Do you give too much (as an entrepreneur)? On keeping healthy boundaries with Shel Silverstein and Topher Payne

August 2021 Vol 3 Issue 8

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):

Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Organizational Storytelling

Let me tell your story!

Welcome Mid-August 2021!

As I prepare this issue of “Tell Your Story Newsletter,” a lengthy heatwave (with temperatures nearing 40 degrees Celcius) has finally broken and not a moment too soon! One can’t help but wish we could “bottle” the heat we’ve had since June, to release it next January or February!

In this issue, I describe a wonderful revisionary re-writing of the late Shel Silverstein’s fable, “The Giving Tree.” More specifically, the document alters the end of the tale, by providing entrepreneurial–and human–insights on the importance of healthy boundaries.

And in “Storytellers’ Corner,” I return to the perennial problem of differentiating between “immigrate” and “emigrate,” a problem patiently explained by American etymologist Bryan Garner. To use these terms correctly is especially relevant to me, as I tutor new immigrants to Canada in English as a second (or foreign) language.

These past nearly two years have been deeply trying for most of us. Recently, the drought and extensive summer heat have been devastating for farmers, gardeners and for all of us who worry about our beleaguered environment.

At such times, and with a Covid variant surging in our communities, do your spiritual leanings take you to mindful meditation, contemplation or prayer? I certainly have, and such belief can become our best resort.

May this week’s cooling trend and the passing of our last full month of summer, bring our province– one troubled corner of the planet–some lasting relief.

Storytelling Communication



ARTICLE 1: Do you give too much (as an entrepreneur)? On keeping healthy boundaries with Shel Silverstein
and Topher Payne
The perennial case of “immigrate” versus “emigrate”

Article One: Do you give too much (as an entrepreneur)? On keeping healthy boundaries with Shel Silverstein and Topher Payne (for the Atlanta Artist Relief Fund Story Time)

The American writer, poet, cartoonist, songwriter and playwright, Shel Silverstein (1930-1999), is fondly remembered for writing children’s literature. His online biography says that his books have been translated into 30 languages and have sold some 20 million copies. I still remember taking
delight in his cartoon images which I found in Greystone Heights’ (elementary school) library.

Arguably Silverstein’s best-known children’s story, “The Giving Tree” (first published in 1964), is really a parable about the importance of setting boundaries for ourselves, when we serve others. The publisher’s jacket aptly labels the book: for “all ages.” I summarize and quote the story, here:

“Once there was a tree . . . and she loved a little boy.
And every day the boy would come and . . . gather her leaves,” to play with,
He would climb up her trunk and swing from her branches,
and eat apples . . . .
And when he was tired, he would sleep in her shade.
And the boy loved the tree . . . . very much.
And the tree was happy.
But time went by.
And the boy grew older.
And the tree was often alone.”

When the tree asks the boy to return to playing with her, the boy says he is “too big,” and that he
wants “to buy things and have fun.”
He asks the tree to give him money.

She offers him her apples to “sell . . . . Then you will have money and you will be happy.”

The boy sells the apples. But afterward he stays away a very long time, causing the tree to grow sad.

When she invites him to play again (at a third period in the boy’s life), he refuses, saying he is “too busy,” that he “wants a house to keep me warm . . . [and] I want a wife and I want children, and so I need a house. Can you give me a house?”

The tree asserts that she has no house, other than the forest, but offers to give the boy her branches to build his house, which he hurriedly takes. Again she says, “Then you will be happy.”

The narrator next says: “And the tree was happy.”

The boy again stayed away for a very long time. But when they meet again (a fourth period in the boy’s life), the tree is “so happy she could hardly speak.” When she invites the boy to play once again, the boy says he is “too old and sad” and that he now wants “a boat that will take me far away from here.” He asks the tree if she can give him a boat.

Giving once again, the tree tells the boy to “cut down [her] trunk” to make a boat, and “Then you can sail away and be happy,” she says.

The boy does so, leaving the tree with only a stump. The narrator says that “the tree was happy . . . but not really.”

Again after another long time, the boy (now an elderly man) comes back to the tree. The tree says she’s sorry but she has no apples, branches or trunk to give him: “I wish that I could give you something . . . but I have nothing left. I am just an old stump. I am sorry . . .”

But he says he wants “just a quiet place to sit and rest. I am very tired.” So the tree “straightening herself up as much as she could,” invites him to “sit down and rest.”

The boy does so, and the narrator says, “And the tree was happy.”


The publisher of “The Giving Tree” summarizes this story as one of “unforgettable perception,” without specifying whose perception is at stake.

The story tells us that “as the boy grew older, he began to want more from the tree, and the tree gave and gave.”

The publisher goes on to refer to the story as “an . . . interpretation of the gift of giving and a serene acceptance of another’s capacity to love in return.” The statement implies that the tree accepts the boy’s very limited capacity to feel and share love, after she gives him everything she has—including
her life.

The parable reminds me of the Brothers Grimm fable of “The Fisherman and His Wife.” In that fable, the gender roles are reversed and the fisherman’s wife is the one who has an overweening desire (for her husband) to grasp and take (money and power) for her own benefit.

We don’t know how Silverstein interpreted the story he wrote and even if we did, that would reflect the fallacy of authorial intention. But 21st century readers like me are struck by the imbalance in “The Giving Tree” between the tree’s motherly generosity and the boy’s selfish exploitation of her.

And then . . . seemingly a world away from Silverstein’s parable, in a recent entrepreneurial workshop that I attended, the great American copywriter, Ed Gandia, shared something very special–a contemporary “alternate ending” to “The Giving Tree,” written by Topher Payne (and created for the Atlanta Artist Relief Fund Story Time).

The group deserves our credit, thanks and a contribution (which I’m looking into.)  Gandia referred to Payne’s revised ending to illustrate the importance of psychological boundaries for freelance creatives, including writers, of all kinds.

Payne calls his “revision” to the parable, “The Tree Who Set Healthy Boundaries.” Beginning in the part of the story where the boy asks the tree for a house,” Payne’s boundary conscious tree sets a limit! She says: “Okay, hold up. This is already getting out of hand.

Look, I was fine with giving you the apples to help you get on your feet. They’ll grow back next season anyway. But no, I’m not giving you a house. You know, I’ve seen boys like you pull this nonsense with other trees in the forest. First it’s the apples, then branches, then the trunk, and before you know it that mighty beautiful tree is just a sad little stump. Well, look here, Boy, I love you like family, but I am not going down like that.”

Payne’s tree next confronts the “boy” about how he only visits “when he needs something,” and how inconsiderate he is of the tree’s, feelings,” and so on.
The boy responds by doing research to learn that the tree will not lose her health by hosting some nearby squirrels—a point of concern she had expressed to him. In fact, the boy, says Payne’s narrator, “loved his friend [the tree] and was concerned about her long-term health because she had taught him the importance of empathy.”

Empathy, we know as humans, and especially as entrepreneurs, requires that we maintain our own boundaries. Payne’s rewriting becomes consciously entrepreneurial, when the narrator says that the tree and the boy accepted each other’s boundaries in this way:

“The boy attended culinary school. The tree took courses online and got her certification in small business management. They did their homework together nearly every day. The boy became a pastry chef. Together, they opened a bakery selling the best apple pies anyone had ever tasted. It turned a profit in the first eighteen months, which is most uncommon.”

Payne’s narrator mentions that the boy had a son of his own, and, in time, that son also had his own family. So, “because of their friendship, the boy was successful and fulfilled, and the tree grew wider and stronger, standing tall and beautiful in the forest for many, many, many years.”

The narrator then concludes that, had the tree years earlier given the boy her trunk for a house and boat she “would have had nothing left . . . for herself [or] anyone else”: “In truth, she would have gladly given the boy her branches to build a house” and “her trunk to build a boat. She loved him that much.”

But such giving without limit would have obliterated her boundaries: she would have had no home for the squirrels, no games with the boy’s grandchildren and no successful bakery selling legendary apple pies.

Payne’s narrator closes: “Setting healthy boundaries is a very important part of giving. It assures you’ll always have something left to give.” So not only the tree was happy, but “everyone was,” and not because they gave something to another, but because they remembered first to take care of (and
responsibility for) themselves–and, it follows, for their own happiness.

Does Topher Payne’s wonderful rewriting of Silverstein’s classic fable speak to you, in your entrepreneurial or personal life? Please send me your response; I’d be delighted to hear from you.


Words, Stories, Riddles and Jokes on Writing and Editing . . .

This month: the easy-to-forget distinction between “immigrate” and “emigrate”

One of my recent pupils during my recent practicum with Nevy’s Language (Toronto) reported that the difference between “immigrate” and “emigrate” was “hard to remember!” And I myself sometimes forget it.

So from Bryan Garner’s Modern American Usage, here is a refresher:
To “Immigrate” means to migrate into or enter (a country). This verb considers the movement from the perspective of the destination.

To “Emigrate” means to migrate away from or exit (a country). This verb considers the movement from the perspective of the departure point.
Garner writes further: “Emigrate is to immigrate as go is to come, or as take is to bring. People emigrate from or out of [a country] and immigrate to or into another.

He offers two examples, which I am reporting in corrected format:
(1) “The store is owned by Maria Guadalupe Flores, a native of Mexico who immigrated into the US at age 17.” “Cinderella Story MN,” Pioneer Press (St. Paul), 19 May 1996, D7.

(2) “His most recent hire is a programmer he recruited and helped to emigrate from Singapore.” Lisa Biank Fasig, “Jetsoft Co. Scans Its Way to Innovation,” Cincinnati Enquirer, 15 May, 1997, J3.

The best way to resolve what my ESL student called “hard to remember” linguistic differences is to keep using them, actively, in spoken and written English.

And if that fails, consult Garner’s Modern American Usage on an as-needed



Thanks this month go to the “Happiness Team” of Ed Gandia, based near Atlanta, GA, for sending me Topher Payne’s rewritten ending to “The Giving Tree.” Ed’s support team are generous in spirit and I am grateful.
And a huge thank you to Topher Payne for revising Silverstein’s disturbing fable!

In other news, special thanks this month go to novelist and friend, Lesley-Anne McLeod, for sharingher beautiful garden and wonderful conversation, two weekends ago.

Despite the drought, Lesley, as a devoted gardener, has daily watered (manually) and maintained beautiful plants and flowers, over the past three months. Her garden has even offered refuge to a wild rabbit (a “rabbit-in-residence”), which also shared his/her company, during our recent visit.

Have you found it wonderful to reconnect with old friends, after you’ve become fully vaccinated? I see plenty of photographic evidence over Facebook and Instagram!
I’m also delighted to be asked to reprise my business communication seminars for the Praxis School of Entrepreneurship. I look forward to adapting curriculum to meet the needs of new entrepreneurs-in-training in an online (Zoom-based) format.
Another word of special thanks to entrepreneur and language teacher Steve Cavan (formerly of Paddock Wood Brewery) who has generously shared his insight, tips and skills with me, as I register to teach ESL online.
And my thoughts this month are with the province’s teachers and educators who strive to return to in-person learning, when children have not been able to be vaccinated, and when some adult learners have refused (for various reasons) to do so.
And thanks to my faithful readers for their patience with this month’s newsletter, prepared when the iContact platform was not fully functioning–especially with its spell-check!
Between 2011 and December 2018, Elizabeth Shih Communications chronicled the stories of B2B marketing and communications on the Prairies and across the country.

Effective January 1, 2019, I rebranded as “Storytelling Communications.” I now help Canadian newcomers to secure better jobs by improving their language skills; I assist SMEs in closing more sales by communicating more effectively; and I write the legacy stories of major companies.

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant
website (

After I receive your message, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!
Please visit my website for more information (


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Do you think too much? How to free yourself from overthinking with Pea Callesen

July 2021  Vol 3 Issue 7

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):

Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Organizational Storytelling

Let me tell your story!



ARTICLE 1: Do you think too much? How to free yourself from overthinking, with Pea Callesen

STORYTELLERS’ CORNER: Word nerd alert! The case of pall and pallor




Welcome Mid-July, 2021!

Another week-long heatwave has blanketed Western Canada, punctuating these late days of the Covid pandemic. The heat has brought some needed stillness, it seems to me, amidst the discovery of yet more unmarked graves from Indian Residential Schools and amidst other stories of suffering and loss, such as the devastation of the collapsed condominium tower in Seaside, Florida.

When so much of our planet is dogged by strife and loss, I am especially grateful that many of us (including me) are blessed to have safe homes and communities in which to live and work and have our being.

As we ease back into life after the lifting of restrictions last Sunday, do you feel trepidation, relief, or both? And as high summer brings holiday time to many, what are you most grateful for?

In this month’s issue, I discuss the challenge of overthinking–something which so many of us are prone to, especially in recent times, and which can precipitate anxiety and depression. Psychologist Pea Callesen weighs in on what we can do to stop mental rumination.

And in “Storytellers’ Corner,” we visit “word nerd”  Bryan Garner’s blog posting, where he differentiates between the use of  the ominous terms of “pall” and “pallor.”

Although technically, our daylight hours are shortening and although rain is desperately needed across the province, I remain aware of the beauty of nature that surrounds us: Early morning birdsong and resplendent peonies all greeted me on my morning walk, today. Once again, we are reminded of the miracle of our seasons.

To all of my readers, Happy Summer!




Storytelling Communications


Article One: Do you think too much? How to free yourself from overthinking, with psychologist Pea Callesen

The May 2021 issue of the journal, “Psyche,” featured a fascinating article by the Danish metacognitive psychologist, Dr. Pea Callesen, called “How to stop overthinking.”

Although the article spanned several pages (and I recommend it to you), Callesen’s main argument was that persistently worrying, “stewing” and ruminating about one’s problems can yield unhealthy results. These include insomnia, trouble concentrating, a loss of energy, all of which can propel one’s worries further, “creating a vicious cycle of overthinking”(6).

Callesen writes that for many, overthinking results in anxiety and depression, which are exacerbated in pandemic times, when physical and mental isolation from family and friends intensifies our vulnerability to mental illness.

Given the times we live in, almost everyone has experienced overthinking at some point. Most of us also want to stop it, so Callesen’s insights are timely and relevant. But the world of overthinking is not a level playing field: People who have been overthinkers for many years sometimes feel ambivalent about stopping, afraid to let go of a familiar “crutch or coping mechanism.”

Callesen recommends that we confront the assumptions that underpin our fears, such as  “ ‘If I worry about what could go wrong, I’ll be able to do better next time.’ ” Ask yourself, she says, “if your ruminations have ever led to better decisions, fewer symptoms and more control?” Instead, worrying increases “tension, restlessness, . . . anxiety” and brings no better decision-making.

Callesen identifies five aspects of overthinking that clarify why we would do well to free ourselves from it:

(1) When we overthink, she says, we use defensive strategies to try to reduce our already present anxieties and worries, such as monitoring “threats, . . . seeking answers and reassurance, and excessive planning.” Such rumination is unfruitful and ends up “backfiring.” It “often leads to a heightened sense of danger, more worries and will maintain your belief that worrying is out of your personal control” (7).

Callesen reports from her clinical practice (some of which is conducted online from her clinic in Denmark) that many laypeople assume that thinking too much is “an innate personality trait; something we can’t change. However, the worry and rumination brought on by overthinking are a learned strategy that we choose—consciously or unconsciously—[when we try] to deal with our thoughts and feelings.”  We’d be more accurate to think of ruminating as “a bad habit we fall into” and one that we can learn to change (7).

(2) While overthinking is triggered by a particular thought, Callesen says that “it’s not the trigger thought in and of itself that causes unpleasant symptoms, nor is it the [number] of trigger thoughts we might have. It is the time we spend engaging in these thoughts, ruminating and worrying, that weighs us down” and burdens our minds (7).

(3) Trigger thoughts are automatic and can’t be stopped, but we can choose not to engage in  them—not “to ‘answer’ that thought and follow it up with more related thoughts,” and just to let it be.” We forget that thoughts are “ephemeral” and will go away, “if we don’t expend energy on them.”

(4) We can challenge the belief that overthinking is beyond our control by exploring “whether we’re able to postpone worries and ruminations” for a specific time of day (say one-half hour, late in the afternoon). Callesen says we can tell ourselves: “I’ll deal with this later.”

(5) It’s tempting to avoid situations that provoke trigger thoughts, but it’s more effective to practice letting go of those thoughts, rather than avoiding situations or settings.

Callesen and her mentors and colleagues have found that metacognitive therapy (and not cognitive behavioural therapy of the past, CBT) is the most effective way to deal with overthinking. And their research shows that it works effectively to counteract anxiety and depression.

She has published a book on metacognitive therapy, called, Live More, Think Less: Overcoming Depression and Sadness with Metacognitive Therapy (2020). She describes it as an “easy read” for laypeople that focuses on depression but applies to “overthinking in general.” Other online resources, including online treatment, are available from her and her colleagues on Zoom, YouTube and social media.

Callesen recommends that we train our attention to move from obsessive “interior inputs,” like trigger thoughts; and that we restrict “outer inputs” that come from external stressors. She recommends that overthinkers practice a 10 minute, three-step “attention training” exercise:

(1) Tune in to three or four environmental sounds, such as traffic, birdsong, chatter on a nearby radio, renovation noise, etc. Seek a setting where “some of the noises you select are nearer and louder, while others are further away and quieter.”

(2) Of the three or four sounds you’ve selected, practice tuning in to just one at a time, for about 10 seconds each (use a digital timer to help you). Let the other sounds fade into the background. After 10 seconds have passed, switch your focus to another of your sounds.

(3) After two minutes have passed, repeat the exercise, but switching more quickly between the sounds, allowing only 2-4 seconds for each one.

This exercise will help us to shift our attention between thoughts. Callesen suggests introducing a recording of a trigger thought into the exercise, to switch our attention toward and away from the sound of that thought.

With repetition, we can learn to let go of overthinking as a defensive strategy. Callesen says that with it comes “a great relief, and . . . the decisions you make won’t suffer from it.” If this and related exercises don’t provide much relief, she recommends a course of Metacognitive therapy (MCT) as a more intensive way to reduce anxiety and depression.

And now it’s your turn: Do you tend to overthink your way through life? Do you think that MCT could help? Please weigh in; I’d be delighted to hear from you.



A visit from “word nerd” Bryan Garner: Should we say “pall” or “pallor?”



In a recent blog posting,  American etymologist, Bryan Garner, explained the difference between the terms “pall” and “pallor.”

A “pall” means (1) a piece of cloth draped over a coffin or tomb; it can also be (2) a shortened form of  the word pallium, a robe worn by a bishop or by a monarch at a coronation.”

Garner says that the set phrase to cast a pall over (a situation) figuratively reflects the first meaning, above, to have gloom and defeat settle in.  By contrast, “pallor” refers to “a paleness of face, esp. a deathly lack of color.”

He writes that both words suggest that things “aren’t right!” But there the difference ends: a pallor is a paleness in the face, while a pall is something that causes gloom. Only a pall, not a pallor, is cast or hung.

Garner jokes that one “grows pallid” when reading the misuses of these terms that he cites:

“The strong-arm tactics cast a pallor [should read pall] over the once-lustrous Espy name.” Charles Whitaker, “Mike Espy: Bruised but Unbowed,” Ebony, 1 Apr. 1999, at 98.

Garner also cites this sentence: “Commerce students said the noontime fights cast a pallor [should read pall] on the rest of the day.” Mary Ellen O’Shea, “5 Arrested at Commerce After Fights,” Springfield Union News, 19 Oct. 2002, at B1.

What are your linguistic bugbears, these days? Please send them to me for future issues!




I am grateful this month to be immersed in a 32 hour practicum, teaching English as a Second Language to several new, Middle Eastern Canadians. Special thanks to the staff of Nevy’s Language (Toronto) for keeping the teacher resources and bookings as highly functioning as possible.

And thanks to my Ontario – and Quebec-based  students who show up faithfully for our Zoom-based lessons, despite the temptations of nearby beaches and parks!

I’m also delighted to have begun professional coaching, as I broaden the scope of my storytelling services, from Saskatchewan’s own, Deanna Litz, of Powerful Nature Coaching & Consulting.

Over the past 12 years, Deanna has been the main facilitator and coach of the startSMART program, through the Praxis School of Entrepreneurship. Deanna is a seasoned veteran with so much to share; I look forward to learning from her insights and guidance!

Many thanks again to the Saskatoon Health Region for ably managing and dispensing second vaccinations, when Pfizer supply temporarily waned (last month) and when the variants raised local anxiety. Particular thanks go to lifelong friend and medical librarian (extraordinaire), Erin Watson, for informing me about a clinic that would expedite the process.

Special thanks as well to cousins and old friends in Ontario (from both university and copywriting days) who continue to write or call at holiday times, even when time is a limited commodity.

And a shout out to all colleagues and friends who (like me) are major caregivers for their elderly relatives in Saskatchewan’s flawed senior health care system, navigating challenging paths when resources are scarce.

A heartfelt thank you this month to the Drebit family and to Gisele Stodola for their generous friendship toward an aging family member.

And to my loyal readers who continue to read this newsletter, now 10 years since I first began it, thank you for your loyalty and interest!



Between 2011 and December 2018, Elizabeth Shih Communications chronicled the stories of B2B marketing and communications on the Prairies and across the country.

Effective January 1, 2019, I rebranded as “Storytelling Communications.” Under the umbrella of assisting others in telling their stories, I help new- and economic immigrants to secure better jobs by improving their language skills; I help small- and medium-sized businesses to close more sales by communicating more effectively; and I help major companies to tell the stories of their legacies.

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant website (

After I receive your message, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!

Please visit my website for more information (


Can your writing flourish? Nine strategies to get you there, in the June issue of Tell Your Story Newsletter!

June 2021 Vol 3 Issue 6

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):
Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Organizational Storytelling
Let me tell your story!


ARTICLE 1: Can your writing flourish? Nine strategies to get you there (from Daphne Gray-Grant) 


The throwaway phrase of “in fact . . . ” from Bryan Garner




Welcome Mid-June 2021!

After observing a late spring with drought-like conditions, Saskatoon (and much of the province) has had some very timely rainfall, delighting farmers and gardeners alike. Although frost after Victoria Day destroyed too many bedding plants, we have since had welcome heat, and a return to a heat-wave, this week!

After a slow start to spring, it’s wonderful to hear on local radio all that Saskatonians are doing to improve their quality of life, despite the strain of our late pandemic times. Home renovations, craft activities and even much-needed spring cleaning help us to feel we are anchored to a healthier, more positive future.

In this month’s issue, I turn to Vancouver writer, Daphne Gray-Grant, who shares smart strategies that may help you to enjoy the process of writing, regardless of what kind of writing you do.

In “Storytellers’ Corner,” I visit the use of the throwaway phrase (i.e. discardable term), “in fact . . . .”  I often hear the term from new English speakers, when silence would be better (lol)!

I hope that you are enjoying our good weather and the opportunity to be closer to nature.  Alongside getting one’s vaccinations, sunshine awakens our knowledge of the seasons, after some 18+ trying months! And it does wonders for resetting one’s internal clock, if you are dogged by insomnia or restlessness.

Happy Summer!



Storytelling Communications


Article OneCan your writing flourish? Nine strategies to get you there (from Daphne Gray-Grant) 

In the past week I have begun to roll out my ESL teaching and tutoring services and have been surprised by what fun it is to share the English language with newcomers to Canada! We meet on Zoom through a not-for-profit organization that is based in Toronto. While I continue to write and edit marketing copy for small- and medium-sized businesses, I am happy to expand my services to include language instruction. The students are so interesting and the conversations dynamic and fun!

Most ESL teaching focuses on the four major elements of reading, writing, speaking and listening. Most often, students find speaking and listening to be the most challenging elements, as they require the participation of another English speaker, who may not be available when the student is studying. To help with that, ESL teachers know that providing frequent meetings between themselves (as native speakers of English) and the new learner is invaluable.

One of my students in the past week, however, expressed concern about her writing skills and had  previously found that writing in English is demanding and rarely fun! I referred this student to a recent newsletter from Vancouver-based writing and publication coach, Daphne Gray-Grant. Daphne called her post, aptly, “How to flourish as a writer.”

For all writers (whether ESL, native speakers or others), Daphne’s sensible suggestions can make the writing process feel liberating, instead of taxing. Here are her nine tips on how to thrive (in her word, “flourish”) as a writer:

(1) Read as much as possible: Writers read a lot and not only to research knowledge or check plot structure. Daphne says that writers also read to learn the stylistic strategies of other writers. Writers can observe sentence structures, syntax and rhythm. This isn’t plagiarism, because no ideas are being copied. And yet writers too often forget the importance of reading Daphne compares the process to the that of new artists sitting in galleries to copy the work of the masters. Similarly chefs taste what they cook, as they go. And musicians listen to a great deal of music, as they learn.

(2) Give yourself enough time for thinking through your ideas: While writers often use pre-writing, the act of writing casually until they discover their own ideas and opinions, it’s important, still, to give yourself time away from the computer (and your desk) simply to think! Often mental insights can come when you’re walking in nature, or on a commute to an appointment, and so on. If you’re worried about missing these breakthroughs, speak into a voice recorder on your smartphone. (Or take a note in a notebook you carry for creative purposes!) You’ll be glad that you did!

(3) Avoid the temptation to edit while you write: Although a writer may want to analyze each sentence as soon as they write it, doing so is an awful trap for the creative process. It’s far better to draft a section of your document (essay, chapter, etc.) and then take a break (at least overnight) before editing it. The first draft may be “rubbish” when you read it a day later, but it will give you a valid starting point from which to refine your thinking.

(4) Use a mindmap or diagram to register your ideas and the thinking that connects them: Instead of trying to write an outline before you know what you think about a topic, try doing what Daphne calls the “opposite of outlining”—i.e. mapping your thoughts onto blank (unruled) paper. The purpose of the mindmap is not to organize your ideas, but to try to “inspire” your thinking and the connections between your thoughts.

(5) Tell stories more often: Writing is not merely about sharing knowledge with your readers; it’s “keeping them involved and interested.”  Daphne recommends listening to–and writing–stories to enrich your creative process. She says that many TED talk speakers, like psychologist Shawn Achor, write well because their writing tells good stories. Incorporating stories into your writing makes it appealing, engaging, and much more memorable.

(6) Don’t try to multi-task:  The process of trying to write while doing other tasks will make you “miserable,” Daphne says, and your writing will suffer. Other tasks are distracting, causing you to make more mistakes, progress more slowly, find the process more stressful and ultimately produce inferior copy.  Daphne recommends turning off “ALL your notifications” (texts, emails, social media, etc.).

(7) Take care of your body: Many people approach writing as though it is a 100%  intellectual exercise. But it also involves a lot of one’s physical body, too. Your body needs a break after spending long hours at a time hunched over a keyboard. Your breathing is similarly subordinated to the process. So Daphne prescribes a break every 25 minutes to stretch. Monitor your own posture and breathing, so that you do not endanger your physical health. Try to get exercise daily, as it improves your brain health. Your writing will thank you for it!

(8) Maintain happiness (as much as possible): Daphne says that writers often measure happiness by the number of good words they write per day. She turns this thinking on its head, asserting that writers will write more if they are happier.

So if you’re recovering from emotional or other pain, try not to force yourself to write anything. Instead, give yourself a mental break (take a walk, listen to some uplifting music, talk to a friend or read cards and notes from others) to restore your own state of mind. She says: “The happier you are, the more you’ll be able to write.”

(9) Draw up goals for improving your writing: Daphne argues that writing is a process of self-improvement, where even the most gifted have problems to resolve.

Some find challenges in doing research; others in drafting; others in editing, and so on. Daphne recommends finding out what your major challenge is, as a writer, and making a concerted effort to deal with it.


Reading books on the writing process (I recommend Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird), sharing your writing with a coach or other writer whom you trust, or hiring an editor, etc., are all steps you can take to improve your creative process.


While Daphne’s nine strategies illustrate that planning and perseverance are needed to enjoy writing (and for it to succeed, on whatever terms you  choose), adopting her nine strategies makes it possible to find the process and outcome rewarding and pleasurable.


And now it’s your turn: Have you tried any of these recommendations to make your writing flourish? What results have you seen? Please share; I’d be delighted to hear from you. 



Word nerd alert! The throwaway phrase of “in fact… ” (with Bryan Garner)


While speaking to a new immigrant in Saskatoon recently, I found that he would often preface his opinions with the phrase, “In fact . . . .” The phrase next left the mouth of one of my online students of English as a Second Language (ESL).

Other, native speakers whom I occasionally meet will sometimes use “In point of fact . . . .” Such phrases are what etymologist Bryan Garner calls “flotsam phrases”–i.e. throwaway words that fill spaces in conversation while the speaker thinks of what that s/he’ll say next.


Making occasional, silent pauses is preferable to using throwaway words and I encourage both new and experienced English speakers to slow the speed of their speaking down. Slowing down gives us the time to think about what we’re saying.  Silence can be a virtue, as Victorian novelists and essayists used to say (sometimes, ironically, taking volumes to do so)!


Practicing a new language, or talking about something one does not know well, is not a time to become impatient with one’s own thinking! Our brains take time to develop our capacities for new languages and new ideas—and there could never be a better reason for taking time than that.


Do you notice yourself or others near you using “throwaway phrases?” Which ones? And how can you slow down your speaking to reduce or eliminate them? 



I’m delighted (as I indicate elsewhere in this newsletter) to roll out English as a Second Language (ESL) teaching services through Nevy’s Language, a not-for-profit program, based in Toronto. Thanks to its director, Mahmoud, for organizing and maintaining the program, which enables new immigrants to Canada to learn English more easily.


I’m saddened to write of the passing of a dear family friend, Merle McGowan, on May 28th, after a well-lived life (1931-2021). Merle was a great friend of my family and once trained in diaconal ministry with my mother (before women could become ordained in church ministry).

Merle’s taste in visual art, great books, delicious and varied cuisine, and deep friendships made her a favourite friend to many. We miss her already and will long remember her. Rest in Peace, good friend.


Special thanks this month to Damien and Megan Kent at Little Ox Film Company, in Saskatoon, who capably engineered a short video to promote my teaching and writing services. They were inspiring and generous to work with. I highly recommend Little Ox for your videography needs!


Special thanks also to the Raj Manek Mentorship Program, notably Kanchan and Sona Manek, for organizing another year of inspiring webinars for both mentors and proteges.

Particular thanks this month to Jenn Minor Johannson, who shared her energy and insights about “pandemic fatigue,” that so many of us now feel! The group of women entrepreneurs who tuned into the webinar were equally thoughtful.


Thank you also goes to Carl Cameron Day and webinar organizers at (from whom I took my ESL training). On a weekly basis, Carl has motivated new teachers to teach more effectively, especially when we have not taught languages before.

If you’re interested in ESL training, do please consider the UK-based, which has excellent programs and professional development resources.



Between 2011 and December 2018, Elizabeth Shih Communications chronicled the stories of B2B marketing and communications on the Prairies and across the country.

On January 1 2019, my company rebranded as “Storytelling Communications.” I now help new and economic immigrants to secure better jobs by improving their language skills (ESL teaching); and I help small- and medium-sized businesses to improve their sales by communicating more effectively (B2B copywriting).

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant website (

After I receive your message, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!

Please visit my website for more information (



Follow us on Twitter

Become a Facebook fan

Subscribe to my blog

Contact us

Want to avoid redundancies and cliches? This month’s “Tell Your Story Newsletter” tells you how . . .

May 2021 Vol 3 Issue 5  

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):

Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Organizational Storytelling

Let me tell your story!

Welcome Mid-May, 2021!

Until very recently, we have had a late spring on the Prairies, with cold mornings and very few days reaching 20 degrees, Celsius. And yet, last week brought more lasting warmth and record breaking heat is forecasted for today!


Have you noticed trees, bushes and lawns “greening up?” I’ve met some of you drinking in the plants, trees and bushes at our local garden centres.


The lengthening of our daylight hours makes life feel easier, despite our pandemic fatigue.


My writer-friend Julie Barnes enjoys this good weather, by punctuating her work with short breaks to weed a flower bed or a vegetable patch. I’ve been walking in my neighbourhood, to witness the wonder of spring.


In “Article One” of this month’s issue, I present redundancies and cliches to avoid in copywriting (and in fact all kinds of writing), as chronicled by writers of the online network, “ProWritingAid.”


And in “Storytellers’ Corner,” I visit the concept of “defamiliarization” of English idioms, from theorists and philosophers who first identified it, in the 1950s.


These articles offer a small taste of how complex our use of language truly is, and remind us to be conscious of its ethics and politics. Power inheres in our  linguistic practices.


But, as ladybugs and bees fly by my laptop and I find myself reading by daylight until 9:00 pm, I am conscious, too, of the miracle of our spring!

I hope it also brings you joy, good readers.




Storytelling Communications



ARTICLE 1: Tips on avoiding redundancies and cliches, from “ProWritingAid”


On idioms and “defamiliarization”




Article One: Tips on avoiding redundancies and cliches from “ProWritingAid”

The British-based, online writers’ network, ProWritingAid, offers many resources for writers of all genres, including copywriters.

This month, I’m sharing some of the sometimes laughable pointers from the network’s ebook, “Business Writing Hacks for Flawless Communications,” by staff writers, Kathy Edens and Lisa Lepki.

Edens and Lepki present (1) common redundancies to delete and (2) common cliches, or “corporate speak,” that we would all do well to avoid in business communication (and in any form of communication).

Many of their pointers are witty and insightful and may tickle your funny bone, as well as alert your mind!

(1) On redundancies to avoid:

Edens and Lepki write that one way “to declutter your writing . . . is to eliminate the common redundancies rampant in business writing today. You want to remove . . . double expressions that add nothing to your meaning.”

They stress that not all repetition is bad:  “You should still repeat key phrases” for emphasis, clarification and therefore, coherence.

But redundancies must go. Your copy will be stronger for it!

From their alphabetized catalog, here are some of the “worst offenders” (along with an explanation of why they’re redundant–which may amuse you):

  1. Absolutely essential” (if something is essential, it can’t be less than absolute).
  2. Advance planning” (Planning is always done in advance).
  3. Basic fundamentals” (Fundamentals mean the basic components).
  4. Brief summary” (A summary is a brief description of something).
  5. Component parts” (Components are parts).
  6. Current trend” (A trend is something happening currently).
  7. Desirable benefits” (Benefits are by nature desirable).
  8. End result” (Results always come at the end).
  9. First conceived” (Conceived means something started at the beginning or first).
  10. Foreign imports” (To import something is to bring it from a foreign country).
  11. Free gift” (All gifts are free).
  12. Future plans” (Plans always concern future occurrences).
  13. Harmful injury” (Injury means harm has already occurred).
  14. Integrate together” (Integrate means to bring together).
  15. Joint collaboration” (To collaborate means to work together or jointly).
  16. Knowledgeable experts” (Experts are by definition knowledgeable).
  17. Later time” (Later already indicates a place in time).
  18. Major breakthrough” (All breakthroughs are major).
  19. Meet together/meet with each other” (To meet means getting together with someone/each other).
  20. Mutual cooperation” (Cooperation is always mutual.)
  21. New construction” (Construction means to build something new).
  22. New innovation/new invention” (To innovate/invent is to create something new).
  23. “Outside of . . . ” (Outside means being on the other side of something).
  24. Past experience” (All experiences are in the past).
  25. Postpone until later” (Postponing means putting something off until later).
  26. Proposed plan” (A plan is something you propose to do).
  27. Reply back” (To reply means to get back to someone).
  28. Scrutinize in detail” (Scrutinizing means looking at something in detail).
  29. Still persists/ remains” (To persist or remain means you’re still doing something).
  30. Time period” (Time indicates a specific period).
  31. Unexpected emergency” (All emergencies are unexpected).
  32. Usual custom” (A custom is usual or customary).
  33. Very unique” (Unique is always one-of-a-kind).

(2) On business cliches (“corporate speak”) to avoid:

Edens and Lepki cite an article in “Inc. Magazine” as a source on how “corporate speak makes your organization dumber.” Here are some deadbeat expressions to avoid in your writing, even (especially) if everyone around you uses them:

  1. At the end of the day” (try “what’s crucial is”)
  2. Start building consensus” (try “persuade others to”)
  3. Core competency” (try “our advantage”)
  4. Low-hanging fruit” (try “simple opportunities”)
  5. Sweet spot” (try “effective qualities”)
  6. Mission critical” (try “top priority/goal”)
  7. “Leverage synergies” (try “combined effort”)
  8. Paradigm shift” (try “fundamental change”)
  9. Break down the silos” (try “collaborate/work together”)
  10. Run it up the flagpole” (try “test an idea”)
  11. Limited bandwith” (try “capacity to deal with”)

And now it’s your turn: Do you hear or read these  redundancies and cliches in the language with which you work? Whose interests are served by sloppy thought and writing?

Please share your examples or stories about them. I’d be delighted to share them in future issues!



STORYTELLER’S CORNER: On Idioms and “defamiliarization”: Language matters

Readers new to the English language are often surprised and charmed by phrases in conversation or in artistic work that disrupt how we commonly perceive the world.  Words in a text or a film can briefly, for them, seem new and fresh.

Such language has drawn readers’/listeners’ attention to the rhetorical strategies or devices that underpin our idioms.

Many idioms that first struck me in childhood as hilarious (providing examples of what Russian formalist thinkers in the 1950s called  “defamiliarization”), now sound mundane to me. They are no longer funny or amusing and instead sound cliche.

In recent years, I’ve noticed that when speaking with others who have not read much English literature, some of these expressions elicit the kind of laughter that I recall from my first childhood encounters the words. This happens because the language is for these users “de-familiarized” (made to seem unfamiliar).

Do these examples also sound passe or cliche to you?

These idioms have made some of my contacts laugh:

  • You can “nuke your coffee in the microwave.”
  • Please do not “reinvent the wheel” and call it new research.
  • S/he is an “evolutionary throwback” to study that topic for so long.
  • Most hotdogs are “mystery meat.”
  • S/he was “coughing up a lung” in the doctor’s waiting room.
  • I had to “get up at the crack of dawn” to make that meeting.
  • The reviewers found that the leader was “asleep at the switch”  . . .

Russian formalists in the 1950s argued that idioms like these sound funny when they disrupt an uninitiated reader’s perception and making of meaning. Common concepts or ideas are presented in “defamiliarized” ways. But once heard, the idioms quickly become familiar and so no longer amuse us.

One critic who wrote at length on “defamiliarization,” Viktor Shklovsky, says that this distinction between artistic and common language exists in all forms of art. He applied the Russian term “ostranenie” to it.

The above examples come from mainstream conversation. But dramatic examples occur in the literature of many countries, from Alexander Pope to Bertolt Brecht. They also permeate a lot of political discourse.

If an artist can “shake up a familiar scene,” as literary theorist Uri Margolin writes, “as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.”

There are political implications whenever the making of meaning in language is involved, and literary theorists and philosophers have found connections between “defamiliarization” and Freud’s “uncanny,” Brecht’s “estrangement effect” and Derrida’s “differance.” These are all (loosely termed) “postmodern” insights and theories from our last century that hold as much (if not more) value now.

They have altered the way we perceive and express ourselves, our subjectivity and the world we occupy.

Put more simply: language matters!

And now it’s your turn. Have you noticed how familiarity with language can alter the way you perceive it, by you or  those you talk to? Please share your examples for a future issue!



I’m particularly relieved to have found a happy home for an elderly family member at the end of last month, so that I can finally return to writing and teaching at “Storytelling Communications.”

Special thanks for the supportive cards and notes from family and friends (far and wide) which have brightened challenging times.

And thanks thus far to the staff at Revera seniors’ assisted living in Saskatoon, who cultivate empathy and caring for our seniors without sacrificing professionalism.


I was delighted to talk about one arm of a large “Ethical Digital” project this month that is being undertaken by tech guru Katrina German and her team, including Kelly Tidalgo.

Using digital tools these days can raise a lot of ethical questions. Haven’t we all worried about that vulnerable teen or that overwhelmed senior, who has fallen prey (respectively) to online bullying or social media scams?

Katrina and her team will enlighten us in future conversations on the ethics of digitization, through their  project.

I encourage you to stay tuned for more on their website:


In other news, I’m delighted (and proud) to share that my Uncle Harvie Barker (of Penticton, BC) has been awarded the city’s highest Rotary Award, for his 18 years of writing columns  in the “Penticton Herald.”

His collections of those columns has spawned dozens of books and raised more than $25K for local service clubs and agencies for the region’s  vulnerable population.

Not everyone thinks of writing and publishing as a community service, but Harvie (a retired United Church minister) has lived that mission and inspired many others, along the way.

I remember in adolescence trying to brainstorm “helpful” ideas for my uncle’s sermons when he visited, none of which passed muster (but many of which ended in peals of laughter).

Congratulations, Harvie Barker!


And, as I review my training materials to teach English as a second language, I am grateful to friend and accomplished teacher (of philosophy, classics and writing), Steve Cavan, who has graciously shared stories and resources with me.



Between 2011 and December 2018, Elizabeth Shih Communications chronicled the stories of B2B marketing and communications on the Prairies and across the country.

Effective January 1, 2019, I rebranded as “Storytelling Communications.” I now write marketing and communications documents and lead workshops that help small- and medium-sized businesses and and newcomers to Canada to close more sales or secure better jobs.

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant website (

After I receive your message, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!

Please visit my website for more information (


How to laugh more and other insights, in this month’s issue of “Tell Your Story Newsletter”

April 2021 Vol 3 Issue 4

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):

Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Organizational Storytelling

Let me tell your story!



ARTICLE 1: How to laugh more in Covid times

STORYTELLERS’ CORNER: The annoying case of “my bad”




Welcome Mid-April, 2021!

Although Covid-19 continues to dominate the headlines and to force lockdowns across the country, we might be forgiven for feeling Covid fatigue and some gloom about the state of public health.

In this month’s issue, I therefore recommend a distraction, by visiting an article, “How to Laugh More,” by Monaco-based, laughing specialist (gelotologist),  Freda Gonot-Schoupinsky. Who knew that laughter (gelotology) had its own field?!

And in this month’s issue of “Storytellers’ Corner,” I visit the always annoying (to me, at least) case of “my bad,” with etymologist, Bryan Garner.

Although media are questioning what kind of summer we will have, I hope that you are enjoying, whenever possible, the sights, sounds and smells of spring, which persist through recent cold and, in some places, snow.

May the freshness of spring (whether by a walk outdoors or a seat by an open window) provide some consolation for the public health anxieties we face, in these Covid times.




Storytelling Communications


Article One: How to laugh more in Covid times (with Freda Gonot-Schoupinsky)

In a recent edition of the newsletter “Psyche,” gelotologist (laughter specialist) Freda Gonot-Schoupinsky (hereafter, G-S) authored an article called “How to Laugh More.”

After a full year’s (obsessive) diet of often terrible, Covid-related news, many of us feel we need to laugh more than ever! As G-S writes: “Laughter is one of the best things you can do to cheer yourself up. So much so that I actively make a habit to laugh regularly—and I think you should, too.”

She offers three reasons why we should laugh more:

(1) Laughter is good for our physical well-being. American psychologist William Fry (the father of gelotology), described laughter as “internal jogging.”

Laughter has been found to have a similar effect, on heart rate and heart-rate variability, as exercise. Our immune systems are strengthened, our muscles relax and our blood pressure decreases.

G-S writes that a study of nearly 21K older adults found that those who laughed daily had lower rates of heart disease, compared with those who never or rarely laughed.

Patients with Type 2 diabetes who watched a comic film (by contrast to those who listened to an unhumourous lecture) showed decreased levels of prorenin in their blood, a protein involved in diabetic complications.

Watching humourous videos can also increase our tolerance for pain. So if you strain your neck and back cleaning out the garage, an enlightened doctor’s orders may be YouTube or a highly imaginative comic novel–and not just Advil.

(2) Laughter has become known for offering benefits for our mental health and personal development. When we laugh, the brain releases endorphins and decreases its release of stress hormones (including cortisol). Laughter can reduce feelings of stress and symptoms of depression, to help us to cope when life gets challenging. Problems loom less large when we laugh about some aspect of them.

Recent studies show that laughter can improve the quality of our sleep, increase our self-esteem and creativity and help create an environment that enhances our capacity to learn. G-S quotes the poet Byron: “ ‘Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.’”

(3) People don’t laugh enough: studies of adults in the US showed that on average, people laugh 18 times per day, with respondents varying between 0 and 89. I’m now searching for results in Canada. But–and this is crucial–we can all laugh without having the stimulation of humour.

G-S says that babies, for instance, laugh and coo without hearing (or understanding) jokes or stories. Laughter and humour can occur separately for us all. She writes: “We don’t need to wait for something funny to happen before we can experience the benefits of laughter.”

Laughter can be free, easy-to-use and fast to take effect. You don’t have to buy equipment or join a group or go to a specific location. G-S writes that laughter “burns calories, . . . it’s low risk and it’s legal.” We are 30 times more likely to laugh with someone else than when we’re alone and laughter tends to be a bonding process between people.

But G-S also says that it’s “perfectly possible to laugh when you’re alone” and to benefit from laughter.

Based on American psychologist Paul McGhee’s book, Humour as Survival Training for a Stressed-Out World (2010), G-S recommends three strategies or “humour habits”:

(1) Surround yourself with humour. Watch classic movies or comedy clips, collect jokes that you hear from others, tune into re-runs of sit-com shows you remember from the past. Create a file on your computer or digital device, so you can revisit these kind of “funnies.”

(2) Try to practice having a more “playful attitude” at work and at home (or wherever you work, in Covid times). Try to live more in-the-moment and find fun in daily life. G-S says this is “like warming up” before you start a run. Think about preparing your mind and body to laugh.

(3) Try with intention to laugh more frequently and more deeply. When you’re alone, think of something funny and learn how to laugh out loud from it. This gets easier with practice. She says to consider and try different styles of laughter, such as “playful, joyful and natural.”

Interestingly, G-S says that there is no such thing as “fake” laughter, since “all laughs are real, just produced by different vocal systems.” However, when we are just starting, self-induced laughter may feel somewhat forced. Don’t lose heart, as she says, “Self-induced laughter can get a bad rap, but research indicates that it can be even more effective for health and well-being than the spontaneous kind.”

Psychologist Paul McGhee recommends “looking for humour in everyday life . . . laugh at silly typos, or at the shape of a vegetable in your garden or fridge, or at the antics of your pet—whatever works.”

Verbal humour (such as puns) can arise from almost any context. Cartoon and comic groups exist on social media to share zany humour. (I’ve never laughed harder on Facebook than I have by subscribing to vintage cartoons from “The Far Side.”)

Being open to finding humour in day-to-day occurrences can soften embarrassing and stress-ridden moments. So learning to take ourselves less seriously and “to find humour in the midst of stress” can be helpful.

You can train your own skills as a comedian by writing your own jokes and by reading and viewing the growing number of online resources on laughter. For instance, my colleague, marketer and all-around funny man, Michael Katz, has undertaken training as a stand-up comedian and marvelled at how different that art form is from writing humourously (for which he’s better known).

You can undertake more formal practices of learning to laugh, without humour. G-S refers to “Laughter Yoga,” invented by the Indian medical doctor, Madan Kataria, in the mid-1990s, to reduce depression and loneliness. Nowadays, laughter yoga features “playful movements and exercises,” more than sophisticated yoga poses. For instance, you can learn to speak “gibberish” to initiate laughter.

Similarly, “Laughing Qigong” in China pairs “a series of breathing and body movements . . . with simulated laughter.” Studies show that practicing this has improved participants’ mood and humour levels.

Gonot-Schoupinsky herself created “laughies,” one-minute audio recordings of people laughing, that we can play back, either alone or with others.

They’re “like selfies,” she writes, “but instead of taking a photo of yourself, you record yourself laughing.” She says that recording and listening to a “laughie” three times daily for a week increased well-being by 16% in healthy adults.

Almost all of us can remember hearing someone whose laughter was so distinctive and vibrant that merely hearing it made us want to laugh. I can remember a family friend whose energetic “smoker’s laugh” alone made a me giggle, as a small child.

Other benefits from laughter included being more relaxed, more open to laughing with others and sleeping better. In the UK, a psychologist whom Gonot-Schoupinsky cites, is developing a database of “laughies” for others to use (aka “laughing stock”), much like the individual who in the US started the scream” telephone line, for those frustrated by our late Covid-times.

Further resources:

Videos abound online on the nature of laughter and how it benefits us. Gonot-Schoupinsky refers to many videos, books, talks and interviews with UK and US based psychologists and researchers; read here.

Her two favourite books on the topic are Laughter: A Scientific Investigation (2020) by Robert Provine; and Taking Laughter Seriously (1983) by John Morreall (a philosophical overview).

Forthcoming: a book by psychologist Jennifer Aaker, and the marketer Naomi Bagdonas: Humor, Seriously: Why Humor is a Secret Weapon in Business and Life and How Anyone Can Harness it, Even You (2021).

And now it’s your turn? Do you separate laughter and humour? If you practice laughing regularly, what difference do you notice in your sense of well-being? Please share on my “contact” page. I’d be delighted to hear from you!



STORYTELLER’S CORNER: The annoying case of “my bad” (with Bryan Garner)

In his blog on English usage at the end of March, etymologist Bryan Garner discussed the common expression, “my bad.”

He describes it as a “low colloquialism” that “gained popularity in the mid-1980s, apparently growing out of American sports slang and meaning, ‘Sorry, my mistake.'”

Garner goes on to say that it was “established” enough that it was “listed in a collection of campus slang published by the University of North Carolina” (no date given) and became common in pop culture, especially in the 1990s.

However, Garner adds, with (one suspects a gleeful look in his eye), the “phrase now seems to be on the wane.”

My beef with “my bad” is that, during the past 10-15 years, I heard the expression used in a “throwaway” manner, when the speaker couldn’t be bothered to correct an error that in those cases deserved more attention! For instance, when talking about one’s health care or when talking to university students about their writing, sometimes precision matters!

And now it’s your turn: Do you still use “my bad?” What case can you make (or not) of its usefulness?



I am particularly grateful this month to members of my faith community (St. Andrew’s Presbyterian) who have offered me support with caring for (and moving) an aging family member. Just as it’s often said, “It takes a village to raise a child,” caring for our elderly works much better when shared in community.

So special thanks to Rev. Roberto and Heather DeSandoli, Laura Van Loon, Martha and Dean Fergusson, as well as Jan Rodda, Judy McFadden, MaryAnn Lyle, Shirley Fourney, Donna and Jim Fenton and those whose names I may briefly have forgotten, for loaning time and other resources for my family’s move.

Senior’s health care in the province, as many of you know or have experienced, is problematic, so the last years of most seniors’ lives can present choppy waters. Having friends who become like family are a tremendous blessing.


Thank you also to my communications friends, including Christina Cherneskey (Christina Cherneskey Communications)  and Megan Kent (Little Ox Videography), for sharing their insights on staySMART contracts we’ve been working on, since the winter. Talking with peers is so helpful to focus and to gauge our progress, when we face complex demands on our time and energy.


The days of self-isolation I experienced, after taking a precautionary Covid test in March, have reminded me of the importance of making an effort (when it’s safe) to walk again, to enjoy the warmth of our prairie sunshine and the freshness of the air.

If you are Saskatchewan-based, have you seen or heard the Canada Geese who started to appear, four weekends ago? Spotting them and their activities first alerted me to the start of spring.

How can this season of growth inspire you to keep fighting?


     ABOUT US:

Between 2011 and December 2018, Elizabeth Shih Communications chronicled the stories of B2B marketing and communications on the Prairies and across the country.

Effective January 1, 2019, I rebranded as “Storytelling Communications.” I now write marketing and communications documents and lead workshops that help entrepreneurs and newcomers to Canada to strengthen their businesses or secure better jobs.

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant website (

After I receive your message, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!

Please visit my website for more information (


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