January 16
January 2015  
UpWrite Press Writing eTips

If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.

—Benjamin Franklin

Word Pair of the Month: wait, weight

This month’s pair have nothing in common, really, other than sounding alike. The word “wait” means to remain in one spot while expecting someone or something, while the word “weight” refers to the heaviness of an object or idea.

Although these two words are less likely to be confused than some other pairs we’ve talked about, they may still be misused through computer error. For example, if you use a speech-to-text dictation program, the identical pronunciation of the words could cause a mix-up to occur. Or, when you are writing, a misspelling may slip by your computer’s spell-check. Always proofread your documents to check for this kind of problem.

Writers’ Forum Question

What do you feel is the most important quality in your company’s communication materials? Why?

The responses to this question seemed to be divided among three qualities: honesty, clarity, and sensitivity. Interestingly, these qualities often overlapped in importance.

Manuel Guitterrez of Albuquerque focuses on honesty, though clarity also takes the forefront in his business dealings:

As the owner of a small auto-repair shop, I know there’s a fair amount of suspicion out there about this type of business. To combat that, I make sure that all my written materials, from ads to estimates to billing statements, are totally open and honest. We never use sneaky, vague words that could confuse or mislead customers about costs or repair time. Most important, we never make promises we can’t keep. Honesty is the only way to keep customers coming back, whatever your business.

Wesley Randolph of Minneapolis combines clarity with a global sensitivity:

In a business that has operations around the world, it’s important to be sensitive to an audience where English is probably a second language. To that end, we avoid using slang, jargon, and idioms in written documents. We use only Standard English and simple sentence structures to be as clear as we can be.

Miracel Medina of Oahu also combines clarity with sensitivity and tailors her communications to her clients’ special situations:

I manage a small social-services agency. Many of our clients are poorly educated and often new to English. The concepts and legalities we must explain can be confusing, so we try to be as clear as possible, both in our conversations and in our written correspondence. We use simple, plain language without being condescending. Our goal is to help people move forward with their lives with their pride and dignity intact.

A Final Thought

Ah, New Year’s resolutions! We make them, we break them. One way to ensure that you’ll keep those promises to yourself is to write them down and post them in a place where you'll see them every day. “Out of sight, out of mind” is truer than you know. Another idea is to keep a journal about your resolutions, your temptations to give up, your successes, and, yes, even your failures. Writing can serve as a way to examine your performance, to make plans, and to strengthen your resolve. Finally, avoid beating yourself up when you slip up. Instead, try, try again. Any positive effort is energy well spent. It will push you closer to success than self-imposed browbeating ever will.

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