Word Pair of the Month: altogether, all together
While the words in this month’s pair are very similar and easily confused, their precise meanings are quite different. The adverb altogether means “entirely” or “completely.” Consider its use in the following sentences:
We were altogether confused by the poorly worded document.
It was not an altogether bad day.
On the other hand, the phrase all together refers to individual persons or items being grouped together, as shown in these sentences:
We were all together in the conference room when the news broke.
The various proposals were all together on the desk.
Here’s a tip: Use the two-word phrase if you can add a word between “all” and “together,” and the sentence still makes sense:
We were all sitting together in the conference room when the news broke. The various proposals were all piled together on the desk.
As always, be precise. Using the exact word is key to clear communication.
November Writers’ Forum Question
Well, another year has passed, and it’s time to make business resolutions for the new year. What did you learn last year, and how will those lessons affect the way you do things this year?
We had many responses to this one, spanning several areas of improvement. We’ve included a few answers that represent the main concerns shared by our readers.
Ted Gage of Chicago looks at efficiency through journaling:
One of the best things I started doing this past year was to keep a journal in which I write down (and date) all my ideas as well as information on meetings (not notes, just thoughts) and client contacts. For the coming year, I want to be even more efficient, and one of the ways I’ve chosen to achieve this is to use public transportation. I thought I would miss driving, but I don’t. I use the time on the train to relax and just reflect on the day ahead or behind, jotting down thoughts as they come to me. It’s my time to focus and plan and transition between home and office.
Suzanne Johnson, an attorney in St. Louis, writes about covering online bases:
I resolve to move headfirst into social media, exploring every new electronic avenue for promoting my business. I used to think social media was a teenager’s game, but no more. Any way I can get our name out there is something to explore.
You can’t go wrong when you’re focusing on the customer, as Shawn Gordon, an online service manager from Baton Rouge, shares here:
I plan on focusing even more on customer service, communicating to our customers that we are there for them. This includes examining our customers’ specific needs and working to fill them, making sure each individual knows she or he is valued. We will also be improving our online services, including shipping and product- return services. It also means more training in manners and efficiency for our phone workers, the people who actually talk to our customers, making our service as personalized and pleasant as possible.
Many businesses are discovering the importance of reaching out more, as David Simonson of Milwaukee explains:
We have always been involved in our community, concentrating on giving our company a face, not just a logo. The fun stuff, such as sponsoring a kids’ summer soccer league, gets us out there—not only to be seen but also to see and get to know the people we want to serve. But in the coming year, we want to expand our involvement with a greener viewpoint. We’re going to really work at reducing our carbon footprint. It’s just one more way of serving our entire community.
Finally, we received a lot of resolutions to reclaim a personal life, as Arlene Block of Seattle states:
I’m planning on leaving work at the office. Period. I adopted a child this past year, and I intend to spend as much time with her as possible. I will give my all to my job when I’m at work, but I believe that by taking my own time back, I will be happier overall and more productive at the office as well.