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Writing Tips: 241 - 250

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Tip # 241: Do not write memos with too many words; follow the lead of
Abraham Lincoln.  Look at how his words compare with others:

Things We Have Read                   Number of words
Gettysburg Address (Abraham Lincoln)        272
Bag of Lay's Potato Chips                   401
IRA Form 1040 EZ                            418
Average USA Today cover story             1,200

(Adapted from The Manager's Intelligence Report)
 
*********************************************************
We receive over 100 emails per day.  Without knowing
if the sender is a student in a course or someone
answering our weekly tips, it is difficult to know
how to answer your email.  If you are answering a
weekly tip exercise, please identify the tip number
in the subject line of your email.
*****

Please shorten the following:

As a recent graduate of Bigshot University with a degree in Biology, I
am currently launching my career as an environmental campaigner in
hopes of reversing global warming and ozone depletion on a world-wide
bases.
 
*********************************************************

Last week's exercise:

Which is correct and why:
  "Hold on to your memories"
  or
  "Hold onto your memories"?

*****

My comment: 
Use "on to" because the "onto" in the sentence is considered a "slang
expression."

*****

Mary Bing comments:
"Hold on to your memories" is correct.  It's a function word used to
indicate  the focus of some action. "Hold" is the action; the
prepositional phrase "to your memories" being the focus of the action

*****

Rita Green comments:
"Hold on to your memories" is correct because the verb or action
is "Hold on" to your memories.
  or
"Hold onto your memories" is incorrect because one can not
physically grab hold of memories.  Things Yes, memories... NO.
 
*********************************************************

"It takes a lot of things to prove you are smart, but only one thing
to prove you are ignorant."  (Don Herold, humorist)





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Tip #242:  When you have two numbers used as a compound adjective,
write one as a number and the other as a word. 

For example:
  3 two-lane highways
  two 12-foot driving lanes
       
*********************************************************

Please choose the correct preposition for the following sentences:

1. You will have to account (to, for) Jim Smith for
   the loss of the book.
2. Happiness consists (on, in) wanting what you have,
   not wanting want you want.
3. Will you agree (for, to) their terms? (concur)
       
*********************************************************

Last week's exercise: 
Please shorten the following:

  As a recent graduate of Bigshot University with
  a degree in Biology, I am currently launching my
  career as an environmental campaigner in hopes of
  reversing global warming and ozone depletion on a
  world-wide bases.

*******

1. Paul Martin suggests:
  As a graduate of Bigshot University with a degree
  in Biology, I am launching my career as an
  environmental campaigner to reverse global warming
  and ozone depletion.

OR

  As a graduate of Bigshot University with a degree
  in Biology, I hope to reverse global warming and
  ozone depletion as an environmental campaigner.

******

2. Edith Rice suggests:
  My campaign shall be the reversal of global warming
  and ozone depletion using the knowledge I gained
  completing a biology degree at Bigshot University.

******

3. Laurie K. Thrasher suggests:
  As a biology graduate of Bigshot University, 2002,
  I am campaigning to reverse worldwide global warming
  and ozone depletion.

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

"Truce is better than friction." (Charles Herguth)



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Tip #243:  When writing a proposal, try to answer some questions:

1. How much time do you estimate the proposal
   will save?
2. How many people will it affect?
3. How will it affect these people?
4. How much will it cost to start vs. the potential
   savings?
      
*********************************************************

What's wrong with the following headlines? 
Please rewrite them:

1. Squad Helps Dog Bite Victim
2. Jobless Rate Sores
3. Victims Say Tree Trimmer Takes Money, Then Leaves
4. Office Building Permits Plunge
      
*********************************************************

Last week's exercise: 
Please choose the correct preposition for the following sentences:

1. You will have to account (to, for) Jim Smith
   for the loss of the book.
2. Happiness consists (on, in) wanting what you have,
   not wanting what you want. (notice my correction)
3. Will you agree (for, to) their terms?

******

Answers:
1. account to (someone)
2. consists in (exists in)
3. agree to (accept another person's plans)

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

"A child's life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves
a mark."  (Chinese proverb)




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Tip #244:  When writing persuasively, do not refer to mysterious
sources such as:

  "Leading experts will agree..."
  "A search of the literature indicates."
  "Several professors at major universities are said
   to believe.."
   
*********************************************************

Please rewrite the sentences that require commas:

1. The deadline which was announced last month
   is March 30.
2. The deadline that we must meet is March 30.
3. The budgets that have been filed for the project
   have been approved.
4. The parts that will be replaced are the ones
   from Dysonic.
   
*********************************************************

Last week's exercise: 
What's wrong with the following headlines?  Please rewrite them:

  1. Squad Helps Dog Bite Victim
  2. Jobless Rate Sores
  3. Victims Say Tree Trimmer Takes Money, Then Leaves
  4. Office Building Permits Plunge

******
Adrivit Roy suggests:

  1. Squad Helped Dog Bite Victim
  2. Jobless Rate is Soaring
  3. Victim Said Tree Trimmer Took Money, Then Left
  4. Office Building's Permit Plunged

******
Margaret Collins suggests:

  1. Squad Helps Victim of Dog Bite
  2. Jobless Rate Soars
  3. Victims Say Tree Trimmer Takes Money, Then Left
  4. Plunge in number of Office Building Permits

******
Yossi David suggests:

  1. Squad Helps Dog Bite Victim

  Squad Helps Dogbite Victim.
  I realize that dogbite is not a commonly accepted
  compound word, but I think I'd use it here since it
  removes the ambiguity from the headline without an
  awkward rewrite. Neither Dog Bite Victim Helped by Squad
  or Squad Helps Victim of Dog Bite works as well.

  2. Jobless Rate Sores

  Jobless Rate Soars

  3. Victims Say Tree Trimmer Takes Money, Then Leaves

  This one's cute. I'd leave (no pun intended) it alone.

  4. Office Building Permits Plunge

  Aside from the obvious double meaning, this one has
  a nice ring to it. I can't think of a rewrite that
  would sound as good, especially in as few words. I
  suppose Office Building Permits Witheld or Reduction
  in Office Building Permits would kind of work.

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

"True friends are those who really know you but love you anyway."
(Edna Buchanan)




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Tip #245: A new year's resolution for writers could be to focus on
these common pitfalls of writing:

ˇ Lack of simplicity
ˇ Use of passive voice
ˇ Use of faulty grammar and punctuation
ˇ Need to edit your copy

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

Change the passive sentences into active sentences:

1. The project was being managed by a director who
   had managerial experience and who had little
   technical experience.

2. Several issues were raised by our corporate lawyer
   following her analysis of our tax structure for the
   next two years.

3. This invoice was issued by the Accounting Department.

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

Last week's exercise:
Please rewrite the sentences that require commas:

1. The deadline which was announced last month is
   March 30.
2. The deadline that we must meet is March 30.
3. The budgets that have been filed for the project
   have been approved.
4. The parts that will be replaced are the ones
   from Dysonic.

*******
I suggest: 

Sentence #1 requires commas because the "which" clause is
nonrestrictive (is not necessarily needed):

The deadline, which was announced last month, is March 30.
*******

I received several e-mail comments from V.J. concerning the "which vs.
that" rule.  There are other opinions about the this rule that V.J.
has pointed out.  I appreciate learning the newest rules, and I want
to share them with you.  Here are some of V.J.'s comments:

  I suggest you check out this Web site
  http://www.worldwidewords.org/articles/which.htm
  (among others) and The American HeritageŽ Book of
  English Usage; A Practical and Authoritative
  Guide to Contemporary English.  1996.

  As I said previously, traditional usage was more
  restrictive (although I have a friend who says the
  traditional "wisdom" was never correct).  Modern
  style guides say that either relative pronoun can
  be used with restrictive clauses.

  "The Guide to Grammar and Writing," a Web site
  hosted by capital Community College in Hartford,
  Connecticut, also supports my point of view.

  WHICH VERSUS THAT
  The word which can be used to introduce both
  restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses, although]
  many writers use it exclusively to introduce
  nonrestrictive clauses; the word that can be used
  to introduce only restrictive clauses.

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

"What we see depends mainly on what we look for." (John Lubbock)




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Tip #246: These are tips for preparing an electronic newsletter. 
(Source: Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel)

  ˇ Offer potential subscribers a choice between plain
    text and HTML format.
  ˇ Create a consistent subject line for your e-mail.
  ˇ Tailor content to what readers want.  (Use surveys)
  ˇ Be creative. Do not use generic articles found on
    any web site.
  ˇ Write in active voice with a friendly style.
  ˇ Use bullets to highlight important points.
  ˇ Proofread for spelling, grammar, and clarity.
  ˇ Provide a way for readers to subscribe or unsubscribe.
  ˇ Ask readers to forward copies to friends.

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

Please correct the faulty punctuation errors in the following
sentences:

1. The work was not entirely satisfactory.  Which is
   why they cancelled the contract.
2. The issue was never presented to a jury.  The case
   having been settled out of court.
3. The meeting was nearly unanimous in reaching a
   decision.  Although those who disagreed were local
   in their opposition.

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

Last week's exercise:  Change the passive sentences into active
sentences:

1. The project was being managed by a director who had
   managerial experience and who had little technical
   experience.
2. Several issues were raised by our corporate lawyer
   following her analysis of our tax structure for the
   next two years.
3. This invoice was issued by the Accounting Department.

*******

Answers:

1. A director, who had managerial experience and had
   little technical experience, managed the project.
2. Our corporate lawyer, following her analysis of our
   tax structure, raised several issues.
3. The Accounting Department issued this invoice.

*******
R.T. Groce's comment:
   By the way, readers who want to improve skills in
   using the active voice should study the Wall Street
   Journal's "What's News" column every day.

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

"A still tongue makes no enemies."  (Mexican proverb)



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Tip # 247:  How do you package a 15-minute speech into a few
sentences?  You write a brief story about it.  While writing, you will
discover whether your speech has any point at all.  (Adapted from
American Speaker)

*********************************************************
               ******** Special Announcement: ********

I have been recommending a program called Stylewriter since
August, and I know that many of my readers have gone to their web site. 
Unfortunately, they do not have a good tracking system, so I have
not received credit for the number of sales I believe they have made
as a result of this announcement.  I am asking those of you who have
purchased the StyleWriter program to let me know, and also give me
your comments on the StyleWriter program.

Thanks for your support.
 
*********************************************************

I had a question from Gloria H.  Please provide her with an answer:

"There was an interesting discussion in my workgroup this morning
regarding words ending in "er" vs. words ending in "or".  Examples: 
seller, buyer, producer, trumpeter, lawyer, vs. director,
investigator, mentor, investor, doctor.  Maybe that would be a good
discussion topic to throw out to your audience and see if anyone can
come up with an explanation.  We cannot come up with a logical
explanation or common denominator why some words end one way and some
the other.  Can you explain?  Or,  would you mind posting and seeing
what kind of response you receive?  Thank you."

Please put Tip #247 in the Subject of your reply.
 
*********************************************************

Last week's practice: Please correct the faulty punctuation errors in
the following sentences:

1. The work was not entirely satisfactory.  Which is why
   they cancelled the contract.
2. The issue was never presented to a jury.  The case
   having been settled out of court.
3. The meeting was nearly unanimous in reaching a
   decision.  Although those who disagreed were vocal
   in their opposition.  (Notice the word "local" should
   be "vocal."  Never trust your spelling checker program.)
*******

Suggestions:
1. The work was not entirely satisfactory, which is why
   they cancelled the contract.
2. The issue was never presented to a jury; the case
   having been settled out of court.
4. The meeting was nearly unanimous in reaching a
   decision, although those who disagreed were vocal
   in their opposition.
********

Deborah's suggestions:
1. They cancelled the contract because the work was
   not entirely satisfactory.
2. The case was settled out of court, so the issue
   was never presented to a jury.
3. {These two sentences are a bit confusing. I am sure
   when you refer to "meeting" you mean the attendees
   of the meeting. When you said "local"  did you mean
   "vocal"? Ok, now I ask you, how can a meeting be
   unanimous in its vote, hmmm}

Anyway, here is my correction for #3:
The decision to agree was almost unanimous even though the minority
who disagreed were vocal in their opposition.
******

P. Martin's comment:  Is it correct to say that a meeting was
unanimous?   I would re-write it as, "The meeting resulted in a nearly
unanimous decision, and those who disagreed were local in their
opposition."
(Good Point!!)
 
*********************************************************

"Never confuse activity with results."  Lou Gerstner, CEO of IBM





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Tip # 248:  Fragments are sentences without a subject and a verb.

  Don't:  Because it was too difficult to reach
          the manager. (Fragment)
  Do #1:  Because it was too difficult to reach the
          manager, Gloria decided to wait until Friday.
  Do #2:  Gloria decided to wait until Friday because
          it was too difficult to reach the manager.

*********************************************************
          ******** Special Announcement: ********

I have been recommending a program called Stylewriter since
August, and I know that many of my readers have gone to their web
site. 

Unfortunately, they do not have a good tracking system, so I have
not received credit for the number of sales I believe they have made
as a result of this announcement.  I am asking those of you who have
purchased the StyleWriter program to let me know, and also give me
your comments on the StyleWriter program.

Thanks for your support.

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

Please answer T.S.'s  question below:

Tamara Simon asks, "When should "Firm", "the Firm", "our firm", etc.,
be capitalized?  What about possessive and plural nouns as it relates
to "the firm" e.g., The Firm's Los Angeles attorney, the Firm's
attorneys, our firms, etc.?"
 
*********************************************************

Last week's practice: I had a question from Gloria H. 
Please provide her with an answer:

"There was an interesting discussion in my workgroup this morning
regarding words ending in "er" vs. words ending in "or". 
Examples:  seller, buyer, producer, trumpeter, lawyer,
vs. director, investigator, mentor, investor, doctor.  Maybe
that would be a good discussion topic to throw out to your
audience and see if anyone can come up with a logical explanation
or common denominator why some words end one way and some the
other (-er v/s -or).   Can you explain? 

*****

Ashwin commented:

I attempt to answer the questions.

-er is the native (Old) English and common Germanic (Dutch,
German, etc) suffix for agent (the doer, the nomen agentis).

-or is the originally the Latin suffix for the same function.

-or is mostly found in latinate words, i.e., words derived from
Latin, either as emprunt or constructed in English using Latin
elements (roots, prefixes and suffixes.)
Examples: actor, doctor, investigator, professor, etc.

-er is the general suffix for unlatinate words (anything not part
of the above definition.)
Sometimes, you also find -ar, -eur, and -eer.
Examples: killer, seller, buyer, Englander, trainer, entertainer,
experiencer, etc.

There are however some historical "aberrations" to this pattern.

Examples: wrongly -or: advisor, ... I can't recall the
          examples now.
          wrongly -er: motor, but promoter (motion, promotion)

The rule for making an -or agent-noun is this:
Get the -ion form. Remove -ion and add -or.
Examples: seduce: seduction -> seductor
          destroy: destruction -> destructor
          (used in programming terminology)
          translate: translation -> translator

When there is no acceptable -ion form, use the -er formation.
Sometimes, the -er form is preferred, usually when the -ion form
is longer

Examples: adapt: adaptation -> adapter (there is also
          the exceptional 'adaptor', which is incongruous
          with the pattern)
          implement: implementation -> implementer
          (-or here is incorrect)
          revolve: revolution -> revolver
          produce: production -> producer
          consume: consumption -> consumer

******

Suzanne, Business Information Specialist, commented:
In general, use -or for words of Latin origin.  Latin-based words
ending in sibilant -c(e) would use the -er suffix, as in "producer."
******

Chris Judge commented:
If the verb ends in a "t" - e.g. "direct," "invest" - then add "or." 
If the verb ends with any other letter - e.g. "sing," "fly" - then add
"er."  The exception: words that end in a "t" and are nouns (or can be
nouns) - e.g. trumpet, hat, paint, etc. - add "er".
 
*********************************************************

"Eating words has never given me indigestion."  (Winston Churchill)




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Tip # 249: Make sure your compositions:
  ˇ Contain the right message
  ˇ Are coherent
  ˇ Are easy to read
  ˇ Have variety
  ˇ Are positive
  ˇ Are concise
  ˇ Emphasize important points
  ˇ Use correct grammar, spelling, punctuation

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

Correct each sentence:

1. How quick he runs.
2. Neither Dan nor I are to follow.
3. Each of us were scheduled to take the test.
4. The coach, not the players, have been ill.
5. This phone call is for Jane and I.

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

Last week's exercise: Please answer T.S.'s  question below:

Tamara Simon asks, "When should "Firm", "the Firm", "our firm", etc.,
be capitalized?  What about possessive and plural nouns as it relates
to "the firm" e.g., The Firm's Los Angeles attorney, the Firm's
attorneys, our firms, etc.?"
******

The following comments are from Linda Kleinschmidt of The
WriteWatchman: 

Re your question about when to capitalize "firm," the simple answer is
when the word is part of a title or is a proper noun by itself,
capitalize it. 

Ex: Mr. Firm is a nice man; Quite Firm, Inc., is a
new company; The Firm (movie title or proper name for an exercising
program or a synonym for the CIA)

99% of the rest of the time, you will be safe not to capitalize the
word.  The only other exception is if the company you are working for
likes to capitalize the casual reference to their company.  Then, of
course, do it.  Always follow the style sheet of an organization.

Re possession use:

The determination here  follows the normal possession rules:
(1) add 's to the singular form: the firm's policy 
    or the Firm's video program
(2) add ' to the plural form to form plural possession: 
    the firms' policies  (note that using "policy" in this
    case would mean the more than one firm had the same
    policy; using "policies" indicates that several firms
    have several policies.  The key is determining what
    you mean by the possessive form.

One other use of the apostrophe would be the contraction use:  This 
firm's going to succeed == This firm is going to succeed.

Or

The Firm's a great movie == The Firm (italicize this title) is a great
movie.

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

"To swear off making mistakes is easy.  All you have to do is swear
off having ideas." (Leo Burnett) 





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Tip # 250: Fragments:  To continue last week's discussion of
fragments, I thank Linda Kleinschmidt from The WriteWatchman for her
additional information. 

"A fragment is not simply a sentence without a subject and a verb. 
While that is a good  basic definition and a place to start your
editing, this presumption can also lead the writer astray. The
practical truth can be quite different. Other constructions often
appear as complete sentences when they structurally are not. 

1) A fragment can be a dependent clause which has
   a subject and verb, but starts with a dependent or
   subordinate conjunction like "because"  or "that" or
   "which" and thus requires further explanation. 
   EX:  Because I went to my office.
2) A fragment can be a phrase with words that look like
   verbs, but are not verbs, such as  "walking" or "to
   eat."  These constructions can be one of several
   types:
   a) gerunds - verb forms ending -ing which act as nouns:
      EX:  working a lot; or examining the policy;
   b) participles which are present or past verb forms
      that really act as adjectives.
      EX:  Having looked at every possibility or
           Seeing the basic problem;
   c) infinitives - which are the preposition "to"
      plus a verb.  (by the way this structure is
      a fragment.) Infinitives can be both phrases
      and clauses; they can have action and take
      objects and even their own subjects.  However,
      they are not complete sentences. 
      EX: Wanting to finish the job or To complete the
          work easily;
   d) appositives are phrases which rename a noun.
      These phrases look and sound like a complete
      thought, but they are not sentences. 
      EX: Mary, the best worker in the office.

Finally, in some quarters, sentences that begin with coordinating
conjunctions like "and", "but," "or,"  "so," and "for," are also
considered fragments.  Why?  Because the use of such a conjunction at
the start of  sentence indicates the sentence is the second half of a
compound sentence and thus should not stand alone.  It needs its
partner. 
EX:  But I wanted to go to the meeting also.  And...
     Let's do the work together.

The secret to avoiding fragments is:  Don't presume that because you
have a subject and verb construction, you have a sentence.  Look
further at the entire structure to make sure you don't have a
subordinate construction masquerading as a complete sentence or a verb
form that is working in another capacity like a noun or an adjective."
 
*********************************************************

We are proud to announce that Ohio State University has chosen our
Bull's Eye Business Writing course as a required course for their Ohio
Certified Public Manager Program.  This Program is necessary to become
an accredited member of the National Certified Public Manager
Consortium (CPM).
 
*********************************************************

Correct the following:
1. How will you be effected financially if the
   effect of downsizing means you will lose your job?
2. Harold and Sara were real good friends.
3. None of the coworkers offered his support.
4. The desk and the file cabinet sits in the corner.
5. Mary did good on the test she took yesterday.

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

Last week's exercise:  Correct each sentence:
1. How quick he runs.
2. Neither Dan nor I are to follow.
3. Each of us were scheduled to take the test.
4. The coach, not the players, have been ill.
5. This phone call is for Jane and I.
*****

Answers:
1. How quickly he runs.
2. Neither Dan nor I am to follow.
3. Each of us was scheduled to take the test.
4. The coach, not the players, has been ill.
5. This phone call is for Jane and me.

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

"A smile is contagious; be a carrier."





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