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Sometimes, I admit, I work through my lunch hour even when working at home. But the Have you had your plus sign today?way I lighten things up is by flipping on yesterday’s Y&R episode. You really don’t have to turn toward the screen to know what’s happening with soaps, after all.

This is especially true of commercials which — as many know — are often louder than the show you’re watching and, during daytime TV, are often about healthcare, household or cleaning products (hence the term Soap Opera, right?)

But the other day, I heard three in a row that were refreshingly clear and positive. Which is probably why I actually easily could remember and write down their key slogans when they were long over:

  • The Ontario Government (really!), promoting the Flu Shot: “Making our immune system stronger.”
  • Rogers (yes, again, really!) advertising its new electronic home security package: “Stay connected. Stay close.”
  • The Canadian Sport for Life movement’s campaign to prevent childhood obesity and promote lifelong physical activity’s “Active for Life” campaign.

I’ve written here before about drug commercials: their droning background voices, scrolling tiny-type disclaimers and negative side-effect warnings. But the above three were nothing like that. With each slogan, you know immediately what you stand to gain. It’s the “WIIFM” factor we always hear about.

They’re also aspirational: A statement of the organization’s goal in providing the service, rather than a focus on what it’s trying to prevent (massive flu epidemics, risks to someone’s home and family and obesity respectively). And, as is often the case with strong messages, they’re all in the simplest of language.

You still may not feel that you want or need any of these options; and, if you’re like me, you’ll be skeptical about what’s behind the messages in these three ads. But at least you can easily grasp their expressed benefits.

Quite a contrast to other ads that focus on risk and make readers/viewers retain long streams of information about all of the possible negative consequences the buyer might face.


plussignAfter first acknowledging Prince and Johnny Mercer for today’s title, I’d like to briefly look at using the positive tone when we’re speaking.

I’ve written tip sheets and taught lessons about it, but how to adopt this tone when I speak never really hit home until I had a child five years ago.

Before then, the only non-work time I was attentive to what came out of my mouth was in front of the very young or the very old – with the emphasis of course on omitting the classic swear words.

But with my own child, I found I was using the imperative or ‘command’ voice more often than ever before – and mostly it was to get her not to do something. With parenting books stressing that staying positive helps increase the child’s self-worth, I started to focus more on my language.

Here are some examples of the kinds of changes I made:

From: Don’t go on the road     To: Stay away from the road OR Stay in the driveway

From: I don’t want you watching too much TV today. To: I’d prefer we went outside or read a book today.

From: We know you won’t make this mistake again. To: We are confident you will do better next time you try.

From: Never eat the mushrooms from the ground. To: Only eat the mushrooms from the fridge.

From: Can you please stop screaming!     To: Can you please lower your voice?

Now that I’m more practiced at using a positive verbal tone, I actually feel better during conversations with people about potentially inflammatory things – including the need to avoid those poison mushrooms. And, I’ve gotten even better than before at keeping things positive in the tone of my writing.

Want to accentuate the positive?checkbutton

Test yourself! Try this resource from University of Tennessee professor and Technical Writing Dept director Dr. Russel Hirst. It covers the subject of tone quite nicely – including how to make it positive – and offers an easy-to-follow online worksheet that provides the answers at the end.

Get another perspective and more examples. This paper posted on a UK social justice site is written through their lens, but gives excellent analysis of negative word choice’s effects on other areas of our lives. It also gives useful tips on how to include more plus signs in your writing.

If you need training on how to improve the tone of your speaking or writing , contact me or SimplyRead directly.

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