Latest Posts

Resources for more sailing information

Want information faster than I can write? Check out these great resources: 

US Sailing 

Sign up for classes at a US Sailing-certified school and you’ll be assured of a consistent, curriculum-driven experience, with certification that is transferable to other US Sailing schools. Get started with Basic Keelboat, the beginning text. Also check out the US Sailing channel on YouTube. 

US Sailing is the governing body for sailing in the US, the official representative for the sport of sailing to the Olympic Committee, Congress and US Coast Guard. 

American Sailing Association 

Where US Sailing is more focused on technique and racing, ASA classes are more focused on cruising. Check them out on YouTube. 

A Boater’s Guide to the Federal Requirements for Recreational Boats

The US Coast Guard “Rules of the Road” for boating safely and legally. Includes critical information on safety equipment, operating proceedures, navigation rules, aids to navigation and more. Be sure to download the PDF.

Sailing for Dummies

JJ Isler, Peter Isler. Wiley Publishing, Inc, Hoboken, NJ (2006) 

One of the better “for dummies” books I’ve seen! Excellent, step-by-step descriptions to help you get started. 

Do you have a favorite resource on sailing? Share it here! 

Welcome Aboard!

As my copywriting life merges with my sailing life, I’m starting a new series of blog posts, called KnotReady. Here you’ll find information on …

  • Knots
  • Basics of sailing
  • Sailing words
  • Safety
  • Fun facts
  • Quirky stories

You might be asking, with so many great sailing resources out there, why would I do this. My hope is to make sailing information more accessible for more students, with more visual cues, alt text, scripts, captions and memory aids to help more people enjoy their time on the water. 

Because Lake Michigan is still rather icy, I’m focused on written posts – dryland learning. Look forward to a few videos after June, once boats are in the water. 

Let me know how I’m doing. If a post isn’t accessible, or if it’s just not clear, please leave a comment. 

Fair winds and following seas, 

Captain Laurel 

Stet Masthead, May 2016

22 Tools Professional Writers Rely On Daily

Which gizmos and gadgets do professional writers rely on? Four pros shared their favorites at recent meeting of Independent Writers of Chicago. Here’s a summary I wrote for the May, 2016 Stet, the group’s monthly newsletter. I’m looking forward to giving some of these a try.

Screen shots of the original article, followed by the text. Click to enlarge.

Photo shown in article by Richard Eastline.

Technology for Freelance Writers – What Works Best

In a lively panel discussion format, four IWOC members demonstrated their favorite technology tools that help them stay productive. Common threads included easy ways to record interviews and lengthen battery life.

Tom Lanning, Program Chair, introduced the panel with a quick demonstration of his most used “semi-digital” mobile device – a standard reporter notepad.

First up was David Steinkraus, IWOC President, whose business focuses on environment, science and technology. His first recommendation – his MacBook and his iPhone.

  • Record interviews and meetings. David recommends HDR Pro, an iPhone app. His key advice: whichever app you use, make sure it prevents the phone from sleep mode while you’re recording. In fact, David recorded the podcast for this presentation using HDR Pro on his iPhone.
  • Make and record calls. If you have not used Skype for outgoing calls recently, David recommends giving it another try: the call quality has greatly improved. If you want to record your calls, he recommends the Call Recorder plugin by ECAM software. It even records video for Skype-to- Skype calls.
  • Energize your devices. David uses a portable phone battery charger for an extra 10,000 hours of phone life, which means you don’t have to stop to recharge in the middle of the day. Before you buy, make sure the ports are compatible with your products. If in doubt, get a charger with both fast and slow ports. Other brands: Brent likes the Jackery Giant + 12,000.
  • Save your wrist. Mousing all day can be hard on the body: moving the mouse means moving your whole arm, which can be lead to neck and shoulder pain; griping a mouse can irritate the wrist and lead to carpel tunnel. David recommends a trackball pointing device, specifically the Kensington Slim Blade Wireless Trackball Mouse. In addition to saving your body, the trackball gives you greater accuracy for detailed photo and audio editing.
  • Focus on writing, not file finding. For most documents David relies on Scrivener software which combines word processing and project management. Because you can import all your research – Word files, PDFs, photos, web pages, sticky notes – to one tab, you save time looking for files scattered among several apps. Plus, it offers a dual pane view, one for writing, one for the research. Jennifer Lyng Rueff added that she loves the sidebar view, which makes it easy for her to find scenes, and drag-and-drop them to other places in her book manuscript. It exports to Word, ePub, rtf, and more.

Richard Eastline offered some life-extending ideas for your phone battery: Reduce screen brightness. Turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi when not needed. Switch to apps that have white type on a black background.

Next was Roger Rueff, who has a business focused on software documentation and training manuals, plus a side job as a scriptwriter. Currently, Roger writes “old school” using Vista and Microsoft Office 2003 on a 2006 PC, but he is updating to a new Samsung KO2US laptop, which brings up migration issues.

  • Streamline email storage. Roger needed an improvement over the notoriously bloated Outlook. He found cloud-based FastMail, which frees up PC space, is accessible from all his devices, has advanced filtering, prevents advertising, and offers unlimited email addresses. Because Gmail limits user email addresses to just five, it was a no-go for Roger, who has multiple email addresses just for his work as IWOC web guru.
  • Grab better screen shots. Roger relies on the advanced features of Snagit for the shots in his documentation. Snagit offers drag-and-drop screen grabs – even capturing long, scrolling webpages – a timer to get shots that include the pointer, stamps, text boxes, highlights and other special effects. PC and Mac
  • Create software demo videos. For his training videos, Roger uses Camtasia, a Snagit companion, with advanced video editing for demos, training videos and PowerPoint slide shows. PC and Mac.
  • Measure your angst. Lastly, Roger recommends the iPhone app, Seismometer, which measures impact when you bang your head on the table after a frustrating call.

Vladimire Herard, who reports on health care, pharmaceutical and senior living industries, focused on tools for interviews.

  • Interview online. Vladimire meets her subjects in conference rooms, which automatically records her sessions.
  • Record in-person interviews. Vladimire’s recommendation: the Olympus WE-802 voice recorder, which holds 1000 hours. Recordings are scene indexed to save time finding the exact quote she wants.
  • Read textbooks. She finds the Kobo reader especially helpful for reading books related to her specialty.

A word about wiretap laws. If you’re curious, the Digital Media Law Project describes state and federal laws. But the easiest thing to do – just record your subject giving consent to being recorded when you start your interview.

Brent Brotine, advertising, marketing and direct response expert, handles a lot of detailed financial information. To make sure he captures the details, he has several ways to record calls.

  • Record VOIP calls. Google Voice offers free VOIP phone numbers that forward calls to your cell phone. Google Voice calls are recorded automatically.
  • Record cellular calls. Brent uses an Olympus TP-7 Telephone Pick Up cord that connects to both his iPhone and his Olympus VN-702PC voice recorder, which is similar to Vladimire’s.
  • Record landline calls. His Radio Shack Digital Voice Telephone Recorder 43-01237 plugs into his landline phone and its headset.
  • Transcribe calls. When he needs a written script, Brent looks for transcribers on
  • Amplify your headphones. Brent uses his Boostaroo Audio Amplifier and Splitter to share movies and music with his spouse on long plane rides.
  • Amplify yourself. Brent carries packs of Starbucks Via to give himself a boost anytime. There’s always hot water somewhere!

Lastly, Stewart Truelsen, who produces high-quality interviews for broadcast, recommended pro gear.

  • Record podcast quality. Stu uses a Marantz PMD660 recorder and a Shure microphone.

Where to find all these gadgets? IWOC has no affiliation or recommendation for retailers: the links in this article (Note: I included links on the original article. I have no affiliate links.), go to Amazon, simply for all-in-one place convenience. Other hardware retailers include Best Buy and B&H Photo, a New York store that carries pro gear, often at better prices. Apple software is available through iTunes or the App Store. PC software can be downloaded.
– Laurel Johnson

What do you think? What tools to you use to stay productive? My first purchase is the Jackery battery booster. What’s yours?


Brochure cover for LLS Moving Forward

Moving Forward: Welcome to Survivorship

Sometimes it’s hard to draw the line between heavy editing and a total rewrite. Originally, a very dry document with confusing navigation, I added warmth by taking the focus off the disease and putting it on the young adult survivors.

On a personal note, this was one of my more rewarding projects after spending much time with my niece when she had lymphoma.

View Portfolio page


Sales kit back

Color Sales, Simplified

Store associates raved about the new color tools.

We wrapped up the new brochures in a training kit to introduce store associates to the new color journey tools. Here’s just one of the enthusiastic reviews.

“My associate loved the new Color Tools. She said the Best of the Best brochure will be her new go-to.” – Store Manager

View portfolio page

B2B sales kit - sample written by Laurel Johnson, Copywriter,

More Sales Are in the Bag!

McDonald’s owner/operators had been creating their own direct mail and FSIs to drive traffic to their stores. Trouble was, these fliers weren’t necessarily within the McDonald’s brand guidelines. I wrote and creative directed this kit which introduces a template-based system that made ordering customized marketing materials as easy as ordering lunch. The result: this project bagged more than $1.000,000 in new billings for the ad agency.

Go to Portfolio page


Friend of a friend

Thank you, Danny. I was laid off two weeks ago, so today is the day I’m going to suck it up and try to expand my LinkedIn network further, even to people I used to work with. All the fears you mentioned – did they like me – do they have a grudge – are very dominant this morning. Thanks for a great post!

Danny Gregory

So, recently, a business associate told me I should further develop my network on LinkedIn. I know that’s sort of a horrible sentence but there you have it. I have business associates and they advise me to do things that probably have some purpose beyond my understanding. Generally I am okay with following their directives so long as they don’t involve public nudity or large amounts of money. They know more than me about some stuff.

The way LinkedIn works is by burrowing into your address book and your resume and your underwear drawer and pulling up long lists of names and smiling portraits and you are supposed to click on people who you know and want to link to. When you do, each person’s links are then joined to yours in an ever-expanding gyre of connections until every man, woman and Chihuahua on the planet is arrayed in concentric…

View original post 834 more words

Opening screen from Oxford Dictionaries video on British vs. American spelling

British vs. American spelling

A great video from Oxford Dictionaries. Just wish I had seen this two weeks ago, before I finished writing a brochure for a UK client. Most words were correct – the added “u” in colour and “organize” changed to “organise.” But now I wonder if I missed a thing or two.