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Annotate for Microsoft Word – coming in January, 2017!

Posted by on Dec 20, 2016 in Annotate for Word, Annotate News | 0 comments

Annotate for Microsoft Word – coming in January, 2017!

We’re making great progress finalizing an all-new version of Annotate for Microsoft Word…

Yes, back to the future. We introduced Annotate for Word in 2008, and thousands of teachers have used it to create great feedback, faster, for their students.

Here’s a sneak peak of the 2017 version of Annotate for Word, built on html, css, and javascript (for those who care): (more…)

A Poster Child for Persuasive Speech: Pharrell Showcasing Rhetoric on The Voice

Posted by on Mar 14, 2015 in Blog, Writing Assignment Ideas | 0 comments

A recent episode of NBC’s The Voice, featuring Pharrell and Xtina battling for a contestant, showcased rhetoric in a compelling and relevant way.

After 16-year-old Koryn Hawthorne killed her audition, Pharrell and Xtina went back and forth, trying to win her to their team.

You can check out the March 3rd episode here. Jump to about 13:00 to see her singing and then the coach’s debate.

Pharrell’s argument starts out focused on her technical virtuosity. He then shifts to her “old soul” and argues that she’s “pulling from a stream of consciousness.”

Xtina admires Koryn’s “emotion and power” and shows humility by saying she’d be “honored” to be Koryn’s coach.

Pharrell follows up by emphasizing the old soul argument, then articulates Koryn’s talent in a very specific way. He says that she has “something different from her friends” but that she still stands there “with humility.” He says that people “will line up to see her” not just for her voice, but for this admirable humility.

Pharrell, like many comedians talking about their craft, has a fantastic way of parsing talent and performance.

When we ask students what they thought of a movie or a story or a piece of music they often grunt, “good.” They don’t necessarily have the words to express their thoughts. And that’s frustrating, at some level. The Voice is a great, relevant example of how these complex subjects can be broken down and discussed.

Xtina finished with a plainspoken statement about emotion and encouraged Koryn to “follow [her] heart.”

Koryn chose Xtina without much hesitation, itself a good example that pathos often wins over logos (if you even accept that Pharrell’s argument was more compelling).

Scoring the rhetoric of the coaches…even though contestants often make decisions on more than rhetoric (for instance, perhaps idolizing one of the coaches for much of their life and hoping beyond hope that THAT one picks them…the choice therefore a foregone conclusion)…could be a fun classroom activity.

If you can put up with all the commercials on NBC’s website.

The auditions are posted to YouTube without commercials, but they don’t include much of the debate after the performance.

Congrats to Koryn. We’ll be rooting for her.


Knowledge workers write more in a day than college students do across an entire term.

Posted by on Oct 3, 2014 in Blog, Writing Advice | 0 comments


A typical writing class, at the college level, requires a couple of papers (“essays”) in an academic term. Maybe 1,500 words each, or a longer 5,000 word “term paper.” Maybe 750 (three pages) each in less demanding curricula.

Is this wasted effort on the part of students and teachers?

Is writing even relevant in today’s global, knowledge-worker economy?

Judging by the resources devoted to teaching writing on most college campuses, the answer is a resounding “no.” First-year writing has been called a “ghetto of underpaid writing instructors” and faculty in other disciplines, who do care about writing, generally shake their heads and wonder why “someone can’t just teach these kids to write.”

There is a profound disconnect, then, and those of us in the software industry see it day in, day out.

Knowledge workers write every day than many college or high school students write in an entire term.

We write 24/7. In chat rooms, in emails, in Skype, in formal proposals, in Requests for Work, in responses to angry customers, in agile “user stories” and “epics,” in presentations and late-night email manifestos.

Written English is the currency of global communication; being good at writing is a competitive differentiator and a huge productivity boost.

Designers at Asana, a software company whose products we love!


So to arm high school and college teachers with some evidence to support their quest for more writing instruction, and to hopefully help students understand why they should polish up an introductory paragraph for the eighth time, we’ve inventoried the writing we do in average day. The results should be head-turning for educators and students alike…



– A Day in the Life of a Knowledge Worker –



Wake and check email, quite possibly while still under the covers, shielding the light from partner still asleep. See what came in overnight, triage, review schedule for the day. Respond to key emails with short responses, setting expectations and acknowledging receipt. Customers, colleagues, bosses, network. Personal email. Work email.

  • ~10 emails of ~20 words each = 200 words.