May 2012  
UpWrite Press Writing eTips

“If you start to revise before you've reached the end, you're likely to begin dawdling with the revisions and putting off the difficult task of writing.”

—Pearl S. Buck

Word Pair of the Month: example, sample

These words are close in meaning, but there is a fine distinction between them, especially in the noun form. The noun example is “something that shows the character of a whole”:

“A Red Red Rose” by Robert Burns is a famous example of Romantic poetry.

An example is also “a pattern or model to be emulated”:

The trainer brought several examples of winning sales letters.

The noun sample, on the other hand, is “a small representative part of a whole”:

We are handing out samples of our new cracker today.

As a verb, the word means to take the sample in order to judge or test it:

Customers have lined up to sample these crackers.

Each sentence in italics above is an example of how to use a particular word correctly. We hope you’ve found this sample of information adapted from our training materials useful.

May Writers’ Forum Question

We are bombarded with the printed word every day—in newspapers, on billboards, in TV advertisements, in our mail—and these all too often include errors. Are you a print purist? Do certain mistakes especially bug you? Or do you just shrug them off? Let us know if you have a print peeve.

Judging from the responses to this month’s forum topic, it seems we touched a nerve!

Shandra Blackmore of Dallas writes:

It just freaks me to see how people misuse the apostrophe in possessives. I take my car to a local repair shop that has a big sign out front: XXX and Son’s Auto Repair. I know the singular possessive would be correct if there were only one son working, but there are two, so the punctuation is wrong. It ought to be Sons’. (And let’s not even get into the fact that the daughter runs the office but doesn’t share top billing!)

Karl Van der Hagen of New York sounds pretty discouraged by it all:

The decay in writing skills used to bother me more, but I guess I’m just getting used to it. I saw some glaring errors on a business Web site a while back, and I wrote to the company to let them know. You know what they did? They told me I should mind my own business. And they kept the errors! So if they don’t care, why should I? (But I sure won’t buy their product. I imagine they don’t care about the quality of that, either.)

Julianna Chin of Los Angeles blames modern life:

My biggest complaint is about spelling and the way it seems to be devolving, thanks to shorthand texts that compact words to a letter or two. I think spelling is a casualty of technology’s growth in our modern, fast-moving society. Wt a pty.

Louise Brown of Chicago has this to say:

It really bugs me the way people have let their writing go the casual route, with mistakes in punctuation, spelling, and syntax. I guess my irritation comes with the territory—I am a freelance proofreader, and you wouldn’t believe the messes I come across, even from highly educated professionals like lawyers and doctors! Ah well, I can’t complain—it means I get a regular paycheck.

Kerry Brashaw takes a more philosophical approach:

Language changes. Try reading Shakespeare, and you’ll see what I mean. Even more recent texts like Melville’s Moby Dick or Twain’s Huckleberry Finn use different spelling, punctuation, and sentence length than what is common today. The point is that while we need to be careful with our own writing, to honor our colleagues and clients, we may also need to be less judgmental when other people’s punctuation/spelling/grammar sensibilities vary from our own.

Thank you to everyone who responded. We certainly agree that error-free text is a mark of professionalism. But thanks also to Kerry, for reminding us to be forgiving.

A Final Thought

We all lead busy lives, and we can get so caught up in our own situations that we forget the importance of interpersonal connections in the workplace. When a coworker has a special occasion, you might send a card, but even better, send a personal note that goes beyond just a signature. Your message doesn’t have to be long or complicated. Just write something that personalizes the occasion—a name or a brief acknowledgement, such as “Welcome back, John! I know this year was rough, but you made it!” or “Congratulations on your daughter Lisa’s graduation. I can imagine how proud you must feel.” Those little notes say “I notice you and I care,” and such a connection can help make the workplace a more pleasant place.

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