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How to Prioritize Your E-Mail to Save Reading Time

October 5th, 2015

Most people don’t really want to go back to work in the office after a nice relaxing vacation, and for many of them one of the main reasons is the huge backlog of e-mail messages waiting for them. With all of the e-mails coming in every day it’s necessary to make sure you don’t waste time on the ones that aren’t important, but that you do get the most out of the messages containing the information that you need. To save time and get through your inbox in the most efficient way, try these useful tips:

Start using keyword searches. Even if you’ve got 50 e-mails from the same department, they might not all be about the same thing. Do a quick keyword search using a term that you know is likely to be in the messages that you need to see – for example, the word project or meeting. If you’re working on something specific with a group, pick a term that relates to your current task, such as upgrade or rollout. The most timely messages should pop to the top of the list, and the messages about the upcoming birthday potluck will fall to the bottom.

Identify key collaborators. Many e-mail services allow you to set up different groups and assign people to those groups. If you can identify the people whose messages you almost always need to read right away, you can put them in one or two separate groups, and go to those messages first.

Stay away from the crowds. While there might be company-wide e-mails sent out that you do need to read, many people use the “send to all” feature much more often than they need to. You’ll probably be able to immediately see whether you’re one of a hundred others on an e-mail list, and just by looking at the number of people who received the message you’ll get an idea if you’ve been sent the message for no particular reason other than that you’re in someone’s e-mail address book.

Highlight the important information. If you can use your e-mail service to automatically assign a color flag to certain senders or keywords you’ll have an easy way to visually sort through your inbox before you go any further. You’ll be able to quickly spot the red-flagged or urgent messages and handle those first.

Let the system do the sorting. This might be something you need to work with a systems administrator on, but it’s likely that there is a way for you to set up folders and have the e-mail system automatically route messages into those folder, either by keyword topic or by sender. In addition, you can make sure that people who you need to communicate with by e-mail set up their systems to use the same method, and your folder will serve as the go-to spot for all of your e-mails, so that they don’t get lost among the hundreds of others you receive in your main mailbox.

5 Things Teachers Can Do to Improve Their Teaching Style Outside the Classroom

September 28th, 2015

As a teacher, you might love teaching, but do your students love learning? To make learning engaging for students you can integrate the following five tactics and instantly improve your teaching’s impact.

Tech-Driven Learning is More Fun

If you’re teaching new vocabulary, for instance, use vocabulary improvement software that will help your students learn through fun games and interactive activities. Young people by definition are more adept with technological skills, so by integrating software and social media into your teaching routine you will instantly get your students’ attention – a prerequisite for advanced learning.

Use classroom management software and apps to get your students and their parents engaged with learning, and you’ll reduce the number of “I forgot there’s an assignment” excuses, and get students used to taking responsibility.

Give Responsibilities

Students love being thought of as reliable, knowledgeable human beings. Boost this assertive self-image of your students by asking them to take up projects and initiatives of their own, in ways that illustrate what they learn in the classroom.

Being confident in your own capacities and knowledge is a valuable skill to teach to your students.

Make Teaching Interesting

Social media, intuitive educational apps, empirical learning. Need we say more? There are so many resources online and offline to spice up learning. Stop thinking of technology as something that will only distract students, and don’t be tempted to and exclude it from your classroom. Its power to promote learning is beyond imagination!

Students get bored easily, so your goal is to be unexpectedly interesting. Surprise your students with a vocabulary lesson on vocabulary software, initiate a Twitter Q&A session to discuss a history test, or have online-based assignments that teach the topic – and how to use technology responsibly.

Don’t Forget About Yourself

No matter how passionate you are about education, you need to set aside ample time to yourself. If you cannot seem to find time for your hobbies and friends, schedule time for them. If it’s in your schedule it will be done.

Cultivate new skills, engage and be exposed to different kinds of social circles and experiences, and play with technology yourself in your free time. All of this will spruce up your own teaching methods and multiply what you can give to your students.

Don’t Forget the Parents

Parents are your most loyal allies when it comes to boosting your students’ performance and counteracting their weaknesses. Start cultivating a nurturing, trustworthy relationship with the parents of your students, and take advantage of modern communication to make this relationship easy and enjoyable.

Although it might not be easy to keep in touch and keep up with all your students’ parents in person, technology is now making it a bit easier to do so on line. A weekly newsletter or an online teacher’s conference with them gives you a more accurate context as to the best way to approach each parent, and how to discuss any issues related to the student. Don’t forget to include well-deserved praise for the student!

Running volunteering programs, or getting parents involved in school performances and events, can be another way to recruit parents in your mission to offer knowledge. Let parents know that their child is important to you, and you’ll get the behind-the-scenes support you need with the students.

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The Apostrophe Unmasked! (Guest Post)

September 22nd, 2015

The apostrophe has two main functions.

The first is to show omission of letters and the second is to show possession, which is what we’ll look at here.

Using the apostrophe to indicate possession

It’s easy when you write about the dog’s dinner; the man’s stunningly beautiful wife, Lavinia; Lavinia’s personal trainer, Lars, and so on.

It starts to get tricky (for Lavinia’s husband and for us) when we get to Lars. Is Lavinia Lars’ best client? Could it be that she is Lars’s ticket to that new Porsche he’s had his eye on for some time?

If he was plain old Bill there wouldn’t be a problem — she would be Bill’s best client and the ticket to Bill’s new Porsche.

We’ll assume (rightly, as it happens) that Lavinia is a Lady Who Lunches, and when she does lunch with her friends, they visit a women’s club. It’s not a womens’ club. When a word is made plural by changing some of its interior bits, you don’t make it doubly plural in the possessive.

When a word ends in ‘s’ and an additional syllable is pronounced in the possessive, add apostrophe S (even if you end up with 3 s’s). So you’d have the ladies going to their tennis class before lunch, and Lavinia being very chuffed when her coach, Mr Harris, told her she was the class’s best player. Although it’s difficult to know whether Mr Harris’s opinion is very reliable — he’s a push-over for a pretty face and a flash of a shapely thigh.

When writing about joint ownership, possession is shown only on the last noun, but where individual ownership exists, possession is shown on each noun.

Lavinia and her husband’s new yacht was the venue for a fancy-dress party.

Lavinia’s and Raoul’s sailor suits were a hit with their guests.

T’riffic Tip

The very best way to remember when to use the possessive apostrophe — in any circumstance — is to substitute the word ‘of’ …

The women’s club – the club of the women

Lavinia’s personal trainer – the personal trainer of Lavinia

Her husband’s new yacht – the yacht of her husband

This is also the way you test for those really tricky ones:

three months’ experience – the experience of three months

So, if you’re tempted to use an apostrophe but you can’t substitute “of” … then leave it out!

Banana’s only $2 kilo – the … of … bananas, kilos? … @#!

All these shop’s sell clothes – the … of … shops, clothes? … @#!

OK … you get the message. Don’t just whack in an apostrophe every time you end a word with S!

About the Author: Jennifer Stewart is a freelance writer whose site, http://www.write101.com has been helping people solve their writing problems since 1998. Visit now to read numerous articles on how to write well — for profit or pleasure — and sign up for your free Writing Tips: mailto: WritingTips -subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Originally Posted at http://www.write101.com, July 13, 2001

Does Social Media Marketing Work For Your Business?

September 14th, 2015

Social media has become a strategized corporate priority. Businesses of all sorts and sizes are jumping onto the social media marketing bandwagon, some because everyone else is doing it, others because they’ve truly realized the power social media has to offer.

For social media marketing to work, a solid plan has to be in place. Blindingly engaging in social media doesn’t lead anywhere. How are you going to quantify the success of your social media marketing if you don’t know what your milestones are?

Having a social media plan ensures you can engage with your company’s followers, create awareness and visibility around your brand, and hopefully turn more visitors and followers into loyal customers, thereby increasing sales.

Some questions you need to answer for your social media campaigns to be effective are basic. How do you write effective tweets? What’s the best time to post on Facebook? Do you really need to use Instagram too?

Once you’ve got these answers and a content marketing editorial calendar, you need to take into account the following questions:

Should you ever self-promote?

If you have a blog post you want to tweet about, you don’t just create promotional tweets. This is the number one mistake businesses make: using social media as marketers only, and not as end users.

To appeal to your Twitter followers you need to make them feel they’re on the same page as you are, sharing the same concerns and the same tastes. They need to feel you are sharing something because you care, not because your primary goal is to promote your blog and have more people read and comment on it.

That’s why you need to be careful when you repurpose content for social media. You don’t make it “pitchy,” you simply make it useful and shareable.

For instance, don’t say, “Hey! I just published my new post on how to increase productivity. Please share and comment if you like it!”

Try this instead: “Productivity is a state of mind you need to embrace. Are you guilty of these 3 sabotaging habits? Read more here.” A teaser tweet like this doesn’t promote, it educates; it doesn’t sell, it helps.

This is the difference between promotional content and educational content. Your social media marketing should mostly revolve around educational, informative content your users will find helpful and will be eager to engage with.

Do you A/B test your strategy?

What works for a multinational brand won’t work for your 5-employee company. The best way to see what works for you is to test various types of content. Experiment with copy, with audio and video, with infographics, with sweepstakes, and so forth.

See what engages your readers the most. What is making them share and comment, and what leaves them indifferent?

You cannot predict what will work, you need to A/B test it to find out – and then adapt your strategy according to the results.

Do you offer quality content, all the time?

You might waste a lot of money on a promising social media campaign only to realize it didn’t have the expected results. The most common culprit is poor content quality and lack of coherence and direction.

Don’t be present and active on every social network out there, because you’ll be spreading yourself too thin. Pick no more than 3 social networks to engage with, and make sure you give your full attention to your communities there.

Instead of wasting time and resources on being present on all social media, make it mission to offer high-quality, engaging content in just two or three channels. This way your followers will instantly realize you’re dedicated and will be coming back to engage with your brand.

Focusing on only a few social media outlets also has the added benefit of helping to ensure the quality of your content. The less you’re consumed with, the better the outcome.

Ultimately, for a social media marketing campaign to work, it’s all about undivided attention and valuable content that’s fresh. Good luck!

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What Words To Use In Headlines To Increase Engagement

September 7th, 2015

You want more user engagement. But then, so does everyone else.

What makes a piece of online content shareable? What urges people to comment on and engage with a brand? Is it the images? The tone? What kind of influence do words really have?

One of the most talked-about topics on the subject of creating online content is headlines. There’s an ever-growing body of literature on how to craft the most brilliant, share-worthy headlines, the ones that will prompt your readers to engage with you.

A headline might seem like something you don’t need to waste too much time on, but the truth is that the headline is generally the only thing a reader will read. It’s the headline that makes them decide whether your 1,200-word post is worth their time.

However, even TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read) pieces do get shared and commented on, and this is entirely because of an effective headline.

When it comes to crafting your content, word choice for your headlines is the alpha and the omega. Here are a few tips to increase engagement with a few tweaks on how you craft your headlines.

Social Media Matters

There’s no single rule as to what kind of words work well in headlines. According to QuickSprout, words like contest and coupon don’t increase engagement on Facebook.

On the contrary, if you use words like submit, deal, and discount on Facebook you’re more likely to get a lot of shares, likes, and comments.

The important thing to take away here is to tailor your content for each platform and medium. Never use the same copywriting formula across different social media, because it will cost you time and lost earnings.

Not all social media sites are created equal; the demographics and types of consumers who use each can vary widely, and it’s your responsibility to know what resonates with whom, and where.

QuickSprout reports that for Facebook you’re more likely to boost user engagement with words such as these:


Tell us







Blacklisted words: contest, promotion, sweepstakes, coupon

Twitter is a completely different realm with different user engagement trigger words. QuickSprout says these are the words to focus on in Twitter:




Check out

How to


LinkedIn is a professional social network that calls for a more formal discourse. Words that are more likely to boost engagement in this realm are:



Under Budget

Researched and Accomplished

Specific Words To Use In Your Headlines

There’s a lot to learn about the best words to use in your social media content. Be sure to also be aware of meaningless buzzwords you should avoid at all costs.

Knowing what works well with which social network is not enough. You also need words that work well across the board.

The words, you, what, how, and when are among the most popular words in headlines for articles whose content goes viral.

Things Get Personal

Among the most popular words that you will find in a viral headline are the words you (588 instances) and your (202).

This indicates that when headlines directly address the reader they have a better chance of getting shared, retweeted, commented on, and liked by people.

When it comes to headlines, what makes them irresistible? When they’re in the form of a question. Question headlines address the reader directly and this directness makes it hard for a reader to skip over or ignore it.

Take HappyPlace’s popular series of posts that follow the same structure each time:

5 Things You Should At Least Pretend To Know Today

This is a headline that targets people’s need for being “in the know.” To intensify this insecurity, the headline editor makes sure they reference the reader in the headline so that there’s no question who the headline is talking to. Can you resist clicking to read?


Use the words you, your, this, when, what, and how in your headlines whenever possible.

These words take an abstract concept and make it more specific. Using this makes a headline more immediate, specific, and personal. The words when and how can be used to create questions, and
question headlines attract engagement.

Lastly, don’t forget to tailor your headlines for each social network for maximum results.

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Paper vs Monitor: How Technology Is Rapidly Changing The Way We Read

August 31st, 2015

The Internet revolutionized reading in the 21st century, something everybody realizes now. The numbers alone speak volumes: 11 years ago about 22% of Americans chose the Internet to get their news, but in 2013, that number had risen to 39%. The statistics are revealing, and attest to the fact that e-books, news, entertainment, and communication are all taking place online.

Online, tech-based reading is on the rise

According to Kathryn Zickuhr, Internet researcher at the Pew Research Center, 55% of Americans own a smartphone and 24% an e-reader.

E-reading is a trend that continues to grow. In 2011, only 16% of the American participants in the Pew study read an ebook, but in 2012 that number rose to 23%. Print book reading dropped from 72% to 67% from 2011 to 2012. Again, there’s a strong but gradual tendency to read more ebooks than paper ones.

Rituals that are intimacy-based favor print book reading

While traditional reading rituals like reading with a child or with another person are still mostly likely to be done with print books, participants in the study who commuted regularly confirmed that ebooks are their preferred medium for reading when travelling. Not only does an e-reader have the advantage of letting you keep a wider selection of books available, it allows you to access new books easily and quickly.

The future of libraries

Libraries are not dying, and many people still visit them. In fact, 73% of the people surveyed visit a library with the express purpose of borrowing books.

What’s been noticeably absent from libraries is the time spent in them. People generally no longer browse shelves as frequently. They find the books in the library’s website, reserve them on line, and go pick them up, a time-saving approach that librarians say is on the rise.

As the purpose of libraries shifts, their cultural role is becoming even stronger. People regard libraries as community spaces for ongoing cultural expression and communication. Lectures, cultural events, and meetings are all part of the many activities taking place at libraries today, giving them a role in peoples’ lives beyond studying and reading books.

Reader expectations changing

Online content is changing the expectations of readers. The print book is not going to be replaced any time soon, but libraries are already feeling the need to adjust to a more tech-based environment.

In fact, the survey illustrated that people are keen to use tech services like pre-loaded ebooks, or classes on how to use e-readers. Most modern libraries have online catalogs that let people borrow library-owned e-books, and even the smallest library is striving to offer more automated and online services to the public.

As we move into a digital era of content dissemination, the need for libraries and other cultural institutions to keep up with technology will not decrease. Libraries that stubbornly refuse to offer online facilities like ebook borrowing, free access to databases, and digitized books will run the risk of being neglected and forgotten. Technology is changing the reading expectations of modern readers, and society – and its libraries – has to respond accordingly and promptly.

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10 Hysterical Spelling Mistakes During Protests (PHOTOS)

August 24th, 2015

People make mistakes – especially in spelling. We should make sure we are not going to announce it in public though.

Here are some of the hysterical spelling mistakes you will see roaming around the streets during protests. Get ready to LAUGH OUT LOUD!

Hungry For A Steak or A Mistake?

Talking About Competence

Let’s Make It Official Then

Oh No! Not in PUBLIC

Really Confused Here

The Lack Of Space

Vandalize, You Say?

Kindly Put The Letter G To Complete Washington

Arithmetic Is Really Hard

Pardon Me?

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Schools Are Now Adapting To Technology For Learning

August 17th, 2015

Technology is taking over a school near you! Well, not exactly, but slowly but surely, steps are already being taken around the world and education is undergoing a massive shift. Textbooks and whiteboards and the occasional DVD-based class are now making way for tablets, digital content, and 3D printers.

While the message remains the same, technology is changing the medium. Students don’t go browse for a book on the shelves in the library, they do so with a search through their library’s app. From the cloud-based Chromebooks by Google to Amazon’s e-reader Kindle, for the average student learning is more and more tech-driven.

While there’s still a long way to go before every 2nd grade student has their own tablet or laptop to work with in class, the change is underway. The tech-based educational model is not a distant possibility any longer, and what was once science fiction is becoming daily reality. And here’s why that’s a good thing:

Efficient Research

The web offers students access to academic databases and the Internet itself, making the research process easier and more efficient than ever before.


Students can now interact and collaborate through Personal Learning Networks, dedicated forums, and other online school communities to share their thoughts, pose questions to teachers and each other, and work together.

Project-based learning seems to have found its ideal mate in modern technology. Students can continue collaboration after school hours, emphasizing the importance of working together, something that helps students in their education and prepares them for a team-driven workforce.

Independent Learning

With fundamental computer and Internet literacy, students as young as 8 and 9 years old can study independently and at their own pace.

A student can go back to what a teacher said by re-watching a class or lecture. Asking questions via Twitter, creating a blog post for what they’ve learned, or linking to sites that show how that knowledge complements and provides solutions to other issues are but a few more ways technology facilitates education.

Active Learning

Interactive games, instant communication, access to class notes and other media content – everything is more easily and quickly available to students these days through technology.

Students that miss school can join the rest of the class through an online video conference and even participate with questions.

Technology has transformed, and will continue to transform, education. There’s immense potential in new ways to make learning more efficient and successful for the younger generation, and these well-educated students will become the innovators of the future.

Do you really have to go overseas to learn English? (Guest Post)

August 10th, 2015

This week I’m in New Zealand, checking out some of the language schools here. They are really quite good and the students certainly improve their English.

But do you really have to travel overseas to get really good at English?

Well, if you asked me 15 years ago I would have said “Yes!” To learn English well you need to hear it, listen to it, speak it and really live it. And to get a great accent, it all has to come from native speakers. 15 years ago we had no option. We had to travel overseas to get this experience.

But today everything has changed. We carry around in our pockets dictionaries that contain every word ever written, we have pronunciations for every phrase we can think of, we have videos of every movie or TV show ever created and we can video chat with people at the other side of the world virtually for free. If you add in all the great software and computer learning packages around, you really don’t have to leave home if you don’t want.

Of course it’s better to learn overseas if you can. But before you invest all that extra money on the big trip overseas, really get the most out of your time back home using all the technology you can. Set yourself weekly goals, and set aside 50 minute blocks where you’ll just do language work. Set time for reading, listening and speaking (via skype or social media.) Plus of course listen to your favorite songs and movies in English whenever you can.

I promise you, the more you learn now, the more you’ll get out of your big trip!

Author’s Bio: Richard Graham is the CEO of GenkiEnglish.com He is constantly learning new languages, speaks 3 of them fluently and has lectured on language learning throughout the world. You can find out more at: http://GenkiEnglish.com

Originally posted in Ultimate Vocabulary Blog

7 Practical Ways To Improve Your Reading (Guest Post)

August 3rd, 2015

Dominic Cole

There are a number of ways in which you can improve your reading skills. Some of these are technical – there are certain techniques that need to be trained if you want to be a more efficient reader. These techniques include training yourself to avoid bad habits such as sub-vocalization (silent speech as you read) so that you can learn to read more quickly. This article though is about a different set of skills – skills that are much less technical – they are really just practical ideas to get you reading more and understanding and learning from what you read.

1. Read for enjoyment

Okay, this one should be self-evident. If you want to read better, start out by reading things that you are positively interested in. The very simple insight here is that if you are interested in what you are reading then your brain will take in the content of what you are reading. More than that, the more interested you are in the content, the more quickly you read, the more you can’t wait to get to the next idea, the next sentence or the next page. Before you know it, you have finished the book. Job done!

2. Don’t just read – read then speak or read then write

Sometimes people find reading difficult because it is such a solitary activity – it’s almost invariably something you do by yourself. If you spend too much time reading, it gives you less time for more “communicative” activities such as speaking to other people. Here’s an idea: talk to other people about what you are reading: there are book clubs galore out there after all. The insight is that if you share what you read by speaking or writing about it, then reading becomes much less of a chore. I’d add that, speaking as a language teacher, reading then speaking and/or writing will speed up your vocabulary learning no end – it makes a passive skill more active.

3. Think about what you have read

Why does reading often go wrong? Well, quite frequently people read “numbly” – the process becomes too automatic, the eyes are moving but the brain isn’t engaged. The symptoms of this are that you get to the end of the page and you have no idea about what you have just read. If this happens, then nothing much has been achieved. Is there a solution? I think so. It can be as simple as asking yourself the question “What have I just read?” at the end of each page or chapter, or perhaps “Do I agree with that?”. These are questions anyone can ask and answer – you don’t always need a language teacher to help you!

4. Think about where and when you read

One way reading has changed is that there are now much more media out there: for example different varieties of e-readers now make it possible to read almost wherever we go. This, for me, is a “good thing”. However, it does pose a challenge to the reader: you are much more likely to lose concentration if you are browsing the net on your mobile phone on the train during your daily commute. The idea here is just that if you want to take in what you read, it is much best to find somewhere quiet first.

5. Use pictures and headings to help you

Another way technology is changing reading habits is that a huge proportion of texts are now in multimedia formats – you don’t just get words, you get pictures or other forms of media too. If you want to understand what you are reading take a look at the pictures first – they’ll give you a good overview of what the text is about. A related idea is to take time to notice and read the headings – that’s what they’re there for! A little word of warning though: newspaper headlines can be very difficult to decipher – they tend to have their own grammar and often make use of highly idiomatic language.

6. Don’t always read in the same way and give yourself breaks

Good habits are good, right? Well, yes, but if you do the same thing all the time it does tend to become boring. So the suggestion here is to do different things as you read – read in different ways and keep your mind stimulated. My personal advice is to find a number of different things to read and vary between them. For instance, you might want to read a novel in bed at night and the newspaper on the way into work in the morning. All I’d suggest is that you choose reading activities that suit you as an individual and make them part your daily routine.

7. Just read lots – forget your dictionary

There is no science behind this idea! My experience though as a teacher is that almost invariably the people who read best are the people who read most. There is a lot to be said for quality of reading, but quantity matters too. If you are aiming for quantity, I’d make one small suggestion: forget the dictionary sometimes – dictionaries are good but they do slow you down. The idea is to learn to guess at meanings and not look every word up. All this takes is a little confidence and texts that you enjoy and want to understand – which takes me neatly back to idea number 1: my very best advice is to learn to read for pleasure.

About the author

Dominic Cole is the author of DC IELTS a website for learners of English and anyone interested in the better use of language.

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