What's the difference between "packaged" and "pre-packaged"?

What's the difference between "packaged" and "pre-packaged"?

Why do we write "prepackaged" when "packaged" will do just fine? Is there any difference? As I promised at the outset of this blog, my focus will never be on usage debates or grammar rules, which you can find ad nauseam elsewhere. But I did see something recently on The Atlantic website that caught my attention: a redundant phrase we see so often in print that we no longer recognize its redundancy. And since this site is about efficient writing, part of that process involves ensuring that you don't write unneeded words.

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Favorite recent reads (Jan. 8, 2016)

Rule #1 if you want to become a better writer: read good writing. In fact, that's the only rule. Please put down those grammar guides, especially Strunk and White's The Elements of Style. No great writer in history ever became great by reading grammar guides, and none ever uttered the words, "I really don't read a lot." 

If you have 30 minutes of free time a day, please don't read a book about writing. Just read good writing.  Pick a skill. Any skill. If you want to be a good tennis player, you're going to practice, but you're also going to watch Wimbledon. If you want to be a good cook, you're going to practice, but you're also going to watch the master chefs. In short, you need models. You need to see what good writing looks like if you want to be a good writer. 

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For a more efficient writing process, when's the best time to exercise? Short answer: now.

For a more efficient writing process, when's the best time to exercise? Short answer: now.

In a previous post and a recent Washington Post piece, I discussed the clear and immediate benefit that aerobic exercise has on executive function, the thinking you do when you're writing something argumentative or analytic. Researchers have found that as little as 20 minutes of aerobic exercise at around 60% of your maximum heart rate can give you a cognitive boost for about 90 minutes after your workout. This is great news for people who have trouble getting through the afternoon sitting at a desk (which is pretty much everybody). A lunchtime workout can make you more productive. Of course, if you already work out at lunch, you probably know this feeling. When I come back from a morning run, I can't wait to start writing.

But the evidence is also clear that a consistent exercise regimen will make you cognitively sharper in the long term as well. It's a win-win: your run will make you a more productive thinker immediately afterwards, but it also keep you sharp down the road. Even FAR down the road.

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How yoga and meditation can boost cognitive function.

How yoga and meditation can boost cognitive function.

I've written in other publications about the immediate benefit (as in same day) that aerobic exercise has on higher order thinking and executive function, the kind of thinking you do while drafting. But recent research shows that you may not even have to put on your workout gear to reap the benefits: yoga and meditation may be just as effective. This is great news for people who need a swift cognitive boost but who don't have time for an aerobic workout, because let's be honest: if you want your colleagues to like you, you really should shower after that run, and that takes time. 

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Interview: Pulitzer Prize winner Anthony Doerr

Interview: Pulitzer Prize winner Anthony Doerr

I've always been fascinated by the writing processes of other writers. Reading about these routines has helped me refine and improve mine, and I think they serve as useful tools for anyone who wants to be a better writer. It doesn't matter if you don't do the same kind of writing, because ultimately every writer does the same thing: it's either pen to paper or finger to keyboard.

A couple of years ago I interviewed Anthony Doerr for a now-defunct blog I used to run. At the time, Doerr was a highly-regarded author, but not nearly in the public consciousness as he is today: in 2015, he won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his absolutely stunning book All the Light We Cannot SeeIf you haven't read it, start today. I've been reading Doerr for years and have enjoyed his other books like The Memory Wall and The Shell Collector.

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Sit up straight. Write better.

Sit up straight. Write better.

Turns out, your parents were right: sit up straight. What they probably didn't tell you is that good posture can make you a more efficient writer if you spend long stretches at your desk.

Some of this is intuitive, of course. If you have poor posture at your desk, you'll be uncomfortable. And if you're uncomfortable, you'll start thinking more about your discomfort than the writing. No one works well when they're uncomfortable. But poor posture also has subtle physiological impacts on your writing process that can drag you down.

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For efficient drafting, break early and often.

For efficient drafting, break early and often.

I've always assumed that the best time to take a break is during that mid-afternoon slump, when you're at the low end of your circadian rhythm between 2pm and 4pm. It makes sense: you're fatigued. Suddenly, you're no longer able to churn through that brief like you did midmorning. If you've been sitting in front of your computer for hours, at some point your ability craft a document dwindles. But new research shows that the best time to take a break and reenergize is not when you're tired. It's actually late morning, when you're somewhat alert. 

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