We can all benefit from coaching.
Even CEOs of Fortune 500 companies seek enlightenment from experts.
Experts not only help us avoid pitfalls; they also help us expand our gifts.
Pitfalls in communication include such things as clichés, misuse of language and misspellings.
I needed a coach while covering sports for my high school newspaper.
Our faculty adviser brought me up short when I wrote that the high scorer in a basketball game had "stirred the meshes" for 23 points.
That cliché had to be discarded, the adviser said, so as not to draw disdain.
Just say "scored."
But I was too raw to know better; I was enchanted when I read that term in a Philadelphia newspaper.
The legendary sports editor Stanley Woodward, banished from the New York Herald Tribune for refusing to devote space to the passion of the paper's owner — women's golf — landed at the Miami News, where he browbeat his writers into avoiding clichés.
When one reporter wrote that a baseball player had "belted the ball out of the park," Woodward whipped off his belt, pushed it in the writer's face and said, "Have you ever seen a guy hit a ball out of the park with one of these?"
Just say the guy hit a home run.
In business reports, a sour note undermines customers' confidence.
You might say — CLICHÉ ALERT! — it sticks out like a sore thumb, poking the reader in the eye.
Here's a rampant error, in writing and in speech: the rendering of the word tenet as tenant.
A tenet is a principle; a tenant is an occupant.
Copy editors and speech coaches wean writers away from such mistakes.
Clear, crisp and cogent writing leads a reader along an uncluttered and vivid path.
Salespeople know they need to keep repeating their pitch to close a deal; so, I'll repeat the writer Pete Hamill's one word of advice to people who want to write well: "Read."
Let's read excellent writing, and embrace the best writers as our personal coaches.
Gary Gilson is a Twin Cities writing coach and Emmy Award winner. He also teaches journalism at Colorado College. Gilson can be reached through his website writebetterwithgary.com.