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Writing Tips: 181 - 190

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Tip # 181: Here is what a busy executive is thinking while reading
your resume:

"The harsh reality is that no matter how much time and effort you put
into writing your resume, it won't get a thorough reading the first
time through. Initially, I'll scan it for 25 seconds. On the basis of
that cursory review, I'll determine whether yours should hit the
round file or merit more thoughtful reading -- perhaps three minutes'
worth. Scanning is tougher for me if your resume is hard to read,
poorly organized or weighs more than a pound. I like wide margins,
clean type (at least 10 or 12 point), clear headings, a logical
format, bold and italic typeface that helps guide my eye, and
selective use of bullets calling attention to important points.
(Remember, a bullet is an aggressive visual stunt which says, "Look
here! Now!" Twenty bullets in a row dilute the effect.)"

*********************************************************

The following sentences contain dangling constructions (a word,
phrase or clause is not in the correct position).  Please rewrite
them correctly:

1. Before applying to graduate school, it is a good
   idea to master the art of writing essays.

2. Once in graduate school, it is wise to be on the
   lookout for dangling clauses.

*********************************************************

This was last week's question: 
What's wrong with the following sentences? 
Correct and tell why the sentences are incorrect.

1. Whom shall we say referred us?
2. To who shall I deliver the message?
3. Mr. Jones, who I have never met, is in charge.


Here are my suggestions:

1. Who shall we say referred us? (Change the
   sentence into "We shall say he/she referred us.")
2. To whom shall I deliver the message?  (Change the
   sentence into "Shall I deliver the message to
   her/him?)
3. Mr. Jones, whom I have never met, is in charge.
  (Change the clause into "I have never met him.")





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Tip # 182:  Try to use the exact word you want and to avoid vague
words. 

For example:

Vague:  What is his angle on the Middle East crisis?
Better:  What are his ideas on the Middle East crisis?

Vague:  I do not get the solution.
Better:  I do not understand the solution.

*********************************************************

I received this e-mail from Hrishi, and I would like your comments
and suggestions regarding her question:

  Hi Gloria,

  Is it right to have any qualifier with a
  complimentary closing such as "Regards" like
  "Best Regards," "Warm Regards," etc in Business
  Communication?

  We have been mentioning it very clearly to most of
  our employees that in Business Communication we
  never use words like "Best" and "Warm."

  Thanks & Regards
  Hrishi

*********************************************************

Here is last week's exercise:

The following sentences contain dangling constructions (a word,
phrase or clause is not in the correct position).  Please rewrite
them correctly:

1. Before applying to graduate school, it is a
   good idea to master the art of writing essays.

2. Once in graduate school, it is wise to be on the
   lookout for dangling clauses.

Here are my suggestions:

1. Before applying to graduate school, you should
   master the art of writing essays.

2. Once in graduate school, you would be wise to be
   on the lookout for dangling clauses.





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Tip #183:  Use a singular verb with collective nouns such as
"management," "team," "group,"  "organization," and "audience."  

For example:
The Task Force Team meets to discuss strategic planning
every Tuesday morning.

*********************************************************

Improve the following sentences by combining or shortening:

1. The book that she lent me was lengthy.  It
   was boring. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.
   There was nothing about the book that I enjoyed.

2. Mary is just one of those people who you can't really
   describe with words.

*********************************************************

Last week's exercise was to give an answer to the following question:

Is it right to have any qualifier with a complimentary closing such
as "Regards" like "Best Regards," "Warm Regards," etc in Business
Communication?

I could not find "Regards" as a complimentary closing to a business
letter in any reference books.  However, I have received answers from
people such as Roz Lazar, who uses it with clients she has done
business with for many years, and here is another answer:

Eleanore Whitaker wrote: 

Regarding the complimentary close issue discussed by Hrishi, I prefer
to use either "Sincerely" or "Cordially" or "Regards".  In using
"Best Regards" or "Warm Regards", the qualifier sounds less
professionally correct.

But then, this is definitely true of the Salutation which begins
every letter, i.e., "Dear Mr.".  I have always felt a bit
uncomfortable addressing a business contact in that fashion.  It is
clearly a term of endearment.  Notwithstanding convention, however, I
am unable to find a more business-like manner of salutation.

Paul wrote: 

My suggestion in this matter is veer away from using best and warm
regards when writing business letters.  It drops the formality, which
is an essential part of any business transaction. In my opinion, it
shall only be used when writing missive for friends and close ones
but never to formal correspondences.




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Tip # 184: Make sure the pronouns you are referring to in your
sentences are clear.  For example:

Unclear:
Whenever it rains, it always makes that funny noise.

Clear:  
Whenever it rains, the furnace always makes that funny noise.

*********************************************************

The following sentences contain ambiguous pronouns. 
Please rewrite the sentences to make the pronoun reference clear.

1. When Alice saw Marion, she told her that she was going
   to help her with the project.

2. I saw a clown and a monkey who had a small car filled
   with circus performers.

*********************************************************

Last week's practice was:

Improve the following sentences by combining or shortening:

1. The book that she lent me was lengthy.  It was
   boring. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.  There
   was nothing about the book that I enjoyed.

2. Mary is just one of those people who you can't
   really describe with words.

Here is a suggested correction from Steve Sorenson:

1. She lent me a long, boring book. I didn't enjoy it
   and wouldn't recommend it.

2. Mary is indescribable



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Tip #185:  Quotation marks have three main functions:  to indicate
the use of someone's exact words, to set off words and phrases for
special emphasis, and to display the titles of literary and artistic
works.

*********************************************************

Thanks to Phyllis Middleton of the Washington Schools Risk Management
Pool who wrote:

"I need some info on when to and when not to use quotation marks (not
including when you are quoting someone.) Some of the staff over use
them, and it is making me crazy."

Please correct these sentences from her staff, and tell why the
quotation marks are not used correctly:

1. The chaperones did not understand what their
   "duties were" and thus did not attempt to stop the
   students from participating in this activity.

2. Remember, there are Washington State and Federal laws that
   prohibit the use of vans which are rated with a seating
   capacity for over 10 persons unless the van meets all of
   the "school bus regulations."

*********************************************************

Here is last week's practice: The following sentences contain
ambiguous pronouns. 

Please rewrite the sentences to make the pronoun reference clear.

1. When Alice saw Marion, she told her that she was
   going to help her with the project.
2. I saw a clown and a monkey who had a small car
   filled with circus performers.

Here are my suggestions:

1. When Alice saw Marion, Marion told Alice she was
   going to help Alice with the project.
2. I saw a clown and his monkey, and the clown had a
   small car filled with circus performers.



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Tip #186:  To improve your writing style, remove the word "very" from
your copy, and convert the adjective it modifies to a stronger
adjective.

For example: 
Eliminate: very large - Convert to: massive, huge, etc.
Eliminate: very hot --- Convert to: scorching, sweltering

*********************************************************

Which of these is correct and why?

1. He walked toward the conference room.

2. He walked towards the conference room.

*********************************************************

Last week's practice:

Thanks to Phyllis Middleton of the Washington Schools Risk Management
Pool who wrote:

"I need some info on when to and when not to use quotation marks (not
including when you are quoting someone).    Some of the staff over
use them, and it is making me crazy."

Please correct these sentences from her staff, and tell why the
quotation marks are not used correctly:

1. The chaperones did not understand what their
   "duties were" and thus did not attempt to stop
   the students from participating in this activity.

2. Remember, there are Washington State and Federal
   laws that prohibit the use of vans which are rated
   with a seating capacity for over 10 persons unless
   the van meets all of the "school bus regulations."

My suggestion: 

Neither of these sentences needed quotation marks because no emphasis
was needed.   Also, do not capitalize "federal."




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Tip #187: Eliminate words you do not need in sentences. 

For example:

Do not write: 
   advance plan
Write:
   plan

Do not write:
   take action
Write:
   act

Do not write:
   basically unaware of
Write:
   did not know

*********************************************************

I have a question from Christa Haala:

"When is the appropriate time for an exclamation point and when is it
being over-used?  Should it be repeated more than once in a
paragraph?  I personally feel people over use it when they are
writing, and I become agitated when I see it frequently being used."

What is your opinion?

*********************************************************

Last week's question was about whether to use "toward" or "towards."

The answer is they are both correct.  The difference is "towards" is
preferred in Britain, while "toward" is used more often in the United
States.





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Tip # 188:  Be specific about what you want in the last paragraph of
a letter.

  Vague:  We're hoping to hear from you soon.
  Specific:  Please let us know you decision by
             December 7 so that we can meet your deadline.

  Vague:  I am looking forward to seeing you again.
  Specific:  If you are free for lunch on Friday,
             January 8, I would like to continue our
             discussion about the sales proposal.  I will
             call you to confirm the date.

*********************************************************

Please rewrite this sentence so it is clear and brief.

"Should the supply of manuals sent you not be sufficient to meet your
requirements, application should be made to this office for
additional copies."

*********************************************************

Last week's exercise was about a question from Christa Haala:

"When is the appropriate time for an exclamation point and when is it
being over-used?  Should it be repeated more than once in a
paragraph?  I personally feel people over use it when they are
writing, and I become agitated when I see it frequently being used."
 
What is your opinion?

Exclamation points are usually used to indicate the expression of
strong feelings such as excitement, surprise, and indignation.  In
technical writing, the exclamation point is used in cautions and
warnings.

This punctuation mark can be used more than once in a sentence.  Here
is an example:  The boss yelled, "Get in here!"  Then Bob, according
to Mary, "jumped like a kangaroo"!

The exclamation point, as with any punctuation mark, can be overused.
 It also cannot make an argument more convincing or lend force to a
weak statement.




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Tip # 189:  When writing a resume, state the job you are looking for
clearly and at once.  Say what led you to apply--a want ad, a
recommendation from a friend, or the reputation of the firm.

**********************************************************

Please place semicolons in the following sentences:
1. For a long time, women were considered inferior
   to men even now it is not an easy attitude to overcome.

2. Ask not what your country can do for you ask what you
   can do for your country.

3. Our power to understand truth is unlimited to seek it,
   limitless.

**********************************************************

This was last week's exercise: 

Please rewrite this sentence so it is clear and brief.

"Should the supply of manuals sent you not be sufficient to meet your
requirements, application should be made to this office for
additional copies."

Here is my suggestion: 

For additional copies of these manuals, contact this office.




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Tip # 190:  The shortest and most commonly used adjectives are called
articles. 

"A" and "an"  are indefinite articles because they refer to any
unspecified number such as "a pen," "an onion," "a secretary." 

The word "the" is a definite article because it refers to a specific
member of a group or class:  "the pen," "the error," "the
refrigerator."

*********************************************************

Place the article "a" or "an" in front of these nouns:

  1. umbrella
  2. university
  3. radio
  4. hour
  5. human being

**********************************************************

Last week's exercise: 
Please place semicolons in the following sentences:

1. For a long time, women were considered inferior
   to men even now it is not an easy attitude to
   overcome.
2. Ask not what your country can do for you ask what
   you can do for your country.
3. Our power to understand truth is unlimited to seek
   it, limitless.

Answers:
1. For a long time, women were considered inferior
   to men; even now it is not and easy attitude to
   overcome.
2. Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what
   you can do for your country.
3. Our power to understand truth is unlimited; to seek
   it, limitless.





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