November 2013  
UpWrite Press Writing eTips

Test Your Writing Acumen

The English language draws from many other languages, so the spelling rules are not always consistent. Some words, for example, have irregular plural forms instead of following the basic pattern of adding -s or -es. Here’s a chance to test your knowledge of some of these irregular spellings. For each sentence below, decide which plural form in parentheses is the correct one.

  1. The committee widely advertised the rodeo, supplying information to all the mass (mediums, media).
  2. Bringing in hundreds of (cactuses, cacti) gave the event a sense of authenticity.
  3. Children were amazed by what they thought were (oxes, oxen) on display.
  4. We had to explain that the enormous animals were actually (bison, bisons).
  5. Each of their (hoofs, hooves) was the size of a salad plate.
  6. Performers dressed in Old West costumes wandered through the crowd telling captivating (stories, storys).
  7. Though the rodeo’s real purpose was raising money for medical research, the event had two other (emphasises, emphases)—fun and education.

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

The Traits of Writing: Design

With the growth of social media and a more casual environment permeating many offices, business communication seems at risk of becoming too informal in both language and format. However, the right design still plays an important role in both print and electronic documents. When preparing company materials, consider these tips:

  • Create an effective balance between print and white space. No one wants to wade through a two-page paragraph. Break it up.
  • Use visual cues to take the reader directly to your main and secondary points. Bullets, headings, or indents serve to guide the eye through the material and point out its ideas.
  • Use boldface or italics in a consistent manner. Items in the same category should be similarly formatted so the reader can grasp their level of importance.
  • Avoid fussy or hard-to-read fonts. For print materials, use a plain serif typeface such as Times New Roman, Garamond, or Bookman. Sans serif fonts such as Arial or Helvetica often work best for on-screen documents.
  • Avoid overusing design elements. Use highlighting, boxes, color, or uppercase letters sparingly, and always with a specific purpose in mind. Too much variety can confuse the reader and obscure your main points.
  • Use graphics logically. If including charts, graphs, or pictures, place them close to their first reference in the text. Also include an explanatory caption with each graphic.
  • Follow a document’s format rules. A memo, for example, is formatted one way and a business letter another. Check Write for Business for format examples.

Your finished product should look attractive and inviting, be clear and easy to read, and conform to your company’s image.

You can find more information about words beginning on page 59 in Write for Business: A Compact Guide to Writing and Communicating in the Workplace.

Trainer Tip

So, you’ve had a training session for your workers. Now what? Remember that follow-up is important. Was the session fresh or stale, a success or a flop? Follow up to find out. Distribute a survey or questionnaire to check on the training’s value. In addition, send a note to the trainers, letting them know what was effective about their work, and what needs improvement. Be positive and helpful with your comments. Knowing what works and what doesn’t will help you and the trainers plan more-effective sessions.

That Little Extra

Want to be more productive at work? Break the tether between you and your smartphone and shut off the cute little alert sounds that distract you from what you are doing. Check email and alerts twice a day, maybe mid-morning and mid-afternoon. And stay away from those time-consuming social-media sites until your break or lunchtime. Don’t let these distractions keep you from doing your best work.

   

November 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.

How do you hire workers? Share with us your favorite tips for interviewing and choosing potential employees.

Email your response to writersforum@upwritepress.com. Write “November 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. The committee widely advertised the rodeo, supplying information to all the mass (mediums, media).
    Words from Latin that end in “um” usually form the plural by changing the ending to “a.” Another example: bacterium-bacteria
  2. Bringing in hundreds of (cactuses, cacti) gave the event a sense of authenticity.
    Words from Latin that end in “us” usually form the plural by changing the ending to “i.” Other examples: focus-foci, alumnus-alumni
  3. Children were amazed by what they thought were (oxes, oxen) on display.
    Some words form the plural by simply taking on a different spelling. Other examples: child-children, die-dice, mouse-mice
  4. We had to explain that the enormous animals were actually (bison, bisons).
    Some words have the same spelling for both their singular and plural forms. Other examples: aircraft, series, deer
  5. Each of their (hoofs, hooves) was the size of a salad plate.
    Some words ending in “f” or “fe” form the plural by changing that ending to “ves.” Other examples: wolf-wolves, leaf-leaves, knife-knives
  6. Performers dressed in Old West costumes wandered through the crowd telling captivating (stories, storys).
    Common nouns that end in a consonant and “y” form the plural by changing the “y” to “i” and adding “es.” Other examples: spy-spies, baby-babies
  7. Though the rodeo’s real purpose was raising money for medical research, the event had two other (emphasises, emphases)—fun and education.
    Words from Latin that end in “is” usually form the plural by changing the ending to “es.” Other examples: axis-axes, crisis-crises

Special Note: When in doubt, always check your company’s stylebook for preferred plural forms, and after that, check a dictionary. As we indicated at the beginning of this newsletter, in English, exceptions are the rule.

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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