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Lisette Hilton

Lisette Hilton

This blog is a forum for discussion about several types of writing, including reporting, content writing, marketing copy or blogging. My aim is to offer readers ideas, insight and provoke thinking about issues and trends as they pertain to one of these writing categories. I’m Lisette Hilton, president of Words Come Alive. I’ve been a writer and reporter for more than 20 years. I’ll share some of what I’ve learned from communication experts and as a reporter. I also hope to learn from you. So, be sure to chime in.

Website URL:

A few decades into health reporting, I've learned one important thing: mental and physical health are a couple. How can we report on a skin disease like psoriasis without going beyond the physical manifestations of the disease? What about the psychosocial burden? One story is as big as the other, as far as I'm concerned. My recent story in Dermatology Times magazine focused on the connection between psoriasis, the physical disease, and psoriasis, the mental burden. I talked with dermatologists and a patient who shared heart-breaking stories about how people deal with this unpredictable and difficult to manage disease. It's true that it won't kill them. Psoriasis tends not to be regarded as a life-threatening disease. But it does leave many with a broken spirit. Quality of life is a big issue for people who struggle with psoriasis. Psoriasis is just one example. Whether a person is suffering from back pain, heart disease, cancer or even acne, you can be sure there's a mental component. As caring, responsible people, we have to start addressing that side of disease. Doctors, nurses, health reporters.... The list goes on. For more about the psychosocial impact of psoriasis, see my article in Dermatology Times magazine at
Wednesday, 21 December 2011 14:39

Americans rank journalists for honesty, ethics

When asked to rate professions for honesty and ethical standards, 26% of Americans surveyed indicated journalists ranked very high in honesty and ethics, according to a new Gallup poll. Forty-six percent ranked journalists as average and 27% of Americans said they thought journalists earned only a very low ranking. Three medical professions—first, nursing, followed by pharmacists and doctors—garnered top honors as the most honest and ethical of professions, according to Gallup. Members of Congress, lobbyists, car salespeople and telemarketers were labeled by those surveyed as the least honest and ethical. My beloved profession is somewhere in the middle of the list, slightly ahead of bankers and just below building contractors. That’s disturbing. We’re supposed to represent our readers—the people—when we report the news. But motives and more get in the way of good reporting.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011 14:50

Grading Content for Readability has Limitations

Copy grading services, such as Flesch-Kincaid, attempt to score content according to readability and difficulty. (The last sentence scored high in difficulty and low in reading ease. That’s not good.) Content writers worry about these scores because many clients want content scored at 8 or below. Generally, this means writing short, simple, active sentences. But not always. Like so many rules, this one is meant to be bent. Writers need to mix up the tempo and style of their writing. Let’s take the first few lines of the prologue in Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: “It happened every year, was almost a ritual. And this was his eighty-second birthday. When, as usual, the flower was delivered, he took off the wrapping paper and then picked up the telephone to call Detective Superintendent Morell who, when he retired, had moved to Lake Siljan in Dalarna.” That comes up as a 10.5 in grade level (or difficulty) and reading ease of 58.1. Eh, not so good, either. These are a few sentences with Flesch-Kincaid grade level scores and reading ease percentages: “I ran a marathon.” 3.6/75.8% “I ran a marathon and had a good overall time.” 4.8/78.2% “I ran a marathon, had a good overall time and didn’t get too sore.” 5.0/83.8% This one is surprising: “I ran a marathon last week, in the rain and when I wasn’t feeling too well; so, I didn’t run very well but I tried.” 2.9/96% What do you think? The last example sentence seems bulky and too complex to me, but it scored well. My point: Content graders are tools; not rules.

Walter Isaacson had the dream writing assignment. Steve Jobs cooperated with Isaacson for the writing of the new book. Yet, Jobs asked for no control over what was written. He was candid with Isaacson, and encouraged others to speak honestly. I haven't read the book, but interviews with Isaacson suggest the author set out to create a true, unbiased and fair picture of Jobs. What an opportunity for a writer... to become so immersed in an incredible life and tell that icon's story.
Expert marketing advice: Facebook allows you to separate your personal and professional identities, according to Kevin Pho, M.D., a Nashua, N.H., internist and founder and editor of "I always advise doctors to take a dual-citizenship approach: having personal pages closed and only available to friends and family, then having more professional Facebook pages open to the public, so your patients can see," Dr. Pho said during a recent interview for Dermatology Times magazine. He makes a good point. We should separate business and pleasure by having separate pages on Facebook. It's not necessarily that you might post or write about something inappropriate, but your friends could very well post things that are not for prime time.
Monday, 08 August 2011 16:08

Writing the professional bio

The professional bio: Make it snappy. Start with something that helps to tell your story but doesn't sound like a re-hashed resume line. Here's an example: A financial planner hired me to write her professional bio. Her strength was working one-on-one with people. She told me that most of her business happens around the kitchen table ... her clients' kitchen tables. That was the first line of the bio.

Wednesday, 03 August 2011 13:33

Resume writing

The way of the writing world seems to be short, to-the-point and easy--for just about any grade level--to read. Resumes are no different.

Resume writing has changed, according to a recent interview I had with Donna Cardillo, RN, MA. Donna is author of The Ultimate Career Guide for Nurses.

She says: Formats have changed. That’s because the people who receive resumes don’t read them; rather, they scan them. The long paragraphs and full sentences that we used to use in resumes are out.

What's in? A high impact format of writing, with bulleted information, and short, truncated (not complete) sentences.

Friday, 15 July 2011 13:13

Quick tips for Web writing

Short sentences are in.

Simple thoughts are in.

Monday, 11 July 2011 13:17

Writing profiles

One thing I've learned from writing profile pieces is that everyone has a story. And the most interesting stories aren't usually what PR people promote. A question that works well during my interviews is: Tell me something that you don't think people know but they should.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011 14:09

Blogging for business

The other day I interviewed Wendy Lewis, president, Wendy Lewis & Co Ltd, Global Aesthetics Consultancy, about the art of blogging for Cosmetic Surgery Times magazine.


While she was talking about how cosmetic and plastic surgeons can best create and use blogs, any person in business can use these simple tips: 


  • Blogging should be about a topic of interest and within your expertise.
  • Remember to use key words in your blogging, but not so much that the content becomes impossible to read and you lose the message.
  • Good fodder for blogs: timely news topics and trends. Remember, blogs should be current.
  • Stress education over promotion in your blog content.
  • Consider writing unique content. Google doesn’t like duplicated content. If your blog post is something you pulled off another website, that’s not going to help you.


Thanks, Wendy!

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