March 2012  
UpWrite Press Writing eTips

“Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. He cannot inflame the minds of his audience.”

—Henry David Thoreau

Word Pair of the Month: lean, lien

Watch your spelling of these soundalikes, as their meanings are far apart. A different vowel combination makes the long e sound in each of these words.

Lean, spelled with an ea, has several meanings. As a verb, it means “to incline or slant” or “to rest against something for support.” As a noun, lean refers to the position of inclining: The wall has developed a definite lean. Finally, the adjective lean describes something that has very little fat, as in lean meat.

Lien, spelled with an ie, is a noun that refers to a legal claim against a person’s property in order to assure payment of a debt.

Remember, proper spelling is critical to establishing your professionalism and your credibility. If you’re not sure how to spell a word, look it up.

March Writers’ Forum Question

Job applications often ask if you are related to someone in that workplace. Do you work with, or have you ever worked with, someone related to you? Was it a positive experience? Do you think relatives should work together? Why or why not? Share your thoughts with us—we promise to avoid names to protect the writer and keep the family peace.

One responder has some strong opinions on the subject:

Relatives should never work together. I speak from experience. When I got out of high school, my sister was the office manager for an accounting firm, and she helped me get a job as the receptionist. From the start, it was tense, as she viewed every mistake I made as a reflection on her. It got so she was hovering around, watching every little thing I did. To keep peace in the family, I finally found a job in another office.

Another responder expresses this practical view:

I think it depends on how close the relatives are and whether they are working closely together or just in the same building. I wouldn’t mind working with a close family member if we only saw each other at lunch, but if we had to share an office or work on a project together, it might get difficult. Family members share too much baggage, and the workplace is no place for nonwork grievances.

This writer shares an extremely difficult experience:

Never, never, never work with a relative. My ex-husband and I worked together in an ad agency, and when he was promoted to a position above me, it meant the end of our marriage. He was particularly hard on me, explaining that he had to prove there was no favoritism, and I resented it. That carried into our personal lives, and the buildup proved too much for our marriage. Now I work for a different agency, and I never date anyone in my field. Why risk it again?

Another responder says she works with her sister and loves it:

My sister _____ and I were never particularly close growing up, but our talents seemed compatible to running a small boutique together—she’s a jewelry artist, and I have my MBA. She handles the creative work and the buying, and I handle the business side. It works great, and we are closer than ever. I can’t help but think, though, that our success is partly due to our differences. We bow to each other’s judgment in our unique areas of expertise, and that makes it work. If we were doing the same job, locking horns all the time, it might be a disaster.

This responder is totally opposed to relatives working together:

I make it my rule never to hire relatives. Jobs are too scarce to pick someone, maybe even the weaker of two candidates, just because he or she is related to someone. I don’t need the specter of nepotism bringing morale down.

But this writer gives a different view:

I own a medium-sized auto-repair shop, and I often hire my workers’ kids. Whether full- or part-time, the kids who learn from their parents and work side by side with them always do their best work. My people are proud of their kids, and the kids know it. It encourages them to do a good job. This may not be a good idea for all businesses, but I know it works for us.

A Final Thought

End the curse of commercials—you know, that urge to get up and get just one more snack during every break in your TV show. If you can’t record the show and fast-forward through commercials, find other ways to stay out of the kitchen. Try working your mind and body to good advantage during those breaks: Talk with family members about where the story may be going, do a crossword puzzle or word game you’ve placed within easy reach, or actually get up and do a simple set of physical exercises. Look at you, using your time wisely! Way to go!

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