My Top Five Best Historical Films of all Time

My top 5 best historical films of all time

Whether it’s the stuttered swearing in The King’s Speech or the magnificent yet chaotic epic Cleopatra it seems we (and by ‘we’ I mean ‘me’) just can’t get enough of historical films.

I’m guessing if you’re here you also partake in the odd fabulously costumed, occasionally terribly accented canter through a historical biopic, so today I thought I’d take you through my top five best historical films of all time.

***Watch out there may be a few spoilers!***

The Duchess – 2008

Considering I’m not a massive Keira Knightley fan I was surprised how much I loved this film.

The Duchess follows the turbulent life of Georgiana, played by Knightley, who becomes socialite The Duchess of Devonshire. The Duke, a role well-suited to Ralph Fiennes, flip-flops between total scumbag and a man clearly trapped under the enormous weight of expectation and family duty.

With fabulous costume, settings like beautiful Chatsworth House and score it’s really about the lack of power women had in 18th Century Britain trapped in arranged-marriages, with no money and no say over the many children they were expected to have.

There are some heartbreaking moments when the Duchess tries to break away and start a new life with her children and the man she really loves. Not one to watch if you want a bit of motivation, more of a ‘I’m in bed with a Lemsip and packet of biscuits feeling sorry for myself’ kinda film.

The Other Boleyn Girl – 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl they are referring to is Mary Boleyn, sister to the infamous Anne, who first turns the head of King Henry VIII. It follows the battle for the King’s affection, which Anne eventually wins and then spectacularly loses.

I have several issues with this film (but, yes I still watch it). Eric Bana who I loved in The Time Traveller’s Wife and Troy is just not a good Henry (sorry). For me, there’s something missing.

Natalie Portman, who looks fabulous, and Scarlett Johansson have great sisterly chemistry but both English accents are somewhat questionable and distracting. I also question how calculating they made Anne – did she really learn that much at the French Court to be able to manipulate the King?

The attempt to create a ‘will she won’t she be executed’ scene at the end will only work on 0.1% of the audience but the scene where Mary bravely takes baby Elizabeth from her mother to live with her, despite everything her sister, Anne did to her gets me choked every time.

Cleopatra – 1963

This is the epic Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton movie, which became more notorious for what was happening off set than on it. I love it because it’s about three days long : ) and just madness.

Taylor, as Cleopatra, gives a commanding performance looking like the Hollywood star she was and the ever-serious Burton’s monologues as Mark Anthony are sublime.

The budget for Cleopatra started off at $2 million and ballooned to an estimated $44 million, and this is 1963 prices people! I’m guessing the costs were not helped by 26,000 costumes, 79 sets and Taylor’s record-breaking $1 million fee.

It was originally meant to be two movies, but the studio sensing the money they could make from audiences clambering to see the on-screen chemistry between scandalous Burton and Taylor condensed what they had into one movie. And you can tell!!!

The movie, despite the personal drama, was a massive flop. It nearly bankrupted Twentieth Century Fox and Taylor nearly died of pneumonia (although that woman was ill a lot.) Historical accuracy? I have no idea. Magnificent chaos to watch every Christmas holiday? Definitely.

The King’s Speech – 2010

When a historical film is an Oscar winner it means one of two things. It’s either completely worthy and fabulous or so over-the-top arty and luvvie that it’s a disaster.

The King’s Speech is certainly the former. Starring Colin Firth as King George VI and Geoffrey Rush as his speech therapist, Lionel Logue, it is just like a hot chocolate and packet of Fortnum’s biscuits. I absolutely love the historical films that take a small story you didn’t really know about from a massive event and dive right in.

The film, as you can imagine, takes us through Bertie, Duke of York’s attempt to cure his stutter. His wife, Elizabeth, takes him to every specialist on Harley Street until they come across an Australian with seemingly unorthodox methods.

As his brother Edward VIII abdicates and war with Germany looks every more likely the Duke now King George VI must be able to communicate with his people. He must also listen uncomfortably to the reasons why he stutters – not easy for a King.

Everyone in this is magnificent and the exchange where Logue’s wife comes home early and finds the Queen, played superbly by Helena Bonham Carter, in her kitchen is brilliant.

At the end when the King delivers his radio broadcast to reassure a country going to war, you are nervously on the edge of your seat. You know he’ll do it, but you still feel like you’re in that tiny room with him ticking off every word.

Elizabeth – 1998

Falling into the ‘it did really well, let’s make a sequel’ trap – we’ll gloss over Elizabeth: The Golden Age, which involved a lot of hair-tossing at Tilbury and slow motion. The first film ‘Elizabeth’ had great storytelling and simplicity in its settings and effects.

Cate Blanchett, the young Elizabeth, is taken from the playful light of Hatfield House to the dark of the Palaces. A young Protestant Queen, she is surrounded by male advisers who want to control her.

The film centers on the tiresome issue of ‘why didn’t she marry’ for a while, as she gets bolder and ever closer to Lord Robert Dudley but also the many plots against her life.

Blanchett is, of course, fabulous, but the rise of Francis Walsingham, the first official spymaster, also captures the film. Geoffrey Rush expertly counsels the Queen, lurks in corners and deftly carries out his search for the treasonous amongst them.

In the end, the traitor’s heads are on spikes (must be very strange for the actors to see that) and Elizabeth – the Virgin Queen, dressed in angelic white declares herself ‘married to her people.’ This is a great Friday night, glass of red and dark chocolate movie.

I’ve only covered my top five historical films here – there are so many more I could have added and new ones are coming out all the time.

Leaving accuracy aside, this is great news if like me you love this genre of films and see it as a way to help people know more about their own history or find out about another.

As ever, get in touch or leave a comment below telling me what you think about my top five historical films.

Also, what makes your list?

Catch-up soon

Elizabeth

Four Top Tips for Getting and Staying Organised

Calendar

I love it when a plan comes together! You’re starting a sparkly brand new course or moving into the next phase. Either way, it’s a fresh start; a new timetable; and a chance to say “Right, this year, no ifs, no buts, I am going to plan and be organised!”

Here are a few top tips on how to nail your organisation this year. In full disclosure, some of the links are Amazon affiliate links, which means at no cost to you I receive a small commission to put back into the site. I only ever recommend products I believe will be helpful to you.

One

Schedule a meeting with yourself.

  • We turn up to lots of things, including things we don’t want to. Classes, seminars, dates or appointments. And, why do we turn up? Because they’re at set times and because we’ve deemed them to be important. But, when it comes to setting study time we don’t always do this. Some of it may be fear and procrastination, we get distracted, and time ticks on. But, before you know it another academic week has shot past!
  • Be realistic and schedule definite times when you can’t study or do not wish to study. Also, when are you most productive? I never schedule anything on a Saturday afternoon – I don’t know why but I’m just useless. Nothing goes into my brain and nothing remotely creative comes out. It’s just a mental block from school times. My brain is saying “go and do something else because this ain’t happening?”

Two

Create clarity and distinctiveness.

  • First, have a good de-clutter. It’s hard to create a system that will stand you in good stead to being organised if there’s stuff, including last year’s notes everywhere. File them somewhere and, if you’re completing a longer course, make sure they’re in great shape for when you need them to revise. If you want some tips on how to do this check out my Ultimate Guide to Remembering What You Study: Five Powerful Memory Training Techniques. It’s free and helps you create notes in a way you can commit them to your long-term memory.
  • Be honest, and review what worked for you in previous courses and what went a bit wrong. Set realistic changes for yourself that are actionable and measurable. For example, I’m going to download my electronic diary onto my phone so I can update it in real-time. Then, when it’s done; it’s done.
  • Not everything needs to be electronic (see tip four) – Are you a visual person Do you need a diary or an academic planner. Perhaps, a wall planner could work for you? There are lots of cheap ones where everything falls off or the pens don’t work. I have used this one for several years; It gives me a whole year perspective but in this link, you can find lots of wall planners set by academic year too.

A friendly note: If you’re at university (or at home) make sure you know the rules about blue-tac and pinning first (or it may be bye-bye deposit) : (

Three

Buy anything you need now…

  • If you don’t have supplies to hand you will start your own ahem… ‘system’ on what you do have. I love these notepads. Oxford Campus Wirebound Notebooks, been using them for years. Good quality paper, smooth writing and different bright colours to grab and go.
  • Think about your system first, how you will divide your learning into manageable sections so you don’t get overwhelmed. This will tell you how many sets of flashcards, notepads or multi-coloured post-its you need.

Four

Create a structure to your electronic notes and files

  • Do not have twenty files sayingConflictandTensionTheFirstWorldWar18941918.1

ConflictandTensionTheFirstWorldWar18941918.2

ConflictandTensionTheFirstWorldWar18941918.3

ConflictandTensionTheFirstWorldWar18941918.4

Firstly, it’s completely uninspiring and overwhelming. Secondly, when you come back to it a year from now it will mean nothing!

Use dates, times, course numbers or specific themes such as your essay title.

  • I use Dropbox (also my file insurance policy) and create folders within it. Much easier than having one long list of documents
  • Set up a note in your phone to match each course heading or titles that mean something to you. Here you can add little bits of information as you go along. Make sure notes is switched on to back up to a cloud.
  • If you think of something important, and it’s chunky, send an email to yourself with a good subject line to help you recall what the email was about. Your inbox will set up its filing system. All you need to do is create a filter using your name and press search.

As always, I’d love to know how you stay organised and if you found these tip useful. Drop me an email or DM at elizabeth_britpolitics on Instagram.

Catch-up soon

Elizabeth

Understanding The Generation Effect: Three Ways to Improve Your Memory and Revision.

Did you know you’re 50% more likely to remember something if you say it out loud rather than write it down?

So, if you’re revising or trying to remember pretty much anything and it’s not working keep reading. Below, I explain what’s happening inside your brain plus three different techniques, which may assist you.

What is The Generation Effect?

The Generation Effect does not mean you have a better memory than your mum!

It is a phenomenon where information is better remembered if it is ‘generated’ from your own mind rather than simply read.

As Jennifer Aniston said in a 90s shampoo advert ‘Here comes the science…’

Reading is a passive activity whereas talking is a generative activity, which encourages you (the learner) to use methods during your learning (also called encoding) that can be evoked during retrieval of the information you’ve learned.

To me this makes sense. When I settle down to read my latest historical fiction novel I see it as a form of mental escapism. Literally, in a passive way, it immerses me but doesn’t really go in.

As an experiment, I took it up a notch and tried to remember what I’d read by writing it down. I did it, but it was an effort. I then took a different section and spoke out loud about what I’d just read instead. And guess what? An hour later I could recall much clearer the section I’d spoken out loud. I also, unexpectedly, found that trying to recall from just reading and writing felt the greater mental strain.

Applying The Generation Effect: Three Top Tips

One

Read your notes out loud

Ok, you need to get over the weirdness here.

The quintessential picture of a student is sat in a silent library swamped by books, journals and notepads furiously scribbling. It is not usually talking to themselves perhaps pacing up and down the room. But, let’s break the mould!

Pick a topic you’re reasonably confident on, wait for everyone to go out if you need to, and then just go for it. From experience, like public speaking, you will only feel comfortable the more you do it.

It’s also a good idea to start this technique early. Don’t adopt it the day before your exam!

Added bonus.

Throughout your course, record your notes on your phone or computer and give it a clear file name. When it comes to crunch revision time you’ll have a bank of audio files to listen to.

Two

Create mnemonic phrases

Ok, you’ve mastered speaking out loud. Let’s up the weirdness as people walk past your room and hear you singing all the different reasons Parliament went to war with King Charles I.

Mnemonic devices such as songs, sequences, rhymes and unusual word associations aid your memory because they create distinctiveness. I still remember Divorced. Beheaded. Died. Divorced. Beheaded. Survived as a way of remembering the order of King Henry VIII’s wives for my GCSE History (ouch, that was a long time ago!).

Why not go for the double whammy of creating a catchy song and committing it to memory using a generating technique?

Three

Create Your Own ‘Walk and Talk’

Another great combination is speaking your notes out loud to commit them to memory whilst exercising. The fancy term is kinetic learning.

The science here is exercise, even just twenty minutes walking has a positive effect on your ability to recall information.

So, walk the corridors ‘West Wing’ style, lap the campus or borrow your neighbour’s dog and try this technique.

As with all these techniques, test them on a subject area you are reasonably confident on, make sure you try to recall the information one hour after you’ve finished the technique. And, Repeat, Repeat. Repeat. Some things, or even nothing, may not be a once and done.

I’d love to know if you’ve tried these techniques and if you’re a newbie how they worked for you? Drop me a comment below or there are lots of ways to get in touch.

Catch-up soon

Elizabeth

Five ways to make money from Amazon affiliate links in your book review

You’ve just turned the last page and you’re dying to write your blog post. Well, before you start, make sure you’re not missing out on a quick way to make money from your latest book review.

I’ve been an Amazon Associate UK since 2014. I’ve used their marketing affiliate scheme within hundreds of posts and pages on history and politics. Here, I share with you the top five ways to use affiliate links within a single book review.

In full disclosure, some of the links are Amazon affiliate links, which means at no cost to you I receive a small commission to put back into the site. I only ever recommend products I believe will be helpful to you and here they’re mostly illustrative (although I loved these books! : )

Firstly, what is the Amazon Associates Affiliate Scheme?

The free scheme lets you put links, thumbnails, widgets and site stripes into your posts and pages. After you’ve registered (which is a simple process) you will be given a site ID and tagged link. This will be embedded into the code of every link you use, so when someone clicks on your link Amazon knows they came from your blog. There’s no hard coding your end either. It’s copy and paste time!

How much can I make?

The commissions have been reducing over the years. Let’s face it Amazon doesn’t need the referrals it once did. But, it’s still well worth doing for very little hassle. You can earn up to 12% commission on referrals but I’ll be upfront and tell you books tend to be closer to 5%.

But, hang on. Don’t dismiss it yet. The added woo-hoo factor with Amazon is that you get a commission from sales even if they don’t buy what your link was about. Here are two ways it can work:

  • Someone clicks on your book link > they suddenly remember they’ve run out of ink cartridges> they order them, not the book> you get a commission. Ta-da!
  • Someone clicks on your book link> they suddenly remember they’ve run out of ink cartridges but they’re late for the train> they get home and buy them (less than 24hrs later) > you get a commission. Yeah!

Top five ways to use Amazon affiliate links in a single Book Review (and make money)

  • Weave a text link with the name of the book in the first paragraph. For example. I’ve just finished Six Tudor Queens: Anne Boleyn, A King’s Obsession and I’m going to tell you why it’s the best of the six wives series.
  • Add a thumbnail of the book, like the one below, within the body of the post and use a setting where it shows a price. Often these will show a tempting discount. If someone is enticed to click on the link you may get a sale or an indirect fee if they buy another product or service.

 

  • Remind people in your last paragraph again which book you were reviewing and use a text link. And then;
  • Weave a text link into your last paragraph, which points people to what you’re reading next. For example, I can’t wait to get started on Alison Weir’s next instalment Six Tudor Queens: Jane Seymour, The Haunted Queen 
  • Add a widget within your post, at the bottom or in your sidebar from ‘Your Picks.’ I use the one called ‘My Favourites.’ I select four related books and write a little genuine message underneath each one. Thing like. “This was a game-changer for me” or “The best trilogy I’ve ever read”

And…

Five Bonus Tips

  • Make sure your blog is super-active when you apply and know in a few lines what your site is about and who it is for – you will be asked!
  • If you’re on WordPress upload the Linkbuilder WordPress Plugin with geo-targeting. It will create a quick easy search bar of Amazon’s entire site at the top of each page or post.
  • Create lots of tracking IDs to monitor how different subjects are working for you. For example, you could have one for ‘Blog-nonfiction’ and another for ‘Blog-historicalfiction’
  • Be careful if you’re only just starting out with a handful of hits. Your account will be approved for 180 days (at time of writing – please check this!) during which time you need to have made one sale or your account will be closed.
  • Always check how your links and widgets look on your phone – are they too big? Is there a line break or spacing issues? They should be seamless and responsive.

I believe linking through to Amazon during a book review can be a natural, authentic process. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to affiliate marketing but I think it’s an easy place to get your feet wet.

Let me know how you get on.

Good luck and catch-up soon

Elizabeth

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing Tips for Beginners: 7 Ways to Stop Self-Sabotage

desk scene

You need to recognise the signs, get out of your own way and stop self-sabotaging your academic and professional writing.

Does this scenario sound familiar? You’ve got your #studygram worthy desk set up and a large, caffeine-serious drink. You’re writing an essay, political article, blog post or chunk of your dissertation.

What should be a pouring out of ideas and knowledge is more like an annoying dripping tap.

You stop. You look at your phone. You start.

You stop again and then decide what you’ve written is crap.

I’ve been writing as a student of politics and professionally for over twenty years.

I can tell you that self-sabotage is perfectly normal but it needs to be kept in check so you don’t get totally derailed and defeated.

I will share with you seven things you can do right now to tackle self-sabotage but first we need to go deep…. Ready?

In full disclosure, some of the links are Amazon affiliate links, which means at no cost to you I receive a small commission to put back into the site. I only ever recommend products I believe will be helpful to you. 

Identify your Inner Critic. Give it a name and have a chat.

Sounds strange I know, but you need to know the cause of your self-sabotage.

The only way to do this is to acknowledge it’s there and what it truly is.

Although this blog title says ‘7 Ways to Stop Self-Sabotage’ in all honesty you will not stop you inner critic from popping up forever because, well, you’re human.

If you’re doing something that makes you emotionally vulnerable, say it has an uncertain outcome, then self-protection will kick in. It will do everything it can to stop us from doing it.

A favourite method for self-protection is to use the inner critic. Common reasons I hear all the time are:

• I’m not good enough
• I don’t know enough to write this now
• If I only had more time/the right set-up/one more book I could do it. If procrastination is the consequence of your inner critic try Anti-Procrastination Mindset: The Simple Art Of Finishing What You Start

Or perhaps this is you?

• You’ve been putting things off because it’s a) hard b) compulsory or c) the best of a bad set of question choices
• You’ve chosen the wrong subject so what’s the point?
• You’re struggling with productive time management and distractions.

The trick is to acknowledge your inner critic, even give it a name, and learn not to listen and push on anyway.

If you acknowledge where the self-sabotage is coming from you can begin to address it and if you need some tough love I recommend Stop Doing That Sh*t: End Self-Sabotage and Demand Your Life Back from straight-talking Glaswegian Gary John Bishop.

But, be honest. If the issue is emotional don’t think getting a new desk lamp so you can write in an evening is the answer. You need to dig deeper for the truth.

“You Can’t Have Exhilaration Without Fear”

I love this saying.

Self-sabotage manifests itself into fear, anxiety and then procrastination.

It could be the fear of failure, the anxiety of possible rejection or the fear of people knowing how well or not you did?

But you can only succeed and do well if you do something. If you don’t write and submit your dissertation you fail anyway.

I spent the first year of university thinking I shouldn’t be there.

My A Level results were not great. I didn’t make the points I needed and it took two nerve-wracking days before they let me in.

Four years later I was stood on a stage in a cap and gown with a Masters Degree in Diplomacy.

I don’t say this to boast, just to say what’s possible. My inner critic popped up all the time (and still does) but I pushed through the fear and just did it anyway.

7 Top Tips to Stop Self-Sabotaging your Work

ONE. Be imaginative with your approach

You could create an outline first rather than feeling the pressure of the perfect opening paragraph. You could start on a section that really interests you, gain some confidence and move on.

TWO. Acknowledge where you are in your journey

Emulate don’t copy. You’re in the library surrounded by serious resources. But, do not measure yourself against these if you’ve just started out at A Level politics or history or at university. Yes, aspire to produce the best but you can polish later. These books, often co-written and traditionally published had a team of editors behind them not to mention the years of experience of the writer themselves – that’s why it’s a textbook on your recommended reading list! Don’t get intimidated because it’s say a ‘university essay’ – yes, research beforehand, but then just write what will be your original work.

THREE. Don’t be a perfectionist – Ignore the typos and just keep writing.

I know you’re on a noble quest to create perfectly constructed, slickly argued, pithy sentences. But, you’re never going to get your word count off single digits if the editing side of your brain challenges every turn of phrase. It will also block your creativity, the ability to get what you know out of your head, stop you being productive and allow time for your inner critic to surface. Don’t lose that spectacular argument or feeling that it’s all coming together because you had the wrong ‘their’ or ‘your’ and just had to go back and correct it. If you’re really struggling with this one try dictation.

FOUR. You can’t edit a blank page

Ok, this is clichéd. But, you need to give yourself the mental freedom to write crap. You can rework crap, you can learn from crap, you can scrap crap because it will always be crap but a) you might just having something b) you don’t know it’ll be crap unless you write it.

FIVE. Don’t hide behind research

Recognise procrastination when it’s in front of you. For me it was, and still is, research. Research can be never-ending therefore it is the perfect place to hide when something’s a bit scary or feels out of reach. Plan your research using the ‘just in time’ method. What do I need to know right now so I can start and what, if I’m truly honest can wait until later.

SIX. Don’t break off for anything (and I mean anything)

If you can’t quite remember that quote or how to spell someone’s name put your best guess and move on. Do not look it up. Just keep that pen or your fingers moving even if you’re writing ‘I don’t know what to put next’ twenty times stay in the flow. And, get rid of distractions – switch your phone notifications off, set a timer or try the Pomodoro Technique to give you a structure. I love the book Reset: Building Purpose in the Age of Digital Distraction by William Treseder. He examines how we’re all drowning in information in the digital age.

SEVEN. Appreciate your critical skills at the right time

This doesn’t apply to any negative emotions but if you’re naturally a critical thinker use it at the right time. Make your work the best it can be with genuine editing, polishing and seeking out better quotes and references if you think it will enhance the final piece.

Good luck and catch-up soon

Elizabeth

P.s do you self-sabotage being a writer of politics or history? If you do, there’s lots more tips in my FREE writing guide – 15 steps to take you from idea to article. check it out!

If you want to manage change, ask ‘who moved my cheese?’

Desktop scene

Described as one of the most successful motivational books ever, Who Moved My Cheese: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life may be small but it packs a powerful punch about managing change. 

My dog-eared copy is getting battered, the corners are turning as yellow as a mild Dorset Cheddar (Ok, no more cheese references) because I’ve had this book for years and read it dozens of times.

So, why do I keep returning to a book about two mice ‘Sniff’ and ‘Scurry’ and two Littlepeople ‘Hem’ and ‘Haw’ who put their jogging suits on every morning to run through a maze in search of cheese? Because, Dr Spencer Johnson successfully tells in 95 pages what some will waffle on about for hundreds. 

The maze, like life, is a labyrinth of corridor some of which contain cheese. But, there are also dark corners where you can get lost. 

To navigate their way, Sniff and Scurry keep things simple whereas Hem and Haw use their complex brains and emotions. This sometimes makes things more complex and daunting.

They both find a massive stockpile of cheese at Cheese Station C, but one day it runs out. 

Sniff and Scurry had seen it coming. They were ready. They adapted. Haw was shocked and Hem shouted ‘It’s not fair – who moved my cheese. 

The Cheese for them had become a safe place. It had become so important they couldn’t let it go and kept returning to the Cheese Station expecting things to be different. 

While Hem and Haw were deliberating on the injustice of it all, Sniff and Scurry found Cheese Station N – the biggest they had ever seen.

What this motivational book teaches me

Dr Johnson wrote the book to help him deal with a difficult life change. For me, it gives these lessons:

• Change is inevitable; nothing lasts forever
• We all need to find a way out in changing times
• Don’t get too comfortable or stuck
• Be open to new ideas and keep a check on your emotions
• Don’t be blind to what’s going on around you – adapt when you see something happening
• Change = great opportunities (if you stay open minded)

Some people think this book is childish. But, in the end, if you allow yourself, you will identify with one of the four characters.

When my instincts are as off as a Blue Stilton week’s past it’s shelf life (sorry, I lied) I use this book as a motivational kick.

I ask myself a) which mouse or littleperson am I and b) ok the cheese is moving again – are you ready? What are you going to do about it?

If you’re feeling a bit stuck, or don’t quite understand your reaction to something then I urge you to give it a try.

Catch-up soon

Elizabeth
P.s There’s also a teen edition of the book which some of you might want to check out?
In full disclosure, some of the links are Amazon affiliate links, which means at no cost to you I receive a small commission to put back into the site. I only ever recommend products I believe will be helpful to you. 

How to use the journalism Inverted Pyramid Technique and improve your writing

desktop scene

The Inverted Pyramid Technique is a journalistic style. It was probably used by writers to tell people the Ancient Pyramids had been built.

Ok, maybe not, but the general theory is it started with telegrams where every word you used cost money.

Basically, if you waffled on you didn’t eat for a week.

How does the Inverted Pyramid Technique work?

The Inverted Pyramid Technique

Turn a pyramid on its head.

At the thickest part you have the most significant interesting and substantial information. You want to cover, as quickly as possible, who? What? When? Where and how? You can open with a catchy question or sentence to grab attention but not too long.

In the middle you have the quite important information. Here you can delve deeper into your subject and if you start explaining anything in more depth the reader will get it better.

Down at the tip you have more general information or finer details. It is the least important part and the first place you’d start cutting.

Why does this journalistic style of writing work for the reader?

Remember, whatever you’re producing it’s 95% about the reader.

Imagine someone scanning news or education websites waiting for a friend in a coffee shop.

If you’ve put the crux of your article first (after that killer headline of course) you’re getting right to the point.

After a few seconds they can be interrupted by their lovely, but frequently late friend, and understand what it was about.

Another scenario.

They read the first few lines and decide ‘The souring of the UK-US Special Relationship’ is not for them.

OK, fair dues, not everything is for everyone. But, maybe they liked you and your style. They then decide to read your other article on the history of the UK’s relationship with South Africa. Great!

The important thing is, you captured their attention.

How is the Inverted Pyramid Technique useful?

The inverted pyramid technique helps you to:

  • Prioritise information
  • Organise your thoughts
  • Be critical and analytical
  • Be succinct and make every word matter
  • Be conscious of your word count
  • Put yourself in the reader’s shoes

Where can I best use this writing technique?

The principles are versatile. You can apply it to essays, exam questions and preparing written content for an article or blog.

You can practice. Take a subject you’re thinking of writing about. Try and do the thick part of the pyramid, just the first few sentences. Have you covered everything? Is it captivating? Would you continue reading or not?

Good luck.

Elizabeth

P.S Already got a great idea in mind? Well, click here and let’s get you published.

Learn Basic English Grammar | Examples of Active and Passive Voice

Desk scene

You’ve written the perfect witty sentence for your blog. But, ever had a blank moment when the checker says ‘Passive Voice (consider revising)? Eh? What?

Well, this is flagging up a basic English grammar rule about the active and passive voice. When you write, the grammar you choose gives a certain voice. Depending on the construction of your sentence, the voice is either passive or active.

Price: £13.28
Was: £17.99

What’s the difference?

  • An active voice tells what a person thinks or does.
  • A passive voice tells what is done to something or someone.

Seriously, why does active and passive voice matter?

I’m guessing you want your writing to be impactful, clear and persuasive?

If you use active voice your sentences, and writing, will be more efficient and powerful.

In active voice everything revolves around the subject of the sentence. In passive voice the subject is kind of tagged on at the end with usually more words than you really need in the middle.

Other benefits to using Active Voice are:

  • Your hard-hitting points will be easier to understand
  • Clearer sentences appeal to a global audience with varying levels of English
  • Shorter sentences means more space in your word count
  • It sounds more confident and trustworthy
  • It adds to your professionalism. If you need more general help with English grammar, I always use my English Grammar for Dummies, UK Edition
  • It helps with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
  • If you choose descriptive vivid verbs you can help the reader visualize your point and make more impact. Why have a politician ‘speak’ when they can ‘address’ or ‘lecture.’

Hints you may be using passive voice in your grammar

Do the words ‘be’ and it’s variations of ‘have been’ or ‘being’ feature heavily in your writing? Are they usually followed by a verb in the past tense like ‘spoken’ or ‘finished’? Chances are you’re using passive voice.

Examples are: ‘The speech will be finished soon’ or ‘they have been invited to the manifesto launch.’

Active versus Passive Voice Examples

Did you notice the pattern? Subject then Verb and then Object. If you want to be confident your sentence is active make sure the subject is doing the acting.

So, can you ever use passive voice?

‘Never use the passive where you can use the active’

George Orwell, ‘Politics and the English Language (Penguin Modern Classics)’, 1946

As a principle using the passive voice to create lofty long sentences may make you feel better but it doesn’t help your reader.

Read it out loud. Where’s the subject of that sentence. Does it even have one? If it sounds clunky then it will not ready well and you probably need to change it to the active voice.

But, on occasion, you may feel the need to break up those short sharp sentences or perhaps soften the edges of a sentence. You can also use the passive voice if the subject is unknown. Both of these will be rare.

How politicians use the passive voice (just for fun…)

Politicians use the passive voice to divert blame and to soften hard messages.

The classic is ‘Mistakes were made’ – this does not tell you anything. Who made them? What mistakes? Henry Kissinger, President Clinton, and President George W Bush have used it. In the UK, David Cameron used it in response to alleged UK involvement in torture at Guantanamo Bay.

In 2008, President Obama warned with little clarity, “there will be setbacks.”

Indeed, entire political speeches, usually about President Trump, have been made attacking opponents without even mentioning their name (i.e. the subject of the sentence)

Catch-up soon

Elizabeth

In full disclosure, some of the links are Amazon affiliate links, which means at no cost to you I receive a small commission to put back into the site. I only ever recommend products I believe will be helpful to you. 

Five Top Tips to Prevent Overwhelm

Clipboard scene

It’s 9:33am. I currently have eight tabs, five documents, three email accounts, two browsers, two clouds and one diary open. I’m feeling paralyzed by information overwhelm and anxiety.

Stacks of notepads, papers and random stuff that seem to breed and grow overnight surround me.

Amongst the stuff, I’m staring at my screen doing absolutely nothing. A strange paralysis has gripped me.

The light from the screen is making everything blurry.

I’m compulsively looking at the clock on my phone.

I have no idea why I’ve done this ten times.

I guess I feel like the time is ticking away until nursery pick-up and I’m doing naff all.

Experience tells me that in a few hours time I will be beating myself up for not accomplishing much in the precious time I had today to work.

I’m getting flashbacks to being sat in my University library politics section doing exactly the same thing.
I’m surrounded by books, notepads and photocopied journal articles looking at the clock (there was no phone, because I’m that old people)

I know the theory:

  • Write your list of priorities the night before (tick)
  • Start with the hardest thing first (tick)
  • Have a working environment with limited distractions (tick)

So why am I being so unproductive? Fear? Possibly, I’ve started some new creative projects. Tired? Yes, but I have a toddler so hey I’m always tired. Procrastination? Definitely. Maybe?

So, in response, I’ve opened a word document (oh yes, another one) and started to write this blog. Why? Because my story of being overwhelmed may be familiar particularly if you’re juggling multiple subjects, up to your neck in flashcards or trying to digest arguments, remember facts and memorise quotes all at the same time.

Below are the five things I’m working on every day, take a look as with practice they may be your solutions too…


My Five Top Tips For Preventing Overwhelm and Anxiety

ONE. Just Start Small

You are one person and you do not have limitless brain capacity. So, just do that really small thing to push things along. When I say small, I mean tiny. Send an email, open a new folder titled ‘The UK Constitution’, sketch down some sub-headings or order a pack of flashcards. These small steps will propel you to feel like you’ve started. This is especially important if you find something hard (hands up for political theory – anyone? OK, it can’t be just me.) For weeks I was afraid to do my first post on Instagram. It was new, I was in the images, I didn’t understand the rules, would Britpolitics (and me) look like amateurs if I used the wrong hashtags?

Then I thought ‘**** it, just post something.’ I did one post the best I could. I’m not saying I went viral, but I did it. The relief from my procrastination was fantastic.

TWO. Just Prepare

What does the first 100 seconds of what you need to do look like? Packing a bag and sticking it at the bottom of your bed? Leaving a book open on the right page? Booking marking a website? Getting a desk ready with a cup and teabag in it?

This mini-prep will help to prepare your mindset. You won’t wake up with a blank canvas. What you will have is a visual reminder of what you need to do.

THREE: Just Step Away from the To-Do List

But saying that, don’t be ruled by a to-do-list. It helps but also stifles creativity.
When the list tells me I have to do something I just don’t want to do it.
Of course, you can have a massive list, which allows you to pick and choose but I’m trying to occasionally put down the list and do what I want to do. Where will your creativity take you?
Don’t want to research about the power of the executive today then do a mind map about whether the United Nations is toothless or not? For this to work you need time on your side. A pressing deadline takes away choice. But, where creativity is felt – the to-do list can wait.

I challenge you to put the list down and just do what you want to for a few days. See what happens?

FOUR. Use the ‘Just in Time’ Principle

I don’t know where this originated but credit to you because it has been a real game-changer for me.Developing Britpolitics is 90% self-taught but I was getting way too far ahead of myself.

I was listening to podcast after podcast, watching YouTube video after YouTube video, SkillShare class after SkillShare class. I was doing it because there are so many great learning tools out there and it excites me, but it’s the wrong thing to do.

The just in time principle makes you ask yourself what do I need to know right now? And then you just focus on that. So powerful, right.

So, I needed to know all about Instagram and Pinterest, all about blogs and about email marketing. I kept my focus there and saw massive results on progress and my sanity levels. So, ask yourself what do you need to know right now and what can wait?

FIVE. Just Switch Off Those Notifications

I spend 5% of my time actually phoning anyone on my phone.

The other 95% is Text, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, Podcasts, YouTube, GoogleDrive,  Google Calendar, Notes, Internet, News Feeds, Twitter, Pinterest, MailChimp, GoodReads, DropBox, MS Word, Photos.

The whole theory of ‘leave your phone in a drawer and look at it once a day’ is unthinkable. My phone is my work; how I organize myself, connect with people and in part my entertainment. But what I have done is:

Turn off notifications, no pings, no alerts and no sliding messages. It’s a distraction and a major cause of overwhelm. I also went crazy retro. I got a watch and used it for telling the time. Looking at my phone for the time was too tempting.

Also, someone once told me ‘email is sent at their convenience to be opened at yours.’ I try to not let emails and messages control my actions, my time and me. It’s great to hear from people but by not replying instantly I take back control and lessen the distraction on things that need to be done. I also give a more considered and thoughtful reply.

So there are my five tips. Hey, I don’t do this all the time. It’s a challenge but I’m working on it. I hope it can help you too.

I’d love to hear your top tips for managing feelings of overwhelm. Leave a comment below or drop me a message.

Catch-up soon

Elizabeth

P.S Looking for more top tips. Click here for my FREE writing guide. It gives you more on how to stop procrastination and overwhelm holding you back. Check it out!
In full disclosure, some of the links are Amazon affiliate links, which means at no cost to you I receive a small commission to put back into the site. I only ever recommend products I believe will be helpful to you. 



Did the time management Pomodoro Technique boost my focus and productivity?

pens pencils paperclips

OK, here goes. I’m going to use the time management Pomodoro Technique to research, write, edit and upload this blog. Will it make me focussed and productive? I’ll see you on the other side…

(1hr and 20 minutes later)

Francesco Cirillo invented this world-renowned method when he was a university student looking for ways to save time.

But it wasn’t just about saving time.

He wanted to improve his productivity and efficiency.

He wanted to get better results with less time and less effort.

I’m thinking what’s not to like here?

So, I’m putting Cirillo’s method to the test by using it to write this blog about, you’ve guessed it, the Pomodoro technique.

Firstly, here’s how it works?

1. Choose a task requiring your full attention and that maybe you’ve been putting off for a while (we all do this!)
2. Set a Timer or Pomodoro for 25 minutes
3. Get to your task, uninterrupted, until the alarm goes off. If something pops into your head, write it down but then get straight back to it
4. When the alarm goes off – put a tick next to where you got to and be pleased with yourself
5. Take a mini-break – say five minutes – walk around, grab a cuppa, make a quick phone call then settle back down.
6. Every fourth time take a longer break. 20 or 30 minutes will give your brain a rest and opportunity to recharge.


My Review

Did the Pomodoro Technique work?

In full confession, as I wrote this the latest Brexit fallout was happening so I kept my phone on for alerts and was popping down ‘tweet latest twist’, which I did in my break, as well as making a cup of tea of course #compulsory.

It felt quite an unnatural way for me to work. It was oddly physically uncomfortable for the first 25 minutes. I felt like I was being held down in my chair or at least being told to.

The 25 minutes felt like a week and the five-minute mini-break like five seconds. I had to force myself back behind my desk and told myself I wasn’t allowed to look at anything else.

But, these restrictions did keep me working on this blog, consistency is important to me and I needed to get it finished.

Amazingly I resisted the urge to look at my email account and Instagram notifications until I pressed the publish button.

Would I use this time management technique again?

Yes. With practice I think the strange physical sensations and feeling of being told what to do by a clock would diminish.

I didn’t get to the longer break but I can see how you would need one after doing four 25 minute sessions on the same thing.

Also, the technique made me realise my breaks are too frequent and too long. I’m not very mindful of my time then wonder why it’s disappeared.

If I keep going with a single piece of work my creativity and flow begin to emerge in both my thoughts and in my writing.

I also felt a sense of accomplishment that I’d done it and could move on.

I felt positively productive and that I had a tangible answer to ‘what did you finish today?‘ rather than the usual one of ‘well, I dabbled in an out of a bunch of stuff.’

Who could benefit from using the Pomodoro Technique?

Anyone trying to:
• Complete a task on a deadline
• Tackle feelings of stress and overwhelm. Click here for my five top tips to manage overwhelm
• Pull together an outline for an essay, dissertation or exam question
• Do a task they don’t really like – Hi there procrastination!
• Write a comprehensive list
• Work through their thoughts and different arguments on a topic
• Really grasp a topic they’ve been struggling with
• Detach themselves from their phone…I’d love to know how this technique worked for you.

Drop me a message or leave a comment.

Catch-up soon

Elizabeth

In full disclosure, some of the links are Amazon affiliate links, which means at no cost to you I receive a small commission to put back into the site. I only ever recommend products I believe will be helpful to you.