Xu Hướng 4/2023 # Finding Sentences To Start A Story: 7 Methods # Top 5 View | Hoisinhvienqnam.edu.vn

Xu Hướng 4/2023 # Finding Sentences To Start A Story: 7 Methods # Top 5 View

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1. Introduce a key character’s name (and how they got it)

Great opening lines intrigue us. They begin to form a world, yet leave enough unknowns for us to want more answers.

Sometimes, introducing a character’s name is all it takes to create this effect. Take this opening from Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel A Pale View of Hills:

‘Niki, the name we finally gave my younger daughter, is not an abbreviation; it was a compromise I reached with her father.’

What this first sentence illustrates

When using your first sentence to introduce a character’s name, you could include:

How they got their name. Is it your character’s birth name or a nickname? What does this tell the reader? What unknown could you include at this stage for curiosity’s sake?

Emotion. How does your character feel about their name? Does it have any special or emotional significance?

The above questions show that there are many possible ways to use the simple act of naming a character as an enticing opening.

2. Begin with a landmark personal or historical event

Finding sentences to start a story in characters’ backstories and histories is another good option.

Picking out a landmark, memorable event is a great way to show the experiences your characters carry with them. For example, in her beloved novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee begins by having her narrator, Scout, remember when her brother Jem broke his elbow.

‘When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.’

Why is this opening sentence effective

The beginning is intriguing because it doesn’t give much away. How did Jem break his arm? Why is the narrator beginning with this specific event? There are enough unknowns to make this starter interesting, even though there is no clear major conflict or dilemma. It is only in the second paragraph that Scout frames the story about Jem’s arm in wider context, as she says:

‘When enough years had gone by to enable us to look back on them, we sometimes discussed the events leading to his accident.’

The story of Jem’s arm thus becomes a landmark event. It’s a memorable experience Lee uses to structure Scout’s recollection of other, equally memorable events.

This type of opening shows memory at work, as a character organizes and gathers their thoughts around key, stand-out occasions.

‘Landmark event’ opening sentences are particularly common in historical fiction. This is in part because historical fiction often explores interesting historical periods where major events were densely packed together. For example, a novel about one of the World Wars may well begin with a character describing listening to a radio broadcast about allied or enemy bombings.

This type of story opening is effective because it gives your reader:

A sense of the ‘when’ of your setting: The story is framed from the outset around a particular event or time in your narrator’s life

An idea of what events haunt your characters or what matters to them: Scout’s focus on others’ injuries and struggles is early indication of her compassionate nature which Lee continues to illustrate

3. Sow the seeds of your story’s world

Introducing your fictional world is another good option when finding sentences to start a book. This is particularly true for genres where world-building is a large part of the story’s magic and effect (such as fantasy and science fiction).

Consider the first line of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea trilogy:

‘The island of Gont, a single mountain that lifts its peak a mile above the storm-racked Northeast Sea, is a land famous for wizards.’

Why the world-building of Le Guin’s first sentence works

Guin’s Hemingway-like direct simplicity here gives us a single, clear image, as well as an idea of something magical or mysterious – the presence of wizards.

Yet there are still enough unknowns to create interest: Why is Gont famous for wizards? What is so renowned about them?

For example, she moves on to sharing the origins of the dragonlord and Archmage ‘Sparrowhawk’, sharing details about his childhood on Gont’s mountain.

Putting world-building in the first sentence is a good way to anchor readers immediately in a sense of place. It’s like spreading out a map of your world on a table, for your reader to get a helpful bird’s eye view to begin.

When starting with world-building, think about:

Unknowns you can introduce: We want to know what these famous wizards of Gont are famous for

Concrete imagery: What’s a strong, clear image that will help your reader remember something that defines this place?

[NB: Use the ‘setting’ section of the Now Novel dashboard to brainstorm details for your story’s world].

Some of the examples above aren’t particularly mysterious first sentences, it’s true. Le Guin’s is wonderfully direct. Yet, you could choose to begin with stronger mystery. Toni Morrison opens her hard-hitting epic about slavery, Beloved, with just three, well-chosen words:

‘124 was spiteful.’

How Toni Morrison’s first sentence creates mystery

The number here holds great mystery. It could be anything – a number given to a prisoner, a law. Instead, we learn later that it is a house number. The home is the site of a terrible tragedy affecting its occupants. The uncertainty and clipped nature of the opening sentence aptly fits the uncertainty and almost unspeakable suffering that fills the home of Sethe and her family.

When finding sentences to start a story with mystery, ask:

What is the mystery I want to convey? Morrison’s opening effectively conveys a sense of a mysterious spite that lingers after its painful cause is removed – a haunting produced by slavery’s legacy

How and when will I begin solving the mystery? Morrison unfolds the mystery slowly, at first saying ‘the women in the house knew it and so did the children’. By the middle of the page, we realize it is the house’s malignancy itself, the ghostly residue of the family’s trauma. Morrison describes how Sethe’s brothers ran away from home ‘as soon as merely looking in a mirror shattered it’

5. Start in the thick of action with dialogue

Many novels in genres such as thriller and crime rely on swift pace to keep us hooked. John le Carré, widely hailed as one of the great authors of spy fiction, begins his international bestseller The Spy who Came in from the Cold thus:

‘The American handed Leamas another cup of coffee and said, “Why don’t you go back and sleep? We can ring you if he shows up.”

How Le Carré’s first sentence sets up good, swift pace

Immediately we see two character’s in the middle of a tense scenario, as they await the arrival of their overdue contact. Note how Le Carré masterfully heightens the indeterminacy: The American says ‘if’ the man shows up.

Beginning with dialogue is naturally risky, as if your dialogue is confusing and your reader has nothing to anchor it to, they may be confused and frustrated more than intrigued. As Le Carre does:

Keep it clear and simple. Note the dialogue is clearly about a specific anticipated event (the arrival of an ‘off-screen’ character), and the present characters’ options for what they do next.

Reveal a bit about the speakers’ dynamic. From the way the American makes his suggestion as an option, it’s clear the other has at least equal authority and is free to choose what to do next. Although there isn’t much in the sentence, you can already tell this much.

Whether your narrator is cynical and disaffected like Salinger’s Holden in Catcher in the Rye or a butt-kicking bad-ass, a good opening first line in first person immediately ropes your reader into your narrator’s life and world view.

Take for example the opening to John Green’s bittersweet novel about teenage cancer patients, The Fault in Our Stars. The starting sentence:

‘Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.’

How Green’s first line establishes a strong narrator’s voice

The tone of 16-year-old Hazel comes across as arch and dry. The mother’s ‘diagnosis’ of depression seems an oversimplifying or categorizing way to describe the various ways Hazel’s behaviour reflects the real issue – her dawning reality of possible death.

This idea is expanded as Hazel continues:

‘But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying (Cancer is also a side effect of dying. Almost everything is, really.)

Hazel’s voice is beautifully direct and honest, and the narrator’s voice from the opening sentence is strong. Green’s first sentence shows that a strong starting sentence introducing a narrating character:

Reveals personality. Hazel’s tone is honest and direct. Yet there’s something archly self-aware and almost darkly comical about her tone, too. The character has a voice we can describe

Indicates the character’s focus. It’s clear to us from the opening sentence and the subsequent paragraphs that Hazel is very much preoccupied with her condition

7. Begin with a character doing something unusual

Although when finding sentences to start a story we might reach for description first, actions make equally effective beginnings.

This is particular the case when said actions are odd, quirky, strange, creepy, suspicious or otherwise unusual. ‘Unusual’ or extraordinary actions are not ‘I sit down to breakfast’ or ‘I open my eyes, having just woken up’. These are actions most perform every day.

Instead, an unusual action is something like the first sentence of Dodie Smith’s classic novel, I Capture the Castle:

‘I am sitting in the kitchen sink.’

Why I Capture the Castle has an unusual opening action sentence

This simple action is strange enough to intrigue us to read more, kitchen sinks not being typical sitting places. The unfolding first paragraph gives us a glimpse into the character, the young, aspiring writer Cassandra:

‘That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining-board, which I have padded with our dog’s blanket and the tea-cozy. I can’t say that I am really comfortable, and there is a depressing smell of carbolic soap, but this is the only part of the kitchen where there is any daylight left. And I have found that sitting in a place where you have never sat before can beinspiring – I wrote my very best poem while sitting on the hen-house.’

When starting with unusual actions, ask:

How can I develop this action further? What more could come of this action? For example, Smith could show us other ways Cassandra works at her writing. She could show her excited response to sending a poem or manuscript to a potential publisher, for example

Trying to find sentences to start your story? Get feedback on your ideas on Now Novel, and use the Central Idea prompts to find your next great idea.

5 Ways To Start A Story (With Examples)

Read 5 types of story beginnings and tips for making your own effective:

1: Introducing readers to a memorable narrator-protagonist

This is a popular way to start a story about a character coming of age or grappling with internal conflict. These novels typically use first person narration. From the first line, the reader gets to know a characterful narrator.

For example, Salinger’s Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye (1951) has a strong voice and clear, disaffected teen persona:

‘If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.’

This opening is effective because we get a strong sense of the character’s personality in his terse use of curse words, slang and adjectives (‘crap’, ‘lousy’). Being addressed directly by the narrator creates a sense of closeness and familiarity. This effect is similar to Charlotte Bronte’s ‘Reader, I married him’ in Jane Eyre.

Another strong example of this story opening type, the protagonist/narrator introduction, is Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (1955). Nabokov begins his novel with his depraved anti-hero, Humbert Humbert, musing on the name of Lolita, the young object of his obsession:

‘Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.’

Nabokov’s opening is strong because personality and character psychology are present from the first line. When you start a story with your main character introducing themselves, remember to:

Give them a distinctive voice: The grandiose language of Humbert Humbert fits the character, as do Salinger’s teen’s own cynical words.

Show what matters to your character/narrator from the start: Holden values authenticity (‘if you want to know the truth’). We get a visceral sense of Humbert’s creepy obsession with Lolita through his rapture at even saying her name.

2: Beginning a novel with crucial memories

Often novels open with narrators recalling memories that are core to the plot. This is especially common in novels where a single, unforgettable event casts its shadow over the rest of the book (e.g. the murder in a murder mystery).

Framing an event in your story through a character’s memory gives it weight. When you begin your novel with your main character remembering an earlier scene, it’s thus important to choose the right scene.

Choose a scene that shows a dilemma or choice, or a powerfully emotional experience that is bound to have consequences for your character. For example, Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (2003) opens with the 15-year-old narrator Christopher finding his neighbour’s murdered dog:

‘It was 7 minutes after midnight. The dog was lying on the grass in the middle of the lawn in front of Mrs Shears’ house. Its eyes were closed. It looked as if it was running on its side, the way dogs run when they think they’re chasing a cat in a dream. But the dog was not running or asleep. The dog was dead. There was a garden fork sticking out of the dog.’

Haddon’s opening is effective because it builds up to the revelation that the dog was killed violently. It’s effective because it raises questions we want answered.

When you begin with your narrator recalling a key memory, remember to:

Choose a scene that immediately starts giving the reader keys to understand the rest of the book. Haddon’s narrator proceeds to hug the bleeding dog, for example, so that we start to realise that Christopher is unusual

Show the reader the memory: Haddon does not just say ‘Christopher found his neighbour’s dog, killed with a garden fork.’ We discover the dog through Christopher’s eyes, and this increases the scene’s impact

3: Starting a book with ambiguous action

Consider the opening of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451:

‘It was a pleasure to burn.

‘It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venemous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history.’

The first sentence is ambiguous – who, or what, is burning? The next slowly fills in context: We learn a character is using kerosene to burn something, to destroy ‘history’, but we still don’t know what exactly. We only learn by the end of the paragraph that the character Montag is burning books.

This way of beginning a story is effective because Bradbury prolongs a mixture of suspense and confusion, yet the character’s action itself is clear.

If you begin a book with ambiguous, teasing action:

Give the reader answers to at least one (or some) of the ‘5 w’s’. We might not immediately know who is doing the burning (or what they’re burning), but Bradbury gives us a strong why: Pleasure. The relish with which Montag burns the books is clear

By the end of the first paragraph, give the reader a little more clarity, as Bradbury does

4: Leading into your story with a purposeful prologue

‘Prologue’ literally means the ‘before word’. This separate introductory or prefatory section in a novel has several uses:

Giving broad historical context that paves the way for the main story

Showing a scene or event preceding the main narrative, whose consequences ripple through the following story

Donna Tartt uses the second type of prologue to excellent effect in her mystery novel The Secret History (1992). Her prologue tells us that a character is murdered, that the narrator is somehow complicit, and that he will narrate the events that led up to the murder in the coming narrative.

This teaser makes it clear that motive, rather than identity, is the main mystery behind the killing. Tartt’s prologue wastes no time in revealing key information that shapes our expectations for the main story:

‘The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation. He’d been dead for ten days before they found him, you know.’

By immediately framing the story around Bunny’s murder and its aftermath, Tartt’s prologue directs our attention to the ground the coming story will cover. Not the fact of Bunny’s death but the swirl of events that spin out from this crime. It marks out a path into reading and making sense of the story.

Do you want to include a prologue in your book? Ask:

Do the events in the first section of your book need telling before the main action. If yes, why? In Tartt’s case, giving away key events in the prologue is smart, structurally. Because the identity of the murder victim (and at least one person responsible) is revealed early, the main narrative of the story is free to focus on character motivations and consequences and not just crime-solving

Would your story flow better if you told earlier events via character flashbacks or a prologue? Try writing a scene as a prologue, then write the same scene as a flashback. Which fits the scene better?

5: Strong ways to start a story: Opening with the unexpected

Take Bradbury’s beginning to Fahrenheit 451 above, ‘It was a pleasure to burn.’ It’s unexpected. This is partially because of its inner contradiction. We know that getting a burn from a hot plate is painful, and the idea of pleasure is thus surprising. The ambiguity of ‘it’ means we don’t know initially whether the narrator is describing an odd pleasure in burning himself or burning something else.

Examples from famous books reveal this has always been one of the popular ways to start a story. For example, Dodie Smith opens I Capture the Castle (1949):

‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.’

The narrator Cassandra’s choice of sitting place is unusual, intriguing us to read the next sentence. Whichever way you choose to begin your novel, getting the reader to read the second sentence is the first, crucial feat.

Start your own novel now: brainstorm story themes, settings and characters and get helpful feedback from the Now Novel community.

7 Ways To Find And Remove Duplicate Values In Microsoft Excel

Duplicate values in your data can be a big problem! It can lead to substantial errors and over estimate your results.

But finding and removing them from your data is actually quite easy in Excel.

In this tutorial, we are going to look at 7 different methods to locate and remove duplicate values from your data.

Video Tutorial

What Is A Duplicate Value?

Duplicate values happen when the same value or set of values appear in your data.

In the above example, there is a simple set of data with 3 columns for the Make, Model and Year for a list of cars.

The first image highlights all the duplicates based only on the Make of the car.

The second image highlights all the duplicates based on the Make and Model of the car. This results in one less duplicate.

The second image highlights all the duplicates based on all columns in the table. This results in even less values being considered duplicates.

The results from duplicates based on a single column vs the entire table can be very different. You should always be aware which version you want and what Excel is doing.

Find And Remove Duplicate Values With The Remove Duplicates Command

Removing duplicate values in data is a very common task. It’s so common, there’s a dedicated command to do it in the ribbon.

You then need to tell Excel if the data contains column headers in the first row. If this is checked, then the first row of data will be excluded when finding and removing duplicate values.

You can then select which columns to use to determine duplicates. There are also handy Select All and Unselect All buttons above you can use if you’ve got a long list of columns in your data.

This command will alter your data so it’s best to perform the command on a copy of your data to retain the original data intact.

Find And Remove Duplicate Values With Advanced Filters

You can choose to either to Filter the list in place or Copy to another location. Filtering the list in place will hide rows containing any duplicates while copying to another location will create a copy of the data.

Excel will guess the range of data, but you can adjust it in the List range. The Criteria range can be left blank and the Copy to field will need to be filled if the Copy to another location option was chosen.

Check the box for Unique records only.

Press OK and you will eliminate the duplicate values.

Find And Remove Duplicate Values With A Pivot Table

Pivot tables are just for analyzing your data, right?

You can actually use them to remove duplicate data as well!

You won’t actually be removing duplicate values from your data with this method, you will be using a pivot table to display only the unique values from the data set.

First, create a pivot table based on your data. Select a cell inside your data or the entire range of data ➜ go to the Insert tab ➜ select PivotTable ➜ press OK in the Create PivotTable dialog box.

Select the Show in Tabular Form option.

Select the Repeat All Item Labels option.

Pivot tables only list unique values for items in the Rows area, so this pivot table will automatically remove any duplicates in your data.

Find And Remove Duplicate Values With Power Query

Power Query is all about data transformation, so you can be sure it has the ability to find and remove duplicate values.

Remove Duplicates Based On One Or More Columns

With Power Query, you can remove duplicates based on one or more columns in the table.

You need to select which columns to remove duplicates based on. You can hold Ctrl to select multiple columns.

You can also access this command from the Home tab ➜ Remove Rows ➜ Remove Duplicates.

= Table.Distinct(#"Previous Step", {"Make", "Model"})

If you look at the formula that’s created, it is using the Table.Distinct function with the second parameter referencing which columns to use.

Remove Duplicates Based On The Entire Table

To remove duplicates based on the entire table, you could select all the columns in the table then remove duplicates. But there is a faster method that doesn’t require selecting all the columns.

= Table.Distinct(#"Previous Step")

If you look at the formula that’s created, it uses the same Table.Distinct function with no second parameter. Without the second parameter, the function will act on the whole table.

Keep Duplicates Based On A Single Column Or On The Entire Table

In Power Query, there are also commands for keeping duplicates for selected columns or for the entire table.

Follow the same steps as removing duplicates, but use the Keep Rows ➜ Keep Duplicates command instead. This will show you all the data that has a duplicate value.

Find And Remove Duplicate Values Using A Formula

You can use a formula to help you find duplicate values in your data.

= [@Make] & [@Model] & [@Year]

The above formula will concatenate all three columns into a single column. It uses the ampersand operator to join each column.

= TEXTJOIN("", FALSE , CarList[@[Make]:[Year]])

If you have a long list of columns to combine, you can use the above formula instead. This way you can simply reference all the columns as a single range.

= COUNTIFS($E$3:E3, E3)

Copy the above formula down the column and it will count the number of times the current value appears in the list of values above.

If the count is 1 then it’s the first time the value is appearing in the data and you will keep this in your set of unique values. If the count is 2 or more then the value has already appeared in the data and it is a duplicate value which can be removed.

Add filters to your data list.

Now you can filter on the Count column. Filtering on 1 will produce all the unique values and remove any duplicates.

You can then select the visible cells from the resulting filter to copy and paste elsewhere. Use the keyboard shortcut Alt + ; to select only the visible cells.

Find And Remove Duplicate Values With Conditional Formatting

With conditional formatting, there’s a way to highlight duplicate values in your data.

Just like the formula method, you need to add a helper column that combines the data from columns. The conditional formatting doesn’t work with data across rows, so you’ll need this combined column if you want to detect duplicates based on more than one column.

You can select to either highlight Duplicate or Unique values.

You can also choose from a selection of predefined cell formats to highlight the values or create your own custom format.

Select Filter by Color in the menu.

Filter on the color used in the conditional formatting to select duplicate values or filter on No Fill to select unique values.

You can then select just the visible cells with the keyboard shortcut Alt + ;.

Find And Remove Duplicate Values Using VBA

There is a built in command in VBA for removing duplicates within list objects.

Sub RemoveDuplicates() Dim DuplicateValues As Range Set DuplicateValues = ActiveSheet.ListObjects("CarList").Range DuplicateValues.RemoveDuplicates Columns:=Array(1, 2, 3), Header:=xlYes End Sub

The above procedure will remove duplicates from an Excel table named CarList.

Columns:=Array(1, 2, 3)

The above part of the procedure will set which columns to base duplicate detection on. In this case it will be on the entire table since all three columns are listed.


The above part of the procedure tells Excel the first row in our list contains column headings.

You will want to create a copy of your data before running this VBA code, as it can’t be undone after the code runs.


Duplicate values in your data can be a big obstacle to a clean data set.

Thankfully, there are many options in Excel to easily remove those pesky duplicate values.

So, what’s your go to method to remove duplicates?

Performance Appraisal: Methods, Examples, Process


What is a Performance Appraisal?

A performance appraisal is the periodic assessment of an employee’s job performance as measured by the competency expectations set out by the organization.

The performance assessment often includes both the core competencies required by the organization and also the competencies specific to the employee’s job.

The appraiser, often a supervisor or manager, will provide the employee with constructive, actionable feedback based on the assessment. This in turn provides the employee with the direction needed to improve and develop in their job.

Based on the feedback, a performance appraisal is also an opportunity for the organization to recognize employee achievements and future potential.

The purpose of a performance appraisal

The purpose of a performance appraisal is two-fold: It helps the organization to determine the value and productivity that employees contribute, and it also helps employees to develop in their own roles.

Benefit for organization

Employee assessments can make a difference in the performance of an organization. They provide insight into how employees are contributing and enable organizations to:

Identify where management can improve working conditions in order to increase productivity and work quality.

Address behavioral issues before they impact departmental productivity.

Encourage employees to contribute more by recognizing their talents and skills

Support employees in skill and career development

Improve strategic decision-making in situations that require layoffs, succession planning, or filling open roles internally

Benefit for employee

Performance appraisals are meant to provide a positive outcome for employees. The insights gained from assessing and discussing an employee’s performance can help:

Recognize and acknowledge the achievements and contributions made by an employee.

Recognize the opportunity for promotion or bonus.

Identify and support the need for additional training or education to continue career development.

Determine the specific areas where skills can be improved.

Motivate an employee and help them feel involved and invested in their career development.

Open discussion to an employee’s long-term goals.

How to organize a performance appraisal process

Conducting a performance review with an employee requires skill and training on the part of the appraiser. The negative perception that is often associated with the performance appraisal is due in part to a feeling of being criticized during the process.

A performance appraisal is meant to be the complete opposite. Often, the culprit is in the way the appraisal is conducted via the use of language.

The way the sender of a message uses language determines how the other person interprets the message once received. This can include tone of voice, choice of words, or even body language.

Because a performance appraisal is meant to provide constructive feedback, it is crucial that appropriate language and behavior are used in the process.

Human Resources (HR) are the support system for managers and supervisors to be trained in tactfully handling the appraisal process.

The performance appraisal process:

The assessment process is usually facilitated by Human Resources, who assist managers and supervisors in conducting the individual appraisals within their departments.

An assessment method should be established.

Required competencies and job expectations need to be drafted for each employee.

Individual appraisals on employee performance are conducted.

A one on one interview is scheduled between the manager and employee to discuss the review.

Future goals should be discussed between employee and manager.

A signed-off version of the performance review is archived.

Appraisal information is utilized by human resources for appropriate organizational purposes, such as reporting, promotions, bonuses or succession planning.

Performance appraisal examples

Let’s take a look at one example of a Manager speaking to an employee during a performance appraisal. Below are three versions of the same example.

Compare the difference in language and behavior and how it can change the end-result:

1. An appropriate appraisal example with mixed feedback

“We can start the review by looking at how each project went for you this quarter. Does that sound OK?

First, every project you have worked on in the last four months has met the expected deadline and were all within their budgets. I see one project here was even early. They were all implemented successfully.

Well done. You have succeeded in the criteria expected of a Project Manager here at ABC Company.

Let’s take a look at a few areas where you might be able to develop your project management skills further.

In Project A, B, and C, a few team members expressed that they were unsure what to begin working on in the first few meetings and felt that they were engaging in their tasks a bit late.

When they tried to express this in later meetings, they felt there was hostility towards them. For upcoming Projects D, E, and F, is there anything that can be done to get team members up and running more quickly?

Could more detailed task planning be completed prior to the project kick-off?”

Debrief: This example removes the errors from the first example and puts them in a more constructive light.

The appraisal begins by involving the employee and making them feel like a valued part of the process.

The appraiser focuses on measurable outcomes, such as each individual project, instead of broad, baseless generalizations.

Positives are the focus of the assessment.

Areas for improvement are offered in a constructive and neutral format by referring to specific events in the employee’s day-to-day tasks.

The employee is given the opportunity to problem-solve the situation and contribute to their own sense of self-development.

Constructive solutions are offered so the employee has a clear idea on what they can do better next time.

2. An inappropriate negative appraisal example

“Let’s talk about some of the problems.

You are never proactive when it comes to the start of a new project. Things are left too late and there are often complaints.

I have heard that your attitude has been less than positive during project meetings.

You seem to have things going on at home right now, but they shouldn’t be intruding on your work.”


This example is extreme, but it conveys most of the errors that can occur in a performance review.

The appraisal begins with a negative. It has been shown that starting with the positives can set the tone for the appraisal and helps employees feel more receptive to feedback.

The appraiser speaks in a negative, accusatory language and bases the assessment on assumption instead of measured facts. An appraisal needs to be based on measured facts.

The appraiser makes the discussion personal; a performance review should remain focused on the contributions of the employee to the job and never be about the individual as a person.

Phrases like “you are” or “you always” are generalizations about the employee; a performance appraisal needs to be about specific contributions to specific job tasks.

3. An appropriate appraisal example for underperformers

“I wanted to talk to you today about your performance during the last quarter.

Looking at the completed project schedules and project debriefs here, I see that each of the five projects was kicked off late.

Team members reported having trouble getting the resources and information they needed to start and complete their tasks. Each project was delivered a week or more late and had considerable budget creep.

Project A was over by $7000. Project B was over by $9,000, for example. These budget overages were not authorized.

I think we really have potential to turn this around and I really want to see you succeed.

The role of Project Manager requires you to kick-off projects on-time, make sure your team members have the resources they need, and it’s crucial that any budget issues or delays are discussed with myself or the other Manager.

For the upcoming projects this month, I’d like you to draft a project plan one week prior to any project kick-off. We can go over it together and figure out where the gaps might be.

Did you have any suggestions on how you might be able to improve the punctuality of your projects or effectiveness of how they are run?”

Debrief: This example deals with an employee who seems to be struggling. The appraiser unfortunately has a lot of negative feedback to work through, but has successfully done so using appropriate language, tone and examples:

The feedback does not use accusatory language or tone, nor does it focus on the person. This is especially important at the start of a performance review when the topic is being introduced. Being accusatory can make an employee feel uncomfortable, upset or defensive and set the wrong tone for the rest of the review. Comments should remain focused on the employee’s work.

The appraiser asks for the input of the employee on how to solve the problem. This empowers the employee to become more involved in their skill development and ends a negative review on a positive note.

4. The inflated appraisal example

“I don’t think we have too much to talk about today as everything seems just fine.

Your projects are always done on time and within budget. I’m sure you made the right decisions with your team to achieve all of that.

You and I definitely think alike when it comes to project management.

Keep up the great work.”

Debrief: This example appears like a perfect performance appraisal, but it’s actually an example of how to inappropriate:

Any mention of trouble on the team is ignored. A performance review needs to discuss performance issues before they become serious later on.

The appraiser compares the employee to himself. This could be referred to as the “halo effect”, where the appraiser allows one aspect of the employee to cloud his or her judgement.

Nobody is perfect; every appraisal should offer some form of improvement that the employee can work towards, whether it is honing a skill or learning a new skill.

Performance Appraisal Methods

There are many ways an organization can conduct a performance appraisal, owing to the countless different methods and strategies available.

In addition, each organization may have their own unique philosophy making an impact on the way the performance assessment is designed and conducted.

A performance review is often done annually or semi-annually at the minimum, but some organizations do them more often.

5 Modern method of performance appraisal

There are some common and modern appraisal methods that many organizations gravitate towards, including:

1. Self-evaluation

In a self-evaluation assessment, employees first conduct their performance assessment on their own against a set list of criteria.

The pro is that the method helps employees prepare for their own performance assessment and it creates more dialogue in the official performance interview.

The con is that the process is subjective, and employees may struggle with either rating themselves too high or too low.

2. Behavioral checklist

A Yes or No checklist is provided against a series of traits. If the supervisor believes the employee has exhibited a trait, a YES is ticked.

If they feel the employee has not exhibited the trait, a NO is ticked off. If they are unsure, it can be left blank.

The pro is the simplicity of the format and its focus on actual work-relate tasks and behaviors (ie. no generalizing).

The con is that there is no detailed analysis or detail on how the employee is actually doing, nor does it discuss goals.

3. 360-degree feedback

This type of review includes not just the direct feedback from the manager and employee, but also from other team members and sources.

The review also includes character and leadership capabilities.

The pro is that it provides a bigger picture of an employee’s performance.

The con is that it runs the risk of taking in broad generalizations from outside sources who many not know how to provide constructive feedback.

4. Ratings scale

A ratings scale is a common method of appraisal. It uses a set of pre-determined criteria that a manager uses to evaluate an employee against.

Each set of criteria is weighted so that a measured score can be calculated at the end of the review.

The pro is that the method can consider a wide variety of criteria, from specific job tasks to behavioral traits. The results can also be balanced thanks to the weighting system. This means that if an employee is not strong in a particularly minor area, it will not negatively impact the overall score.

The con of this method is the possible misunderstanding of what is a good result and what is a poor result; managers need to be clear in explaining the rating system.

5. Management by objectives

This type of assessment is a newer method that is gaining in popularity. It involves the employee and manager agreeing to a set of attainable performance goals that the employee will strive to achieve over a given period of time.

At the next review period, the goals and how they have been met are reviewed, whilst new goals are created.

The pro of this method is that it creates dialogue between the employee and employer and is empowering in terms of personal career development.

The con is that it risks overlooking organizational performance competencies that should be considered.

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