August 2013  
UpWrite Press Writing eTips

Test Your Writing Acumen

How good are you at recognizing (and using) conjunctions? Conjunctions connect words, phrases, and clauses and improve the flow and clarity of your writing when they are used properly. There are three types:

  • Coordinating conjunctions like and, but, and or connect grammatically equivalent items: a word to a word, a phrase to a phrase, or a clause to a clause.
  • Correlative conjunctions like either/or, not only/but also, and both/and are always used in pairs.
  • Subordinating conjunctions like when, after, and because connect a dependent clause to an independent clause.

In the following sentences, the conjunctions are in bold. Test your knowledge by telling which type of conjunction is used in each sentence.

  1. We considered producing the parts ourselves, but financial concerns were holding us back.
  2. After the board discussed the idea at length, we decided to research the option.
  3. Neither we nor our investors were totally convinced about the advantages of the new direction.
  4. The stakes are high, yet we know we have to look to the future.
  5. The company is seeking not only a capital boon but also the expansion of our brand.
  6. We will study the matter in detail, and then we will either go forward with this plan or look for new suppliers.
  7. We need to make a decision soon, though we must do so with care.

You can check your answers near the end of this newsletter.

The Traits of Writing: Words

One teacher we know uses Lego blocks to teach sentence structure—red for nouns, yellow for verbs, etc. The visual aid helps students understand how sentences are formed, but more than that, it serves as a metaphorical reminder that words are the building blocks of writing.

The words you use convey not only your message but also your tone. They are the personality of your writing, and in any business correspondence, you should convey a tone that is personable as well as professional. Here are some ways to improve your use of words.

  • Be specific. Zero in on the most precise word to carry your message. Note, for example, the word “busy” in the sentence Our office is busy at this time.

    Consider the following synonyms for the word “busy”:

    Our office is bustling at this time.
    Our office is swamped at this time.

    While the synonym bustling presents a pleasant, positive shade of busy, the word swamped suggests something a little more frantic.

  • Avoid pompous words. Use clear, natural language instead. Fancy words sound pretentious and can imply inaccessibility—not a great image to project in business. Consider the differences between the two sentences below. Which would you rather receive?
     
    The opportunity to address your company’s concerns is an appreciated occasion.
    We welcome your business.
  • Cut unnecessary words. Eliminate redundancies and prune out the obvious and irrelevant. Focus on your facts and message.
  • Avoid discrimination. Cut any words that suggest ageism, racism, gender bias, or an inappropriate reference to physical disabilities.
  • Be aware of global differences. Use Standard English, avoiding slang, idioms, and cultural references. Be aware of any humor or references that may not translate well; puns, in particular, lose their meaning in translation.

When you are aware of how to use words to the best advantage, you can construct sentences and messages that will in turn build your business.

You can find more information about words beginning on page 9 in Write for Business: A Compact Guide to Writing and Communicating in the Workplace.

Trainer Tip

Before you organize your training session, do the proper pre-planning. Write down the outcomes you want to achieve, using action words to describe these objectives. Then share the objectives with the trainees, helping them to understand how the training is important to their jobs. When employees know what they are supposed to get out of a training session, they are more able to focus on the material presented.

That Little Extra

Even if you are sitting in an office all day and not running around outside in the summer heat, remember to drink plenty of fluids. Air conditioning dries the air and also depletes our bodies of the water we need to function. Although there are many suggestions about how much water you should drink in a day, the rule of thumb is if you feel thirsty, hydrate. So take a moment to visit the watercooler, vending machine, coffee stand, or your own thermos.

   

August Writers' Forum Topic

Here’s your chance to tell us how your work environment operates. Send us your responses to the forum question below, and we’ll print the most interesting in our eTips Mid-Month Mini.

Does your business have a unique voice? How did you come up with that voice, and how do you maintain it through your written materials?

Email your response to writersforum@upwritepress.com. Write “August Writers’ Forum” in the subject line, and you could see your reply in the eTips Mid-Month Mini.

Answers to This Month’s Quiz

  1. We considered producing the parts ourselves, but financial concerns were holding us back. (coordinating)
  2. After the board discussed the idea at length, we decided to research the option. (subordinating)
  3. Neither we nor our investors were totally convinced about the advantages of the new direction. (correlative)
  4. The stakes are high, yet we know we have to look to the future. (coordinating)
  5. The company is seeking not only a capital boon but also the expansion of our brand. (correlative)
  6. We will study the matter in detail, and then we will either go forward with this plan or look for new suppliers. (Tricky—this sentence uses two types of conjunctions: and is coordinating, while either/or is correlative.)
  7. We need to make a decision soon, though we must do so with care. (subordinating)

We Want to Hear from You!

This is your chance to be part of the UpWrite Press newsletters and blogs. What writing topics do you want to hear about? Have you any favorite communications tips you’d like to share? What words do you constantly mix up? Send us your ideas and you could see your name in Writing eTips or the Mid-Month Mini.

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Coming in September

The Traits of Writing: Sentences

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