Word Pair of the Month: ascent, assent
This month’s words are just one letter apart, but that makes a big difference in meaning.
The word ascent means “the process of rising or advancing”:
The ascent up the mountain became steeper and more difficult.
Jim began his rapid ascent on the corporate ladder only a year ago.
But change the “c” to “s,” and you have assent, which means “agreement”:
We received the CFO’s assent to the proposed bonus structure.
The suggested logo change was met with unanimous assent.
Watch out for those single letters as you proofread your writing, and don’t take for granted that your spell-checker will catch an error. If you spell a wrong word correctly, your program won’t catch the error.
Writers’ Forum Question
Is good writing important to your business? How can you predict if a potential employee will be a good writer? And how do you promote good writing skills in a person who’s been hired?
Many of our responders stated that solid writing skills are crucial for business and that they consider an applicant’s writing ability before hiring.
Pearl Lin of Portland, Oregon, writes:
Our job advertisements all emphasize writing as a desired job skill. This lets prospective employees know right off that we will be looking for good writers. We ask for a writing sample as part of their application materials, and these are examined very carefully. It’s not just spelling and grammar we look for, either, but also clarity of expression and flow throughout. You’d be surprised (or maybe not) at how many people don’t connect thoughts clearly and concisely.
Thomas D’Aquisto, an actuary from Houston, Texas, writes:
While our business is based in math and figures, we must be able to communicate clearly with our clients. So good writing is important. When looking for new employees, we consider writing ability first by thoroughly examining each résumé. Errors in spelling, syntax, or structure are immediate red flags, suggesting the applicant is either a poor writer or simply careless, neither of which are acceptable traits.
Julia Cohen, a medical researcher in Newark, New Jersey, writes:
Writing reports and journal articles is an important part of our business, and we have to be sure an applicant can produce clear, intelligent copy. To that end, we administer a writing test to all prospective employees. The main test consists of a list of points relative to the position, which the applicant must then incorporate into a clear, well-written paragraph. We also administer a proofreading test, which includes specific errors for the applicant to find and correct.
Many of our readers indicated that continuing to promote writing skills in the people they hire is indeed important.
Marcus Jackson, a sales manager in Madison, Wisconsin, writes:
Our salespeople handle lots of written correspondence and communications materials that must be letter perfect. So we distribute writing-help sheets and ask that all employees use them. We’ve discovered that the UpWrite Press emPOWERED Job Aids are invaluable in this regard. They give clear, concise help in specific areas.
Chicago-based event coordinator Vera Giannini writes:
Is it important? We once prepared a PowerPoint presentation for a large group of prospective clients. It was technically elaborate and visually stunning, but all anyone remembered was that on one slide the word “occasion” was misspelled. After that, our company hired an editor to read through everything that is written. She not only looks for errors in spelling and syntax, but also examines writing for style to assure that each piece represents our business well.
A Final Thought
When writing to someone we know, we sometimes fall into the trap of thinking, “They’ll understand what I mean.” Don’t take for granted that your reader will be able to read between the lines (or read your mind). And don’t assume that your recipient will be the only one reading the message. Be clear and be precise to be sure your message is received exactly as intended.