Now a certified member and vice president of the Association of Philadelphia Tour Guides, Jim gives tours and has written more than 50 historical articles for both the Queen Village Neighbors Association magazine and the Society Hill Reporter.

Any comments made are Jim’s opinion, and not necessarily those of the Old Pine Community Center.




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