How To Write Lively In A World Of Dumb Drones: 6 Sources For Inspiration

I admit it: I’ve been caught red-handed. I blatantly stole “chica” from Sharon O’Day and hijacked the phrase “get into pole position” from Izzy Woods. I’d even steal from my kids, if given the chance.

writing with fire

Could a more fiery voice make your readers swoon?

Taking a lively voice from the younger generation

Among my three teens, I have one who studies Spanish in school, one who studies French, and one who studies Hebrew. On Saturday nights when sleepovers add to the mix, the volume at dinner time gets especially annoying.

I am usually good natured, taking the view that I’ll learn something about teenage life if I keep my ears open. Or maybe I’ll hear the latest hip lingo–useful for the lively voice I aim to have on my blog.

Recently, I heard something.

There is a phrase in French that refers to someone who is full of hot air, an arrogant type. Il pête plus haut que son cul. My hubbie translated it as, “he farts from a higher place than his ass.”

You see what I mean? Not sure where I’m going to use that turn of phrase. But the seven of us broke into hysterics when it was said out loud.

Why HOW you say it counts as much as WHAT you say

The reality: We are all tuned out. We don’t want boring. Dull language turns off readers like a piece of uncooked fish sitting too long in the ‘fridge. That may not be so for The New Yorker’s audience, but blog writing is supposed to be natural and entertaining. So a decision was made to write lively prose at Mojo40, simply to keep the audience from bolting.

I faced a problem. I am not especially great in digging up emotive, sharp language or funny juxtapositions. I can conjure up analogies or related examples. But I’ll admit I often use a crutch.

I’ll whisper my 6 best tips and you can use them, too, if you wish.

1. Find inspiration in trashy magazines

You know those magazines that tell you who wore the dress best, or who had the latest mental breakdown among starlets. Magazines like Star or Us. I wouldn’t normally pull them off the shelf, but in fact I use them for research.

Next time you are in a beauty parlor, a doctor’s waiting office, or at the nail salon, submerge yourself in trash. Yes! You will get so many ideas for tarting up a phrase that you will feel the tug of a keyboard immediately!

A few pages perused, and you will say “get that” with almost as many variations as there are sex positions in the kama sutra.

2. Subscribe to tips from brands that are lubricated and lovin’ it

Look for young brands in the fashion sector online, and sign up for their tips. I receive emails with serious attitude from, for example. The way their flirty teasers are written can help me paint in brighter words.

I also recommend following other bloggers who have banished the boring voice once and for all. always has a big hello that unpacks vivid vernacular.

3. Note that online reviews use sharp language

Online sites with candid writing are particularly good for discovering more sass. Folks will tell you straight out, “Don’t waste your time, this place bites,”  a direct quote from reader reviews on

4. Read signs everywhere

It’s not just Jay Leno who “discovers” kooky signs. I saw this one at the airport. Sound menacing?

real example of a ridiculous sign

How odd -- an unexpected way to keep the threat at bay!

If you get into the habit of reading signs everywhere, you will see that businesses have gone much further down the path of word play. For example, a sign spotted recently said, “If you don’t know Molly’s Tavern, you don’t know Jack.”

5. Read non-fiction books–real books with contemporary settings

Among my recent favorites is How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gill. Even Walter Isaacson’s tome about Steve Jobs had wonderful language for eliciting buttery phrases in work and life. While some expressions are useful, other zingers aren’t printable.

6. Check out Jon Morrow to craft better headlines

Headlines merit your very best skills to protect yourself from oblivion. Jon, an Associate Editor of Copyblogger, gave a wonderful seminar recently that opened my eyes to writing better headlines. Similar actionable advice is FREE as a pdf at However, like any smart marketer, he has bounded the free period, so grab it now while the pickings are hot.

Mojo Moves

  • As an exercise, write two paragraphs about your day. Save it under the title “Boring version.” Next, find a time-wasting magazine or go to an online review site, study it, and grab the phrases that really command your attention. Then re-write those two paragraphs incorporating your “special sauce.” Compare to see your progress.
  • If you are a job seeker, practice lively writing by composing your next thank you note (to someone who spent quality time with you) as a “Top Ten Reasons I Adored Our Meeting” (a la David Letterman).
  • If you are employed, try a lively list for your Q1 2012 Goals. Do co-workers react differently when your 90-day goals aren’t a snooze?

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons 2.0, erichhh

Do you have other suggestions for better writing? Please share below.

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Did you enjoy this post?
  • Catherine Morgan

    This is so funny and has some interesting ideas that I might have to “borrow.” I totally agree that people immediately tune out boring writing these days. I also agree that Sharon O’Day makes all of us take our writing up a level.

    • Diane Dol,insky-Pickar

      Can you see me smiling from ear-to-ear? It’s true!

  • Sharon O’Day

    Hey, Chica! It’s me, Sharon. I feel it’s so important to somehow “draw people into your post” immediately. And I thought I was doing a pretty good job. But your article makes me think I could ramp it up a notch or two … Thanks for the poke!

    • Diane Dol,insky-Pickar

      You are welcome. I’d drive a getaway car with you, any day!

  • PlanBVirtualSolutions

    Love your “Mojo Moves” and trashy mags ideas. I’m sure TMZ can give us a few pointers as well.


  • denny hagel

    Somehow you make the idea of “stealing” seem acceptable…so I am giving fair warning Ha! Great tips, brilliantly written! Thanks for sharing :)

  • Jennifer Bennett

    What a great article and what great tips to help us “see” the words and headlines that are all around us! Thanks for sharing!

    • Diane Dolinsky-Pickar

      My pleasure.

  • MariePalasco

    Wow,Diane this is a great article and I will surely use this information to help me. I LOVE the trashy magazine idea and I think this article is sooo great and funny. Thanks for the tips!

    • Diane Dolinsky-Pickar

      Hey, Marie, it is so great to read this. Do you know what? Last night a cop stopped us for speeding. He leaned into the window and said to me and my friend, “Do you know you were going over 40 in a 30 mph zone…? And then some banter, and as he checked our registration, he asked, “Are you wanted anywhere?” I replied, “I only WISH I were wanted somewhere!” Well, here on this blog, I know I am wanted.

      • Debi

        You are wanted in lots of places by lots of people. :)

  • Debi

    So true. Reminds me of the line my parents always preached “it’s not what you say its how you say it”

  • Donovan Grant

    Great article Diane. You’ve got some inspiring ideas for all of us bloggers out there. I particularly like the point about your three teens learning Spanish, French and Hebrew! They must provide you withj a ton of interesting ideas and topics. I’ll have to pop back and read some more!!

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