March 2014  
UpWrite Press Writing eTips

Test Your Writing Acumen

Today’s test is a potpourri of grammatical and capitalization errors. Find the mistake in each of the following sentences. But watch out—not every sentence contains an error.

  1. I asked her to get the book from off the shelf.
  2. Despite extensive advertising, the company didn’t get hardly enough orders to break even.
  3. The materials they sent are not exactly what we wanted, but we’ll try and make them work.
  4. Arte’s been almost working the entire night.
  5. Be sure no one leaves the conference without their gift bag.
  6. The board has approved the marketing budget.
  7. The board has gone home for the day.
  8. My son is taking history of the Incas this semester.
  9. My son is studying History this semester.
  10. Either Ann or Janice forgot to turn in their expense sheet.

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

Letter Formats

Despite the rise of electronic communication, the written business letter is still an important correspondence tool for your company. The correct letter format will convey a clear message to your clients and customers, dictating your style and presenting your business in the best light. Here are several formats to choose from and suggestions for when to use each.

  • Full block: In this style, all elements are flush left, creating a clean, contemporary line for routine letters. When using this style, be aware of how your words balance on the page. Try to arrange the content in paragraphs of full-length lines so that the page does not appear overly heavy on the left.
    Use: While this style is fine for routine, non-executive letters, do not use it for the traditional or international reader.
  • Semiblock: Introductory and closing elements—including the date line, complimentary closing, and signature block—fall along a vertical line at the center of the page, while the inside address, salutation, and contents are flush left.
    Use: This is a traditional style, appropriate for professional or social letters and also for the international reader.
  • Simplified: Similar to full block, all elements in this format are flush left, but the salutation and complimentary closing are omitted. This bare-bones format resembles a memo, placing a subject line and the writer’s name in all caps.
    Use: While appropriate for casual or routine letters, mass mailings, general notices, and bulletins, this format lacks certain courtesy elements and can appear impersonal. Do not use it for a high-stakes or persuasive letter.

Consider the purpose of your letter before selecting a format. The correct letter style uses an appropriate level of formality and creates the desired image for your business.

You can find more information about business letters beginning on page 161 in Write for Business: A Compact Guide to Writing and Communicating in the Workplace.

Trainer Tip

Rather than packing all your training into one or two intense sessions, try spreading it out over a longer period. For example, if you are planning a full day of training to cover five concepts, present five short sessions instead, one on each day of the week. This allows attendees to absorb and apply the information before moving on to the next topic. They will likely grasp the ideas better and feel less overwhelmed.

That Little Extra

Writing is no different than any other skill: Use it or lose it. If you don’t consistently work on a skill, such as playing an instrument or participating in a sport, your ability will wane. Try to practice writing every day. Write notes to your family (your spouse and kids will love it), reminders to yourself, and memos to your coworkers.

Most importantly, even with these everyday messages, always make your writing the best it can be. Use correct grammar, precise words, and complex sentences.

When writing becomes a natural part of your day, your writing ability will naturally improve. Plus, setting the example of regular writing for your children will tell them that writing matters. They may just follow suit.

   

March 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.

Have you ever had the experience of a coworker (or a supervisor) constantly sending out letters, memos, blogs, bulletins, or minutes that contain glaring grammatical errors? Even if this has not happened to you, how do you think you’d handle the situation? Share with us and others your ideas for approaching the writer. What help could you offer?

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

More Replies to February’s
Writers’ Forum Question

Last month’s Writers’ Forum question generated two new responses recently. The question was “Our language keeps changing, with new terms appearing regularly. What words have appeared recently that you particularly like (or particularly dislike)?”

Cheryl Howlett, Technical Writer, Editor, and Desktop Publisher, from Bellevue, WA, writes:

I enjoyed reading your “Terms I Dislike.” I’d add this one to that list: Stop using “on accident.”
You can turn your car into the right lane on purpose.
But you don’t crash your car on accident.
You accidentally crash your car.

Kay Hays, CAP-OM, Dept. of History at Murray State University, adds:

Words that bug—myself—used incorrectly. Educated people on TV and radio and here at my office constantly say “Give it to Tracey or myself.” Wrong!

Kay is correct, in that myself is a reflexive pronoun, used in sentences like "I treat myself well." Take Tracey out of the example sentence above, and me is clearly revealed as the correct pronoun: Give it to Tracey or me.

Answers to This Month’s Quiz

(Errors are shown in red.)

  1. I asked her to get the book from off the shelf.
    (Incorrect: double preposition)
    Correct: I asked her to get the book from the shelf. (or) I asked her to get the book off the shelf.
  2. Despite extensive advertising, the company didn’t get hardly enough orders to break even.
    (Incorrect: double negative)
    Correct: Despite extensive advertising, the company didn’t get enough orders to break even.
  3. The materials they sent are not exactly what we wanted, but we’ll try and make them work.
    (Incorrect: substitution of “and” for “to”)
    Correct: The materials they sent are not exactly what we wanted, but we’ll try to make them work.
  4. Arte’s been almost working the entire night.
    (Incorrect: misplaced modifier)
    Correct: Arte’s been working almost the entire night.
  5. Be sure no one leaves the conference without their gift bag.
    (Incorrect: shift in number—“No one” is singular and must be matched to a singular pronoun.)
    Correct: Be sure no one leaves the conference without his or her gift bag.
  6. The board has approved the marketing budget.
    (Correct: The subject “board,” a collective noun, represents a single body. It agrees with the singular verb “has.”)
  7. The board has gone home for the day.
    (Incorrect: The collective-noun subject “board,” in this case, represents individual members who go home to separate places. It requires the plural verb “have.”)
    Correct: The board have gone home for the day.
  8. My son is taking history of the Incas this semester.
    (Incorrect: capitalization—Course titles are capitalized.)
    Correct: My son is taking History of the Incas this semester.
  9. My son is studying History this semester.
    (Incorrect: capitalization—A general subject is not capitalized.)
    Correct: My son is studying history this semester.
  10. Either Ann or Janice forgot to turn in their expense sheet.
    (Incorrect: shift in number—When a compound subject is made up of two nouns joined by “or,” consider the second of the two when matching the subject to a pronoun.)
    Correct: Either Ann or Janice forgot to turn in her expense sheet.

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.

Stay Connected

Twitter

RSS Feed

Facebook

Blog

iTunes

YouTube

Write for Business Blog

Recent entries…

 

Visit our blog for these and other great articles!

Affiliate Program

Earn money with UpWrite Press. Receive 5% of the net sale for every customer that makes a purchase through your affiliate link. Learn more

Featured Product

Write for Work is a practical guide to writing and communicating in the workplace. It's designed for students in 1- and 2-year degree programs or school-to-work programs. This flexible work-text provides extra support for students who’ve struggled with writing in the past.

Subscribe!

eTips is like finding a writing coach in your inbox. It includes the best writing information, helpful tips and advice, plus updates on evolving communication practices. Sign up today!

Have a Suggestion?

We are always looking for feedback on our eTips. If you have a suggestion, please tell us.

Coming in April

Choosing Your Message Options

eTips is a publication of UpWrite Press, P.O. Box 460, Burlington, Wisconsin 53105.
Copyright © 2014, UpWrite Press. All rights reserved. Visit www.upwritepress.com