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Two spaces. For Robert.

by Amy J.V. Atwell

This morning, I received the heartbreaking news that a former colleague and mentor has passed away.  He had been diagnosed with cancer less than two weeks ago, so this news came as a tremendous shock to everyone.  I write this blog today in his honor, with fresh tears in my eyes.

Robert was the COO at the Denver business organization where I worked prior to starting my own business.  He and I worked together for nearly seven years (I was the corporate editor), and we battled for all seven of those years over the question of adding one space or two after a period.  It’s one, but I added two spaces throughout this blog as a final nod to Robert.  I believe those extra spaces are appropriate places to pause and remember.

What I will remember most about Robert is his huge presence.  He was a big man – I remember talking with him once about his custom-made shirts because he needed 36” sleeves – but his presence was big because of his heart and his personality.  He didn’t do anything quietly, and everyone knew instantly what kind of mood he was in.  In happy and angry moments alike, it was clear that what drove Robert was a deep passion – he cared about the future of the organization and all the people in it.  The glimmer behind his eyes let you know when you had done good, so to speak, and he held his staff and colleagues in high regard.

He was a master contract negotiator.  He and I had to navigate several vendor contracts together, and I was always in awe of his deft skill at convincing people that his way was clearly the only way.  Another colleague always took Robert with her when she had to buy or lease a car.  With Robert nearby, there was no chance of being hoodwinked.

He knew who in the office kept stashes of chocolate and made a point to stop by several times a week.  His impromptu (and loud) announcements over the intercom meant it was time for one of his famous ice cream runs or drawings for baseball tickets.  He loved treating the staff.

So, today, I am left with the knowledge that Denver is now without one of its most memorable citizens.  He will be missed, and he will most definitely be remembered.

Robert approached life with gusto and a huge grin.  That is how I will remember him, and I hope that memory reminds me to treat both business and life with a generosity of spirit the way he did.

Amy J.V. Atwell is a Denver-based freelance writer and editor. She works with businesses to grow their brands through high-quality copy and content. Read more at


Writing quick tip 6/10/13

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”― Mark Twain

One of my favorite journalism professors drummed this rule into my head. Anyone who has worked with me as an editor knows that I instantly delete these things, among others:
– Exclamation marks (unless someone is actually screaming)
– & (not a word, folks)
– Double spaces between sentences (I don’t care what your 5th grade Language Arts teacher taught you; it’s one space)
– Very

In regard to avoiding “very”: You should choose a word that is strong enough to convey the full impact of your meaning. If your subject is “very tired,” swap exhausted for tired and drop the very.