Friday, January 6, 2012

Goodbye, English Language

The New York Times had an article on January 1 about Wordnik, an online database of words.  It was interesting to read about how Wordnik can show you references to words used online, both to provide a definition and a sense of relevance.  What it lacks however, is a filter. It is not exactly a dictionary for it excludes nothing.  If a word or term has been used – or made up – it gets listed.  The beauty of a dictionary is that lexicographers act as gatekeepers and give us an authoritative declaration as to which words constitute our language.  Without someone keeping tabs on our words and helping us form an agreement of what is a word we will end up with a blob of irrelevant words given equal footing to substantial words.  I don’t think we can have  a dictionary by popular consensus.  We need to protect our language from a flood of nonsensical words.  Otherwise, just because I say zqxd15hay is a word in this blog entry, Wordnik now lists it alongside real words.  Otherwise, it would make playing Scrabble tough!

I think words need to be vetted.  We want  a Darwinian approach taken – any word has a chance to exist but only the strongest shall survive.  It’s okay for new words to come up for consideration but just because someone coins a word doesn’t mean it should be in the dictionary.  Wordnik seems to make no distinctions, no judgments, but that’s exactly what we need.

Interestingly, the Wordnik founder is Erin McKean, the former principal editor of the New Oxford American Dictionary.  What a turncoat!

In order to value words, the masses need to be aware of them, accept them, use them properly, and encourage others to do the same.  The more words there are, the harder this gets.  Americans already have an underutilized vocabulary at their disposal.  Adding a lot of words at once – constantly – threatens the language itself.  These words will begin to replace one another, each with a far shorter shelf-life than the existing words of today. It may get to the point that a person in 2042 won’t understand what’s written in 2012.  Wordnik, if unchecked, will make our language obsolete.

Interview: Julia Baxter, McGraw-Hill Professional Marketing Manager, Business

1.      What are the most important things that you do as the marketing manager for McGraw-Hill? One of the most critical jobs I do as the marketing manager is to help position the McGraw-Hill Professional brand within the business information content space. MHP publishes content from some of the top experts across all areas of business, and we work with our authors and internal team to convey that message through the books and eBooks we publish, as well as the direct-to-consumer marketing we engage in everyday. Right now our competition is not just other publishing houses and imprints, but any resource that delivers trusted, vital information on business, so we have to ensure our brand comes across.

2.      What are the most important skills today’s book marketer needs to have? Book marketers need to have a knowledge of all things digital to compete in today’s fast-paced information marketplace. Many of the traditional promotional outlets no longer yield the results they once did, so we have to continually test and implement new tools to add to our marketing mix; and then make sure we have the ability to measure their results.

3.      What do you love about your job and being a part of the book publishing industry? This might be an overused answer, but primarily, it’s the people. My current and former colleagues are some of the brightest and most driven professionals I know. I think those qualities come from a true passion for the work – whether writing, producing, publicizing, or marketing great books – we all share a passion for sharing stories and vital information with the world.

4.      How do you work with your authors to either market them or get them to market themselves?  The first task involved in creating a successful book launch campaign is having the publisher’s marketing and publicity teams partner with the author. We bring to the table expertise in selling and promoting books, and our authors bring expertise in their particular industry – it’s only when we combine these strengths that we’re able to pursue every opportunity to get a book into the hands of as many readers as possible. As you can imagine, no book campaign is the same, but we do try to arm our authors early on in the process with general tools and information they can apply in their networks to become their own personal promoters. The ubiquity of social media has given us all the ability to exert influence on the people we work and socialize with, and many of our authors have successfully extended McGraw-Hill Professional’s reach into their own personal networks.

5.      Where do you see the book industry heading? We may come to a point in the near future where the content we publish is no longer doled out in discrete units called books, but in streams of continuous content, or short or long-form information. One thing that will not change, though, is that good content will become even more valuable in a world of information overload. It will always need to be curated and shared by a trusted source. That is where McGraw-Hill Professional and the rest of the publishing industry will become even more critical – finding, creating, and sharing excellent, trusted content that professionals need to excel in their careers.


There is some good advice for being productive in Top Performance by Zig Ziglar.  Here you go:

The Seven-Step Goal-Setting Formula
·         Identify the goal
·         List your personal benefits for achieving the goal
·         Identify the major obstacles you must overcome to reach this goal
·         Determine what skills or knowledge are required to reach this goal
·         Identify the individual, groups, companies and organizations you must work with to reach this goal
·         Develop a specific plan of action to achieve the  goal
·         Decide on a realistic time limit for achievement.

Formula for Top Performance Management
·         Show honest and sincere appreciation at every opportunity-make the other person feel important
·         Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.
·         Make your cause bigger than your ego
·         Work for progress, not perfection
·         Be solution conscious, not problem oriented
·         Invest time in the activity that brings the highest return on investment according to the priority list of responsibilities-efforts alone doesn’t count’ result are the reasons for activity.
·         Fulfilling responsibility is a good reason for work; discipline is the method
·         Recognize and accept your own weaknesses
·         Make checklists and constantly refer to them
·         Always show the people in your life humility of gratitude.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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