Do languages evolve like biological species? An Answer in the mid-June issue of ‘Tell Your Story Newsletter’ . . .

June 2024 Vol 6 Issue 6

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):
Teaching English as a Second Language
Let us tell your story!

Welcome Mid-June 2024!
As I prepare this issue of “Tell Your Story Newsletter,” we have had over a week of grey skies and nourishing rain, punctuated by one or two “thunderplumps,” (downpours of fat, heavy raindrops), as described by English lexicographer (wordsmith extraordinaire), Susie Dent.

Today, though, the sun banished the grey clouds to make weekly activities and errands more pleasant!

With Father’s Day approaching this weekend, I hope you will find some time to spend with family, even if the “great outdoors” may not be as sunny and warm as we’d like.

This mid-June issue of “Tell Your Story Communications” is dedicated to the wonderful complexity and capacity of the English language–something I regularly contemplate, when I teach newcomers.

In “Article One,” this month, I visit the contention (presented by staff writers at “The Economist” that languages (including English) evolve like biological species do. . . . English as a Second Language learners (ESL) take note, if English seems a less-than-straightforward language to you!

And in this month’s issue of “Storytellers’ Corner,” I share 10 “obsolete” words that blogger Julia McCoy thinks we should revive. Then I step back to ask, “why do words matter so much, anyway . . .?”

As summer begins to unfurl, I wish each of you time to relax and recharge–body, mind and spirit–in the company of the family and/or friends you most enjoy.

While Saskatchewan’s northern lakes are a beautiful setting for time with loved ones, her many urban parks are also lovely. Consider Saskatoon’s Forestry Farm Park and even small neighbourhood ones,
such as the G.D. Archibald and Wilson Parks. All are child-friendly.

Which favourite haunts will you visit, this summer?

Enjoy this beautiful season, good readers, so that the prosperity of your relationships and the memories they create will be yours, now and always.

Sincerely yours,
Storytelling Communications


ARTICLE 1: Do languages evolve like biological species? Staff writers at ‘The Economist’ have an answer . . .

STORYTELLERS’ CORNER: Amazing, obsolete words in the English dictionary” that we should revive + the bigger picture of why words matter!




Article One: Do languages evolve like biological species? Staff writers at “The Economist” have an answer . . .

As readers will know from prior issues of my enewsletter and prior postings of my blog, I often read the writing of a set of staff writers at “The Economist” who adopt the collective name of “Johnson” (after Samuel, himself, the 18th-Century lexicographer and author).

The “Johnson” writers discuss fascinating contemporary aspects of English language and culture with close research into their historical roots.

In one such article, “Johnson” (as I’ll refer to them, hereafter) wrote that Charles Darwin saw that there are parallels between the evolution of languages and that of biological species.

Today, linguists, philologists and lexicographers (e.g. British lexicographer Susie Dent) tell us that languages are developing and changing all the time. Often, intellectuals view these changes as positive or neutral, but not necessarily negative.

New uses of words appear and old ones disappear.

Terms like “doomscrolling” and “mansplaining” and changes to the meaning of words like “epic” and “branding” show evolution, just as other words fall away.

The latter words exist by the thousands, including, for example, “crapulous” (feeling ill from excessive eating or drinking) and “grumpish” (meaning sullen or grumpy). (For more on obsolete words, see “Storytellers’ Corner,” below, this month.)

Contemporary linguists and philologists apply methods from other sciences to try to organize and explain changes in language. This contrasts the past, Johnson says, when “influence once ran the other way,” when “discoveries in linguistic history [left] a mark on evolutionary theory.”

For instance, Johnson cites the late 18th-century British judge, William Jones, stationed in India, who argued that Sanskrit’s similarity to Latin and Greek was not due to “chance.” Jones proposed (more persuasively than his peers) that there was “a parent language,” like a parent species in biology, from
which these other languages were descendants —“Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Persian and other European tongues.”

By the 1830s, Jones’ insight, elaborated upon by philologists who had followed him, was picked up by the young Charles Darwin, who thought that evidence that different languages had evolved from a single parent language required a much longer human history than sourcebooks like The Bible

Thirty-five years later, Darwin analyzed the parallel between the development of language and evolution, writing that both were “developed through a gradual process,” that was “curiously the same.” Having observed that changes to language occur over long periods of time, he thought it was
possible that one language had “given birth to both Hindi and English,” as Johnson reports.

The emergence of different species of course occurs both in language and in biology. Darwin found that finches separated on different Galapagos islands developed into different species, and that those who contributed to the survival of the group became prevalent by natural selection. “When
such changes accumulate,” as Darwin argued, you develop “two different species.”

Linguistic populations when separated by distance or physical barriers (e.g. oceans, mountains) have similarly differentiated. Small and random changes to pronunciation or to the meaning or grammar of words may be too small for a tribe to notice them. But as many generations pass, with numerous
neologisms arising from a mix of old syllables and mistakes or irregularities to create new words, native “speakers gradually lose the ability to converse with [one] another—[so] two speciating populations being to lose the ability to mate” (Johnson).

Contemporary linguists and philologists have observed other parallels between evolution and language development. Words, writes Mark Pagel (Reading Univ.), are like genes in being “discrete, heritable unities.”
As “Johnson” says, DNA replicating is like my “language teaching” (ESL) to economic immigrants!

“Physical fossils resemble ancient texts,” Johnson argues. But he notes that there are also differences, the largest of which is that “the chief driver of biological evolution—natural selection—is mostly absent in language.”
Johnson observes that whereas a bad mutation can kill an animal (or human), changes in language aren’t usually fatal.

Words may change meaning not to “avoid a predator, but because they help people communicate.” And new meanings for a word may not pertain to the “fitness” of its meaning or speaker. As Johnson notes, a celebrity’s use of a word may “take off quicker” than an academic (neologist)’s, simply because the celebrity has more followers on “X” or “TikTok.”

Johnson writes that “there is a deep and revealing relationship between linguistic change and biological evolution—along with some [major] differences.”

The final shared feature between these two kinds of evolution is that development is not “a process of ever-increasing sophistication.” Both organisms and languages “change to fit their environments.

They may not always become more refined,” Johnson writes. “But neither are they in decline,” he concludes, despite the ongoing lament of traditionalists (in both fields).

And that gives regular users of language, ESL/TEFL teachers and students alike–not to mention native speakers who resent the effects of immigration–much to contemplate.

And now it’s your turn: What do you think about the parallel of biological for linguistic evolution?
Do you agree or disagree with what their relationship has taught us (as summarized by “Johnson”)?
Please write in; I’d be delighted to hear from you.



STORYTELLERS’ CORNER: Words, Stories, Riddles and Jokes on English Writing and Editing . . .

This month: “Amazing, obsolete words in the English dictionary” that we should revive + the bigger picture of why words matter!


In a recent blog posting on, American copywriter Julia McCoy has collected “30 amazing, obsolete words in the English dictionary we should bring back to life.” McCoy asserts that words in English do have a limited lifespan. Some originate before present-day
English developed, while others have been “completely ditched.”

To keep this column quick to read, I share below just 10 seldom or never-used words that McCoy thinks were “retired” before their time. Then I’ll reflect more broadly on why words matter at all, with help from English lexicographer,
Susie Dent.

(1) “Groak”—means “to watch someone silently, as they eat,” hoping they’ll share with you. (e.g. How can I enjoy my perogies while that woman is groaking me?)

(2) “Snowbrowth”—from the 1590s, it refers to freshly melted snow. (e.g. Last night there was a snowstorm, that blanketed the yard. But now, it’s merely snowbrowth.)

(3) Excogigate—from Latin origins that mean “to bring out by thinking,” this word means “to plot, plan [or] devise,” but not in a linear way. (e.g. What is Bruce excogigating over there?)

(4) Apricity—from the 1620s, this means “when it’s a cold winter’s day, but the sun is gloriously warm.” (e.g. Although temperatures may be -40 degrees Celsius, apricity makes Saskatoon winters bearable.)

(5) Twattle—means “to gossip.” (e.g. Stop twattling and get back to work!)

(6) Elflock—means “if you have wavy hair and you wake up with it tangled and mangled. . . as if elves have tied it into knots during the night.” (e.g. Have you seen the state of his elflocks today?)

(7) “Gorgonize” – from the early 17th Century, means “to have a mesmerizing effect on someone.” (e.g. I was gorgonized by the sight of him, as he entered the room).

(8) “Curgluff”—a Scottish term from the 19th Century, it means an “intense shock.” (e.g. When you plunge into that cold ocean water and want to scream, you’ll experience curgluff!)

(9) “Snoutfair”—a 16th Century term that refers to “a good-looking person.” (e.g. Janet’s new boyfriend is a total snoutfair!)

(10) “Monsterful” —from the 1820s, it means “something rather extraordinary and wonderful. (e.g. The movie was every bit as monsterful as the trailer promised.)

Why do words like these above matter so much? In other reading this month, I learned that psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett has found that having the vocabulary to articulate happy feelings can help us to manage our emotions better.
Similarly, having fun words for sad feelings can make us feel less alone. Words matter and it’s important that anyone who wishes can learn to listen, speak, read and write English well.

In an interview in “The Guardian” newspaper (September 2023), etymologist and lexicographer Susie Dent reports that non-native speakers of English around the world now outnumber native speakers. So there will be many “new Englishes” in these people’s “hands and mouths,” around the world.

Dent sees this positively, not as a threat, saying, “English has always evolved by mistake . . . The example I give is the Jerusalem artichoke, which has nothing to do with Jerusalem and is not even an artichoke. The plant is a heliotrope—it turns toward the sun—but because we couldn’t pronounce the
Italian ‘gira sol,’ we thought ‘Jerusalem’ would do.” She refuses to despair about the future of language or of the world it reflects.

When asked for favourite words, Dent names one that resonates most with me: “respair.” It means “the opposite of despair; it only has one record in the dictionary, and it means to recover from despair.” But, she adds, “it also means hoping for better days around the corner. Having fresh hope
and optimism.”

And now it’s your turn: What do you think of retired words like those McCoy has collected? And do you think changes and growth in the English language are something to “respair” about, as Susie Dent does?

Please write in: I’d be delighted to hear from you!


Since the last issue of TYSN, I’m happy to report that a “reconvention” of “Table 32,” from May 15th’s gala of the Women Entrepreneurs of SK (WESK), has occurred!

While some at our table (notably me) did not dress as opulently for the gala as other attendees (thinking, “this is not the Academy Awards” . . . .) and while we laughed about being in the “nosebleed” seats, four of our table’s original six women entrepreneurs happily reconnected last week at Prairie Sun Brewery.

And others sent regrets until we meet again. We plan to reconvene to support each other’s businesses by sharing referrals, resources and strategies
for living our best lives.

Now that’s what I call networking!

Thanks to Suzanne Anton, Keshia Gamola and Sandra Miller for returning to the metaphorical table; Annie Charles, Kristen Pierce , Aimee Brown and some new entrepreneurial “sisters” will likely join us in August!
As summer transforms our yards, gardens and minds, many Saskatchewanian entrepreneurs head to one of the province’s 100,000 lakes or travel out-of-province to see family and friends. In both cases, you may find yourself wishing for a local food or artistic product to enrich a meal or as a
housewarming gift.

When seeking just that, I was delighted recently to revisit Sask-Made Marketplace at 8th Street and Louise Avenue (Louis the 8th Mall). I was impressed to find a much larger range of inventory than earlier existed, in pre-pandemic times.

Last week, for instance, I particularly appreciated Grassland Greens’ microgreens, several varieties of bison meat, photographs by Debra Marshall, local paintings and pottery from several Saskatchewan artists, fruit products and syrups (including those made with local haskap berries),
handmade jewellery, beeswax candles, alpaca products and more . . . .
And the staff were welcoming and cheerful.

If you haven’t visited Sask-Made Marketplace recently, do please consider visiting soon!

Some of their many food products are available in small sizes (under 100 ml), accepted by airport security, if you find yourself flying this summer.

Special thanks to Marketing Maverick (and CEO of “TrustedSaskatoon”), Sara Wheelwright, for thoroughly reviewing my website and social marketing last month, as I work on promoting my ESL teaching services. . . .

Sara’s marketing prowess helped identify key areas for development: Thank you, Sara! And similarly, another thanks goes to Toronto designer, Oliver Sutherns, who has helped me to perform numerous edits that are deepening my entrepreneurial reach.

I recommend both Sara and Oliver for marketing and design work, respectively; and I encourage you to reach out them directly.
They are extraordinary!

I’m especially pleased to share that my 10+ year old writers’ group, “Saskatoon Freelancers’ Roundtable,” has submitted our fourth and final collective article in the “Ask a Writers’ Group” series, for this year’s quarterly issues of the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild magazine (SWG), “Freelance.”

In all, Ashleigh Mattern, Julie Barnes, Adele Paul, Ashlyn George and I have co-authored four articles on topics such as time management, how to find clients, writerly resources and more. Each of us (when available) has taken a turn at editing these group articles for SWG’s online magazine.

“Freelance” magazine’s publications coordinator, Sheila Fehr, has responded warmly to our contributions and it’s been lovely to see them in digital format!

Special thanks to Ashleigh Mattern for managing correspondence, negotiating the contract for the series and for submitting the article I edited, on my behalf.
Alumni (or “alum” as some prefer) of the Praxis School of Entrepreneurship (PSE), take note: You are warmly invited to attend a late summer potluck lunch at the PSE’s downtown office (131 Wall Street). Date: TBA–soon!

Camaraderie, friendships and business contracts have all transpired from alumni networking. And working on the PSE alumni directory still interests many of us.

Rumour has it (haha!) that alum Barry Frain, Megan Kent, Christina Cherneskey, Jolene Watson, Sheridan Trusty and Cody Demarais (frequent PSE flyers) may attend, bringing some favourite cooking to share.

Stay tuned to this newsletter (and upcoming blog issues) for details!
AND . . . if you, or someone you know, is wanting to start–or grow–a business in SK, please get in  touch with the PSE’s Administrator, Elaine Mantyka; or Coordinator, Silvana Cracogna; at (306) 664-0500 or by email at

Funding opportunities are available, as are accommodations for entrepreneurs with differing abilities. PSE Chief Visionary Office Monica Kreuger, and Chief Facilitator Deanna Litz will transform how you think about entrepreneurship–and life!

Intake occurs regularly, but seats fill up quickly. So contact the PSE—NOW!
Thank you to some of my ESL students, past and present, including William Wang, Eliane Gaume,  Maryna Kostiuk and to former mentor, Mahmoud Allouch, for providing testimonials for my ESL teaching services that I recently uploaded to my website.

Reading these individuals’ reviews is both humbling and encouraging.

Thank you to each of you!

Do you have news to share on topics of language and communication or on entrepreneurship in Saskatoon (and surrounding areas)?
Please reach out to me and I’ll try to include it in a future issue!



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 economic immigrants get better jobs or secure larger contracts by improving their language skills; and I also write and edit the legacy stories of individuals and 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 ( .



When can pauses & interruptions help our conversations? An answer in the mid-May issue of TYSN!

May 2024 Vol 6 Issue 5

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):

Specializing in Entrepreneurial Storytelling

Let us help you tell your story!


Welcome Mid-May 2024! 

As I prepare this issue of “Tell Your Story Newsletter,” the  delicious rain that fell last week in Saskatoon has caused trees, bushes and plants to “green up” beautifully.

And with the milder weather, we can again wear barefeet in sandals (woo hoo!). And our days continue to lengthen (the sun setting at nearly 9 pm, now), which means more patio and backyard time!

Cue Gershwin, “Summer-time, and the living is easy!”

I’m planning a visit to Patterson Gardens, as soon as the splendour of our flowering fruit and lilac trees unfurls. . . And how about a trip to a local greenhouse to admire (and select) a few annuals and plants?

In Article One of this month’s newsletter, I visit some surprising truths about how pauses and interruptions not only allow for, but also help, good conversation.

And in “Storytellers’ Corner,” I visit the work of British etymologist Susan Dent on quirky words, both from other cultures and from Britain.

May this late spring and forthcoming summer bring you JOY through time in nature and among family and friends; and through renewed health and growth, after another Prairie winter.

And may prosperity also greet you, valued readers.

Thank you for reading another issue of “Tell Your Story Newsletter,” now more than 13 years in production!




Storytelling Communications



ARTICLE 1: When can pauses and interruptions help good conversation? Writers from “The Economist” weigh in . . . . 


Some quirky words in English–from Susie Dent




Article One: When can pauses and interruptions help good conversation? Writers from “The Economist” weigh in . . . . 

Before the Pandemic, “The Economist’s” collective of writers who compose under the name of Samuel “Johnson,” wrote an article on how verbal ticks and routine interruptions are “lubricants to conversation, not killers.”

Many of us strive to eliminate “um” and “uh” from our professional speaking, right? Consider Canadian PM Justin Trudeau before and after he received formal speech training. But recent analysis of human conversation practices show that minor words (e.g. “mm-hmm” and “uh-huh”) provide important pauses that are vital to good conversation.

Learners of English (especially English as a Second Language), take note!

The “Johnson” writers begin with the case of British PM (c. 1980s), Margaret Thatcher, a politician “known for a voice that brooked no disagreement.” Thatcher took elocution lessons to sound more forceful when she led Britain’s Opposition.

However, even after she became PM (1979-1990), she often used interruptions in the interviews she gave. Researchers who studied clips from the early 80s discovered that most often, “those hearing [her] interrupted phrases” [“um,” “uh,” “mm-hmm,” “uh-huh”], including her interviewers, “thought that the prime minister was ending her conversational turn.”  Most often, then, those interrupting her were not (as we might assume now) rude or domineering.

What explains pauses and interruptions in speech? The Australian linguist, Nick Enfield, discovered that humans abide by a linguistic rule called “no gap, no overlap,” in which people instinctively react to the end of another’s conversational turn by beginning their own, in about 200 milliseconds (the “time it takes a sprinter to respond to a starting gun”).

This is more interesting when we consider that it takes about three times as long (600 milliseconds) for a speaker to plan what they are going to say, by cognitively retrieving the words and organizing how they will use them.

People must then plan to begin responding well before their conversation partner has stopped (be it Margaret Thatcher or Mr. Bean). This requires “fine attention to the cues signalling the end of a turn, such as a lengthening of syllables and a drop in pitch,” Enfield says.

Not coincidentally, using a downward shift in pitch is frequently encouraged from speakers who want to sound more authoritative (as Thatcher did). Clips show she repeatedly dropped her pitch when she predicted an interruption.

21st-century business communicators (like yours truly) are often urged not to listen with the intention only of responding, instead of first (more empathetically) perceiving the speaker’s meaning and intention. But linguists like Enfield have found the boundary between listening and responding is more complex than that practice would have it.

And contrary to the assumption that speech patterns will vary between cultures, Enfield found that dynamics of human conversation are “similar from culture to culture,” from both major to minor languages and from rich to poor countries, throughout history.

For instance, the pattern of “no gap, no overlap” applies to ethnicities in ways that defy cultural concepts (or stereotypes). For instance, in contemporary Japan, speakers who are thought to be polite allow one of the shortest gaps before starting to reply: “In answering ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a question,” Enfield says, “the Japanese, on average, . . . reply before the questioner’s turn is over.”

He argues that this is not rudeness, but a practice that keeps the conversation flowing. Each speaker helps the other: words we might consider to be mindless throat-clearing (or verbal tics), such as “uh,” “um,” “mm-hmm” and “uh-huh” in fact “signal to the other speaker [listener] that a turn is not quite finished, that the speaker is planning something more. This makes sense only in the light of the split-second timing with which speakers take turns.”

Paradoxically, if there is “no gap” between turn-taking, there will be no “overlap.” The conversation will flow better and both speakers feel recognized and heard.

The “Johnson” writers note that men are more likely to use “pause-fillers” (esp. “uh-huh”)  than women are (although women favour “mm-hmm”), and speculate that this may result from men’s eagerness to “hold the floor.”

Enfield refers to research from past decades, including one experiment where several speakers “were asked to tell about a near-death experience, while listeners were given a distracting task, like pressing a button every time the speaker used a word starting with ‘I.’ ”

As a result, the listener was less able to encourage the speaker with “mm-hmms,” without which the speakers felt unable to cope: “[The speakers] paused more [and] used more ‘um’ and ‘uh’ themselves, and repeated the dramatic lines of their stories, desperate for affirmation” that they’d been understood and appreciated.

The “Johnson” writers note that Roman statesman and philosopher Cicero (1st C., BCE) was not the first to record “rules of conversation, which included taking turns and not going on too long.”

In fact, such rules have been discovered in many cultures long before Cicero’s. The “Johnson” writers say such rules may be part of “shared social instincts” among early humans, and “a product of evolution” over millennia.

The “Johnson” writers observe that the next time you find yourself pinned at a networking event by “a bulldozer or a bore,” know that they are more to be pitied than despised,” the “Johnson” writers conclude: Such speakers “are lacking a basic human skill” or capacity for relation. They efface not just “gap” and /or “overlap” but altogether the very identity of their listeners.

The “Johnson” writers conclude that conversation is fascinating not because it is hard to achieve, “but [for] how well people subconsciously cooperate to make it seem easy.”

And like many human skills, sharing conversation with others improves with practice: “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”

And now it’s your turn: How have you noticed “no gap, no overlap” in formal conversation with others? 

Could we re-write our social expectations for silence between shared conversation?





This month: Quirky words–some from abroad and

some “home-grown”– in English

Perhaps it’s the result of recent efforts to reduce my professional library that I happened upon some quirky etymology during my reading.

British lexicographer and etymologist, Susie Dent, has shared many complex words on YouTube.

She reminds us that the English language has borrowed words from countries all over the world—some with recognizable names and some, not. Here are three examples:

  • Tsundoku,” from Japanese, is “the act of buying yet another book that you fully intend to read, but never quite get around to” (beware, you buyers at used book stores and fairs this spring and summer!)
  • “Shampoo” has origins in Hindi where “campo” means to “press” or “squeeze.” Originally, getting one’s hair cleaned involved heavy massaging and pounding of the flesh—affecting both the head and the hair that grew on it! . . . British and European colonialists took these treatments (and fragrant soaps and lathers) back “home,” where they were passed down through the ages.
  • Ketchup” is based on a Chinese word, “Ke-chiap” for a brine of pickled fish that was taken from Vietnam to China and then altered by the British until it became the tomato sauce that (centuries later) dominates supermarket shelves in the Western world!

Some words may originate in the UK, but are happily onomatopoeic, and which Dent collected in one of her recent books, Roots of Happiness:100 Words for Joy and Hope.  This is a book for children intended to bring beauty and fun to them during Pandemic times.

Examples from it are “mubble-fubbles,” for feeling down or depressed.

Also, “thunderplump” refers to the “sudden downpour of fat, heavy raindrops that leaves us drenched and dripping in minutes” (more often a UK than a Canadian Prairie commonplace).

What “weird words” are floating in your office, mind or family? Please write in; I’d be delighted to share them in a future issue 



Last night (the evening of May 15th) was an especially joyous one, as Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan (WESK) gathered for their annual awards banquet. 


Awards were given for “Community Involvement” to Andrea Crittenden; “Indigenous Entrepreneur Award” to Destinee Peter; “Innovation Award” to Chelsea Stewart; “Growth & Expansion Award” to Maegan Mason and Cari Thiele; and “Resilience Award” to my colleague, Jolene Watson


Congratulations to all recipients and to all nominees! 


WESK’s “Achievement Award” was given to veteran communications leader (and one of my first freelance clients, back in 2011), the amazing Adele Buettner, who shared 10 of her best tips for entrepreneurial success.

Congratulations to all of the women attendees, nominees as well as winners; award sponsors,  and to WESK’s board, staff and planning committee, all whose hands-on effort made the gala the best it’s ever been!

Thank you to all of them!



Thank you to Joanne Fogarty ( Director of Employment & Learning) and Josephine Mensah (Employment Counsellor), YWCA, who hosted a recent job fair for newcomers to Saskatoon, where I discussed opportunities for newcomers’ language classes in Saskatoon.


Thank you to my IT specialist, Jordon, for again discussing subtle tech matters with me, despite the many demands that cover his metaphorical desk!


Thank you to Jolene Watson for referring me to Linda’s Printing, whose high-quality business cards and marketing materials have earned them admiration and plenty of clients!


Alongside copywriter, journalist and creative writer, Ashleigh Mattern, I thoroughly enjoyed walking through the opening morning of “Gather,” Saskatoon’s second farmers’ market, on May 4th at River Landing.

“Gather” features local farmers’ meat, dairy (and this summer—fresh fruit and veg), as well as international cuisine, local jewellery, candles and soaps. It was reminiscent of “The Forks” (in Winnipeg) and the “Eau Claire” market in Calgary.

Vendors were just getting started on the 4th, but the atmosphere was generous and friendly.

Several restaurants and food trucks had scrumptious looking (and fragrant) cuisine. The market’s products are not intended to be low-priced, but to build local businesses who work so long and hard for our community.

Gather’s atmosphere is pleasant to immerse oneself in, especially with summer on the horizon!


This issue of TYSN is dedicated to Edward (Ted) Gilroy, an extraordinary man with entrepreneurial instincts  who lived, laughed and loved fully in his nearly 100 years.

My childhood would not have been the same without his stories and jokes. My deepest condolences to his widow and sons. I am the better for having known him and share in his family’s sorrow.

Rest in Peace, “Uncle Ted.”



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 new and economic immigrants to get better jobs or secure more contracts by improving their language skills. And I also write and edit 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 (


Five ways that Emotionally Intelligent writing (EI) outpaces Artificial Intelligence (AI), with Nick Usborne

April 2024 Vol 6 Issue 4

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):
Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Organizational Storytelling
Let Us Help You Tell Your Story

Welcome Mid-April, 2024!

With spring now upon us (minus the snow forecasted for tomorrow) and Easter having flown by, local entrepreneurs (not to mention our clients) are firmly focused on summer promotions.

Local, writer-friendly cafes like City Perks, Sparrow, HomeQuarter and D’lish by Tish have rolled out their patios–and downtown newcomer, Pique, is soon to follow. 

Ice cream and gelato faves like Dairy Queen on 8th (with decades of history), the equally iconic Homestead, Fable Ice Cream (thanks to Julie Barnes for recommending the latter’s Haskap with Lavender flavour!) and Beppi’s Gelato (with its dog-friendly variety), all saw line-ups of salivating customers last weekend.

Garden Centres have begun to open their gates, with Floral Acres announcing that they will provide client shopping and delivery for those with disabilities or restrictions who cannot shop, in-person.

And the store’s famous “Toonie Tuesdays” started last week. It’s the perfect
time to scout out both perennials and annuals for the upcoming season!
Those of us who have balconies (i.e. container pot gardening) and/or can only grow plants indoors need not worry! Lushly green Boston Ferns, Philodendrons and Hoya among other exotic species are already available at Floral Acres and (before long) many of the city’s other garden centres.

In years like this one, when spring evolves, as late winter reluctantly cedes to it, I find joy in walking in my neighbourhood, observing neighbours deeply engaged in beautifying their yards and porches.

Daylight hours are lengthening appreciably (tonight’s sunset will occur at 8:06 pm!). I hope that your plans are developing for the “great weather” months ahead!

May this spring and forthcoming summer bring you JOY through time in nature, among family and friends, and through renewed health and personal growth. And may prosperity also greet you, valued readers.


Elizabeth Shih Headshot

Storytelling Communications


ARTICLE 1:  Five ways that Emotionally Intelligent writing (EI) outpaces Artificial Intelligence (AI), with Nick Usborne
STORYTELLERS’ CORNER:  Is it “none is” or “none are,” with Bryan Garner?

Article One: Five ways that Emotionally Intelligent writing (EI) outpaces Artificial Intelligence (AI), with Nick Usborne

While Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools like ChatGPT and Gemini are useful, especially as timesavers in many ways, their specialists have stressed that AI is not good with emotion.

Bots simply can’t write with emotional intelligence (EI), many say. This is because they do not feel human emotions—whether to laugh, fall in love, hold a newborn child, feel the sensation of sea air caressing one’s face, etc. No amount of technology will change that.

As Anglo-Canadian copywriter and AI expert Nick Usborne writes, “Lines of code don’t care about people, and how they feel.”

This creates a challenge for “marcom” specialists who may rely heavily on AI.

How do we develop content that may easily not appeal to the emotions of our readers?

Enter what Usborne refers to as “Emotionally Intelligent writing.” It brings good news! There are five ways that EI outperforms what AI can do, without it:

(1) Emotionally Intelligent writing validates people’s feelings to engage with them
–By empathizing with other people’s feelings, we can weave those feelings into our copy. Then the reader feels seen, heard and therefore respected. That is a powerful feeling.
–When a reader feels validated by the marketing copy we write, “they’ll lean into whatever you’re going to say next.” So writing with empathy gains us a  much deeper level of engagement and attention.”

(2) Emotionally Intelligent writing elicits trust from the reader
–When readers feel validated and believe we genuinely care about their needs and wants, their trust in us (and our product/service) deepens.
–And trust turns prospects into customers.

(3) Emotionally Intelligent writing is easier for readers to recall, so it delivers more value
–Usborne reminds us that human emotions “play a large role in memory formation.” While advertisements we read and think about briefly in a magazine or on a billboard will “disappear fromour [minds] within minutes, or even seconds,” promotions that appeal to our emotions last far longer.
–Remember that 1970’s and 80’s advertisement for Life-brand cereal (still remembered by GenXers):
“He likes it! Mikey really likes it!” Some fifty years later, many of us still recall that ad, while we can’t name (by contrast) the most recent household cleaning solution to hit the market.

(4) Emotionally Intelligent writing builds a “sense of community”
–When our prospects feel that we connect with their emotions, they feel they belong and appreciate the care we show for them.
–We can build community with prospects by using emotionally intelligent copywriting on social media, where they reach out to us.
–Where prospects feel they belong to a community, they are more easily persuaded to buy/use the services that their neighbours do, describe and recommend. Community recommendations become sacred, as the idiom goes: “like motherhood and apple pie.”

(5) Emotionally Intelligent writing is more persuasive than AI alone
–Copywriters and “marcom” specialists all know that every sale we win occurs because we’ve appealed to our customers’ emotions. Customers purchase our services because they make them feel better about themselves or their circumstances.
–When we write with EI, we intensify our capacity to persuade: we increase the emotional response of our prospects and, with it, our conversion rates.
AI copy, on its own, can’t accomplish any of these benefits.

So while the latest developments of AI like Claude3 and “hume” get plenty of airtime in industry and academia, AI will always have what Usborne calls “zero emotional intelligence.”

“Hume” claims to be “the first AI with emotional intelligence”– its marketers say it can “interpret vocal and facial and emotional expressions,” and so generate empathic responses. But the system’s code imitates, not generates, human feelings.

One of the few enduring truths we know about the limits of AI is that (no matter the amount of revision) it will never be completely human.

This is why the future lies with writers who can combine the efficiencies and strengths of AI with the emotional power of EI, as Usborne writes.

So, “no, Virginia, copywriting and content writing are not dead.” They just need (us) to fuse AI with EI.

PS: If you feel “in the dark” about how to integrate EI into your copy, Usborne recently provided a one-minute masterclass over Linkedin on the importance of mirroring your prospects’ and customers’ emotions (EI) when you use AI to write for them.

He used this very simple (teacherly) example:
(1) When he prepares to write copy to promote a product or service, he starts by reading and then copying 50 product/service reviews from users (found online).

(2) He downloads the script that the company uses of its customer service calls.

(3) He feeds this information into ChatGPT, with this prompt: “Give me a sentiment analysis of all of this information and highlight for me the language people use when they express positive feelings about this product/service.”

(4) Usborne then takes those “sentimental” phrases (EI) and weaves them into his copy. This process employs one’s writerly chops.
(5) Through this process, AI has NOT written the copy for Usborne. But it has quickly and accurately enabled him to mirror the persuasive language of a happy customer. He has used AI to help to elicit from readers the EI that he has also already woven into his copy.

And that work should make good sense–not only to copy/content writers, but to all users of AI.

And now it’s your turn: What do you do to incorporate EI into your use of AI? Please write in; I’d be delighted
to hear from you.


Is it “none is” or “none are,” with Bryan Garner?

Some of you may have heard a writer or editor insist that the
noun “none” requires a singular verb form: “ ‘None is
there,’ is correct, they may say, but never ‘None are there.’ ”
So, is this true?

Usage and grammar specialist, usage specialist, Bryan
Garner, recently blogged on this topic, saying,
“Unequivocally NO. For more than 1,200 years, English
speakers and writers have said none are—especially in
sentences like ‘None of them are,’ where the subject
is None (not them). In fact, ‘None of them are’ is more than
twice as common in modern print as ‘None of them is.’ ”

The conventional view of usage experts (as opposed to
armchair grammarians) is that both “none is” and “none
are” should be considered correct. “None is” expresses a
greater degree of emphasis, and it’s much more
formal; “None are” is more usual and more relaxed.

Garner says that grammar and style “pedants argue
that none is a contraction of not one, and etymologically
that’s true. But you must go way back in history for that.”

He continues: “By the 1600s, the plural usage was more
common, and it remains that way. The Oxford English
Dictionary quotes the noted writers John Dryden, Henry
Fielding, Oliver Goldsmith, Edmund Burke, and Somerset
Maugham for using the plural none.”

Garner also cites conservative linguistic specialists from
H.W. Fowler [1926], George P. Krapp [1927], Wilson Follet
[1966], William Safire [1982], Kenneth Wilson [1993] and
the 2017 edition of the Chicago Manual of Style as
advocating the plural use of “none are!”

He adds that the U.S. Supreme Court has published opinions
saying “None of them were” a full 49 times! That should be
evidence enough for us writers and editors, no?

One of the reasons I abide by Garner’s usage blog is that he
has (for years) contributed heavily to the Chicago Manual of
Style, the foundation of style and usage in the Western
World. That makes Garner an expert, in my book.

What grammar or stylistic bug-bears do you have, good readers?

Please share them with me for future issues of TYSN!




While studying accent reduction as a part of my English as a Second Language (ESL) services, I was delighted to branch out to teach a business communication seminar on “resume preparation in the age
of AI,” to folks with disabilities at The Ability Hub in Saskatoon.

Thank you to Business Coach Tolu Jacobs and Executive Director Chelsea Wisser for offering me this opportunity. (Here are Tolu and me.)

I especially enjoyed the class discussion on ways to use AI ethically when creating our job search documents!
Two of my students have recently “graduated” from my ESL teaching practice, ready to take their learning forward as entrepreneurs and government advisors. Congratulations to them, on their success.

If you know of any newcomers to our community who are seeking English language classes, please refer them to this newsletter or to my website. I teach ages 15 years and up, including beginners (Canadian Language Benchmarks 0-2) to advanced (CLB 10-12).
I’m grateful to Rose Marie Laird for a recommendation, several years ago, of the work of American psychologist, Dr. Rick Hanson.

Hanson is a specialist who brings Buddhist-inspired mindfulness and meditation to the emotional demands of Western (especially North American) life. He offers no-cost, online meditations and accompanying talks each Wednesday evening over Zoom.

Hanson also markets fee-based workshops on self-worth and on pathways to personal wellness and

I highly recommend his gentle but persistent energy, which can be witnessed through his website, including a regular podcast:

I also thoroughly enjoyed a house concert late last month, featuring the singing of two-time JUNO-nominated musician, former Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra conductor, Eric Paetkau; and opened by local songster, Wyndham Thiessen.

Both men shared wonderful stories and quirky meditations on life through their music, which were at turns fascinating, soothing and great fun!

I do encourage you to attend one of Eric’s future concerts, as he returns to Saskatoon and to Saskatoon-area schools annually to sing his repertoire of both adults’ and children’s music!

And special thanks to Eric’s agent, Julie Barnes, for coordinating and promoting Eric’s concerts!


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 land better jobs 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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What is ‘Artisan Entrepreneurship?’ An answer in this month’s issue of TYSN

March 2024 Vol 6 Issue 3

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

Welcome Mid-March, 2024!

Last Friday (March 8th) was International Women’s Day marking the need to continue to fight for women’s professional and personal equality. In a currently regressive, far-Right wing and patriarchal world, that need has never been greater.

In SK, across Canada and the West, the glass ceiling remains firmly intact but, as a mentor recently said, it is now just “deceptively covered with attractive looking foliage.”

How often have you felt angry, good readers, from a story in the local news, or from scenes of customer dis-service you’ve witnessed in our community? And yet, as business leader Silvia Martini recently reminded me, joy is essential: “Life is a very luscious peach to enjoy, with only a hard core that we have to work around!”

Twelve days ago, our lives were punctuated by “Snowmaggedon,” when, in just two days, 35 to 40 cm of snow fell throughout Saskatoon. Twelve days later, city crews have largely met the challenge, so that we might forget about the storm altogether, apart from tall snowbanks and the thawing of
ice.  My point is that notwithstanding the inconvenience, even snowstorms can provide reason for hope: As a friend of mine marvelled over the phone that weekend, “Heavy snowfall in March is every farmer’s and gardener’s joy!”

A glimmer in my mind and heart reminds me that we’re approaching the first official day of Spring on March 19th! Thankfully, we have passed through the change to Daylight Savings’ Time (while we do not observe it, our clients often do).  And we can enjoy the increase in daylight hours each evening, making it easier for us to commute to events in our communities.

In Article One of this month’s issue, I explore the concept of “Artisan Entrepreneurship” as suggested to me by Silvia Martini, in a recent meeting. What does it mean and why was I glad to learn it?

In “Storytellers’ Corner,” I visit three practical ways to invigorate  (or vivify) your sentences, from publication coach, Daphne Gray-Grant.

And in “Shop News,” I acknowledge the work of a few others in my entrepreneurial circle who often go uncredited, but who advocate for and make self-employment possible for, others like me.

I hope you enjoy this month’s issue of “Tell Your Story Newsletter” (TYSN), good readers, and that you’ll share with me your interests and ideas for future issues!

Storytelling Communications

ARTICLE  ONE: What is “Artisan Entrepreneurship?”
How to vivify sentences, with Daphne Gray Grant

Article One: What is “Artisan Entrepreneurship?”

I’m deeply indebted this month to Saskatoon’s Silvia Martini, a highly successful entrepreneur, community leader, board director and property developer, for sharing on February 23rd a transformative, highly intuitive and enjoyable meeting with me. During that meeting, she mentioned the concept of “Artisan Entrepreneurship.”

Silvia identified a match between the concept and my work as a freelance English language teacher and a professional writer and editor.

So what is an “Artisan Entrepreneur,” you might ask?

While I earn a living by my mind, pen (and keyboards) and encourage creative women (and men) everywhere who do the same, I would not say I’m a (scalable) startup entrepreneur, a small business entrepreneur, certainly not a large company entrepreneur, or even a social entrepreneur, although I
admire the latter’s socially responsible goals.

I imply no pejorative judgment to these other categories of entrepreneurs (and know, philosophically, that categories are not always a fully accurate form of identification).

Instead, I value the mentors, friends and colleagues who fulfill these roles (including Silvia Martini and Monica Kreuger), who are deeply committed to our community, who serve with profound decency, and who generously, tirelessly mentor others.

But I’m writing this month to acknowledge creative people’s philosophical and personal interests (and differences) that sometimes find a home under the umbrella of the term, “Artisan Entrepreneurship.”

In a collaborative 2022 book, Artisan Entrepreneurship, academic Vanessa Ratten says that Artisan Entrepreneurs “create social value by engaging in community business practices.” But that’s rather vague!

Artisan Entrepreneurs usually combine their entrepreneurial skills with expertise in a craft or art. While we manage the commercial duties of our enterprises, we are deeply committed to a specific skill or set of skills.

More particularly, as blogger Arian Adeli writes, Artisan Entrepreneurs “combine their artistic or craft skills with entrepreneurship to create a business.” The business may sell products made by hand, such as jewellery, ceramics, furniture, clothing or other artisanal goods. But the business may
also sell work that consists primarily of intellectual and emotional production.
Artisan Entrepreneurs provide a personal touch or craftmanship to our services or products, Adeli says.

The category of “Artisan Entrepreneurs” can include writers and illustrators (and not only potters or tailors), who are “often deeply involved in every step of the process, from . . . designing and creating the product or service, all the way to marketing and selling it.”

An Artisan Entrepreneur may make and sell a garment of “slow fashion,” like the beautiful work of colleague Kathleen O’Grady; or provide an hour of insightful Akashic Record Reading, like my colleague, Ann Chatfield. I have learned recently, too, of Yao Bo, who is an authentic Chinese tofu
maker who sells his painstakingly made products at “Good Farmer Tofu,” in Stonebridge.

These Artisan Entrepreneurs “sell a story, an experience, and the passion and love they put into . . . their creations” (Adeli).

It’s a concept worth exploring, since the value of the work of Artisan Entrepreneurs inheres in its uniqueness and quality—such output cannot be done by mass production.

For me, in pre-Artificial Intelligence days (AI), I would ordinarily spend two or more hours researching, writing, editing and publishing a particularly important blog posting for a client.

Or I might similarly read and plan for two hours a particularly effective English language class for a newcomer, when a mere AI “prompt engineer” (virtually an antithesis to an Artisan Entrepreneur) could dispatch of these processes in five minutes, downloading content without revision from GPT-4, or Google Gemini.

An oft-cited example of Artisan Entrepreneurship is of a local baker who might rise at dawn to knead dough and bake bread, sourcing “local ingredients, experimenting with flavours, and creating unique recipes” (Adeli).

That specialty bread contrasts a loaf of the cheapest supermarket variety, mass-produced to sell for $2.50 (and filled with unhealthy high-fructose corn syrup, to compensate for its terrible flavour).

The Artisan Entrepreneur sells what Adeli describes as “an experience, a taste of home, a piece of their passion.” We sell the unique outcome of a creative process.

The limited amount of public awareness of, and research on, the concept shows what Adeli says– “the motives of Artisan Entrepreneurs differ based on the way they are embedded in society”: their personality types may differ from other categories of entrepreneurs. We may be more introverted (but
not necessarily so), and we may be less driven by financial strategy than others (although some Artisan Entrepreneurs achieve, and all deserve, monetary success).

More research into Artisan Entrepreneurship can aim to “open up new opportunities” for this self-employment, writes academic Vanessa Rattan. Those opportunities may increase and promote a larger number of viable livelihoods for more creative workers (“creatives”).

I know from taking entrepreneurial training (through the Praxis School of Entrepreneurship’s “startSMART program,” 2018/19) and from networking in our community, whose economy has not yet rebounded from pandemic times, that Artisan Entrepreneurs—indeed all kinds of entrepreneurs—can struggle to be profitable.

Often, profits are low, which at times can be challenging, especially in a single-income household. But financial viability is possible when the craft(s) involved are pursued with entrepreneurial insight and planning (in consultation with experienced and successful mentors like Silvia and Monica).

For instance, as a professional copywriter, I can seek retainer contracts and long-term relationships with prospects in my niche for my services, instead of pouring hours over short-term pitches to unknown editors that often get ignored or are only accepted for below-market pay.

A key to financial success for Artisan Entrepreneurs is a stalwart belief in the value and worth of our services or products and the knowledge that gainful markets do exist, even on the “have-not” Prairies, and that the challenge is simply to search for and tap into them.

Although I have been working as an Artisan Entrepreneur for nearly 14 years, I am just learning what this means: Silvia’s sharing on February 23rd has improved my vision and understanding of the work I and others do in our community, leaving me with deep gratitude.

Not coincidentally, this meeting was facilitated as a Christmas gift exchange (December 2023) among a group of thoughtful and generous women entrepreneurs in Saskatchewan, including Silvia, Monica, Deanna Litz and numerous others.

These extraordinary individuals all know the risks and joys inherent in entrepreneurship, of all shapes and kinds.

And now it’s your turn. Are you an entrepreneur or someone who supports one (or many)?

And do you engage with the work of Artisan Entrepreneurs?

What insights do you have on this niche of self-employment for yourself or others?



“How to vivify sentences, with Daphne Gray-Grant” 

Publication Coach and editor, Vancouver’s Daphne Gray-Grant, reminded her blog readers recently that human editing is still needed to avoid the “very boring” writing that ensues from using ChatGPT and other forms of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

She showed that a boring tone arises when very basic sentence structure (subject + verb + object) repeats far too often. The example she shows is of the following paragraph (created by AI), where each sentence begins with the same definite article, “the”: “The researchers conducted a comprehensive
literature review. The scholars analyzed the data using advanced statistical methods. The authors discussed the implications of their findings in the conclusion. The study aimed to contribute valuable insights to the existing body of knowledge in the field.”

Just as we do not eat macaroni every night, Gray-Grant says, or want to read only one author of fiction in our leisure hours, we also want sentences in our marketing or communications copy to be more varied and creative.

Among the several strategies that she recommends for enlivening writing, Gray-Grant recommends these:

(1) Use subordinate clauses (clauses that begin with words like “because,” “since,” “although,” “when,” “if, and until”), so that you can emphasize certain ideas above others;

(2) Add coordinating conjunctions that support complex thinking (such as “and,” “yet,” “for,” “nor,” “or,” or “so”);
(3) Invert sentences so that the verb precedes the grammatical subject (“Look: there is the editing, now moved to the ‘done’ list!”).

If you’re finding your sentences to be monotonous, try these strategies. And subscribe to Gray-Grant’s blog for more ideas.

You may find your prose quickly vivified beyond what you can imagine!


Since I believe deeply in the transformative power of empathy and gratitude, beyond the folk already mentioned in Article One (and in the usual round-up of this section), I am especially thankful this month to Julie Barnes and Josh Remai, who co-sponsor a wonderful newcomer in our community in
many ways, including by contracting me to teach private ESL classes.

Working with a literacy learner who comes from a faraway continent has increased my awareness of the many challenges that arise for refugees and newcomers to Canada, especially in these war-torn times.

But those challenges have been mitigated and excellent support provided for this newcomer by the generous and compassionate support of Julie and Josh.

I also continue to be thankful for the work I share with women writers of “Saskatoon Freelancers’ Roundtable,” who since 2013 have been a joy to connect with. Most recently, we have been writing some collaborative articles (“Ask a Writers’ Group”) for the SK Writers’ Guild online ezine, “Freelance.”
Receiving and editing these women’s contributions last month, on the topic of “writerly resources,” has held much interest for me—and also been fun!

Thank you, Ashleigh Mattern, Julie Barnes, Adele Paul and Ashlyn George for their contributions to this group!
I’m grateful to my brilliant colleague and friend, Conor Phillips, Founder and CEO of Pathfinder365, a tech start-up, for discussing frankly over Meta (FB) the challenges of being a single wage-earning woman in SK.

Conor posted a link to a CBC article from 2023 that says “the most overlooked group” in Canada is actually single, most often women, professionals who live alone and face financial discrimination by CRA’s unspoken “singles'” tax.
Single professional women in Canada bear the weight of an unfair tax burden and next to no affordable housing opportunities, despite being full-time, employed individuals.

This situation contrasts the housing deductions and other allowances offered to their married or partnered counterparts.

The “singles tax” amounted in 2023 to about $15K/person/year in Toronto. So, many professional women, as Conor has said, cannot afford the escalating costs of rent, groceries and other daily expenses.

Numbers aren’t much better, either, in Vancouver, or in smaller centres, like Saskatoon. What Conor cited as a “singles’ tax” policy may hit women entrepreneurs in SK even harder than conventionally employed women, when we choose or need to live independently, while working hard to serve our cities and surrounding communities.

Tax policy changes are urgently needed. Can we see through the attractive foliage currently covering the glass ceiling?

If these issues are new to you, please consider reading this link to CBC’s “Cost of Living” article, posted by Conor, and write both your MP and MLA.


The list of “thank yous” that any entrepreneur can offer, in any month, can be extensive. Instead of repeating familiar names here, I offer thanks to someone new–local opticians here (and throughout Canada) who don’t charge to do small, emergency repairs on eyeglass frames, even if you’re not their customer.

An optician at “Theodore and Pringle” on 8th Street assisted me recently, when I needed some minor adjustments to my glasses, in a hurry!

But besides refusing to charge me, the staff there advised another person (a bonafide customer) about what equipment they could use to accommodate his partner’s medical disability (she was absent at the time), for an upcoming eye exam.

The staff went further to outline what government funding would defray the cost of optometric services for the woman with a disability.

These moments of community service (Julie Barnes and Josh Remai; Conor Phillips) and customer service (Theodore & Pringle) demonstrate in unsung ways, how Saskatoon speaks out and supports others  in the face of injustice and shines with kindness, even (or especially) in these challenging times.

And thank you to you, my good readers, for continuing to share your insights on social media and in correspondence with me!

Published by – Storytelling Communications. Copyright © 2024.

How can writing with Emotional Intelligence (EI) enrich your life? Some answers in this month’s issue of TYSN

February 2024 Vol 6 Issue 2






Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):

Specializing in Linguistic and Entrepreneurial Storytelling

Let me teach you to tell your story!



Welcome Mid-February, 2024!

Happy Mid-February, good readers! Chinese (Lunar) New Year (February 10th)  and Valentine’s Day (February 14th) have just passed (for many, with joy), as I revise this issue of “Tell Your Story Newsletter.”

Canadians who have lived all our lives according to the Gregorian calendar sometimes forget (as Google reminds us) that there are about 40 calendars at use in the world today. Of these, ours (the Gregorian) and six others are most commonly used– Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Chinese, Julian and Persian.

Out of that collection, I am blessed to have family, friends and colleagues in Canada or overseas who follow the Jewish, Chinese and Persian calendars: The others, I will work on! But last Saturday’s Chinese New Year was celebrated globally by more than 1.5 Billion people, of whom about 1.7 Million live in Canada (Statistics Canada, 2021). A few of them are, to my excitement, studying English with me.

As a second generation, part-Chinese/part-English Canadian, at Lunar New Year I observe the holiday by taking the time to reconnect with my Chinese cousins, who don’t mind updating me (in English) on their lives and celebrations. (Learning Mandarin is a late life goal for me.)

I was pleased to learn last weekend that they are all well, and had prepared dumplings and other Chinese delicacies to enjoy. Those who are retired said ruefully that they’d like to study English (ESL) with me, as newcomers do, because their living in a mostly Chinese-speaking diaspora in BC is causing them to “lose their English.”

And in recent years, one language that is increasingly connecting us all (despite linguistic differences) is, of course, Artificial Intelligence (AI)–now very much here to stay.

AI, as most copywriters know, offers us unparalleled access to human and machine learning, including the many responsibilities and ethical concerns inherent in that.

In this context of global AI (this “brave new world”), in “Article One,” I share insights of Anglo-Canadian copywriter, Nick Usborne, on our unwavering need for emotional intelligence (EI or EQ). Usborne’s insights may not be entirely new, but are worth weighing in our minds, as he directs us toward innovation and depth.

In “Storytellers’ Corner,” I share some tips on how to make writing (of any kind) more fun, from Vancouver writer and publication coach, Daphne Gray-Grant.

In “Shop News,” I share thanks and acknowledge those many folk in my entrepreneurial and community circle who provide as much support and affirmation as they may seek (and usually more).

And given that the darkest months of the Gregorian calendar are now nearly over, I commend you, good readers, for weathering this eccentric winter in SK–with its late start; extreme dryness; isolated days of intensive cold, followed by unseasonable warmth; freezing rain, etc.

Valentine’s Day and the Lunar New Year remind us that (we hope) we’re nearing the end of another winter on the Prairies. And in today’s glorious, Saskatchewan sunshine, that gives us even more reason to celebrate!


Elizabeth Shih


Storytelling Communications



ARTICLE 1: How can writing with EI enrich your life (with Nick Usborne)


How to make writing more fun (with Daphne Gray-Grant)




Article One: How writing with EI enriches your life (with Nick Usborne)

It’s certainly true that I now spend most of my working hours, each week, teaching English to newcomer entrepreneurs and economic immigrants. I love the work; teaching ESL has become a very satisfying arm of my services as a communications specialist.

But as part of my journey as a teacher and communicator, I continue to write and recently have been studying Anglo-Canadian, Montreal-based copywriter Nick Usborne’s course on applications of AI to the field of copywriting.

Usborne calls the course “Future-Proof Copywriting,” and it explores Artificial Intelligence, Emotional Intelligence and how to combine the two. I’ll share more of my learnings in upcoming issues.

But I was intrigued that as hard-hitting and experienced a B2B copywriter as Usborne is, he continues to argue that Emotional Intelligence can “enrich your life,” when we make room for it, in our applications of AI.

Although I’ll address applications of AI further in future months, this month I want simply to recall Usborne’s insight that there are essentially three ways that EI can make your copywriting persuasive, and even “enrich your life”:

(1)  He says that copywriters find self-empowerment through emotional connection. So if you take the trouble to get to know your audience and understand their feelings (needs, wants, “pain points”), you’ll be able to feel genuine empathy for your readers.

When you feel that empathy, you’re not just a writer communicating with an audience, but a genuine human being who is “reaching out and connecting with other real people.”

This is not as “touchy-feely” as some might think. First, Usborne says, when writers reach out to their readers, readers sense that their feelings are perceived and validated. Readers feel noticed and that shared emotional connection powerfully motivates them to buy from you.

Secondly, by connecting emotionally with your target audience, you as a writer will feel empowered and in a position to genuinely help your readers. You can take value (and feel good) in knowing that your work matters to others. You are not merely facilitating a grim economic exchange, as in Dicken’s England of the 1840s and 50s).

(2) Emotional Intelligence or awareness allows you as a writer to find creative fulfillment. I think of some 13 years I’ve spent, crafting blog postings and newsletter articles, especially on concepts of entrepreneurial wellness. AI now outpaces us in this niche, but without EI, copywriters would not know how to assess and refine AI-derived content.

Writing that involves emotion refuses to be contained by a formula or template. The latter are not creative, Usborne argues, but are “the writing equivalent of painting by numbers.”

When you simply follow a template, you won’t feel emotionally engaged because you’re not creating anything new (or, at least, you must strive to reflect an iota of new thinking or possibility).

But when you break a standard mold or template by tapping into the power of EI, Usborne says, you’ll find that you “can create a narrative that truly speaks to [your prospects]: Maybe I’ll share a story, or lead with a metaphor. . . . I’ll be creating something new, a new way to engage with my audience more deeply.”

That deeper act of creating is fulfilling, Usborne says. It’s like colouring with crayons, after seeing many pages of only black and white. “Writing with a high level of emotional intelligence is much more rewarding than following rules or templates,” he writes.

(3) Because copywriters since David Ogilvy’s pioneering days have sometimes failed to connect emotionally and creatively with their readers and work, we can often feel “discouraged” about our work, that we are only (Dickensian) hacks, striving, Usborne says, to “sell stuff with words.”

He recalls sharing that discouragement when chatting with a former client over a beer, many years ago. Usborne’s copy had resulted in the hiring of two new staff, had a huge jump in sales and much enriched company insight—such had been the difference his writing made. But he was the last to know it, in part since his emotions were not engaged in the work (and also that his clients hadn’t thanked him enough).

But when you tap into EI, as Usborne advocates, you’ll find a “deeper level of purpose.”

The first step to develop EI is to think more about the people who will read your copy. How can you engage with clients/readers at a more meaningful level?

Then, when you apply your EI to your copywriting mix, you’ll harness AI’s ChatGPT, GPT-4 and/or Google Bard. Using EI will feed those “large language models” (LLMs) effective prompts, and elicit potentially great responses, at a speed that outpaces what we could do, alone.

Usborne has elsewhere suggested that your own EI will make you more attuned to revising, fact-checking (e.g. and improving upon the provisional draft that AI produces. You’ll seek out ways to weave emotionally rich content into the copy that engages with your reader better than AI can currently do, alone.

You’ll cut out the “hallucinations” that AI sometimes makes, where a large language model (LLM) perceives patterns of objects that do not exist or cannot be perceived by human observers, resulting in nonsense or mistakes.

So, combining EI with AI is hugely important to the field, and wisely foundational to Usborne’s course, Future-Proof Copywriting. He says that “empathy isn’t easy but it’s probably the best thing you can contribute to any kind of relationship.”

Very important, further, is the truth that the more academic or business psychology you read (e.g.s. Adam Grant, Seth Godin, Brene Brown and Simon Sinek) to prompt AI, the deeper you will leverage it  to go, far beyond basic empathy:  For instance, consider the subtler research and writing of “self-compassion” (by Kristin Neff) and of  “empathic attunement” (by Clayton Rowe and David MacIsaac).

Combining EI and AI will render your writing more persuasive and powerful to your readers than ever before.

That fulfills Usborne’s prediction that EI won’t only improve copywriters’ morale and better sell our products or services, but will also greatly improve on (even “enlighten”) our clients’ lives.

And for that, they’ll keep returning to us, freeing informed copywriters from fears of our vocational demise.

And how it’s your turn. Do you agree with Nick Usborne that writing with EI can enrich readers’ and copywriters’ lives?

Please write in; I’d be delighted to hear from you.



How to make writing more FUN (with Daphne Grant). . .   

Whatever kind of writing you may be doing (or perhaps  wanting to produce by adapting AI), Vancouver-based publication coach Daphne Gray-Grant says that we all need to make writing “more fun” in our lives. That can happen when we make it less challenging, frustrating and even boring, than it may currently be! She shared these seven tips:

(1) Sketch out your ideas on a “mindmap,” so you don’t feel the overwhelm of a blank page! Think of your mindmap as a slate for brainstorming your ideas, that you can establish in point-form, illustrate and even physically connect, before you start to write! (It would be wise to start here, as a way to formulate prompts you might then feed to AI.)

(2) Don’t write for too long, each day. Gray-Grant suggests starting with 10 or 15 mins, unless you have a very short due date coming. (And try to avoid procrastination that can lead to that dilemma).

(3)Write, revise and edit with some music in the background—but not music with lyrics. She suggests “Coffitivity,” which has a free app that provides the white noise of a morning murmur, lunchtime lounge, or university undertones. Some writers similarly use “sound boxes” which often feature calming tones like rain on a tin roof, waves breaking on the shore, etc. When no lyrics are involved, writers often find having simple background noise can help the creative process.

(4)   Write in different places, especially if you have a room with high ceilings, which makes it easier to be creative.

(5)   Think while you walk, and dictate into your smartphone. Gray-Grant says that your voice will keep up with your brain more than your fingers can (by typing).

(6)   Reward yourself, when you’ve done some significant writing. Try to avoid eating/food rewards, but you might enjoy a specialty tea or coffee; a new magazine; permission to read for 45 mins a new book you’re interested in; a telephone call with a good friend; a bath or a long shower; a walk in the park or nature; window shopping someplace you like; listening to some favourite music; watching a show on Netflix or BritBox; listening to a favourite podcast, and so on.

Variety can stimulate creativity.

(7)   Don’t get obsessed with needing to be original, which is harder to achieve than many realize (and an issue intensified by AI!). Gray-Grant cites Salvador Dali, saying, “Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.”

I would add–don’t be afraid to tap into AI, but also be sure to review, revise and correct what it gives you.

It’s not foolish, ignorant or dilettantish to want to make writing fun. If you enjoy the process enough, Gray-Grant concludes, “you’ll do it more often and you’ll get much better at it.”

Now, who would argue with that?



Thanks and kudos this month to the staff at Luther Heights Intermediate Care Home, who take care of my elderly mother and many others, too, with empathy and kindness. It is a blessing to be able to trust those who are professional caregivers to support our dear family members in their late-life journeys.

Do you know anyone (or a relative of a friend or contact) who is facing a lengthy (or permanent) hospital or care home stay? Would you please consider making some time this late winter to visit them, even if only for 20 or 30 minutes?

I have witnessed, firsthand, how such folk benefit from a visit and gentle conversation. Each of us can bring comfort and joy (and sometimes, just a healthy distraction) to those who may feel they have lost their homes or loved ones.

Thank you for remembering these beautiful souls in our community!


My spirits as a teacher and writer are regularly buoyed (in these globally troubled times) by many local friends.

This month, I particularly want to thank Laura Van Loon (St. Andrew’s Parish Nurse); Monica Kreuger (Chief  Visionary Officer, Praxis School of Entrepreneurship and mentor extraordinaire through the Raj Manek Mentorship Program);  Lesley-Anne McLeod (Regency novelist and social historian, at; Steve Cavan (Classicist, Philosopher and ESL teacher); William Wang (Director of China Offices, Government of Alberta); Deanna Litz, (entrepreneurial facilitator and brilliant coach, Powerful Nature Coaching & Consulting Inc.); Rev. Roberto DeSandoli (Minister of Word and Sacrament, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church); Julie Barnes (professional writer and music agent); Ashleigh Mattern (writer, storyteller and marketer); Erin Watson (librarian, College of Medicine, U of S);  Dani Van Driel (former Director, Action Battery, now transitional developer for its emergence as a larger, nation-wide company); Martha Fergusson (amazing director of Christian Education, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church); Angela Jamieson (a friend from high school days who now leads “Angela Jamieson Transformational Life Consulting”) and Kanchan Manek, the tireless Director of the Raj Manek Mentorship Program.

And I look forward soon to visiting the brilliant and always lovely entrepreneur, principled community leader, insightful board director and property developer, Silvia Martini.

From our network of women entrepreneurs last Christmas, Silvia and I chose to share an in-person visit, which I anticipate with delight.


When waters get choppy around issues like the  state of publicly funded health and senior care in the province (and country); and around concerns like the ethical use of social media and AI, the above friends, as well as amazing community leaders and colleagues like Sara Wheelwright and Katrina German, testify to their  values by their testimonies and conversation–whether spoken or written.


Thanks to friends and colleagues at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church for bearing witness to our province’s inadequate LTC system for seniors (and beyond).

As new community members find their parents and grandparents aging without adequate health care and subsidized housing, St. Andrew’s members can listen, share experience, advocacy and compassion.

Particular thanks go to Rev. Roberto and Heather De Sandoli, Patti Polowick, Alan Ireland, Martha and Dean Fergusson and Heather Kolojay.


Finally, I’m delighted to partly write, fully revise and edit a collaborative article on the topic of “writerly resources” for the summer 2024 issue of “The Freelancer,” a quarterly ezine of the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild (SWG).

Many thanks to collaborators (winking co-conspirators!) Ashleigh Mattern, Julie Barnes, Adele Paul and Ashlyn George, for sharing their contributions with me.

The article currently under development is one of a series, called “Ask a Writers’ Group,” that I’ve shared with these gifted and hardworking women.

We collectively share 50+ years of experience as creative and business writers in Saskatoon.


Merci beaucoup, mes amies!

There are always more businesses to promote and people to thank. But for now, this is a wrap on mid-February! 



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 newcomers to Canada land better jobs or secure better contracts by improving their English skills; I help SMEs close more sales by communicating more effectively; and I write the legacy stories of major

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 (