October 2012  
UpWrite Press Writing eTips

“Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.”

—Tom Stoppard

Word Pair of the Month: it’s, its

This month’s pair is spelled exactly the same, except for one small punctuation mark, the apostrophe. In this case, you must remember that the apostrophe is used to form a contraction (it is=it’s), not a possessive.

It’s a shame that you can’t go to the convention.

Spelled without the apostrophe, its is the possessive form of the personal pronoun “it.”

The tree dropped its leaves.

So when it comes to this pair, an apostrophe forms the contraction (it is=it’s), and its absence forms the possessive.

October Writers’ Forum Question

You may be aware of Murphy’s Law, “If anything can go wrong, it will.” But do you know Murphy’s Law of Thermodynamics? “Things get worse under pressure.” It often seems that just when a deadline looms, computers crash, copy machines break down, a team member falls ill, an important file is misplaced, and so on. Do you have any tips for dealing with these seemingly entropic forces, for remaining calm in stressful times, and for getting the job done despite malfunctions and misfortunes? Please share them here with other eTips readers.

Skip Delaney of Boston writes this:

In any office, chaos can happen when technology breaks down. The best thing we’ve found to keep it from getting out of hand is to have available immediate-access contacts who can fix our electronics. We value our tech-support people and let them know as much. They always manage to keep panic at a minimum.

Project Manager Mindi LaPaz comments on handling human error:

First and foremost, we have to find the root of a problem. When something goes wrong and pandemonium threatens, we call a general meeting and hash it out to find out where things went wrong. When we can identify the problem, we can fix it.

George Ochoa of Chicago deals with the aftershock of a problem:

We’ve all been through office chaos, when problems arise and everyone panics. It happens, and we survive. In my office, we analyze the problem after the fact and write a detailed report about how it happened, and, most important, how we handled it. Then we keep the report in a special reference file, so if the problem occurs again, we can quickly find out what to do. Things go wrong, but if you’re smart, they won’t go wrong again, or at least you’ll be ready to handle them if they do.

Of course, the best way to deal with a problem is to prevent it from happening in the first place. To that end, Andrea Gibson of Sacramento writes this:

We have a large poster that declares “Do it now!” hanging right across from the elevator where it’s the first thing everyone sees. It’s our office credo. That means when anything changes, we update our files and records immediately. We pride ourselves on always being up to date, always aware of exactly what has been accomplished and what yet needs to be done. It saves us a lot of time and aggravation and helps avoid the chaos of looking for something at the last minute.

A Final Thought

You probably do a lot of networking, going to conventions and conferences, meeting and greeting, and simply trying to present your business at every opportunity. One of your strongest presentation tools is your “elevator pitch.” This is a short, tight pitch that packs the gist of your operation into a speech about the length of an elevator ride. Pick your points carefully: What are your main services? What sets you apart from others in your field? How can your business benefit your listener? Keep your pitch up to date, be ready to think on the fly, and try to tailor your points to your listener’s needs. Then practice until you are “pitch perfect.”

Okay, ready? You have 30 seconds. Go.

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